21 July 2022

Christianizing politics

On Tuesday I discussed religious claims about morality in America.  The modern American Christianist movement ("Christianist" means fundamentalist evangelicals and hard-line Catholics, not all Christians) is not only morally preachy but politically active as well, working to take control of as much of the government as possible so that they can use it to enforce their taboo system on the whole society.  As we have now begun to see, they have succeeded in doing exactly that with the Supreme Court.  Along the way, they made themselves a major player within the Republican party and eventually the dominant element within that party, so that it too is now largely another instrument they can use to further their agenda, though more traditional Republican politicians retain some power too.  Clearly the Christianists are quite effective players in the game of politics.

Yet as we've all seen, this take-over has been accompanied by some bizarre and disturbing phenomena on the right, unprecedented in American politics.  To begin with, consider Trump's "big lie" that the 2020 election was stolen from him by various machinations, and the widespread support for it among Republican politicians and the party's voting base.  (Trump is not a Christianist, but they were and are by far his most fervent supporters, and he found it advisable to curry favor with them while in office -- as any future Republican president will as well.)  The "evidence" supporting the stolen-election lie ranges from fatuous to nonexistent; it has been tested in court dozens of times, sometimes before judges Trump appointed, and never once found to have any merit.  It's a desperate confetti of willful misinterpretations of snatches of video, ignorance of how ballot-counting works, paranoid conspiracy theories, and random stuff that's completely made up.

But that's exactly how religion works.  Belief in the literal reality of Noah's ark, rejection of evolution and modern geology, etc depend on exactly the same kind of thinking.  Willful misunderstanding of basic science like the second law of thermodynamics, claims that evolution is a "random process", a made-up distinction between "micro-evolution" and speciation, constant references to a few particular discoveries that supposedly contradict evolution -- they have been cultivating this kind of "thinking" for generations, ever since modern science started to overthrow the Biblical version of reality.

So of course it's easy to adapt the same kind of thinking as needed to support any other narrative they feel it necessary to defend.  Trump's election lie.  The whole edifice of anti-vax drivel.  Baroque conspiracy theories like QAnon.  None of those beliefs are, themselves, Christian, but the mental gyrations that support them evolved in the bizarre anti-reality environment of Biblical-literalist Christianity, and have now been re-purposed to serve the same function in other contexts.

There is also the matter of overt, systematic attacks on democracy.  Endless gimmicks to make voting more difficult.  Legal arguments to empower state legislatures to set aside the will of the voters and choose presidential electors all by themselves.  Schemes to install partisan ideologues as poll workers and vote-counters.  Talk of repealing the Seventeenth Amendment so that state legislatures, not voters, would choose senators.

But why would we expect a party dominated by Biblical literalists to have any respect for democracy?  The whole concept of democracy and representative government is part of our Greco-Roman heritage, the true root and core of Western civilization, to which the Bible and its values are completely antithetical.  "Democracy" is from Greek demos kratein, "the people rule"; Greek democracy involved settling most questions by referendum of all voters, something not practical for a large population, but it established the principle that the will of the people is the true basis of legitimate government ("the people" meant only adult non-slave males, but that was true even of our own modern democracies until less than two centuries ago).  "Republic" is from Latin res publica, "the affairs of the people", and the Roman republic did eventually establish some representation, with real power, for the plebs or common people.  There are other examples of representative democracy having deep roots in the West, such as Iceland's Althingi, which dates back to the tenth century.

But there's no trace of democracy in the Bible.  It glorifies the rule of an absolute, supernatural tyrant, all-knowing and all-powerful and even immortal, who is declared to be all-good, all-loving, and absolutely just, even when ordering acts of genocide or ethnic cleansing, or flooding the whole world in a fit of temper.  The will of the people is irrelevant -- the will of God is the basis of legitimacy, and the role of the people is to obey or be punished.  It's a totalitarian vision to turn Stalin green with envy.

Now that the Christianists have succeeded in using the Republican party to achieve some real power, they are simply acting in accordance with that ideal.  It does not matter that large majorities of Americans support same-sex marriage or the right of women to choose abortion.  The will of the people is irrelevant.  The taboo system is the will of God and must be enforced by government power.  The role of the people is to obey or be punished.

Political parties and the whole left-vs-right thing are the superficial side of politics -- what's visible on the surface.  The real struggle, underneath all that, is religious and cultural.

This is a religious movement which makes a virtue of believing what one is told to believe, regardless of evidence, and even fabricating or willfully misunderstanding evidence; and has an utterly totalitarian, top-down conception of what makes law and government legitimate.  Why would anyone be surprised that their politics reflects that?


Blogger Jack said...

Christianity seems to be an effective means of training a population to accept authoritarianism. Like you said, there isn't any democracy to be found in their instruction manual.

21 July, 2022 03:52  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

For both authoritarian leaders and authoritarian followers religion is the perfect tool: sheep believe fascism will bring order to the world they see as chaotic because it does not follow the rules they're used to.
It's a match made in (xtianist) hell.


21 July, 2022 06:05  
Blogger Lady M said...

Well said my friend. It is a theocracy they are trying to establish plain and simple.

21 July, 2022 07:24  
Blogger Pliny-the-in-Between said...

The other part of the Christianist equation is that the foundation of the religion is built on martyrdom and shared persecution. Mainstream Christians in the USA have not faced any measurable suppression or persecution. They have, in fact, enjoyed most favored status. Almost any of the so called anti-christian movements in this country simply involved groups of people looking to have dominion over their OWN lives free of the bronze-age judgements of the faithful. That doesn't stop the rhetoric about the war on this or that. (Basically, 'fuck off and leave me alone!', a message you might think would resonate with all those libertarians.) Trump's big lie is anchored on that same foundation - that mysterious and dark forces are at work undermining and persecuting the faithful.

