Why Bad Theology Matters

Why Bad Theology Matters February 11, 2020

There’s an old joke. When Christianity came to Greece, it became a philosophy. When it reached Rome, it became an Empire. When it hit Europe, it became a civilization. And when it got to America, it became a business.

Har!

In the past, I have talked about how Catholic culture is like tofu: it tends to take on the flavor of the culture around it.  Early Christian culture tastes intensely Jewish, with a hint of Greek flavoring. That’s what we see in the New Testament.  As it moves west it tastes more Greek and then rigorously North African, then Latin.  When it first comes to America, it tastes first like the various immigrant cultures that brought it.  But now American Catholicism–at least the conservative kind that dominates Catholic media–tastes overwhelmingly like American Evangelical Protestantism and even paranoid crackpot Fundamentalism, as we discussed yesterday.

You can see the bizarro alloy on full display here as good white Presbyterian Mike Pompeo goes full Baal worship along with his Evangelical comrades:

It is therefore no accident that along with millions of white conservative Catholics, two of the staunchest supporters of Trump’s abortive Idiot War were Pompeo and dim-witted Evangelical Mike Pence, both in the tank with nutbar John Hagee and his crazy End Times theology which calls for Immanentizing the Eschaton by trying to spark Armageddon:

‘Pompeo and Pence reportedly were the top officials pushing Trump to kill Soleimani. They’re also devout evangelicals and major allies of CUFI. This is not a coincidence. While the organization is best known for its unflagging “support” for Israel—that is, for Israel’s expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and protracted erasure of the possibility of a future Palestinian state—it has, since its founding in 2006, depicted Iran as an existential threat to Israel. The group opposed President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, denouncing it as “dangerous for Israel, the United States and the entire world,” and in the Trump administration, CUFI has found hope for a more bellicose posture.

‘Televangelist John Hagee launched CUFI in 2006, calling for military action against Iran, then led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom Hagee compared to Hitler. At the time, Hagee had been claiming that Iran would soon “have the nuclear capability to make a bomb, a suitcase bomb, a missile head, or anything they want to do with it.” That was untrue, given contemporaneous expert assessments of Iran’s projected nuclear advances. But for Hagee, a more militaristic approach was necessary in order to avert “an American Hiroshima.” He urged his supporters to take a stand, as they were meant to “for a time such as this,” a common evangelical reference to Queen Esther, celebrated on the Jewish holiday of Purim, who saved the Jews from extermination at the hands of Haman, the genocidal adviser to the Persian king.

‘In his 2006 book, Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee imagined an elaborate scenario in which a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran would trigger an “inferno [that] will explode across the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon.” Faced with scrutiny over his apocalyptic theology, he strained to create a discrete image for his new political organization, insisting that his extensive writings on biblical prophecy about the Rapture and Second Coming were distinct from CUFI’s lobbying agenda. But it was a rocky start for the organization. In 2008, while running for president, John McCain first accepted, then rejected, Hagee’s endorsement. The rebuff was seen as damaging to the political neophyte and a brave stance by McCain against fringe elements within the GOP’s evangelical base. At CUFI’s annual Washington Summit, held just two months later, only three members of Congress attended.

‘But one of those three members was a certain congressman from Indiana: Pence. He continued to maintain close ties with the organization, and in 2014 CUFI paid for then-Governor Pence and his wife to travel to Israel to celebrate Christmas. With Pence as vice president, Hagee’s star has risen even more. He has claimed a role in convincing Trump to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, writing on his website that he told the president at a White House dinner that Jerusalem is where Jesus is coming back, to “set up His throne on the Temple Mount where He will sit and rule for a thousand years of perfect peace.” Hagee delivered the benediction at the embassy dedication, a day Hagee described as “nothing short of a divine miracle!”…’

How does any of this kookery comport with the allegedly Catholic faith of Trump cheerleaders like William Barr, Opus Dei Protector of the criminal in the White House, you may ask?

Easy.  It doesn’t.  But Right Wing Christians–Protestant and Catholic–have made abundantly clear that they don’t get their teaching from the Church–especially their moral and social teaching.  They get it from a thick gumbo of nutty and often intensely anti-Catholic sources like Hagee or FOX or paranoid kooks like Taylor Marshall, as well as from Republican rite propagandists like Raymond Arroyo, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity.  They have long ago internalized the lie that the Holy Father is a communist pagan atheist gay secret Muslim Mason bent on destroying the Church and only the level heads at QANON and Church Militant can save us from him.  So sites like Church Militant run ridiculous pieces about Pope Francis’ One World Government Conspiracy while converts who have been Catholic for ten seconds babble that Catholics who have been Catholic all their lives are “infiltrating” the Church.

Here’s reality: The Church has basically nothing to say about the End Times beyond “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”  End times scenarios are fine if you want to dink around with that sort of junk, but the fact remains that Jesus said even he did not know the day or the hour, so the idea that you will figure it out is pretty silly.

What we do know is that the Church says, “You must not do evil that good may come of it.”  So any Christian who works to create war and human misery in order to speed the End will face a heavy judgment from God.  That’s good theology.

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