I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of God lately. The insidious rise of Christian fascism in this country is forcing me to do so.
The radical religious right’s beliefs about God — punishing, angry, and intolerant — are incomprehensible and repugnant to me. The prospect of the Old Testament Law-based Christian theocracy this radical group of zealots are attempting to impose here in America fills me with terror, righteous anger, and makes me literally sick to my stomach.
No matter how hard I try to understand these far right religious leaders, their dominionist views, and their need for total control over every aspect of our lives (this is the same group that talks about “small government”), I just can’t. I don’t get it at all. They might as well be aliens from another planet.
Their message and plan for America (and yes, eventually the world) doesn’t contain a shred of love, compassion, forgiveness, or mercy. They show nothing but contempt for just the kind of people — the vulnerable and weak — that Jesus loved and instructed us to care for. They only care about power and money. They will cheat, lie, exploit, destroy, kill, and even commit treason in order to get more of what they crave. They have hijacked the Republican party by appealing to religious conservatives and their churches, and now those churches have become as corrupt and self-serving as they are. It’s no wonder so many good people are leaving the churches. They have managed to Christianize greed and hatred. They believe oppressing or punishing everyone who is different from them is their holy duty to bring about their longed for Christian America. They are no different from the Taliban or ISIS.
But there’s an enormous disconnect, because their real god is “the market” — which they consider infallible and think will solve all the world’s problems. This is idolatry. Trickle down economics has never worked and never will work. Singing the praises of an unregulated free market that will always self-correct if left alone is just an easy way for them to rationalize trashing and poisoning our small planet, not having to pay their fair share, or contribute to the common good. Make no mistake — their plan for America, if it succeeds, will cause widespread, massive suffering, misery, sickness, poverty, injustice, and death — all things associated with evil and utterly alien to any civilized society.
I don’t know if I believe in end times or not, but 2 Timothy 3 is telling about the nature of the people who have claimed all the power:
3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
The supporters of their fascist movement and its chosen leader are almost as bad, selling their souls at hate-filled Trump rallies held so he can puff himself up with narcissistic fuel, where they are encouraged to rough up and act out in violence against people their Dear Leader deems unfit to be treated as human beings.
A few days ago, Dear Leader told assembled police it was okay to hit suspects’ heads on car doors as they are roughly pushed inside. “Don’t be too nice,” he instructed them while laughing, then he turned around and spread his arms out wide as if he was expecting applause. And of course, he got it. Have those police sold their souls too? People seem to be selling their souls everywhere these days.
America is meaner and colder than it ever was. Virtues of empathy, forgiveness, charity, and mercy are today seen as weaknesses or even sins — you’re called a snowflake, or a Marxist, or a bleeding-heart liberal. If you try to remind these Bible-thumping legalists that these are the ways in which Jesus expected his followers to behave, they scoff and pull out their King James bibles and point to some passage in the Old Testament, while self-righteously telling you your God is false and “unbiblical.” They tell you that good works don’t matter, and only faith does.
It may be true we are saved by grace alone, but if so, I believe your heart will change and you will begin to do good works and to care about others, especially the most vulnerable. For the fake Christians in power, saying good works are meaningless simply gives them carte blanche to say they are Christian, but still go ahead and keep hurting and exploiting people. “By their fruit you shall know them,” said Jesus, and that’s what I go by. Are they bearing good fruit or not?
As Jack Johnson sang, Where did the good people go? Do good people even exist anymore? America just seems to get so much meaner and colder every day.
But the truth is that good people are still here. We are expressing our alarm, anger, and terror on blogs, in Facebook groups, in forums, on the streets, and in the comments sections of increasingly disturbing news stories as the country marches toward Christian Fascism. We are crying out as our hearts break, hoping and praying someone will listen and care. We are scared and yes, grieving that the country we love seems to have been lost. If we are Christian, our hearts are hurting over what has been done to Jesus and his message of love, compassion, and forgiveness. The gentle people are being persecuted and vilified just because they care — or because they need care themselves.
The silencing and oppression of the gentle people is due to differences in personality, I think. It’s a war of values: gentleness vs. aggressiveness, humility vs. pride, empathy vs. callousness, civility vs. rudeness, altruism vs. selfishness, egalitarianism vs. authoritarianism, critical thinking vs. ignorance, acceptance vs. exclusion, forgiveness vs. vindictiveness, integrity vs. lock-step obedience.
By their nature, gentle people have difficulty rising to the top of society. Most get nowhere near it, because they lack the aggression and willingness to step on top of and exploit others to get there. But the falsely macho, arrogant, conscienceless and predatory get there because because they are wired to do so. The gentle and meek have little power because they do not go around seeking it aggressively or destroying whatever’s in their way to get it. If they are Christians, they share their faith quietly and sincerely without requiring huge donations, huge audiences, or political power.
