Constipated Democracy

Vows apparently mean nothing anymore.  I suppose that’s what happens when you begin your administration with “alternative facts” and keep it up for four years.  When you vow to uphold the Constitution—hand on the Bible—that means you’ll play by the rules.  Instead we find ourselves with a bad case of constitutional constipation and we all know that we need a national enema.  It has been a week now since it’s been mathematically impossible for Trump to win the electoral college.  Yet even his evangelical followers can’t seem to recall that hand on the Bible, that promise to obey.  Apparently it’s okay to lie before God, if you think like we do.  If you don’t want to have conversation but want to talk at others and say you’re right.  It saddens me that so many Americans simply don’t care what the majority clearly wants.

This is especially the case because Trump is being treated as some messianic figure.  An overweight, womanizing, pathologically lying Jesus.  And people are saying, “Yes, that’s what the Bible tells us is good, and right, and just.”  Those who are settled in good paying jobs—people of my generation—have been beneficiaries of the systems of education and government programs that the Trump administration has spent four years dismantling.  And they have the audacity to call themselves Christian while their lives are saying “I got mine, I don’t care about anybody else.”  And they’re the ones who wore WWJD paraphernalia just a couple decades ago.  WHCB?  What Has Christianity Become?

Many of us (the excluded majority, in fact—Trump won the 2016 election while losing the popular vote) knew the greatest danger would be that he would be “normalized.”  This would all come to be seen as the normal course of politics.  People from Trump’s own family have gone on record that his run for office was a publicity stunt meant to drum up business for his failing empire.  And those who acted/wrote/supposed that he had any “plan” or “strategy” at all were simply failing to see a career grifter fleecing the country while playing golf and having his “fixers” do the work.  Until he one-by-one threw them under the bus.  This was all done in the public eye and yet his followers think he really has the best interests of this country at heart.  He has torn countless families apart, and not just at the border.  And now that he’s been defeated he keeps the charade going while his followers bow down and worship.  Excuse me, but I think I need to use the restroom.

Victorian Secret

VictorianAmericaPerhaps it’s because the Steampunk World’s Fair is still on my mind, or perhaps because I’m increasingly curious about the way we came to be how we are, I read Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life 1876-1915. In this study Thomas J. Schlereth surveys the main aspects of daily existence during the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth. It is sobering to consider how quickly change has accelerated since then. Still, so much of what seems normal today was novel just a century or so ago. Although Schlereth doesn’t devote a chapter specifically to religion, he does tie it in with its natural analogue, education. We quickly forget that education was largely established because of religious principles. You can’t tell it today, but one of the main impulses behind higher education was the desire to educate people about the truths of religion so as to improve society.

Also developing in the late part of the nineteenth century was a new religious movement that considered five principles to be fundamental to Christianity. What’s more, those who promulgated this outlook also claimed it was true from the beginning of Christianity, although we know this is decidedly false. The inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, Jesus’ divinity, the second coming, and atonement through Jesus’ sacrificial death—a few concepts that had rudimentary form earlier in the religion’s history—became non-negotiable. Fundamentalism, a new religion, was born in this era and claimed a right to parse true Christianity from false Christianity. This virulent form of belief quickly became politicized, and the relationship between religion and politics clearly impressed Americans from early days. We still reap its whirlwind.

Ironically, the Victorian Era, as designated by Schlereth, saw the birth of the Social Gospel. Doctrine wasn’t the first question on the minds of these reformers, but the human condition was. Yes, they tended towards Fundamentalism, but those who believed in the Social Gospel wanted first of all to eliminate human suffering and misery. It was they, not the Fundamentalists, who came up with the question, “what would Jesus do?” Education and religion eventually divorced, and the Fundamentalist children grew ever stronger in their conviction that they alone were right. The First World War brought a crisis to an optimistic culture that believed the second coming was just around the corner. Of course, we’re still waiting. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn how we got here, Victorian America is not a bad way to pass the time.

Jesus Friends Me

From Jesus' Facebook profile

Jesus has a Facebook page. Given the circumstances it is highly doubtful that he set it up without some help from his friends. I went to the page to check out his friend list, but apparently he’s not accepting invites. Over 125,000 like the page, however. I wondered if it might be a stunt, since when I found Facebook they insisted that you could only sign up with your real name. While there is no doubt that this is a stunt, it turns out that it is considered an evangelistic tool wielded by a John 3:16er. On his info page, Jesus writes, “Please invite your friends to ‘Like’ (love) Jesus Christ,” an upgraded “honk if you love Jesus” if ever I read one. If you read the comments on his wall, it is clear that some people believe Jesus himself really reads his own page. It doesn’t mention the car accident.

A Rutgers student once told me about the “six clicks of separation” phenomenon on Wikipedia. Apparently, no matter how obscure a page you’re on, just six link clicks can get you to the page on Jesus. Don’t get me wrong: with his impact and importance Jesus certainly should have a Wikipedia article. There can be little doubt that anyone else can claim his level of influence in both the Dark Ages and Twentieth Century America, now creeping into the Twenty-First. The sad part is, those who constantly link to Jesus have latched onto a chimera grafted together from disparate sources. And they are his followers on Facebook.

I wonder who has the audacity to speak (type) for Jesus. Who is it that believes they have the deep insight into who Jesus was – deep enough to speak for him? WWJT? Technology speeds along and fans of Jesus fear he may be left behind. By making your Facebook admiration for Jesus public, I suppose, a kind of “witnessing” is going on. It would seem to me that a better way to show support for Jesus would be to care for others, the poor, the disadvantaged, the lonely. Feed the hungry, provide healthcare to the sick, offer justice to those who have been treated unfairly. If a friend invitation came from this faux Jesus, who would be inclined to accept it?