The God of the Religious Right a Divine Fraud?

Whenever there has been a tragedy or natural disaster which affects people of color especially, but others as well, I have held my breath, waiting for the Religious Right to give its pronouncement on why said disaster or tragedy happened. When Hurricane Katrina hit, some religious fundamentalists said the storm was the wrath of God, who was displeased with the lifestyle of people in New Orleans and in this country in general; some said the God’s wrath had come because of abortion and homosexuality.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, killing more than 100,000 people, Pat Robertson said it had come from God as retribution, because the Haitian people had “made a pact with the devil” when they fought the French for their freedom in 1804, and won. When the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, the religious right said it was a judgement from God who was angry that “America had turned its back on God.” Alabama Judge Roy Moore and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson said the shooter had killed little children because of abortion and the tolerance of gay marriage.

The recent shooting in Las Vegas happened, said the religious right, because America is a wicked nation. (http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/dave-daubenmire-vegas-shooting-was-the-wrath-of-god-being-revealed-on-a-wicked-nation/ )

Strangely, the religious right sees evil and wickedness in homosexuality and in the fact that abortion is legal, but their God sees nothing wrong with sexism and racism. Their God has been silent through the years as white supremacy has wreaked havoc on the lives of innocent people because of their race, their ethnicity, their religion and their sex and sexual preference.

Wealthy white people, including men who have molested children, never get “the pronouncement.” I have never heard anyone from the Right say that God has been displeased with what members of the white elite have done over time.

While before this president, accusations of acts of sexual impropriety would have been the end for any political run, the religious Right is actually urging support of him, lifting up the Christian principles of love and forgiveness, as reasons to give him a pass. Conservatives are saying that what the president said about Haiti, El Salvador and many African nations was true and that he should be defended. (https://www.advocate.com/media/2018/1/12/right-wing-pundits-defend-trumps-shithole-countries-remark )

They have been virtually silent about the wildfires, excessive rain and mudslides in an affluent part of California; I have heard no statement about the suffering of those people happening because of America being a wicked nation.

The god of the religious Right is an elite deity. Their god causes people to suffer for only the things the Right have deemed to be wrong; their god is a god of culture, not needing for people to be “righteous,” i.e.. “in right relationship with God.” Their god has allowed injustice to be meted out to black people for literally generations; their god has sanctioned lynching and the lack of “due process” for people of color. Their god allows horrific poverty in this, the most wealthy nation in the world. Their god has allowed domestic terrorism in this country, while allowing them to denounce foreign terrorism. Their god thinks nothing of the effort now to deport illegal immigrants, destroying their families like phenomenon of slavery allowed and in fact pushed during that period of time. Their god apparently does not think that poverty caused by unjust economic policies is a bad thing; their god thinks that the sexual harassment of women is acceptable.

Their god has celebrated the “rightness” of white supremacy. It is said that when the very racist film The Birth of  Nation  came out that President Woodrow Wilson said watching it was a “religious experience.” Their god apparently turns his head (and I am sure their god is only masculine) on racial violence; their god allowed police officers to pick up the known white assassin of innocent people shot in a church in South Carolina without incident, though they knew he was armed and had been the lone shooter in that massacred, and take him to get something to eat at a Burger King before taking him in to be processed for his crime. This is the same god that apparently thinks it’s ok for police officers to gun down innocent and unarmed black youth like Tamir Rice and Ty’re King.

It is only abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage that their god is concerned about. Their god is fully all right with racism and sexism and any violence that comes with those “isms.”

Who is this god?  It is a god of an elite few. It is a god who I, for one, cannot and do not respect. This god seems to be a fraud, a cultural but not biblical deity which exists to support bias, bigotry, hatred and racial violence. This god is not my god, nor is it the god of the masses. It cannot be, not according to the God we have learned about in the Bible.

A candid observation …

Whose God is the God of the Evangelicals?

I am sick. Not because Donald Trump is leading the pack of GOP candidates, but because he has such a large following, presumably including a large swath of “white evangelicals.”

