What Americans should give up during #Lent: racism, homophobia, violence. Why we fail at mercy, by me. @RDispatches https://t.co/9o8x3rhrFi— kaya oakes (@kayaoakes) February 8, 2016
In the Religion Dispatches article to which Kaya Oakes's tweet points, she notes that Pope Francis's notion of mercy in his book The Name of God Is Mercy — a notion grounded in the idea of a God who is, by divine nature, constantly doing mercy — may not appeal very much to Americans. As she explains,
What will American readers make of this message? Mercy is not something we discuss very often. Our rates of incarceration, the number of states utilizing the death penalty, our obsessive clinging to the Second Amendment along with its deadly consequences, ICE raids on immigrant families fleeing even worse violence in their home countries, drone strikes, the environmental violence of fracking, deforestation and coal mining, and the daily threats faced by women, LGBTQ people and people of color are all evidence that we are hardly a merciful nation. We were built, after all, as the result of a protracted war, and we grew in power on the backs of slaves.
And here's Ezra Klein on Donald Trump's win in the Republican primary in New Hampshire yesterday, and why that win is a "terrifying moment" in American politics:
Behind Trump's success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose. "We're going to make America great again," he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, "but we're going to do it the old-fashioned way. We're going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We're going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It's not going to happen anymore."
Trump answers America's rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, "All the other candidates say 'Americans are angry, and I understand.' Trump says, 'I’M angry.'" Trump doesn't offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn't so much that he'll help you as he'll hurt them.
Which rather tends to prove Kaya Oakes's point about the probability that many Americans — including the most vociferously "Christian" — simply won't and can't get what the Christian tradition tells us about mercy, doesn't it? Not when our values are far more decisively shaped by the American philosophy of atomistic individualism, with its draconian emphasis on deserving winners and undeserving losers, and its need constantly to generate new lists of the worst enemies in the world in order to prove to the world that we, the winners of the global Darwinian lottery, are, it goes without saying, those draped in angelic light.