Trump and the ‘Thing-ification’ of Faith

The evangelical support for Donald Trump reflects how greatly imperiled the Christian tradition is in.  True, evangelicals are only a portion of Christianity but most of the Christian tradition is based on rationality to the exclusion of experience which makes it more amenable to being a cultural artifact. When religion becomes a cultural artifact, it risks becoming what the Apostle Paul called “the wisdom of this world” to which he assigned the value of “sounding brass and tinkling symbols” or as comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it, “yada, yada, yada.”

One’s Christian faith can easily become a “thing” which facilitates the phenomenon known as the “Christian identity movement” in which one’s faith has become “thing-ified.” It reflects that the individual has succumbed to the influence of modern industrial civilization and learned to see and experience himself only as a “thing” and therefore his god…and god’s son…can only be a “thing.”   Furthermore, one’s loved ones, one’s friends, even mother earth is only a “thing” and we all know that “things” are to be used, to be exploited without any concern for their separateness, for their own uniqueness and value, even for their own soul.

A good friend of mine recently shared with me his experience of realizing his own “thing-ification” in the whole of his life, especially with his faith.  He was indoctrinated into the Christian tradition at an early age, pressured at an early age to become a minister, and his faith…as a “thing”…became his identity.  He began to realize in his late teens that something was amiss, and began a decades long exploration of an emptiness in his soul that an addiction to this “thing-ification” had covered up.  As he gradually began to find the courage to let this “thing” dissipate, the emptiness began to be more intense, and as the intensity increased he began to find a grounding which he realized was faith in a more genuine sense that he had ever imagined possible.  He summed it up as, “I had to lose myself to find myself”.  He further explained that he realized he had to, in an important sense, lose his faith to find his faith and this experience was very much related to finding faith in himself.  “To believe in God is to believe in myself,” he summarized.

Christian tradition has become such a “tradition” that it is often nothing but sterile tradition, a medley of ideas devoid of any connection to human experience, i.e. “the body.”  I call these Christians “Christian-oids” or “Christian-ettes” who each day more or less say, “Wind me up and watch me be Christian.   This way of life is a habit, and a comfortable habit, so comfortable that it is hard to break.  It is very painful to realize that giving up this “habit” is giving up the “letter of the law” in exchange for the “Spirit of the Law,” giving up “death” for “Life.”  And a noble tradition that has become perfunctory is amenable to gross influence by unconscious forces allowing innocent and good intelligent people to find themselves enthralled by ideologies which are actually very dark.  Shakespeare recognized that when any spiritual tradition becomes perfunctory like this, when it becomes an “enforced ceremony” it becomes deadly:

When love begins to sicken and decay,
It useth an enforcèd ceremony.
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith.
But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,
Make gallant show and promise of their mettle.

When faith that was once heart-based, has “sickened and decayed” into empty rhetoric and ritual, there will be lots of loud and boisterous postering which will provide much fodder for late night comedians but will do nothing to assuage the ills of the social body or of the individual souls.

I dare to say that we have today a perfunctory Christian tradition very often and thus we see so many of them lining up behind a craven figure like Donald Trump and even declaring that God has “raised him up” to be President of the United States.  This trivialization of the Christian tradition has led to a banalization of faith so that “easy believism” has replaced the “costly Grace” spoken of by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Consequently one can readily subscribe to a rationale creed, don the “Christian” attire, and bask in the social comfort that it affords  without ever allowing it to delve into the heart and there, according to the Apostle Paul, “be a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

 

 

 

When love begins to sicken and decay,
It useth an enforcèd ceremony.
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith.
But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,
Make gallant show and promise of their mettle.
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2 thoughts on “Trump and the ‘Thing-ification’ of Faith

  1. Anne-Marie

    This speaks to me a lot. The Shakespearean verse is very apt becomes when one sacrifices oneself in the name of Christianity but with a heart that unconsciously believes that is what one has to do, love begins to sicken and decay. Despair in this instance is life saving as there is a search for meaning which can go on many years. I guess it is the search for the pearl of great price or the true self.

    I really like what your friend said that to believe in God is to believe in myself. That alluded me for many years. It makes a lot of sense because God is the ground of our Being yet it is so easy time and time again, to fall into the trap of malice towards oneself, which flows on to others and to God who is seen as a “thing” who is far from one.

    At the moment, I am trying to learn off by heart not because I have to, but because I want to, a verse from Psalm 123:
    Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
    We are filled with contempt
    Indeed all too full is our soul
    with the scorn of the rich.
    (the distain of the proud).

    To me, this verse brings freedom because it acknowledges that one is powerless on one’s own and in need of deliverance from bondage and the promise is that we are being and will be delivered.

    Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
    as streams in dry land.
    Those who are sowing in tears
    will sing when they reap.

    Psalm 126 continues. We leave ourselves and then we come back to ourselves or our centre,

    They go out, they go out, full of tears,
    carrying seed for the sowing;
    they come back, they come back, full of song,
    carrying their sheaves.

    Indeed, our tears are life giving and water the living stream.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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