Friday, February 13, 2009

Faux Christian masochism: Waiting for the day

Once again I don my Doomsday hat, postulating that our civilization, our species, is fast approaching some cataclysmic crescendo that will usher in a new historical movement, some change in tempo or key that will mark a new age. None can know exactly when or how this transition will occur, nor indeed what to expect on the other side. But if one has been paying any attention at all to current events, to the exponential growth of human population, to the depletion of the resources that fuel our civilization, to the irreversible changes occurring in our environment, it seems inevitable that compulsory change is coming for humanity.

And while I believe that many human institutions, including organized religion, can help humanity in the trying times to come, I also know that there are those who will revel in the insanity and fear that the recognition of such a transition will engender, who will delight in and promote chaos and lunacy. (Picture a mad sailor, in the crow's nest of a flaming frigate, laughing and swilling rum from a jug, even as the flames climb the mast and rigging to claim him.)

One such group of apostates is the sect (for lack of a better word) of faux Christians that work from the mindset that they are oppressed, tortured souls, saintly in their virtue and forgiveness, eagerly awaiting Judgment Day when their god will set everything to right. Chris Hedges wrote about this movement in his book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

I remember when Mel Gibson's flick, the Passion of the Christ, came out back in 2004. I spoke with several professed Christians who were deeply moved by the film, which depicts the Christ character being tortured mercilessly for more or less its entire run time. By all accounts the film is graphic and difficult to watch. But there seemed to be a common current among the sentiments expressed by those who admired the film: gratitude toward Christ. I remember a television report that showed people leaving the cinema in tears, wailing "He did it for me!"

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have not actually seen the flick. My opinions regarding the film are based on what I have read about it and what I have heard from others. And I have seen other of Gibson's flicks (Braveheart, Lethal Weapon) where the protagonist "virtuously" endures torture.)

Well, the mindset that Gibson reveals with his work is, to me, exemplary of this lunatic faction of so-called Christians. I find it sick that people would enjoy what sounds to me like an elaborate snuff flick. The masochistic idea that it is virtuous to endure torment and suffering twists at my guts, fills me with distaste and revulsion.

But what is even more frightening is the thought that these people, these martyrs for their god, are impatiently awaiting the final Trumpet Call, when they will mete out the vengeance that is their due upon those whom they imagine as their oppressors. Already, we see signs that they believe we are approaching the Day of Judgment.

James D. Adkisson as he appeared to me...
In July, I wrote about the horrible shooting that occurred in Powell, Tennessee, where a demented conservative, Jim D. Adkisson opened fire in a Unitarian Universalist Church. Well, recently, the authorities released the hand-written letter that Adkisson penned as a suicide note and manifesto. Here's some choice quotes:
Don't let the word church mislead you. This isnt a church, it's a cult. They don't even believe in God. They worship the God of Secularizm. [...]
So I thought I'd do something good for this Country. Kill Democrats til the cops kill me. If decent patriotic Americans could vote 3 times in every election we couldn't stem this tide of liberalism that's destroying America. Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them. Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great Nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is Kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather.
I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life aint worth living anymore don't just Kill yourself, do something for your country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.
Tell the cop that killed me that I said "Thanks, I needed that!" -Jim Adkisson
You can read the whole thing here.

Note the tone of suffering, the vehemence. Adkisson, who survived the incident, sees himself as a victim.  A virtuous Christian patriot who endured the slings and arrows cast at him by liberals. But, in what he thought would be his final act, he sought to bring about Judgment Day, to light the fire that will consume the world, calling for "like minded people to do what I've done."

...and as he appeared to himself
As I said at the beginning of this post, humanity is facing a painful, frightening transition. The last thing we need is a sect of aggrieved fanatics chomping at the bit for payback.


Michael Ogden said...

Dade, since I support neither religion nor either of the parties, maybe I'm abusing the intent of your message, but your post reminds me that institutions as we know them, both religious and civil, pathetically and repeatedly resort to fear mongering as a primary way to control their subjects.

Ridwan said...

Interesting post Dade. Lots to chew on.

I'm with Mike when it comes to the role of "fear mongering" and "control".

Christians and Muslims of the far right (and others of course) seem to fixate on pressing fear as the reason for living and believing as they do.

And I think that now is no different than any other time.

The 'saviour complex' with its suffering context is hardly new hey.

What is also new is that life seems to defeat the notion that all else is about to fall unless we believe this or that.

You are right that we need change brother. We can't live as we do now.

But change is more about reason than merely believing.

Even this, the tension between between reason and obdurate faith is hardly new.

Thank you for writing and making me think Dade!


Ridwan said...

Ooops a quick correction of this sentence:

What is also NOT new is that life seems to defeat the notion that all else is about to fall unless we believe this or that.

Peace Dade.


Shus li said...


Your opinions on the end of an era are much different than what I've read here in the past. One does not need to be dismayed by accepting the probability of what awaits this planet. Welcome to Club Doom!

Having said that, and at the risk of sounding evangelical, I would like to introduce here a premise proposed by author Derrick Jensen in his tome "endgame I & II". (I have this if you want to borrow.) The premises can be found in full here

For a daily dose of doom, check out the Life After the Oil Crash website.

So here's that quote from Jensen:

Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves. It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.

Michael Ogden said...

Shus li, thanks for the link- sounds intriguing!