Monday, November 12, 2012

Hungry Hungry Altars (are why you should smash them)

In the beginning there was a world we did not understand.  It was full of strange and terrifying mysteries and humans being what they are, we just couldn't bear it.  So we invented the gods to explain to ourselves why the sun appeared and disappeared, why the seasons came and went and so on.  But that wasn't good enough either because we don't just crave reasons we also crave control.  So we decided to bargain with the gods we made in order to try and bend the universe to our will and so the altar was born.  It was simple enough, we scratch a god's back by setting something on fire and the god does us a solid some time later.  It's a simple concept and it's easy to see how we got there but since it was based on an erroneous assumption, it also turned out to be one of the worst our species ever had.

Since the gods weren't real, the altars did nothing.  But people being what they are, they could not accept this.  If sacrificing your crops did nothing then it couldn't be because there is no god to accept your sacrifice, it has to be because you were supposed to give more.  So you sacrifice more.  You sacrifice better.  And if your crops and livestock cannot work then you give things even more precious - flesh, blood, even if it belongs to your children.

Altars are hungry.  Very hungry.  In fact they are downright insatiable.  If you let them, they will take everything you have to give.  They will take everything, give nothing and still demand more.  Altars are very bad things.

"So they took the bull given them and prepared it.  Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention."

Which brings me to the recent US elections and the way the conservatives behaved.  Now I'm not saying they had any literal altars to any pagan gods but they certainly behaved as if they did.  They had a demanding yet impotent god, a host of prophets and priests calling for more sacrifices and of course, they ended up with the inevitable failure of this god to deliver what his prophets promised.

I realise that all this talk of failed, impotent gods must be deeply offensive to American Conservatives.  After all, they are the ones who worship the One True God - the Christian God - and not only do they worship Him, they worship Him more truly than all others.  They don't pick and choose what to hold as sacred, they simply follow His inerrant Word, unlike some people who also claim to be Christians.  In fact, Conservative Christianity is the only Christianity.  Liberals are just fooling themselves.  Or so I'm told.  Respectfully, I have to disagree.  When the most far right wing fundamentalist elements took prominence in the party it became very clear that their god looked nothing like the Jesus of Scripture.

Bible Jesus was primarily concerned with the poor and the helpless members of society.  Conservative Jesus considers those people parasites who are just too damn lazy to lift themselves up by their bootstraps.  Unlike Bible Jesus, Conservative Jesus thinks the best thing to do for the poor is to give them no help at all, since that should motivate them to do better in life.  Conservative Jesus is primarily concerned with abortion, gays and women's reproductive rights - all things Bible Jesus was completely silent about.  While Bible Jesus had deep compassion for the sick, especially when they were too poor to get treatment from doctors, Conservative Jesus thinks that helping poor people have affordable access to medical help makes you worse than Hitler.  Bible Jesus had compassion for the imprisoned, Conservative Jesus thinks we should imprison more people for longer.  Conservative Jesus thinks government is a great evil that needs to be opposed at every turn while Bible Jesus (and the rest of the Bible) preached obedience to the government - all governments, even the bad ones.  I can keep going but I think this should be enough to make the case that Bible Jesus and Conservative Jesus cannot be the same person.  Conservative Jesus is pretty much the opposite of the Jesus of the Bible.  Clearly this is not the same god.  I'm kind of partial to calling him Bizarro Jesus but you could always use his more traditional name: Anti-Christ.  He is a god created in the image of those who worship him.  He loves who they love and hate who they hate.  Call him whatever you like, he was raised up on the Republican platform and a hell of a lot of sacrifices were made unto him.

I think compassion was sacrificed first - for the foreign, the stranger, women, gays, the poor, the "urban".  Soon after that went love for the neighbour, especially if the neighbour was in any way "other".  Before too long, reality itself was placed on the altar along with truth and reason.  Science, facts, figures, statistics - none of these were safe from sacrifice.  One by one the sacrifices were lined up and the candidates all fell in line to praise this god and seek his favour.  No position was to extreme, no sacrifice to great.  All who disagreed were swiftly dispatched.

As a quick aside yes, I realise there are conservatives who do not worship this god.  They may even be the majority.  If so, shame on you.  Don't balk at comparisons to the Bachmans and Santorums in the movement.  Where were you and your moderate opinions when the primaries were going on?  If you stayed silent while the extremist fringes took over the movement then you have no one to blame but yourself.

So then, the sacrifices were made and the prophets of this god swore that this would ensure victory.  Problem was that this god was as powerless as he is mean.  Those sacrifices were all in vain and it left you with less.  Well less good things anyway, since those were the first things to go on the altar.  There still seems to be plenty of hate and anger and fear left.  In fact that's what prompted this post, the reactions from conservatives I saw on Facebook.  It's one thing to oppose the other party but I'm not seeing opposition, I'm seeing naked, seething hate for anyone who voted differently.  People are talking about revolution and bloodshed, they're talking about abandoning their motherland and telling each other scary stories about the coming apocalypse.  I see lots of slander for those who disagreed, which makes sense since understanding and empathy found its way  to the altar early on.  This is very bad.  For all of you.

So what to do now?  Well they could do what people with altars have always done.  They can assume that the fault lies not with the altar but with them, that they simply did not try hard enough, that they should have given more.  They could increase the fearmongering, they can up the attacks on reproductive rights and marriage equality.  They could shut themselves off from the reality of the world around them with even more resolve and pretend that the winds of change are not blowing.  They could keep fanning the flames of division, telling more scary stories about everyone who is "other" and insist that there are dark conspiracies everywhere.  Basically they could decide that the problem was not that their strategy was built on anger and fear but that it wasn't built on enough anger and fear.  The less the results the more they can do what they've always done.  More more more on the altar, always more.  That is after all how people with altars tend to behave.

Though not always.  Some people realized that the futility of it all and smashed their altars to bits.  I hope conservatives choose this course.  I hope they realize that to keep doing the same thing but expecting different results is madness.  I hope they choose to face reality.

No political movement is perfect and no party has all the answers.  A healthy democracy needs a healthy opposition in government (healthy being the key word here).  Blindly opposing everything the other guy does on principle is not healthy at all. But can conservatives be a healthy opposition party?  Only time will tell.  A lack of altars to bad ideas would be a great place to start though...

No comments: