Political Religion

Political post sort of. If you prefer lighter fare, tomorrow will feature cat pictures.

No, this is not a post decrying the influence of Evangelicals/Mormons/Conservative Catholics/Progressive Presbyterians/Marauding Mennonites on culture and politics in America. Nor is it about theocracies or theocratic belief systems. It is a meandering speculation on some of the more overly dramatic (to me at least) reactions to the US presidential election, and on how victorious civilizations overrode or overwrote the beliefs of the conquered. Like what the Babylonians did with Marduk and the Mesopotamian creation story.

SCREECH!

Huh? What does a Babylonian storm god and the goddess who gave her name to the arch-evil dragon in Dungeons and Dragons’ Dragonomicon have to do with the election?A bit, if your mind works sideways the way mine seems to do.

I’d been reviewing some notes on religion and government in preparation for a discussion about religion and the Enlightenment and deism and so on. And one of the things that popped up was how conquering peoples tended to replace the local official religion with their own, at least in part. The Babylonians did it, the Inca did it. Sort of ” we defeated you, our gods defeated your gods, so ours are obviously superior.” Yes, it is an oversimplification of what seems to have happened, but the general sense remains. Did the locals all say, “Oh, you’re right, we were wrong, and let’s all troop over to the new temple of [$DEITY$] and make friends with the new rulers”? Some perhaps, others likely did not, which probably led to things like the troll legends of Scandinavia, some of which strongly suggest that the trolls were really Thor, Odin and Co. still lingering despite official belief in Christianity.

Please keep that in mind, because I will come back to it.

So, when the sun rose on Thursday November 10th and it became apparent that the US national election had given Donald Trump a rock-solid majority of electors, the progressive left appeared to decompensate in ways that left me alternating between boggled, amazed, and eye-rolling and muttering something related to my reaction to teenaged-girls and the movie Titanic, “The boat sank. Get over it.” Surprise, frustration, and anger of a sort I could understand, because that’s how I felt in ’08 and ’12. But the hysterical weeping, the emotional collapses, the apparent existential shock of Sec. Clinton losing the election didn’t make sense. Come Sunday, I had an idea.

What if, besides a lot of young people who had never lost at anything of import – be it a game, failing to make a try-out, a talent-show, or another contest of some kind – we were seeing a goodly number of adults whose faith had just been shattered? The Second Coming didn’t come. Sec. Clinton was supposed to change the world, to usher in a Millennium of free college, the humbling of men and of heterosexual Christian women, the prohibition of hurt feelings, turning the Earth back into a Green and Pleasant Land led by a woman for whom it was “her turn” to lead the US. And a lot of people said “No, thanks,” rejecting the progressives’ vision of paradise and preventing the Millennium.

In the mental and social world of the stunned mourners, everyone knew that Hillary R. Clinton represented everything good, everything just, everything fair that good people should be hoping and striving for. Their gods of social justice, of equality of outcome, of a world free from challenge and risk, a world where all are cared for by a benevolent State led by a President-Mother, had been thrown down, apparently, by the gods of equality of opportunity, of freedom to instead of freedom from, and by enough of the people who “should have understood,” who had “betrayed the faith” that it rocked them. Everyone had said that Paradise would arrive on November 9! Everyone knew that they stood on the right side of history and that the laws of history said that Progressivism would prevail! Everything they heard, and read, and talked about, said so. How could it not be? This was almost literally unthinkable.

Their gods had not triumphed. Their scripture (and script) of redemption and the coming of a new paradise on Earth did not come to pass. And they had no story, no idea, no mental preparation or experience of failure to buffer the shock and to provide solace or strength. Thus the melt-down, the flight to therapy and coloring books and safe-spaces and safety-pins and the tears, grief, and disbelief. Would they be forced to give up their beloved gods, be threatened with violence or loss of jobs and support if they did not give up the ideas they had worshiped so fervently and pay homage to the old gods of patriarchy and segregation and injustice and pollution and insult? Could it possibly be that their gods were wrong? The pain of that possibility must be agonizing for people who believed so strongly that Hillary R. Clinton was a messiah of sorts.

To be sure, not all of the supporters and purported supporters of Hillary Clinton reacted like this. A goodly number, probably the majority, managed to keep their disappointment, anger, frustration and grief under control and went to work the next day and week, took care of their kids and pets, vented privately, and started making plans for 2020. I know. I work with them, and I watched them gulp, snarl once or twice, and then carry on. A few people exploded rather publicly, and either took part in protests that seem to be shifting into riots or they blamed everyone around them and said a lot of things that they will likely regret later on. Remember, no matter what your political or philosophical persuasion, the Internet is forever, especially if you say or type juicy, or incandescent with rage, or nasty things.

