Not a Christian Nation

Not a Christian Nation November 4, 2016
The USA's Religious Health
The USA’s Religious Health

There’s nothing happy about this year’s Presidential Dolt-Fest.  But one possibility that this electoral disgrace offers is that the Christian Right has tied itself so tightly to its Great Orange Millstone that the November landslide will bury them both so deeply that neither will emerge again except as coal.

In that event, we’ll see the end of the rising panic over the war on religious liberty in the United States, and religion will reemerge in this country as a joyful, healthy, and productive part of public life.

Four years ago, in the midst of the excruciating “Mormon Moment” that the last presidential election brought on, I disavowed Christianity in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, characterizing Christianity’s manifestation in American politics as  “boorish and meanspirited”.  I was content enough to own a non-Christian identity for myself, certainly, but my political aim was to point out that a non-Christian identity ought to have a full and unequivocal legitimacy in this land of the free.  The demand that Mitt Romney could not be a proper presidential candidate without being a properly Saved Christian struck me as an essentially un-American assault on religion.  Better, I thought, for the future of the country to come out of the non-Christian closet, to claim constitutional personhood in spite of Saved Christians.

Many of my fellow Mormons fell over each other to disavow me.  Glenn Beck—that most Christian of Mormon celebrities—wondered if I wasn’t a “self-loathing Mormon who also hates Christians”.*

Four years later, from Mitt Romney to Mike Crapo to Mike Lee—to most of Utah—my fellow Mormons have led the Republican stampede away from the Pussy-Grabbing Candy Corn, and away from the Christianity that anointed it.**  Glenn Beck, himself, asserted recently that the country’s Evangelical leadership has poisoned Christianity.  To my Mormon Brethren and Sistren, I say, welcome.  You have discovered how opprobrious your march towards Christian validation has always been.

The same message, I suppose, can go out to everyone in the country for whom the twentieth century’s noxious relationship between Christianism and Republican Politics has constituted a kind of marriage that really ought to be illegal.

We can all be done being Christian.

Perhaps nothing has been more damaging to the role of religion in public life than the hysterical insistence that the United States is a Christian Nation, sanctified by a narrowly-imagined divine being, and charged by the cosmos to operate according to a narrowly-read Bible for the distinct privilege of a relatively small cohort of narrowly-spiritual citizens.  The waning of religion’s value to public life, the public spite for religion that the polls assure us is growing, is not so much an assault on religious belief and practice so much as the response to Politicized Evangelical Christianity’s vilification of every alternative to itself.

The bewildering devotion of such Polingelical leaders as Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Robert Jeffress to Little Prince Pumpkin has made plain just how little the Christian Right cares about the vibrancy, the freedom, of religion in the United States.  The Saved Christian leadership’s continuing commitment to the GOP’s Giant Candied Yam, with its racism, sexism, idolatry, degeneracy, and irreconcilably un-Jesus-y hatefulness, has killed any remaining pretense that Polingelical Christianity has ever been anything but a boorish and meanspirited war on religion.

This non-Christian is looking forward to election day and the end of the assault that has been waged for the past six decades by the Christian Right. By tying itself to the worst ever presidential candidate—the most un-Jesus-y candidate imaginable—and refusing to cut the rope even while the candidate is ramming itself with a crucifix and spinning its head all the way around on its shoulders, Polingelical Christianity has pointed a giant arrow at its own pointlessness.

The biggest landslide victory in fifty years will reveal just how little power the Christian-Republican Brotherhood has, and it will show that the Christian Right’s impotence is not the measure of the religious health of a country that has made great strides in recent years to make itself more open, more accepting, more just, and more livable for everyone.

Indeed, the death of the Christian Right on the pyre of its despicable champion next week will open even more public space for sincere commitments to kindness, generosity, humility, and goodness—for Mormonism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Wicca, Atheism, and for the genuine spirituality in all the other moves towards love that the constitution insists its country will not curtail.

———

*(8:26 on the video counter)

** With the conspicuous exception of Orrin Hatch, and the stupefying “I-don’t-endorse-him-I’m-just-voting-for-him” duplicity of Jason Chaffetz.

***Image adapted from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Religious_symbol#/media/File:ReligijneSymbole.pnghttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_United_States_of_America#/media/File:Flag_of_the_United_States.svg


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