UPDATE: ….that I was really grumpy (and under the weather) when I first wrote this post – so I’ve gone back and taken out a bunch of what I really should not have bothered to say. The original post lives on in RSS feeds and Google caches.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m greatly troubled by the marketing messages used to sell the Gospel. Messages that promise you can learn to “really live,” to have “your best life now,” find yourself “Enjoying Everyday Life®” or “Learn How to Live a Blessed Life“. I think Chris Hedges accurately describes the market for this nonsense – a people of “Suburban Despair.” (HT: Creativity Exchange)
This despair crosses economic boundaries, of course, enveloping many in the middle class who live trapped in huge, soulless exurbs where, lacking any form of community rituals or centers, they also feel deeply isolated, vulnerable and lonely. Those in despair are the most easily manipulated by demagogues, who promise a fantastic utopia, whether it is a worker’s paradise, fraternite-egalite-liberte, or the second coming of Jesus Christ. Those in despair search desperately for a solution, the warm embrace of a community to replace the one they lost, a sense of purpose and meaning in life, the assurance they are protected, loved and worthwhile.
The danger of this theology of despair is that it says that nothing in the world is worth saving. It rejoices in cataclysmic destruction. It welcomes the frightening advance of global warming, the spiraling wars and violence in the Middle East and the poverty and neglect that have blighted American urban and rural landscapes as encouraging signs that the end of the world is close at hand.
Believers, of course, clinging to this magical belief, which is a bizarre form of spiritual Darwinism, will be raptured upwards while the rest of us will be tormented with horrors by a warrior Christ and finally extinguished. This obsession with apocalyptic violence is an obsession with revenge. It is what the world, and we who still believe it is worth saving, deserve.
Those who lead the movement give their followers a moral license to direct this rage and yearning for violence against all those who refuse to submit to the movement, from liberals, to “secular humanists,” to “nominal Christians,” to intellectuals, to gays and lesbians, to Muslims. These radicals, from James Dobson to Pat Robertson, call for a theocratic state that will, if it comes to pass, bear within it many of the traits of classical fascism.
Read all of Hedges’ article, based on his book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. There is a lot of hyperbole in what Hedges is saying and I struggle with seeing the Robertsons and Dobsons as particularly scary – as their influence is, thankfully, on the wane. And perhaps, Hedges rhetoric does require the invoking of Godwin’s Law. (HT: BHT)
I do, however, believe that he’s accurate in describing one of the emotions to which modern Western Christianity appeals – a suburban despair it pretends it can alleviate by unlocking the mythical promises of the scriptures. Embraced “because we offered them nothing else.” (Mythical in the sense that if you know the right ways to pray, you can unlock these promises.)
ASIDE: I read an interview yesterday with the bass player for Delirious? – a band for whom I had a certain fondness. They apparently will be spending a fair amount of time on the road with Joyce Meyer this year – perhaps hoping to be “Enjoying Everyday Life®.” I doubt I’ll be adding anymore of their music to my library. At least Joyce supports a Canadian company by flying in a $10 million Bombardier-built Challenger.