Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Value of Fundamentalist Roots

I’m really proud of my fundamentalist Christian roots, even as I am currently appalled at what fundamentalist Christians are doing culturally and politically.  I think that one of the things I gained from that tradition was a passion for words, a belief that in words one could find an essential dimension of life, a belief stemming from the teaching that Jesus was “the Word” made manifest.  And I believe that even more though now I see that “words” like the whole of life are so much more than meet the eye…or ear, or any other sensual faculty.  It is this “liberty” that has now taken me beyond fundamentalism and I find that this journey into “liberty” is so essential if one is to escape the bondage of the “letter of the law.”

I think that in some way we all start life as fundamentalists in some way.  For example, take the Ozzie and Harriet characters in the 1960’s tv series.  This fictional couple took their middle-class life very real, echoing the life of middle-America at that time and at all times.  Everyone takes the reality they are given at birth to be real.  Fundamentalists merely take theirs a little more “real” and feel intensely that the rest of the world need to perceive the world as they do.  Some philosopher once said that it is impossible to have a perspective on one’s perspective without escaping it a bit.  This faculty, much related to meta-cognition, is a struggle for nearly all fundamentalists.  In my lifetime it has benign mostly but since the Republicans were threatened with the rise of modernity and felt threatened, they have exploited fundamentalists and energized them even though the Republican Christian faith is far removed from that of fundamentalists.  Witness Donald Trump, the most obvious faux Christian of all time.

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An Atheist’s View of Rationalism & Religion

I often quote Goethe re our irrational investment in reason, “They call it reason, using Light celestial, just to outdo the beasts in being bestial.”  John Gray, a noted atheist in the link below takes modern man, atheist and theists as well to task for their “child like faith in reason.”  Gray’s argument is essentially that we obsessively cling to a world view that we are predisposed to believe in, one that supports our biases and prejudices, and interpret everything to support this self-serving worldview. To justify this mindset, we use reason to “prove” it.

Here are just a few highlights of his arguments.

Believing in the power of human reason requires a greater leap of faith than believing in God….They would alter their beliefs in accordance with facts, but clinging to beliefs in the face of contrary evidence is one of the most powerful and enduring human traits….If history teaches us anything it’s that hatred and cruelty are permanent human flaws, which find expression whatever beliefs people may profess.

What Gray’s essay reveals is that faith cannot lie in reason but, as Goethe recognized, must look beyond the grasp of simple, self-serving human rationality.  This is frightening because our ego is intrinsically a rational structure and is an essential dimension of our faith, regardless of how noble and valid the teachings of this faith tradition might be. This requires a critical, i.e. self-reflective stance toward our faith, if we are going to be able to ferret out some of the instances in which ego is in control.

Of course, I have in mind the tragedy that the Christian faith has facilitated in the political climate of my country by helping elect and continue to support Donald Trump.  The evangelical Christians in particular have insisted that “the Lord has raised him up” to lead our country, justifying his horrible short-comings with such lame excuses as, “He is just a baby Christian” or “Who am I to judge?”  But what they are failing to consider is how he is exploited them, preying on their gullibility, and made a mockery of their faith, leaving Jesus up there in heaven shaking his head!  But now, having pledged their troth to Trump, they cannot back down…just as Trump cannot back down from ridiculous positions…for to do so would be to admit that they made a mistake. They remain ensconced in their rational faith, disregarding the wisdom of Paul Tillich who warned, “A religion bound by the confines of reason is a mutilated religion.”

But being a Christian means recognizing that we have had a lifetime of making mistakes and that we continue to do so!  It means that occasionally we have to recognize, in the immortal words of Texas Governor Rick Perry, “Oops,” I made a mistake.  But anyone tyrannized by the ego cannot admit making a mistake.  And everyon3 around them suffers.

Here is a link to the essay by John Gray:  http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28341562

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Spiritual Discernment vs. Judgment

The Apostle Paul described a “discerning spirit” that could penetrate into the depths our being and there reveal the “thoughts and intents of the heart.”  In recent years I’ve learned to apply this in very human terms as I’ve become more attuned to the whims and fancies that pass through my mind/heart.  For example, about a year ago I was listening to an early campaign rally of Donald Trump and felt an urge to yell out, “Atta boy, Donald!  You tell’em!”  His rhetoric, the cadence of his speech , and evangelical fervor appealed to faint emotional imagery from my early youth and I immediately told my wife, “I know why so many people find him appealing.”  Here I exercised “discernment,” paying attention to a subtle impulse of my heart to which I gave no energy as I recognized it for what it was, opting instead for more mature, rational discretion.  Earlier in my life I would have taken what he was saying, “hook, line, and sinker” and would have been an enthusiastic supporter.

And I find myself exercising this discernment often in my life in areas of race, gender orientation, and even physical appearance.  Part of me still has the very human impulse to respond with great intensity to my first impression but now I have that discernment, related to what Shakespeare called, “the pauser reason,” and realize that the distinctions that my ego wishes to carve the world into are not as clear and distinct as they first appear.

My mind brings to my attention one of my favorite anecdotes from the life of Jesus, the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  This woman was a well known local prostitute and a contingent of local Republicans…so to speak…(wink, wink) were demanding that she be stoned to death, according to the law.  Jesus responded, “Let thee who is without guilt cast the first stone” after which he told her to “Go and sin no more.”  Now, Jesus knew well what the law was and that it did indeed call for him to pick up one of the rocks from one of the local rock-vending kiosks nearby and start pelting her himself.  But he exercised internal discretion, i.e. discernment, and knew that often grace and forgiveness was in order rather than strict enforcement of the letter of the law.

 

“Cardboard Cutout” Politics and Jesus

,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gene-huber-trump-cardboard-cutout_us_58a91337e4b045cd34c2689d?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

I don’t think Trump realized what this incident was revealing about himself.  He felt that this hapless young man was making a statement which validated him but his affirmation of Trump only demonstrated his own emptiness and testified to the emptiness that Trump has brought to the table.  Trump is an “empty suit” and so vividly exemplifies the “empty suit” of our capitalistic culture which is always trying to satisfy its inner void with “stuff” in a futile endeavor which can only end with further futility…and possible disaster. Meanwhile, many Christians are aiding and abetting this enterprise and therein demonstrating the meaninglessness of their own “cardboard cut out Jesus.”

This event brought to my mind a prophetic poem of T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Man” and here is the first stanza:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar.

I do think that the prophetic function in today’s world is rarely fulfilled by religion. Religion has become enculturated, “canned” or packaged and therefore not capable of bringing the breath of fresh air that is its responsibility.