Saturday, July 6, 2024 #61

 In the previous post, the word theocracy* appeared, as a metaphor for the direction implicit in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity on July 1, 2024. The overturning of Roe v Wade, a central position of the Christian (Roman Catholic) church from the beginning. Waiting, strategizing, planning and elevating composition of the Supreme Court, in and through the nominations available to various Republican presidents, by Republican politicians, has proven to be both an energizing campaign issue, and finally a political/religious/legal victory.

However, it is not only the single issue of a woman’s right to choose, control over her body, as the liberal position puts it, that indicates a sharp turn to the political right over the last half century. Capturing the Republican party, by trump and his acolytes, through multiple messages, images, rhetorical phrases, and the pyramidal hierarchical structure so endeared by Republicans, the military, and especially the church, in which power is centred in bishops, and the pope at the top of the hierarchy has provided a central archetype of power and authority in a political and economic and legal culture that is, in a word, atrophying, eroding, perhaps even dissolving.

 In that same American culture, also, is a deeply embedded archetype of competition, dominance, specialness, superiority, hubris, and its Siamese cousin, personal, organizational, corporate, academic, athletic, scientific and all forms of empirically/extrinsically-driven ambition, motivation, comparison and intense, if self-sabotaging ‘ego-drivenness’. ‘Drive’ has characterized the American cultural landscape from the beginning. Indeed, this drive has also a religious component. Americans have been inculcated into a notion that their nation is ‘founded’ on God, and specifically, the Christian God.

Borrowing from a piece in by Jeff Schweitzer, formerWhite House Senior Policy Analyst, PhD in neurophysiology, February 26, 2015 entitled: ‘Founding Fathers: We are not A Cristian Nation’

 Although John Adams, one of the founders wrote, ‘The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion,’….As we witness yet again the brutal and bloody consequences of religious intolerance in the form of ISIS, we have a majority of Republicans pining for a Christian America. Proponents of converting the United States into a theocracy do not see the terrible parallel between religious excess in the Middle East and here at home, but they would not because blindness to reason is the inevitable consequence of religious zealotry. Conservatives who so proudly tout their fealty to the Constitution want to trash our founding document by violating the First Amendment in hopes of establishing Christianity as the nation’s religion. This is precisely what the Constitution prohibits……How terribly ironic that the louder Christians protest against the excesses of Islam, the more they agitate for Christian excess. If there should be any doubt, let us listen to the founding fathers themselves. This from Thomas Jefferson in an April 11, 1823 letter to John Adams:

‘The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. …But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this scaffolding.’

These are not the words of a man who wishes to establish a Christian theocracy. Jefferson promoted tolerance above all and said earlier that his statute for religious freedom in Virginia was ‘meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.’ He specifically wished to avoid the dominance of a single religion.

Schweitzer continues: Note that the power of government is derived not from an god but from the people. No appeal is made in this document (Declaration of Independence) to a god for authority of any kind. In no case are any powers given to religion in the affairs of man.

 American founding fathers and their ‘documents’ were written to appeal to a European-born audience who were very familiar with the ‘divine right of kings’.

From Divine Right of Kings, in European history, a political doctrine in defense of monarchical absolutism which asserted that kings derived their authority from God and could not therefore be held accountable for their actions by any earthly authority such as parliament. Originating in Europe, the divine-right theory can be traced to the medieval conception of God’s award of temporal power to the political ruler, paralleling the award of spiritual power to the church. By the 16th and 17th centuries, however, national monarchs were asserting their authority in matters of both church and state.

 Here it is relevant to recall the Islamic view of the relationship between church and state. From

Islam is the most common state religion, but many governments give privileges to Christianity. More than 80 countries favor a specific religion, either as an official, government endorsed religion or by affording one religion preferential treatment over other faiths…..Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, with 27 countries (including most in the Middle East-North Africa region) officially enshrining Islam as their state religion.

 It is neither insignificant nor irrelevant  to remind us here that the turbulence of the 21st century, historically marked by the 9/11 attack by ISIS on the United States, corresponds with the cataract of digital technology, social media and the ascendance of the binary, literal, empirical, data-driven consciousness. Spreading as fast as keypads are typed, words, ideas, propaganda, recruitment campaigns, ideological, religious, and scientific insights in a fabricated ‘cloud of bytes’ both literally and metaphorically, now envelop the planet. Two mental constructs dominate: a) competition in a binary, zero-sum universe, and b) where all questions are reduced to an either/or moral righteousness. And, in America, where some Republicans have pursued their moral, religious, spiritual, political dream of a Christian nation, competing directly and indirectly with Islam, as a rising tide of Muslim immigrants and refugees pours over national borders on all continents, it seems that Islamic zealotry must be matched by Christian zealotry, in order to ‘protect us from the Muslim hordes’.

 Fear of being ‘over-run’ by the ‘other’ is not unique to the U.S. In decades past, in another life, after enrolling our daughters in French immersion classes, my family was harangued by frightened teachers who predicted that I would lose my job as an English instructor when the ‘French horde’ took over. So great was the neurosis that an organization under the rubric, APEC (Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada) undertook to combat the rise of the teaching of French ‘Immersion’ in formally unilingual English secondary schools in Ontario, Canada. The deep and indelible instinct to ‘preserve’ whatever has been inculcated into the culture, as a sine qua non of all religions, spills over into a ‘conservative mentality’ in the secular culture.

