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Christianity as Ideology: The Warning Story of the Jericho March
A toxic ideological cocktail of complaint, paranoia and self-relieving anger was displayed at the “Jericho March,” a protest held late last week in Washington, DC by the president’s most dedicated Evangelical Christian supporters. Their goal was to stop the theft of the presidential election, prepare patriots to fight a “one-world government” and sell pillows at a 25 percent discount. When I watched the process on YouTube, I found that it wasn’t. It was not always easy to tell where these three goals stood in order of priority for the organizers. In fact, throughout the event, there was a strange impression that the attendees believe that Christianity is in some sense compatible with American nationalism. It was as if a new and improved trinity of “Father, Son and Uncle Sam” had replaced the old and outdated Nicene version. When Eric Metaxas, the partisan radio host and moderator of the event, stepped on the stage for the first time, he was greeted not with psalm chants or hymns of praise to the Holy Savior, but with chants of “USA! UNITED STATES! “In short, the Jericho rally was a worrying example of how Christianity can be twisted and placed at the service of a political ideology. But ideology is actually not compatible with Christianity. Ideology goes hand in hand with politics and nation because its purpose is to abstract certain general rules or truths about human behavior from the particular life of the individual, which can then be used to organize society. For this reason, ideology excludes each person’s unique and unrepeatable personality that we normally call our “selves”. This flattening of people into manipulable abstractions is necessary if we want to have a political order at all. For example, politicians in the federal government rule over 300 million people. You cannot hope to have a personal relationship with every single American or to legislate according to the unique tastes of our personal lives. They need to look for concerns that we share with others and treat us as avatars of those concerns. In the eyes of the state we become members of a tax class, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, whites, blacks, residents of a certain zip code. In either case, it excludes our unique and individual personalities who are different from the things we share with other members of a political group. For this reason politics is inhuman in the truest sense of the word. As the Greek theologian Christos Yannaras writes: “The replacement of existence by politics is the highest betrayal of the subjective otherness of man.” It is possible that people adopt this way of thinking to such an extent that they become ideologically obsessed. Individuals can identify with a political collective in such a way that they lose the unique human being who once existed under it. Worse, they can apply the same standard to others, identifying their opponents solely as evil stereotypes. Man disappears and the idea of the enemy is all that remains. This is what Yannaras means by “replacing existence with politics”. People are reduced to political actors and reality is reduced to political struggles. Every other stem of what the poet Philip Larkin calls “the million-petalled flower of being here” is plucked off and discarded. This attitude was reserved for the left for a long time and still thrives there in the form of intersectional identity politics. But lately we’ve been seeing more and more of this mindset lifting its ugly head to the right. Additionally, there are certain characteristics of the conservative mentality that could allow it to take root and sprout faster and more deadly than we can imagine. To prove this, check out the Jericho March for yourself. The American right has always been suspicious of what we might call “high-level malice.” This impulse dates back to the founding itself, when the Patriots were convinced that a great transcontinental conspiracy to rob them of their freedoms was being orchestrated by a shadowy, distant elite: the British Parliament. This founding dialectic between the popular Children of Light and the Elite Children of Darkness was built into the rhetoric of Jeffersonian democracy from the beginning. At best, it acted as a safeguard against government transgressions. In the worst case, it led to the excesses of the John Birch Society, McCarthyism and, most recently, the Truther movement for electoral fraud. When this type of vigilance is combined with the ideological mindset, it quickly turns into conspiratorial paranoia. Since the purpose of ideology is to provide a comprehensive representation of political life, data that does not fit the ideological model can be reshaped by a call to conspiracy. The left has been doing this for years. Whenever events upset their ideological scheme, they explain it by citing conspiracies committed by billionaire robber barons. Right-wing ideologues have now found a similar scapegoat in the form of the “deep state”. Here’s what Mike Flynn had to say on the Jericho March: We cannot accept what we are going through as right. We are within the walls of the deep state and there is evil and corruption. And there is light