Tag Archives: steve bannon

In my youth a Sunday afternoon religious radio broadcast I listened to would start with a musical refrain of “Back to the Bible,” and proceed to reason why that our country needed to return to the Bible as a way of following the call of Jeremiah to “turn from our wicked way” and bring “healing to our land.” Even today, though no longer steeped in a fundamentalist faith, I still see the value of a call for returning to spiritual values as a way of “amending our ways” and thus healing our land.  And, I greatly value the Bible today though I am no longer slavishly dependent on a culturally instilled way of interpreting it.

In my country, the United States of America, I think we are witnessing a classic example of a divided soul, a divided psyche, in which a healing is needed.  When this happens with an individual, descent into mental illness is a serious risk and I think anyone looking at our wonderful country from outside of our blissful myopia would say, “Hey, those guys are going nuts!”  And, I could offer a poignant example of why they could make this point but I don’t want to wallow in Trumpism at this moment.

The word religion stems from “re” and “ligio,” the “ligio” having the same root as ligament, that part of our body that ties our muscles together.  Religion refers to our deep-seated need to wrestle with the meaninglessness and absurdity of life and find a coherent world view that allows us to remain connected to the human endeavor.  But the key to this effort is to finding a “meaningful” world view  that facilitates relationship, i.e. “connection,” and does not promote that contrary impulse of the ego to foster separateness and disconnection, creating insularity.  And the clarion call of “Back to the Bible” I found so appealing in my youth revealed a noble human and Divine impulse but at that time in my development it meant only a desire to “make the world just like me and use the name/image of Jesus Christ to accomplish this.”  For at that point, I wasn’t mature enough to see beyond myself; and to make it worse I lived in a culture in which cultural myopia was a staple of one’s spiritual diet.

Even with these roots in fundamentalist Christianity, which is evangelicalism on steroids, I still have great appreciation in biblical faith though I find this faith much more meaningful with the broader perspective that life has afforded me.  But I am deeply grieved currently to see how a “simple” human being like Steve Bannon could seduce evangelicals into voting for a man of similar darkness to his own.  And now I know that some of them are beginning to sense they were duped and have deep regrets, sentiments which are very challenging to the notion that “the Lord was leading them” to vote for Trump, even with his egregious moral, ethical, and spiritual flaws.  This brings to them the same challenge that Trump himself has, “Can I admit making a big mistake?” or, in Trump’s case, “Can I admit to making any mistake?”

The mistaken premise that evangelicals live under is that if God is leading you then you could never err as God never gives bad advice. But the mistaken part of that premise was the unquestioned assumption that ego was not involved in interpretations of God’s will and that self-serving interpretations could easily be tempting because of what the Apostle Paul called, “the flesh.”   But in evangelical culture, the bromide, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it” makes any interpretation of motive verboten.  It is this assumption of objectivity in which faith gets “de-humanized” that Shakespeare recognized when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is Divine.”  If we are unwilling to become human and recognize, and experience, the phenomena of “err-ing,” then the Divine Grace of God is denied any chance of being experienced.  We can “know” and “understand” it very well; but “knowledge” is such a ready and convenient way of avoiding experience.

This is related to the “de-humanization” effect of all extremist ideologies, faiths, and political viewpoints as disembodied ideas afford one the opportunity to invest in the idea rather than the experience that the idea points to. These viewpoints are not seen as “view” points which is the only thing possible for a mere “human.” But for those who have usurped deity, and taken as absolute facts what is merely a perspective, suddenly realizing they are wrong (or at least not as objective as they had thought) is frightening and even crushing.  This “god-complex” fails to appreciate what the meaning of the Christian story of God’s forgiveness in the Person of Jesus Christ was.  This beautiful image was an attempt to convey to mankind that we are accepted “as is” with no caveat.  And the crucifixion dimension of the story was God’s way of saying, “Hey, it will be painful.  Disillusionment is gut-wrenching.  I’m going to give you a graphic picture in terms that you can understand of just how painful it is.”  But most people opt to interpret the gospel, or the teachings of any spiritual tradition, on a superficial, literal level and not allow its meaning to seep down into the heart where Grace can become something other than a noble idea.  For this to happen, those raised the in Christian culture often need to realize they were “guilted” into their religion as is usually the case with religion.  But if the religion can escape the self-serving temptation of literalism and cultural enslavement, it can facilitate a dynamic relationship with its teachings, allowing greater meaning upon reaching maturity.  The teachings which children were guilted into accepting for the simple solace of belonging to the herd can then open-up into a rich spiritual heritage, empowering them to live a more authentic life and escape the drudgery and despair of being a simple doctrinal marionette.  However, it is much simpler to keep things on the surface, clinging desperately to a literal view and experience of life, knowing in some subtle manner the wisdom of Shakespeare, that it is less painful to “cling to these ills that we have than fly to others that we know not of.”  For letting go of the bondage of guilt leaves us with the “giddiness of freedom” (i.e., anxiety) and the burden of responsibility.