And change, all forms of change, like impending weather forecasts, brings a rise in the personal anxiety meter. Given a human comfort in looking ‘in the rear-view mirror’ historically and an anxiety about an unknown and untested ‘future’ of change, humans often seek refuge from their fear.

 Predictably amid chaos, ordinary people turn their eyes, ears, and hearts and minds to symbols, images, and structures that emanate security, stability, righteousness, dominance, and salvation….and the essential method of the trump cabal has been and continues to be to generate as much chaos as conceivable. Indeed, one trump campaign official is quoted today, July 4, 2024, on CNN as saying “our best friend is chaos!” The chaos generated by the trump cabal continues to be supplemented by a series of environmental disasters, fires, droughts, tornados, none of which Republicans have any interest in ameliorating, especially knowing that the more cells of chaos that the people have to contend the more likely is their political success.

 The ‘insurrection’ of January 6, 2021, and the ensuing turbulence over how and when to prosecute the perpetrators, as well as the former president, continues to hang over the 2024 campaign, offering the picture of ‘hanging all the dirty national laundry out for all to see’….The lies spewing from his mouth have soured, despoiled and toxified the political rhetoric and twisted the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of millions who continue to announce to any available microphone that they are definitely going to vote for trump. Following Steve Bannon’s address to conservative Catholics in the Vatican (see blog #60 in this space), we have watched the party surround the former president by a protective and growing moat of political, financial, and most tragically, a sycophant Supreme Court, three of whose ‘jurists’ he appointed, while maintaining at least a 35-40% hold on Republican voters. The tragic conundrum of the millions of rabid, fanatic, frenzied followers, seized by a religious zealotry poses a serious problem for both institutions of government and especially the media.

 Government bureaucrats, lawyers, accountants, and scholarly experts have all been trained in rational thought, the search for evidence, data, and the critical process of interpretation of that data. Similarly, trained journalists, historians, social critics, professorial pundits have all been steeped in what the French call ‘formation professionelle’…the disciplines of their academic field.

 The trump cabal disdains all academic disciplines as ‘woke’ and/or dangerous (example, deploring Critical Race Theory and thereby erasing the racial history of the nation from school curricula), the gutter vernacular, the contempt for veterans, the dismissal of COVID 19, the disregard of governmental regulations, norms and conventions. Nevertheless, they are co-dependent on the religious battalion that provides the emotional, rhetorical and outlandish headlines for the movement. It is their zealotry and how to ‘cover it’ that challenges the experience of professional messengers’ to interpret its profound venom.

 Religious passion, within the church, (certainly at least the Christian church) knows no bounds. Those infected by religious fanaticism are so overtaken by the righteousness and the absolutism and the fire of their convictions, that they become hateful monsters. They are convicted of the notion that  they are ironically and existentially doing “God’s work” in the deepest recesses of their hearts, minds and bodies. Whatever it takes to ‘win for God’ is whatever they are committed to enact, irrespective of the repercussions.

 It is not only ‘hot-button’ issues like ‘abortion’ and its abolition to which they are committed. The cauldron of right-wing politicos with deeply conservative Christian nationalists, many of whom have been secretly campaigning for decades for a total rejection of liberal values, policies, practices, attitudes, and the political actors who espouse such views. The very structure, size, ‘alleged incompetence’ and culture that believes and embodies the notion that government exists to support and uplift the weakest among the population is viewed as contemptible and must be overthrown and replaced with a salad of white supremacy, oligarchic unified executive, and a bureaucracy that easily and compliantly bends to and accedes to the will of the ‘saviour’….another of the borrowed ‘religious’ symbols from Christianity.

 The fervour, intensity, indeed the venomous passion of these ‘crusaders’ for their cause to bring the kingdom of God to the United States as they conceive it, from all evidence, appears to have no limits. And the long-standing ironic notion that “God has chosen, not a perfect but a highly imperfect man to lead this crusade, comports with a legendary concept within the church that the morality and spirituality of one who conducts the mass does not tarnish, or diminish the sacredness, holiness and purity of the ritual.

 There is a ‘fire’ in their belly that not only defies reason, truth, character, policy and institutional integrity. The current ‘puppet’ of this cabal, the former president, is obviously so personally needy and weak that he ‘rides’ two converging waves of emotional intensity: his own psychic hollowness and the right-wing anger, hatred, contempt, vengeance and victimhood.

The ’christian’ (fanaticism) of the politically conservative far-right has compromised, defamed and decimated all of the many legitimate, authentic and integrous theological legacies of the ecclesial tradition, as they hide behind its religiosity, while also allying themselves with the political archetype of saviour/tyrant. The two-headed archetypal monster, the bully-victim, has reared its head and its voice….Can any other voice compete?

 *theocracy: Greek word meaning government by God. ‘A theocracy is a state that is governed that derives its authority directly from a religion, usually invoking the authority of a religious deity and basing their laws on religious texts.’


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