Nowhere do we see the stark difference between Christian blather and Christian action than we do in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. If anybody had any questions at all about what Christians, as a group, are really like, then the news lately should provide a lot of answers.
A long time ago, I wrote about how Christians have redefined the word “love” to allow themselves to mistreat others. I’ve written extensively about how they give themselves license to control other people and violate other people’s boundaries because they think they know better than their victims do. They infantilize and negate those who complain and push back against this control, as if we were simply children who don’t want to eat the vegetables that their parents (Christians, naturally) are serving for dinner.
I know very well how selfish, short-sighted, and egocentric the Christian worldview is; that worldview is exactly what allows and encourages them to grab, grab, grab for themselves no matter what the cost to others might be. I’ve documented the words of the most hateful Christians and shown how they mercilessly attack anybody who dares to say that maybe Christians shouldn’t be doing all this terrible stuff. Jesus doesn’t appear to be having the slightest impact on their behavior or attitudes, no matter what excuses Christians offer to critics about their group’s defining feature, hypocrisy. Even Christians who want to rescue their sinking ship are operating with such a warped viewpoint that they just make matters worse for their tribe’s reputation and credibility.
But even I am downright shocked at the completely callous and heartless behavior I’m seeing from these self-appointed (and inept) ambassadors of what they claim to the very skies is a god of love, a prince of peace, and a comforter of the hurting.
The Validation of Hatred.
Christian bigots-for-Jesus, misogynists, racists, and worse are positively exulting today. Hatred won. Already the ripple effects of this election are being felt.
Within the first day of the election, emboldened Trump supporters were already making physical attacks on Muslims. One report in Louisiana turned out to be false (note to everyone: do not make false reports or lie; that just makes everything worse), but two others appear to be totally legit–and one victim reports that the men who assaulted and robbed her had made comments about Trump right before the attack. Both confirmed attacks took place in nice, liberal California.
Vox has a report that ought to chill anybody: a five-year-old biracial boy asked his mother, last summer, if it was true that “if he [Trump] becomes president, all the black and brown people have to leave and we’re going to become slaves,” which he’d heard from another child at day camp. And that was last summer–in a report written before the election. I’d already heard similar things from other parents, whose children had all heard similarly racist and shockingly xenophobic things from classmates. Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls this horrifying rise in bigoted, racist bullying “The Trump Effect,” revealing that children are being bullied in schools more than ever and are subsequently very frightened. Nonwhite and both legal and illegal immigrant children sound downright terrified by Trump and his supporters, who are getting more and more bold about using hate speech around their own kids. After the election, does anybody imagine they’ve pulled back on that throttle?
From Friendly Atheist, we learn about extremist neckbeard Theodore Shoebat, who is gleefully hoping that a President Trump-led government will enact the death penalty against gay people and those providing abortion care. He’s not in the minority, either. Progressive Christian John Pavlovitz has recorded similar outbursts from fundagelicals.
I’m noticing, myself, that the Christians around me are laughing about the “whining” of people they view as their enemies: liberals, women, nonwhite people, LGBTQ people. It’s not hard to find collections on YouTube of weeping people; news articles about the many protests springing up around the country are filled with commenters taking malicious glee in needling and insulting those who had, they feel, not taken them seriously enough. It is the rhetoric of abusers the world over: You didn’t listen to me, so now see what I’ll do in revenge for your disobedience and disrespect.
It’s not that they don’t care that a large number of Americans are terrified right now. It’s that they’re perfectly aware of that fear and are celebrating it, stoking it, and denigrating those feeling it.
The one thing that really unites Donald Trump’s core fanbase is fundagelicalism: that type of toxic, right-wing religious zealotry that has come to define the religion as a whole. And nobody should be surprised that he grabbed that demographic as firmly as he grabbed women’s pussies:WWJD? Obviously he would insult those who are suffering; malign those who are hurting; laugh at those who are reeling in pain. We know this because his most faithful ambassadors and most loyal adherents are showing this behavior to us right now this second.
A Ray of Hope.
I’m already seeing Christians in my personal circles who are very shocked and upset by this show of hypocrisy in their peers. I wish I could tell them that nothing they see is shocking at all–and it’s all because the religion has false claims and terrible dysfunction built into its very foundations.
The religion’s claims aren’t true. At all. Not even one. And if it was just a case of their supernatural claims being untrue but the religion being generally a positive influence on society, then people might not mind that lack of veracity. But their non-supernatural claims aren’t true either–Christianity’s worldview and policies are nothing but a blight on our country and a hindrance to personal improvement and development. The religion provides a cover to the very worst people in our world, and an excuse for every kind of cruelty and misbehavior. It gives us absolutely nothing that we can’t get elsewhere for far less heartache. It seems clear to me now that it absolutely cannot be redeemed. Without some way to rein in their many bad apples, kindhearted Christians cannot fix this problem.
