Sunday, March 25, 2012

The New Religion

Seasons of light, seasons of darkness

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

There have been times in which the human spirit soared and civilization flourished: the Athenian democracy, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and Age of Reason.

The last two led to the epoch changing declaration sent forth from Philadelphia to the world in 1776, and the creation of modern western democracy.

Seasons of light.

But there are also seasons of darkness. We are in one now.

This is an era in which the powerful exploit the powerless with ruthless impunity — grasping, gouging, cheating and stealing, using and abusing. Democracy was thought to be a check on the descent of humankind into another dark age, but it has not worked out that way.

Democracies, we have learned, can be subverted and devolve into oligarchic tyrannies. Concentrations of wealth lead to concentrations of power that tend to ever more concentration of the resources and wealth of nations in the hands of the few, the arrogant, the self absorbed.

But the memory of the seasons of light lingers in the collective human consciousness, and the purveyors of darkness always feel compelled to offer up some reasons, some philosophy or ideology to explain why darkness is the “natural” and therefore just state of human affairs.

These are excuses for indifference.

In this season of darkness, as millions are reduced to ever expanding poverty and insecurity, and the cherished rights and liberties of Americans are subverted by their government, the powerful justify their privilege with a new gospel: material riches are the measure of all worth, people without such riches are worthless, and their rights are of no consequence.

The new god of American idolatry, exported globally, is private profit, to which every knee must now bend: presidents and prime ministers, congresses and parliaments, and the peoples of the nations.

The most notable prophet of this new gospel is the now dead iconoclastic sociopath, Ayn Rand. But it has been embraced and proclaimed by a host of her disciples, from former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan — chief architect of the expropriation of the wealth of the middle class — to leaders in Congress and a multitude of “post partisan” priests and acolytes positioned throughout American government, business and media to enforce this brave new world of the self-sanctified “Masters of the Universe.”

What is remarkable about the ascent of this new religion is how little resistance it has met from the one it is displacing — Christianity. And I keep wondering, where is the American church in all this?

By “the American church,” I do not mean the pseudo-Christian tribalism of contemporary American politics, left and right. That is no more than majority social custom dressed up as the Law: the long canon of do’s and don’ts appended to the Ten Commandments, laws which God apparently meant for us, but never got around to.

Every generation adds new ones.

Thou shall not dance. Thou shall not have long hair. Thou shall not wear fur or eat meat. Thou shall not occupy public property or public attention.

They lead to absurdities. Thou shall oppose abortion, but support capital punishment. Thou shall oppose war, but support women in combat.

Some are new interpretations of old favorites. In ancient times, an “unruly” son could be stoned to death. Now, for some Christians, it’s the gay son.

And now as then, women are treated as chattel, objects to be controlled.

By “the American church,” I mean the church of the Gospels and the example of Christ — the continuous act of reaching out to the other. The Christian church.

Unlike earlier times in our history, when Christian abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights and peace advocates spoke loud and clear with iron resolve, the Church today seems strangely mute.

Who in the Church now stands to demand, without equivocation or excuse, a government and policies that embrace the absolute and unequivocal equality of every man, woman and child; an equality bestowed freely by the loving God of all, and not dependent on any human authority or institution, or sanctified by material wealth?

To be sure, there are voices raised. But many are secular, and make their case based on the “human rights” said to be inherent in the “Natural Law.” But that is not compelling.

The “Natural Law” is not our refuge. There is nothing benign about nature. A tsunami destroys in its path the just and the unjust alike. The stronger infant must be taught not to take the food or the toy of the weaker. In the jungle, predators kill off the young, old and infirm.

As governments do today.

The Christian Gospels are a call to neither codes of behavior nor nature, but to the example of godliness above both social custom and nature. A call to the light.

Indifference is the heart of the darkness that now threatens the lives, liberty and security of many millions. Christians should be leading by example to the light that overcomes that darkness.

Mike Krauss was a pupil of the late Rev. Stanley A. Powell Jr., long time Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Levittown. Email:

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