I got it

Christianity has a martyr complex. They always think they’re being persecuted, when they’re not — so you hear constantly about Romans throwing them to lions, but never about how Christianity coopted the Roman imperial bureaucracies, and eventually the emperor himself, to rule over the Western world. They claim that Hitler was an atheist, ignoring the fact that he banned Darwin, not the Bible, had the support of the German Catholic church, and encouraged faith in his people. So I knew exactly where this cartoon would have to go, if it were at all honest.

Our current autocrat is supported by Christian evangelicals. Damn few are hanging their heads in shame (although, to be fair, some are).

Let’s face it, though: the success of the Christian religion has partly rested on its eager willingness to aid and abet authority, unlike, for example, Judaism. Mainstream Christianity has been an enabler, not a critic, of secular authority, no matter how oppressive it may be. There have been exceptions — liberation theology, for instance — but then the Church turns to oppose and oppress them.


  1. cartomancer says

    The thing is, Christianity (like pretty much all religions and cultural forms) adapts to suit the needs of its followers. The reason that mainstream Christianity supports secular authorities is that it wouldn’t be mainstream if it didn’t. The Christianity of Vibia Perpetua gave way to the Christianity of Constantine for a reason.

    One might also point to the ultra-zionists in Israel and their support of the Israeli state to question the notion that Judaism is somehow different. The reason most forms of Judaism tend not to aid and abet secular power is because they are the religion and culture of oppressed people without access to mainstream secular power.

  2. Sastra says

    I suspect that ingrained habits of obedience, praise, and deference to divine authority will transfer to any earthly authority — group or individual — which manages to push the right buttons and make it seem like they’re on God’s side, too. Trump figured out some of those buttons.

    “Christians are persecuted.” ” I’ll stop abortion.” “Merry Christmas.”

    And the lambs fall meekly in line, spitting fire, resentment, and threats of imminent revenge at the goats. “Daddy says YOU’RE really gonna get it NOW.”

  3. says

    Yes the glorious Christians have been well played this election cycle. I went down a rabbit hole studying the donations to Wyoming Candidates and ended up following the people giving the most money, Daniel and Carleen Brophy won the prize and in my search they are revealed to be on a quest to bring Augustine and William Bradford back into the College Curricula. I could not find how, or where, they made their money, but the linkages to Tea Party Patriots in unmistakable.

    It is interesting to see the amount of funding and effort that was afforded to get Christians into elected office in Wyoming. In addition the rabbit hole lead me to the funding of the Augustine Collective a group dedicated to publishing Christian College periodicals. The Augustine Collective and its founders and efforts have been enhanced significantly in the mid 2000s and the people involved tend to go on and be involved with the Veritas Forum. These efforts are funded/supported by Peter Thiel.

    This same rabid group is working in Wyoming to have a Constitutional Amendment put on the Ballet which would force Wyoming to accept public lands if made available by Congress (First Steps have passed in Congress). The rabid and frankly misled Dominionists are part of the legislature that are forcing this Amendment to the Ballot.

    As a collective voice we have been silent far to long on this strain of evangelical thought and the tentacles run deep. Putin has also figured out how to play this game. The Evangelicals have superior ground game and are entrenching themselves in the public sphere to the USA’s detriment.

    Please note that the Veritas Forums are now being held in Europe, just one more piece of the puzzle when identifying the demonizing of people in the name of god in America and across the globe.

  4. says

    In yesterday’s Sunday Facepalm, I posted about the evangelicals being surprised at just how much input they now have:

    Land, a longtime activist and former Southern Baptist Convention official, said that he has “been solicited five times for personnel recommendations” by the Trump administration, which is something that never happened under any previous Republican president. As such, Land said, “this administration is going to have more conservative Christians, Catholic and evangelical, in it than any administration that I’ve been associated with or had contact with, and I’ve been doing this since Reagan.”

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I always laugh at the irony of the massive authoritarian regime claiming to follow the teachings of a hippie (aka rebel, or revolutionary) who was teaching to overthrow the Empire oppressing his own religion and compatriots.
    That’s how all empires start, I guess, as revolutionaries reacting to the empire oppressing them. Except those coffee hippies in Boston objecting to the taxes of the British Empire, that went nowhere, oh wait….

