Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Witnessing the deliberate deconstruction of truth, trust and community

 “Patriot Prayer”…another oxymoron if I heard of one! No deity is a nationalist, for any country, nor for any patriot. No god can be squished into a box that has borders fitting the United States, or any other nation. And for those invoking God, while marching with an AR-15 down the street, there really no hope to penetrate their sensibilities, nor their cognition. And for a chief executive to pervert the danger of the 17-year-old, at the hands of a young man with a skateboard, is not only just another of trump’s millions of lies. It is a litmus test for the presidency and whether such a person is really ‘fit’ for the office.

In another life, I attempted, sensationally unsuccessfully, to serve as a clergy in a denomination commonly referred to as “God’s chosen frozen.” The incompatibility of my presence with the people in the pews, no both sides of the 49th parallel, over a period of a decade or more, has only become glaringly evident with the passing of time. Ostensibly assigned to parishes on life support, I guess I was expected to ‘breath life’ back into the comatose community. And while I was neither trained to resolve nor was I supported by officialdom in these several exigencies, I blundered on, until, one by one, I had to withdraw.

Ecclesial emergencies, like many human trips to the emergency room, arise after protracted period of neglect, denial, avoidance, and outright irresponsibility, on the part, not only of the patient but also of the circle around that patient.

·        A liturgical clergy suicide, after a prolonged and vague yet strident  episcopal ‘directive’ to the incumbent to fill both pews and coffers,

·        a dead dog shot by a departing cleric, who then turned the gun on the dog owner in the middle of a conflict swept under the diocesan rug and hidden from the neophyte deacon,

·        the vacuum ensuing after the departure of a thirty-seven-year cleric’s tenure, a man absolutely resistant to mentoring his successors

·        a smouldering parish conflict about how to transition from an atrophying building into a renovation or a ‘strip mall,’

·        a dying mission with a half-dozen desperate seniors, after a two-year, fruitless advertising campaign for a clergy

Diagnosing the situation, from the vantage point of two decades’ later, however, is far different from walking into the various situations, unknown, unaccompanied, unsupported, without appropriate orientation, guidance, and hierarchical support. And whether even now any diagnosis is full, comprehensive and capable of offering light and peace and hope (three of the more significant ideals of the Christian church) remains a mystery.

Undisclosed to church officials was a litany of conflicts from my childhood, preserved in the secrecy of a locked memory vault. They included:

ü My own adolescent theological and spiritual divorce from a fundamentalist, evangelical, bigoted, protestant theology inseminated, gestated and delivered in Northern Ireland before being imported to an already conservative, anti-Roman Catholic Presbyterian church in central Ontario

ü my rejection of such vacuous bromides as “If God had not wanted us to smoke, He would not have put tobacco on the earth!” (from my mother, when confronted about her DuMaurier cigarettes, in our family kitchen when I was 13), and

ü losing a debate inside the church whose resolution read: Resolved that Christians should be part of the secular culture, in which I defended the affirmative

The running narrative of physical and emotional abuse experienced by both my sister and me cultivated, at least in me, both a high level of suspicion of those in authority and a capacity to keep secrets from the ‘outside world’. I had personal experience of the abuse of scripture by a clergy, for his own ideological, contemptuous and control needs. I also gleaned from my father, a member of session in that Presbyterian church, that born-again, self-righteous, sycophantic acolytes of the evangelist were frozen and locked into a narrow, literal, unforgiving and intolerant praxis of their faith. They were armed and resistant to dialogue, and clearly to any other point of view than their own. It was as if they suddenly belonged to what today we would call a right-wing cult, of a kind of religiosity and certainly to a charismatic rock-star personality.

 

Another inescapable reality about such hard-assed, frozen, and self-righteous primarily men seemed to be then, and has continually been observed in many venues since, is that such men are both deeply insecure, profoundly dependent on a perspective of reality that includes no ambiguity, no greyness, no uncertainty and no perception of wrong-doing. While not exclusive to right-wing, fundamentalist religion of whatever faith, their ‘brand’ can be found in corporations, schools, universities, colleges, and certainly in churches and in the political arena.

 

Like Leningen’s ants, too, they breed through both genetics and role-modelling, others, again predominantly men, but certainly a fair number of females. They offer a simplified, almost caricatured version of reality, around which they believe they can put their arms, physically, emotional and especially cognitively. They have an inflamed sense of their own ‘righteousness’ and that flame renders them obvious choices for those seeking to “convert” others to a kind of passion, dedication and compliance among others. Their vision of utopia has to include a world in which each has brought a ‘quota’ of converts into the fold, as their chosen path to eternal life in heaven, where the streets are paved with gold.

Gullible, naïve, twisted and excessively needy, (there is no need to be clinical) these men, regardless of their specific personal choice of a faith path, are also susceptible to any charismatic, ideologue, and his ideology or ‘brand’ as a refuge from the insufferable angst of unknowing. Not only as they averse to not knowing, they are also averse to any other view that might challenge their superior and almost ‘holy’ perspective of what is right and wrong.

They will even go so far as to contort facts to fit into their crucible of perception/values/identity/faith so that they can maintain and sustain their seat on the pedestal of purity. And such contortion and such charisma and such sheer size of their numbers, both in bodies and in dollars, all converge in a compelling gestalt of intensity. Taken together, they are literally and metaphorically like a swarm of locusts currently devouring vegetation in central Africa.

In North America, they are voraciously devouring all political opponents, the major media outlets, the evidence of their own wrong-doing, as well as the methods and procedures, rules and regulations that permit and enable the exposure of their wrong doing. And not only are they doing these horrific things, by compulsively adhering themselves to the bodies and the “ephemeralities” of multiple conspiracy theories that depict their enemies as child molesters who drink the blood of the very children they molest.

And, of course, these falsehoods are not only so compelling and so repulsive, like magnets with the power to attract the most vulnerable, they are finding sycophants in many countries. And they link their converts to anything objectionable to their perceived pursuit of freedom, such as the wearing of masks. Making this a personal, political choice, however, negates the core truth that when I wear a mask I protect you first and me second from the vagaries of COVID-19. And for such highly insecure mouths as trump to cheer-lead for not wearing masks, for Patriot Prayer, and for QAnon’s twisted and perverted lies, as millions actually contract the virus, and hundreds of thousands have died, with many more to follow, is a flag of a kind of danger that threatens people everywhere.

If a vacuous ideologue in Washington can drum up the millions of dollars to campaign for a second term, for which he is blatantly unfit, and find sycophantic cult followers for conspiracy theories like QAnon in Berlin and in Holland, without a shred of evidence of the truth of the beliefs being espoused, and then other vacuous, insecure oligarchs/ideologues join the same movement, what are the many, grave and effectual steps the rest of the world can and will take to help to dissolve such movements.

Mysterious, anonymous, twisted, perverted, unproven allegations, inferred character assassinations, and the natural inclination to dismiss such quacks as not worthy of official attention, are all features that converge in what can only amount to a massive collision, at first ideationally, and potentially ultimately physically.

Already we know that trump is fomenting violence in the streets of Portland, through “Patriot Prayer” and he has wondered out loud about whether his “saviour” status as QAnon’s cult hero is a good or a bad thing, and he has perverted the street violence in the U.S. as Biden’s America, when he sits in the Oval Office, and it is really trumps’ America….But is it only America that he and his growing cult following seek to dominate?

Is the rapid-fire of lies, deceptions, arrogance, conspiracy theories, cult-followers and propaganda-purveyors threatening many more acres, minds, hearts and geographies than the current spate of forest fires sweeping across California, Colorado and the west coast?

I have already met too many people who remind me both of the “officials” deeply drowning in denial of the seriousness of the political, environmental, biological, and economic existential threats we all face. And there are also too many so-called ‘educated’ who have also dug their heads into the sand of denial, in their absolute rejection of providing social service workers to police departments, in their denial of including emotional and mental health care in the establishment budgets, and of contending adamantly, that theirs is the right and the only correct position on ideology.

And they claim their self-righteous perch by defaming all those with whom they disagree, including even now the scientists, the visionaries, and the poets and the prophets whose vision of how and society and a culture might begin to operate by opening the closed minds that consider themselves the “preservers” and the custodians of the “tradition” of how they inherited, or clambered their way to their status and their influence.

Long ago and far away, I felt the unmistakeable imprimatur of a neurotic charismatic bigoted and self-righteous ideologue, masquerading as an evangelist, in a small town in Ontario. And I now feel his hate and his need for power and control in pressed blue suits, behind microphones, under the spray of narcissistic fireworks and I see the banners of sycophancy sprouting in places beyond the borders of North America, as distrust, deception, lies, conspiracies seed the new cultural garden in which our grandchildren will be expected to attempt to survive.

I fear for their plight!

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