Op-ed: Making choices

Op-ed: Making choices November 29, 2019

The Dallas News reported the other day on Rick Perry’s Presidential Theology.

Rick Perry. Image via YouTube/Fox News

Energy Secretary Rick Perry,  declared that God chose Donald Trump – and Barack Obama – to lead the United States. In an interview on Fox, the former Texas governor also said he’s assured the president that some of the greatest biblical leaders were flawed as part of an effort to “minister” to Trump.

“I happen to believe that God’s used, you know, individuals who aren’t perfect all through history,” Perry said in a clip of an interview on Fox & Friends aired over the weekend. “Donald Trump’s not perfect. And I think the Christian teachings and the Christians that are around him in his cabinet and in his life are very important. And I hope I’ve been a bit of a minister, if you will, a person who’s been able to share my faith with the president.”

Perry doesn’t happen to believe that, he chooses to believe it. Ultimately free will is an illusion, yadda yadda, but at the level of everyday life we make choices, and Rick Perry chooses to believe that God decides who will rule over us and the even more implausible “Donald Trump is not perfect.” Donald Trump is a pestilential heap of festering malice and stupidity, so calling him “not perfect” is a choice, a willful, defiant, truth-violating choice.

Why do people make choices of this kind? I don’t know, but my guess would be that it’s to protect their favorite illusions – in Perry’s case, in a good god and a potentially-good Donald Trump. The obvious reality is that Trump is rotten in every way and “God” is a story, so the Perry-types brush off reality as mere illusion, and dig down to the Deeper Level where Trumps and Hitlers are the instruments of a perfect god.

The most blindingly obvious problem with this “belief” is that it’s utter bullshit. You could substitute any random word for “God” and it would make just as much sense – potatoes, fog, Linda, hammer, Zaphod Beeblebrox, it doesn’t matter. “God” or fog or hammer created everything, explains everything, ordained everything, burble burble burble – it’s just a placeholder for “we’re primates and we have no clue how any of this happened.”

But hey, never mind whether it’s bullshit or not, right? The point is that it makes everything okay, just by saying the words. Never mind that Trump is everything we would expect a conservative Christian to recoil from: that doesn’t matter any more because God chose him.

But if God chose Trump, then we get to haul God up before the consumer complaints bureau, because who says God gets to make that choice for us? I sure as hell didn’t, and I bet nobody reading this did, and billions of other people on the planet and reaching back in time also didn’t. We didn’t vote for God, we didn’t make a wise consumer choice in favor of God, we didn’t pick God out of a catalogue, we didn’t petition God – we didn’t in any way solicit God to put this stupid selfish talentless piggy man in a position where he could put an end to life on the planet if the mood struck him.

Anyway conservatives are supposed to be all about hard work, at least when it’s a matter of people who don’t want to do backbreaking dangerous work for starvation wages, but this “God’s plan” theology is lazy. It’s the opposite of an explanation, it’s just a formula, and it renders all the difficult questions beside the point. Why does a good god allow all this suffering? No need to answer the question, just smile the way you think a Buddha would and says it’s the plan.

If they were right about this Plan story, how would we be able to make any moral judgements about anything at all? If the god-in-charge deliberately put a malevolent heartless bully in a position of power, how can we say anything is wrong? If Trump is the plan, then so was Hitler, so was Stalin, so was every sadist and torturer there has ever been. Gloucester’s despairing line in King Lear is the simple truth:

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.

Martin Pengelly in The Guardian says Perry isn’t alone in this warped view:

The notion that Trump is a ruler of less-than-perfect Christian values sent to benefit the godly – a second King Cyrus, perhaps – is common on the religious right.

His own religious commitment seems questionable in the extreme but the thrice-married, porn star- and Playmate-payingpussy-grabbingcustomer-defraudingdisability-mockingrace-baiting, fascist-sympathisingoft-bankrupt, impeachment-threatened president counts evangelical Christians as a key bloc of support.

And what does that tell us about the moral compass of evangelical Christians? Nothing good. They think Trump will be able to appoint enough judges to make sure that women will no longer be able to end unwanted pregnancies, but it still seems baffling that forcing women to stay pregnant is worth all those children in cages on the US border with Mexico, all those war criminals and lawless sheriffs pardoned, all those Saudi and Russian murders brushed aside.

I’ve just been reading about another element of “God’s plan”: the rise of antibiotic-resistance.

Humanity’s defences against infection are wearing thinner by the day, and the microbes responsible are getting stronger.

One in four infections is already resistant to antibiotics and other known forms of treatment, and 5,400 Canadians died last year from infections that until recently had been treatable. That’s according to a comprehensive peer-reviewed report presented by the Council of Canadian Academies this week.

That’s roughly double the number of Canada’s annual traffic fatalities and homicides combined.

These infections range from pneumonia to infections of the urinary tract, the blood stream and the skin. And their numbers are rising everywhere as international transportation carries every infection-causing microbe to every part of the world.

Can’t you just hear God laughing? It’s genius: watch them develop the technology to cure infections and to travel the globe and then wham, pull the rug out. All part of the plan, baby.

Editor’s note: Perry resigned as Energy Secretary in October.

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