I’ll repeat what I wrote a year ago about why Christians are leaving the religion in such great numbers. It’s not because of demons, hard hearts, lack of proper education or properly-zealous parents in childhood, watered-down preaching, or anything else. The real problem is something deeply rooted in the religion from its beginnings, something that even the most idealized, lovey-dovey theology can’t overcome:
People are leaving Christianity because despite claiming to be a religion of love, its underpinnings are actually hate, shame, dominance, exclusion, and tribal authority, and no matter how sanitized someone tries to make the religion, those underpinnings are there and will inevitably emerge to wreak havoc.
The behavior of Christians themselves has always been their religion’s very worst enemy. But before, they had coercion to keep people from speaking up or leaving. Now they don’t have that power–and their behavior is the serious impediment that it always should have been.
As one Christian wrote just before the election, her fellow Christians’ overwhelming support of a man like Donald Trump was a serious challenge to her faith. One wonders how she feels now, after the election, considering that some 80% of her evangelical peers voted for what is quite possibly the most non-Christian candidate to ever cross their paths–all because he preached hatred and exclusion at them, and promised them the vengeance they felt they needed and the control over others that they craved.
As evangelical leader Mark Gonzales put it, “Evangelicals and conservative Christians have been dissed for so long and they are tired of it. . . When Trump came along it just resonated and they voted from the gut.” Of course it resonated; he offered exactly what the disgruntled flocks have wanted for years: Revenge. A return to dominance. A cosmic-level comeuppance. The slap in non-fundagelicals’ faces that they’ve wanted to deliver for years.
And now their gentler, more loving fellows are seeing their spiritual bedmates in the same way the rest of us have for years, and hopefully are noticing that these people really, truly hate us.
I can only hope that Donald Trump’s presidency hastens an end that was already picking up a lot of steam. Without force, Christianity only has one direction it can go: downward into irrelevance. The more hatefully Christians themselves behave, the more people will realize just how hypocritical its people are and the more they’ll start wondering what else about this religion can’t possibly be true.
A Call for Shame Made to People With None At All.
Mr. Pavlovitz has issued a thundering denunciation of his tribe that, unfortunately, misses a major point (emphases his):
At times like these, Christians like to smile sweetly and say, “God is in control.”
No. God is not in control.
God didn’t vote for Donald Trump, you did.
Stop passing the buck to God.
God isn’t defacing prayer rooms.
God isn’t taunting gay teenagers.
God is not bullying kids on buses.
God isn’t threatening Muslim families.
White Christians are.
You are in control of this. You have pulpits and pews and a voice and influence and social media, so get to work.
It’s a good sentiment. The problem is, the fundagelicals he’s addressing won’t do any of that. What he’s describing is exactly what they’ve always wanted to do to everyone they view as their enemy, and now feel “allowed” to do thanks to their narrow victory in the election. Now the mask of “salt and light” has been ripped from their faces. All those pious pretenses, all those sanctimonious proclamations of voting for Trump because they think he’ll tear apart women’s rights, fall away. All that’s left is the sense of permission they feel they’ve been given to finally act toward us exactly the way they’ve always wanted to.
If Mr. Pavlovitz is waiting for them to show the faintest sense of shame or contrition, he’s going to be waiting for a very long time. He says that his peers are saying that these bad apples just need to “get this out of their systems.” But that just makes me reflect anew that “this” is even in their systems in the first place. Jesus sure as hell didn’t do anything to get “this” dealt with or prevent “this” from becoming fundagelicals’ defining feature.
“This” isn’t some aberration. Rather, “this” is exactly what Christianity leads to. “This” is exactly what the rest of us already knew it was. And “this” is what nice Christians like him are going to have to come to grips with. What we’re seeing here is Christianity laid bare; the behavior we’re seeing in Christians today is the end-run of what it does to human hearts. And the more people see it, the faster the religion falls apart. I don’t know how quickly it will happen, but this may well have been the last major election that fundagelicals could reliably deliver to Republicans.
For now, I marvel once again at the sight of a religion whose central command is “love thy neighbor,” whose supposed founder told them specifically that non-believers would know them by their love for others, whose rules demand that followers forgive and turn the other cheek and walk the second mile–all upon pain of eternal torture, and yet whose most vocal and fervent believers are the most hateful, nasty, violent, vindictive, cruel, and inhumane people this world has ever seen.