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Hate Groups Flourish Under this “Dark God” We Empowered.

I received an email yesterday morning after I posted on the notion of Trump as a “dark god,” providing a very relevant story from a year ago which explores the issue more deeply.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gini-graham-scott/is-trump-the-modernday-de_b_9579936.html)  This article explores the history and mythology of evil in various cultures and applies it to what is going on in this present historical moment.

One thing I noted after election is how immediately right-wing hate groups began to announced how they felt validated or legitimated.  Furthermore, when Steve Bannon was appoint to Trump’s staff, the “alt-right” began to crow about its newly found legitimacy. David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, voiced his pleasure with having found a voice for his minions. With Trump’s election a lot of theretofore unsavory dimensions of the American consciousness became “normalized.”

Trump, being the “dark god” I described yesterday, has an uncanny capacity to enthrall people who are unable, or disinclined to apply critical thinking to what he offers.  They would not understood the bumper sticker, “Don’t believe everything you think.”  And, as shared before, I remember early in his campaign as I watched one of his rallies I too felt the lure of this enthrallment though my critical thinking skills allowed me to immediately understand that I was only hearing a long dormant cry from my early youth that found “Make America Great Again” so appealing.

Just yesterday another news story displayed how helpless some very intelligent and powerful people are to this “dark god.”  Congressman Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House committee investigating the Trump campaign, reported important findings of the committee directly to the President even without first consulting with the committee as protocol requires.  By doing this he appeared to have put his credibility under grave question as he had unnecessarily given information to the key figure his committee was investigating.  Nunes is now trying to cover his back side but I really think that it is apparent that he merely succumbed to the lure of this enthralling power that Trump has and curried to his favor at the same time.  And before this day is over, I strongly suspect that Trump’s powerful grip over the conservative voice in this country will prevail and the Republican House will vote to repeal Obamacare even though they appear to be very conflicted about it.

Remember the warning of the Apostle Paul, “ For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  And don’t forget the wisdom of Pogo,“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are: 

https://wordpress.com/posts/anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com

https://wordpress.com/posts/literarylew

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and GOP Arrogance

The April issue of “The New Republic” features an article by Sarah Posner entitled, “Amazing Disgrace–How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?”

Posner offers further analysis of the Southern Baptists and their current effort to “purge” themselves of one miscreant, Russell Moore, who dared to bring a dissenting voice to their group think on Donald Trump.  Posner quotes Richard Spencer, himself an alt-right leader, declaring how that the evangelicals as a group have been totally duped by Trump, declaring, “Trump has shown the hand of the GOP…(that it)…is a white person’s populist party.”  Posner declared that the “white evangelicals” were the key to Trump’s victory and argued that Steve Bannon carefully courted them during the campaign, knowing that without them his cause could not compete against the progressive left.  Bannon told Posner last July that “If conservative Catholics and evangelicals ‘just want to focus on reading the Bible and being good Christians there is no chance we could ever get this country back on track again.’”

Even Richard Schenk, a leader of conservative evangelical Christians recognized how that his group had sold their soul to the devil in supporting Trump, exposing an evangelical culture “that doesn’t know itself.”  This lack of “self” awareness, or meta-cognition, has kept them from recognizing just how foolish their support of Trump appears giving his egregious affront to everything that the teachings of Jesus represents.  This lack of awareness reflects a very human tendency to opt for an opportunity for power even in the arena of spirituality, even if that “opportunity for power” is an in opposition to all they purport to hold dear.

A core dimension of the evangelical Christian tradition is the “us” vs “them” paradigm best illustrated with the attitude of, “I’ve got it” and “most of you don’t”.  This exaggerated emphasis on drawing distinctions between “me” and “thee” overlooks the teachings of Jesus which sought to put Grace on the table in an historical moment when the “letter of the law” of the Old Testament was being overly emphasized in his culture.  Jesus recognized that the religious establishment of his day was paying too much attention to that “us” vs “them” or “right” vs “wrong” paradigm. It is no coincidence that the Trump administration’s first significant action was to start getting rid of people “who don’t belong” by moving fast on the immigration issue.  The Southern Baptist Convention is mirroring that impulse to “clean house” of all dissent or difference.  “If people aren’t like us, let’s send ‘em packing!  We don’t want difference of opinion.  We don’t want diversity, we want unity!” And if you are so arrogant as to assume that you have an objective grasp of what “truth” is, then you can feel empowered to take this position, and even take comfort in the illusion that, “God is leading us.”