A writer for Christianity Today, Katelyn Beaty, has written an op-ed for the New York Times that addresses the insularity in evangelical Christianity that has been a focus of mine. They have put their energy into the culture wars and in so doing missed the essential thrust of the Gospels, opting for the sweet nectar of vicarious power and legitimation rather than grasping the basic teaching of Jesus that power lay in powerlessness and legitimation is a gift from Him, based not in the least on anything we do or know. Their fierce support of Trump, and now Bill O’Reilly, in the face of overwhelming evidence of their moral turpitude reveals their willingness to overlook anything to know that they, and their way of viewing the world, is “right.”
Beaty quotes a grandson of Billy Graham, Boz Tchividjian, who recognizes this insularity of his evangelical compatriots, noting they are willing to overlook even sexual abuse at times, that they respond to abuse with their primary concern being “institutional self-protection” which is explained as necessary to protect “the name of Christ.” Mr. Tchividjian has at least some grasp of something most evangelicals are not willing to consider, that Jesus Christ is often largely a foil for the purpose of accomplishing their very self-serving ends. This is because they can’t acknowledge the “performance art” dimension of their faith because it would be too painful to suffer the disillusionment, though if they did so they could learn that any good they accomplish in their life, including in the name of Jesus, will be done in spite of them and not because of them. But when the ego predominates in faith, their ministry or Christian practice will be superficial, another demonstration of the wisdom of Shakespeare, “With devotions visage and pious action they sugar o’er the devil himself.”
With Trump in particular, these evangelicals have prostituted themselves to a man who continues daily to demonstrate in word and deed everything that Jesus opposed. And they have very lame explanations like, “Well, he is just a baby Christian” or “Who am I to judge” or “Who am I to cast stones?” In Trump they have unwittingly found a voice for the unconscious dimensions of their heart, that region where the Grace of God, that is definitely present in their life, would like to work if they would only acknowledge the need of it. But acknowledgement of the need of it would be an affront to their Christian persona and would require admitting they made a mistake. But like their president, they can’t admit making a gut-level, existential mistake…though admitted he can’t admit making any mistake! Oh, they can confess to being a sinner all day long. That is easy. That is what they’ve been taught to do. But cognitive understanding of sin, and confessing of “knowledge” of sins, does not address the deep-seated avarice, greed, and egotism that lurks in all hearts, regardless of how pious we might think that we are. To see, understand, and experience this is to begin to process of becoming human and that is what God wants of us. That is the “incarnation” that Jesus illustrated for us.
(Link to NYT op-ed cited abo e—https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/02/opinion/bill-oreilly-shielded-by-christians.html?ref=opinion&_r=0)
There are two other blogs listed below which you might wish to check out.
A white supremacist recent challenged a Washington D.C. Muslim lawyer, Qusim Rashid, “Why isn’t there a Christian Isis?” He was roundly rebuffed, with Rashid pointing out the violent history of Christianity with the Crusades, the genocide of Native Americans, and the brutal enslavement of African “heathens” to bring them Christ. The challenge to this Muslim demonstrated the lack of self-reflection present with many conservative Americans, not having any insight into how that what they see “out there” is usually right in the depths of their own heart. And I would add to Rashid’s answer the observation that in highly “sophisticated” American culture we have mastered the art of sublimation so that our violence is often camouflaged so it passes for the ordinary. And I think this is particularly so in all religions, including Christianity.
Violence is intrinsic to human nature and I think religion was given to us by the gods to facilitate an integration of the schism in our soul that leads to violence. But when a religious practice is limited to the cognitive/rational realm, the inner recesses of the heart are not even addressed meaning that often our religious practice can be intrinsically ugly and escape our carefully-crafted version of self-awareness. (For more on violence and the sacred, check out Rene Girard.)
For example, in this venue and others I have addressed the sublimated violence of fundamentalist Christianity where manipulation, intimidation, shame and social pressure are often one dimension of the Christian emphasis to “win souls to Jesus.” Just one illustration of this is the post-sermon altar call in which threats of hell-fire and damnation are de rigueur. The Jesus I believe in today was, and is, the Son of a loving God and does not need human artifice to woo anyone into his kingdom, especially little children. Little children who have “the hell scared of them” with fire and brimstone sermons are being subjected to systematic abuse and the cultural predominance of this violence will be effective in most instances. These little children will grow up under the tyranny of a “loving” god, knowing in the depths of their heart that to let any dimension of their belief system go will be to encounter the terror that was evoked in their youth by the manipulation and intimidation by their church. They will be “trapped” in their faith, not able in most instances to evolve spiritually and learn that God is not the beast they were presented with in youth.
