Monday, December 21, 2020

Toxic Right-wing Pseudo Christianity

Cannon here. Before we get to D-Jay's offering, here's an update on the preceding post: Eric Boehlert notes, as did Marcy, that the NYT and other major media outlets treated Trump's moves toward a military coup with the blithe disdain normally reserved for Bigfoot sightings. Remember when Breitbart, One American News, the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo battalions were treated with the same blithe disdain? 
Even after four years of Trump, we still don't take the far right seriously.

This "ignore the fringe" mentality is not new. I'm old enough to recall the 1970s, when the mainstream media treated politicized evangelical Christianity as a quirky fad that would never amount to much. 

Which leads us directly to D-Jay's latest. 

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The Deprogramming Dilemma – 3
Toxic Right-wing Pseudo Christianity

By D-Jay

As dedicated Cannonfirers will know, this is the third article in a series exploring the tangled web of causalities that somehow resulted in the Cult of Trump – and the thorny question of how to deprogram a critical mass of its adherents.

The first essay introduced the topic and listed a total of 31 Trump-inducing factors, 20 of them from the right, and 11 self-destructive attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) on our side of the fence.  (For your reference, I’ve copied the full list at the bottom of this article.)

In the second piece, I started our investigation into the individual issues involved, beginning with the one presenting the most immediate danger - the radicalization of the right.

For our next step down the rabbit hole, I’d like to start with a question.  Of the 31 issues identified as causative factors of the Donald dystopia, which are the most fundamental, the ones which either give rise to or enable the others to exist?

I’d like to propose three candidates for this most dubious of honors:

The Iron Bubble of Disinformation
The Dark Money Conspiracy
Toxic Right-wing Pseudo-Christianity

Why these three, you might ask, when we are so spoiled for choice?

The Iron Bubble of Disinformation, that impenetrable, all-encompassing, strictly self-referential right wing media ecosystem ensures that those who allow themselves to get sucked into the whirlpool are exposed to increasingly radicalized propaganda, and nothing else.  24/7/365.  It’s quite difficult to know the truth of anything when all you hear are lies.

The Dark Money Conspiracy, a multi-generational, covert effort by a group of very rich right-wingers to subvert the very consciousness of a large part of the American electorate and bend it to their will.  All in the service of libertarian economic and social policies, lower taxes, and wholesale destruction of the regulatory authority of the state…the health, safety and welfare of the public be damned.  They are the ones who, over the course of decades, provided the resources, funding and philosophical framework that enabled widespread minority rule, a take-over of large portions of the judiciary and the creation of the Iron Bubble of Disinformation.  Without their money – and ultra-patient, long-term campaign – none of the rest would have happened.

To my mind, however, the most critical element of all is what I like to call Toxic Right-wing Pseudo Christianity.

What exactly to I mean by this?

It’s the “Christianity” that is willing to kill to stop a woman’s right to choose an abortion but won’t lift a finger to help disadvantaged children already born, let alone their parents.  If we accept, as most self-professed Christians do, that the Bible correctly reports the words and deeds of their savior, Jesus, we see that, on the subject of abortion, he said…wait for it…absolutely nothing.  He did…absolutely nothing, even though it was a common practice in his time, along with its yet more drastic cousin, infanticide. The same could be said of the other issue our right-wing pseudo Christian friends obsess over – homosexuality.  Again, Jesus is reported as saying or doing absolutely nothing about it.  These two bĂȘte noires of the modern right clearly weren’t things he put very high on his list of priorities. The subject of helping the poor, the oppressed, the outcasts, however, was quite a different matter.  That is what Jesus talked about.  That is what he cared about.

It’s the “Christianity” of the “Prosperity Gospel,” the modern-day iteration of the belief, so loved by despots and kings through the ages, that God shows his favor by granting worldly wealth and power to those he loves best.  Talk about heresy if you’re a Christian!   The only people Jesus was ever shown actually getting full-on pissed off at were the moneychangers in the temple – those who profited off the faith of ordinary people.  In other words, the megachurch pastors and televangelists of their day.  And I seem to recall hearing something about rich folk, heaven, camels and the eye of a needle.  Not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement of Trump now is it?

It’s the “Christianity” of those so enamoured with the bible that they insist every word in it must be the literal word of God, in spite of the good book’s internal contradictions and inconsistencies and the fact that it wasn’t actually compiled in anything like the current version until about 400 years after Jesus lived (assuming that he in fact did.) Such dogmatic adherence to the words of a text lead directly to the rejection of science, since when evidence for such basic facts as evolution and the age of the earth contradicts them, the biblicists can’t accept it without admitting that their narrow and dogmatic understanding of the book is wrong.

It’s the “Christianity” of crackpot ideas like the rapture, young earth creationism, dinosaurs and people inhabited the world together, speaking in tongues and snake handling are signs of holiness. When you grow up believing stuff like that, is QAnon quackery such a stretch?

It’s the “Christianity” of the slaveholders – the ones who used a few cherry-picked passages from the scriptures to justify keeping other human beings as property, and the wholesale genocide of native Americans.  Think that’s gone?  Think again.  It’s the “Christianity” of the KKK, and their 21st Century spin-offs such as the Proud Boys and militias of the month.  It’s the “Christianity” of racism, white supremacy and America First Christian nationalism.

