Taking Apart What’s Been Put Together That Doesn’t Belong Together
Most probably, I would not tell you that my husband, as good and wise as he is, is a seer, but since the Trump Takeover, he’s said that We the People would not know how dire its outcomes until long after the Trump Troll had departed. This morning’s New York Times proved him right.
Did you know that there’s a federal agency meant to work on what we will do if ever there is a pandemic?
Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes from “WASHINGTON — A federal watchdog has found that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which drew national attention last year when the Trump administration fired its director, has been used for the past 10 years as a ‘slush fund’ to cover expenses unrelated to its core mission of fighting health threats like Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus.”
A “223-page report, issued Wednesday by the Office of Special Counsel, found that the Department of Health and Human Services diverted millions of taxpayer dollars intended for BARDA to finance vaccine research and pandemic preparedness into other government activities, and failed to inform Congress — a potential violation of federal law.”
“The practice of diverting funds was so common, investigators found, that employees had a name for it: the ‘Bank of BARDA.’” This has been going on for more than a decade.
I remember when the Idjit-in-Chief demoted Dr. Rick Bright for insisting on further testing for hydroxychloroquine. Dr. Bright filed a whistleblower complaint soon thereafter because “the administration had put ‘politics and cronyism ahead of science.’”
Pet projects much? Pork much? Look the other way much? If we don’t say it, it ain’t so much?
No one could possibly have predicted that coronavirus would sweep the globe or when, but the federal medical establishment knew enough in 2006 to create just such an Authority in the event that there was a pandemic. The idea was simple, just like the boy scout motto: Be prepared.
And then multiple persons, until Dr. Bright, fiddled whilst Rome could have burned. Metaphors are a manic pinwheel on my mind. I discard them as fast as they arise.
These federal government employees played Russian Roulette with our health, Beloved. Never knowing which or when, they behaved as if all the bullet chambers were empty. Now we know they weren’t.
Enter novel coronavirus stage right. One of the directors of BARDA from the Obama administration left a comprehensive pandemic plan for the United States. The Trump Tyrant threw it out. Baby, bathwater, bathtub, bathroom, BARDA, and all.
It didn’t bode well for his reelection. It didn’t look good. Optics, you know, optics. The if-we-ignore-it-it-will-go-away policy. Troll Trump’s father was a huge aficionado of Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of the worldwide bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking.
Denier Donald was the perfect example of positive thinking dedicated to the dark side of life, a supreme player committed to spiritual by-pass. Positive thinking without Deity. Dr. Peale was a man enraptured with God. Read the magazine he founded, Guideposts, if you don’t believe me. I have for 30 years.
When you take God out of positive thinking, Beloved, you reduce it to simple manipulation — of self, and others. Propaganda of a particularly pernicious kind.
That’s why it so interests me that many of the right-wing extremists consider themselves Christian. There is video of prayers for victory made to Jesus just before the riot on January 6th. That brand of Christianity maintains that the United States was founded as, and meant to be, a Christian nation. Hence, they are Christian Nationalists.
Let us be clear. One of the primary tenets behind the founding of this country was religious freedom. Any fourth-grader could tell you that. Religious freedom, Beloved, not Christian freedom. No, not at all, instead, simply the right to worship God as one’s own conscience dictates. Nothing more, nothing less. Never said no never mind about Christian.
Thomas Edsall’s essay in this morning’s Times elucidates, “Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, professors of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Oklahoma, describe Christian Nationalism in their book ‘Taking America Back for God:’
“It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively ‘Christian’ from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies — and it aims to keep it this way.”
Mr. Edsall again, “In her recent book, ‘The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,’ Katherine Stewart, a frequent contributor to these pages, does not mince words:
“It is a political movement, and its ultimate goal is power. It does not seek to add another voice to America’s pluralistic democracy, but to replace our foundational democratic principles and institutions with a state grounded on a particular version of Christianity, answering to what some adherents call a ‘biblical worldview’ that also happens to serve the interests of its plutocratic funders and allied political leaders.
“This, Stewart writes, ‘is not a “culture war.” It is a political war over the future of democracy.”
That’s sure what it looked like on January 6th. For those who have ears to hear … and eyes to see.
“Robert Jones, the founder and C.E.O. of P.R.R.I., a nonprofit organization that conducts research on religion and politics, argues in his book ‘The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,’ that Christianity in America has a long history of serving as a cloak for a racist political agenda.
“‘The norms of white supremacy have become deeply and broadly integrated into white Christian identity, operating far below the level of consciousness,’ Jones writes. ‘The story of just how intractably white supremacy has become embedded in the DNA of American Christianity.’”
