Yesterday I wrote about an experience with a Christian who decided hat his purpose as a military officer was not to learn the craft of his trade but rather to “do the Father’s will” which in his case was to tell me that my faith and experience as a Christian suffering from PTSD was, in one word “garbage.”
To say the least I am offended, but not by God, or Jesus, or the words of Scripture, but rather a religious monster created by an aberrant and heretical brand of the Christian faith that is being sold as absolute truth by Christian Fundamentalist extremists in our country.
The problem is those that become “religious monsters” rarely realize that they are such. Instead they are the salt of the earth, simply proclaiming “the truth” and heaven help you if you don’t agree with them. Holocaust survivor and Italian philosopher Primo Levi wrote:
“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.”
Levi was right, but at the same time he was wrong. Sometimes these monsters are the same people that end up being the functionaries who are ready to believe and act without asking questions.
Sadly, there are many leaders of the political-religious movement loosely defined as the “Religious Right” in the United States who preach a “gospel” of hate and intolerance that demonizes anyone that dares to interfere with their message. Sadly this doesn’t just extend to their politics, but also to the basics of the Christian life of which many of these leaders seem ignorant.
Personally I believe that the virtue of living a good Christian life might be equated with living a good life regardless of one’s religious or secular beliefs. The call to “love God and to love your neighbor” is universal. It has been my experience that even people that chose not to believe in God, subscribe to the principle of loving or at least respecting one’s neighbor.
I grew up from High School to adulthood in the Christian Right. I know the politics, I know the language and I know the hypocrisy and intolerance. What happened last week, something that I did not plan but was forced on me by one of these fanatical and ignorant “true believers”
has hardened my resolve as a Christian to oppose these American “Christian” versions of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State at every turn.
I have to, because most people, including many moderate and progressive Christians look the other way and do not confront these monsters. People don’t want to believe that good religious people can harbor thoughts of evil, demean, or actually harm others.
But all too often that is the case and we have to call them what they are; not saints, but monsters who use their “faith” to demean, dehumanize and destroy anyone that does not agree with them, even if they are ignorant and unlearned about what they are criticizing in others.
The terrible thing is that most of these “monsters” are actually decent people who really do not understand the implications of what they are doing or the “faith” they are championing. They are basically good neighbors who want to do right and believe that they are doing so. Their leaders on the other hand often manipulate such people into believing that in thinking and even promoting evil, they are doing right.
Thus otherwise good people become unquestioning servants of the real monsters, religious and political leaders that distort the Christian faith and use it to bludgeon those that they hate in the political and judicial process.
The leaders of the Religious Right are a malignancy that will kill any authentic expression of the Christian faith if they have the chance. Their goal is no different than to what the leaders of the Islamic State aspire, but they wear better clothes and appear to be more socially respectable, if only because they are not yet allowed under American law to chop the heads off the people that they oppose. Knowing the history of Christians who controlled the state in past generations, I know that these people only await the chance to do this. It has happened all too often for any of us not to believe that it couldn’t happen again.
That my friends may sound harsh, but it is all too true. Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil by which she meant the people who just went along with evil without really thinking about or understanding the consequences of their actions which they in their hearts believe are right because their religion or ideology says so. But all too often, the people who absorb and adopt these views, who become “the willing executioners” of the policies of those that promote them are just as guilty, and just as responsible for their actions as if they had thought of them on their own.
In the movie Judgement at Nuremberg Spencer Tracy playing the presiding judge made a most interesting and provocative comment. He said:
But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary – even able and extraordinary – men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” – of ‘survival’. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient – to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is ‘survival as what’? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”
I choose to stand for Justice, truth and the value of a single human being over the doctrine of those that will use faith to depreciate, devalue and dehumanize those that they feel have departed from the truth.
With that, I go back to my beer and on the game two of the National League Championship Series where I hope that my San Francisco Giants will win.