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An Artificial and Disenchanted World

December 26, 2019

The very small fire set by Christianity Today‘s anti-Trump editorial spreads to the Christian Post, where political editor Napp Nazworth resigns when his website chooses to attack Christianity Today. The Washington Post reports:

Nazworth, who has been critical of Trump and suggested leaders who supported him have “traded their moral authority,” said he doesn’t know what he will do next.

“I said, if you post this, you’re saying, you’re now on team Trump,” he said. He said he was told that’s what the news outlet wanted to do.

“I’m just shocked that they would go this path,” he said, adding that even though he felt “forced” to make the decision to quit, the parting was a mutual agreement between him and the outlet.

Religious studies professor J. Kameron Carter at Religion News Service examines the whiteness at the center of the evangelical internecine struggle over Trump:

It is this anxiety about evangelicalism’s future, woven together with an anxiety over the American project, that the purely political commentary has left unaddressed. Let’s call this anxiety “the melancholy of whiteness,” or whiteness losing itself and violently trying to save itself, or the effort to “make America great again.” This must all be understood within the long history of an unspeakable whiteness: whiteness as American religion and American religion as American culture. We are in a crisis of the religion of whiteness. …

… Trump renders naked the ongoing solidarity of settler power, the incorporating yet exclusionary “We” that has always been at the heart of the nation. The exposure of that nakedness has now incited more white melancholy and, at least for some white folks, has caused a certain embarrassment.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones writes about the research (mentioned in the last Heresy) showing how white evangelicals think the atheists are out to get them:

… it’s impossible to understand evangelicals and their support for Donald Trump without first understanding just how frightened they are of the steady liberal march toward secular hegemony. They consider the aughts and teens to have been a nearly complete disaster, capped by the 2015 Supreme Court ruling forcing states to recognize gay marriage. Many prominent evangelical leaders literally gave up after that, and the ones that didn’t had little hope for the future.

Then, suddenly, Donald Trump showed up and promised them everything they wanted. In short order he became their Joan of Arc, rallying them back to a fight he assured them they could win as long as he was on their side. And rhetorically, at least, he delivered. The fight was back on.

Tyler Broker at Above the Law compares evangelical complaints about imaginary infringements of their religious liberty to the way atheists’ calls for equal treatment are callously dismissed, as with our lawsuit for Secular Celebrants in Texas:

Those advocating for secular celebrants in Texas are not trying to prevent Christian celebrants from being something that exists. Rather, they are simply asking that those couples who desire to have someone who shares their beliefs and values to be able to perform their marriage. As the Center for Inquiry’s vice president and counsel Nick Little puts it: “All we want is for our celebrants to be allowed to serve our community, without lying and pretending to follow a religion they do not believe in.” The fact one of our most populous states would deny nonbelievers the ability to perform this service, that attorneys would fight to maintain this denial, and that a federal judge would uphold it, should be enough to settle the debate about who is really under legal threat.”

In China, meanwhile, actual persecution is wrought upon Christians. The LA Times reports:

Li Chengju glared at her prison interrogator as he pressed her to renounce her Christian church and condemn her pastor. [. . .] Li still refused to sign the document disowning her church. “I’m a citizen who has faith,” she told the interrogator. “God knows everything you are doing and he will judge you one day.” …

… Fenggang Yang, founding director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, predicts that by 2030 China will have more Christians than any other country. …

“Since Xi took power, militant atheism has prevailed in China,” Yang said, contrasting that approach to the “enlightenment atheism” of previous Chinese leaders. “Enlightened atheism emphasized sympathy and education,” he said. “Militant atheism wants to control by political force.”

Veering back to the question of who gets to solemnize marriages, Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would allow federal judges from outside New York to officiate marriages in the state. Why? Because they are Trumpian. NYT reports:

“I cannot in good conscience support legislation that would authorize such actions by federal judges who are appointed by this federal administration,” he wrote. “President Trump does not embody who we are as New Yorkers.” …

… he said the cornerstones of New York were “diversity, tolerance and inclusion,” and he was adamant enough about his decision that he announced it twice: “Based on these reasons, I must veto this bill,” he wrote, then repeated himself: “Based on these reasons, I must veto this bill.”