Does that give you shivers, Beloved? Because it sure shakes me. I haven’t been a true and proper Christian for many a long decade. My path has been that of the Divine Feminine. But one cannot be ordained in this mundane world without picking a denomination because it’s denominations that create seminaries and it’s seminaries that confer ordination. And I am that, ordained, in a metaphysical religious discipline. Metaphysics of the Aristotelian strain appealed to me from the moment I fell over it.
Mr. Edsall reports that in the days following the insurrection, traditional pastors from within the traditional, mainline, if you will, churches engaged in a flurry of emails from Maine to California, and Washington to Florida, exhorting one another to preach against this conflation of nationalism with Christianity. The subtext, loud and clear, rang: IT’S WRONG.
Mr. Edsall writes, “I asked Philip Gorski, a professor of sociology at Yale and the author of the book ‘American Covenant: A History of Civil Religion From the Puritans to the Present,’ if supporters of Christian nationalism were a dominant force in the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. He replied:
“Many observers commented on the jarring mixture of Christian, nationalist and racist symbolism amongst the insurrectionists: there were Christian crosses and Jesus Saves banners, Trump flags and American flags, fascist insignia and a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ hoodie. Some saw apples and oranges. But it was really a fruit cocktail: White Christian Nationalism.”
Ah, a clarification: White.
A phrase from the right-wing academics studying this phenomenon jumped out at me: political theology. What?! Theology is NOT political. It’s a branch of study about God.
“The emergence of Christian nationalism has in fact prompted the mobilization, in 2019, of a new group, Christians Against Christian Nationalism. The organization has lined up prominent religious leaders to serve as ‘endorsers.’ More than 16,000 ministers, pastors and parishioners have signed a statement that reads in part:
“As Christians, our faith teaches us everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another. As Americans, we value our system of government and the good that can be accomplished in our constitutional democracy.
“In contrast, Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.”
See? Politics is NOT theology — it’s ideology. My head hurts. I’m with George and Ira Gershwin — “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” shall we? It’d be nice, but … we can’t. And we can’t because it’s (finally) out in the open.
There is a much-vaunted principle in metaphysics that assures us all that evil contains the seeds of its own destruction. It’s like the well-loved symbol of Taoism, the Yin/Yang. Within the light, there is a seed of the dark, and within the dark, a seed of the light.
So here is what intrigues me most in our current situation. Donald Trump abuses positive thinking when he attempts to dismiss Deity as part of its tenets.
What happens when Deity is shoveled underground? Or when anything is hidden? Eventually, it — whatever is hidden — rises up.
Deity, their Deity, is raised up by these insurrectionists. Yes, raised up. And also conflated with democracy. This is not church and state, Beloved. Instead, it is religion and state — a very different matter. We put these two together at our peril.
As Ezra Klein wrote about the mutating coronavirus this morning, “This is the part of the horror film where a happy ending seems in sight, but it is obvious, to those paying attention, that the monster is not dead, and that the worst may be yet to come. We cannot let ourselves be taken by surprise.”
We were perhaps taken by surprise on January 6th, I’ll grant you that, but we are put clearly on notice now that to deny the existence of white Christian Nationalism would be a grave, and long-term mistake. If we leave this movement unchecked, we know how the movie will end.
So what is one individual to do in the face of this threat? We take back the tool of positive thinking and reinstall the Deity part of the program. Not the religion part, but, if you will, the spirituality part. Freedom to worship is ours, Beloved, even for those who worship in ways we do not. But if white Christian Nationalists are free to worship as they will, so are the rest of us.
Here’s a one-person version of a benefic answer: look for the little victories, celebrate the heck out of them, broadcast them from the rooftops, brag, crow, sing a song, dance out loud, write a poem, draw a crowd, share your deep, profound, and undying gratitude for the blessing of being alive. Then do it all over again tomorrow.
Eventually, such a practice will draw the attention of those who feel so threatened, so frightened, so marginalized, and they will ask you, just like they ask magnificent theologian Dolly Parton, “Hey, Dolly, what’s your secret? / With all you do, your attitude / Just seems to be so good / How do you keep it?”
Dolly boils it down to her four-word title, “Better Get to Livin’.” Livin’ well will mean that we find a way to include those who feel unincluded so seamlessly that white Christian nationalism sings a lonely, sad, death aria before it leaves us forever.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her essays address the intersection between spirituality and culture. Find out more at www.susancorso.com