Dave Daubenmire, a Religious Right webcaster known to his fans/followers as “Coach”, did a webcast this past week in which he said that the only thing that can save Western civilization is a “more violent” brand of Christianity. He showed a video clip of Donald Trump at a recent NATO summit shoving other world leaders out of the way so he could stand at the front of the gathering and praised him to the sky for showing himself as “large and in charge”. He then cited congressional candidate Greg Gianforte from Montana, who won a special election just two days after being charged with assault for pushing a reporter to the ground. I give this to you courtesy of the good people over at Right Wing Watch, where you can even watch the webcast at issue in all its sordid glory.
Translation: The only thing that can save Western civilization is a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a Roman cross.
If you want to know why Christianity, and evangelicalism in particular, are now on America’s shit list, this is it right here.
People: Think about this through the lens of “What does love require of me?” To think that what love requires of me is to embrace a Christianity that wipes its ass with the very people for whom Christ died because this is supposedly the authority that God has called us to walk in…there is a disconnect here and I will just let you sit with it.
A few weeks ago I linked an interview by Pete Enns with prominent Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann. Today I want to come back to some comments Brueggemann made with respect to how we as Christians ought to engage with the political issues of the day. Some money quotes:
So if you love neighbor, you have to ask, “Who is our neighbor?” And obviously the Bible thinks immigrants are our neighbors, the Bible thinks that our neighbors are people who need some kind of healthcare, the Bible thinks that our neighbors are entitled to good schools and good houses, and so on, and so on…, and love of God means, critically, to critique the worship of idols. We won’t have agreement on what the idols are, but I think American exceptionalism has become an idol. So “Make America Great Again” is an idol, the way it’s being parsed.
…I think the place to begin is that the God of the Bible…has commanded us to love God and love neighbor, and we have to ask what now does it mean to love God and what now does it mean to love neighbor…. I think it’s easy to make a case that our society is increasingly treating the neighbor as a threat and not a neighbor, and is increasingly distorting God for the worship of idols. I don’t think that’s a progressive or a liberal judgment, I think that’s an evangelical judgment, and I believe that’s the conversation we ought to be having.
Regarding the tendency to make an idol of political parties and the political process:
…I think we’ve got to get beneath the slogans and the mantras and talk about human reality on the ground. So, for example, we shouldn’t be talking ideologically about immigrants, we should be talking about the breaking up of families, that these are real mothers and real fathers and real children and what do you think it feels like to break up a family. I think we should be not talking ideologically about healthcare delivery, but what we should be talking about is why is it that a guy like I am can count on seeing a good doctor and I got good insurance and I’m not worried about anything, and what it would be like to have my old age ailments and have no coverage and not be able to see a doctor because I can’t afford a doctor. That is, we’ve got to bring the discussion down to the level of human pain and human suffering and human reality, because what we’re dealing with are real people and not slogans.
Today I direct your attention to this thinkpiece over at The Atlantic on Franklin Graham and Donald Trump.
ICYMI: We had a presidential election last fall. Donald Trump won, thanks to the support of over 80 percent of American evangelicals. Franklin Graham, son of noted evangelist Billy Graham and chief executive of the charity Samaritan’s Purse, is one of Donald Trump’s most vociferous supporters and he played no small part in helping get this vote out.
A money quote:
As for those Christians who worry about Trump, those of color, those who wish their leaders would be more welcoming toward Muslims and LGBT people even if they disagree with the way they live: “I don’t think there’s a divide,” Graham said. If they have problems with Trump, and with role white evangelicals are playing in this era of politics, “talk to God about it,” Graham advised. “If they’re hurt, sorry. … I believe Donald Trump’s there because God put him there.”
In other words: If you’re a Christian and you’re concerned about Donald Trump: Fuck you. Donald Trump is God’s man. Talk to God about it.
In watching over 80 percent of my fellow evangelicals put Donald Trump in the White House, I watched my faith sell its very soul out from under my feet. Seven months removed, and I still don’t know what I am going to do with that. Seven months removed, and the view is almost as unrelentingly bleak as it was the morning after the election. A piece like this is all I need to see.