And, of course, it’s the “Christianity” of anyone deluded enough to believe that Donald Trump is somehow a modern-day Cyrus the Great, a powerful and wise ruler sent by God to protect the faithful.  What a dis on old Cy, the founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire who, along with numerous other accomplishments, defeated Babylon and freed the Jewish slaves being held there.  By most accounts, he really was an exceptionally powerful and wise leader, and quite innovative and personally brave, to boot.  He inherited a kingdom from his father and turned it into one of the mightiest empires of the ancient world.  Donald the Great, on the other hand, is nothing but a greedy, narcissistic blowhard and grifter who loves to brag about grabbing women by their private parts and who inherited £400 million from his daddy and proceeded to blow it all.

You get the picture.

This is not the Christianity of Pope Francis.  Not the soft-spoken but firm Christianity of Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg.  Not the devoted Sunday School Christianity of Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Not the Christianity of millions of people in America and around the world who’ve devoted themselves to helping those less fortunate than themselves.  And, if what we read in the bible is correct, definitely NOT the Christianity of Jesus Christ.

Let’s call it what it is - Toxic Right-wing Pseudo Christianity.

But why, you might ask, do I think this basket of deplorable ideas has played – and continues to play - such a critical role in the creation of planet Trump?

Two reasons.

First, this is the thing that had already, well before the coming of St. Donald, peeled off a significant portion of the American population and placed it in a ready-made alternate universe, cut off from – and increasingly hostile to – mainstream American life and the shared set of facts and norms that underlie it.

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax and the rest didn’t need to create the iron bubble of disinformation from scratch.  It was already there.  They just had to strengthen, shape and expand it.  Give it purpose and imbue it with a coherent (if crazy) political ideology that perfectly matched the existing prejudices, delusions and fears of its inhabitants.

It was all there, just waiting for a darkly charismatic demagogue like Trump to ignite it.

Second, however delusional the belief system might actually be, from the inside, it’s God’s holy Truth – the only Truth.  Put on the MAGA hat, support the dear leader, and you’re doing the work of God.  Literally.

Work against it and you’re an agent of the devil.

This underlying conviction is what allows the Trumpinistas to feel that they are good, even when they do things so obviously bad.

This, at least IMHO, is why the cult of Trump is really and truly a cult, and not just a political movement.

This is why at least some of them are likely to be all too willing to die for the cause. 

And this is why it will be so difficult to deprogram significant numbers of its true believers.

The next article in the series will talk a little bit about how this might be done, and some of the ways it might already be happening.

Stay tuned!


Contributing factors to our democratic decline:

From the Right

Truth Decay – Destruction of the Ability to Distinguish Fantasy from Reality
Ever Worsening Demonization of the Media
Manufactured Distrust of Science and Expertise
The Iron Bubble of Disinformation
The Dark Money Conspiracy
Information Warfare Aimed at Us
Domestic Terrorism
Emergence of a Full-blown Cult of Personality
Ongoing Voter Suppression and Gerrymandering
Election Security
Continued Weaponization of Social Media
Toxic Right-wing Pseudo-Christianity
Sexism and a Pseudo-Macho Mentality
Putinism and the International Neo-Fascist Movement
Lack of Education in Civics and Critical Thinking Skills
Destruction of Crucial Democratic Norms
The Collapse of Good Manners and Propriety

From the Left (and Sometimes the Center)

OTT PC (Over-The-Top Political Correctness)
Inept Messaging
Lack of Media Investment
Surrender of Rural America Without a Fight
Failure to Call Out and Counteract Toxic Right-Wing Christianity
Failure to Call Out Right-Wing Racism, Sexism and Fascism for what it is, and Counteract it in Time
Framing Too Many Issues as Being Rooted in Race Rather than Economics and Class
Failure to Recognize Just How Bad Things Can Really Get
Forever Bringing Beanbags to a Knife Fight
Failure to Protect Critical Norms


OTE admin said...

The religious right of charismatics and pentecostals--also called NAR or dominionists--is a bastardization of Christianity. They aren't really Christians at all, and it makes me mad that so many people (especially the New Atheists whom I despise as a cult in and of itself) broad brush the vast majority of Christians with these nutters. Their movement is strictly 19th and 20th century and has a lot less to do with Christianity than it is of their railing against the modern world. The Bob Jones University tax controversy in the late 1970s was critical in the political activity of these pseudo-Christians.

These people cannot be reasoned with or reached, and Democrats should never have to pander to them. They simply have to die out.

Anonymous said...

The Democratic Party has been reduced to a shell so paper thin it can no longer disguise the deep state actors hollowing it out from within wriggling and nibbling away in the shadowy goo just beneath its translucent surface.

Joseph Cannon said...

Hey, everybody...look at Anon's comment above! You know what this means? It means that Cannonfire, once again, is considered important enough to be the target of right-wing trollbots!


margie said...

I take the Democrats anyday and twice on Sunday over the Trumplicans. We might fight amongst ourselves and disagree but we honor truth and science and don't fall for "moneychangers" on TV and the Q conspiracies and loyalty to the orange monkey.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of the sentiment you convey here but would be careful about such broad brushstrokes - most people’s Christianity is real/non-pseudo to them. I was left wanting a bit more understanding and less describing.

Perhaps a more banal explanation is that racism maybe more tied to some flavors of Christian beliefs than others (, and that some of those flavors are more likely to reside among conservative geographical locations than liberal ones. And as such, Trump and GOP reach out to them, as they would any voting block that believes in issues that can be appealed to and wedged.

I’m enjoying this series, but wouldn’t underestimate the factors of demography, ses, and urban/rural divides, which are certainly likely to correlate with a host of things that may seem larger than they actually are. I think wedge issues are getting wedgier, which exacerbates previously smaller underlying differences and insecurities among people.