Andrew Sullivan: Politics as Religion: on Social Justice & Trump

Whether or not things change, he knows who he is.

He still has a sense of dignity and worth and he trusts that transformational change will come, though it may not happen in his lifetime.

Both the social justice movement and Trump arise out of idolatry.

The atheistic movements opened up a vacuum for other things, a type of politics.

People’s beliefs become more extreme when the move away from religion.

Religion is not the substance in the bowl.  It is the bowl.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Prayer Beyond Words

These all point toward what many today call contemplation—openness to and union with God’s presence; resting in God more than actively seeking to fully know or understand.

Given Jesus’ clear model and instruction, it seems strange that wordy prayer took over in the monastic Office, in the Eucharistic liturgy, and in formulaic prayer like the Catholic rosary and Protestant memorizations. It’s all the more important that these be balanced by prayer beyond words.

Much of Buddhism’s attraction for so many people today is that Buddhism is absolutely honest about the theology of darkness—about our inability to know. It is much more humble than the monotheistic religions are about the possibilities of words and formulas. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam took a great risk in relying on words.

In the Christian tradition this “Word became flesh” (John 1:14), but we didn’t want flesh. We didn’t want an embodied relationship with God. Instead we wanted words with which we could proclaim certainties and answers. The price the three “religions of the book” have paid for a certain idolatry of words is that they became the least tolerant of the world’s religions. Both Buddhism and Hinduism tend to be much more accepting of others than we are.

At their lower levels, the three monotheistic religions insist on absolute truth claims in forms of words, whereas Jesus’ truth claim was his person (John 14:6), his presence (John 6:35), his ability to participate in God’s perfect love (John 17:21-22). Emphasizing perfect agreement on words and forms (which is never going to happen anyway!), instead of inviting people into an experience of the Formless Presence, has caused much of the violence of human history. Jesus gives us his risen presence as “the way, the truth, and the life.” At that level, there is not much to fight about, and in fact fighting becomes uninteresting and counter-productive to the message. Presence is known by presence from the other side. It is always subject to subject knowing, never subject to object.

The Church is tempted by power and obsessed with sex

It is church leadership, from the popes all the way down, that hasn’t been able to tell right from wrong. Yet how can this be, in an institution at least nominally dedicated to precisely that task? I think there are two interrelated reasons.

The first is an age-old problem. Since its alliance with the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, the Catholic hierarchy has been tempted by power. It has cloaked itself in mystery to rule by edict rather than by example. At root, this scandal springs from idolatry: Bishops employ secrecy and deceit to promote the heresy that the priesthood is superior to the people in the pews. The words of John A. Hardon, a Jesuit priest, are as true now as when he wrote them 20 years ago: “Most of the chaos in the Catholic Church today is due to the pride of priests.”

.. The second is the church’s unfortunate negative obsession with sex — a problem it shares with many conservative Protestant congregations. To a broken world they offer a gospel of no-nos. The church exalts, from the Virgin Mary to the parish priest, the sexless life, as though the very engine of God’s creation were a sign of spiritual failure and source of shame.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Service Instead of Domination

 Both the Christian religion and American psyche need deep cleansing and healing from our many unhealed wounds. Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love.

Contemplative Christians can model a way of building a collaborative, compassionate politics. I suggest we start by reclaiming the wisdom of Trinity, a circle dance of mutuality and communion. Humans—especially the powerful, the wealthy, and supporters of the patriarchal system—are more comfortable with a divine monarch at the top of pyramidal reality. So Christians made Jesus into a distant, imperial God rather than a living member of divine-human relationship.

.. Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.” [1] But Hebrew history preceded what Christianity repeated: both traditions preferred kings, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.

.. We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. . . .

We reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. . . . Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority. [2]

.. We already have all the power (dynamis) we need both within us and between us—in fact, Jesus assures us that we are already “clothed” in it “from on high” (see Luke 24:49)!

A word too far? Some evangelicals may have reached the breaking point with Trump.

