It is Easter Sunday, 2020. The world has been different in many ways over the past several weeks, with an unknown end not yet in sight. The motif of rebirth into God during the reality of hunkering down for God-only-knows-what has had me spinning.
I still consider myself a Christian, but only to myself. I will no longer claim the label publicly. Not because I am embarrassed about who I am, but because I am appalled by the public behavior and policies being championed in the name of Christianity. I want no part of that, no connection to those aspects of modern American Christianity… I would flat out argue most of these behaviors and policies aren’t Christian in any way, and the clumsy semantic manipulations that pass for justifications for the label are as literal an interpretation of the snake in Eden as we are likely to discover.
So I don’t go ‘round advertising my Christianity right now… although I do still preach the gospel as I understand it with everything I say and do. Right now, preaching the gospel as I understand it; which includes helping the sick, clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, maintaining connections to the incarcerated or “cast out” of “regular” society; these things end up coming across as political arguments in our world, rather than the basic morally right religious tenets I hold them to be.
I have to come see this as natural and unavoidable, as much as we throw around separating church and state. Church comes from religion, from our need to understand our place in the grand scheme and to have a moral compass upon which to base our actions. The state comes from governments, people gathering to decide how to direct their actions as a group. One’s religion will always inform and direct one’s politics. Separating church and state cannot mean removing religious thought and attitudes from politics, but must mean removing state favoritism for one religion.
That seems obvious, doesn’t it? People have different backgrounds, educations, and worldviews, and different religions spring from that. Trying to limit some, or promote other, religions through political means simply guarantees denying some people their history, their culture, their sense of self. It is a recipe for constant disharmony and confrontation.
This is what we have made of religion, in America, of Christianity, in particular: a plan to continue to pit masses of the people against other masses of the people. Not that America deserves any credit for the concept, the history of religion is literally the history of dividing people based on their interpretations of the scripture, even to the point of what pieces, exactly, were “appropriately” scripture. Religion, for a concept so associated with peace and love, has a remarkable history of divisiveness and violence.
America, and the Republican Party in particular, does deserve citation for the level to which they have weaponized religion in the political arena. My reluctance to declare myself Christian has nothing to do with my actual religious beliefs, but is because declaring yourself a Christian in this space and time is declaring a lot more than your religious beliefs. Because of the deep seated connection between Christian American voters and the Republican Party’s platform, coming out as a Christian necessitates being in favor of authoritarianism. Calling yourself a Christian means you can and will ignore reality around you. Standing with the Christians is standing on the premise of whose sins are to be forgiven and whose are to be punished is a properly human decision.
I know a lot of Christians, and many of them would argue with those assessments of what Christianity means for them, which is fine and, in some cases, even demonstrated in their historical behavior. But I think it shows at best an alarming naïveté, and at worst silent approval, of the demonstrated policies and actions of churches and religious leaders… and political leaders that use religion to maintain a divided populace.
I have noticed something darkly humorous in our political/social current events. There are a lot of “reasonable” people pointing how how Trump’s policies have hurt the response to COVID-19… typically in conjunction with some appeal for support for the Democratic Party. Now, certainly, I absolutely believe that Donald Trump put Jared Kushner in charge of the coronavirus response team for the trinity of purposes of funneling supplies to Trump supporters, denying supplies to Trump detractors, and ensuring as much of any resulting business as possible flows through Trump related conglomerates. And yes, that’s awful and no, I don’t believe any Democrats would manipulate the system this blatantly.
But this predictable Trumpian chicanery is not the root problem of our collective crisis response. The root problem is an American health system designed for creating profit and not health results. The irony that these folks are promoting the Democrats as the answer to health service issues so soon after the DNC colluded to end Bernie Sanders, the only Democrat who actually campaigned on the promise of changing the for-profit health system, is not as lost on me as it seems to have been on them.
This irony is a symptom of the Democratic Party as a whole right now. The party has shifted right over the years. Few would try to refute that, but I think even fewer would admit to how far it has gone. Barack Obama once admitted in normal times, he would be considered a moderate Republican. Both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were literal Reagan Republicans in the day. Biden’s policies will be more of the same Clintonomic retro-neoconservatism that directly led to Trump’s revolution, a revolution that the Reagan Republicans set the table for in the first place.
We are following the wrong carrots… it is not panic that has us running in circles, that path is simply where our chosen carrots continue to lead us. I wonder how much people see this… how much they look for patterns like this. I wonder if that Democrat I knew back in the eighties realizes that now she is standing for the policies and tendencies she fought against when she was young… wonder if she realizes she’s changed and chalked it up to “maturity,” or if “the Democrats” will just always be the white hats in her cowboy story, no matter if they are using the methods and means of the black hats and bandanas… to the same ends, ultimately.
So rebirth. Easter. Rolling away the stone and stepping into the light of God. How do we do that? How do I that? The institutions to which we turn for support and direction are compromised. Jesus would never get around to any miracles, he’d be so busy turning over tables.
He’d have to find a place without those tables to settle down to work. That’s how I do this, that’s how we do this. The light I’m stepping into is a new church. Easter 2020 is the start.
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