Saturday, December 21, 2019

Musings on Advent and a Not-so-Merry Christmas for American Democracy

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

John’s Gospel describes Advent as the coming of the mystical Logos, or Word of God.  Jesus is a light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5)   Those words were written over 2,000 years ago, and since then the church has prospered; but the light of God’s love has not dispelled the darkness of America’s democracy.

That’s because early church doctrine made salvation dependent on believing in Jesus as a Trinitarian god rather than following his teachings as the word of God.  The altruistic teachings of Jesus are summarized in the moral imperative of the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  

American Christians have not been good moral stewards of their faith or their democracy, so when Santa comes to town next week, he will not bring Americans a merry Christmas.  Santa is a secular version of a god who rewards nice children and punishes the naughty ones.  The Old Testament tells us that those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

In  2016 a large majority of white Christians elected a prince of darkness as America’s president.  Trump’s morality is the antithesis of that taught by Jesus, yet a majority of white Christians continue to support him and his obsequious Republicans.  The complicity of the church in this political abomination has cost it its credibility and legitimacy.

Until the enlightenment the darkness of politics could be blamed on those who ruled by divine right, but with the advent of democracy the people assumed political sovereignty and full responsibility for the morality of their politics.  And since most American voters are Christians, the church also bears responsibility for the moral standards of America’s democracy.

America’s current polarized politics will undermine democracy if not reconciled.  A two-party duopoly is a big part of the problem. One of the two parties must promote a politics of reconciliation to break the gridlock.  It’s a virtual certainty that it will not be the Republican Party, so the Democratic Party will have to become the party of reconciliation.

America is not ready for a third party, and neither loyal Republicans nor Democrats can win on their own in November 2020.  Independent centrist voters will decide the fate of American democracy in the next election. But how will they vote, or will they vote at all; and  what effect will the church in its myriad variations have on the election?

The church is divided along racial and party lines, and it has become more a part of the political problem than its solution.  The white church either supports the Christian Right or refuses to mix religion and politics; and many nones have left the church diminished so that it is no longer the dominant force it used to be in politics.  

Democracy made Americans masters of their political destiny, but they are on the verge of forfeiting their freedom.  In spite of their nominal Christianity, Americans have been naughty and not nice to each other in their politics. They have corrupted their religion and democracy with partisan hatred rather than seeking a politics of reconciliation.  
Is there a light at the end of the dark tunnel of American democracy?  We’ll have to wait until November 4, 2020, to find out whether Americans see the light and save their democracy from the darkness that threatens to overcome it.  Whether Americans have a merry Christmas next year will depend on voters, not Santa Claus.


On December 18, the day that the House of Representatives impeached President Trump, an NBC poll indicated that 48% of Americans opposed impeachment while 48% supported it.  That’s not a poll of those voters who support and oppose Trump, but it shows just how polarized American democracy is.

The impeachment process produced damning evidence that Trump put his personal interests ahead of those of his country, but it did not make a dent in Trump’s base of support.  Dana Milbank is a staunch Democrat who has said the the House has impeached Trump. But in a sense he won. See  

A prominent evangelical publication, Christianity Today, has called for Trump’s removal.  While that’s clearly a minority view among white evangelicals, it offers hope that a remnant of white Christians will see the light of God’s love and dispel the darkness of Trump and his unholy regime from our democracy.  See    

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is a children’s Christmas song that can apply to American voters and their democracy this Christmas.  America better watch out, ‘cause Santa’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.  He knows when you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake.  
Santa Claus is coming to town:
You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He's making a list,
He's checking it twice,
He's gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows when you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.

Related commentary:
(12/24/16): Advent: The Coming of a Light that Shines in the Darkness

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