Exactly what I’ve been saying all along: Donald Trump is an idiot.
His idiocy has now potentially placed our country at risk.
Hope you’re happy, Trump supporters.
Jen Hatmaker is an evangelical author who has taken a tremendous amount of heat from the powers-that-be in evangelicalism because she actually has kind words for gays. Of course she did not deny any historical doctrine of the Christian faith or promote any historical heresy, she merely stated that her honest reading of Scripture has led her to a different place with respect to same-sex relationships. But this is where we are in evangelicalism: Neo-Reformed Calvinism is the new black and one of its worst tendencies is to seize upon some minor point of belief and make it suddenly the linchpin on which all of Christianity stands or falls. Today that issue is homosexuality. (God knows what it will be tomorrow.) Hatmaker ran afoul of the evangelical establishment on that issue so now she is persona non grata.
But guess what? There are a surprising amount of evangelicals and even evangelical leaders running around out there who actually agree with her. They won’t say so, not publicly at least, because their standing within evangelicalism and thus their livelihood is at stake. So they just avoid the issue altogether in most cases, or in some cases lie about what they believe.
It took courage for Hatmaker to speak out knowing what the outcome would be. We desperately need her, and others like her, to speak out for the sake of those who cannot and/or will not because the price they would pay is too great, and to make evangelicalism a safe place for those whose opinions on less-than-essential issues is at variance with the ruling elite.
Read: Jonathan Merritt, Why I’ll take courageous Jen Hatmaker over her cowardly critics any day
ICYMI: Hulu just released The Handmaid’s Tale, a made-for-TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic. The story is set in a dystopian near-future America, in which right-wing religious fanatics have overthrown the existing government and established the Republic of Gilead. The environment has gone to shit, and as a result fertility rates have dropped dramatically. Those women who are still fertile have been enslaved and now serve as “handmaids”, or surrogate mothers for high-ranking officials and their infertile wives.
While The Handmaid’s Tale does serve as a warning of the dangers of religious fundamentalism and misogyny run amok, it also serves as a window into the patriarchal world of Genesis, in which all of this was real. Jeffrey Salkin at Religion News Service writes about the dark parallels between the story and the dysfunction that lies just beneath the surface in the patriarchal stories of Genesis: The view of fertility as a blessing from God and barrenness as a curse, the routine use of servants/concubines as surrogate mothers when the wife is infertile, and more.
Read: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ re-spins Genesis. And that’s scary
Today I direct your attention to a post from Fr. Stephen Freeman. Freeman is one of the largest and most influential Eastern Orthodox bloggers, and he blogs at Glory to God for All Things.
In this post Freeman looks at shame. Shame lies at the very core of our souls and, in the Scriptures, was the first recorded human experience. It has been called the “master emotion” by some. Though we as humans were made to live in community, shame is a rupture of community in which the object of shame is isolated and (so it is indicated) deserves to be so. Shame is often disguised by other words: humility, envy, jealousy, guilt, awe, wonder, worship, and more. The exposure typical of the state of shame is such that it demands to be covered before we can enter into social settings, and there are many ways in which we do this.
All of this is the world we live in, and the world into which Christ was born. There is nothing we see that was not seen then. We have invented nothing new in our shame. Our creativity is largely confined to how we hide from our own shame and how we harness the shame of others to control and manage them.
But my thoughts say to me that we can only find Christ within our shame (both the toxic and the good). We find Him within the toxic because Christ has descended into hell and purposed to meet us there. That purposeful meeting is for our healing, our liberation and re-creation whenever we dare to go there. But He is also within the good shame as we behold His wonder and His glory and accept our own emptiness in their presence. And in that moment and place, what is empty is filled – what is naked is clothed upon. The soul becomes a mirror for His glory.
Read: The Soul Is a Mirror by Fr. Stephen Freeman