  6. erichoug says

    Ridiculous. The myth that the church stands up to dictators, autocrats and evil regimes is just laughable. The entire purpose of Christianity and religion as a whole is social control.

    Constantine didn’t convert to Christianity because he had some damn vision, he did so because the bulk of his citizens were Christian and installing Christianity as the state religion was a means of social control. Constantine and the remnants of imperial Rome co-opted the church to their own ends. That’s why you no longer had to give all of your worldly possessions to the church, that’s when they started dialing back on the pacifism of early Christianity, That’s why they suddenly started telling all these tall tales about Christians being thrown to the Lions in previously Pagan Rome. It was control and recruitment.

    Look at the dirty wars in South and Central America in the 80s and 90s. The local Bishop always stood beside El Presidente, no matter how many of the flock his goon squad dissapeared, tortured, raped murdered etc. While it is true that a few priests and nuns were murdered or disappeared, The church as a whole, and The larger Hierarchy usually turned a blind eye to this. And the priests and nuns in question were usually dismissed as being “reds”. So it was OK to murder them as they weren’t TRUE Christians, but rather spies for Moscow impersonating religious people.

    Make no mistake, the Autocrats, the dictators, the strong men, they LOVE the church. Because it is a highly effective tool to control the population.

  7. krakonos says

    I don’t think this is a general rule. Look at Eastern Europe under communist rule. Poland specifically. Or East Germany. The church was oppressed there, so it became part of the opposition. In this regard Christians are like everyone else. If they are oppressed, they oppose. If they are on the privileged side, they go along…

  8. erichoug says

    Krakonos @#7 If you look at the time that the communists rose in Russia the church was widely seen as a tool Czarist oppression. The Communists in China were the same way. But, in china, the Boxer rebellion had a STRONG anti-christianity bent to it.

    I am entirely not surprised that, since the fall of communism, the Russian state has thrown in with the Eastern Orthodox church. Vlad Putin has even used state money to re-furbished churches that were shuttered by the communists.

    If you look at the major themes of Christianity, Turning the other cheek, your reward is not in this life but in the next, Confess your sins to this priest who is the cousin of the local Lord/mayor/ political boss etc. It is tailor made to keep an oppressed people in line. The communists just hit a bounce on an anti-clericalism growing in their area and rode it into power.

  9. tulse says

    If you look at the major themes of Christianity […] It is tailor made to keep an oppressed people in line.

    Indeed, one might say it is the opiate of the masses. And given who said that, it isn’t that surprising that communism is anti-clerical (well, along with communism’s strong materialism).

  10. krakonos says

    Erichoug @#8 I’m with you, that any philosophy or religion that relies on a hirarchy and “obeying rules” lends itself to dictators. It’s just that they don’t, for whatever reason, always make use of that. And communist eastern Europe is a good example. Here the church was a major force of the opposition. They were actually outright progressive and supported all kinds of underground resistance and culture. It didn’t feel like what many in the West and especially in America know as Christianity at all. However once they were successful, they quickly became part of the establishment and now support the status quo. But this status quo is a lot more free and less suppressive than the old system, at least in east Germany. Of course in Poland for example its a different story. They suffered even more under communist and soviet rule and the Church there shifted into retaliation mode. Conservative politicians there are now undermining democracy with the help of the catholic church still arguing with fighting back communism…

  11. krakonos says

    @tulse. That’s all true. But make no mistake. Communism was a dictatorship. And the church was at the center of the opposition. They were a beacon of hope. Regardless of their role today and also back then in many other parts of the world.

  12. tulse says

    Communism was a dictatorship. And the church was at the center of the opposition.

    Absolutely, but I think in this instance it really is a clash of specific ideologies that prevented them from supporting dictatorship, rather than Christianity’s inherent opposition to dictatorship.

  13. krakonos says

    @tulse That’s also true. I just wanted to challenge Christianities inherent support of dictatorships, which is what the article is about.

  14. Vivec says

    I mean there have been times and places where at least some christians were oppressed – anti-christian violence was why my great-grandparents emigrated from Turkey – but anyone in a western country claiming to be oppressed for being christian is full of shit.