As much as I think the campus weepers and their older sisters and brothers are blowing things far out of proportion, when I look at them as followers of a religion that failed at the exact moment it should have triumphed, when I see them as devotes of a god who did not come, I feel a little sympathy. Millennial religious movements are an old thing in religions, Christian most notably but also Jewish, Hausa in Africa, the Ghost Dance among some Native Americans, and probably a few others I’m less familiar with. But the world has not ended, the gods of the campus progressive mourners did not triumph in 2016. And sympathy has limits.

Edited to add 11/22: Welcome PJMedia/ Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation.

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19 thoughts on “Political Religion

  1. …whose faith had just been shattered?

    I suddenly think of the Grinch failing to steal Christmas, though the analogy doesn’t really work when thought about.

      • Oh, that’s OK then. The Grinch is just redistributing the wealth from the who-haves to the who-haven’ts. After all, that’s what the liberal Whos fervently pray for at their left facing altar every evening. Their Yule holiday wish has finally been granted! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. I think you may be on to something. For a while now I’ve thought that a portion of the Progressives have replaced religion with Progressivism, That is, even if they are religious, Progressivism has usurped the role of religion, becoming a secular ideological replacement. When their opponents disagree, they treat it as both blasphemy, or a sign of evil. When their members or allies disagree with some aspect of dogma, it is treated as heresy, for which the only suitable atonement is prompt and loud recantation.

    On an unrelated note, I see that you referenced “Hillary R. Clinton”. Am I the only reader of Asimov who has watched Mrs. Clinton and thinks the name really should be “R. Hillary Clinton”?

    • It really is, and like certain strains of environmentalism, it has its own myths of a lost Paradise, a fall from grace, and redemption.

      We’ll see what later commenters say about first initials once folks get home from work. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • According to Dewey, that is entirely intentional. From the very first, he referred to the political movement he helped found as a “secular religion”.

  3. They are really torn because most of them believed that a Yuge society actually did work on FEELZ but it was people that get up, go to work, and raise actual children (not statistics) that made the decision this time. Democracy is about supporting the people that vote for you and the elites are so past that. They are managing in trying to average America to a Thai subsistence farmer and THAT is NOT something likely to gather votes.

    That’s why I think we’ll see President Trump be wildly successful. When a businessman knows there’s a problem in a department he doesn’t pull out a coloring book and ponder, he calls a meeting with the responsible parties and asks their opinon of the problem, who’s area is supposed to address it, and when they can get to it. And…he sets a deadline. NONE of this happens in government.

    There are so many areas where actual attention to reality, our Constitution, and our people will Make America Great Again.

    For example, using the Constitution as a ruler.

    Link Removed by Blog Owner. One more of these posted without asking permission to have a sales link first and you will be blocked as Spam.

  4. “be threatened with violence or loss of jobs and support”

    Actually I think they fear being threatened with jobs and loss of support.

    As in if they loose their support they’ll have to get a job.

  5. I think your analogy of progressivism or liberalism as religion, and one who’s messiah has failed, is spot on here. In the mid 1800’s in America a “prophet” arose gathering a following among some Christians of the time. He predicted the coming of Jesus on a specific date, and quite a few people sold everything and gathered together on the date. Of course he was wrong, and the descriptions of his devastated followers reads just like those devastated followers of Hillary today. An interesting historical note: many of those people shook off the tragedy and moved on with life. But many refused to let go. They found a new “prophet”, a woman, and went on to establish what would become the Seventh Day Adventist Church. As Democrats choose their new leadership, we will see if they shake off the tragedy, or choose another prophet of the liberal religion.

  6. I like to think of it as less of a failed religion and more of the return of the Gods of the Copybook Headings.

  7. The religion that failed was version of the Ghost Dancers where repeating Progressive slogans and wearing cotton clothes was supposed to make the devotee invulnerable to the ballots. But it didn’t. Now they are trying safety pins..

  8. Pingback: the god that failed, part 2 | Rod Walker, Science Fiction Writer

  9. Many of us have been writing this for years. Certainly, not all liberals are primarily religious in their belief, but there rather obviously is enough of it. As a Christian, I find it particularly disturbing when political views clash with definitionally Christian ones in an individual, and the political ones always emerge triumphant, the religious ones altered to fit the new fashion. I always question at that point which is the person’s actual religion.

    • I didn’t think it was an especially new insight, given the strong religious overtones of so many Progressive groups and how they frame their arguments and vision of the world. It was just never quite so clear to me as this past week, I think because I’m used to looking at individual collapses rather than such dramatized mass furor. Having recently given a talk that included the Mรผnster Anabaptists and then the Elector Palatine in 1616-19 as examples of Millennial groups, plus something during a special service at the church where I sing, locked in the insight.

      I’m reminded of the young woman who told Kathleen Norris that she was in the Presbyterian seminary because she felt Called to preach sustainable agriculture. As memory serves, Norris had some doubts about the Presbyterian aspect of the student’s Call.

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