Tag Archives: religion

Thoughts on Christianity and Authoritarianism

If the reports are to be believed, one-third of Americans today approve of the President’s performance. The constituency most likely to go on approving of Mr. Trump is evangelical Christians, in particular middle-aged white evangelical Christians. Much has been written of this political alliance, along the line that Donald Trump is a man of un-christian character, angry and vain and materialistic, and so on. How can the faithful regard him as theirs?

They have done so by casting Mr. Trump as a modern-day Cyrus or Nebuchadnezzar, which is to say a flawed individual who nonetheless—perhaps even because of this—has been chosen by God and through whom the divine is achieving His will. Anyone who has been to an evangelical gathering, especially of the revivalist-testimonial type, knows that the best witness is also the most lurid. Invariably a solemn and clean-looking fellow will electrify his audience with a tale of debauchery, the lascivious details of his previous life of depravity serving to underscore the point that “if God could save a wretch like me ….” Before he was St. Paul, Saul of Tarsus by his own admission was a dangerous fanatic who went eagerly about the work of murdering the followers of Jesus. The tradition of playing up one’s nastiness in the service of a cracking testimony obtains from Saul through Augustine to the present day. Human wickedness is baked into the Christian religion in the way that class struggle is baked into Marxism, so that to point out Mr. Trump’s shortcomings is only to affirm a central tenet of evangelicalism, that God can and does work through even the most thoroughly fallen.

But why Mr Trump, when the field is crowded with flawed candidates? Perhaps a better line of inquiry is to consider what evangelical Christianity is, not as a religion, but as a political system.

When the plainly superstitious details of religion are removed, for example virgin births and ascensions to heaven etc, what remains is a set of propositions about the world and of our place within it. The propositions are as follows. The universe is a work of omniscience, governed by universal and immutable law. To go up against the law is to offend the Almighty and to invite His wrath. There is no court of appeal. God has put down His laws in writing from the beginning of time, and it is a work of supreme arrogance even to question. The only recourse of man is to follow the law and to conform to the natural order, which is to say God’s word. Do as you may, eventually everything is going to collapse in a conflagration of evil, a fate most of us deserve. The effect of St Paul’s teachings was to sublate the Jewish law into a doctrine of divine grace, but without altering the universal and fixed nature of God’s will. In the universe of Christianity, everything is presided by an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful Father whose wrath or love is ineluctable as well as non-negotiable. One’s only options in this life are to accept the offer of divine grace on the terms advanced or to suffer eternally.

It takes little mental effort to translate this notion of an all-powerful, all-seeing, law-and-grace-issuing Father into a political system, and that system is best described as totalitarian. Say what you will of monotheism: it is not a democratic system or a working out of an evolutionary process. The only role of the demos in evangelicalism is to follow the law and to affirm over and again the glory of the Dear Leader. Evangelical Christianity as a political system is less about the negotiation of consensus and compromise, of inching laboriously toward the good if imperfect society, than it is about sorting the world into good and evil so that the final battle might get underway. The human heart is wicked in an irredeemable way, and thus unreliable as a moral guide. From this it follows that human solutions to human problems are also unreliable, so that the chief political task is to ensure that the good prevail upon the wicked by imposing upon them the strictures of law. What Christianity proposes is an authoritarian and not a pluralistic, liberal view of society.

I am not suggesting that all Christians or even most of them are totalitarian in outlook. What I am suggesting is that evangelicalism and authoritarianism are fellow-travellers. Should authoritarianism one day overtake the United States, we should expect evangelicals to reconcile themselves to it easily, provided it is an authoritarianism of the “Travail, Famille, Patrie” variety. The only thing Donald Trump had to do to win over evangelicals was to make pleasant noises about the importance of faith while advancing a law-and-order agenda that broadly repudiated the liberal belief in a society made better through the work of human social engineering. The President’s hyper-masculine persona could only be reassuring to someone who has cast her lot with a Father Who Art in Heaven, especially a law-giving Father obsessed with a tribalist program of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Trump’s grievance and resentment based cultural war of us-against-them ought to be familiar to the most casual student of monotheism, whether the subject is Twentieth-Century Ireland or present-day Islam.

