Please sign up at right to receive all new GODZOOKS! blog posts >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Several hours before they stormed the U.S. Capitol and left five dead on Jan. 6, an insurrectionist mob gathering outside received a clenched-fist salute from Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri as he walked by. The gesture’s meaning was a lot more complicated — and sinister — than it may have seemed at the time.
Sen. Hawley, a fundamentalist, Trumpist Christian of the “divine grace” (versus “good works”) theological school, is a supremely conflicted religious extremist.
His speeches and writing reveal astonishing intellectual disingenuity as he has shamelessly pandered to the imagined model working-class supporter of Donald Trump (the “everyday person who moves the destinies of the world,” in Hawley’s words) while railing against the “privileged elites.”
In the meantime, Hawley has forcefully promoted a virulent quasi-theocratic Christianity in the mold of former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr (who says the supposed American “Judeo-Christian tradition” must be employed to combat growing “militant secularism” in U.S. society) and newly ensconced Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett (who insists “a legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God“).
Note that Hawley himself (along with Barr and Barrett) is as elite as they come in America. He is a graduate of uber-elite schools — Stanford University and Yale Law School — and after graduation he landed a one-in-a-million clerkship for John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
But, still, those over-privileged elites are ruining the country, right?
“A society divided by class, where one class enjoys all the advantages, is a society gripped by hierarchy. It is also a society defined by elitism,” Hawley wrote in a recent Christianity Today article titled ‘The Age of Pelagius.’ “Of course, our elites don’t use that word. They say their privileged position comes from merit and achievement. … How Pelagian of them. The truth is, the people at the top of our society have built a culture and an economy that work mainly for themselves. Our cultural elites look down on the plain virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice, things like humility and faithfulness. They celebrate instead self-promotion, self-discovery, self-aggrandizement.”
This is pure gas-lighting. In fact, he’s criticizing himself.
In a scathing recent op-ed about Hawley in The New York Times, author Katherine Stewart (The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism) asserts that Hawley characterizes himself as “a man of the people, a champion of ‘the great American middle’ (according to his article in The American Conservative) and a foe of the ‘ruling elite.’”
But it’s political flim-flam, the kind of self-serving mendacity that made Donald Trump infamous — and unearned him more than 74 million votes in his ultimately failed 2020 presidential campaign.
In fact, Hawley’s passionately supportive of a very particular kind of elite populated by smug, scripture-embracing Christians who view all non-theological governments as illegitimate and dangerous — and who deride merit-based societies that value citizens’ freedom to not be religious and to choose their own personal moral codes unfettered by ancient religious dogma.
Hawley “isn’t against elites per se,” Stewart writes in her Times piece. “He is all for an elite, provided that it is a religiously righteous elite.”
And Hawley’s rage against non-religious ethics and morality is almost as ancient as scripture, encapsulated in Pelagius, a heterodox (even heretical) Christian monk and theologian who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries after Jesus Christ’s death.
Hawley rejects Pelagius’ doctrine, which holds that human beings are equipped with a “basically good moral nature” and with a free will that allows them “to adopt their own purposes, to fix their own destinies—to create themselves, if you like,” Hawley explains. Indeed, Hawley laments that an idea by Julian of Eclanum, a disciple of Pelagius, which asserts “freedom of choice is that by which man is ‘emancipated by God,’” permeates modern American society.
“Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy,” Hawley wrote in Christianity Today. “In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: ‘The heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’”
This sounds eminently reasonable to reasonable people but is anathema to hidebound Christian nationalist reactionaries, like Hawley, who believe, as Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) expressed in his fifth century writings, that God decides everything regarding mankind, not the other way around. True personal choice is therefore the enemy of the divine, and Augustinians believe the only option is whether “to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.”
“The line of thought here is starkly binary and nihilistic,” writes Stewart. “It says that human existence in an inevitably pluralistic, modern society committed to equality is inherently worthless. It comes with the idea that a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely approved view of righteousness.”
God (figuratively speaking) help us.
What we have here is a cohort of top-flight, pampered elites, including Hawley and the (apparently) exceedingly wealthy and prestigiously educated outgoing president of the United States, who have discovered the enormous untapped political potential of captivating the great unwashed masses in bottom-dwelling nether realms of America’s electorate. Since a huge percentage of Trumpians are conservative, evangelical Christians, their emergence has signaled a huge opportunity for ambitious GOP politicians like the young (41) senator from Missouri to shamelessly pander and hopefully amass political influence and power.
Of course, Sen. Hawley is an actual Christian but of the kind who glory to their authoritarian God over multicultural secular democracies that choose their own moral and cultural paths.
Keep in mind that after Hawley saluted the surging mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he entered Congress to formally protest certification of Joe Biden’s fair election as president (and defeat of Donald Trump) — and had to cut it short when the hate-spewing crowd broke into the building to kill and destroy.
Later, after the mob ransacked Congress, Hawley returned to its hallowed halls to repeat his protest the legitimacy of the election’s provably legitimate outcome. Like the mob, he was trying to burn down democracy supposedly to save it.
Hawley believes God sent Trump to save the country, so he chose to ignore truth, reality and morality — not to mention his “sacred” duty to constituents — by doubling down on defending an unrepentant, mass-lying sinner of truly biblical proportion.
The only “elites” Americans should be worrying about are over-educated, arch-conservative Christian nationalist pols in Brooks Brothers suits who claim to be “men of the people” with divine answers to all our problems.
Pelagius saw this stuff coming 15 centuries ago.