Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Sacredness of Liberty and Equality

Written by: on May 24, 2018


Author Haidt’s statement, ” We’re born to be righteous, but we have to learn what, exactly, people like us should be righteous about” (13) took me to the Christian view on ‘Righteous’.  David said in Psalms 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The Book of Proverbs speaks of what righteous is, as well as other scriptures. Is Haidt’s statement on righteous correct?

Haidt discusses many theories on the Democratic Party, for example, the Republican Party, riders, elephants, selfish, groupish, and foundation categories, to name a few.  I will cover these in this blog. He spoke on the essay he wrote titled ‘What Makes People Vote Republican?’  In the essay, he began with stereotype comments: “Conservatives are this way because of overly strict parents raised them, or afraid of change, etc. or because they suffer from existential fears and therefore cling to a simple worldview with no shades of gray.” (17) He then followed those comments with a fresh viewpoint. He stated, “conservatives are just as sincere as liberals, and then use Moral Foundations Theory to understand the moral matrices of both sides.” (190) Haidt’s essay was thought-provoking and encouraged my inquisitiveness to learn more why one vote Republican, especially in this current climate of one’s personality and political conflicts. America always has been a field of conflicts due based on differences in politics, religion, ethnicities, economic status, etc. For years, these differences were like sleeping dogs, but now they were awakened during the 2008 presidential election of President Barack Obama. Now since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump there are public dogfights between black citizens and white police officers, non-caucasian people and Caucasian people, Republicans and Democrats, Trump supporters and Trump challengers, Christian denominations against one another, and many others  These public display of anger are more prevalent due to the climate of the current president. These fights bring me to a reference in the scriptures.  James 4:1 says, “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”  Heid spoke on something similar to this last few lines.

“Sociologist Emile Durkheim warned in 1987 of the dangers of anomie that ‘man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above `him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon it, himself and demoralize him.” (192) Demoralization seems to be the theme of America’s leadership. Haidt suggested “Democrats end the dismissing of conservatism as pathology and start thinking about morality beyond care and fairness. He urged them to close the sacredness gap between the two parties by making greater use of the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations, not just in their “messaging,” but in how they think about public policy and the best interests of the nation.” (193). I agree that the Democrats need to revamp, revise and reposition themselves in the political arena if they want to be effective in the upcoming elections.

In his book, Haidt used the mythology from his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, “the rider (the reasoner) and the elephant (intuition)” (53) to explain intuition and moral psychology. “The rider acts as the spokesman for the elephant, skilled at fabricating post hoc explanations for whatever the elephant has just done, and it is good at finding reasons to justify whatever the elephant wants to do next.” (54) This reminds me of, oh yeah, the White House press secretary and the Oval Office. Haidt shares that the intuition comes first then the strategic reasoning. The social intuitionist makes the ‘Hume modes’ more social. The moral reasoner seeks a long-term effort to make friends and influence people (reminds me of Dale Carnegie). “So, to change someone’s mind about a moral or political issue one must talk to the elephant first. If you ask people to believe something that violates their intuitions, they will devote their efforts to finding an escape hatch—a reason to doubt your argument or conclusion. They will almost always succeed.” (59) This is noteworthy when having discussions with whom you believe to be confrontational or puts up a wall to your position. John Gray believed that Haidt was on point with his theories were “an attempt at a Darwinian explanation of morality, contending that moral behavior emerges from a natural process of competition among human groups.” [1]

Haidt shared the responses he received from the readers of his essay. He admits some of the response gave him cause to revise his study. “For example, one reader said that he agreed with his diagnosis but thought that narcissism was an additional factor. The reader believes that he should have mentioned: “Lack of compassion fits them [Republicans], and narcissists are also lacking this important human trait.” He thought it was “sad that Republican narcissism would prevent them from understanding his perspective on their “illness.” (193) From the new studies, he added the sixth foundation named liberty/oppression and he decided for the conservatives to place more emphasis on proportionality versus equality.  “Liberals seem to sacralize equality whereas Conservative sacralize liberty. Liberals fight for equality of rights and outcome. Conservatives are more parochial and fight for their groups.” (204)