According to a recent investigation, only two of New York City’s 28 Orthodox yeshivas are meeting basic educational standards (to say the least), and Bill de Blasio, no longer trying to scare me from the presidential debate stage, seems rather skittish about doing anything about it. Politico reports:

“These are not poorly performing schools. In fact, they are not schools at all,” said Naftuli Moster, leader of the group Young Advocates for Fair Education, which brought a complaint alleging that a group of Hasidic yeshivas was failing to teach students math, English and other secular subjects.

The schools failed to meet standards despite getting a heads up about inspections and, he alleged, faking lessons in an effort to pass muster.

Politico reports on disillusionment about Vladimir Putin from Russian Orthodox Christians, the very people Putin seemed to so good at pandering to:

Not only did Orthodox Christians make up a significant number of the scores of protesters who took to the streets in pro-democracy protests across Russia this year; many of them openly cited their faith as grounds for taking action.

The harsh crackdown on demonstrators in Moscow — where opposition politicians were barred from running in city elections, sparking mass unrest — was a turning point for many.

Kayla Epstein at the Post looks at the array of “abortion-reversal” policies being pushed by antiabortion zealots:

The halted study [on abortion reversal treatments] illustrated the dangers of antiabortion laws that are pushing women toward disinformation and unproven treatments, said Mitchell D. Creinin, an OB/GYN at the University of California at Davis Health [. . .] By passing these abortion reversal laws, “states are encouraging women to participate in an unmonitored experiment,” Creinin said. …

… The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists firmly states that “claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards” and say the purported studies that underpin these antiabortion arguments lack scientific rigor and ethics.

Despite this, the claims made in these discredited studies have worked their way to antiabortion lawmakers, who in turn have put them into abortion reversal legislation that was signed by governors in North Dakota, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The laws are currently blocked or enjoined in Oklahoma and North Dakota.

Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska proclaims that Christmas is “a time for us to celebrate and give thanks for God’s gift of Jesus Christ.” Which would be fine if he didn’t have that “Gov.” thing at the beginning of his name and hadn’t written it on an official document with a big “STATE OF NEBRASKA” header at the top.

Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia gets in trouble for saying that someone undergoing assisted suicide shouldn’t be left to die alone. “To accompany and hold the hand of the dying, I believe, is a great responsibility that every believer must promote.” Shocking, I know.

Keith Stanglin at The Federalist (I know, I know, just stay with me) explains how traffic jams lead to atheism. What?

Sitting in traffic must be one of the most self-consciously soul-destroying activities common to modern man. Think about it. Some activities are soul-crushing over time, but because they bring temporary distraction and pleasure, the agent may not be fully aware of the harmful effects.

For example, the person who spends seven hours a day looking at screens for entertainment is probably unaware he is becoming less human each day, but he is at least having a good time doing it. On the other hand, some activities are difficult or seem like a waste of time, but you trust they are leading to a good end. I do hate jogging, but I am confident I’m healthier for doing it.

But sitting in traffic is not like these things. Unlike other difficult but rewarding necessities of life, it is hard to see the redeeming quality of a journey that takes twice as long as it should. And no one has ever been deceived by the amusement or indulgence of traffic. Everyone is fully aware that something bad is happening here, even if we don’t reflect on just how bad it is.

Okay, Keith. Make your case:

Despite all the good automobiles have brought to the world, they have also come with many drawbacks and some unmitigated evils: Removal from nature into an artificial and disenchanted world, frustration, anger, loneliness, a sense of lost and wasted time, depression, stress, actual danger, and bad radio — and these are all part of contemporary life without traffic! Traffic just palpably worsens them. In the midst of the traffic jam, it can be hard to see the beauty of creation and of its Creator.

My verdict: Yes, traffic is soul-destroying, but does not lead to atheism, just existential despair. These are not the same things. (Of course, I work from my home, so I have no commute, and yet my existential despair still knows no bounds, so what do I know?)


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