Seems like all I’m doing lately is calling out the IMPOTUS for inherent ignorance and institutionally-supported nonsense. It’s a holiday down south and that guy gave another scripted (yet poorly read) speech, part of which claimed that the US is ‘proud of the fact that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.’
Given my current job, it’s sometimes easy for me to forget that I spent a fair bit of time completing a Ph.D in something wholly and completely outside of the wheelhouse in which I now toil. At times the memory comes back in a rush that can knock me back quite significantly as I rage at the popular usage of terms that have zero basis in substantive reality.
‘Judeo-Christianity’ is one of those terms. It’s an illegitimate and dismissively conflated descriptor of nothing.
But, like many illegitimate descriptors, it has a history – sourced in US politics and the development of the concept of an American civil religion that deifies things like the specific interpretations of the Constitution and the Stars and Stripes – to the exclusion of things like human rights and racial equality.
So no. Let’s not use this term at all. I do not accept – let alone embrace – the misplaced nationalism that has led to the divisive rhetoric that has exploded under the current ‘administration’.
Judaism does not exist solely as an antecedent of Christianity. I cannot say this loudly enough. Which people would know, if they ever bothered to read the books. ALL the books. ALL of ALL of the books.
Like other artificial constructs – race is a biggie – the concept of Judeo-Christianity is a conceit that has long passed its time and putative usefulness. It is not helpful to describe any human activities in (created) terms that conflate anachronistic ideologies in service of societal statuses quo.
Yeah. Apparently that’s not a realistic expectation. My bad thinking that humanity has grown out of the need to support crimes and criminals based in archaic worldviews that illustrate de-evolution of rational thought and evidential insight.
A while back, in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the US, the rhetoric – driven, largely, by that terrorist organization that controls Congress (I’m talking about you NRA), gun ‘hobbyists’, and demagogues who will use whatever language (‘holy’ or otherwise) that serves the furtherance of their continued power-mongering – reached a new low in one particular ‘opinion’ piece I read. I was led to the link through the Twitter feed of Mikel Jollett (again, I know. But the guy is really on top on most of what is going wrong with things down south of our border. With the proliferation of nonsense out there these days, I’m grateful for the filter he provides. He’s more than an incredible singer-songwriter).
I hesitate to link the article and its reprehensible idiocy. But context is vital, so, if you wish, you can find it here: http://thefederalist.com/2017/11/06/saints-first-baptist-church-murdered-god-answering-prayers/
To summarize (TA:DR = Too abhorrent, didn’t read): the author, a Lutheran pastor, seems to think that those who were murdered at that Sunday gathering had their prayers answered when they were gunned down by a person who should never had had access to weapons of mass-destruction. Not in any society that makes claims about its progressiveness and supposed-leadership, anyway.
The publisher of the ‘news’letter responded to Mikel’s understandable disgust with a snarky comment, suggesting that a googling of ‘theodicy’ – and an understanding of Dostoevsky – was required for a real appreciation of the offensive idiocy that the pastor was spouting.
If I’m honest, I’m not a fan of (depressing) Russian writers (been there, read that, moved on), especially when they are co-opted to support some twisted Ayn Randian libertarian agenda. So I’ll leave that bit of it alone.
But you want to talk theodicy? Them’s fighting words. Bring. It.
I dare you.
The ways in which people have attempted to justify the unjustifiable while still positing the existence of a beneficent deity has been a significant focus of my adult life. I’m exhausted with repeated readings of the bodies of literature that seek to understand the ‘minds’ of made-up beings who claim to have governance and judgement over our lives and deaths.
This enraged me:
“When those saints of First Baptist Church were murdered, God wasn’t ignoring their prayers. He was answering them.”
Even copying and pasting that bit of ugliness made me retch. After decades of immersion in the texts and histories and experiential accounts that support views like this one, I cannot get beyond the repugnancy and abrogation of responsibility that is represented in the cognitive dissonance that permits such beliefs to persist, still, anywhere in this world.
Even more enraging? That people who publish platforms that permit the dissemination of such excuses for human wrong-doing do so in an age of social media saturation that permits the spreading of credulous inanity without recourse or rebuttal – at least none that is presented in more than 140 characters.
The irrevocable damage that this causes is evident in the comments section of the original article. I despair.
