This weekend while perusing Facebook I commented on an MSN story and the observation drew more than 270 replies, including one that stated, “Christopher Cudworth you are irrelevant on the world political stage.”
On the surface, that made me chuckle about several aspects of my life. I tried pretty hard to be a national class runner, and succeeded only at the level of a journeyman with no influence on the running scene as a whole. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it at all to train all those miles and achieve what I did. The world relies on all our efforts to experience the fullness of life.
Nor as a writer and artist can I claim to have yet changed the world. But I’m trying.
I’m hoping to do so with the new book I’ve just completed. It is titled “Rescuing Christianity from the Grip of Tradition: What Jesus’ Revolt Against Religious Authority Teaches Us Today.” It is a collaborative project with a Professor of Religion from Luther College, Dr. Richard Simon Hanson. The new book sprang from a gesture by that professor who sent me one of his manuscripts after reading my first book titled The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age (2007.) He liked the message of the book and told me: “If you ever want to write a sequel, you can use all or part of this.” Enclosed was a typewritten copy of a book he’d written titled “Religion From Earth,” that perfectly aligned with the message that there is an organic baseline to all of scripture that enables us to metaphorically resolve all conflicts between ancient truth and modern knowledge.
But the book had other goals as well. The predictions I made about the divisions in culture driven by a combination of authoritarian politics and religious legalism are all coming true. The Genesis Fix examined the roots of racism and its relationship with religious literalism. Then it also warned that the nation is at risk of a new form of Civil War, one built around Red State and Blue State politics. That war would be backfilled by conservative religious desire for power. This is an excerpt from the book:
“The current-day battle between liberals and conservatives carries the same stridency and stubbornness that marked the American Civil War. The difficult question we must face is whether we can anticipate the rise of a new form of “confederacy” in the modern age.
The original, Southern Confederacy stemmed from dissatisfaction with the state of the Union and the future of government. It might seem easy to assume that the Union was 100% on the right side of political issues in the Civil War. But no matter how correct the Union cause might appear in retrospect, the Confederacy was not by definition without virtue. As a political entity it may well have been justified in defending itself against economic and military aggression by the Union. And in spite of the notion that the ideology of the Confederacy was purged through the Civil War, the personal and political freedoms advocated by the South are alive and well today in modern society, woven into the politics of libertarians and other conservatives who contend that the best government is that which governs least. These principles the Confederacy sought to defend, and the sense of pride in defending moral principles has never been lost on the South.
However unfortunate it may have been for the Confederate South to secede, one can admire the determination of the movement as symbolic of the American revolutionary spirit. But there is a dark side as well. It may still be possible that partisan politics will produce an America divided over ideology, geography, oligarchy, or all of the above.
Perhaps the most likely scenario is the formation of a “neo-Confederacy” around “doctrinal states” or politics focused on “Red” and “Blue” states. Proponents on either side of the political fence have begun to see the value of the “winner-take-all” approach. We are not far from a moment in history when battles over doctrinal authority could lead to a new secession in the hands of the “neo-Confederates” and the states they represent.
But there are other issues afoot as well. The next Civil War may be fought not in the fields and forests of America, but in courtrooms where armies of lawyers battle over the rights of corporations to control America’s life and politics. Corporate lobbies and revenue now influence every facet of American life. The largest corporations and the individuals who run them have more money and power than many countries in the world.44 It is not a stretch to say that one cannot become a governor, senator or representative without the backing of corporations. A neo-Confederacy of corporate largess already exists in America, and it is not limited to the Republican side of the political fence. It may not be long before the power vested in corporations becomes a self-fulfilling mandate and America will be forced to choose between its original model of a democratic republic recorded in the Constitution and a new, corporate society that is ruled by companies who run the business of America. Whether we have the courage to resist this takeover of American life is a question for our age.
Corporate largesse has a close relationship with the power of doctrinal politics. Any government owned and run by business will obviously favor the interests of business over that of individuals. When religion adds to the clout of corporate government by giving its stamp of approval to something so profound, powerful and self-fulfilling as the military-industrial society, then a nation has lost its grip on democracy and turned itself over to commerce as rule of law.
Part of the reason doctrinal politics, economic aggression and triumphal religious language make such a potent combination is that all three appeal to a sense of personal pride.”
That’s where we are today: trapped in a wicked cycle of transactional governance run by greed and self-interest. It is tied together with the populist racism infecting all of society, and favored by the fascist instincts of fearful rulers such as Mitch McConnell.
So we’re all in a position where every single thing we do can have impact on the world stage. And it is time to resist these evils with all our might.
So that miserable little troll trying to insult me on Facebook is dead wrong. So is Mark Zuckerberg for trying to ignore the disinformation coming from the Trump administration.
And just as it matters whether we form our character by doing hard things like endurance sports, it matters whether we do hard things like stand up to bullies on the Internet and at the top of all the government. These are hard times and that calls for hard decisions on all our part. Some will run and hide, as our President did last night by turning out the lights at the White House and hiding in the bunker of his self-absorption.
But we cannot let that burrowing, conspiratorial mole and his legion of shallow gravediggers triumph on the national or world stage. Some of us, when called to action, choose to run toward trouble. I know you have it in you as well. Do not run away. Run over the tarsnakes of false information and lies being used to gaslight this nation and the world into submission.
These are critical times. Be critically committed to the cause of social justice in this world. It is both politically and religiously honest to do so.