and truth. And we will come to light and we will come to the truth. So it has to be for ideologically obsessed people. When self-esteem is linked to the success of an ideological program, the program must not fail. That brings us to the most depraved and filthy aspect of this whole conspiracy movement. Not unlike the President himself, the leaders of the Jericho March have said breathtakingly irresponsible things about the elections that could very well lead to violence. The aforementioned Eric Metaxas, who has a radio show and a sizeable following, described himself as “happy to die in this fight” and told his listeners that “we must fight to the death, to the last drop of blood, because it turns out It’s worth it. “He also described everyone who is not on the” Stop the Steal “train as follows:> Anyone who is not upset about it … They are the Germans who looked away as Hitler prepared to do that , which he prepared for. Unfortunately, I don’t see how you can see it any other way. Other speakers at the event called for the formation of a civilian militia, while Alex Jones, the well-known Sandy Hook-Truther who speaks with an innate growl, is the moment We are now at 1776. We must reckon with the non-trivial chance that someone out there will take these men seriously If you reach for such language while addressing an audience of politically angry people, who Practice the possibility of violence. Who wouldn’t want to be the first to defend themselves against the Nazis or to take over the cloak of freedom from George Washington? This is the tragedy of the Jericho March. The irony of the Jericho March is that a supposedly Christian practice actually looks more like the paganism it defeated long ago. Metropolitan John Zizioulas writes on classical antiquity and notes that> many writers have represented it [Ancient] Greek thought as essentially “not personal”. In its Platonic variation, everything concrete and “individual” is ultimately related to the abstract idea, which is its reason and its ultimate justification. This sounds a lot like the way modern ideologies work. In America, the individual is ultimately relegated to the abstract political idea that is its grounding and ultimate justification in the social order. Zizioulas further notes that in classical Rome “identity – that essential component of the concept of human beings that distinguishes one human being from another, that makes him what he is – [was] guaranteed and provided by the state or an organized whole. “As Christianity recedes as a cultural force in the West, we seem to revert to this“ non-personal ”way of dealing with one another. But far from defending themselves against this process of dehumanization, the Christians of the Jericho March are actually accelerating it by separating good and bad solely on an ideological basis. To understand gravity and the tragic irony of it, one really has to understand the world as it was when Christianity first appeared. As Zizioulas noted above, in ancient times it was not believed that individuals existed on their own. Everything and everyone was conceived as a fragmented shard of the universe that was ultimately a great impersonal entity. Men and women drifted in and out of existence as epiphenomena of an impersonal cosmic order. Christianity changed all of this by insisting that ultimate reality itself is personal: three unique and unrepeatable divine persons who exist in a community of immediate relationships. That is why Christianity, properly understood, marks the end of ideology. It insists that the truest and most important aspects of our lives are not the ideas that we invent abstractly together in order to have a functioning government. The unique person, understood only in the context of a loving relationship and apart from an ideological status, is the true heart and heart stone of human life. Consequently, the Christian faith turns out to be essentially anti-political because the state cannot treat people in this way. It can only be treated as a political actor. But that is how the Jericho March Christians seem to think of themselves and everyone else. There is much to be said about the specific lies right-told by conspiracy theorists about the election, but many of my peers have exposed them more convincingly than I ever could. My main concern is the broader development of Christianity in this country and the penetration of political ideology into its spiritual territory. If the ideology of the Jericho March is really widespread on the right, it could be a much more difficult and serious problem in the long run than anything to do with the defeat of Donald Trump. While the laws we live under play a big part in deal, Christians, more than anything, need to regain primacy of the personal over the political. When we cannot love our neighbors personally, politically agnostically, and face to face, they turn to synthetic and unreal ideological communities to fill the void left by the loneliness of their daily lives. The Road Back to Reason Solidarity and social trust on both sides of the political spectrum require turning away from this ideological impasse and returning to personal communities. If Christian churches do not do this, they risk being exploited as political toys by the powers that be.