I am sick because white religion has always seemed estranged from the Gospel that I read, and I am sick because it is those religious people who are crying out for the America that “used to be.”

Why do I say they have seemed estranged? Because it has been white evangelicals who, historically, have supported white supremacy. They have not fought for justice for black people; they have, instead, supported policies that kept black people marginalized. They have fought to keep black people confined to the lowest economic rungs of this economy. They fought to keep segregated schools; they fought to suppress the right to vote from blacks, and in fact, worked hard to keep them from voting. They required that black people defer to them; they would not support laws that prevented lynching (an anti-lynching bill has never been passed in this nation.) They have supported mass incarceration. And yet, they worship the God who had a son named Jesus, who required believers to do good “to the least of these.”

Ironically, many white evangelicals have pooh-poohed the idea that they have treated black people poorly. They point to the fact that there is welfare to help the poor (though they want to eliminate welfare and say that black people are lazy, completely ignoring that it has been white people who created policies and practices that kept black people from securing gainful employment.) As a sort of the sick reasoning that had white slaveholders saying that slavery was “good” for black people, the economic policies of today, which keep black and poor people in debt represent a sort of extension of that mindset, and are looked upon as “gifts” to a people who many religious white people think are dumber and less capable than white people.

They are opposed to diversity; I read a story that said that many white people believe diversity is genocide directed against white people. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/01/12/racists-struggling-raise-money-white-genocide-billboard) They seem not to care about the abject condition of urban schools; they seem not to care much about the fact that so many black, brown and poor people cannot make a living wage.

And they, they go to church and say they believe in Jesus.

They are supporting Donald Trump because they want the country to be like it was: openly racist, a place where whites could stomp on the lives, the rights, and the dignity of black people with little pushback. They want the country back that relegated black people to the lowest rungs of life, even as they squeezed labor out of them for the most paltry of wages. Many of them believe that God intended for this country to be “the white man’s country,” and they worked to support and spread segregation. (See Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975, by Carolyn Renee Dupont, p. 92)

There are too many people of color in this country now, they believe; there are too many changes going on, and white evangelicals are afraid and resentful. White evangelicals resent the granting of rights to members of the LGBTQ community, and they are outraged that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. They likewise revolted when the United States Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, and ordered that public schools be integrated. Many municipalities closed their public schools rather than integrated. But the changes …they are troubling to white evangelicals who believed they knew and know what God wants. That’s why they don’t care that Donald Trump really isn’t “religious.” They don’t care that he knows so little about the Bible that he can say “two Corinthians,” belying his ignorance of the Bible. They don’t care that he said he has never asked God for forgiveness, when forgiveness is a central tenet of Christian belief. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/)

In the 60s, white evangelicals in the South fought those who worked for civil rights, be they white or black. In Mississippi,  white evangelical Christians “arrested local activists, stalled voter registration, intimidated black citizens by bombing their homes and churches.” (Mississippi Praying, p. 183) White ministers who tried to support the efforts of blacks to gain basic human rights were called out …by the evangelicals …who said those ministers were not ministers but were outside agitators…”

The history of white evangelicals when it comes to granting dignity and equity to black people simply has not been good.

And now, many of them are Islamophobic; they support the building of a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out; they believe in the rightness of mass incarceration and are dismayed that their “values” are being trounced over.

Who needs values like that, values that demean and diminish the right of all of God’s people to live with dignity? And whose God do they worship? Whose God allows such hatred and such a capacity to marginalize fellow human beings? The Rev. CT Vivian, of whom I am writing an authorized biography, posed that question in a sermon he preached. “Whose God is God?” he asks. I now understand why he asked it..

It doesn’t matter much that Donald Trump is as he is; it is troubling that people who purport to read the same Bible as do I, who talk about the “love of the Lord Jesus” are so capable of doling out that love as they wish, leaving the apparent will of God behind.

Or so it seems.

A candid observation…

The Reality of Two Gods, One Black, One White

I have long been troubled by the way white and black people interpret the same Bible. There is one Bible, one God, one Jesus …and yet white and black people interpret that book in entirely different ways.

