The Vine & the Branches - Artist: Ruth Palmer
A letter to and response from Joe Bageant
I just this morning finished your book, Dear Hunting with Jesus, which awakened me and taught me much. Thanks for writing it.
Toward the end I started to mentally resist what I perceive as your somewhat anti-religious leaning, and after introspection I see that I have a question to ask both you and this country at large:
Why can't a Liberal be Christian?
I have no doubt whatsoever that you will answer, "Of course a Liberal can be Christian!" But I will suggest to you that sometimes what you write seems to belie that answer.
Christ was on the side of the working class, including fishermen like some of the men he made Apostles, and carpenters like His mother's husband, Joseph. He was on the opposite side from the rich, telling them their path to heaven will be more difficult than a camel's path through the eye of a needle, and commanding them to sell all their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.
If the United States is the City on the Hill, the New Jerusalem, destined to triumph, and if this will be the triumph of Christ, then it will surely be the triumph of the working man. The rich, who currently are coiled in the nation's intestine like tapeworms, will be surgically removed and hurled into the incinerator.
I have begun thinking we truly need a third party, the Christian Workers Party, which will be pro-Christ and pro-worker, and also, for good measure, pro-gun, pro-military, and pro-life. This is the third party that would terrify both the Republicans and the Democrats. Imagine a political party that upheld working class values and also -- wonder of wonders -- upheld the working class!
Imagine a party that fought for universal health care, and also staunchly defended the Second Amendment with fervor. Imagine a party that fought for keeping jobs here at home, and also staunchly defended human life from the moment of conception. Imagine a party that fought to maintain a strong military, and also fought to improve the quality and affordability of education for all citizens. Imagine a party that gloried in Jesus Christ and dreamed of a future where the meek inherit the earth.
This is a frothy beverage to drink deeply of -- a dark draft which, like Guinness, is food.
Try to remember that I was writing about the Christian fundamentalist movement in America, which is certainly among the worst manifestations of Christianity to come along in quite a while.
Even though I consider myself something resembling a Buddhist, and definitely a Marxist Socialist in the overall sense, I am nevertheless inwardly inspired by the Christian examples of Dorothy Day, Antonio Negri and especially Leo Tolstoy.
What you have described is called by different names around the world. For instance in the UK it is the Christian Socialist Movement and has enough traction in society there that it spawned Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Our keepers here in the gilded cage have never, and will never, allow that movement to draw even a single breath in this country.
In addition, I dare say there are not enough people concerned for the common welfare in this country to support such a movement. America's "every man for himself" ethos destroyed that possibility long ago. So much so that that our corporate state does not even have to suppress the movement. Because when it is every man for himself, then common every man is inwardly afraid to move against the state order. I know hundreds, probably thousands of good folks who feel the same way you do, and I am sure there are a few millions of us out there. But our laws are set in such a way as to effectively preclude the possibility of any effective third party getting a foothold.
Beyond that, the collective American consciousness has been first monetized, then commoditized and now "financialized." On the whole it is incapable of feeling any passion or congealing around any idea, organization or entity not issued to it by the corporate financial state through television, the operating software of our national consciousness.
And so we sit here, you and me, and type on a keyboard and imagine what it would be like. We sit isolated and divided temporally and spiritually. We are victims of learned helplessness, learned at the foot of the state. Learned though every pore in our body from birth. We can imagine, and the stupidest among us can "hope." But the fact is that if we even once seriously considered the action required to establish such a merciful movement, Christian or otherwise, we would blanche, run away in fear, and erect a wall of denial and excuses for our refusal to do that thing.
And I'd bet there is not a single reader of this small blog who does not know what that thing is.
In art and labor,