Editor’s Note: Not surprisingly, this formerly fundamentalist, turned liberal Christian minister, turned atheist and Clergy Project member was appalled by the Capitol insurrection last week. He’s probably also not surprised that the weird-looking Viking guy said a “prayer” from the dais of the briefly-captured Senate Chamber. Leave it to the wackos to assume that God is on their side.
By the time you read this, Joe Biden will be safely installed as US president, resuming a long, briefly interrupted, line of normal people holding that post. Among other things, it means most if not all the readers of this blog can hope for better, calmer times ahead. What a relief it was to see Biden and Harris inaugurated without a hitch. /Linda LaScola, Editor
In the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol building on January 6, pastors and congregations of the United Church of Christ were issued the following warning:
There are reports that “liberal” churches will become targets of possible attacks in the coming week, with the dates of Jan. 17 and Jan. 20 featured more prominently. We strongly encourage you to be attendant to all safety concerns for ministers and congregants, even if it means meeting in a way that is other than in person at a church building this week.
How ironic that liberal, mainline Christianity, once a prominent and respected voice in the public square, is now a potential target of hate and violence, the same hate and violence that unfolded on a day that will likely stand as another ‘day of infamy’ in our national life.
Where did these people come from? Why the anger? How widespread is this phenomenon? What’s to be done about it all?
I claim no special knowledge about any of this. All I can do is reflect in horror on what I beheld, and how it made me feel. I sensed rabid racism, and its grievances born of white privilege. I smelled the foul odor of toxic masculinity in the anger of men who somehow feel threatened by the measured wisdom of more educated and enlightened men and women. I also saw the use of religion to bolster narrow-minded American exceptionalism, the claim that America is the unique object of divine favor in God’s plan for the world. (These motivations—racism, masculinity, religion, and others—were not uniformly present in all protestors, to be sure; however, my interest here is with those motivated by religion.)
This naked violation of the ‘separation clause’ was on clear display in the now infamous ‘prayer’ that was led by the QAnon Shaman, Jacob Chansley, (aka Jake Angeli) on the dais of the Senate floor:
Thanks to our Heavenly Father for this opportunity to stand up for our God-given unalienable rights. . . Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists and the traitors within our government. (as reported by Richard Ruelas, in the Arizona Republic, published January 17, 2021)
I’m very acquainted with this worldview. Born into fundamentalism,
- I, too, once called for the ‘reign of God’ over America.
- I, too, believed that God favored presidential candidates (usually Republican), and that the Bible should be the rule of moral law for our country, especially those sections thought to condemn homosexuality and reproductive rights.
- I, too, saw the world divided into two distinct groups, the good and the evil, one led by God, the other by Satan.
- I, too, invoked the specter of King Cyrus, the heathen Persian monarch, whom God used as his Messiah (Anointed One) to deliver the Israelites from bondage (Isaiah 45).
Many still excuse Trump by this same standard—a morally compromised leader used by God to deliver our nation!
Reborn as an atheist and materialist, I now take exception to the invocation of a metaphysical world to validate policies in our political world. We’ve tried theocracy before, and the unholy alliance of church and state was quite simply medieval! Religious wars (think Crusades), resistance to science (think Galileo), and state sponsored heresy trials (think Inquisition) were the vile fruit of theocratic political theory. Whenever our actions are underwritten by an ultimate authority (God!!), humans are freed to act in an ultimately inhumane way.
What happened on January 6 is deplorable on so many grounds. For me, the most egregious offense was the use of religion by some of the protestors. That motivation contains within itself the seed of theocratic tyranny, where reason is supplanted by the ‘will of God’, freeing religion to reign with an iron fist. A common, humane, ethical system derived from secular reason can provide the guardrails within which our society safely operates. Those secular guardrails were in jeopardy on that fateful Wednesday. Thankfully, they held—at least for the moment.
**Editor’s Question** What hopes do you have that those “secular guardrails” will continue to hold in a Biden administration?
“Andy”, a former Southern Baptist Minister was a Pastor in the United Church of Christ, until his recent retirement. He had decided to stay in the church, despite his rejection of metaphysical speculation (God, salvation, heaven, etc.). His life has been an evolution from traditional theism, to non-theism (via Tillich and Spong), to agnosticism (via linguistic philosophy), to ‘incipient atheism’ (via secular humanism). He holds a PhD in Biblical Studies from a major American university.
>>>>>Photo Credits: By TheUnseen011101 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/191776019@N08/50818536171/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98694270