The traditional image of Jesus and Christianity before it became the favored religion of the Roman slave state was one of peace and generosity to the poor. It was gradually transformed into its opposite beginning with Emperor Constantine, who made it a virtual, if not official, state religion of Rome. An empire that once ruled over vast swaths of the world. The Roman Catholic Church, its official title today, tells you a lot about the co-optation of Christianity to ensure it was taught in a way that did not conflict with the imperial purposes of the Church. ‘State.
This aspect of the relationship of religion to the state remains today in the Western world, in one form or another. A similar but not identical co-optation also occurred with other religions. Here are the words of a popular English Christian song in the 19th century, the first three words being its title:
Forward Christian soldiers, marching as in war
With the cross of Jesus in front
Onward then, you people, join our merry crowd
Mix with ours your voices in a triumphal song
Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the enemy
Advance in battle, see his banners go
Before and after the writing of this hymn, the state apparatus declared certain rival countries demonic, uncivilized or heretical nations suitable for “Christian” purification. Obviously, the old ways and views of Christianity contained the seeds of anti-colonialism and were still taught to some extent and thus posed problems for states pursuing a brutal and immoral imperial policy.
I remember a personal experience I had in the army in 1968. I went to see a Chaplin, a Jesuit as I later learned, about my status as a conscientious objector. He told me that it was my Christian duty to fight for my country in Vietnam and completely compatible with a belief in Jesus. I walked out of his office in horror.
Modern states still seek religious influence for moral justification. In America, Christianity is widely devalued, degraded and taken over in many cases by the ultra-right and today by fascist forces. The hatred of non-whites, immigrants, homosexuals and women has in many cases replaced the concepts of charity and acceptance.
The fascist right needs a moral justification for the policies it wishes to adopt and pursue that are actually morally wrong. Thus, religion is a necessary target for fascist success. What the MAGA movement is trying to do is completely turn the best side of religion and even non-religious moral logic 180 degrees and create a bizarre world in which up is down and evil is good.
Truth be told, governments on the right and left have sought to redefine morality and logic to various extremes for various reasons in the past. While one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill”, it is frequently replaced by propaganda that justifies the extreme depravity of war. Whether offensive warfare justifies such murderous cruelty is often determined by privileged ruling elites or imperial interests and not by those chosen as instruments of death.
While a war launched for the imperial interests of conquest carries with it the right of the invaded country to defend itself (the Ukraine for example), the conflict itself does little to erase the motivations for attacks or of future wars, so we can generally expect more conflicts in the near future. What is not done enough in our own case of fascism and its goals is to challenge the depraved immorality displayed in the right-wing religious arena. Again, citing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, unless he is both removed from power and the authoritarian dictatorship is overthrown, the threat posed remains regardless of the outcome on the spot. of battle.
Counterattack on the religious front?
It seems that, in the interest of not mixing religion with politics, criticism of this view is avoided by those interested in opposing right-wing religious aims. I suggest this is a serious shortcoming and leave the realm of religion to the fascists to separate and control. The same has been done with patriotism, which imperially motivated politicians and especially the right seem to control and define in the eyes of many Americans. We do not now have the initiative and until we do we must fight on the grounds determined by the Fascists, which seems to have been avoided in many, if not all, cases.
To strike back with regard to religious interference in the affairs of the state is both necessary and politically dangerous. The right-wing, Republican propaganda machine is not only big and dangerous, it also enjoys wide support in the news media. It lacks a large enough voice to get the message across on a large enough scale without distortion. A Catch-22 of epic importance in reality.
Made even more difficult by the historic lack of political will in enforcing violations of church/state. Arguments against church/state encroachment may be compelling, but would they ever be heard above the rantings of the religious right/Republican hate machines? Can they be presented in a way that people can grasp their meaning and importance?
Exposing religious hypocrisy
What religious leaders, even those outside the right-wing camp, do not sufficiently appreciate are the dangers to which religious freedoms are exposed under a fascist state. The only way to protect religious freedom is to keep it out of the affairs of state and the laws of the land. When the right laments the decline of organized religion, it offers a poison pill whereby fascist segments of the corporate state, now in the form of the Supreme Court, can now use religious dogma if it suits them. Indeed, this has already happened with the reversal of Roe v. Wade. And has been attempted with religious prisons in states like Florida and other state government capacities.
The question currently becomes, can a predominantly secular movement prevail regarding the overthrow of Roe v. Wade? The midterm elections, which are fast approaching, are essentially a referendum on this decision. It’s too late to do anything else in such a short time. But we must find a way to neutralize the religious right, which has its finger on the door to have a role in government policy. Kansas shows that this approach is possible if managed intelligently and carefully. Fascism itself has things in common with misdirected religious emotions – the most visible is to bestow supreme personality on some fascist leaders and follow them off a cliff if they are asked to jump.
Whether you like it or not
We must open the eyes of the nation to the consequences of authoritarianism and fascism, which will be our destruction, brought about by the pursuit of naked power by sectors of the privileged elites, who have contaminated those they govern by spreading their values depraved/ culture of death. We must not allow the fascist right to define morality. Our spiritual beliefs must be in harmony with science, democracy and economic justice and not negate them. The rantings of the religious right are as dangerous as Trump’s speech. We must be much better at responding to their depravity and not be afraid to develop a strategy to neutralize it.
The overwhelming number of Americans adhere to some level of religious belief. It follows that politics and affairs of state are inherently difficult to separate from religious matters. It also follows that the machinations of the religious right to undermine civil society are a threat we must confront.
Essential: a strategy
A strategy must be developed to more openly and aggressively defend civil society from the reactionary religious arena. Obviously, the right and the fascists will counter that we are attacking religion itself. I think we need to make a compelling case that the separation of church and state is essential to the survival of both!
Are we losing the fight to preserve the separation of Church and State?
Are we losing the fight to preserve the separation of Church and State?
3 – It is still to be decided.
4 – Not yet, but we need better strategies to preserve it.