“You don’t want to live in a country that builds their policy around the rapture.”
Source: The Trump Brand of Death – Gaslit Nation @16:09
“You don’t want to live in a country that builds their policy around the rapture.”
Source: The Trump Brand of Death – Gaslit Nation @16:09
As I reported for Salon in May, research shows that the real trend is not in young white evangelicals who choose to stay in their churches but leave the Republican Party. Instead, the trend is young white evangelicals leaving the church altogether, and often leaving the GOP at the same time. Research shows a “backlash effect,” in which the more the religious right gets involved in politics, the more younger congregants are likely to throw in the towel and leave both the church and conservative politics behind.
As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty towards women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are not merely smiling because of what they have done, but because they did it together.
Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era.
Trump’s only true skill is the con, his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.
I updated “Racist, Misogynist, Eugenicist, Ableist, Bigot, Traitor, Gaslighter, Liar: A Letter to My Representatives on Their Christofascist Bigotry” with selections from “Escape from Jesus Land: On Recognizing Evangelical Abuse and Finding the Strength to Reject the Faith of Our Fathers – Not Your Mission Field” and “Journalists Should Stop Scratching their Heads about Evangelical Trumpism, Admit White Evangelicals are Illiberal Christians – Not Your Mission Field”.
I think it’s important for liberal Americans who do not come from a patriarchal religious background to hear our stories and to sit with that shock. Why? Because I remain convinced that if American civil society and the American press fail to come to grips with just how radically theocratic the Christian Right is, any kind of post-Trump soft landing scenario in which American democracy recovers a healthy degree of functionality is highly unlikely.
To put it another way, you may not come from Jesus Land, USA, but Jesus Land is coming for you. We will all be subjected to theocratic dystopia, to “one kleptocracy under God,” if we don’t stop the Christian Right. The Christian Right has been able to acquire massively disproportionate power in part because the press has allowed evangelicals’ slick, code switching PR spin doctors-such as the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell “journalists never ask me about my view that feminism is a heresy” Moore-to frame the national discussion of evangelicalism. The result is that the readers of major news outlets are presented with an unrealistically benign picture of a darkly authoritarian, cult-like branch of Protestantism. That’s one reason I’m writing this essay.
The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of (mostly white) conservative Evangelicals hold to a fundamentalist, authoritarian version of Christianity that is incompatible with pluralism, but for that no less “really” Christian, as “real” Christianity comes in both reactionary and progressive versions. Combined with political power, conservative Evangelicalism threatens democracy and human rights, and to continue to treat conservative Evangelicals as if they are operating in good faith within the acceptable boundaries of American democratic norms will serve only to normalize extremism, allowing Evangelicals to further erode our democracy. And pretending that “real” religion is incapable of being abusive and anti-democratic only serves to deflect from the rot within American Christianity that we as a society need to face.
A philosopher named Owen Flanagan quoted someone as saying that “A good human life is lived at the intersection of the true, the good, and the beautiful.” It seems that we all come equipped to determine what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful as part of our basic makeup, so if the aphorism is true, we all have the capability of living a good life. But if you ask a Christian apologist what is the true, what is the good, and what is the beautiful, they will respond that God/Jesus is the truth, only He is truly good, and He and His love are the beautiful. Humans, on the other hand, are depraved, sinful, and unworthy, and that none of those three (truth, good, beauty) come from anywhere but their god. Humans can be saved from their sinfulness, but only through faith in their god or at least obey the gods directives as interpreted by their gods servants.
The religions in this country favor depicting potential believers as being unworthy, sinful, even abominable, before offering the “cure.” They describe the world around us as being filled with temptations and dangers, for which they have, of course, solutions. They refer to their followers as docile animals, as their “flock,” as “lambs and sheep,” and as children, with priests referring to their parishioners as their children (My Son, My Daughter, My Child) and accept the title of “Father,” all of which disempowers the parishioners and puts them into the pliable state of a child, ready for indoctrination.
As a teacher I was taught that my primary goal was to provide a “safe learning environment” for my students, so they could learn free of coercion, bullying, sarcasm, and humiliation. I taught college kids, adults, so was that requirement because all of my students had already been safely religiously indoctrinated as children and it was now not okay to coerce them? Why does this “safe, learning environment” requirement not apply to religions, which terrorize young children with images of their loved ones burning in Hell. (Please don’t tell me this doesn’t happen, I have spoken to too many people who have confessed their nightmares regarding their grandparents or other loved ones roasting in fire.)