According to Haidt, “Republicans better understand the social intuitionist model and therefore speak more directly to the elephant than the Democrats.” (214) Democrats believe the Republicans have scammed the “people into voting against their economic self-interest and they don’t want their nation to devote itself primarily to the care of victims and the pursuit of social justice.” (215) He believes until the “Democrats understand the difference between a six-foundation morality and a three-foundation morality, they will not understand what makes people vote Republican.” (216)

In another area in his book, Haidt states that “human nature is selfish, meaning we adept at promoting our interests, in competition with our peers. Human nature is also groupish, meaning we adept at promoting our group’s interests, in competition with other groups.” (220) I believe this statement reveal conflicts with the statement presented in the first paragraph. Consequently, we are not born righteous.











[1] John Gray, The Knowns and the Unknowns, The New Republic Magazine, 2012, accessed May 24, 2018, https://newrepublic.com/article/102760/righteous-mind-haidt-morality-politics-scientism.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

5 responses to “Sacredness of Liberty and Equality”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Well, if nothing else we have to stop badmouthing the Republicans!!
    I think there is more to the “groupish” idea. Yes, we like that feeling of belonging, but my husband points out that it also gives us an out if we want to be lazy and not do our homework. We watched the six part documentary of the Rajneeshies. That’s the dark side of belonging to a group.

  2. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    I believe that both parties have a lot of work to do. In addition, we as Americans must become more fervent and educated when it comes to policies and legislation that impacts our lives in this country no matter which party presents them. It is our duty as a Christian to take care of the poor, orphans, widows , the marginalized , etc. Therefore, we must actively engage in shifting the divide and become the leaders needed in this world to bring about sustainable change.

  3. Lynda,
    You quote Haidt as saying: “human nature is selfish, meaning we adept at promoting our interests, in competition with our peers. Human nature is also groupish, meaning we adept at promoting our group’s interests, in competition with other groups.”

    I don’t think you will find many arguments with that opinion and Scripture would seem to echo the idea as well, as it talks about our ‘sinful nature’.

    But, of course, as Christians we aren’t called to give into our sinful nature, but strive to live into the mind of Christ.

    We aren’t born righteous, but we are washed in the blood of the lamb and adopted as God’s own…. now we just need to act like it.

  4. Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Lynda, an interesting and insightful critique of the book. I appreciate your perspective and found it intriguing the contradiction you noted. Sounds like Haidt is a bit confused in his perspective of human morality and our origin. I see it both ways: we are born into sin and yet we are most innocent and righteous the younger we are. As we grow we can choose to develop the goodness in us by inviting our Savior and submitting to His way, or we can grow more away from Him and choose our free will without a Savior. What are your thoughts on our origin of moral development?

  5. Jim Sabella says:

    What an excellent analysis Lynda! I don’t care either for the bitter fighting between political parties, but in some ways I expect it. Parties and politicians are fighting for power, they make the news, get reelected and funding for their projects. Sometimes It looks to me like professional wrestling! 🙂 What troubles me most, though, is the fighting among Christians who have been polarized by political agendas and get into fights with each other, not over the lostness of this world or feeding the hungry, but over political ideology, that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with being a Christian or advancing the kingdom. It seems like we have enough division in the church, then I go and divide myself along political lines. Look at us in our cohort. We are all unique and yet there is a deep respect for each other that goes above and beyond differences. That respect I sense is based our mutual love of God, our deep respect for each other, our concern for this world and finally, we know it’s just the right thing to do. I think we model what the church can be like if we’d turn off our TVs for a moment and look each other in the eyes and listen to each other. I’m sure I’m still a little more than naive, even at my age! But I still believe that the Kingdom of God can supersede even policial lines. Just a great, great post, Lynda. Thank you!

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