The rotting corpse of the Christian Right
I’ve compared what I read in Gospels with what I’ve been hearing from the Religious Right, and I’ve concluded that the holier-than-thous must have traded in their red-letter editions of the Good Book for red-state versions that omit most of Jesus’ teachings.If you’re a thoughtful, independent-minded person, I’ll bet you read the Gospels and wonder: Where in America does this Jesus dwell?Where in America is the Jesus who sides with the poor and the outcasts? Where in America is the Jesus who disdains those who wear their piousness on their sleeves? Where in America is the Jesus with the Prophetic voice, the radical who dares to tell the powerful what they don’t want to hear? Is he in the pews that fill every Sunday morning with the smug and complacent? Is he in a political party that fights for tax cuts for the rich while neglecting the needs of decent, hard-working Americans?Is he among the “God-and-country” demagogues who push an idolatrous nationalism and who see military service as the supreme form of sacrifice?I have no doubt that the Christian Right and its leader, George W. Bush, are sincere about their faith. But I also have no doubt – to paraphrase one of America’s pre-eminent theologians, Stanley Hauerwas – that sincerity has precious little to do with Christianity.In the spiritual vacuum that exists in this country, the Christian Right is well-positioned to argue that its menagerie of fears and chauvinisms – piled into a box labeled “moral values” – constitutes a serious moral narrative.It doesn’t, but the Religious Right’s contribution to the denigration of Christianity will continue unabated until other Christian communities come up with a compelling alternative.The trouble is, our society seems to lack the kind of exemplars who could build that alternative. What we need are the spiritual descendants of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day, people who are willing to endure the enmity and scorn of the political establishment and mainstream culture.Maybe those people are out there, but I don’t see them. That’s why I’m not optimistic about the survival of the Christian tradition in our culture. What many view as a great spiritual revival looks a lot to me like another stage of rot in American Christianity’s corpse.Can the cadaver rise up? It doesn’t seem hopeful. In contemporary America, the Jewish Palestinian whom many call their messiah has become just another Middle Easterner to be ignored or reviled.
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