A moment ago I alluded to “the work of human social engineering.” This phrase can be understood in more than one way. It can apply to the current materialist effort to deconstruct human sexuality and gender, the idea that male and female are nothing more than oppressive constructs. But the phrase also comprises the Enlightenment notion that human societies are malleable and not forever determined by divine precept. The term for this point-of-view, that our lot may be improved through the application of human reason, is liberalism. The ideology of liberalism emerged at about the time the United States of America was established, and against it stood the authoritarian principle—the Great Chain of Being, the divine sanctioning of the monarch and aristocracy, and so forth. To be a liberal is to believe in progress driven by human intelligence and reason and effort.

At bottom liberalism and monotheism are incompatible, although it is possible to hold both in one’s mind and to claim an allegiance to both simultaneously. Many of the monotheistic schisms are in fact over this exact question, and they take many forms. Jewish anti-Zionism repudiates the man-made state of Israel on the grounds that only the Messiah may establish the Kingdom. Likewise within Islam there is a disagreement over whether the Caliphate should be established now or only with the return of the hidden Imam. In any case the City of God will be by definition a theocracy, where votes are not cast and there are no protests or courts of appeal.

Even if I am wrong about everything I have written above, it is objectively the case that President Trump is the most perfect specimen of an evangelical President. Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower can not touch him for popularity. In an era when politicians are as a rule held in contempt, Mr. Trump consistently polls around 80% favourable among evangelical Christians—a useful fact, for it shows us what the ideal evangelical candidate looks like. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, but of course this is not true. Vengeance is President Trump’s, and as a matter of proxy it is now also the province of evangelicals. For what must feel like the first time, they have something approximating real political power. They are set about the work of repudiating liberalism and re-establishing the law, if necessary at the expense of conventional politics itself.

The Ones Who Know Jesus

Trumpetsound, a fissure of sky. A midnight darkness visible yields to His glory. The firmament echoes of angelsong. Jesus has come, and the many see and fear.

Hallelujah! He has come!

For centuries He has tarried. For millennia His people have waited, reciting His words. “Soon,” they whispered. In the streets they declared: He will return! The people of Jesus have held to His promises, lo these passing generations, and now He is returned.

Thy Kingdom, come.

The people of Jesus behold his greatness. The people of Jesus rejoice. A time of greatness has begun.

The first to speak is the Holy Press Secretary.

“Hello everyone,” says the Holy Press Secretary. “This is a massive crowd, the greatest crowd ever. Much larger than the crowds of Satan, our adversary. Look at this crowd! And now, I would like to introduce your King, the Son of Man, Jesus.”

The Host of Holy Angels parts, and Jesus floats into view. He wears a business suit and a red tie. He smiles, waves to the adoring crowd. He gives a thumbs-up to someone in the audience. He claps, just as they are clapping. It is a good day, and Jesus is smiling.

“It’s great to be here,” says Jesus. “I love Florida,” says Jesus. “Tremendous people. The best people.”

The people of Jesus are ecstatic. The Chosen One is among them and the time has come to fulfil the Promise.

“Blessed are the businessmen,” says Jesus. “The CEOs, the hedge fund managers. The heads of companies, tremendous people, the best people. They are going to help Me make the Earth great again. That is why I have appointed them to lead you during the transition.”

Then a voice among the crowd: “Blessed are the weak and the poor!”

“Get him outta here,” says Jesus. Two angels comply. They take the man by his arms and walk him to the edge of the crowd, where they shove him to the pavement.

Later, the Holy Press Secretary will explain that Jesus did not say “Blessed are the poor” or that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” The Holy Press Secretary will explain that these words are the product of the lying media. These words are fake news. What Jesus said and what was written about Him are two different things, the Holy Press Secretary will say.

