I love sectarianism, especially when it has a religious flair! How could I not as I grew up in a very conservative religious sect in the American South; and, though I have assiduously attempted to throw that damn baby out with the bath water, I must admit that it will always be present in my heart. Of course, now this “sectarianism” is carefully ensconced in liberal thought! (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/roads/2013/08/leo_tolstoy_s_doukhobors_the_culture_of_this_remote_pacifist_sect_in_georgia.html)
The on-line publication, Slate, today has a fascinating story of a Russian pacifist movement which is now facing extinction as that monster modernity is about to devour it. That monster is the same one that beset my childhood sect, a monster which received much opprobrium from our pulpits best summarized with the Old Testament admonishment, “Remove not the ancient landmarks…”
This Russian sect became a “pet” of no less a luminary than Tolstoy back in 1890’s who attempted to defend it from the wiles of the encroaching state. These “Doukhobors” are centered in the Republic of Georgia and now have dwindled to a mere 500 after three hundred years of tenaciously clinging to their version of “ancient landmarks.” Their name means “spirit wrestlers” which was given them in derision but was wryly appreciated by the group, taking it as a virtue to be known as a group who “wrestled” with spirit.
Every culture has its conservatives and its “hyper-conservatives”, the latter seeing any change as tantamount to surrender to oblivion. This reminds me of something a mentally ill man once told a well-meaning but misguided friend, “You argue to make a point but I argue to stay alive.” These hyper-conservatives are entrenched in their belief system, and will relentlessly dig themselves further into it, because they perceive the only alternative as fragmentation and ultimately the threat of annihilation or death. And, this should give all of us pause, even those of us with our “noble” and liberal ideas–anything carried to its extreme becomes problematic. As they Greeks said centuries ago, “Moderation in all things.”