Category Archives: evangelical

A staggering look at the forces behind the evangelical pick for president

Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump

Pardon the beach-read aesthetic. Here’s the cover of Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump by Gary Lachman.

Updated Sept. 8, 2018, just to say: See this brief review of Dark Star Rising in the Church Times.

Below I’ve pasted my brief Instagram review (with a few minor edits) of Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump by Gary Lachman:

Gary Lachman first became famous as Gary Valentine, bass player and one of the songwriters for Blondie. But since then, he’s become a journalist and cultural historian, writing about the presence and influence of the occult and mysticism in the contemporary world, along with biographies of key historical proponents of esoteric ideas.

One of his previous books, Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen (2008) mapped out the stranger ideas and beliefs behind a variety of political figures, past and present. Now 10 years later, in Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, Lachman has focused on Trump, his background, and some of his advisers, who have found inspiration in writers and thinkers with especially weird and troubling takes on reality.

The New York Times, for instance, has reported on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s admiration for Julius Evola, the late “Italian occultist and esoteric philosopher” (as Lachman describes him) who has found admirers among racists both in the U.S. and Russia, including the American white nationalist Richard Spencer. Oddly enough, now with Russia on the minds of U.S. politicians and national security officials, Putin’s right-hand man Alexander Dugin has made political connections with an Italian disciple of Evola.

Lachman’s research for this book, combined with his background knowledge from writing 20-some books on historical and cultural intersections with the occult, brings to light angles on our current president that most news and commentary haven’t touched.

A few people have left the White House, including Bannon, and a few things have changed since this book was published. But I’ll wager anyone who reads Dark Star Rising will feel even more uneasy about the state of our manufactured politics and the potential for a dark future.

Plumbing not posting

Mostly, I’m grading, traveling with my family to and from conferences, and overseeing the re-plumbing of my entire house—which necessitated the destruction of pretty much all of my driveway—and the much needed remodeling of our bathrooms. Now we’ve got new water and sewer lines out to the street. Soon the entire house will have new pipes, replacing a true hodge podge of cast iron, copper, steel, and PVC lines.

I shouldn’t say I’m overseeing all that.

My wife, having grown up around construction, really has been overseeing everything. She talks to the plumbers, the carpenter, the architect, the guys who were supposed to remove all the chunks of concrete driveway by now. Meanwhile I stand, at six feet and four inches tall, scowling and nodding to give such occasions gravitas. I never understand what they’re talking about.

I’ve still been writing here, just not posting any of it yet.

For about two weeks now, I’ve been working on a post tentatively entitled “A Challenge for Christian Apologists: Brain Scans and Bible Reading,” in which I wrestle with two research studies on how our brains respond when we are listening to someone with a declared point of view. It turns out what we know or believe about a speaker influences activation or deactivation in parts of our brains—and it seems to me this has broader implications within the context of my personal experiences and observations in evangelical and fundamentalist corners of America.

Considering the recent change in my tagline for this blog, I also want to write a post entitled “What is ex-evangelical?” I imagine a few folks, in some local church drama, might want to make that tag into something other than it is. (They’re the ones teased in that old joke: be quiet when you pass through their part of Heaven—they think they’re the only ones there.)

After I had changed the tag, I came across “The Last Temptation” by Michael Gerson in The Atlantic, which if you haven’t seen it already, is well worth your time. The article’s subtitle, at least on the webpage, is, “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.”

Meanwhile, among the previous posts that lately keep popping up in my blog stats are two you might like if you haven’t already seen them:

Cornell West as jazz man, blues man, as ‘a Christian but not a Puritan’

C.S. Lewis Drank Three Pints of Beer in the Morning—A Letter from Tolkien

I hope to see you again here soon.

A Caution About Big Evangelical Churches and Popular Ministers

Author Dan Pink, in an Intelligence Squared podcast (about something completely different from church-related stuff), responded to a question at the end of his presentation with this:

“Power ends up corrupting people’s ability to see another person’s perspective…. The more power someone has, the less acute their perspective-taking skills are. If you look at high-status people in organizations, in general, high-status people in society, they’re not very good at taking other people’s perspective.”

To the Manufacturers of Mark Driscoll

A friend posted this Monday article from The Daily Beast on my Facebook page. It begins:

“Just when controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was hoping to make a new start, former members of his old stomping grounds at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church have filed a lawsuit alleging Driscoll and his chief elder ran the now-shuttered megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, in which church members became unwitting participants.

“The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court in Seattle under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally created for prosecution of Mafia figures.

“Former members have been threatening to file such a lawsuit for months to find out just where the members’ tithes—some $30 million yearly, according to church reports—actually went.”

I don’t know whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act really applies in this case, and I have no idea if pursuing that particular approach is a good idea — although of course someone needs to answer for the $30 million annually and any misappropriation of funds.

My reaction to the article, posted on Facebook, was aimed at those who helped Driscoll become a celebrity and a monster:

“He said Reformed things with boldness and strong emotions. That was enough to hide a multitude of sins. And while his influence and income increased, we were told that the mainline churches were dead, but it was purer, holier Driscoll who was dead inside. Sure, people don’t want to go to those old churches with their old facades and old ways, but the rotten wood was found inside new buildings in Seattle.”

 

Blaise Pascal: Religious Conviction

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal, quoted by Daniel Taylor in The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment

Daniel Taylor: Doubt as the process of faith

“T.S. Eliot sees a certain kind of doubt as inevitable in matters of faith and correctly suggests that one’s attitude toward doubt is more significant than one’s having doubt: ‘Every man who thinks and lives by thought must have his own skepticism … that which ends in denial, or that which leads to faith and which is somehow integrated into the faith which transcends it.’ The notion of transcending doubt by accepting it into faith, rather than by suppressing it (for it can never be destroyed), is crucial. Perhaps doubt, rather than something to be crushed, can be made to serve faith.

“Doubt can only be robbed of its paralyzing and destructive qualities when it is admitted for what it is — which isn’t nearly as much as it appears when not admitted — and is accounted for in the process of faith. Normally doubt is seen as sapping faith’s strength. Why not the reverse? Where there is doubt, faith has its reason for being. Clearly faith is not needed where certainty exists, but only in situations where doubt is possible, even present.”

— Daniel Taylor, The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment

See this book on Amazon: The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & the Risk of Commitment

Os Guinness: Faith in doubt

“Christianity places a premium on the absolute truthfulness and trustworthiness of God, so understanding doubt is extremely important to a Christian. Of course, faith is much more than the absence of doubt, but to understand doubt is to have a key to a quiet heart and a quiet mind. Anyone who believes anything will automatically know something about doubt. But the person who knows why he believes is also in a position to discover why he doubts. The Christian should be such a person.

“Not only does a Christian believe, he is a person who ‘thinks in believing and believes in thinking,’ as Augustine expressed it. The world of Christian faith is not a fairy-tale, make-believe world, question-free and problem-proof, but a world where doubt is never far from faith’s shoulder.

“Consequently, a healthy understanding of doubt should go hand in hand with a healthy understanding of faith. We ourselves are called in question if we have no answer to doubt. If we constantly doubt what we believe and always believe-yet-doubt, we will be in danger of undermining our personal integrity, if not our stability. But if ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt. If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger still. It knows God more certainly and it can enjoy God more deeply.”

— Os Guinness, In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Resolve It