Sadly, if one were to try and root out someone who truly personified the anti-Christ you'd be hard pressed to find someone better than the Donald. Yet they flock to him like moths to the flame because he plays into their insane notions of persecution and the promise that their time is now - neglecting the reality that it has always been their time.

21 July, 2022 09:14  
Blogger Mike said...

I had never heard the word Christianist before. But it goes back to the 1800s and has gone in and out of use. It's back, big time!

21 July, 2022 11:03  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Today, Democrats voted to keep birth control legal in America, and 96% of Republicans voted no. 96%!

Fundamentalist Catholicism does not allow the use of artificial birth control, only the rhythm or abstinence is acceptable for family planning. The last time I checked, 99% of Catholic couples use artificial birth control. Family planning with birth control devices or medications are not prohibited by the Protestant faiths, or Judaism, or other faiths, AFAIK.

So why did the Republicans vote no to keep birth control legal? What was the purpose of that vote? How would that appeal to their voters?

21 July, 2022 14:29  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

I read this after listening to the 1971 Jethro Tull album "Aqualung".

"If Jesus saves, he better save himself from the gory glory seekers who use his name in death" - Hymn 43

It's all from an old and successful playbook. Inquisitions, divine right of kings, and witch trials through the Holocaust.

Hitler mastered it:

"National Socialism neither opposes the church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary it stands on the ground of a real Christianity."
Hitler, 1934 speech

“The National Government...regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." - Adolf Hitler "My New Order" - Proclamation to the German Nation, Berlin, February 1, 1933

"God the Almighty has made our nation. By defending its existence we are defending His work. . . (Hitler radio address, 30 January 1945)

And the Nazis also banned abortion and homosexuality, when on October 10, 1936 Heinrich Himmler created the Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion, or Special Office (II S), a sub-department of Executive Department II of the Gestapo.

"Gott Mitt Uns" was on the belt buckles of the Wehrmacht as they murdered their way across Europe.

Oligarchs, tyrants and economic elites have operated from this playbook to great effect.

What about that "servants of mammon" thing? Or "render unto Caesar"?

They don't care. That all goes out the window, along with loving your fellow man.

"God's chosen" Christians believe they must dominate, and it will always be through an alliance with the rich and the radical Right.

The ends justify the means.

21 July, 2022 15:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because it's about punishing "loose women", not about abortion in the slightest.

22 July, 2022 06:40  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jack: Yep. The earlier version was the divine right of kings. It's no wonder tyrants of various kinds promoted Christianity among their subjects.

Sixpence: I'm sure there's an appeal to naturally sheep-ish personalities. My point, though, was that religion uses authoritarianism as a tool, not the other way around (though the other way around also applies to an extent).

Lady M: Thanks. I think that the Roe reversal and all these ghastly state laws are waking up a lot of people who didn't previously see that a theocracy is exactly the goal.

Pliny: They consider it persecution when they are denied their freedom to oppress.

At some point the libertarians are going to need to decide whether or not they can stomach being in the same corner with a totalitarian movement that seeks to regulate incredibly personal details of citizens' lives. That will tell us whether today's libertarian movement is still about personal freedom at all, as opposed to being purely a set of pretexts to justify low taxes and the continued dominance of an obscenely-wealthy oligarchy.

As for Trump, religionists have always been willing to cozy up to anyone who promoted their agenda, regardless of the person's own beliefs or qualities. Hence absurdities like their preposterous comparison of Trump and Cyrus the Great.

Shaw: The proposed law was to protect the right to contraception at the federal level, so Republicans could claim that by voting no, they were merely protecting the "right" of states to make laws restricting it. So it's basically the religious equivalent of virtue-signaling. One could imagine some state passing a law that would appeal to the "enforce taboos" and "hurt people we don't like" crowd while still not alienating the majority of right-wing voters -- by banning contraception for unmarried people, for example. In practice I don't think it would work. Contraception is too mainstream now.

It may also be that it was an attempt to protect the "right" of states to ban types of contraception that the religionists consider abortifacients; in that case, they would consider the will of the voters irrelevant since the taboo system takes precedence. (Hard-line Catholics would view a general ban on contraception the same way, but they aren't nearly as numerous as the fundies.)

Dave: The Catholic Church was pretty cozy with the Nazis until it became obvious that they were going to loose the war. Not surprising since, if the Nazis had won and taken over the West, it would have meant the overthrow of the Enlightenment and a return to the Dark Ages in one fell swoop.

Anon: I've often made that point.

23 July, 2022 00:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember that the Biblical account has reality being uttered into existence by 'the word'. The 'word' being ultimate authority.The word makes reality. The word need not conform to reality if reality conforms to the word.

Faith is belief in things unseen. No proof required. The proper authority is all you need to understand. It is because the preacher, appointed by God, said it is. Questioning that is a clear lack of faith.

And no, consistency is not required. Any more than asking the wind to always blow from the North. Mysterious ways, don't you know.

24 July, 2022 18:47  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Or, in plain English, it's all just stupid.

24 July, 2022 20:18  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

Christians can kiss my pagan ass.

27 July, 2022 10:41  

Post a Comment

<< Home