I hate talking about politics.
This is odd, because I got my reputation, insofar as I have one, by talking about politics. I became a blogger for Patheos, for reasons I still don’t understand, in 2016. The inimitable Sam Rocha saw my walls of text on my Facebook page and somehow decided I should post them on Patheos instead, and suddenly here I was. The only thing I knew how to write was about myself, and the name of the channel was Patheos Catholic, so I wrote about myself, a pathetic Catholic. I wrote about going on walks in graveyards and having panic attacks at Mass and how it felt to be mysteriously infertile. And then the primaries happened, and I found myself saying something that should not have been controversial: Donald Trump is a bad person, and you shouldn’t vote for him. I considered myself a lukewarm Republican in those days, believe it or not.
To my surprise, I found that stance was controversial. People were furious with me. I got a lot of trolling and very strange comments. I was surprised. I kept telling myself that I would be relieved and go back to writing prayers and posts about my daily walks through LaBelle after the election was over. And then, well, history happened.
I was a troublemaker for more than four years, with people telling me I was a fake Catholic and a pro-choice infiltrator and that I should refrain from receiving Communion for pointing out that the Republican party had gone off the rails and then some. And then, after the Biden inauguration, I took a break.
I feel like I want to talk about politics again just now.
Well, not exactly about politics. But about Donald Trump.
Then again, not about Donald Trump but about his cultists– and they are cultists. The right wing has become a cult. I recognize that cult. I was in it for awhile– or at least, I was in a cult that became entangled in the cult that now worships Trump.
My family spent quite some time in the Charismatic Renewal growing up. We Charismatics believed that a persecution was coming, and we would all be shaken to our foundations. The world hated us because we spoke the truth and lived according to the teachings of Christ Jesus. That hatred was only going to get stronger and stronger as the end times advanced. We could all hope to be victims of torture for Christ’s sake within our lifetimes, before the Three Days of Darkness and the subsequent Era of Peace.
I’m not saying every Charismatic believed that exact thing. I’m not even sure I believed it, not entirely. My family was relatively agnostic about the forms that the Chastisement and the Era of Peace would take, and I got off easy compared to a lot of others. But that was the mindset that was in the air, in the Charismatic Renewal, and everybody absorbed at least some of it. We thought we were a small remnant of real Catholics in a sea of pretenders, on fire with the Holy Spirit to live holy lives, and the whole world was against us. The world worshipped pleasure and decadence, and we worshipped only God. The world worshipped power, riches and celebrity, but we were free of such concerns. The world wanted us to be sexually licentious and kill our unborn children, and we wanted to be pure and chaste and nurture every child. Because of this, we would soon be victims of persecution, but God would lead us to victory.
Besides the influence of the Charismatic Renewal, I grew up reading publications by the Catholic League and decided that Catholics were a persecuted minority. I was forced to go to meetings of the youth group branch of the Legionaries of Christ, and decided that I was going to win souls for Christ full time. I went to Franciscan University of Steubenville to get a degree in philosophy with a concentration in bioethics, and that’s when things started to unravel, as I’ve already mentioned.
And then 2016 happened.
A decadent, self-serving, narcissistic wealthy man, a man who had always burned incense at the shrines of power and pleasure instead of honoring God, rose to the forefront, and I was disgusted. I ought to have been disgusted years before. George Bush wasn’t a paragon either, not by a long shot. But in 2016 I began to notice that things weren’t right. I fully expected that everyone else raised as I was would see that things weren’t right, but they didn’t.
They refused to see.
I saw signs demanding that we vote for Trump popping up like mushrooms on the lawns in Steubenville, next to the statues of Our Lady of Grace. And I was confused.
I saw priests and nuns in full habits gleefully attending his rallies. I saw a dead baby’s body desecrating an altar in honor of this godless man. And we know where it went from there.
After that, things got worse.
We all lived through 2020, when people who had seemed rational previously decided that viruses weren’t real and vaccines and masks were a communist plot to murder children. We saw people parroting bizarre lines about vote tampering when there clearly wasn’t any, and somehow considering themselves better Catholics for doing so. They thought they were standing up for the truth in a world of Orwellian propaganda that had deceived everyone, and they couldn’t be dissuaded. Why should they be? They’d been groomed for this from childhood.
And then, in the aftermath of the election, it got worse. They staged a coup.
We watched them pouring into the Capitol, murdering people, attempting to overthrow the United States government, some with crosses and Rosaries and images of the Virgin Mary in hand. And I could imagine exactly what the Catholic members of this mob were thinking at the time. They believed they were a small remnant of God’s persecuted chosen, standing up for virtue and chastity and the protection of human life in a culture that didn’t value such things and which was determined to smother the authentic Catholic voice. This was the moment they’d all been waiting for. This was the very situation they’d been brainwashed to expect from the time they were little children. And so they committed murder and treason, against a country where members of their own faith occupied six of nine seats on the Supreme Court. They committed murder and treason to stop a fellow Catholic who had been elected by a wide margin of votes from taking office. They committed murder and treason in support of a decadent, preening narcissist with three marriages and countless affairs, who tortured children and did his business in a golden toilet.
And these people haven’t gone anywhere. They’re still here.
Last night I watched as the Department of Justice’s motion was filed. We now have photographic evidence going viral on the internet that Donald Trump, the darling of the fanatical conservative Catholics, stole classified nuclear secrets. God alone knows how much danger the entire world is in because of his dishonesty and greed. All of us, born and unborn, chaste and unchaste, Catholic and not, are in danger.
And the mob is still defending him. They’re making up conspiracy theories that the FBI is making things up to persecute their idol.
And I am exhausted.
It’s just going to go on like this. I don’t see any way to make them stop.
I hate talking about politics, but there it is.
image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.