The other thing not to talk about

I think part of the reason I react so strongly to the thought of people supporting President Business is that I have an inkling of what it’s like to be (some of) them, and there’s no one more horrified than a reformed person looking back at those who aren’t. Although I think I can say that the current situation is a pretty big departure from other unfortunate political developments of the recent past, I don’t flatter myself that, had things been different, I mightn’t have voted for The Team.

To explain this to those who haven’t had to make this journey themselves (but, as with this whole blog, mostly for my own mental flossing), I’m going to have to tell quite a long story. As I can’t be bothered to research anything, it’s going to be personal and anecdotal.

In the beginning

My parents were both brought up in a small, fundamentalist denomination which remains obscure and shrinking, except for its founder’s idea of the Rapture, which somehow spread among many other fundamentalist denominations and became rather lucrative. I won’t dwell on all the other theological or practical peculiarities, but there are two that are important here. They are both based on the same tenet: we’re all going to hell. 

So, first, think about what this means for compassion. In a quote often and more often used out of context, Jesus mentioned that poverty won’t go away. So if poverty won’t go away, what should we do with a hungry person? Should we feed them today and just prolong the inevitable? Or should we put all our effort into saving them from an eternity of  misery and torture? Should we spend years befriending convicts, or should we make sure that they’re Saved before they’re out on the streets again? From this perspective, the answer is clear.

Of course, this belief permeates much of evangelical Christianity and is responsible for a hell of a lot (pardon the pun) of good and bad things that people do. The good things, like building hospitals and orphanages, are justified by the hope that the locals will see how nice we are and get Saved. The bad things…well, they include ignoring the majority of Bloom’s taxonomy (not to mention Biblical dictates about aliens and the poor), the concern that damnation begins at conception and (I am proposing) a suspicion that non-believers actually know that they’re wrong, and are too hedonistic to care.

I am associating this last point with the doctrine of hell because I think this might help people to justify why God, who ‘is love’, would allow the eternal suffering of his (using the fundamentalist terminology) children. There are plenty of other explanations floating around, and I think this is an implicit justification rather than explicit. But wouldn’t it help you sleep a little better at night to think that all those people destined for Hades actually believed the same things you did, and were just to immoral to care?

And here, in my theory, is where we get to the Moral Majority. It is also here that we depart from the teachings (although not always the individual practice) of my parents’ childhood church (but don’t call it a church). Because they maintained that, as life is so transient and the world so…worldly…that we shouldn’t bother with politics. Inconsequential waste of time that draws you away from God. This is the long-awaited second point, and at this point I would like to point out that I think this tenet was very valuable in this particular situation. It meant that, even after they left the church (not church), my parents passed on to me the idea that politics and religion were not intrinsically connected–especially as far as political parties were concerned. 

This was at a time when social politics was moving the other way, which is one bit I’m not researching, but as everyone knows politics was slowly being redrawn along religious lines (and the working class somehow convinced that big business would work for them…but anyway). The church (that was a ‘church’) that we attended when I was growing up tended to avoid this kind of thing, but I remember numerous occasions when it crept in from one front or another. And by the time I reached my early teenage years, I let myself fall into the camp that seemed to be the ‘right’ one. Had my family all been waving the flag I’m sure I wold have fallen earlier and deeper.

Oh no, I’m not finished yet! But I am going to bed. Part Two will, I’m sure, be eagerly awaited.

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One Response to “The other thing not to talk about”

  1. Carl Grant Says:

    Eagerly awaiting!

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