The Danger Of Full Solar Spirituality

I’ve been doing some reading of late, and I’m seeing a number of convergent messages. Recently, Mary Trump, the niece of Donald Trump, published her memoir Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man that was revealing of the family structures in the immediate Trump family that shaped Donald Trump. One of the biggest takeaways for me was how Donald Trump learned throughout his life that displaying any weakness, admitting any suffering or displaying any negativity, led to terrible results, and was punished by his father. Conversely, displaying positivity, even in denial of all evidence, was rewarded. This really resonated as I had recently read Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted A Faith and Fractured A Nation by Kristen Kobes Du Mez, that chronicled a rising trend in white evangelicalism to a “macho” vision of masculinity and faith that was encapsulated in characters commonly portrayed by the likes of John Wayne and Mel Gibson. Du Mez also referenced the works by Jeff Sharlet that have recently been catapulted to fame by the Netflix series The Family. These two books, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, may be a bit dated but they reinforce the trends Du Mez outlined and which led to widespread support among white evangelicals for the Trump presidency.

At the turn of the century, the Christian faith was actually predominately female–the clergy may have been male, but the majority of lay people were female–interestingly, that was also the case the in the first few centuries of Christian faith. In response, a strain of evangelicalism started to push back and argue for a “macho” faith, retconning Jesus to be a “man’s man” not the vision actually found in the gospels: of a Jesus who was preached of compassion and unconditional love, and justice that challenged powers and systems of injustice, and who broken all the gender norms of his day, and was supported by a large number of women who traveled with him and who essentially bankrolled him. Mainstream evangelicalism slowly became more on-board with this message, and targeted the masses; the Fellowship aka the Family targeted the elites–but both strands bought more and more into a version of Christianity that rejected weakness, that emphasized power and privilege and authority. A Christianity that blamed any suffering on the sins of the individual, and which absolved any responsibility of those in power. A Christianity that, in short, prefers to maintain the status quo, and not challenge the systems that maintain and perpetuate injustices.

This peculiar redefinition of Christianity, that deliberately ignores two thousand years of theology, tradition, practices, and lessons, found an encapsulation of its message in Donald Trump–a man who refuses to admit that things are not as they should be, who denies all responsibility for the state of the world, and who is adamantly unable to see to or admit suffering, weakness, or pain. This is why many who have followed this trend were not, in fact, surprised by the swell of support for Trump–the seeds had been planted, the ground was fertile, and he showed up at just the right moment to take advantage of the way the wind was blowing. Many analysts and political scientists were caught off-guard precisely because faith and emotions are often ignored, or dismissed as irrelevant.

The danger I see, as we live in a global pandemic, as the climate continues to worsen, and as the American presidential election nears, is that, far from recanting in the face of Trump’s colossal mismanagement, white evangelicals in the USA are doubling down. This would be troublesome enough if their message only affected the USA–but their message is exported all over the world–and is already far more entrenched in Canada than many would like to believe.

We need to be aware of the dangers of avoiding weakness and of willful positivity. The Christian faith, at its best, advocates for vulnerability as a way to redeem the world. To practice love, to practice justice, to practice hope–to listen to and lift up the marginalized, oppressed, and outcasts. To do this we must be willing to look at suffering and acknowledge it; we must be able to identify the things we did that we shouldn’t have done, and the things we failed to do that we should have done. We must, in short, be willing to see the bad and the good, to hold them in tension, and to adopt a worldview that leaves room for both/and, not either/or dualities.

In her book Learning To Walk In The Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor paints a vision of what that could look like. Of how we can reclaim the dark, recognize that God is with us even in the darkness, and that there are beautiful things along with the terrible things. We need to learn walk in the dark, to venture their voluntarily, and to become familiar with it, so that we can sift out the bad from the good, and so that we can recognize the dark and navigate through it when we are forced to.

May we do so before it is too late. Amen.

Published by Devin Hogg

My name is Devin Hogg. I was born and raised in Carnarvon, Ontario, Canada. I moved to Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2009 for university and lived here ever since. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching TV and movies, going on long walks, swimming, and practicing Chen style Tai Chi. I love to write poetry and blog regularly about topics such as mental health, sci-fi/fantasy series, faith, sexuality, and politics.

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