A theology of our particular political moment

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by Peter Snow

 

There are deep theological underpinnings to the present political struggle.  These include: the perennial desire for a savior, the existence of evil and the consequences of man’s inescapable nature.
People of the USA seek a particular kind of savior: the cultural saviors we have conjured up to fill our needs- Bat Man, Superman, Super Woman, The Hulk, Spider Man, and several others, are uniform in character. They are all vengeful, administer retributive justice with physical strength and violence, and are themselves immune from harm. The desire for this particular form of savior represents a very dark part of our souls that is ill formed and pre-adolescent. These same hopes were held by those who expected a messiah in Jesus’ day. He had to disabuse them of the idea, with dire results. The popular saviors depicted in our comic strips and cartoons rescue individuals of whom nothing is asked. The savior does it all at no cost to them or him/herself.

The present support for this president is of the same kind, He said he alone could save us and make America great again. Many believed his promise to save them at no cost.  Contrast this with Christ who says to us, “Take up your cross and follow me”. Many Christians of the far right speak exclusively of being saved by Jesus and see that as an act of belief. They do not have to do anything. They do not have to change the way they think or consider a new vision of reality. There is no such savior, ever.

Evil is very serious. We no longer believe in it, but use it as an adjective to denigrate another. A person is not evil nor is sin evil. Evil is born when sinful people get together and share their hatred, anger, greed or resentment, and form a bond. Their corporate viewpoint becomes ideology. It no longer belongs to any individual. Sin originally shared among them is systematized, organized and takes on a life of its own. Individuals owe a loyalty to this new-born evil, and there is a penalty for challenging it.  At the heart of this cloud of darkness is a refusal to question, study, seek truth or learn. What is believed is therefore the truth and anything else is false. This is an alternate universe.

Jesus described the Evil One as the father of lies. This is not a coincidence, for at the heart of any systematized form of evil is the lie, and the first willing participation of people in the group’s life is to accept the lie and suspend their God-given right to think for themselves. We saw this in Nazi Germany, Russia, and many other tyrannical political systems. A simple example of the emergence of an evil entity is a drug gang. Once joined, you cannot leave. Loyalty to the group has to be absolute, and each person is expected to prove they are part of the gang by a criminal act. Another example was Enron the now defunct power company. The culture of a sizeable group operating within that company was criminal, and every member of it had to be part of the conspiracy to defraud. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” In other words, don’t let us suffer the disastrous consequences of the evil, and protect us from being seconded to those forces. Evil is very serious. It cannot be forgiven and we engage it at great risk to ourselves. Interacting in any way with evil is like playing with tar. You inevitably get it all over you.

Racism, inequality and vengeful justice are evils that exist within our political systems.   They continue to exist because corps of individuals have a common interest in maintaining them and are now finding justification for them in lies, alternative facts and false truths. They support each other in their own deception, and each individual is stuck, loyal to those around them and busy about maintaining the lie.

The lure of chaos:   We are wrong to believe the individual is the point of the exercise.   The emergence and survival of mankind has depended on our working together. The community is the basic unit of survival. An individual cannot survive by him or herself for long nor accomplish anything of note without the support of those around him/her. Stable, co-operative communities produce the best environment for any human population to thrive. Yet eruptions that tear apart communities, nations and continents do so with a wave like frequency. There is a rhythm to it. This is a demonstrable factor of human behavior. When large groups of people are drawn together, they begin to work in sync one with another, like heart cells in a Petri dish that gradually beat together. In a nation group, every 20 or so years a demand for change occurs. War may be declared on another country or a revolution brings another group to power, and everyone ponders why it happens.   In the animal world there are also examples of crowd behavior that defies rational understanding.  At regular intervals when numbers reach a tipping point, whole populations of lemmings mass together and plunge over a cliff.

Maybe the next step in evolution is our spiritual emergence from the drag of our nature, expressed in our own DNA.  Devolving into chaos is the alternative, a willful refusal to participate in our own creation. Our spiritual emergence requires our having the will: to learn, to co-operate, to become, to dream or to be sacrificial. The preference for chaos is antithetical to the resurrection, which is the portal to the next step in creation.

 

 

The Rev Peter D. Snow is a priest in the Diocese of Olympia, author of the book,  Jesus, “The God App,” and is now working on another book, “The Mind of Jesus of Nazareth.”
 
 
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6 Responses to "A theology of our particular political moment"
  1. It would have been so easy for the author or editor to find a graciously inclusive alternative to "the consequences of man’s inescapable nature" in the first paragraph. Offputting and thoughtless.

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  2. Thank you for the comment. Yes human kind would have been better, though on reflection, its men kind that have most often been the problem and responsible for the suffering in the world.

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  3. Yes, as a male, I can't disagree. 🙁 Still, our sisters have fought so hard for a place at the table that I couldn't resist pointing out the usage. I do hope I didn't come across as angry or judgmental.

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  4. God doesn't tease out sin from the person. They are one and the same. (He separates the Righteous from the Un-Righteous. )

    Jesus is concerned with his Church, Church Leaders, his followers, his Flock. (he didn't put much emphasis on the Govt, or Govt Leaders, --they come and go, but his Family is eternal. )

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  5. Good points here. We find ourselves in a Darwinian economic and political system that is bent on turning citizens into consumers, and destroying unions and other ties that bind us together and enable cooperative action. And this is underpinned by a theology that offers a kind of cheap grace without regard to our responsibility to be our brother or sister's keeper, much less preserve the world for our children and grandchildren. One little point, in every sense of the word. The lemmings were victims of a fraudulent nature film by Disney many years ago. They don't commit mass suicides. http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lemmings.asp

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