I lost one of my cousins this week. (As a hillbilly, I have lots of cousins.) In lieu of flowers, his wife is asking for donations for his burial—open casket of course, because that’s the only way Christians of their ilk can do it. The expensive way.
My cousin worked two jobs and died of a massive heart attack at age 54, leaving behind a wife, three kids, and debt. Lots of debt.
Unlike my own counterintuitive and elusive theology, my cousin’s faith is summed up succinctly on his church’s website as,
the Bible standard of full salvation, which is repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit give utterance.
The website continues:
We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, all the same time admonishing all brethren that they shall not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body.
(In other words: if you disagree, you’re wrong.)
Since I’m older than my cousin, I watched his entire life pass. His father died when he was seven, leaving the family penniless. Or worse than penniless, because, like my cousin, his father had to be buried on a payment plan; then there was the medical expenses. His mom was a short-order cook and bounced from one cafeteria and restaurant to another, usually working at a couple of places at the same time.
My cousin dropped out of high school in order to work more hours. His lack of eduction and skills kept him out of the military, his one chance. He worked and worked, usually two jobs, sometimes three. His best job ever was driving a forklift.
Was he racist? I suppose, though in the 54 years I knew him, the subject never came up. Did he believe in strongmen? I suppose—they were the ones who had work for him to do and wrote the checks he cashed in order to feed his family. Was he part of that 87% of Evangelicals who voted for Trump? I suppose, though I didn’t have the chance to ask him.
No—human beings of whatever type aren’t “deplorables.” No choice my cousin could have made would have gotten him out of the grinding poverty, ignorance, and powerlessness of his life. Whatever freewill means, he didn’t have much of it.
When we blame others for their choices, don’t we have a responsibility to discover whether they had a choice?
People aren’t deplorable, but the systems we build are deplorable and create deplorable situations for most US citizens. Situations in which most Americans never get a chance at a fulfilling life. Systems in which most people never have the education to exercise religious freedom to “contend for their different views to the disunity of the body” as that church’s website puts it.
Sure, my cousin could vote, but was he free to participate in a participatory democracy? Who would have listened? Did he n know what participating in democracy could mean?
As a Humanist, I believe that it is up to us to fix these deplorable problems. But perhaps my cousin was right and,
Jesus Christ is coming again to catch away His church.