What is A…?

If posed with the question, ‘what is a Christian?’ would you have a ready answer?

How about, ‘what is a Muslim’?

And if asked, ‘what is a Republican?’ do you know what the answer is?

Now, the million dollar question, ‘what is an American’?

Your brain has already provided you with immediate conceptions as you read them. You may not have been ready to articulate your answers, but you have general ideas, nonetheless. Did you notice whether you thought first of what is (the positive, inclusive attributes), or what isn’t (those attributes that exclude). That may be revelatory to you. 

With regard to at least one of them, perhaps your instinctive response is ”I don’t know.” 

Kudos to you, if you’re that honest.

Upon reflection, you will no doubt consult your experiences and familiarity with each of the designations. You may have definitions in mind for each of them that are accurate and factual, gleaned from study, observation, and participation. You may have answers that are based on hearsay, or bias. Your opinions may be entirely formed by what you’ve heard others say about Christians, Muslims, and Republicans, and Americans, and you’ve adopted those views as your own.

Regardless of what your answers are, can you be confident that your answer would be agreed upon by any member of each of the groups in question? 

In other words, when you answer ‘what is a Christian?’, can you be certain that all persons who identify as Christians would agree with you? If not, does that reveal anything about:

A) the accuracy of your answer? and, 

B) the definability of the terms?

What about your answer regarding Muslims? Republicans? Americans?

It is very conceivable that there are no objectively correct answers for any of the three questions you’re asked to consider in this brief essay. You no doubt have an answer. It may differ wildly from someone else’s. And even if you self-identify as a member of one or more of the groups above, others within that same group may have drastically different ideas and answers for what a member of the group is.

Generalities differ from specific cases, as Greatest Common Factors differ from Least Common Denominators, by being more inclusive. 

Are there any objective facts about the groups that can be established and agreed upon? Not once we go too granular.

We are living in an age of heightened and aggravated political and cultural tribalism. We seek the emotional comfort of ideological kin. Even if it is the false-comfort of lies. We are willing to factor out one another based on least common denominators, creating such a climate of disinformation, distrust and division, that objectivity may be ready for the grave.

If you believe it’s important to think about things; if it’s important to have reasons as a basis for your beliefs; if it’s important to abandon ”Absolutism” to God alone, with everyone else, including yourself, being prone to error and ignorance, then you and I are agreed.

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