I subscribe to way too many blogs and online magazines. Needless to say, as I go through my way too many email accounts, I click through and read a large number of articles each and every morning as I start my day, a privilege of now being retired.
The Rise of Shallow, Demonstrative Religion
Last week I witnessed an exchange on Facebook between two obvious friends and a third party. The first individual posted the photo of Presidential candidate Ben Carson exiting a vehicle holding a sign that read, “I’m a Christian” with the words “Then Run For Bishop, Not President” below it. The poster also made a comment about doing business with people with fish on their business cards. The friend of the poster took offense to this and challenged his friend, demanding that he declare whether he was a Christian or not, although he most likely knew the answer. When he failed to answer, the friend resorted to name calling and repeating stock “Christian” platitudes and axioms. This caused the third party to chime in demanding to know what gave him the right to be such a bully. To which he answered, “I’m a Christian” and then demanded to know if the third party was a Christian. He answered in the affirmative. This caused the friend to become even more bellicose demanding to know what denomination the third party was. When the third party told him this was none of his business, the friend posted platitude and axiom after platitude and axiom, sprinkled with obscenities and threats of hellfire. The original poster then declared both the friend and the third party to be “good men” and that was that.
I remember a time when one’s faith, spirituality was a private matter. Something, generally, not thrown about in public. Now, most folks running for public office drape themselves in saccharine, banal “Christian” trivialities, platitudes and axioms. God is bumper sticker. It used to be that only Catholics were looked upon as sorcerers; addicted to incantations and secret handshakes. Now, many “Christians” express their faith with very public proclamations and catch phrases as if their spirituality is about rough magic and glib conjuring.
Pondering my youth I can look back and remember why I knew what religion my neighbors were: The Cajun couple next door were Catholics — they had seven children. I knew the folks across the street were Baptists because they took in a troubled Hispanic teen through their church, that I became attached to and was heartbroken when he ran away. One of my little playmates was Jewish. I knew this because they ate off of different plates on Saturday and the Grandmother had a number tattooed on her arm. My best friend across the street was Presbyterian. I knew this because my grandfather was named after John Calvin and somehow this had something to do with their church.
The man down the street that wore a kilt and played bagpipes was Episcopalian because that’s what those people did. I knew the lady down the street was a Christian Scientist because I thought it odd that a lady would be a Scientist. The family at the end of the block were Lutherans. They were German like my Grandmother. None of these folks ever talked about it that I can remember. This was the America I grew up in. It was a successful religious melting pot. It was a varied, interesting stew. Some now are trying to make us a spiritually bland, simply salted gruel.
The Reagan Revolution was as much about the public dumbing down and aesthetic corruption of spirituality as it was about trickle down economics. Public pronouncements on the nature of God in the context of political campaign drivel is a crime against beauty. Watching Mike Huckabee talk about religion is like watching Jabba the Hutt explain the contents of the Louvre.
Mr. Carson holding his Christian sign is scary and should give us all pause. It exposes a state of intellectual languor. It demonstrates a limited understanding of people and the world — it is the gated community of the mind. And, he appears to be in the majority among the Republican candidates. Why would we ever elect someone as President with an obviously closed mind — He or She is at the helm of the most powerful Military and largest Atomic arsenal in the world.
I think it’s great if Mr. Carson goes to church or temple or whatever. However, like what the poster on Facebook put above Mr. Carson’s photo says, “An old guy I used to know, most definitely a Christian, used to say, ” Watch out for a guy with a fish on his business card, Jesus wasn’t a businessman, he’ll have you looking at the bible with one hand while he’s pickin’ your pocket with the other.”
Treating his “Christianity” as though it was currency after the photo was shared 80,000 times in a mere 4 hours after being posted on Facebook, the Carson campaign went on to promote it on Twitter with the #IamAChristian hashtag. They also urged their supporters to make his “I am a Christian (fish)” photo, their identity image on Facebook to capitalize on the Umpqua Community College mass murders.
“Please consider changing your profile picture to honor the victims and their families,” Carson wrote Friday night.
Personally, I find Mr. Carson’s capitalization of “religion” for political purposes, horrendously abhorrent.