Or, the Les Religieux takes another stab at control
A couple of weeks ago, Time magazine published an article concerning the nature of heaven as seen by a subset of the current crop of evangelical Christians in the US. As is the norm for a Time article, the work is kinda fluffy and cute. It pays slightly more than a minimum of attention to other points of view and simplifies the matter for the masses, but the article itself helps to focus of one of the leading issues in our country today, that is, the almost poisonous effect that religion has upon the national dialog.
Now, one would think that the article in question is innocuous. “Why, look at those Christian youth, idealistically trying to make the world a better place!” is probably the effect that the article’s author was trying to make. But the truth of the matter is, that if the evangelical Christians are serious about this, there is a decent chance that what we are seeing is the beginning of the recruitment drive for the next set of crusades.
Think about it for a bit. Christian theologians, sensing that their stale and primitive beliefs do not engage an activist, educated, and unemployed youth, come up with an old variant of standard Christian fare wh
ere Christians can make the world better and make it more to their liking. Sounds to me like the recipe for a new run at sixteen century Amsterdam than a willingness to take on the problems of the world. I have never found a Christian mass movement that didn’t have at its core the desire to tell everyone around them what to do. So the heaven on earth that they propose will probably have more to do with Calvin’s Geneva than world where free will and individual liberty reign.
One can go back to the thirty-years war to see the scars that this kind of thing takes. How many were slaughtered outside Frankenhausen because of an arrogant theologian’s desire to see his opinions about a mystery forced upon an unwilling world? Are Botticelli’s paintings absent in our lives because of a secular leader’s fever dreams?
When I think of the current class of clowns passing themselves off as Christian theologians here in the US, I don’t know about you, but Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaids Tale” is more likely than an earthly paradise. The folks pushing this are wedded to an idealized past, where the patriarchal ruled the roost, women knew their place, and children were seen and not heard. Doesn’t sound one bit attractive to me.
US history is littered by the dead husks of movements like this. The failure of the temperance movement and prohibition stands as the most recent failure. But it appears to be a consistent desire of a significant minority of Americans to shove their religious views down all others’ throats. This is just the latest iteration. We learned in out “history” books that the pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock to establish religious freedom. But what is not noted, or suffered with silence, is that they outlawed every “non-protestant” religion, persecuted the Jews, and forcibly as well as non-forcibly converted every “Heathen Indian” that they could lay their hands on.
I think that a large portion of the population has this desire to enforce uniformity at all costs. Religion is the way that most of here in the US try to do so. Little fishes on signs show that you are dealing with the washed. Big suburban mega-churches allow the remaining fragments of the middle class to convene in their uniformity. If you have ever been to Utah, you are fully aware of the stifling and intrusive nature of a dominant church.
In our society, we have always allowed this to occur. I can’t figure it out. We are currently in one of our “Christian Nation” modes where it becomes worse than usual. When you look at the growth of the suburban churches, the jingoism and self-absorption of the taught faith, you get a recipe for folks walking around in crisp, freshly ironed matching shirts. This trend will be exacerbated by the high unemployment and culture of entitlement that permeates the youth here in the USA. When you have a group of young people at loose ends, things start getting strange. When you have a group of young people who imbibed with their mother’s milk a huge boatload of self-esteem and then hit a hard world where around 50% are unemployed, things will get even stranger. When the country that they live in is armed to the teeth, with a military that is being de-funded and de-mobilized, you may very well be looking at some very interesting times ahead
No, we are too missionary and too self-absorbed a culture to ever allow anyone to stray from our messianic Christianity and pseudo-democracy. This is merely the latest little effort by the folks who brought you religious freedom for protestant Christians and vicious repression for anyone who saw things differently than they did. When you look at these folks want, they want to address the economic, environmental, sociological degradation of this country with a set of rules established first in the Tanakh by a set of nomadic pastoralists of the twelfth century BCE. I am certain that this will work out well in a society based on Onanism.
I tend to think that there is a heaven. It probably is not a version of the standard fare where angel strum and youthful bodies are reunited with the mature minds. I can’t really say what I think that it will be. I have a feeling that, as with most spiritual mysteries, there cannot and should not be a set of answers established by earth-bound religious authorities and enforced by the secular arm of the same.
I think that all movements like this always end up tragically for everyone.