Trump is, however, very much what the religious right has long rejected. The moral majority from which modern evangelical political activists descend rose in response to the immorality of the 1960s and ’70s. Sensing that American norms and morals were quickly changing for the worse, Jerry Falwell Sr. and others rallied to push back against a culture embracing sex outside of marriage, pornography and licentiousness. So it is no small irony that Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., helped rally many evangelicals to a man who embodies all the things Falwell Sr. stood against. Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, even posed with his wife in front of an old cover of Playboy that featured Donald Trump.

.. Scripture commands we care for the widows, the poor, the orphans and the refugees, but some of the president’s evangelical supporters are cheering on the government breaking apart families through immigration policies.

.. a large number of evangelicals have convinced themselves that their politics and faith are two separate things and they can champion a politician like Trump without it affecting their souls or salvation. They have rationalized their way into a bastardized version of Martin Luther’s two kingdoms theology.

.. These evangelical activists believe God has ordained the two governments and never the two shall meet, so what they do in politics has no bearing on the church or the advancement of God’s kingdom.

.. This will keep a solid base of shallow evangelicals for the president, but Trump won the electoral college by only 70,000 votes spread over three states, while losing the popular vote. There is a sizable though overlooked minority within evangelicalism, and they threaten not just the president’s power, but the GOP’s majority.

.. A subset of evangelicals are increasingly attracted to a Protestantism that derives from reformed theology. The GOP is risking losing some of these “reformed evangelicals.”

.. The party was supposed to be the party that championed the concerns of people of faith. Instead, it is a party that demands people of faith support a party ahead of their God.

.. The point is Trump believes people from these countries are undesirable immigrants. Many reformed evangelicals now have children from those countries, have funded missionaries to those countries, and consider citizens in those countries their partners in ministry and mission. Trump’s attack is an attack on their work to glorify God and care for their children. They believe all people regardless of nationality and background are made in God’s image and deserve honor and respect.

 

The religious right carries its golden calf into Steve Bannon’s battles

At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.

.. A time to live and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to mourn and a time to embrace angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery. Yes, a time to mourn.

.. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.
.. Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees.
.. If Christian conservatives are loyal enough, Bannon promises that they can be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.”
.. All that is required is to abandon the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition: a belief in the inherent value and dignity of every life.
.. It means that the primary mission of Christians in public life is not to secure their own interests or to defend their own identity. It is to seek a society in which every person can flourish. This is the definition of the common good — which is not truly common unless it includes the suffering and powerless.
.. If there is a single reason that Republican health-care reform has failed, it is because party leaders could not make a credible case that the common good was being served.
.. Who would now identify conservative Christian political engagement with the pursuit of the common good? Rather, the religious right is an interest group seeking preference and advancement from a strongman — and rewarding him with loyal acceptance of his priorities.
.. They are associating the teachings of Jesus Christ — a globalist when it came to the Great Commission — with ethnonationalist ideology. This should be a sobering prospect for any Christian. But few seem sobered. Instead, the faithful give standing ovations to the purveyors of division and prejudice.
.. When anyone or anything takes priority over the faith, there is a good, strong religious word for it: idolatry. And the word is unavoidable, as religious conservatives carry their golden calf into Bannon’s battles.

Worshiping a Golden Calf on Sunday Morning Is Deceptively Easy

All sin is idolatry because every sin is an exercise in trust of something or someone other than the one true God to satisfy, fulfill, or bless.

.. We must take great care, then, not to assume that even in our religious environments, where we put the Scriptures under so many noses, that it is Jesus the exalted Christ who is being worshiped.

.. Once upon a time, I sat through a little ditty in a church service in which the congregation was led to sing, “I can change the world with these two hands,” and the question struck me like a lightning bolt: “Who exactly am I worshiping right now?”

Likewise, every weekend men and women file into church buildings in order to exult in the rhetorical skill of their preacher, to admire him and think of their church as his church, not Christ’s church.

.. We worship the worship experience; we tithe with expectation of return from heaven’s slot machine; we dress to impress

.. We see in Exodus 32:5 that even the worshipers of the golden calf ascribed their worship to the covenant Lord Yahweh.

.. Tim Keller elaborates: “So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”

.. The proclamation of the good news of Jesus and the extolling of his eternal excellencies is always an interruption, always a disruption.