The narrative that is being spun in the States (and elsewhere – it’s just too in-our-collective-faces to avoid concentrating on what’s happening as that dotard is allowed, somehow, to continue his reign of ignorance) is one of a contrived and dangerous story that promulgates the spread of ideas that seek to forgive the unforgivable in the name of a unsupportable theodicy and idiocracy, both. The combination of those two things is leading us in a direction that might have no turn-off.
The events of the past months – and the on-going reality of the pandemic – have demonstrated that we CAN change the narrative. Confederate statues are coming down (don’t get me started on said statues being ‘history’. Really. Just don’t). Black Lives Matter protests and articles and brave voices are having positive, visible effects. First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in Canada are speaking out – and demanding that engagement and action (as promised by the federal government – remember the TRC, PM Trudeau? A few years have passed since 2015) actually happens. Racists are running scared and their reactions are telling on them more-and-more (be they Karens, Kyles or otherwise).
Which isn’t to say the work is anywhere near being complete.
Max Weber saw theodicy – the justification for a ‘good’ god permitting bad things – as a social problem – a struggle with meaning. In these times – which are a-changing, regardless of those delusions held by the racist and Evangelical dinosaurs – that struggle is very much an attempt to order chaos – hence all the apocalyptic visions and promises. Right-wing religious types have no choice but to cling to their various theodicies (the prosperity gospels are one facet of the straws at which they grasp). Without them, their concept of a god of goodness vanishes – along with their perceived inherent privilege.
Although the struggle is found throughout (hello Prophets) the Hebrew Scriptures’ most obvious attempt at god-vindication is found in the Book of Job. Millennia of exegetes have discussed the theodicy of Job – and the suffering the righteous man was made to endure (as the result of challenge between god and his right-hand dude, the satan). Cole’s Coles’ Notes version? God does what he does because he does it – and us tiny humans don’t have the capacity to understand the workings of the universe or those things that are required to keep it all in order. Order, again. As far as question-and-answer literature goes, the response is a little thin IMHO (not unlike the edited version of that book by Qoheleth). “Because I said so” tends to be something resorted to when real justification can’t be sourced or explained. Regardless, the sufferings of Job – despite his goodness and obedience – are echoed in the trials of the Jews in their persecutions, exiles and disaspora. They well knew that their god was a jealous, demanding god.
Christian interpretations of Job tend to over-emphasize his patience and obedience – skipping over the obvious frustration and anger he demonstrates in the conversations he had with his persecutor. It took a whole lot of reading of Christian exegesis for me to get a handle on how anyone could be said to have ‘the patience of Job.’ The guy didn’t strike me as particularly uncomplaining (nor should he have been). Later theologies – again, emphasizing a complete and total subjugation to the will of god – suggest Job as an OT parallel to Jesus. The NT Epistle of James suggests that Christians should emulate the quiet perserverance of Job as all he values is stripped from him – lands, belongings, children.
One doesn’t have to look far to hear contemporary Evangelicals echoing the emptiness of this perspective. The willfully-blind followers Cult 45 seem to have fully embraced this interpretation. Not one among them would dare to question the leader/god in his proclamations – never thinking to rage against the imposition of suffering and loss.
Admittedly, this reading of Job is a surface summary of the many papers I’ve written on the problem of evil in biblical traditions. I know my posts tend to be wordy, but even I need to draw the line somewhere. Suffice it to say that theodicy – the emphasis on the goodness of god in a world that holds evil – appears very differently in Jewish traditions than it does in Christian readings of the same Scriptures. Judeo-Christian is NOT. A. THING.
Suffice it to say, also, that Evangelical Cult 45 (‘literal’) readings of the biblical writings are used to support and suborn the actions of the current US leadership and those with vested interests in maintaining the state of affairs that continues to benefit a minority of the population.
As we change the narrative – re/learning history as it happened – we need also check our nomenclature. Theodicy has been used to justify the unjustifiable for far too long. Privilege – and the texts and traditions that support an inequitable status quo – needs examining. As do the imperatives behind the constant cries of ‘LAW AND ORDER’ by a wanna-be king who sees himself as untouchable – because he says he is – and all those who maintain the inherent justice and ‘rightness’ of his role.