The fundamental existential crisis at the heart of American conservatism.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

You probably are familiar with prosperity theology, though you might not know the term. Here’s the bland inoffensive definition:

Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.

Or in slightly crasser terms, God will make it rain on anybody who is a good enough person, so if someone’s filthy rich, they must be a righteous person.

[insert a picture of Paris Hilton here, if you want.]

While there’s folks who still hold to the idea that material success is a sign of faith – despite the Book of Job – this idea that righteousness and success is found outside of Christianity. It’s found its way out of religion and into everyday society.

After all, look at the way we treat poor people with our “moral construction of poverty”: blaming poor people for being poor and forcing them to give up their rights to get any help at all. They’re blamed for the poverty that afflicts them.

Despite the Book of Job.

Or most of the Gospels, come to think of it.


Photo by roya ann miller on UnsplashI was surprised to see women supporting Trump after “grab them by the pussy” – something that seems so quaint after everything that’s come afterward.  I was – again – surprised to see women supporting Kavanaugh…with support for Kavanaugh up to 69% among Republican women in the first days of October.

I was surprised.

But I shouldn’t have been.


 

Photo by Robert Metz on UnsplashI keep seeing memes and arguments on social media trying to help people empathize with the refugees coming from violent Central American countries. All of them keep saying some variant of “this is what our great-grandparents did”, or “it is only by accident of birth that you were born in the USA instead of there”, or particularly cleverly: “if you wouldn’t welcome the refugees fleeing their home country, you shouldn’t be welcome at Thanksgiving”.

I keep seeing people talking about trying to close the “empathy gap”, the apparent cluelessness of conservatives, whites, and evangelicals to not recognize the discrimination that happens to other groups.

It’s going to be a long hard road – if it’s ever possible.

And it isn’t because of a lack of empathy.

It is, quite literally, an existential crisis.


All of these traits above – moral construction of poverty, prosperity theology, the “empathy gap”, blaming victims of sexual assault – plus so many others that are associated with conservatism (e.g. creationism, religiosity, nativism, meritocracy) have one element in common: they’re deterministic. There’s nothing random about them. If A, then B. Without fail. Always.

Except that no matter how much we might want it to be, shit ain’t like that.

Demonstrably so.

There’s religious workarounds – the ineffability of God’s plan comes to mind – which might very well be true. (I’m agnostic, after all.) But if you’re going to hold that the Divine’s plan is ineffable (unable to be understood by humans), then prosperity theology falls apart pretty quickly. As I already pointed out, the Book of Job rather explicitly either says God’s a dick or that we can’t understand the plan, but the folks I’m talking about here are no strangers to ignoring parts of the Bible they don’t like.

Things are random. Evolution happens. Good people die too young. Evil people get away with it. The story doesn’t end the way it’s supposed to.

The existence of liberal bastions such as caring for the poor, science-based evolution, medical care for everyone (because anyone might need it), even tolerance of those who are different reminds these folks that everything they believe is wrong.

Not just “could be” wrong, like I originally wrong.  Remember, this stuff is or isn’t for them. Any exceptions have to be attributed to the force of an equally personified and deliberate Evil, otherwise you’re right back at the same existential crisis.

That’s why – for example – the women in this article think Trump is “protecting a way of life“.  They’re not just facing an existential crisis; they’re facing a whole teetering existential house of cards.

But ultimately, the last laugh is going to be the Universe’s as their ego trips result in our planet killing us all off.

Nobody exists on purpose.

Nobody belongs anywhere.

Everybody’s gonna die.

Come watch YouTube.

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