Monday, July 13, 2020

Religious signs without religious meaning. . .

There are religious overtones to the recent protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder that are not easy to talk about.  I am not the first to point his out and I am sure I will not be the last.  But it is a troubling view of the relationship between religion and politics, church and state, faith and the public life.  On the one hand, there are those who have taken up an adversarial relationship against certain religion.  There is no doubt, for example, that the particular rules laid upon churches restricting their assembly but relieved of those who wish to protest is a sign and mark of this disdain for religion.  I wrote before of Governor Cuomo's proud statement that God did not beat back the COVID menace but people did (translation he did).  Yet at the same time, the kinship of some with the protests and protesters has the mark of religion all over it.

Reading from Matt Taibbi (someone with Rolling Stone press credentials):
“Each passing day sees more scenes that recall something closer to cult religion than politics. White protesters in Floyd’s Houston hometown kneeling and praying to black residents for “forgiveness… for years and years of racism” are one thing, but what are we to make of white police in Cary, North Carolina, kneeling and washing the feet of Black pastors? What about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling while dressed in “African kente cloth scarves”?
There is symbolism here that goes beyond frustration with police or even with racism: these are orgiastic, quasi-religious, and most of all, deeply weird scenes, and the press is too paralyzed to wonder at it. In a business where the first job requirement was once the willingness to ask tough questions, we’ve become afraid to ask obvious ones.”
The issue here is not the persecution of religion but the hijacking of religion for political purpose.  Pelosi the nominal Roman Catholic and Schumer the nominal Jew seem to have little affection for the doctrine and piety of their faiths except to claim that they are in good standing even when they offend those faiths with their practice or politics.  Neither of them is about to change their politics for the sake of religion but politicians are more likely to use the faith for political purposes.  Yet even this is not quite the same as what we have seen in the protests.

The danger to religion is not so much that it will become captive to politics but that it will cease to mean much of anything.  When those outside the faith and those on the fringes of that faith use religious symbols for political purpose, they do more than offend.  They weaken those symbols so that they become meaningless.  While some might celebrate that the courts allow nativity scenes, when that permission comes at the expense of what that symbol means, nothing is gained and everything is lost.  This is also true when political scenes take on religious signs and symbols.  The politics gain is religion's loss.  In the end it is more than weird but worrisome.  We should be noticing and, more than that, we should be objecting.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

I feel that all of the points you listed, everyone of them true, point to a dark future for the church in the years to come. I say this with a broken heart. My own LCMS church, the one I have been attending for about 5 years, recently emailed us the Covid era guidelines for the new draconian rules for phasing in church worship services this month. Sunday services are not on the table, only a Thursday evening service. Most services will continue to be video ones. The new rules mean a New and regressive style of worship. No singing of hymns. Communion will be given in a cup, which the masked congregant brings back to your pew, removes the mask, consumes the host. So you might say it is more like a buffet style event. 2 people per pew, two pews apart. No fellowship after or before the service. After the service you are to go directly to the parking lot, get into your car and leave, oh, did I forget to say you need reservations to come to the house of God under this arrangement, and the notice bluntly declares "first come, first served." If this is worship, I refuse to go. I will not go. I will not return until things are normal, and if they are never going to be normal, than I will just follow the video service until an "underground" church finally gets started. Underground churches, where the few brethren and sisters gather, are found in hidden places throughout China, Vietnam, in Muslim countries, wherever Christians face persecution and suppression. Let it be so. Let my mind accept it if it is the only option to practice my faith. As our beloved nation continues to slip toward socialist tyranny, perhaps we all might have to meet together in an underground church somewhere. Soli Deo Gloria.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Having said the above, I should point out that I remain in my local Lutheran church, and support it financially. The church did not cause the problem, it has been directed by government to impose these rules. But the idea of someday seeing "underground churches" in America, especially if the restrictions continue for an extended time, may become a reality. This I believe is not far fetched, nor unlikely in the future. Soli Deo Gloria.