"There are many in the Church who see this as a time of exile, many who see the current mood as a millennial shift, that the Church faces the same abyss the state cults of Rome did when Constantine began the process that brought the Church to power. This is absurd. Christianity is rising like wildfire in Africa and China, is reviving in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe and remains powerful in Latin America. It's in the graying, dying, shrinking precincts of Western Europe and North America where religion is in decline." ~ Christopher Loring Knowles
Religion, it strikes me, has been hijacked by the noisy. Where are all the sincere, wise, good-hearted people who live each day in quiet pursuit of answers (or perhaps questions) as to how we should live on earth and to what measure that life should include some sort of God. If you watch the news on television, or read a newspaper, or trudge into the blogosphere, you might have no idea that such creatures still exist. The public face of religion is set in a deep scowl. Most public discussion of religion these days center on some standoff, or misdeed, be it theological, or political, or sexual; the only voices making themselves heard are the shrill ones, devoid of thoughtfulness, nuance, and often, logic. ~ Stephen J. Dubner
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. ~ 2 Peter 2:1
"You will be isolated, from society, as has already happened. Anyone who tries to run for office who actually believes the Bible will be considered a lunatic, until finally we are silenced. We will be called things we are not and persecuted not for being followers of Christ, but for being radical fundamentalists who do not know the true way of Christ, which of course is love and tolerance. You'll go down as the greatest bigots and haters of mankind in history......Down through history you have a wrong idea about martyrdom and persecution. You think that these men were persecuted and martyred for their sincere faith in Jesus Christ. That was the real reason, but no one heard that publicly. They were martyred and they were persecuted as enemies of the State; as child molesters, as bigots, as narrow-minded stupid people who had fallen for a ruse and can contribute nothing to society. Your suffering will not be noble." ~ Paul Washer
Let's chew on this together awhile...
Welcome! Please refill your drinks and strap yourselves in, as this post promises to cover a lot of ground. As hinted at in the quotes above, I'm going to continue to connect the dots on subjects I've been writing about since February, including generational disconnect, social change and societal tipping points, the realities of Christian persecution, identity politics, creeping corporate fascism, the marriage of Christians and the GOP. and its eventual disastrous outcome. We'll also continue to discuss the general problems created due to the apparent silent consent of the majority of "good/nice/whatever you want to think of yourself as" Christians and conservatives, who do and say virtually nothing while their "peers" engage in homophobia, discrimination, and sexism, and distract them from the reality of the staggering extent to which abusers and vipers, thrive in their midst; most often at authoritarian levels.
Where to begin? We might as well address the "not all Christians" objection right away in combination with my "lumping" of conservatives and Christians together. That's kind of the whole point. It's not me that has done this in the public mind of course; but Christians themselves (see Paul Washer quote above). When did modern American Christians and the GOP become virtually synonymous? I'm truly not certain. I've personally witnessed a gradual process of corporate Christian evolution, which had its big genesis in the Presidential election of Ronald Reagan and the re-taking of nature, adapted through it's prosperity gospels, Left Behind book series', and Passion of the Christ films, blew wide open in the 2014 Congressional elections, and currently manifests itself with a crop of unelectable prophets, led by the latest one-line spouting oligarch superman: Donald Trump. Somewhere along the way Oral Roberts evolved into Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar. Tolerance of one has birthed the other. Nobody, regardless of how ridiculous or extreme, is ever completely tossed out of this club because God forgives them, and hope springs eternal; so they must be given a seventeenth chance (unless they are gay). Even Jim Bakker is back on television and raking in the bucks. That's the first reason for the lumping; the second is the silent consent from the vast majority, which continues to protect the haters under their umbrella.
Some would also argue that it is unreasonable to expect Christians or Muslims to police the violent radicals, bigots, and abusers within their ranks (true persecutors). That's big baloney. Peer pressure is a potent social tool for change and boundary enforcement that we have all experienced, but for too long it has been mostly absent or misused in the conservative ranks. Perhaps this is to be expected of people who have been taught to respect and fear a male authoritarian figure, not to think or act, but to pray instead. Maybe the conscientious, educated Christians are waiting for God to do something while they silently turn their heads for another generation. Modern Christians and conservatives must realize that it is the purveyors of hatred and abuse among them that are the legitimate targets of persecution; as they damn well should be. Instead of realizing this and rationally and enthusiastically joining the effort, they more often identify with the common beliefs of these confused deviants and by default mutely shield them. What's truly lacking is Christian and conservative leadership in rooting and stamping them out. This is somewhat understandable and problematic, as social persecution is part and parcel of the religion's founding principles and prophetic utterings, and therefore often viewed as a clear sign that someone claiming to be a Christian is "doing something right," "a warrior for God's cause," "in the world and not of it," or some other convenient pre-conditioned category if they are being persecuted. The natural reaction is to close ranks. Also, nobody wants to criticize a "brother" or "sister" in Christ...
