In the violent and hateful culture in which we live today, neighbors can seem likeenemies, and except for me andthee our ungovernability has become deadly in states and nations. Animosity, even that evident in my own words, is pervasive. I gag daily at the news, another Trumpian abandonment of civility, a retreat to lies. And some think Jesus is really on their side and their hatreds are founded on scripture, sacred and otherwise. In our fears, one gun is not enough, surely a rapid-fire rifle will be even better at protection and killing those others who are metaphysical enemies, as they dance and sing and imbibe spirits of destruction. We cannot blame Trump for all of this, but he is the Machiavellian maestro who celebrates chaos and ungovernability. He seems to justify our hatreds, whether on the right or the left and justifies our polluted hearts and minds. Yes, yes, he is the demonic one who makes the doing of evil so justifiably attractive and cruel.
I want to be able to say and believe: I know that my redeemer liveth and peace and good will and honesty and forgiveness flow gracefully from his life and his death and resurrection.
Yet throughout the history of the church, it has often felt choked by these words of forgiveness and grace, and could not resist adding the unforgiving caveat that failure to forgive is itself tantamount to forsaking the Redeemer. In my miscellaneous refusals to forgive my enemies and to make friends, I practically refuse to believe sin can be forgiven in the absence of real repentance. To be forgiven one must deserve to be forgiven and just what are the criteria for determining such deserts?
The Christian paradox: Donald Trump is a paradigmatic sinner, a liar, without shame or restraint in his lying and incapacitated to see friendship as anything other than quid pro qou so long as folk do not depend on his qou lasting longer than a sort pause between tweets. And many who call themselves “Christians” are inclined to think he is salvific, while other “Christians” think he is demonic. Please dear reader, do not dare read about the rise of Nazi Germany during the 1930s and its capacity to murder without regret millions of those regarded as sub-human filth and vermin and evil-doers. Der Fuhrer seduced an entire nationality of Protestants into crimes against other Germans and more as persons-of-no-value.
My deep sadness and anger is not a new commentary on world events and wars and destruction. And it is not just about those others who simply do not care, for whom lying and domination are a guiltless way of life and in the absence of which life is simply not worth living. And their happiness is without guilt. But is it not also true that no one really believes that “In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me.” But who is this “me”? The disarming message here includes both the good and the bad we do to others. It should not be surprising that Christians have for centuries ignored that message and forgotten the ‘me’ whose message it was.
Me included and perhaps thee too? Might it be that humans, whenever and wherever, need scapegoats in contrast to whom they can find an identity, purpose, and superiority. [Girard]
Blessed are those who can resist Trump and his political kin without making him and them their scapegoats.
Yet, humans repeatedly find that scapegoats are useful tools of analysis and self-understanding. When you have some leisurely time to judge why life is as it seems to be: goods distributed without regard to deserts. It’s somebody’s fault. Because I do not deserve this; in fact, I deserve better than this. But that guy over there keeps depriving me of my just deserts or he at least would like to take what I have. Some folk must pay—with life or coin—for the mess I find myself in. I am really angry. Aren’t you too. Why is there no real justice?
Wow, when I awoke from dreaming all that, I was thirsty and reached for another shot of strong spirits that held the possibility of inebriated calm and indifference.
But can we just look away when great evil grips the minds of friends and enemies? Is it conceivable that the great scapegoater of our time might become the scapegoat himself.
Happy New Year,
Rev. Brad Van Fossen says
Some of us out here depend on your theologically informed and insightful observation of the national political scene in order to keep our spirits up and our minds clear. I hope you will continue to do some blogging.