Why do not we use, as a theme for educating our children the simple phrase “a good human life is lived at the intersection of the true, the good, and the beautiful” and operate as if we believed that?
We’ve gone so far as to organize our gods around misogyny. The evangelical South’s support for Roy Moore has drawn shocked, breathless comment. But the white South’s Christian faith has always been malleable, bending to accommodate the power of white men.
Masculinity operates like whiteness: It demands control over any space it enters. It plants itself in the center and shoves anything coded as feminine to the edges. In a man’s world, decisive is better than deliberate. Bold is strong; cautious consideration is weak. Reflection invites regret, and that’s weak, too. Ditto collectivity-the rugged individual only joins a group in which he can be the reigning hero. And he keeps his emotions in check. Better to strike out in rage than sit in your sadness. I spent far too many years accepting these falsities as obvious truths, wearing them like a straitjacket around my own humanity.
And just as these ideas confine the minds and hearts of men, they corrode public life. They are at least part of the reason that we have an economy organized around greed, a culture that frames collectivity as a threat to individuality, and a politics that approaches nuanced problems with rigid yes/no debates.
They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.
But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979-a full six years after Roe-that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.
When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas-also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century-was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press.
We had been led astray by what social scientists call the secularization thesis: that as societies become more modern, they become less religious. Many writers, readers and academics expected that this must be occurring in the U.S., and we continued to believe it, long after it became evident that the U.S. wasn’t following the pattern that might be true in parts of Europe or Canada. I wanted to understand what it looked like as writers tried to register the unforeseen return of politically muscular religion—how they recognized it or misrecognized it, and, as people who are generally secular and liberal, tried to criticize its politics.
The Da Vinci Code, meanwhile, vilified the Catholic Church, but I show that it should better be understood as an attack on Protestantism, and particularly on the authority of the Bible. It was a woefully ill-informed attack on the Bible, but its target was the reliability of Scripture, which is far more important to fundamentalist Protestants than it is to Catholics.
One big misconception is that the literary paradigms of multiculturalism and postmodernism would be natural antagonists of the Christian Right. It turned out that conservative Christians could love aspects of both these things. Teaching evolution in public schools, for instance, has been likened to a genocide of Christians, disrespectful and murderous of Christian identity.
Writers like Barbara Kingsolver (in The Poisonwood Bible), Marilynne Robinson (in Gilead), Ishmael Reed (in Mumbo Jumbo), Gloria Anzaldúa (in Borderlands/La Frontera) and Philip Roth (think The Plot Against America) translated their critiques of conservative Christian politics into the language of multicultural disrespect for identities. But as it turned out, this language was also being used by conservative Christians themselves, as with the notion that the religious sensibility of bakers is being offended when they have gay customers ordering a wedding cake.
Although liberals often think that identity politics has been a great driver of progress, I try to remind everyone that it’s actually through human rights claims–not identity claims–that progress has been made in the courts on desegregation, teaching evolution, reproductive rights, and now gay marriage. The success of multiculturalism in literature and academia made us misrecognize the rise of the Christian Right for what it was: it was a minority social movement, but one that made particular legal claims on people outside of it. When writers used the logic of multicultural identity to critique the politics of the Christian Right, they were misapprehending the phenomenon.
The same holds true for postmodernism. It’s too easy to think of the uncertainties and indeterminacies of postmodernism as being naturally opposed to the theological certainty of the fundamentalism that is the backbone of the Christian Right. But what I try to show in my book is that postmodern uncertainty is not an obstacle to faith, but an invitation to it.
This is the lesson of a novel like Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, a metaphysical detective story that shows us how being uncertain about our knowledge and the world forces us all to make faith decisions. In fact, there are a number of issues-evolution, Bible criticism, climate change, sex education, even supply-side economic policy-where conservative Christians have embraced the postmodern uncertainty undercutting consensus expert knowledge. In If God Meant to Interfere I try to show how postmodern literature couldn’t really face down the Christian Right, since it was already entangled with what I call “Christian Postmodernism.”
I try to be fair in my treatment of the Christian Right, but obviously there will be arguments and ideas in my book that conservative Christians will disagree with. They won’t like that I point out that the historical genealogy of the Christian Right lay back in segregation, and before that, in slavery. Writers like Toni Morrison are aware of this fact, and it’s the reason that one outsider who examined the Christian Right-Margaret Atwood in _The Handmaid’s Tale-_was paying such close attention to slave narratives when she imagined her Christian totalitarian dystopia.