In the meanwhile Jesus tells them there will be streets of gold and rivers flowing of milk. “Our hard-working dairy farmers, tremendous farmers, are the best. My infrastructure plan will put gold on every street. You’ll get tired of seeing gold, there will be so much gold.”

The people of Jesus are thrilled by these promises. Jesus says they will live forever, and that all tears will be wiped away. He tells His followers that He will build a mighty kingdom, and He will smite their enemies. And it will happen fast, He says, so fast. You won’t believe it, He says. Believe me, He says.

The people of Jesus believe. They are, after all, believers. They believe in Jesus and they believe in believing in Jesus and they believe in belief. It is by faith that they live and are are saved. Believing in belief in belief, hungering and thirsting for things unseen, fingers in the darkness.

*

Jesus has come with a sword. Those who question Him are deserving of fire. His people gird for war. The unbelievers, the doubters, the naysayers, the blasphemers—all are deserving of their perdition. “We are the persecuted,” say the followers of Jesus. “But no longer. The time has come for battle against our enemies.”

In the kingdom there is bottomless provision for war, abundant provision for force. Provision for weapons, provisions for the squadrons of angels who now patrol the streets, provision for displays of threatened violence against dissenters. Jesus reminds them each day that they are one People under God, one in thought and in belief and in nature. They are one nation under the Leader, and the Leader is leading them to greatness.

“No one gets to the kingdom except through me,” says the Leader. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The people know that their Leader speaks the Truth. There ought to be no room for dissent or challenge, no opportunity requested for clarification, no court of appeal. Those who question the Leader are unpatriotic traitors, and the vile filth of their nature will be remembered.

The Leader withdraws to His mansion. He delegates His work to minions. He makes occasional appearances where He basks in the adulation of His people. He becomes obsessed with the doubters and non-believers, issuing threats against them. “They treat Me so badly, so unfairly,” says the Leader. “But I will prevail.”

The months pass. Somehow the streets remain paved, not of gold, but of dehiscent tarmac. There are no rivers of milk. The tears that were supposed to be wiped away instead wet the faces of children. The Leader tells them that greatness is coming, that the Kingdom will be the best kingdom they have ever seen.

“The Leader said nothing about milk,” reports the Holy Press Secretary. “The greatness is coming, only our many enemies encircle and frustrate us. The ones who are against us are and against you. Look to the enemy!”

It doesn’t matter what happens, or what does not happen. It doesn’t matter what the Leader says, or does not say. Nothing matters, save that the people believe in Him. Fear and loathing of their enemies keeps them strong. What the Leader hates, they hate also. They have built their church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Leader enjoys His throne yet He is restless. He is a jealous Leader, desirous of universal adulation. Every knee must bend or be cast into a lake of fire. When the Leader is not enjoying the repose of His many stately properties, He broods over the resistance. Why are there some who do not believe? Why do they take His name in vain? Why do they not honor Him?

The frustration and anger of the Leader grow. He dismisses every Judas among Him, but another Judas soon rises. He cuts down every obstacle, but another obstacle springs from the earth. This work of His will take longer than He realized.

Once again, He appeals to His people. “I am your Leader,” He says. “And our enemies are against Us. We must wage war against Our enemies.”

“Yes,” they say. “We must fight our enemies. And then the Kingdom will come.”

Rasah Lapin

When I runned for Vice President gosh you know our Heavenly Father was there with me running beside me like you know in that inspirational poster with the footprints in the sand on the beach where sometimes there is only one pair of footprints and that is like you know God carrying you. Because golly you know sometimes he carried me on the beach and so like there was only you know one set of footprints in the sand. It was God’s will that I runned for Vice President in 2008 and jeez we went in a wrong direction there as a country for eight years but it was God’s will that Mr. Crusher won I saw it. Everything is God’s will you know like that I runned and it was His will that I won but I didn’t won but it was God’s will and it wasn’t God’s will you know the last eight years of a wrong direction but now it is God’s will done praise God.

Read More