An article by Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys:
With malice towards all, who aren’t like us.
An article by David B. Gowler of Salon appeared on the AlterNet website 2018-DEC-25, titled: "White evangelical Christians need Jesus -- not Donald Trump -- if their movement is going to survive." 1 In it, he mentioned a previous article in "The Atlantic" published on 2018-OCT-03 by Adam Serwer, and titled: "The Cruelty Is the Point." 2
There have been more articles in the last few months by Christian leaders and writers expressing similar sentiments. Here is another one: by Matthew Chapman on the AlterNet website: " 'They’re more white than Christian’: Evangelicals of color push for greater voice in their faith." 3
I think these authors are becoming concerned that all of Christianity is getting tarred with the same brush as is the hypocrisy and cruelty of some evangelical Christians. This has become so blatantly obvious that it can no longer be ignored.
I said some, not all, evangelical Christians.
Many folks have been aware that some Christians took a very wrong turn sometime in the past. Others pretended this wasn’t the case. I could see the rejection in the faces and the shouts of protestors outside family planning and abortion clinics. It is seen in the accusations and comments made against homosexuals, gay marriage, and transgender persons. ... and most recently, the comments made about the migrants/refugees/asylum seekers along the southern border of the U.S.
Rejection has long been seen in anti-Semitism and perhaps goes as far back as the first claims that the Jews killed Christ. 4 Today we hear some people saying that Roman Catholics and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) aren’t really Christians. In their minds the only TRUE Christians are those that belong to their particular denomination or faith group.
It certainly was apparent during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch trials, in the attitudes of early Christian missionaries around the world, and in the American Southwest and Canada where Native children were once removed from their families and forced into Indian Schools where they could be Christianized. It was obvious in James Michener’s book "Hawaii." 8 I think that his book was where I first became aware of the wrongs done in the name of Christianity.
Some of those who believe in the "Rapture" seem to take pleasure in the idea that those who are "left behind" when Jesus returns will suffer terribly on earth. AND the "prosperity Gospel" seems to reinforce the belief in white Christian superiority: -- if you are rich it is because God wants you to be rich and if you are poor it is because he wants you to be poor. To try to change a person’s "lot in life" is to defy God. There appears to be no recognition of the societal conditions, the laws, and racism, sexism, and other prejudices that keep people "in their place."
Some of Mr. Serwer’s comments 2 about Trump Christians jump out at the reader:
- "Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump."
- A "community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life."
- "It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright."
What do they see as their birthright? It is expressed by Mr. Gowler in his article:
"Nevertheless, the Trump administration continues to believe that a government of white, heterosexual [male] Christians, and for white, heterosexual [male] Christians, shall not perish from earth. Anyone who disagrees with that viewpoint or who belongs to population of a different race, color, creed, or sexual orientation must be seen as dangerous outsiders who threaten their hold on power and influence." 1
People (men and women) who are small -- as in small closed minded and having small withered hearts lacking in compassion, weak, lacking in self-control and self-discipline, impotent -- as in powerless who can only feel BIG about themselves when they are belittling, demeaning, abusing (verbally and sometimes physically) those they see as weaker than themselves. The reality that they seem to take pleasure and enjoyment from their cruelty towards others is really disturbing. But the pictures of Trump rallies and the marchers in The happenings at Charlottesville, articles like these I mentioned, and the comments of trolls on some web sites don’t lie.
It may be significant that the number of hate groups in the U.S. reached a record high in 2018. 9
There appears to be a serious pathology, an out of control virus or virulent infection, that has swept across the U.S. So far, it has infected a small minority of Americans. BUT that small minority seems to taint and pollute the air. They damage the soul/spirit of all that they come in contact with. This disease shows no signs of letting up or being contained.
Trump didn’t cause this virus or pathology, he just brought it out into the open. His words and actions bring out the worst in others and offer them justification and sanctification of their own words and actions. Many good people, Christians, people of other faith traditions, Agnostics, and Atheists like me, etc. are appalled at what we see.
What happened to evangelical Christianity or to many evangelical Christians that brought them to this, to taking pleasure in other people’s suffering? Where did this "Gospel of Fear and Hate of the other" come from? We won’t solve the problems spawned by this fear and hate until people of "good faith" are willing to squarely face and answer these questions. You can’t right a wrong if you don’t know what caused it in the first place. Here are two articles that offer explanations:
Mr. Serwer also said in his article: "Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain." 2
Malice is defined as active ill will, wish to hurt others, spite, grudge, rancor. Rancor is defined as bitter resentment. All things that are the opposite of what many Christians claim Christianity is about -- compassion for those in need and who are suffering, forgiveness of trespasses, and love of neighbors and for all humanity.
