Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I Repudiate My Catholic Connection: I Want No Connection to a Group of People Who Have Just Helped Set into Motion Great Evil

In late September, before the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the U.S., John Pavlovitz announced that we need to hold a funeral for Christianity in the U.S., for the following reason: 

I'm not sure what all this angry, chest-thumping, bullying, "don’t tread on me" thing that we've come to call Christianity is, but it isn't the Gospel. It isn't Good News. It isn't the Prince of Peace. It isn't the perfect love that casts out fear. It isn't Jesus. It's a strange cocktail of power, control, fear, nationalism, and white privilege that looks much more like Rome than what the early Church was about. 
Many times over the past few decades, my faith tradition has been life to me. It's been the place I've found hope and rest. There was something bigger that I knew I was a part of, and in the people of Jesus I felt like I belonged. This faith isn't giving me life anymore. I am no longer finding hope and rest here. I don't belong in that gathering like I once did. This is cause for real mourning.

And then following the election, he wrote a post-mortem piece in which he noted that "much of the Church has been fully complicit in elevating to the highest levels of the political process, a man completely devoid of anything remotely representing Jesus, and passed him off as sufficiently Christian." Then he added,

Whatever American Christianity has become in this election isn't of Jesus anymore, no matter how loud the preachers pound the pulpit or how many Scriptures they quote or how big the steeples become or how grand the display of showy faith it makes. 
God has left the building and good people are following quickly behind.

Since the election, there has been a steady stream of articles by white evangelicals announcing that they are now repudiating their white evangelical churches — leaving them behind after an astonishing 81 percent of white evangelicals helped place Trump in the White House. I've shared some of these statements with you — e.g., Katelyn Beaty's post-election statement that "U.S. evangelicalism is irreducibly linked with white privilege" and, when it's populated by family members who equate white privilege with the gospel, one has at some point simply to get up from the table and walk away. 

We're now seeing the development of a whole genre of literature in American Christianity, in the "dear John letters" that Brandi Miller (an African-American evangelical) and various white evangelicals are writing as they announce publicly that they have had it with the "package deal" that is now white evangelicalism, with its equation of raw, ugly political power with the gospel, and with its assaults on minority groups in the name of Jesus. "I cannot be in a relationship with someone that claims to care about my soul, but disregards my body," Brandi Miller announces in her dear John letter dissolving her ties to the evangelical faith in which she was brought up and nurtured. 

Already on election night, the tweets about these matters were pouring out as the election results poured in:

Fred Clark has been tweeting pastoral counsel advising white evangelicals who belong to churches that supported Donald Trump, who care about the future of Christianity and the integrity of the Christian message in our culture today, to leave their churches. He has spelled this counsel out in a posting on his blog:

If you belong to a white evangelical church that supported Donald Trump, then it’s time to go. (Or, for that matter, if you belong to a white mainline Protestant church that supported Donald Trump.) Don't go quietly, but go. Now. You are not changing them, but if you stay, they will change you.

Sam Thielman doesn't quite come to the point of saying he's repudiating white evangelicalism, though his critique of what his fellow white evangelicals have just done in electing Donald Trump is scathing, and he spares no punches as he says that he only now understands "how purely cruel my fellow Christians are." From the side of evangelicals who belong to minority communities, African-American scholar Yolanda Pierce tells her fellow evangelicals who are white that they have now broken her heart — and this, too, is a recurring theme of African-American, Latinx, LGBTQ commentators, and others on Twitter and Facebook in the post-election period.

I am not seeing similar public statements by white Catholics in the U.S. now, though six in ten white Catholics elected Donald Trump, and four in ten of us who are white and Catholic must now face what a sizable proportion of the members of our faith have just done to the world. As I told you here in July, Father Thomas Reese was already indicating, on the basis of polling information available then, that this election might well hinge on what white Catholics chose to do.

We now know what they chose to do: they collaborated with 81 percent of white evangelicals and three in five Mormons to elect Donald Trump. And as Stephen J. Pope now observes

We must face the fact that if Catholics had refrained from voting for Trump, he would not be the president-elect today. 

Though white Catholics bear serious responsibility for having placed Donald Trump in the White House, I'm not seeing dear John letters written by white Catholics in the U.S. announcing that they have had it with what many of our co-religionists and our abysmal "pastoral" leaders — aided and abetted by our lay Catholic intellectual class in the academy and journalistic sector — have made of the Catholic church in the U.S.

So I have no template for the statement I am making here now, and will simply make it baldly: I repudiate the Catholic church in which I was baptized in 1967, and which I chose at great personal cost, at the cost of severing close family ties — because I understood that church to stand for human rights, and, in particular, the rights of those on the margins of society. And because I was deeply drawn to the idea of a close personal eucharistic relationship to a Jesus my white evangelical community had already taught me to revere . . . . 

I've had it. The church I now see in front of me is not the church for which I signed on when I made that painful transition as a teen. It is the very antithesis of that church, in many ways, and I want out.

This statement will come as no surprise, really, to anyone who has followed anything of my life journey as I've recorded it here. I've been on the outside looking in for years now. I was placed there along with many other gay* Catholics by the church itself, and have told you I have sought liturgical hospitality in a number of other faith communities after this, and have contemplated becoming Episcopalian.

And as that savage exclusion of me and others has taken place in the last several decades, it has been no secret to me that a large majority of my fellow Catholics — including those lay Catholic intellectual leaders who go on and on about matters of mercy and justice and concern for those on the margins of society — could not have cared less about what has been done to me and other gay* Catholics for years now.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The "pastoral" leaders of the church are clearly glad to be shut of people like me. Lay Catholic intellectual leaders simply laugh at statements like the one I'm making here — at the fatuity of a nobody like me imagining that his puny little voice is worth a hearing in the first place. Trump or no Trump — even as members of minority communities are being assaulted in various ways now in the wake of an election that is anything but business as usual — they'll continue to go about their business of talking among themselves, only among themselves, as they parse weighty issues of mercy and justice and human rights on behalf of us lesser beings, while their lives never intersect in any way with the lives of fellow human beings whom they haughtily dismiss as unworthy of attention in a world gone mad for "identity politics."

I want out. More precisely, I want no connection to a group of people who have just helped set into motion great evil that is going to have monumentally ugly consequences for the whole world, and who claim to have made this choice out of respect for an ethic of life.

I want no connection with that evil, which is quite likely to assault me and many other hapless human beings on the margins of society more quickly than it will assault those living in their safe enclaves in the Catholic academy or journalistic sphere — or in the safe enclaves of episcopal palaces and rectories. 

I want it to be clear that I did not choose this evil by the political choices I made in this historic election, and that I repudiate any form of religious faith that equates this evil with respect for human life — including, and especially, my white Catholic community in the U.S. I want no part of that community, and I gladly relinquish it to the bishops, who never accorded me a place within this community in any case, and to the lay intellectual leaders of this community, for whom I have always been a non-person as well.

Let them have it, and let them continue their normalizing of evil that is already beginning to make life a living hell for many of their fellow human beings, even as they profess to be exemplary defenders of the value of human life. The evil they are doing, with which they are collaborating, is not an evil that will be done in my name now that I am officially removing myself from all Catholic rolls by this statement, in lieu of any formal canonical process for the step I am taking after so many Catholics began officially ro resign in the wake of the abuse crisis that the pastors of the church abolished the formal process.

* Gay = LGBTQI.

(Please see this subsequent posting, which continues the discussion above.)

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