The Republican Spirit Is Not the Holy Spirit (Pentecost Homily)

trump's audience

Readings for Pentecost Sunday: ACTS 2:1-11; PS 104: 1, 24, 29,-31, 34; I COR 12: 3B-7, 12-13; JN 20: 19-23.

We all saw it last Thursday, didn’t we?

A rich white septuagenarian president stood (ironically) in a garden before a crowd of other rich white old men. He bravely announced a decision whose negative repercussions will be mostly felt after all of them are dead. What courage!

“We’re withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord,” the speaker fearlessly proclaimed. “We’re putting ourselves first! It’s the American way! It’s the capitalist way! America first! America first!”

The old men in the audience wildly applauded the ignorant dolt at the lectern who probably can’t remember the last time he cracked a book. And why not? They’re just uninformed dolts themselves. And yet, they have to gall to contradict the near-unanimous conclusions of the smartest people on the planet.

Can you spell “arrogance?” Can you smell it? Or maybe you can hear it. It sounds like this: ”U.S.A! U.S.A.! We’re putting ourselves first! We’re making America great again!”

None of them seem to care, do they? As I said, they won’t bear the brunt of their egotistical stupidity – of their ecological terrorism. Instead, their children and grandchildren will be stuck with the unpayable tab. And so will ours. Our children and the grandkids we know and love will be the ones whose lives will be immiserated by these fools.

“But Who cares about them?” the rich old white men say by their actions. “To hell with children everywhere. To hell with the planet for that matter. We’ll be long dead when the hurricanes blow, the heatwaves desiccate, and the forest fires rage. We’ll be gone when the waves of refugees swarm the globe in search of water, food, and shelter after the rising seas have destroyed their homes and livelihoods. Good luck with all that, kids! We don’t care about you. We care about what’s really important: MONEY! Can’t get enough of it!”

No wonder Noam Chomsky calls this rogue group of Christian terrorists (the Republican Party) “the most dangerous organization in the history of the world.”

Yes, that’s what Chomsky said. That’s what I just said. Yes, be reminded, on this Pentecost Sunday that these people call themselves Christians, and they’re more dangerous than ISIS. Most of them, I suppose, have been baptized and confirmed. They believe they have received Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Evidently on this day of Pentecost, they hear that Spirit saying:

  • Before all else, be separate; be individuals; God is not everyone’s Parent – just yours.
  • There is no such thing as the common good; the earth belongs only to those who can pay for it – or fight wars to steal it.
  • Your country is an island specially blessed by God.
  • So put yourselves first just as Jesus did.
  • Despise foreigners just like the Master.
  • Ignore the suffering of others; that’s the Christian way.
  • And if they threaten you in any way, kill them just as Jesus killed his enemies.
  • And even if they don’t, (as a Great Woman once said) “Let them eat cake!”

It’s all so familiar. But, of course, such belief has nothing to do with Jesus or his Holy Spirit celebrated in Pentecost’s liturgy of the word. There the whole thing is about human unity, mutual responsibility and care for the most vulnerable.

Look at that first reading. It depicts the Holy Spirit as uniting people from across the globe. No “me first,” no “us first” here. The list of God’s children is long and diverse for a reason: Parthians and Medes and Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, and people from Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene and Rome, Jews and converts to Judaism, along with Cretans and Arabs. The list’s length means that everyone is included. Everyone (as the Responsorial Psalm puts it) is a beloved creature of the Great All-Parent. No one is dispensable in God’s eyes.

The reading from First Corinthians makes the same point. There Paul reminds his friends that they are all members of a single Body of Christ. That’s Paul’s favorite image. We are all one body, he said, made one by Jesus Spirit — whether we’re Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, woman or man. There’s no room for “Romans first” here – not even “Jews first.”

