Saturday, February 11, 2012

Definitions Matter

Review various articles about what is the left and what is the right in politics and in religion and you quickly discover that definitions matter. As is so often said, "The devil is in the details." One example can quickly be found in the history of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany prior to the rise of National Socialism (Nazis). Wikipedia offers an adequate summary. Both parties claimed to be social, but came to radically different conclusions.

History of the Social Democratic Party of Germany - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Era of national socialism / SoPaDe (1933–1945)
Being the only party in the Reichstag to have voted against the Enabling Act (with the Communist Party of Germany prevented from voting), the SPD was banned in the summer of 1933 by the new Nazi government. Many of its members were jailed or sent to Nazi concentration camps. An exile organization, known as SoPaDe, was established, initially in Prague. Others left the areas where they had been politically active and moved to other towns where they were not known.
Between 1936 and 1939 some SPD members fought in Spain for the Republic against Franco and the German Condor Legion
After the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 the exile party resettled in Paris and after the defeat of France in 1940 in London. Only a few days after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 the exiled SPD in Paris declared its support for the Allies and for the military removal from power of the Nazi government.
The terms 'right' and 'left' are still bantered around in the U.S., currently under the guise of Republican (read 'right') and Democratic (read 'left') by some definitions. See typical answers to the question, Is Democratic Party left or right wing? Communication and cooperation depend heavily on agreement. How can I tell that you and I are really talking about the same thing? We have to talk about what we mean by the words we use. As always, the demons that divide and destroy us hide in the details.

The same holds true as well in any discussion of religion.

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