Charles Marsh writes, in his book God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights,: “Of the images coming in the civil rights movement, none seems more replete with contradiction than that of white mainline Protestantism. In most cases, the Southern white Protestant adheres to an evangelical belief, the heart of which is the confession of a “personal Lord and Savior,” who has atoned for the sins of humanity. Yet in most cases, the confession remains disconnected from race relations …” (p. 6)  He further writes that “in the final analysis, concern for black suffering has nothing to do with following Jesus.”

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was a fixture in the Civil Rights Movement, said outright, “You cannot be racist and be Christian!”, something which I firmly believe. But for white people, that proclamation would draw sharp criticism. Writes Marsh, “If people took seriously their identities as Christians, they had no choice but to also give up the practices of white supremacy – and not only white supremacy, but also class privilege, resentment, the concession to violence, anything that kept one from sacrificing all for the beloved community…”

White people, for the most part, seem uninterested in having, helping form, or living in …a beloved community.

The so-called “attack on Christianity” is coming primarily from white Christians who, while they hate abortion and gay rights, including gay marriage, ignore the reality of racism and white supremacy. They seem incapable of feeling even a modicum of the outrage they feel about aborted violence for the already alive black children living in abject poverty and living on the outskirts of society. They seem disinterested in the fact that already alive children suffer horribly in this nation, from bad schools to inadequate health care. They seem all too willing to blame the children for their lot in life.

And yet they call themselves Christian.

Marsh writes that “white Christian conservatives …(remain) largely indifferent to black suffering, preoccupied instead with evangelism and church growth, and with personal vices like drinking, dancing and heavy petting.” In their religious practice, God, and God’s son Jesus, is all right with their blatant disregard for the plight of people of color.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on the presence of God for his work in the Civil Rights Movement, white supremacists called upon that same God to justify their actions. Sam Bowers, head of the Ku Klux Klan, saw as his godly mission the need to slaughter black people and those whites who worked for civil rights for black people. In his mind, those who worked for freedom and justice for black people had betrayed the Lord Jesus.  He wrote and posted publicly a manifesto that said outright that “if you are a Christian, American Anglo Saxon, who can understand” the practices of trying to purge the religion and the country of black and brown people, Catholics and Jews, then “you belong in the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.”  He was dedicated to ridding his beloved America of the impostors who, in his mind, were an affront to God – who, we might assume if we read the scriptures, created us all.

The issue and the problem of this “two-God dilemma” of the United States is that it creates a group of people who are as religiously fanatic in their religious and ideological beliefs as are the hated Islamic radicals. They, too, think they are on assignment from God to destroy Americans. If and when God is in the center of a fight, it is hard to stop that fight before it does irreparable harm.

Of course, having God at the center of a fight can bring about good, too. Ironically, the same zeal that fuels hatred in the name of God fuels the desire for justice and mercy …in the name of God. The results of the Civil Rights Movement is testament to that fact.

Donald Trump is feeding into the “white God” group, a group which is adamant about there being an attack on Christianity, even as they attack radical Islam. It feels like a bomb ready to detonate. The white God, they would say, is on their side, while radical Islamists would say Allah is on their side.

The question for me is and has been for some time, “Why doesn’t the one God step in and stop this foolishness? God’s silence and inaction in shutting down forces of evil and hatred have perplexed me for the longest time. The other issue is, though, that the presence in this country of there being “two Gods, one black, one white” means that racism will never end. The religious fervor which uses God to justify racism and white supremacy is not about to wane. The white God is a God of Empire; the black God is a God of liberation …and those two Gods are never going to meet in the middle and merge into one.

That being the case, I don’t exactly know how we as a nation move forward. White Christians turn a deaf ear and a hardened heart toward the masses of black people who suffer because of white supremacy, while they wage war about the plight og unborn fetuses. Black lives do not matter to them, and really, never have.

And that is a troubling reality.

A candid observation …