  15. says

    Church too often misses it’s own role in all of this since it’s a manifestation of human social instinct. It’s very much about who authorities are, what they are like, and what their relationship is with people. Like other social groups it’s people will have problems undermining thier social tools in the public in the face of competitors. It has criticism problems of its own.

    Trumpy Rumpty will need social allies. Making church face the places where Trump is a horrible person in their own holy books and previous positions is necessary. Making church face the hypocrisy in attitude towards torture before and after the cold war. In church I learned that it was bad when the commies tortured people. Now the former commies are fine and so it whines about the brown people and thier version of church.

    The kind of human being my parents voted for is simply not a good person. His nature, demeanor, actions and habits are very unlike that jess person.

  16. says

    This is where social justice and social support believing christians/religious , liberal christians/religious and the like need to take advantage of Tdump’s public relationship with religion and morality. I suggest shame and mockery mixed with better ways of confronting what religion and church fear.

  17. says

    Re: Poland

    It’s really complicated. The catholic church and catholic organisations in Poland have a 200 years long history of resistance. It started with the Polish separations (1772-95). In the 19th century, Polish intellectuals thought about how to unify the Poles (a very multiethnic people at that time) against 3 different occupationist powers, who had extremely different styles of rule. Catholicism was the one thing they saw as elementary to the Polish nation. The church as an institution also provided infrastructure that could be used to communicate and mobilise across borders. This continued during the Nazi occupation (one of the biggest and most influential Polish organisations to help the Jews, Zegota, was founded by an antisemitic catholic woman) and throughout the period of socialism. There’s no denying that the Polish catholic church was an important organisation for nationalist and (parts of the) liberal resistance alike. Unfortunately, this history has intertwined Polish nationalism and catholicism so closely the clericofascist regime now can count on the support of a large part of the population. It has also imbued Polish nationalism with a veneration of martyrdom that is really creepy.

    Importantly, the evil twins had to attack Solidarnosc, too, because Solidarnosc was, though catholic, still socialist, or at least social democratic-syndicalist. In this attack, they could rely on the disappointment that many Poles have experienced after Solidarnosc gave in to the pressure of IMF and other global institutions to implement what Naomi Klein has used as one of her prime examples of the “shock doctrine” (and one of the few where it actually works). The left in Poland still reels from that disappointment.

    (Sorry for not using correct Polish letters, I’m on the iPad)

  18. says

    It’s equally complicated with Nazi Germany. The Catholic elite supported Hitler (no wonder, they basically belonged to the same social group as the nobility), but Catholic areas in Germany were always those with the least support for the régime, while protestant rural areas had always been a major reservoir for the party.

    Catholic conservative parties in Germany, remembering a history of discrimination in the (Prussia-dominated) Kaiserreich, supported the Weimar Republic. This led to a schizophrenic situation when the Nazis had managed to convince the catholic church in Germany of their support by promising the Konkordat (an alliance that would guarantee the power of the church), so that suddenly, catholic organisations told their flock to vote NSDAP.

    During the Third Reich, individual priests and bishops resisted, sometimes out of ethical concerns, sometimes to preserve the power the churches held over people.

    And another thing about Poland: the shameful thing about the most famous nationalist Polish resistance organisation, the Home Army, is that it perpetrated murders on Jews in Warsaw during the uprising in August 1944. Most of the murdered Jews were fighters from the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto a year earlier, who had managed to hide somewhere – often through the help of other Poles.

  19. rietpluim says

    PZ, you got it, we got it; the only people not getting it are the evangelicals themselves.

  20. jrkrideau says

    Hitler was an atheist, ignoring the fact that he banned Darwin, not the Bible, had the support of the German Catholic church

    Source? I realize this is only wiki but it paints a slightly different picture https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_Nazi_Germany

    Somehow as Bernardo Soares suggests, the story is a bit more complicated.

    It’a a bit like the “The church condemned Galileo for saying the Earth circled the Sun”.

  21. Holms says

    Let’s face it, though: the success of the Christian religion has partly rested on its eager willingness to aid and abet authority, unlike, for example, Judaism.

    I would suggest that all religions, including Judaism, are pretty amenable to authoritarianisn when that religion has power.