by Charles S. Garabedian
The great spiritual leaders of our nation, if you can call them that, are deeply concerned about the direction our churches and the nation are taking these days, and they have decided to do something about it. They are going to hold a national committee meeting:
These celebrity religious leaders have named this meeting The Gathering: A National Solemn Assembly of today’s great men and women of God. The planned date for this future gathering is September 21, 2016. The purpose of this meeting is to call the churches and people of our nation to repentance; to the ways of God, and to focus on solving our many national problems.
Of course, it comes as no surprise that the organizers of this event want millions of people across the nation to listen to these celebrity religious leaders and watch their deliberations. After all, what is the point in being a big-time religious celebrity unless one has what the old Soviet communists used to call “a pack of running-dog lackeys” to ravenously lap up every word they have to say and congratulate them profusely for being the great religious leaders they already think—wrongly in my opinion—that they are.
My Christian heart is more than a little cynical about this so-called National Solemn Assembly. I have some strong personal opinions about it, so keep on reading from here to the end of this main blog post.
I am predicting it will be nothing more, in the end, than the usual Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical suspects (and a few token African-American pastors, conservative Catholics, and Protestant Mainliners) engaging in the usual nonsense, which goes something like the following:
Preach the gospel that “The Church and All America Needs to Be Healed.” How do you do that healing? Convince church pastors, deacons, and elders to double-down, triple-down, and quadruple down on pounding Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical right doctrines and the conservative principles and values of the Religious Right into the minds and hearts of all American churchgoers—and especially make sure the Sunday school teachers use them to pound their children to a pulp in their Sunday school classes.
They will preach Great Awakening No. 4 for all of the American people—in hopes that they too will awaken to timeless fundie truths—like say—the ridiculous and widely refuted notion of Biblical Inerrancy. This National Solemn Assembly will no doubt conclude with a national altar call on closed-circuit television. Nothing makes Protestant conservative religious leaders happier than a sappy, 19th century retrovision of just saved masses of rural hillbillies dancing around a revival tent like lunatics; gorging from covered dishes at a dinner-on-the grounds; and breaking out into spontaneous, old-time Southern Gospel sing-alongs.
All “true” Christians will then be urged to go out onto the American landscape and transform our nation in the usual everyday fundie lifeways—by screwing poor people, hungry people, and old people; by putting an end to Obamacare for the poor; by hating people of other religions (Islam in particular); by persecuting and purging the LGBTQ menace from our American shores; and by calling people to return to the traditional holy values that made America great.
You know those traditional and holy values that made America great: grubbing money; hating your disgusting neighbor; craving material goods; spending lots of money you do not have; seeking the highest social status one can attain; keeping up with the Jones family; skipping your daughter’s graduation because work comes first; hating out-of-work people; exchanging God’s grace for Old Testament law; slapping the “niggers” and “wetbacks” into their proper places (Africa and Mexico); waging more foreign wars to grind your children to hamburger meat; bringing that two-headed, brain-dead, incest pregnancy to term; and showing off your expensive new clothes at church on Sunday morning. (The actual list of traditional and holy American values is much longer and just as sad…much, much, much longer and sadder).
Did I forget to say voting Republican is a traditional American value in their eyes? The National Solemn Assembly claims no politics will be involved in their big meeting. Excuse me for not believing them. I seriously doubt it is a mere accident that this meeting will occur within just a few weeks of the fall 2016 Presidential election. Just watch these nonpolitical fundie leaders implicatively praise Donald Trump up one side and down the other as the only hope for our nation—a man after God’s own heart—just like King David—the man anointed by the oil-filled hand of Jesus himself to be the next President of the United States. That is what their ilk said about George W. Bush—and look what happened.
A National Solemn Assembly? Please excuse me while I go puke. God forbid that these blind-as-a-bat religious celebrities might say an honest prayer for God’s leading; take a realistic sociological, psychological, and anthropological look at American problems; identify the true nuts and bolts of those problems (rather than misidentify them or run from them like they usually do); roll up their sleeves; and come up with some workable strategies to actually solve these problems. Then (with the leading of the Holy Spirit and a heart full of real love for Jesus and people) implement these strategies in the field by going to real people with real problems—and meet with them face-to-face wherever they happen to be, regardless of their social positions, cultural contexts, and environmental surroundings.
In reality, these celebrity religious leaders and their followers at this National Solemn Assembly are never going to solve any American problems—and they may make the ones we already have much worse. Here are three good reasons why no problems will get solved:
(1) Their secular subcultures (particularly the rural “redneck” subculture and the Southern Scots-Irish subculture) are so conflated with their faith that they will be unable to separate the two, which will be absolutely necessary for any real problem solving to occur. It is awfully hard to solve problems like race hatred when 15 generations of a white, southern, Christian family have taught its descendants that all African-Americans are “niggers” and God made it so as Ham emerged from Noah’s ark. The Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical secular subcultures are welded together with religion—like two pieces of plywood slathered with Elmer’s glue and bonded tightly. The only thing that will ever separate this kind of unholy bond is Holy water—steaming hot Holy water—mixed with radically changed hearts.
(2) Solving America’s problems will take more than just prayers and supplications alone. Money and the willing hands of God’s servants will be required—great masses of money and willing hands. Steeped in spiritual pride and arrogance from having destroyed the historical Social Gospel Movement, these religious celebrities will be unable to move the large amounts of needed funds (and human hands) away from evangelism pursuits and toward social justice problem solving. After all, America is drowning in sin; Jesus is coming back pissed as Hell about it and looking for vengeance at 10:03 p.m.—and the fundies have a desperate emergency operation underway to save as many people as possible before 10:03 p.m. arrives. Every good fundie knows desperate emergency operations cannot tolerate distractions or interferences by unBiblical nonsense like loving your neighbor as yourself:
Forget about those diseased limbs. Let’m die!!!” Better they suffer mercilessly for 80 years here on Earth than have their souls burn forever in Hell!!!
(3) These so-called religious leaders will need a profound transformation of their own personal hearts from a focus on religious laws, preacher rules, moralism, and “rot docterns” to new Christian hearts that focus on the Christian LOVE that pervades the words of Jesus, his disciples, and the apostles throughout the New Testament. You know—the hard parts of the New Testament message conservative Christians run from like rats abandoning a burning ship. I suspect only the few token Roman Catholic and Mainline Protestant leaders have any real chance of acquiring that transformed heart full of real love for God and their fellow man. The famous Roman Catholic Soup Kitchens are no accident of history. God bless the Roman Catholics of this world for converting their faith into massive action all over the world.
The Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical leaders, who allowed their followers to start ridiculing and despising New Testament LOVE in printed books during the 1980s, will be unable to attain that new heart of LOVE or shepherd their brainwashed flocks toward it. Since the 1980s, they have effectively redefined New Testament LOVE as one thing and one thing only: “preaching the gospel of salvation.” Just ask some rank-and-file fundies one day—any day. They will tell you they have no Biblical obligation of LOVE whatsoever toward their fellow man—other than “preaching the gospel of salvation alone.” They will follow it up by saying:
Why preaching the gospel message of salvation alone—-IS LOVE.
In my opinion, Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have almost no interest in true Christian LOVE and the much wider spectrum of heart and action it Biblically entails—and they have little chance of ever attaining it. America’s problems will never be solved to any meaningful degree if that deeply abiding New Testament LOVE is not resurrected as the razor-sharp leading edge of any future effort to actually solve American problems.