Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Richest nation on earth and the most Christian but...

Adapted from Christ and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

Could have supporting the Iraq War offered a method of penance for American Christians to ameliorate their guilt for being so well off when so many of their brothers and sisters in the world languish in poverty? Liberate the downtrodden brown-skinned people living in poverty under the boot heel of a heathen dictator and you, too, can be redeemed.

Maybe that's how Bush's war happened besides the blessing of the mainstream press. Maybe Americans aren't as much stupid as they are terrified of a wrathful judgment for failing to act as charitable Christians. OTOH, fear does make people do and say dumb things.

Norman Mailer explained during a Mar. 2, 2006, event at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on What it Means to Live in America Today. He addressed the issue of 9/11 and the reaction of Americans to terror (with emphasis):

. . .in the name of that terror... there is a great American expression that was never used in relation to 9/11. And that expression is, "Hey, baby. Suck it up." Because, in the name of that terror, Bush has gotten away with crimes...crimes against the integrity and the reputation of the state. I'm not going to get into the old Bush speech. Everybody here knows it. But what I'm going to say is look at what he got away with by keeping everyone afraid.

Noam Chomsky put it very well at one point... ...What he said in effect is that there's more fear in America than one can easily explain. Well, I can, I think... I will dare to assume why this terror is there.

It's because this is a Christian country as you know very, very well, from your roots, your childhood roots. And there's a feeling in this country especially from the Fundamentalists that we're richer than we ought to be, and that was not Christ's intention, and they're very uneasy about that. There they are in church devoting themselves on Sunday to Christ, and the rest of the week, they're going gung-ho for money because they find all the envies of their neighbors making money and they want too. And Bush feeds that. He feeds that like the kind of guys who feed fish to seals. And it's just disgusting....

. . .this is a Christian country and it's also the wealthiest country in the world. And the two are not wholly compatible. And Americans are a divided species. All humans are tremendously divided between the best and the worst in themselves and the purest and the most impure motives they have. But in America it's aggravated... because, on the one hand, this country believes in the pity and the love and the compassion of Christ, and on the other hand, it believes beat the hell out of your opponents because if you don't get the money, they will.

And this creates a terror in people. Americans are more afraid of meeting their judge, their judgment, than perhaps any other country on earth. That's my secret belief. They're terrified of the retribution of God, which is why they're all so bloody religious....

. . .Why are people Fundamentalists? I'd say they're Fundamentalist because they live in terror of their sins. I've known so many really good people, decent people, God-fearing decent people who spent their lives being good to others, who die in terror that they're going to receive evil judgments, because they had evil thoughts. Well, multiply that by the country as a whole with this idea that we're doing two things in opposite directions. We're going to be compassionate and we're going to be wealthy beyond measure and that creates true inner disturbance.

Don't kill the messenger, but I think Mailer is on to something. Similar to survivor's guilt, perhaps the inner disturbance has surfaced as a thriver's guilt, a kind of unwelcome neurotic anxiety that can knot the throat if one believes in Jesus the forgiving savior, the "Lamb of God," yet ignoring the state of poverty both at home and aboard, one would face a God of judgment and hellfire. Not all Americans buy the religion trip, but let's say for those who do, they may experience an inner disturbance as Mailer described.

When Bush rattled the chains of people imprisoned by such a belief system, promoting his incendiary mushroom cloud, WMDs are gonna git you rhetoric, oh, the terror that must have aroused. Then, when Bush offered absolution in the guise of liberating Iraqis from the evil, terrorist-supporting Saddam, did the guilty jump on the revival bandwagon? Did the church-goers praise the Republican Jesus and buy the spiel to kick some terrorists' butts and free those poor starving Iraqis? It's a right-wing cliché to shame antiwar protest with the wacky-doodle strawman of being pro-Saddam, unpatriotic, hurting our troops, and aiding the terrorists. How dare the sane and guilt-free keep them from the promise of a gung-ho Rapture. With the Holyland in Iraq's neighborhood, the invasion offered a two-fer and an incentive to cue up a chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers.

The vast majority of Americans didn't and don't have to do the fighting in Iraq, but it was the thought that counted, right? We all are paying dearly and so will our children and grandchildren. How much more penance is required? Voting for Bush, defending the POTUS against criticism, glorifying war, embracing the Republican national security illusion, and forgetting about those missing WMDs in Iraq, yeah, that'll purify the Christian evangelicals and Bush apologists of their sins. What happened to Blessed are the peacemakers? Perhaps that beatitude was traded in for a brand new gas-guzzling SUV with a bumper sticker, Jesus loves you but I'm his favorite.

The problem with adopting an externally-based remedy (get Saddam and the terrorists) instead of directly addressing the source of the inward guilt (not loving one another and retribution) is that an alleviating substitute doesn't last long especially when reality vividly demonstrates that Iraq has morphed into a quagmire and terrorism has increased. The Iraq War has become hugely unpopular as has Bush's mismanagement of the war. Relief from thriver's guilt has fizzled although faithful diehards hold on manipulated by hope in defense of their need to be vindicated.

Some 7,000 American households exceed $100 million in wealth and about 500,000 have $10 million or more, according to Paul Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. And these are the folks Dear Leader rewarded with tax cuts. Imagine the terror.

Someone needs to tip off the anti-wealth redistribution Christians that Jesus was wrong and maybe a Marxist for telling the young rich ruler to sell all his worldly possessions and give the money to the poor. What did Christ know, anyway. Heh?

UPDATE: (12:43 AM) The taboo about money. Maybe something to that inner disturbance. Did you know that one-sixth of Jesus' words in the Gospels is about money?