Friday, September 02, 2022

Alarm Bells Should Go Off

Millions of Americans claim to be Christians. But what they profess bears little resemblance to the teachings of Christ. Michael Gerson writes:

They fear their values are under assault by an inexorable modernity, in the form of government, big business, media and academia.

Leaders in the Republican Party have fed, justified and exploited conservative Christians’ defensiveness in service to an aggressive, reactionary politics. This has included deadly mask and vaccine resistance, the discrediting of fair elections, baseless accusations of gay “grooming” in schools, the silencing of teaching about the United States’ history of racism, and (for some) a patently false belief that Godless conspiracies have taken hold of political institutions.

And they preach that the Apocalypse is just around the corner:

Some religious leaders have fueled the urgency of this agenda with apocalyptic rhetoric, in which the Christian church is under Neronian persecution by elites displaying Caligulan values. But the credibility of religious conservatives is undermined by the friends they have chosen to keep. Their political alignment with MAGA activists has given exposure and greater legitimacy to once-fringe ideas, including Confederate nostalgia, white nationalism, antisemitism, replacement theory and QAnon accusations of satanic child sacrifice by liberal politicians.

Surveying the transgressive malevolence of the radical right, one is forced to conclude: If this is not moral ruin, then there are no moral rules.

This religious divide divides the nation:

For decades, population density has been increasingly associated with partisan identification — the more dense, the more Democratic; the less dense, the more Republican. America might be united by its highways, but it is politically split along its beltways. Islands of urban, liberal blue dot a vast sea of rural, conservative red. And because the mechanisms that produce U.S. senators and electoral college electors skew in favor of geography over population, rural and small-town America starts with a distinct political advantage — the ability to transform fewer votes into better outcomes.

All this leaves portions of the nation boiling with righteous resentment. Many progressives feel cheated by a political system rigged by the Founders against them. Many religious conservatives feel despised by the broader culture and in need of political protection. In the United States, grievance is structural and is becoming supreme.

Anxious evangelicals have taken to voting for right-wing authoritarians who promise to fight their fights — not only Donald Trump, but increasingly, his many imitators. It has been said that when you choose your community, you choose your character. Strangely, evangelicals have broadly chosen the company of Trump supporters who deny any role for character in politics and define any useful villainy as virtue. In the place of integrity, the Trump movement has elevated a warped kind of authenticity — the authenticity of unfiltered abuse, imperious ignorance, untamed egotism and reflexive bigotry.

This is inconsistent with Christianity by any orthodox measure. Yet the discontent, prejudices and delusions of religious conservatives helped swell the populist wave that lapped up on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. During that assault, Christian banners mixed with the iconography of white supremacy, in a manner that should have choked Christian participants with rage. But it didn’t.

Conservative Christians’ beliefs on the nature of politics, and the content of their cultural nightmares, are directly relevant to the future of our whole society, for a simple reason: The destinies of rural and urban America are inextricably connected. It matters greatly if evangelicals in the wide, scarlet spaces are desensitized to extremism, diminished in decency and badly distorting the meaning of Christianity itself — as I believe many are.

When people do ugly things in the name of God, alarm bells should go off.

Image: AZ Quotes


Anonymous said...

"During that assault, Christian banners mixed with the iconography of white supremacy, in a manner that should have choked Christian participants with rage." Here Gerson completely erases the Southern Baptists' responsibility for providing the religious foundation for slavery and the Jim Crow and other anti-Black measures that followed. No, American evangelicals are inextricably tied to white supremacy. It's who they are and why they support an out and proud racist like Trump, even if the man doesn't know which side of the Bible is up.


Owen Gray said...

Segregation was preached for decades from Southern Baptist pulpits, Cap. What Trump so loudly represents is nothing new.

John B. said...

They weren't the first Christians to espouse an evil and inhuman social order, and their current iteration won't be the last.

Owen Gray said...

Christians have a habit of causing great harm, John.