What a Privilege

This post-election feels different outside. Inside, the outcome was surprising, sobering, and disturbing, and subsequent days are only confirming many fears. Given the stark demographic contrasts in preferred candidates, there’s a sense that people are more suspicious of each other. As an older white male PoC are justifiably giving me side-eye. I’m trying to appear as disconcerted and troubled as possible (which has been easy to do, because I 9f1179b7924e90a88321d250f59d5015am), stalling for time to find a few t-shirts emblazoned with something that makes crystal clear that I didn’t support any of this. In the meantime, I’m stuck playing the suddenly popular game “Which of You Crackers Voted for Trump?” Nowadays with Facebook, it’s easy to find the proud deplorables amongst family and acquaintances. In the olden days, Know-Nothings would sneak around in the shadows but now they proudly display their ignorance to everyone.

One demographic group that stands out: White Evangelical Christians. Reportedly 81% voted for Donald Trump to be the President of the United States. A higher percentage voted for Trump than voted for (the decidedly more “Christian”) Mitt Romney or George W. Bush. These fine Christian volk didn’t have to vote for the villainous and despised Hillary Clinton; they could have refrained from sullyi07b57bc7dee49196fe66573fd3e39f2cng themselves in this election. Instead most actually voted for Donald Trump.

Many Evangelicals used to steer clear of messy politics, but have long been coopted by the Republican Party. Easily held in thrall by the single issue of abortion allows the expedited, short-circuited, easy-thinking these voters prefer. The issue easily fits into their narratives, allowing the dramatic staged event of decent folks with “values” versus unfeeling, atheistic baby killers. This simple litmus test has required them to defend disastrous Bush policies and compelled them to spend 8 years trashing the Obamas, who by all indications comported themselves as model Christians. These political Christians that are clearly commanded not to hate and slander then lustily spent the past 2 years trashing the Clintons (again), using everything from juvenile ad hominem insults to outright fabrications. I debated people who claimed in all seriousness that Hillary Clinton was possessed by a demon. Where do you go from there?

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason … is like administering medicine to the dead” – Thomas Paine

After all the grandstanding about morality and values since well before Bill Clinton, they disregarded all of that and voted for Trump. They didn’t just vote for him as last resort, but many opted for Trump in the primaries too. Donald J. Trump: exceedingly boastful yet still a fool. A man who has spent his life openly mocking and disregarding their faith, who was only recently pro-abortion (and likely paid for a few of them). He dodged military service, he’s an admitted sexual predator, ill-tempered, and unkind. Imagine Barack Obama running with any single one of these traits. Or if he’d had 5 kids from 3 wives. Trump lacks empathy and is hostile to marginalized groups, and he’s awash in racism and xenophobia. He demonstrably repeated more outright lies than any other candidate, maybe ever. There is no financial transparency and this is coupled with ties to our nation’s enemies. It’s like everything said about Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton was true and rolled into one person and clearly known in advance, and yet most Evangelical Christians still voted for him. They eagerly hopped into the same nasty basket as the KKK, internet trolls, selfish “libertarians”, misanthropic atheists, and outright anarchists, all with a prideful irreverence for our highest office.

Trump-ism is the very culmination of the Religious Right’s abandonment of its principles and convictions.  In the last presidential race, they were happy to shill for a prominent member of a Christian cult, a previously blasphemous splinter group with an ugly racist core. Most never accepted that Barack Obama is even Christian. This election cycle they finally rejected all their ostensible strictures and constraints and elected maybe the single worst specimen conceivable. In their entanglement with politics they have lost the moral high ground they claim to which they lay claim. Even in just my lifetime, American Christianity has morphed into the consumerist-friendly “Prosperity Gospel” and Evangelicals have charged ahead leading the parade. They either don’t understand or don’t care that they and their leaders have become the Pharisees from their holy book.

Evangelicals prefer Trump because he represents their kind of Christianity: nominal, authoritarian, and intolerant. Trump has aligned himself with superstitious charlatans and their dim foot-soldiers against secularism, intellectualism, and science. Trump and his running mat8fdcd9470067c126b66f5ce6a0bff181.jpge and their minions pay lip service to American Jesus to endorse an intrusive state that is anti-women, anti-choice, anti-speech, anti-gay, and more.

Evangelicals are comfortable in our new post-truth world because they are used to living in an alternate reality.  They can exist in an alternate universe their whole lives. They construct alt-Wikipedia. They reject the world’s great museums and construct their own pale, farcical imitations. They exist in the greatest privilege yet claim the greatest persecution. For so many reasons, Evangelicals are a great voting bloc. This is the same state-religion entanglement that our European ancestors traveled here to escape.

