April 7, 2012

Christianity in Crisis

On this day, one year ago, we said goodbye to Streak.  Amazing how much we still miss him.

My last post was obviously strident.  But the cognitive dissonance of conservatism and conservative Christianity is very hard to take.  I don't get it.  How do people who follow Christ (just ask them) embrace the politics of the rich and powerful, while stepping on the necks of the poor?  How has the teachings of an itinerant preacher become the preferred faith of the gated community set?  How do they not see a problem with that?

Thankfully, I am not the only one who sees a problem.  I know other readers here do, and it is nice to see others around the country asking the same questions.  I appreciate Andrew Sullivan's writings--I think he has written on torture more than just about anyone.  Here, in his article, Christianity in Crisis, he really examines the crisis of the faith, from the decline among Catholics to the disappearing mainline protestants to the evangelical protestantism.  But, as he notes, that evangelical protestantism is part of our problem, not part of the solution.  Not only do they embrace anti-intellectualism in just about every area of life, but an almost mindless authoritarianism.
And what group of Americans have pollsters found to be most supportive of torturing terror suspects? Evangelical Christians. Something has gone very wrong. These are impulses born of panic in the face of modernity, and fear before an amorphous “other.” This version of Christianity could not contrast more strongly with Jesus’ constant refrain: “Be not afraid.”
I have said to my evangelical friends that very phrase, "something has gone very wrong," and they just shake their head and insist that everything is fine.  But it isn't fine.  The most vocal followers of Christ are more interested in shaming women then preventing abortions.  They are more interested in protecting tax cuts for the rich than helping people rise out of poverty.  And they cheer the prospect of millions without health insurance.  Something very much fucked up about that.

One of my friends chastised me for my frustration during Holy Week.  He seemed to think I need to just focus on the meaning Easter has, and somehow look away from the rest.  But I can't easily do that.  I can't just turn my face from the attacks on the poor and women.  And, quite frankly, I won't.  I find great commonality in Sullivan's discussion of searching for God.  But I know he doesn't force women to have transvaginal ultrasounds against their will.  And he doesn't turn away from the hungry infant, or the sick mother.  If you expect me to just put on a nice suit for Easter and ignore all of that, then you don't know me.

Sullivan has hope for the faith:
This Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement. And it is not afraid. In the anxious, crammed lives of our modern twittering souls, in the materialist obsessions we cling to for security in recession, in a world where sectarian extremism threatens to unleash mass destruction, this sheer Christianity, seeking truth without the expectation of resolution, simply living each day doing what we can to fulfill God’s will, is more vital than ever. It may, in fact, be the only spiritual transformation that can in the end transcend the nagging emptiness of our late-capitalist lives, or the cult of distracting contemporaneity, or the threat of apocalyptic war where Jesus once walked. 
For this Holy Week, that is a good place to start.

1 comment:

leighton said...

This was a good article; it's rare to find journalists who actually care about moving deeper than confused stereotypes when writing about religion. Parts of his conclusions (for religion posts anyway) usually annoy me, in that he seems to like arguments like "I can't imagine how a life without faith could be fulfilling, therefore a life without faith must not be fulfilling." But I nearly always agree when he points out core problems in the various Christian communities that claim to have things in common solely by virtue of sharing some vocabulary words.