rooting around for grubs in diverse soils

Tag: christianity

Trump’s base base


Source: Barna Group 2013

“…and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.” Second Book of Kings 9:20

Every day I wake up to notifications from across the Atlantic of some fresh wickedness perpetuated by the United States Administration, occupying the airwaves as the evening moved west across the plains and prairies of North America. This parade of shocking news has become relentless all because of the festering ego of one orange man of German descent.

History has become more like an almanac, a series of extraordinary headlines forming layer upon layer of quickly forgotten outrage. Today we have abducting children from their parents at the Mexican border, lying about crime in Germany, provoking China into a trade war, and flouncing out of the UN Human Rights Council.

We have forgotten for example the shooting in Parkland Florida and Trump’s weasel offering of “thoughts and prayers”. On the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme following the massacre there was an interview with Patrick Carolan from the Franciscan Action Network. Gun violence is a right to life issue, he said. Trump in fact doesn’t enjoy support of vast majority of Christians. Those who support him are Christian in name only. They are not following the teachings of Jesus. They are obsessed with abortion which is only one ‘right to life’ issue, and one which is clouded by complexity and other compelling rights, notably the right of a woman to be in control of her own body. Trump wins 81% of the white evangelical and most Roman Catholic votes. It is hypocritical for leaders to offer prayers and thoughts without action.

Carolan was echoing the Epistle of James which has become more relevant than ever to the millions of people who espouse Christianity but act like self-interested monads, who make it a tenet of faith to reject the theory of evolution yet subscribe in effect to a brutalist, unforgiving strain of social Darwinism. To say that whatever befalls you is God’s will is no different from saying that evolution, or unbridled ‘markets’, determine the way creatures must be.  The right to have a gun does not supersede the right to live free from fear of violence.   “Stop pretending you’re Christian and start acting Christian. Stop worrying about what Trump says. He has nothing to do with being Christian or person of faith. We are not a moral nation if we allow children to be shot. You are not acting as people of faith if you oppose gun control.”

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2: 14-17.

A Pew Research poll in 2010 found that evangelicals were hardly more familiar than atheists with the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus. “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it,’’ was the conclusion in a 1989 study (The People’s Religion: American Faith in the 90’s, George Gallup, Jr. and Jim Castelli). In 2012, a Christian polling firm (whose chart is pasted above) found evangelicals accepted the attitudes and beliefs of the Pharisees more than those of Jesus.

These are the people who form the base of Trump’s support. Everything he does is calculated to ‘shore up the base’. This is a new alliance of convenience – they deserve one another. These putative Christians have their plenipotentiary in the pasty presence of Mike Pence, adoring and silent at the President’s side. Even if they balk at Trump’s moral decrepitude they lionise him as if he were a modern day Jehu, the psychopath anointed by the prophet Elisha to destroy the House of Ahab. If we are lucky Pence is Saul, before the Road to Damascus, looking on approvingly at the stoning of Christian martyrs.  But these are not lucky times.

What the Church and perhaps the whole world needs now is a new generation of fire-breathing prophets, scruffy, raw and unrelenting like their Old Testament predecessors, acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly before the Lord, to clear the Temple of its hypocrites, thieves and apologists for child abduction.

Secrets and fictions (I)

Exploitation does not pertain to corrupt or imperfect or primitive society: it pertains to the essence of the living thing as a fundamental organic function, it is the consequence of the intrinsic will to power which is precisely the will of life.

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Close readers of this blog may have surmised that I had a somewhat religious upbringing, and that over the years some of the loonier notions have been jettisoned while the tenets of the faith permeated deeper. I’ve long realised that there is no pure unmediated connection with the divine, and I’ve been exasperated by fundamentalists. First because they reduce the scriptures to the arbitrarily selected passages which justify their own prejudices. Second because they fail in their Biblicism to see that assuming the infallibility of presumed authors and revisers of the books of the Bible implies equal infallibility in the decisions of the compilers of the canon, of which books should be included or excluded.  Better, following Irenaeus, to spend time contemplating the life of Jesus and emulating his example, rather than fixating – as Paul demanded – on the propitiatory transaction of salvation through his death.

But then a few years ago I picked up, at bookshop in the Church of St Edmund on Lombard Street, a musty 1950s edition of Bultmann’s Theology of the New Testament, which for the first time transported me into the mists of the Christian dawn. I became haunted, I think that’s the word, by the historical Jesus and his immediate followers. Jesus, even as mediated and shaped by the gospels, certainly used different lexicon (e.g. ‘son of man’) to St Paul and other writers of the New Testament canon, and he almost certainly was driven by a different set of priorities. What exactly happened after the concentrated collective trauma of the Crucifixion? (Wie es eigentlich gewesen, as all good history students start off by asking.) It looks like Jesus’s brother James led the early church in Jerusalem until the powderkeg of Roman rule over the Palestinian Jews (in which Jesus was only one of the agitators) erupted catastrophically with the emperor Titus’s destruction of the city in 70AD. Then the centre of gravity of the new sect moved out to the provinces of Asia Minor and eventually to Rome itself, and the umbilical link to the Jewish heritage, especially its more recent Maccabean sedition, was gradually severed. There ensued an agglomeration of founding myths, political expediency and compelling theology. Knowledge and orthodoxy crystalised and became bound up with power. Diarmaid MacCulloch’s masterpiece, A History of Christianity spans time and geography to recount the rich, intimate and bloody tapestry that has been woven since.

So much for Christianity. People are all what Leibniz called ‘windowless monads’, individuals moving in space motivated by instincts most of which we cannot or refuse to question, but which tend to coalesce into collective action; collective action which is mostly, as Leibniz believed, harmonious, apart from the occasional genocide or other act of gratuitous cruelty. Each of us thrives or suffers according what we have inherited or else our ability for gaining at the expense of others. The backdrop to and side effect of this human experiment is, of course, accelerating environmental degradation.

I am going to pan back further, inspired by what Yuval Harari has euphemistically called humanity’s ‘disturbing secret’, where the sense of the uncanny becomes unbearable. Maybe tomorrow.