Just back from my trip to Portland, Oregon, I am flush with curiosity about the psychological and ethical universes underlying and driving alternative lifestyles, such as those tacitly expressed in the Vegan flier above. So... I am most pleased to find an article in Miller-McCune profiling the work of research psychologist Jonathan Haidt very useful and categorically insightful in differentiating the distinct moral motivations of American liberals and conservatives. Jonathan's work reveals that the (often) distinct value systems of conservatives and liberals spring from their differing emphasis paid to five moral priorities. Please read the article for a fuller treatment, but, as defined in the article, these are:
1) Harm/care. It is wrong to hurt people; it is good to relieve suffering.
2) Fairness/reciprocity. Justice and fairness are good; people have certain rights that need to be upheld in social interactions.
3) In-group loyalty. People should be true to their group and be wary of threats from the outside. Allegiance, loyalty and patriotism are virtues; betrayal is bad.
4) Authority/respect. People should respect social hierarchy; social order is necessary for
5) Purity/sanctity. The body and certain aspects of life are sacred. Cleanliness and health, as well as their derivatives of chastity and piety, are all good. Pollution, contamination and the associated character traits of lust and greed are all bad.
Not surprisingly, liberals tend to hold the first two as values "to take to the mat" (and even have hostile reactions to the last "authoritarian" three), while conservatives emphasize the essential importance of the last three and regard the first two as secondary pursuits that, in essential cases, may be disregarded (witness the fact that 62% of Evangelicals are ok with the use of torture to pursue group threats).
In the Vegan flier above, I note that the "Harm/Care" (no. 1) value is clearly at play and is the evangelical hook ....But also notice that underlying tones of a "Purity/Sanctity" sensibility (no. 5) are subtly also at play...not just in the invocation of Christ-values but the categorization of food as being pure or impure. Haidt's insights thus helps me to map a curious dual moral motivation that may be underlying Veganism (especially in the activist variety - as examplified in the work above). This actually helps me understand the near-religious aspects of Veganism, in distinction from run of the mill vegetarianism.
Unlike Haidt, I don't believe that simply understanding each other's diverse moral priorities will remove the heated rhetoric exchanged in political clashes between the Right and Left, but they might make us more apt to listen to each other with greater lucidity and, at the very least (as he is probably correct to point out), help us not talk so much past one another. As well, Haidt's well defined and lucid five-fold barometer shows us why some of us that comprise the "Evengelical Left" or the "
How interesting that our theologies or politics may be colored by our location on these five moral slides. I reflect here that Christ was all over the map on the five slides. On the one hand, Christ was a revolutionary Rabbi who argued vigorously for justice and demanded loyalty beyond one's filial and cultural attachments. On the other hand, he was an irrepressible moralist who also demanded purity, and vigorously attacked the sin of divorce (because, yes, Christ did define that as a sin) and all the interior pollution formed from our social and interior lusts -- our morals of convenience (aka moral relativism). I reflect here that, in fact, Christ married the two "Left/Right" poles by bringing above all an allegiance to the
Christ's Sermon on the Mount describes Christ's moral left/right "bi-polarity". In the Sermon, Jesus created a unified moral foundation whose wellspring actually comprised a robust and cohesive account of the vigorous moral demands of Torah, which he encapsulated in the simplified ethic "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Such a narrow ethic...and such a narrow road. Surely, no more unified and demanding moral charge has ever been laid.
Will we have the courage to apply it? Have we ever? Cheers to the "simple-hearted"...