An Oregon chaplain and pastor, as well as columnist in Huffington Post, Brandi Miller, noted yesterday that, “All Christians are problematic, even you and I.” In this column she addressed the issue that has been so conspicuous with the evangelical support of Trump—an unwillingness to admit any fault and to fiercely defend the champion of unwillingness-to-admit-fault, Trump himself.
The kernel of this problem is that many Christians, evangelical and otherwise, are mainly ideologues rather than followers of the teachings of Jesus. Ideologues are in love with their thoughts more than that which these thoughts should refer to. As epistemology teaches us, the word is not the thing but merely a token which points us toward the thing…in this case the “thing” being the person of Jesus. This truth is so powerfully present in the Buddhist teaching, “the finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.” This “finger” is but a pointer, as words should be, a phenomenon which is very important in spiritual teachings, most of which have this understanding buried in their tradition. But this “burial” is difficult to grasp and thus wrestle with as most spiritually-minded people prefer the superficial, the “letter of the law,” as it offers quick and easy validation of their self-serving preconceptions and biases. Awareness of this “burial” of Truth is impossible without understanding the wisdom offered by poet Adrienne Rich, “Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.”
(The Brandi Miller column can be found in following link—https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-miller-problematic-christianity_us_5b4b7887e4b0bc69a788148e)
Jerry Falwell Jr. and his fellow evangelical luminaries are feeling the hurt for their hypocritical support of Trump. With other “advisory board” types fleeing the sinking Trumpian ship, only one has resigned from the Evangelical Advisory Board and Falwell, Jr. in the interview below is challenged to justify his continued support. Falwell Jr.’s support of Trump is completely untenable and in the interview the shallowness of his views are embarrassingly apparent. To make matters worse for him, students at the University bearing the Falwell name and some of its alumni are finding the courage to confront him, to expose his hypocrisy, and ask that he resigns. (See WaPo story– https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/08/21/jerry-falwell-jr-and-other-religious-backers-of-trump-embarrass-themselves/)
I can’t help but feel some sympathy for Falwell Jr. as my youth and early adulthood was spent with rudimentary efforts to ensconce myself in evangelical culture like he has, though I would admittedly have splashed about in a smaller pond than he. Looking back I can remember so clearly how that identity issues were paramount as at that age I was looking about to see where I could establish myself and take my place in the local version of a dog-and-pony show version of evangelical Christianity. I failed miserably in that phase of my identity quest…for which I am so grateful…but Falwell Jr. was very successful. He merely read his script better than I did and that alone did not and does not make him a bad person or un-Christian.
There is the “Christian identity movement” in our culture which Falwell Jr. is part of though he is not cursed with the rabid, unrefined version of that madness. But his “identity” is wholly Christian which is not easy to be critical of as it sounds very noble. But the problem I’m addressing here is in the hollowness of an identity which is based on ideology rather than personal experience. Christian ideologues of the sort I am critiquing see God and even Jesus only as ideas, noble ideas which rattle around in their skull, but which have not been integrated into the core of their being so that a meaningful impact can be had on their thought, speech, and behavior. They are products of our ideologically oriented culture which does not want authentic human beings but simple ideologues, automatons, who will march in lock step with the prevailing cultural milieu. To put in simple terms, Falwell Jr. is like Trump in that he is driven by unquestioned assumptions one of which is, for Falwell his Christian faith. The questioning spirit which could deepen his faith and expose to himself what the Apostle Paul called “the flesh,” even in his noble intentions, will not be permitted. This is because it would be too painful to have his Christian persona exposed for what it is, not realizing that as the persona is penetrated by the light of day…what Christians call “The Holy Spirit”…his faith could deepen as the unacknowledged dimensions of his soul were brought to the surface.
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