Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Dangers of the religious "right" ....

Sometimes, it is both fruitless and counter-intuitive to attempt to express opinions that counter radical religious fundamentalism. In fact, it may always be an exercise in futility.

Radical theological fundamentalism, by definition, is inflexible, absolutely convinced and undeterred about the sanctity of its views. Based on a literal, power-by the driven critical parent judge view of God and the stories of Jesus, their exegesis  denies and refutes all nuanced, complex, poetic and prophetic potential of the New Testament.

Inflaming their fear and anger, and thereby their self-righteous religiosity, demonizing all who dispute/reject their pomposity, individuals like Falwell in the U.S. and Charles McVety in Canada, have inveighed weightily in both the American presidential election of 2016 and the Ontario provincial election of 2018.

Herding millions of white votes for trump, Falwell has the blood of this administration all over his hands. Similarly, huckstering for Ford in Ontario, McVety delivered party memberships and later votes that served up a majority government to the Ford cult.

The Guardian quotes townspeople in Lynchburg Virginia, the home of Liberty University, who call what Falwell advocates as “toxic Christianity”. And this  toxicity is like a river, wider and deeper than both the Mississippi and St. Lawrence taken together, flowing through the heartland of nations on both sides of the 49th parallel.

Polluted by the most profound psychosis, a fear of damnation should they not “be acceptable to God at the Second Coming,” hundreds of thousands of otherwise good people have enmeshed their minds, hearts, and their cheque books in service of a slave-master deity. Of course, they argue vociferously that they have been “saved” from that very prospect, and have hit the road to sell their saving rebirth to anyone they deem in need of their placebo. From the beginning of their conversion, itself a moment in time so transcendent and miraculous they owe the balance of their life to its repayment. Paradoxically, they are blindly, and perhaps even ignorantly, trumpeting their own “exceptionality” at having turned their lives over to Jesus Christ, as their Saviour. 

Framed as the sacrifice of their will to the will of God, they paradoxically blow the trumpet of their own holiness, discipline and commitment to spreading their version of Christianity to the rest of the world, especially those who also call themselves Christian yet whose faith is much more nuanced, poetic, prophetic, complex, uncertain and even doubtful, loving and forgiving.

Trumpeting a single moment of epiphany, these religious fanatics, by their very existence divide themselves (and their God) from the rest of the world, especially those sitting in the same pews, church boards, bishops offices, and church classrooms who authentically value a very different, evolutionary, developmental, inclusive and integrative theology.

Absolutism, in the service of the Christian deity, is an oxymoron. It contaminates all dedication to reflection, prayer, reading, relating and spiritually growing and maturing. There is a deep and unrelenting difference between a belief system that promulgates fear, hatred, bigotry, racism, and ultimate superiority, of the kind voiced by people like Falwell, Rev. Iain Paisley, James Dobson and a litany of characters each of whom have poured their own venom into the public discourse: defaming LGBTQ, defaming all providers of therapeutic abortion, denigrating all attempts at rehabilitative and restorative justice, distorting contemporary sex education curricula most recently in Ontario, fighting for right wing judges, and campaigning inflammatorily for political candidates like trump, Ford, Sheer and others.

In his dystopian truthdig.com column entitled The World to Come, January 28, 2019, Chris Hedges puts the issue of the toxicity of right-wing Christian fundamentalists in the United States in graphic and dangerous perspective:

The ruling ideology of neoliberalism, the ruling elites recognize, has been discredited across the political spectrum. This is forcing the elites to make unsavory alliances with neofascists, who in the United States are represented by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism is swiftly filling Trump’s ideological void. It is embodied in figures such as Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Brett Kavanaugh and Betsy DeVoss.
In its most virulent form, one that will be expressed once the economy goes into crisis, this Christian fascism will seek to purge the society of those branded as social deviants, including immigrants, Muslims, “secular humanist” artists and intellectuals, feminists, gays and lesbians, Native Americans and criminals—largely poor people of color—based on a perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Abortion will be illegal. The death penalty will be mandated for a variety of crimes. Education will be dominated by white supremacist views of history, indoctrination and the teaching of creationism or “intelligent design.” The  pantheon of new America heroes will include Robert E. Lee, Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon. The state will portray the white majority as victims.
This Christian fascism, like all forms of totalitarianism, wraps itself in a cloying piety, promising moral as well as physical renewal. The degradation of mass culture with its celebration of sexual sadism, graphic violence and personal dysfunction, its plagues of opioid addiction, suicide, gambling and alcoholism, along with social chaos and government dysfunction, will lend credibility to the Christian fascists’ promise of a return to a “Christian” purity. The cloak of this piety will be used to snuff out all civil liberties.
For its part, Canada is clearly not out of the woods, free from the impact of a similar poisoning and poisoned iteration of the Christian gospel. So far, our battles over what are generally dubbed “wedge issues” like sex-ed, and homophobia, we have not yet experienced the most cancerous aspects of this ideology.

Capital punishment has been abolished in Canada; access to therapeutic abortion is also regarded as “settled law” and unlikely to be re-opened, although right-to-life campaigns continue unabated. Nevertheless, still in Canada, the fanatic religious right continues to raise truckloads of cash, and mount political/moral/religious campaigns to accomplish repressive and exclusionary social and political and religious goals.

In other pieces in this space, I have referred in detail to the kind of religious fanaticism (was it neo-fascism?) which spewed from the pulpit of the church in which I spent my youth. Furthermore, there are credible reports for people familiar with the situation that an ardent and dedicated parishioner in that parish, a medical doctor, made specific threats to start proceedings to incarcerate a local in a hospital designed for the “criminally insane” following unconfirmed and unchallenged reports of a professional indiscretion, the story of which he found reprehensible.

Far from abandoning the separation of church and state, these religious fanatics will use the state, whenever and wherever they deem it fits with their religious agenda, to impose their moral, ethical and religious beliefs. And their fervor, their fanaticism and their blind and insufferable arrogance and intransigence leave them no room for either accepting or imposing limits on their religiosity. They see the school system as an agent of their beliefs; they certainly see the justice system as an agent of their beliefs; they see the health care system as an agent of their beliefs. And, if and when they can seduce an elected official (read Doug Ford) to climb the hill of their electoral support into public office, they celebrate their victory, invariably at the expense of a very different and much less fascistic ideology they are determined to destroy. And of course, they do all of their subterfuge under the umbrella of religious piety, superiority and even, in their minds, absolutely the “right religion”.

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