But then, today’s gospel reading reminds us that God does in fact play favorites. God has made a “preferential option” putting the welfare of some ahead of others. The preferred ones, Jesus indicates, are the very ones who will be most harmed by climate chaos. They are not the septuagenarians who usually end up running empires. Instead, they are empire’s wounded victims.  That’s the meaning of the risen Christ’s showing his wounds to his apostles. He once again discloses himself as the tortured victim of capital punishment – as  present in the planet’s most vulnerable. By showing his wounds, Jesus reinforced what he’s recorded as saying at the end of Matthew 25, “Whatever you do to the least in my family, you do to me.”

Could anything be more contradictory to what was said and celebrated last Thursday in the imperial Rose Garden? Could anything be further from “To hell with children; to hell with the planet, to hell with the poor who will be the first to suffer from climate change?”

On this Pentecost Sunday, every baptized and confirmed person should be outraged at the hypocrisy.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

7 thoughts on “The Republican Spirit Is Not the Holy Spirit (Pentecost Homily)”

  1. Enough real Christians could change the world. Where are they?
    Yet to be born (again)? Have not really heard His message yet? After all this time? Is it too late?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mike

    Amen: thus it is.

    Paradoxically, given your ending exhortation, the people I hang out with in spiritual community are uniformly committed in their public and private lives to protecting the planet and very few of us are baptized and confirmed, in any denomination. We are also, uniformly, led by Spirit in our lives (as much as fallible human beings can be so led — the attempt is there).

    Those who have grown up in a religious tradition that embraces riches and glory and teaches salvation by following man-made (literally “man”) rules and who still live by Spirit are the wonder of it all.

    Were the Church of the Roman Empire to throw off its ritualistic and theological embrace of the Roman Empire and teach instead living by Spirit, by connecting with Spirit in others and all the world around us as your explication of today’s readings guide us, being Baptized and Confirmed (and both of these will change in response to this hoped-for foundational revolution — in its base meaning of turning back), could well be world-changing.

    It’s interesting to think about what Baptism and Confirmation might be like in a spiritual community.

    I can imagine parents, and godparents (perhaps a different label, but a label is never the thing), expressing their leading to help this infant learn to experience life through Spirit. I can then imagine them working together to foster the recognition by this child of Spirit in all parts of life. Baptism would become a dedication to helping this new member of the family learn the most important part of living.

    I can imagine a teen, at some age, asking for what we Quakers call a Membership Committee, whose purpose is to help the person applying for formal membership reach clearness on whether there is a leading of Spirit to do so. This “confirmation” is a recognition of what is already there. It’s a happy occasion, made so especially because we have a special occasion to have an additional potluck. 🙂

    Thanks, once again, for opening the way,

    Hank

    Like

  3. Stirring, trenchant, much-needed truth. Let’s have more, Mike. I’m currently reading the late Dan Berrigan’s book on Daniel.
    And now this wake up call from you. You are in excellent company, Mike. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I may well be right about projection, Dan. Thanks for the heads-up. But I’ll tell you why I’m angry: Chomsky is right; the Republicans are the most destructive organization in the history of the world. And they’re threatening the lives of MY CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN. You might judge that as irrational. But as a parent, grandparent, and aspiring follower of Jesus, I’m just sayin’ . . .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist, and only took up his journey after John was arrested, filling his shoes as it were.

        Now John, by all accounts, was a guy who really expressed his feelings about those who were subjugating and torturing and killing God’s children.

        In other words, there’s a history here. And Mike, you’re on the right side of history.

        We are to hear the Voice of the Children. And hearing their despair, and knowing that the monied class, wrapping themselves in righteousness, do so for their own gain, we either protest, or we allow.

        Protesting, speaking harsh truth to power, will draw scorn and derision on us. That’s the historical norm also.

        We are to listen to Spirit, and project that message to those who need to hear that message. As Merton points out, the inner Spirit is part of us. So yes, we do project, because that’s how we follow Spirit in our lives. To do nothing is to reject the Word of God within us all.

        Hank

        Like

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