What am I talking about? What do we need more of? What do I want? What is an example of needed action? The answer is things like this:
The very best example comes from former Republican Texas Representative Todd Smith. After current Texas Governor Greg Abbott (following outbursts by far right-wing conspiracy crazies) recently wrote to the Texas National Guard and requested that the Guard "monitor" the 8-week military Operation known as Jade Helm 15 "on a continual basis", Smith penned this scathing but appropriate missive, which sums up the points we've been discussing quite nicely:
April 30, 2015
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711-2428
Re: Your recent letter to the Texas State Guard
Dear Governor Abbott:
Let me apologize in advance that your letter pandering to idiots who believe that US Navy Seals and other US military personnel are somehow a threat to be watched has left me livid. As a 16 year Republican member of the Texas House and a patriotic AMERICAN, I am horrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my Governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my Governor doesn't have the backbone to stand up to those who do. I'm not sure which is worse. As one of the remaining Republicans who actually believes in making decisions based on facts and evidence—you used to be a judge?—I am appalled that you would give credence to the nonsense mouthed by those who instead make decisions based on internet or radio shock driven hysteria. Is there ANYBODY who is going to stand up to this radical nonsense that is cancer on our State and Party? It is alarming that our State Republican leadership is such that we must choose between DEGREES of demagoguery. I know that in many cases you are the better of the two demagogues (see the Lieutenant Governor driven nut job rant regarding your Pre-K program as a recent example). Having been there, I also know that politicians are not always able to speak their mind because they represent large groups of people and not just themselves. But this bone that you have thrown to those who believe that the U.S. Military is a threat to the State of Texas is an embarrassing distance beyond the pale. You are Governor of Texas! This is an open request—from a ghost of our State's recent Republican past—that you act like it. Enough is enough. You have embarrassed and disappointed all Texans who are also informed, patriotic Americans. And it is important to rational governance that thinking Republicans call you out on it.
CC: Texas House
The Oregon deputies and the excellent Mr. Todd Smith are not confused about the fact that immediate and decisive action must be taken to correct the actions and counter the voices of the radical segment of both the Conservative and the Christian movements before it's too late...in multiple senses. Both the Republican Party and the American way of life (cancer on our State and Party) may very well be at stake. Things like Citizens United, corporate cooperation with NSA information collecting (spying) efforts, state influenced media/information control, and the surging messianic popularity of Donald Trump in early polling make it startlingly clear how close we are to full-blown corporate fascism in America. Let's take a quick step back and review, and then I'll pull out my crystal ball and attempt to show you how I think it might all end up for the GOP. It's early still...but...so what. The writing is and has been scrawled in neon on the wall.
As stated, it was difficult to decide where to begin this post. I've said it before, for a long time now, GOP strategy has simply been to OPPOSE OBAMA at all costs, and their media machine participated at full bore. Birth certificates, Benghazi, Muslim lover, Jew-hater, racist, hippie, commie, anti-gun,...this type of hot air has replaced actual political action on their part, created a legion of angry religious conservatives, as well as revealed the larger nature of both parties' complicity with the elite corporate powers that be. The GOP doesn't oppose the Obama administration on the moral grounds and issues they should because they support the same agendas and serve similar masters in the end; they just disagree on who gets to spend the money along the way on whom, and for what. Apparently believing they could maintain the false front indefinitely, the GOP doubled down on this strategy in the 2014 Congressional election.
This resulted in a Republican majority; although not as large as hoped for initially, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a victory; more like a temporary glitch in the matrix disguised as deja vu. As expected, the hate-speech volume was turned up as the newly indoctrinated anti-Obama, fundamentalist group of ex-preachers and used-car salesmen hit the ground running. Since that time, we've all experienced a somewhat predictable ramping up of bible thumping and right-wing fervor surrounding "sensitive" social issues like gay marriage, immigration, abortion, and of course Obama bashing, and it will continue until at least the next election in 2016. Of course, as their hypnotized flock should have seen coming, they haven't kept their empty promises, they won't/can't repeal Obamacare, lost on marriage equality in the Supreme Court, have raided State treasuries, and given tax breaks to their rich friends.
Don't think they are hypnotized? How else can reality go out the window? Consider the early popularity of Donald Trump, a "rich man," and his policies and the effects they have had on the rest of the candidates and what they say about his supporters. Somehow a constitutional amendment can be "unconstitutional," Supreme Court decisions are an afterthought, international trade partners aren't acknowledged or seemingly considered, illegal alien slavery is on the discussion table, and craziest of all: somehow, these folks think that they can win a Presidential election by promoting social rollback, alienating all liberals moderate or otherwise, all Latinos, most women and minorities, scientists, educators, gays and their growing legion of allies, millions of first-generation Americans, and many educated and non-religious Republicans, They just simply don't have the popular or electoral numbers, but they sure are showing their asses; much to the consternation of the rest of the candidates; except possibly Ted Cruz, who probably hopes to coast in and scoop up those fringe votes as a more refined Harvard Law, hyper-Christianized version of Trump, if and when the Trump ship finally sails. The lead-up to 2016 is quickly revealing that the GOP can't overcome party in-fighting and come up with a unified front to address the nation’s dilemmas.
In my opinion, without significant change, this equals a locked-up white house victory for whoever the Democrats eventually back in 2016. And that's just the first domino. In the 2014 election Senate Democrats defended 21 of the 36 seats up for election. Further, they did so during President Obama’s second midterm election. Voter fatigue against the party in power historically causes a mini-revolution; with the party out of power typically making significant gains in Congress. However, the situation will be flipped on its head in 2016, with the Republicans forced to defend 24 of the 34 seats contested. The early loud voices are misleading in other ways. The bulk of everyday Republicans won't even start to focus on the issues surrounding the election until months from now; they simply don't have the luxury of time. The largest number of Democrat and Independent voters typically come out for presidential elections, so the Senate Republicans will have to face the greatest voter challenge at the same time that they’re most exposed. Significantly, the 24 GOP seats up for grabs do not represent the hotheads elected in 2014; those folks are sitting pretty until 2020. Any seats lost by Republicans in 2016 will not only result in the probable loss of their Senate majority, but a further dilution of what's left of any voices of reason within the Party. All that will remain are the shrill voices and an ever-shrinking, aging, baby boomer demographic base, as the millennials clearly want no part of GOP ideology. Barring reinvention, the long-term decline of the Republican Party appears imminent.
Dave ~ Thanks for your time. I hope we get to know each other better.