Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 30, 2021

How our Christian values are being inverted today

While political views are often affected by the religious views of the public, the opposite can also occur. Our religious views of today, for example, are being strongly affected by political views. The implications of this statement are profound as was explained today in Jennifer Rubin’s op ed in the Washington Post (12/29/2021).  I have provided major portions of her article below (in italics).

Much has been written about White evangelicals’ central role in the fraying of democracy. More attention, however, should be paid to the damage the political movement has inflicted on religion itself.

The demographic — which postulates that America is under attack from socialists, foreigners and secularists — forms the core of the MAGA (Make American Great Again) movement. Many have rejected the sanctity of elections, the principle of inclusion and even objective reality.

The consequences have been dire for American politics. The siege mentality has morphed into an ends-justify-the-means style of politics in which lies, brutal discourse and even violence are applauded as necessary to protect “real America.” Essential features of democracy, such as the peaceful transfer of power, compromise with political opponents and defining America as an idea and not a racial or religious identity, have fallen by the wayside.

Sadly, the degradation of democracy has intensified in the wake of Joe Biden’s victory. The doctrinal elevation of the “big lie,” the increase in violent rhetoric and the effort to rig elections all reflect a heightened desperation by the MAGA crowd.  This has driven the GOP to new lows (e.g., vaccine refusal to “own the libs,” virtually all House Republicans defending an animation depicting the murder of a congresswoman).

While lovers of democracy around the world view these developments in horror, we should not lose track of the damage the MAGA movement has wrought to religious values. Peter Wehner, an evangelical Christian and former adviser to President George W. Bush, explains in a column for the Atlantic how a recent speech from Donald Trump Jr. reflects the inversion of religious faith. “The former president’s son,” Wehner writes, “has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have ‘gotten us nothing.’ ”

Wehner continues:

It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go. Decency is for suckers.

Understanding this phenomenon goes a long way toward explaining the MAGA crowd’s very unreligious cruelty toward immigrants, its selfish refusal to vaccinate to protect the most vulnerable and its veneration of a vulgar, misogynistic cult leader. If you wonder how so many “people of faith” can behave in such ways, understand that their “faith” has become hostile to traditional religious values such as kindness, empathy, self-restraint, grace, honesty and humility.

Robert P. Jones, who leads the Public Religion Research Institute, writes that “in the upside-down world whiteevangelicalism has become, the willingness to act in self-sacrificial ways for the sake of vulnerable others — even amid a global pandemic — has become rare, even antithetical, to an aggressive, rights-asserting white Christian culture.” The result is reckless self-indulgence that places some evangelicals’ own aversion to “being told what to do” ahead of the health and lives of vulnerable populations.

Jones explains:

White evangelicals remain the most vaccine resistant of any major religious group, with one quarter (25%) refusing vaccination (compared to only 13% of the country). And these refusal rates are not all tied to theological objections. Only 13% of white evangelicals say the teachings of their religion prohibit receiving a vaccine, a rate comparable to the general public (10%).

Strikingly, the evidence suggests churches and pastors are the heart of the problem. White evangelicals who attend religious services regularly are twice as likely as less frequent attenders to be vaccine refusers (30% vs. 15%). If ever there were clear evidence of a massive abdication of pastoral responsibility and leadership, this is it.

As self-identified evangelicals reject small inconveniences and show disdain for others’ lives, Jones observes, “there is no hint of awareness that their actions are a mockery of the central biblical injunction to care for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, and the vulnerable among us.”

In sum, while the White evangelical political movement has done immeasurable damage to our democracy, its descent into MAGA politics, conspiratorial thinking and cult worship has had catastrophic results for the religious values evangelicals once held dear. Jones writes: “It’s important to say this straight. This refusal to act to protect the vulnerable — particularly because of the low personal costs involved — is raw, callous selfishness. Exhibited by people I love, it is heartbreaking. Expressed by people who claim to be followers of Jesus, it is maddening.”

If these trends continue uninterrupted, we will wind up with a country rooted in neither democratic principles nor religious values. That would be a mean, violent and intolerant future few of us would want to experience. Jennifer Rubin

All of this also directly affects our efforts to fight Climate Change.  No organization that promotes White dominance will have sufficient concern for the entire plant as to address this problem in a forceful and effective manner. Therefore, for the sake of planet Earth and all forms of life on it, it is essential that the influence of the White evangelical political movement of the USA be minimized as much as possible.


Responses

  1. Eric, I really appreciate this insight. I am also somewhat continually perplexed as to why, these supposed evangelicals, “people of faith” were so easily duped by the actions and not the deeds of this chameleon, Dr. Trump. Who, outside of holding up a bible up in front of a church for a photo op, probably never even said a single prayer in his entire life! I also suspect that their “faith” has all along acted as a front for a deeper underlying racism, and intolerance for just about anything or anyone who doesn’t worship in the church of “you ain’t one of us”. All we can hope for is for the rest of us to “see the light” and continue to fight for the principles and have the common sense to see the biggest threat to our humanity is the real evil of negligence and indifference to the problem of climate change. And, if not, there is going to be a lot of folks on their knees, praying to that higher power for some relief from the heat or just maybe they may realize that they ended up in their worst nightmare even before dying, because it’s gonna BE HELL!!!!

  2. This letter perfectly describes the political realities of our country today. No media news I’ve read is willing to do the same.


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