By Kyle Haden, OFM, Ph.D.,
The nickname “Christian” has lost a lot of its credibility in recent years. In the Catholic lexicon it was tainted by years of sexual scandals. In major Protestant parishes it has lost its luster as it tended to merge into a bourgeois secularism that has become familiar with neoliberal capitalist aspirations; this despite contrary gospel commandments. In popular culture, evangelical Christianity has been ridiculed (somewhat rightly, I believe) for being consistent with right-wing attitudes that have linked Christian practice to nationalist feelings and beliefs. Culture warriors with a theme among so-called conservatives of all denominations have raised fetishized politics to neglect the full gospel commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself – a consistent ethic of life. At the center of the failure of an authentic Christian testimony is the inability to see the heart of the Christian project. That is a Metanoia, a profound conversion where the default setting of the self as the center of the universe gives way to a kenosis, an emptying of the self in order to adapt to it imago Dei as manifested in Christ that Logos From God.
In our current constitutional crisis in the United States, tribalism has penetrated deeply into Christian communities. Contributing to this is the distortion of the Gospel by a Christianity that, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer claimed, has accepted man Sicut Deus (Eritis Sicut Deus, Scientists bonum et malum – You will be like God and know good and bad. The first and greatest temptation is the seductive stimulus to be like God through self-creation. Man becomes the first idol. The illusion does not seriously take into account the finiteness of this idol. It speaks truths from a limited perspective, with self-esteem being the real motive, and justifies these perspectives at the same time as biblical instructions and transcendental truths. When Christians Adopt Man Sicut DeusThe ultimate motivation for so-called Christian practice is power – power seeking its own ambitions, even at the expense of others’ suffering.
In the Trumpian world, Christians who embrace a MAGA vision have betrayed their own Raison d’être. Trumpian Sophistry uses the lexicon of Christian jargon to persuade those who are dying to be convinced that the United States is a Christian nation chosen by God as an extraordinary example to the world – a city on a hill, a Messiah Nation.
In the niches of the grammar of the state of emergency the desire for the will to power is hidden. This will to power has nothing to do with the will to love of the one who IS LOVE. The manifestation of this love in the history of mankind clearly showed the divine will as a call to self-giving hospitality, especially to the poor and marginalized.
“The manifestation of this love in human history has clearly shown the divine will as a call to self-giving hospitality, especially to the poor and marginalized.” @ KEHaden1
Many of our US politicians seek shelter in the poor of Christian communities that reward choices that empower people Sicut Deus. Private concerns about maintaining power, privilege and place Trump card (Pun intended) Service to the common good. Fear of a minority that has exacerbated social and cultural differences has exposed not only glaring hypocrisy among a number of “Christians”, but also a profound willingness to live in a platonic cave of shadow denial. In a Bonhoefferian theological scheme, Christianity as a religion in which religious institutions tend to defend and maintain institutional privilege and status in society while neglecting God has lost its purpose and credibility.
The Christ who Logos God came to manifest God’s will not only in discursive discourse, but also in action. His giving of his life (laying down his life for a friend) was triggered by telling the truth to power – a power that banned “others” as a means to an end. Politicians lynched Jesus with the complicity of many religious people. We witness the continuation of Christ’s lynching in a policy that deprives the poor, the powerless, the marginalized, the weak, the sick, the elderly, etc. Politicians who are more concerned with maintaining power are complicit, and most tragically of all, empowered by those who are loyal to those who hear the cry of the poor. Until an authentic Christianity emerges among those who claim Jesus as Lord, a Christianity that takes its call for biblical hospitality seriously, tribalism will continue to grow as a conflicted, even violent stain on the national ethos. Most worrying from the American Catholic perspective is the complicity and tacit legitimacy of the plague of tribalism among various members of the American Catholic hierarchy, which is motivated by a desire to protect the institution rather than meet the requirements of the gospel.
Most worrying is the complicity and tacit legitimation of the plague of tribalism among various members of the American Catholic hierarchy, which is motivated by a desire to protect the institution rather than meet the requirements of the gospel. @ KEHADEN1
Kyle Haden, OFM, Ph.D.is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Theology and Franciscan Studies at St. Bonaventure University. His latest book, Embodied Idolatry: A Critique of Christian Nationalism, is available from Lexington Books.
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