“It Merely Required no Character” The Truth About Trump’s Christian Enablers

Catch-22 (1970) Alan Arkin Mike Nichols 24

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

When I see the political-religious leaders of the Christian Right defend the indefensible actions of President Trump I am reminded of the words of Joseph Heller in his classic novel Catch 22  who wrote about the Chaplain:

“The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” 

As much as I doubt I am still a Christian, even if I wasn’t already a Christian I couldn’t think of a single reason to follow the false God of men like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, or any of the host of big name Evangelical Christian preachers who excuse the behaviors of President Trump and his decadently despicable defenders, including people that I once thought that I knew.

I used to think that most people like to believe that religion is a benign or positive influence in the world. As much as I want to believe the positive aspects I have to admit based on the historical and sociological evidence that this is not so, especially during unsettled times of great change. We live in such an era and when it comes to identity, God is the ultimate trump card.

If one wonders why the most fanatical individuals and groups on earth are tied to religions, whether it is the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Orthodox Jews, radical Hindus and Buddhists as well as militant Christians. Of course all of these groups have different goals, but their thought and philosophy are quite similar.

Robert Heinlein wrote:

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

Heinlein, the author of the classic Starship Troopers was absolutely correct. Just look at any place in any time where any religion, sect or cult has gained control of a government. They are not loving, they are not forgiving and they use the police power of the state to persecute any individual or group that is judged to be in error, or even worse has the gall to question their authority.

Since the Christian groups tend to thrive in the West, they only speak in terms of violence, most, with the exception of Russian Orthodox Christians, do not have a government to translation of those words into action. Many, especially conservative Catholics and some Evangelical and Charismatic Protestants seem for a long for the day when they can assume control of a theocratic government.

Samuel Huntington wrote in his book The Clash of Civilizations:

“People do not live by reason alone. They cannot calculate and act rationally in pursuit of their self-interest until they define their self. Interest politics presupposes identity. In times of rapid social change established identities dissolve, the self must be redefined, and new identities created. For people facing the need to determine Who am I? Where do I belong? Religion provides compelling answers….In this process people rediscover or create new historical identities. Whatever universalist goals they may have, religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

Huntington was right, you see the true believers, those who follow their religion without question and believe that it is superior to all others also believe that their religion entitles them to be atop the food chain, others who don’t believe like them be damned, if not in this life, the next. That is the certitude of the true believer, especially the religious one. Secular or atheistic fanatics could care less about the next life, for this life is all that they have. But the religious “true believers” are not only interested in destroying someone in this life, but ensuring that in the next that they suffer for eternity, unless they believe in the annihilation of the soul after death, which really spoils the whole Dante’s Inferno perspective of the damned in the afterlife.

The great American philosopher, Eric Hoffer wrote:

“The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

That is why they, the religious true believers of any faith are capable of such great evil, and why such people can murder innocents in the most brutal manner simply because they do not believe correctly. In fact today when I see the words and actions of these supposed Conservative Christians.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a Christian, a priest, a historian and a theologian, but I also know just how insidious those who hold their religion over those of others can be. While I hold faith dear, I know that it can be abused for the claim of some to have God as their final authority is a sort of trump card with which they are able to justify the most obscene and evil acts against others.

Likewise I struggle with faith every day. If you have read this blog from the beginning you will see chronicle my struggles with faith and its practice, especially in life and politics.

I guess that is why I am even more frightened of religious true believers than non-religious true believers. While the non-religious true believer may sacrifice everything for the sake of power and control in this life, and may in fact commit the most heinous crimes against humanity, their hatred is bounded in space and time to this earth. The religious true believer is not content with that; their enemies must be damned and punished in this life, but for eternity, without hope of salvation.

When they look at people like me or Yossarian they believe as Heller wrote:

“Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian’s fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.” 

With that I wish you a good day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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7 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, culture, ethics, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

7 responses to ““It Merely Required no Character” The Truth About Trump’s Christian Enablers

  1. I really like your humanism, Padre. I’m no fan of religion, but I don’t think it’s religion at fault here. I think it’s people. People will do what is in them, and any religion is really only what people make of it – that’s why Christianity used to be fully as violent and cruel as Islam, back when the West still believed in witches and public hangings. It’s somehow people that need to change, not religion, although if we do, perhaps we’ll leave religion behind.