Like all scapegoats, the gentle people are blamed for their failure or inability to take power, or become wealthy. If they suffer, they are callously told they brought those sufferings on themselves and got what they deserved.
The gaslighting and projection keeps getting worse. We are told our beliefs are wrong and demonic. We are told that if we were real Christians, we should accept that Trump’s America is also God’s America and Trump was anointed by God to usher in Christ’s Kingdom. We are told we are evil liberal obstructionists (even though it’s the president and his billionaire sycophants and donors who are the real obstructionists) and that we are cherry-picking the “nice” parts of the Bible that we like.
You begin to feel like you’re going insane. If you were a member of a narcissistic family or were close to a narcissist in your life, you know how crazy-making the mind games and manipulations and gaslighting can be. You begin to doubt yourself and your own beliefs. You start to question reality itself, because after all, everyone around you is telling you you’re crazy, or stupid, or deluded, or hysterical, or overreacting, or too sensitive.
That’s what’s happening on a much larger scale in America today. The accusations from far-right Trump-supporting zealots (I’m not talking about garden variety conservatives here) sometimes make me wonder if my beliefs really are wrong. What if the far-right preachers and pundits and politicians are right after all? What if God really is a big bad bully in the sky who hates gays and Muslims and nonbelievers, and wants the rich and powerful to keep getting richer and more powerful because they are his golden children who are predestined to inherit heaven and earth? Never mind the fact that the Bible itself says the meek shall inherit the earth — you question and wonder anyway. What if my God is the false one?
And then I start to think: if they really are right, and their God is really the way they insist he is, would I want anything to do with him? Would I want to live in a society ruled by their God? Would I want to spend eternity in a heaven filled with those who worship a God who could be that cruel and heartless — a heaven where everyone looks the same and thinks and worships exactly the same way? Would I want to live in a heaven where there are no liberals, no gays, no thinkers, no dreamers, no gentle souls, and where people don’t care about each other? A heaven where the likes of Betsy DeVos, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell rub elbows and congratulate themselves over their moral superiority and how much power they held while on earth?
My answer is always, no, I do not. To me, such a heaven would be hell. And if there is a hell (I have doubts that hell really exists, but that’s a topic for another post), I think I might rather spend eternity there, with all the gentle and thinking and oppressed people. I’d rather spend eternity burning in solidarity with Muslim mothers and their children, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, rainbow-clad gays, open-minded liberals, feminists, artists, dreamers, curious thinkers, intellectuals, tree huggers, social misfits, truth-tellers, and civil rights activists. I’d rather spend eternity suffering with all the people the religious right’s legalistic and narcissistic God does not favor: the weak and the oppressed and the persecuted and the brokenhearted.
They have created a God in their own image — a God who is as sociopathic, rage-filled, greedy for power, and narcissistic as they are, and I refuse to worship such a God.
And then I look around me at the natural world. I gaze at the sunset over the mountains, I listen to the night-birds and the crickets and the trees singing in the wind. I feel the warm summer rain on my face, look up at the night sky and marvel at the vastness of the universe and all its billions of stars and galaxies. I listen to the rhythm of the ocean and feel humbled and grateful to be standing next to it. I watch the intricate, delicate rosebuds on the bush outside my window burst into full flower. I listen to my cat purr and feel his warmth on my chest as I fall asleep.
And I realize: no God as evil and cruel as theirs could possibly have created such a world. No, the world is not perfect, far from it. But it’s still beautiful, and evil cannot create beauty or goodness. There’s no way a sociopathic tyrant of a God could have made something so beautiful and magnificent. The bad things in the world exist because of us, not because of God.
They will keep attempting to silence us, to make us think we are the crazy ones, the evil ones, the ones spreading (or listening to) fake news, the ones who are destined to spend eternity in a lake of fire. They will try to convince us that we are the cause of the world’s problems, while they remain blameless and favored by the Almighty. They will try to wear us down and exhaust us, because that’s how narcissists and sociopaths operate. A sociopathic society brings out the worst in everyone, so we will be tempted to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, or become filled with despair, apathy, cynicism, or hatred. We have to stay mindful and not succumb to feelings of powerlessness and fear, because that’s what they want from us. Remember that they feed off our pain because it makes them more powerful.
We must not listen to them. We must listen to our own truth and our own hearts. We will be required to go against our non-aggressive, possibly introverted, sensitive, and artistic natures and speak up loudly against those who wish us harm — in righteous anger if necessary — but we cannot lose control or act out in violence and hatred. If we are Christians, we need to pray for our enemies, no matter how outraged we may feel. We are fighting a spiritual war, a war against truth and goodness, and if we don’t fight for ourselves, we must fight for the survival of those we love and those who have no voice. If we allow them to beat us down and exhaust us into submission (which they are already trying to do), then they win, and all hope will be lost.
The following verse gives me courage when I start to feel hopeless and despairing and exhausted from fighting against this scourge, and I hope it helps you too, even if you’re a non-Christian.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Matthew 11:29