Friday, December 6, 2019

What We Are Now Living Through Creates a Serious Crisis of Religious Faith

In the video above, discussing the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez in a detention center for immigrants this past May, Mika Brzezinski states that Nancy Pelosi is filling a leadership void and a moral void in this country. Joe Scarborough then states that evangelicals used to fill this moral void and no longer do so:

White evangelicals are more supportive of these policies. if you look at the polls, white evangelicals are more supportive of the caging of children, of these people dying inside a prison Look at every poll. They are more supportive of these policies which are, I don't care what red- letter bible you have, I do not care, look at the red letters: This is the antithesis of Jesus's teachings.

I do not agree with Scarborough that white evangelicals used to be a powerful force for moral good in the U.S. The roots of the white evangelical movement in the U.S., which is heavily dominated by white Southerners whose churches split major denominations over the question of supporting slavery, are deeply intertwined with racism and misogynistic heterosexism. 

What we are seeing today in the era of Trump, with his fervent support by white evangelicals, is what was always underneath the mask — something centrist and conservative media gurus like Scarborough did not previously wish to see, since many of these media sorts wanted to justify the GOP alliance with right-wing evangelicals and pretend that this alliance did not involve them as GOP supporters in that racism and patriarchal thinking that permeate the evangelical movement.

For me — and I wonder for how many others? — what we are living through now with the nightmare of Donald Trump creates a serious crisis of religious faith. It is a challenge to believe in God in a world in which the rich and powerful always win, and in which their winning requires them to win at the expense of the little people of the world, whom they trample down to attain wealth and power, who exist only as tokens on a game board for those with wealth and power.

It is a challenge to believe in anything at all in a world in which those who abuse others in this heartless way never seem to be checked, to suffer the consequences of their injustice and heartlessness.

It is exceedingly disturbing to watch the way in which the man in the White House brazely flouts laws and ethical conventions, laughing as he does so at those of us who think no one should be above the law. For those of us who have lived a long time and have witnessed similar behavior over and over in our workplaces and in other institutions — and have been powerless to defend ourselves against it — it begins to seem that there will never be any hope or justice in the world for little people like ourselves.

It is the churches, after all — institutionalized Christianity — that have yielded the moral filth, the defiance of law, the callousness towards the poor, the disdain for the stranger and despised other, that characterize this ugly era of history.

It was Christians — white ones, in particular, acting out of racial animus, selfishness, and misogyny — who set all this into motion by their votes in 2016. White right-wing Christians remain Donald Trump's staunchest supporters.

How am I, or how is anyone else, ever to trust the churches again as they proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world (or claim to do so)? They have broken the mold in which they held that gospel proclamation for the world, and it cannot be pieced together again, as far as I can see, after what they have shown us about themselves in the era of Trump.

And, no, my faith has never been in a church. It has been in God manifested to me in Christ (and in many other ways worldwide and over the course of history). But Christ is mediated to us by institutions and other human beings.

How is it possible any longer to contact the living memory of Jesus the churches claim to enshrine when the institutions shaped to transmit it to the world behave as they are now behaving in the era of Trump? When people who claim the name Christian are behaving as they are now behaving?


Timothy Egan, A Pilgrimage to Eternity (NY: Viking, 2019), p. 6"

Nearly seven in ten Americans are still Christian. But if White Anglo-Saxon Protestants were indeed the rootstock of the United States, then the mother ground is nearly barren. 
What's happening is a mass exodus, particularly among the young: 71 percent of people aged eighteen to twenty-four say they have no religion.


As I read this valuable commentary, I ask myself, Why would any American young person seeking vital spiritual grounding want to have anything to do with Christianity right now, given what so many Christians in the U.S. have made of the Christian message?

A special note of thanks to Professor Anthea Butler for bringing the video at the head of the posting to my attention with this tweet.

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