  2. Dr dave. (Mckay)

    Love to you Padre Steve. Your words are an objective tonic in a world of subjective myopia. I feel we must share a beer wine or whiskey one day. Your brave proclamations are an important. No. Essential balance to the new status quo which frightens me. I read and connect to your expositions and weep that your insights are not understood by many. Thank younfor being a patriotic american that is standing up for what is right. I was briughtbup loossly a catholic. I do not ascribe to a religion but i do not discount Rather I am open to all spiritual philosophies but i cannot commit to a religion. I am not concerned about afterlife. As frail a human i am. I try to do my best. I am happy to be judged on that. I am not trying to score a divine pass to heaven. But I believe in what is right. And what is not right. My concerns about the alignment of christianity with Trump are as yours are. I just wish people could see ckearky the sham. The shame. Well i am optimistic but it is being stretched. Every time that mans amorality is called out it seems that the faithful just believe stronger. It is no more complex than this. When one smells a dead rat it means that they are smelling a dead rat. I only hope all the believers in this false god smell the rat. Again respect to you Steve. Regards Dr Dave (McKay)

  3. Carmen

    Padre Steve,
    Once again you’ve penned a bang-on synopsis of the situation in your country. The Christian Right have been vying for political control for years, and they can smell conquest. Mike Pence (a Dominionist)’s smirk is there for good reason — the reality of establishing a theocracy is within his grasp. Once Brett Kavanaugh gets the nomination, another stepping stone will be crossed.
    No wonder so many people are anticipating the Midterms with such fervour. 😦

  4. Another excellent post. Stay safe Padre.

    On Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 20:54 Padre Steve’s World: Resist the Beginning, Consider the End wrote:

    > padresteve posted: ” Friends of Padre Steve’s World, When I see the > political-religious leaders of the Christian Right defend the indefensible > actions of President Trump I am reminded of the words of Joseph Heller in > his classic novel Catch 22 who wrote about the Chap” > Respond to this post by replying above this line > New post on *Padre Steve’s World: Resist the Beginning, Consider the End* > “It Merely Required no > Character” The Truth About Trump’s Christian Enablers > by > padresteve > > [image: Catch-22 (1970) Alan Arkin Mike Nichols 24] > > Friends of Padre Steve’s World, > > When I see the political-religious leaders of the Christian Right defend > the indefensible actions of President Trump I am reminded of the words of > Joseph Heller in his classic novel *Catch 22 * who wrote about the > Chaplain*:* > > *“The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy > technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his > discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to > turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, > arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, > blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. > Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no > character.” * > > As much as I doubt I am still a Christian, even if I wasn’t already a > Christian I couldn’t think of a single reason to follow the false God of > men like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, > or any of the host of big name Evangelical Christian preachers who excuse > the behaviors of President Trump and his decadently despicable defenders, > including people that I once thought that I knew. > > I used to think that most people like to believe that religion is a benign > or positive influence in the world. As much as I want to believe the > positive aspects I have to admit based on the historical and sociological > evidence that this is not so, especially during unsettled times of great > change. We live in such an era and when it comes to identity, God is the > ultimate trump card. > > If one wonders why the most fanatical individuals and groups on earth are > tied to religions, whether it is the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Boko > Haram, Hezbollah, Orthodox Jews, radical Hindus and Buddhists as well as > militant Christians. Of course all of these groups have different goals, > but their thought and philosophy are quite similar. > > Robert Heinlein wrote: > > *“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if > it acquires the political power to do so.”* > > Heinlein, the author of the classic *Starship Troopers *was absolutely > correct. Just look at any place in any time where any religion, sect or > cult has gained control of a government. They are not loving, they are not > forgiving and they use the police power of the state to persecute any > individual or group that is judged to be in error, or even worse has the > gall to question their authority. > > Since the Christian groups tend to thrive in the West, they only speak in > terms of violence, most, with the exception of Russian Orthodox Christians, > do not have a government to translation of those words into action. Many, > especially conservative Catholics and some Evangelical and Charismatic > Protestants seem for a long for the day when they can assume control of a > theocratic government. > > Samuel Huntington wrote in his book *The Clash of Civilizations*: > > *“People do not live by reason alone. They cannot calculate and act > rationally in pursuit of their self-interest until they define their self. > Interest politics presupposes identity. In times of rapid social change > established identities dissolve, the self must be redefined, and new > identities created. For people facing the need to determine Who am I? Where > do I belong? Religion provides compelling answers….In this process people > rediscover or create new historical identities. Whatever universalist goals > they may have, religions give people identity by positing a basic > distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior > in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”* > > Huntington was right, you see the true believers, those who follow their > religion without question and believe that it is superior to all others > also believe that their religion entitles them to be atop the food chain, > others who don’t believe like them be damned, if not in this life, the > next. That is the certitude of the true believer, especially the religious > one. Secular or atheistic fanatics could care less about the next life, for > this life is all that they have. But the religious “true believers” are not > only interested in destroying someone in this life, but ensuring that in > the next that they suffer for eternity, unless they believe in the > annihilation of the soul after death, which really spoils the whole Dante’s > Inferno perspective of the damned in the afterlife. > > The gre

  5. maryplumbago

    Excellent post as usual. You see things so clearly , so rationally.
    I know people I wish would read this, but alas, they would not “get it.”

  6. Well said, Padre. While I am not a Christian … no a religionist at all, I find that your words always make sense. You are one of the few. Thank you!

  7. Richard Thomas

    There is a quotation I use as needed – ‘when Christians complain of persecution more than often it is because they have been prevented from doing the persecuting. I can’t attribute it but it rings true.

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