And, of course, this ideological entrapment is obviously true also with the interlocutor of Mr. Rashid. The ideology and life-style of white supremacists is deeply etched in their hearts, often by fundamentalist religion, leaving them free to make accusations of others about spiritual darkness that predominates in their own heart. “Don’t believe everything you think,” I would remind them. But they can’t help believing what they think because, being trapped in a cognitive prison devoid of God’s grace, they cannot find the “space” to question their motives.
(For more on the Rashid interaction with the white supremicist, check out the following link–https://www.someecards.com/news/politics/white-supremacist-muslim-history/)
PLEASE CHECK OUT MY TWO OTHER BLOGS SOMETIME!
Truth is not a thing! Truth is not an object that you stumble across one day as you amble along your life’s pathway, a bright and shiny object which you immediately recognize as “The Truth.” Now it is true that walking along this path you might stumble upon a spiritual tradition, a thing or object, which is intriguing and even having a “bright and shiny” quality to it which appears to convey truth. But this “bright and shiny object” can easily be only a spiritual bauble with which the ego can find amusement and self-gratification for a while. The Truth is not on the surface of any spiritual tradition, is not a “thing” in the least.
But if you have been raised in the West where we have been systematized and “thingi-fied” since at least the industrial revolution, it is human nature to see everything as a “thing” even spiritual matters which are intrinsically a “no-thing.” This is because our culture has turned our soul into a “thing” so that our intrinsic grasp of who we are is conceptual and therefore we will see other people, spiritual traditions, and even “god” as a thing. We can’t help it. It is human nature to perceive out of “the abundance of one’s heart” and the heart is always encumbered by the dross of the enculturation process. Any spiritual tradition will encounter “meaning” only when one has the temerity to look beneath the surface of his life which always will jeopardize spiritual traditions that have been passed on to him. Indeed, in some sense one must lose his spiritual tradition, his faith, his god if he is to find meaningful spiritual roots, meaningful faith, and a meaningful “god” who is not a mere idle thought rattling around in his skull. This is relevant to the admonishment of Jesus that we must lose our life in order to find it, our “life” consisting of the persona that by necessity we acquired and has served a useful purpose…and can do so again if we will allow our internal resources (i.e. “Spirit”) to be tapped and give meaning to this persona. And in my spiritual tradition, Christianity, the Christian persona is difficult to grasp as our ego does not want us to get a glimpse of just how much our faith has been an example of performance art. This is what Jesus recognized with the established religion of his day and called them “hypocrites” or “actors.” He, being a keen spiritual observer of his world, immediately recognized that their spiritual tradition had become merely performance art. I think that today he would call most Christians something like “Christian-oids.”
Truth is elusive and to put it into words is difficult, technically impossible. Words are only “pointers” in the spiritual realm and human nature is to take these words superficially and mistake the word for the thing. Truth is a process, not a thing, and in my spiritual tradition this process is described as a “Person” and this is a meaningful way of seeing and intuitively grasping Truth. But when at the core of our heart we perceive ourselves as a “thing” it takes a miracle for us to see any dimension of spiritual life, and life as a whole, as anything but a “thing.” Until we see and understand this, our relationships…even the closest and dearest relationships…will be one “thing” relating to another “thing” without the presence of any dynamic process that is the essential feature of the life process. Life is not static. We live in a flux and we are a flux but our ego resists understanding this as doing so requires a heart that has become “petal open” and therefore aware of its fluidity and the fluidity of the whole of life.
(I almost got carried away here. My ultimate point was the spiritual emptiness of our culture which has facilitated and even encouraged the development of Trumpism, with our President being only a symptom. I pose the question I so often pose here, and in real time, “Where is the church?” I could even say, “Where is God?” Yes, God has disappeared and one could even say “dead” as did Nietzsche presciently note in the 19th century but that is only because those purporting to believe in Him have turned him into a sterile concept, the “letter of the law” and as the Apostle Paul told us, this “letter” always kills anything it touches. Instead of droning on further, you might want to see a further amplification of this concern in another blog I posted yesterday. Here is the link: https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/)