A portion of American Christianity is:
- White supremacy
- Worshiping wealth (prosperity doctrine)
This is why many evangelicals for Trump view Trump as a savior or “blessed by God.”
They don’t actually worship Jesus, and instead worship the above five as “god,” so Trump who embodies all five, is seen as “blessed” and “sent by God.” If you want to read more about this, a friend of mine mentioned how Richard Rohr writes about this phenomenon as well.
Yes, of course, not all Christianity in America has substituted the above five for Jesus. (Progressive Christians fight to dismantle the harm done by the above five).
However, those in positions of power? Those on the far-right side of the political spectrum? Many of them have done so, and the immense harm it has done to entire communities is a deep wound on all of us. Only by acknowledging what the problem is can we ask the right questions on how to heal and repair.
To repair this, we will have to dismantle the stranglehold the five items above have on all of us.
Capitalism has caused all of the problems in our world that we face today. (Even dictatorships in specific countries are still often capitalist in nature — with few rare exceptions.) So what are these problems of Capitalism?
Here’s a short list (only tip of the iceberg):
- Climate change,
- income inequality, wealth inequality,
- lack of clean water,
- growing number of people in poverty — a paycheck away from losing access to food or clean water or shelter or healthcare access,
- bank crisis,
- housing crisis,
- student loan debt,
- exploitation of workers,
- food deserts,
- for-profit prisons that engage in slavery-like conditions,
- school-to-prison pipeline,
- military-industrial complex,
- endless war (especially in areas rich with fossil fuels),
- oil spills,
- wealth concentrated in the top 1%,
- police brutality,
- lack of accessible places,
- treating entire populations as disposable (due to not being seen as productive by capitalism or too much “surplus workers” that capitalism doesn’t need),
- school shootings,
- hate crimes, etc…
All of the above issues I mentioned? Capitalism, white supremacy, and imperialism are the root causes of these problems. Some people tend to berate socialism, except rarely do these same people acknowledge the immense harm capitalism, white supremacy, and imperialism has caused our world and communities.
So reframe these discussions. Acknowledge the harms done, and seek a way to repair it. How do we repair what Capitalism, White supremacy, and imperialism have done to our planet and our communities?
How do we repair our relationships with each other after being conditioned with prosperity doctrines, capitalistic individualism, anti-unionism, racist ideology, transphobic ideology, etc? How do we dismantle these ideologies and replace it with equitable, equal, more loving, more sustainable, more supportive ideologies that uplift each other as a community in collective solidarity?
How do we envision collective solidarity?
How do we work to repair our world?
I don’t have good answers to the above questions. However, I did listen to a sermon about power dynamics today, and it got me thinking about an essay I read recently.
I’ll quote from an essay in the anthology Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up — “Some thoughts on White Supremacy and Jesus as Bread and Circuses” by Thandisizwe Chimurenga. Discussion on how the prosperity doctrine harms poor people (point 4 in the corruption of certain segments of American Christianity):
“During enslavement, church services held under the watchful eyes of white masters and overseers served as covert planning meetings for freedom. The modern civil rights movement in the US was nurtured in the Black church. As non-violence gave way to Black Power during the late 1960s in the U.S., Black Liberation theology appeared as a necessary corollary. But then something happened. Under the air of conservatism that began creeping over the United States after the destruction of the Black Power/Black Liberation Movement, the Black church began to change its tune also. A strategy for confronting the rules of society was replaced with a prosperity gospel. Individuals are supposed to have wealth. Jesus was wealthy; he simply chose to reject it. Almighty God ordained that everyone should have wealth. This wealth was not being denied to Black people, in particular, because of government policies or racism. Black progress and success was individual. (It was also promised in the Bible.) The focus of the Black church’s sermons was shifted. Pharoah had been let off the hook.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar describes this prosperity gospel as a war on the poor, noting that its adherents are typically ‘African Americans, evangelicals, and those less educated.’ Parishioners who subscribe to a prosperity gospel are people who are hoping on something better. Unfortunately, in the words of Abdul-Jabbar, they are being sold hope from descendants of snake oil peddlers. The rise of the prosperity gospel coincides with Republican faith-based efforts at directing domestic policy in the U.S. “
What does this mean? Prosperity doctrine detooths the liberation movement and fills it with falsehoods. Jesus was never wealthy, having come from poorer folks and a carpenter in a smaller village. The Bible doesn’t ordain that we all be wealthy — this is a new idea that came up with the advent of Capitalism.
No, this doctrine was a way to keep the poor in line so that they don’t rise up. The color line that separates Black poor from White poor wasn’t enough — as there was more and more White poor starting to side with Black poor in efforts to end poverty and oppression. So then Christianity was used as a weapon by those in power to cements the White supremacy capitalist imperialist colonialist patriarchy in place further. The color line was re-emphasized and this prosperity doctrine peddled to destroy the Liberation Theology Movement in churches.
How can we work to repair that?
“George Jackson, revolutionary, author, and Field Marshall of the Black Panther Party, put forth a simple question: ‘Prestige bars any serious attack on power. Do people attack a thing they consider with aw, with a sense of its legitimacy?’ Jackson posed this query in 1971. An affirmative corollary to Jackson’s query was put forth by another imprisoned revolutionary and writer James “Yaki” Sayles (a.k.a. Atiba Shanna) in 1980: ‘To kill the prestige of the oppressive state, is, first of all, to kill the image of its legitimacy in the minds of the people … there is a need to destroy within the minds of the people the sense of awe in which they hold the oppressive state.’
The U.S. is an illegitimate settler-colonial state. Its prestige must be destroyed. Fortunately, the legitimacy of the U.S. as a moral and democratic beacon continues to be chipped away. The rise of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon under a Barack Obama presidential administration provided a necessary blow. The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president has also landed a most potent blow. There will be more deliberate distractions, more bread and circuses, to distract the Black body politic. These distractions will also target white workers and the white poor, as well as other people of color, immigrants, etc. Our task is to see them for what they are, and work harder to bring into fruition a society where all those who live are secure, are cared for, have their basic needs met, and control the forces that impact their daily lives. It is a monumental task. But it absolutely must be done.”
Here, Chimurenga offers a way to repair the damage done by the prosperity doctrine. Show it to be illegitimate, dismantle/destroy its prestige and awe in the minds of the people, see how it is a distraction from the real goal of liberation, and work in solidarity with others toward the real goal of liberation.
But to do that, we first must acknowledge its harm to us. Acknowledgement of the harm helps us understand ways to implement healing and repair within our communities. To restore the Liberation Theology that may help us liberate All Of Us.
I wrote a review about a book I read a year or so ago called Inventing the Future, which digs into ways to build a society that does liberate All of Us. You can read that here, though I invite you to read these books yourself!
What are your thoughts? How can we work to repair our communities? To continue the work of liberation?