Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rich Flubs

Frank Rich, with whom I normally feel pretty alright despite his smarminess, makes a blunder in his mostly-fine article about Frist and the theo-fascist judge-murderers. He starts with a lead-in, in a predictably media-whorish gesture, about the choosing of the next pope. When he clumsily segues into his main story about the conference being held in some church tomorrow (today) where Frist is going to be calling the Democrats bad Christians, he says:
These traditions [the crazy ones Frist et al. will be invoking] have less to do with the earnest practice of religion by an actual church, as we witnessed from Rome, than with the exploitation of religion by political operatives and other cynics with worldly ends.
Uh uh. If we as a society are going to start getting all enthralled with the value, or even the existence, of religions, then we have to accept the implicit relativity that goes along with that. This "no one is valorizing a particular religion, we're just saying religion is pretty earnest and cool in general", which is the infectious subtext of Rich's statement, doesn't actually work. All religions, or at least the historical religions we're usually talking about, have to do with their practitioners having some special and saving relationship with God. Now, there are theological gestures one can make, as many liberal and moderate theologians do, to say "we do our thing, but it's alright if you do your thing," but there is a very heavy burden, especially in some forms of Christianity and Islam, especially as practiced by the new pope, on seeing your own religion as the only one that's going to get the job done. This, to a non-believer or non-adherent to the particular religion under discussion, necessarily licenses a form of relativism in general discourse. What I mean by this is, if you've got a pope who says "I represent the only true religion, ya'll are fucked," then those of us who are non-believers either in his or in any religion, certainly have the right, and some true situationist ballers would say, the responsibility, to respond: "no, you're not the true religion. you're not earnest. you represent an organization in which certain branches have been very effective in pursuing charitable works, but in which many other branches, including your own, have been responsible for things like the Inquisition, and the non-condemnation of Nazism. And now your take on this 'religion', the way you yourself represent it, is that of a bigoted, women-disempowering, child-molesting, condom-denying, AIDS-spreading fascist world order. so fuck your white smoke, and your indulgent, capital-enabled frippery, and i'll do anything i possibily can to take you and your perverted organization down, and redistribute your ill-gotten wealth." Maybe that's what Frank Rich meant to say.

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