I think the malice comes from a sense of superiority, self-righteousness, from FEAR of anything that is new or different, from their own self-doubts about themselves and about their professed beliefs. It comes from a dysfunctional combination of old Old Testament Monotheism that emphasized strict blind obedience to God (and God’s representatives on earth: priests. the patriarchs, the male parent ...). This is OBEDIENCE without hesitation, question, challenge, or complaint. And old Old Testament Monotheism that called for an eye for an eye form of justice and vengeance against one’s enemies. This has been combined with white nationalism and sense of entitlement, superiority and the right to rule those who are seen as being less than they are. Combined with old fashioned conservatism that is fearful of anything new and different brought on by self-imposed ignorance -- as called for by that demand for blind obedience to authority.
AND finally as the song from South Pacific tells us, "Hate must be carefully taught by the time you are seven or eight." It is pounded into them (sometimes physically not just verbally) from the time they are born to the point that they don’t see in themselves what others see in them. It is part and parcel of who they are as human beings. To even acknowledge the racism, the homophobia, the transphobia, the misogyny, the fear of the "other"-- those that are different -- would be to cast doubts on the rightness of their existence. All would not be right with the world. That must be avoided, whatever the cost.
After writing all of this I realize I actually feel sorry for them. I pity them. What a waste of human potential; what a sad way to live your life; --In fear that you don’t fully recognize, and are unable to articulate or change. And I feel sorry for all of us who would like to find a way to get through to them so that we can make this world a better place for all of us, including those that aren’t just like us. Or to take a phrase from the Trump playbook, "Make America Great."
I must add here that I have met a few that have broken the shackles and chains that bound them to the "Gospel of Fear and Hate". They found the strength of character needed to leave the church of their upbringing to strike out on a different path. I greatly admire them. I have wondered what was it that caused them to start asking questions and searching for answers? Did something happen all at once that "woke them up"? Did it happen gradually over time? Is it something about their genetic makeup that set them apart from their families? Perhaps someone will write to this web site 6 and tell us about their journey either away from religion altogether or to a kinder, more compassionate form of religion.
Pope Francis is fully aware of the problems and has been trying to call for a more kinder and compassionate Christian practice. In his 2018 Christmas message he wished for:
"... fraternity among people of different nations, cultures, faiths, races or ideas, describing the world’s differences as a richness, not a danger, and championing the rights of religious minorities." 7
The word "malice" brought to mind a quote from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address. At the end of the Civil War Lincoln was concerned about binding the wounds of the nation and bringing the defectors back into the Union. He said:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Wise words stand the test of time. But I am afraid, like many words in the Bible and in the writings of other world religions they still fall on "ears that cannot hear.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- David B. Gowler, "White evangelical Christians need Jesus -- not Donald Trump -- if their movement is going to survive," AlterNet, 2016-DEC-25, at: https://www.alternet.org/
- Adam Serwer, "The Cruelty Is the Point," The Atlantic, 2018-OCT-03, at: https://www.theatlantic.com/
- Matthew Chapman, " ‘They’re more white than Christian’: Evangelicals of color push for greater voice in their faith," Alternet, 2018-DEC-26, at: https://www.alternet.org/
- This belief started in the earliest years of the Christian movement. In the year 415 CE, St. Augustine wrote "The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus." The belief that all Jews killed Jesus was personally repudiated by many faith groups after World War II, including the Roman Catholic church at its second Vatican council in 1965. In a book written by Pope Benedict XVI during 2011-MAR, 5 he held the "Temple aristocracy" and supporters of the rebel Barabbas during circa 33 CE to be responsible -- not all Jews alive at the time, and certainly not Jews who have lived since or live in the future.
- Pope Benedict XVI, "Jesus of Nazareth: Part Two Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection," Available in Hardcover and Audio CD. Ignatius Press, (2011). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- This website's email address is [email protected]
- Frances D’Emilio, "Pope’s Christmas wish: World fraternity despite differences," Religion News Service, 2018-DEC-25, at: https://religionnews.com/
- James A Michener, "Hawaii: A Novel," Available in Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, and and Audio CD formats. The Dial Press; Reprint edition (2013). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- "Number of hate groups in US ranched record high in 2018: SPLC" 2019-FEB-20. at: https://www.aljazeera.com/
This article is critical of one wing within evangelical Christian denominations. We invite any visitors to this website who would like to publish a rebuttal on this web site to send it to us for consideration.
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Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys
Originally posted on: 2019-MAR-03