Friday, August 18, 2017

At #EmptythePews, Evangelicals Speak Out About Choice to Leave Churches After Election of Donald Trump: Is There Parallel Catholic Discussion?

We don't live in 325, or 400, or 1200, or 1600.  We are living now, and Jesus is calling us to the work of the Kingdom now.  The things that were said and done in the past can be a resource and a guide for us, but the work is in the here and now.  We cannot hide from that work by taking refuge in the past.  The past will not save us, and it will not save anyone else. . . . 
White American Christianity has a horrible track-record on race. Christianity generally has a horrible track-record with regard to gender and LGBT issues. If we feel like we have to live with one foot in the past, we get into a position where we feel we have to "deal" with that reality. But our attempts to "deal" with that reality almost inevitably lead to paralysis, because there is no way for us to "deal" with these facts. The past consists of ghosts, and all of these attempts to "deal" with them just give them more power. The only solution is to move forward and focus on the world that we live in, the one Jesus is calling us to work with.  I can't change the fact that the Kingdom as expressed in previous eras did not do right by all sorts of folks, but I can work to make sure the Kingdom is doing right by those people now.   
That, to me, is what Jesus means by "let the dead bury their own dead."  
~ Michael Boyle, "Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead"

Chris Stroop has created a Twitter hashtag for folks who are leaving or have left evangelical churches due to their churches' support of Trump. The hashtag, #EmptyThePews, is generating valuable discussion among that particular segment of the U.S. Christian community. Some samples:

As I have noted here previously, though a poll done soon after the 2016 elections showed an astonishing 14 percent of respondents saying they had left their churches following those elections, I have seen very little discussion of or follow-through on these findings. Though some commentary at the time the poll was released suggested that those leaving their churches after the elections were both pro-Trump and anti-Trump, I strongly suspect that the latter predominate in those 14 percent. And that they have left churches that have allied themselves with and are supporting Donald Trump . . . . 

It's obvious why church leaders would not want to study the results of such a poll. It's perhaps less obvious why the media would not seek to pursue this discussion — except that the mainstream media have long given a pass to the churches when it comes to discussing frankly and honestly the deep racism of white Christians in the U.S., which is at the very foundation of the choice of a majority of white Christians in the U.S. to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. This topic is treated by the mainstream media as no news at all, and there's a direct line from the cover-up of honest discussion of this topic in the mainstream media to the fact that Trump won the White House with the support of the majority of U.S. white Christians.

After Chris set up the #EmptyThePews hashtag, I jokingly remarked on Twitter that perhaps someone should set up a similar hashtag to invite Catholics who have left Catholic parishes following the 2016 elections to offer similar testimony. I do know it's out there. A Catholic theologian friend of mine on Facebook shared a posting this past Sunday (among friends, so I am not linking it here) stating that he and his family got up and walked out of the homily in their parish in West Virginia, when — a day after the Charlottesville events! — the priest delivering it chose to focus on the friendship of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. Nary word about what had happened just down the road in Virginia the day before . . . .

And I shared the following tweet yesterday:

This does not mean, of course, that either of these lay Catholics has now left the Catholic church. I know for a fact that my theologian friend on Facebook has not done so, and I am very glad he remains, living his witness to the Christian gospels and what it means to walk in Jesus' footsteps within the institution. 

I have also read on Twitter in the past week discussions between lay Catholics and a defiant priest  (white, or need I say this?) who has been tweeting support for Donald Trump, and defiant justification of his decision to vote for Trump. I myself responded to his defiant tweets about this — and do not want to provide a link to this discussion, because I don't want to give this character more publicity. 

I say that I was, in some sense, joking when posted my tweet about a Catholic discussion group on Twitter discussing Catholic disaffection from the church following the 2016 elections for the following reason: I seriously doubt that there has been a widespread walkout from Catholic parishes after the elections. My visceral sense is that most Catholics who intended to walk away from the church or from participation in it have done so by now due primarily to the abuse crisis and the shameful, morally shocking cover-up of that crisis by the hierarchy — and, in some cases, especially among younger Catholics, due to church leaders' unrelenting attacks on LGBTQ folks and women.

After Charlottesville, the best that the pastoral and lay leaders of the U.S. Catholic community have been willing to offer the church they lead — and this is absolutely typical — is the weak gruel of "a mix of encouraging, problematic, and inadequate" mumbles that ultimately mean nothing at all. Mumbles that stand nowhere except tacitly with Donald Trump and his odious white-supremacist base . . . . In contrast to the unambiguous words these pastoral and lay leaders wish to utter about the "real" moral issues confronting us now, contraception, same-sex marriage, and abortion . . . .

The Catholics who remain in the pews, the white Catholics quite specifically, the ones with institutional and financial clout and ownership in the U.S. Catholic church as an institution, a majority of whom voted for Donald Trump with the tacit and sometimes overt encouragement of the U.S. Catholic bishops: they're true believers. They're now true believers in the Republican party, the majority of them. Their religion is now totally melded to the Republican party, and it could advance a golden calf for the office of president, and they'd still — gladly, gleefully — pull the Republican lever.

Am I wrong to think this?

The graphic, based on Pew Research Center polling, is by Marcia Clemmitt at CQ Researcher.

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