The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have begun a throw away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.
It remains fascinating that in the age of televangelism and the megachurch movement, the Catholic church has ceded ground to the prosperity preachers who offer wealth health, success and instant miracles for cash fist and last. Religious indulgences have staged a comeback, apparently, only this time not in the Catholic church. Religion as a market franchise. will take on cargo of any and all dimensions – other than that of the crown of thorns.
-Lamin Sanneh, Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African (2012).
Don’t expect any breadth or grandeur from the Empire’s Christian divines. Across the board, the imperial chaplains exhibit the most obsequious deference to the Plutocracy, providing imprimaturs and singing hallelujahs for the civil religion of Chrapitalism: the lucrative merger of Christianity and capitalism, America’s most enduring covenant theology. It’s the core of “American exceptionalism,” the sanctimonious and blood-spattered myth of providential anointment for global dominion. In the Chrapitalist gospel, the rich young man goes away richer, for God and Mammon have pooled their capital, formed a bi-theistic investment group, and laundered the money in baptismal fonts before parking it in offshore accounts. Chrapitalism has been America’s distinctive and gilded contribution to religion and theology, a delusion that beloved community can be built on the foundations of capitalist property. As the American Empire wanes, so will its established religion; the erosion of Chrapitalism will generate a moral and spiritual maelstrom.
What will American Christians do as their fraudulent Mandate from Heaven expires? They might break with the imperial cult so completely that it would feel like atheism and treason. With a little help from anarchists, they might be monotheists, even Christians again. Who better to instruct them in blasphemy than sworn enemies of both God and the state? Christians might discover that unbelievers can be the most incisive and demanding theologians.
Another example of why Books and Culture continues to be my most anticipated mail. You’re a subscriber, right?
-Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss (2013).
You’ll have to forgive me if I quote from this small book multiple times as I make my way slowly through it. Wiman’s observations – and the words he employs to make them – are the sort that beg to be shared.
Rev. Grimke is a new figure to me. I came across him by tracking down a footnote in the fantastic biography of Ida B. Wells I’m reading. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day I’m thinking about those like Grimke and Wells who, during the years of reconstruction and Jim Crow, laid much of the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement that came decades after their deaths. These were leaders who, like Dr. King, drew deeply from their Christian faith to challenge the dehumanizing systems during their lifetimes.