Is Despondency a Christian Value?


Because I spend a lot of time reading and editing online articles on religion, and because we Americans are particularly sensitive to issues of public expressions of faith, and because the campaigning season is upon us, I also get a healthy dose of politics.

The 2012 election is nearly 15 months away, and I’m already hanging my head in misery. Let me count the ways.

You can go to my Facebook account and see that my Political Views are “Unhappy Republican.” And the more I read and hear, the unhappier I’m becoming. Not just because I’m still hoping for some Republican dark horse presidential candidate to appear on the horizon within the next few months. Not just because I can’t muster enthusiasm for the way the Tea Party has handled the power it has garnered. Not just because I’m weary to tears with the machinations of Congress and the way it so carefully protects its own privileges while strapping us with impossible burdens.

Mostly I’m unhappy because of Comment boxes, this consequence-free, unfettered, verbal brawl that takes place after every political article, and most viciously after a political article that addresses a religious angle. The article can be either thoughtfully nuanced or blatantly partisan; well-written and coherent, or a babbling mess; persuasive or pushy or enlightening. But consistently the remarks that follow wallow in the depths of stereotyping, fear-mongering, vitriol, unwonted fury, scathing slander, blasphemy, and simple hatred. And an awful lot of those are written by self-declared Christians.

I despair of ever being able to find common ground where ideas can be talked about freely without the ideologies creeping in. I despair of the Church when it compromises itself by snuggling up to a party or a platform or a person, feeling righteously convicted that their success means the advancement of the Kingdom, and their failure means a divine impediment to God’s work. Seriously? Did the faith wither and threaten to die away in those first 300 years under legal discrimination and military persecution? No, rather it flourished, exploding with growth and vitality.

I despair of Christian interpretations on both the Right and the Left of deeply God-centered words, like “justice” and “compassion” and “generosity,” that use 21st-century political, economic, and cultural categories and contexts to define them.

I’m tired of Christian belligerence, which should really be an oxymoron, don’t you think?

I’m equally tired of Christian prevarication, Christian ignorance, Christian boorishness, Christian oversimplification, Christian arrogance, Christian smirking, and Christian stubbornness.

Yes, others are just as bad, but how can we say the Spirit is among us when we write these things?

It makes my blood boil. It makes me want to shriek. It actually makes me want to add a comment or two of my own, something along the lines of “What hole did you crawl out of? Can’t you see past the end of your own ideology? You clearly live in la-la land, and have no idea what’s really going on … Get a grip on reality, you bleepity-bleep.”

Um, you can see where this is going. It’s not pretty. In my heart, at least, I am the Commenter.

Maybe the Lord will return before November 2012. At any rate, I don’t think my Facebook Political Views are going to change any time soon.

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: The Back Story
As the 2016 Election Cycle Begins, an Anti-Sneering Pledge
Politics, Christians, and the 3rd Commandment
The Peculiar Society: Our Christian Memory
About K. Mulhern

Kathleen Mulhern teaches courses in world history, European history, and history of Christianity. She has taught at Denver Seminary, Colorado School of Mines, and Regis University. She particularly focuses on the historical roots of the political, economic, religious, and cultural systems that have contributed to contemporary society.