Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sometimes, "I forgive you" is evangelical-speak for "____ you!"

There is an oft noted truism that combining religion and politics tends to corrupt both. This is especially true with secular evangelicalism, which is the product of the conservative movement's decades long effort to reshape the evangelical movement into an effective political tool.

When it comes to Bible-thumpers, I was born and raised in that particular briar patch. I spent all of my formative years arguing theology, science, and social issues with Baptist and members of even more fundamentalist denominations. We agreed on very little but I always had a degree of respect for at least certain aspects of their philosophy and approach to life.

With the secular evangelicals (the currently dominant wing of the movement that focuses on the Republican agenda and has largely abandoned truly religious concerns), that is no longer the case. The admirable tendencies (spirituality, charity, and the desire to study and understand their sacred texts) have largely been gutted while the worst (intolerance, presumed superiority, and a strong tendency toward persecution complexes) have been amplified.

Those feelings of persecution are an essential part of this story. If you haven't grown up around evangelicals it is difficult to understand how deeply this runs. Stories of martyrdom resonate deeply, conspiracy theories about government plots are common, and, even with the most overwhelming of majorities, evangelicals often tend to think of themselves as a discriminated against minority.

When challenged and especially when losing an argument, these feelings often express themselves with a patronizing "I forgive you" or "God forgives you" (both are basically interchangeable). The implication is always that you are being sinfully unfair to one of God's favorites.

Which takes us to this recent news story from Minnesota:
Minnesota Rep. Abigail Whelan, a second-term House legislator from suburban Ramsey, was responding to a question from Democratic Rep. Paul Thissen early Wednesday morning about whether she thinks “benefiting people who are hiding money in Liberia is worth raising taxes on your own constituents.”

Whelan ignored the question and instead sounded off about her religion.

“It might be because it’s late and I’m really tired, but I’m going to take this opportunity to share with the body something I have been grappling with over the past several months, and that is, the games that we play here,” she began, leaving the tax haven discussion in the dust. “I just want you to know, Representative Thissen and the [Democratic] caucus — I forgive you, it is okay, because I have an eternal perspective about this.”


“I have an eternal perspective and I want to share that with you and the people listening at home that at the end of the day, when we try to reach an agreement with divided government we win some, we lose some, nobody is really happy, but you know what, happiness and circumstances — not what it’s about,” she continued. “There is actual joy to be found in Jesus Christ, Jesus loves you all. If you would like to get to know him, you’re listening at home, here in this room, please email, call me, would love to talk to you about Jesus, he is the hope of this state and this country.”
Based on the news accounts, this seems to be a bizarre non sequitur in the debate, but for those of us from the Bible Belt, the behavior seems completely in character for a secular evangelical. Since she was facing opposition, she felt persecuted and instinctively fell back up on a trusted defense.

It is also worth noting that she invoked the name of Jesus in defense of a position that was not only entirely secular, but which seems in direct contradiction to Christ's clearly stated position on taxation. At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, when the conservative position was in opposition to the Gospels, she rejected the biblical one then suggested that those who disagreed with her were not Christian.

1 comment:

  1. How about that? A moneychanger that could be thrown out of the temple sees this as a sign of redemption, not condemnation.