Wednesday, April 29, 2020

My Response to "American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel" — Still None, Still Done, as US Christianity Exhibits Total Lack of Imagination in Face of Pandemic

I did watch "American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel." It’s an excellent film and great statement, and I highly recommend it.

My response is/was quite simple. At some point early in the film, I was struck strongly – an ah-ha! moment of sorts – by the recognition,

I don’t want any of this. Not any longer.  
I don’t want the church thing any longer. I don’t want what churches have to offer, whether they are on the left or the right side of the cultural and political spectrum. 
I’m not only none. I’m done.

A lack of faith? I don’t think so. It’s the opposite that drives many of us here at this point in history. It’s faith itself that drives us to reject in its entirety the bowdlerization of authentic Christian faith and practice by so many religionists today.

People starving for poetry have been fed a steady diet of dryasdust prose. The results could not be more appalling. The impoverishment of the American Catholic imagination, in particular — moral impoverishment, spiritual impoverishment, theological impoverishment — could not be more startling. People of analogical imagination, indeed!

I admire what the politically responsible churches this film features are doing. I support their work. I see a great need for the politically transformative activism of progressive religious communities.

But I now find myself as repulsed by these groups as I am by right-wing religious groups.

This is not – not entirely – a matter of being repulsed by the churches’ response to me and other LGBTQ human beings. And the reality has to be faced: it’s not just the right-wing churches that fail and repulse LGBTQ people. It’s also the liberal-leaning ones that have done almost nothing at all to push back against the forces in our world today that seek to make our lives intolerable.

Just this week I read in one of PRRI’s daily emailed news updates that the Trump administration is assaulting protections for LGBTQ people in the US healthcare system. The update pointed out that more than half of US Christians support LGBTQ rights.

But more than half of white Christians in the US placed Donald Trump in the White House, knowing, surely, that when they chose to do so, the lives of LGBTQ people would be at stake. As this administration moves inexorably to crush the already tenuous rights of LGBTQ people, where are all these “supporters”? Where are their voices? Where is their activism? Where is the circle of protection they want to offer us, while we’re being assaulted?

Why is liberal Christianity so ineffectual?

It’s not just this, though, that drives me away. At a deeper level, it’s the profound – the profoundly shocking – lack of imagination of Christian churches in the US that is utterly repulsive. If the current pandemic has laid bare any reality at all about US churches, it’s their almost total lack of imagination, of a transformative imagination of the world that might counter the sordid reality (and not just a physical one: a sociopolitical one, too) through which we are now living.

With so many unparalleled resources to shape the moral, spiritual, and theological imagination – rich, diverse scriptural foundations; a rich, complex history; the lives of countless incomparable believers throughout history – this is what we’ve ended up with? We’ve ended up with Cardinal Dolan and other sold-out, soulless big-wig Catholic sycophants lauding Donald Trump in a phone conference that is now being praised and defended by the editor in chief of one of American Catholicism’s leading “intellectual” journals, America Magazine? A response by Dolan described as “anodyne” on Twitter by the director of the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who also describes Dolan as “gracious”?

If this is imagination – if this is transformative imagination in any shape, form, or fashion – please give me whatever is the opposite.

I want none of this. I am none and done.

Please see the subsequent posting, "No Imagination: The Fundamental Failure of the Church in Face of the Pandemic," which is a companion piece to this posting;

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