How does one fall so in line with a political party, leader, or ideology that they become incapable of seeing the contradictions between what they say they believe and what they actively support? Is the propaganda consumed by the Fox and Trump diehard believers so powerful that it turns one’s mind to mush? Does it make one impervious to provable lies and misdirection? Or does a fear of being proven wrong make one incapable of looking in any other direction?
The fact that the American Evangelical Church has continued to be the largest (and most staunch) base of support for our current corrupt administration is no coincidence. There lies an unwelcomeness for introspection, questions, and doubt at the very foundation of this church. One can be forgiven for any number of indiscretions that the Bible contains teachings on. But, if one dares to question whether the loudest evangelical voices might be wrong, an unpardonable sin has been committed. And if one came from an Evangelical tradition yet dared to voice doubts that church teachings and traditions may not be supported by the scriptures that we supposedly base everything on—well, we shall speak of those people no more. I am one of those people. A quick skim through other writings on this page will make that abundantly clear. And the precipitous loss of evangelical friends and acquaintances that coincided with my voiced questions was no accident.
The other day I read a friend’s lament for the callousness and dismissive attitude of our president toward the humans affected by the chaos created by his recent actions (regarding Turkey, Kurds, and Syria). I expectantly watched for Trump apologists to swoop in. It did not take long. The poetically composed cries for loss of life and betrayal of allies was greeted with, “I LOVE President Trump. I thank God that he is finally bringing our American soldiers home….” Only, those soldiers are not coming home. Verifiably not coming home. They have simply moved to a more oil-rich country to protect our ally. You know, the ally responsible for the murder of an American based journalist. The ally responsible for the terrorists that flew planes into our twin towers. Those allies. Not the ally that fought alongside our troops to weaken ISIS into insignificance. That ally was dispensable. That ally is not liked by the nearby strongmen. Now the Kurds are “no angels”. As if to say they have earned their betrayal. (Later edit: since the original writing of this piece, troops have started moving into Iraq also. Again, still not coming home.)
The loudest voice in that conversation was a family member of my friend. I have seen these ugly displays of partisan and trumpian loyalty over concern for their relative’s feelings many times before. I read comment after comment displaying anger, defensiveness, dismissiveness, and arrogance. Like a cornered defendant, excuses changed. The topic at hand kept being altered when no good defense could be made. But never once was there a comment of understanding why my friend would be upset over the loss of innocent life. Never once was there recognition that one claiming the faith of Christianity should be upset over any people being harmed. Heartache over possible ethnic cleansing was somehow seen as naiveté. Somehow the people crying out for justice and care are blind to what is happening. Somehow the family tie is less precious than the defense of a stranger creating destruction in his incompetence.
But, really, why should this surprise me? Many evangelicals see every non-evangelical as lost. Clueless. Blind. Why wouldn’t this attitude splash over into the rest of their lives? This attitude creates a sense of superiority. A sense of exclusivity and pride in finding the one true path. We are the only ones who know the truth. If only those others would listen and follow OUR beliefs, all would be well. Our interpretation of ancient writings is the only true interpretation. Our beliefs are not to be questioned, ever. Me condemning your beliefs, traditions, lifestyle, is all done out of love. Most evangelicals are completely unaware of this paradox of their pride in what they say they are humbled by. But their words and actions show their unseen hand.
But, I suppose this cult-like defense of a politician, a party, a despicable man, should not surprise me at all. It is simply a bastardized extension of a mind convinced that it knows the Truth. A mind certain that God is who they say even though they cannot prove it. After all, isn’t faith all about the unseen, the unprovable, the unexplainable? But–caution to those who dare to ask about the unanswerable, the unprovable. Those people are blinded by the Evil One. Their questions could not possibly be because their mind does not function in a concrete, black and white world. Could they? Some minds dance in the grey. Some people love the beauty of the unexplainable, the unknown, the “what ifs”. And if God is as big as Evangelicals say, shouldn’t those grey dancers be ok too? Shouldn’t Evangelical’s faith hold up to questions? If it is based in irrefutable fact it should.
But therein lies the rub. The “one true way” is claimed by many faiths. The core beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan (need I go on?) are remarkably similar. Love. Care for others. Generosity. Something out there that is bigger than us. And yet, for Evangelicals, this paragraph is a heresy.
The fact that human history is strewn with the bodies of those who disagreed with the chosen faith of the day (or of the region) should in and of itself foster a spirit of caution and a willingness to question our “rightness” in all things. Would we be willing to die over an unprovable belief? Would we be willing to kill over it? Should we? Would we be willing to become estranged from loved ones over it? Would we consider others inferior or lost? Should we?
There is a strength in one being willing to say “I don’t know” or “I could be wrong.” There is a humility in admitting that we didn’t see the whole picture before. That we were wrong. It is commendable to be willing to listen to new facts that emerge. To voices that speak differently than our own. To allow ourselves uncertainty. Is there a blind spot in my world view? In my never-faltering defense of a fallible human? In my unwillingness to look critically at my faith?
There is strength in one’s faith if one can still believe something while acknowledging that there are contradictions and ugliness alongside the beauty and traditions. There is such depth in the grey. Such love and freedom in those shades.
But we can never see the grey if we only listen to those who paint in strict black and white. We can never learn we might be wrong if we block out the voices that differ from our own. We can never know we have been lied to if we cover our ears to all other voices. (Are you listening, Fox viewers?)
The world of American Evangelicalism holds much responsibility for the atrocities and corruption of our current Presidential administration. They provide cover. They parrot excuses. They mock those who disapprove of the current political climate of “us before them”. Isn’t that the opposite of Christ’s teachings? They create an assumed political affiliation without examining the wildly unscriptural reality of such a political marriage. Politics have no place in the church–except for conservative Republican politics. Those are ordained by God himself. But, please, do not ever say those words out loud! The church does not have a political affiliation! We just hate the Democrats. And the Socialists. They are all lost.
All of the above words are written with a sense of heavy-heartedness. Of sadness for kindness and compassion lost. Grief for the beloved leader of my youth swirling in the muck of the loyal trumpian sycophant. I am pained by the vitriol spewed from the mouths of those claiming the name of Christ (the One who is to be the purist example of love to have ever existed). I am saddened over relationships severed due to an “us verses them” mentality. It stings to be called hateful for crying out for those with no voice. I am at a loss over the willingness of so many to choke down the lie that all other revelations are fake news but those that align with my politics/religion/opinions.
But really, my biggest question is: Is anybody listening? Anybody out there?