These hollow, politicized, husks of Christians likely won’t know shame no matter the outcome of this presidency they labored to bring to power. They will start by praying for Trump to have wisdom and end by praying for forgiveness. And they will justify any outcome, good or bad, as being part of the divine plan, for a God whose teachings they so readily sold for thirty pieces of worthless silver and restitution can never be made.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grieves to bear
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer”
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Divorce is wrong*

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with a couple I love very much and it was great to get to see them and chat and all that. These two also have chosen to be fundamentalist Christians. As with many (most?) fundamentalists, this association is very important to them and defines their identity. During our conversation, the subject of marriage and divorce came up. Excuses were made for divorce that are just nagging at me. It’s another case where folks like these use the Bible however they see fit. On one hand, homosexuality is condemned unequivocally as wrong on its face. But Jesus never said one word about homosexuality. Jesus had as much to say about The Gay as he did about The Who. The same evangelicals march in lockstep and wring their hands over the evils of abortion. They spend their lives petitioning the government to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies and forego their own right to life and pursuit of happiness, while the other side of their mouths decry government intrusion and overreach. And the list goes on.
But something Jesus did specifically express disdain for is divorce. Jesus (or words later authors ascribed to the character) specifically said not to get divorced. Jesus didn’t say “don’t be gay”, but he did say “don’t get divorced”. He didn’t say “well, unless it’s inconvenient to stay married”. Related and in case it’s not totally clear, “don’t commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments. They want to engrave one of the versions of these Commandments on massive granite blocks and embed them in front of public buildings so everyone will turn from their wickedness, but they don’t care as much about actually living it themselves unless it’s convenient. A clerk who has been married many times won’t give out a marriage license to a gay couple, and the modern-day Pharisees flock to her defense. 8ca43fbf9cf6d09e8ccd89f966c8e861This is yet another reason why the Founding Fathers specified religion can’t form the basis of our laws, freeing us from the worries of Sharia Law, be it from Muslims or Christians. People don’t obey even the most basic precepts of their religion, yet they often want everyone else to obey. Christians make up more of a majority in the U.S. than most other “Christian” countries, yet half of all marriages end in divorce, which is literally forbidden by God and their savior. If religious people spent less time moralizing to others (and brainwashing their children and rejecting science) and instead just lived what they ostensibly believe and held themselves to their alleged standards, atheists like me would spend less time bothering them for their hypocrisy. But as history has and always will continue to exhibit, that’s just not going to happen.

Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism

Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National SocialismCatholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism by Derek Hastings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OMG I finally finished the book…the last bit seemed like a bit of a slog and I thought I’d never finish but the last 40% of the book was all footnotes. I figured this book would be a slow read because it focuses like a laser on Munich from 1900-1935. The volume of footnotes speaks to the extensive research by the author, who details myriad players in the area at the time: Adolf Hitler, priests, pastors, and what seemed like hundreds of other völkisch leaders and participants along with the general sentiment of the time.

“in contrast to the NSDAP which, unlike secular non-Marxist parties, served as the most uncompromising defender of the Christian faith”

In times like we live in today when Know-Nothings paint Hitler as a leftist, Nazism as anti-religious or exclusively anti-Christian, and revisionist hacks proposing the Nazis were homosexuals, and on-and-on, it’s always preferable to read something rooted in harsh reality. I’m a history buff and often a student of totalitarianism, fascism, and the like, because history repeats. I’m also an atheist so admittedly some of the reasons I chose to read this book were scurrilous. But I was surprised to find the eventual climax to be very even-handed. I even finished the book thinking Nazi-related critiques of Pope Benedict XVI were unfounded and that the Catholic church by-and-large did repudiate the Nazi movement (more so than their fellow Christian Protestants). So while I did not find what I was expecting, I did find a very detailed review of the Christian (and anti-Christian) influences in Bavaria and Munich specifically in the early formative years of the NSDAP, and that was worth the read.

A few excerpts:

“the fact that such an elaborate völkisch-eugenics model was already laid out among Reform Catholic nationalists in Munich in 1914 is significant”

“to accelerate and radicalize anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist attitudes among Munich’s overwhelmingly Catholic population. The perceived linkages between Bolshevism, atheism, and the Jews”

“the most pressing threat being the issue that so consumed Faulhaber and others, the Jewish-socialist separation of church and state and the impending removal of mandatory religious instruction from Bavarian schools.”

“This speech is significant on at least two levels. First, it pledges Hitler’s personal devotion to his “Lord and Savior” in no uncertain terms and embodies the type of activist warrior Christianity that the Nazi movement would utilize to great effect over the course of the following year”

“In a well-publicized speech to the Ortsgruppe Augsburg on 13 June 1923, Haeuser emphasized the virtues of warrior Christianity, proclaiming, “We need men of action. If only there were more men like Hitler… who would put the words of Christ into practice: ‘I have not come to bring peace, but rather the sword.’”

“Once held up as paragons of the Nazi spirit of Positive Christianity, Catholic students were now forced to strip themselves of their overt Catholic identities in order to comply with the imperatives of the Third Reich.”

“It is possible, indeed necessary, to deplore the tragic and errant nature of inquisitorial zeal in thirteenth-century southern France while also recognizing its problematic, yet nonetheless real, contextual Christian legitimacy”

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