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I have set myself—in my “free time” (ha ha)—to read a fascinating book called La Religion Spontanée by Henri Maurier. I am going at a glacially slow pace because my French is super rusty. Therefore, you can expect that as I read each and every sentence, and my mind is constantly being blown, I will be often updating you about how it is going. Maurier was Catholic, and a missionary, but he set himself to an anthropological task. He wanted to describe and understand what people were really doing and saying, without, as much as possible, applying those western categories that make post-enlightenment people feel better about the Divine. For instance, when I was reading so much about African Traditional Religion, many and various Western sources privileged the distinction between immanence and transcendence, as though one will be primary at any given moment and it is necessary to know. How do Africans think about God? What correspondingly important attributes of God do we share in meaningful ways? Maurier looked at what people were doing and saying, without trying to make it fit into pre-understood paradigms. If, for example, someone rebukes you for anxiously thinking aloud that it might not rain, what are they really saying? Do they really think they have the power to stop the rain just by saying it? Are they saying something about God? Or about themselves?

So anyway, all of this is so interesting, especially when it is on another continent. But what about religious activity here in America? The field is wide open. You can wander around in the world of Manifesters. You can dabble along with the growing and increasingly young Witch Community. You can be a Muslim or even a Christian. And then there is this:

The tweet, as you can see, labels it “ChristoFascist.” And it sure does look scary—a dark room full of people brimming with religious fervor, shouting their beliefs. I took the trouble to transcribe most of it:

As a Patriot of faith, I attest my allegiance first and foremost to the kingdom of God and the Great Commission. Secondly, I agree to be a watchman over our nation concerning its people and their rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness–

Whereas: we have been given legal power from heaven and now exercise our authority

Whereas: we are God’s ambassadors and spokespeople over the earth

Whereas: through the power of God, we are the world influencers

Whereas: because of our covenant with God, we are equipped and delegated by Him to destroy every attempted advance of the enemy

We make our declarations:

1. We decree that America’s executive branch of government will honor God and defend the Constitution.

2. We decree that our legislative branch (Congress) will write only the laws that are righteous and constitutional.

3. We decree that our judicial system will issue rulings that are biblical and constitutional.

4. We declare that we stand against wokeness the occult and every evil attempt against our nation.

5. We declare that we take back our God-given freedoms, according to our Constitution.

6. We declare that we take back influence at the local level in our communities.

7. We decree that we take back and permanently control positions of influence and leadership in each of the “Seven Mountains.”

8. We decree that the blood of Jesus covers and protects our nation. It protects and separates us for God.

9. We declare that our nation is energy independent.

10. We declare that America is strong spiritually, financially, militarily and technologically.

11. We decree that evil carries no power, authority or rights in our land nor over our people.

12. We decree that we operate in unity, going beyond denominational lines in order to accomplish the purposes of God for our nation.

13. And we degree that AMERICA SHALL BE SAVED!

We should note, first of all, that all these decrees and declarations are in the present tense. This peculiar detail leads me to file this exercise under the Manifesting category, first and foremost, rather than any of the other religious systems that I am more familiar with. The important thing about Manifesting is that the Universe—or God or whoever—can hear thoughts, but cannot distinguish between their goodness or badness. The Universe hears everything going on in your mind and heart, but isn’t able to tell the difference between what you want and what you don’t want. It is incumbent upon you to project your good feelings out there, lest you attract bad things to yourself. When you bring this idea into the “Christian” realm, you get the Word of Faith phenomenon, which, at a cursory glance, does resemble certain acts and ideas in what is commonly called ATR. Don’t say you are worried about something happening because you will unwittingly bring it about. Somehow, it seems, you are wrestling, as it were, with yourself and with a spiritual world, and you hope that good will come out on top—therefore say the good out loud, and think it silently, when you rise up and when you lie down.

Setting politics entirely to one side, observe how this supposed “Christofascism” is, at most, a limp biscuit. It is a curious idea that if you say things that you want as if they have already come to be, you will be able to strong-arm the Universe into giving them to you. It could be a new beautiful couch, or, in this case, it could be Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—but there you are, you still don’t have a couch, or at least not the one you want, and every day the supposed liberty of Westerners is being eroded and by an elite and emboldened Managerial Class. Whose fault is it that the Universe—or God or whoever—isn’t delivering? Of course it is your fault. You didn’t have enough faith.

This is all very interesting to me. There are so many paths one could wander down—how did it come to be like this? What is it that the Manifester is getting out of this religious activity? What is the difference between “God” and “the Universe?” Or are they the same? Who is more helpless? “God” or the person making these declarations?

In the meantime, I am not afraid of the “Christofascists” because they are neither Christian nor fascist. They don’t have any power. Their religion is at least impotent, in the way that so many human ideas are, if not politically so. It masquerades as strength, but in the final reckoning, it will be a paper fluttering away in the wind, or a screen falling dark when the grid fails. For it really to be “fascist” it would have to have political power behind it. It would be in the halls of congress already, bringing about its desired ends. Instead, it is in an auditorium with a light show, crying out its hopes and dreams.

Though I would love to get into the details of their declarations, I must, because it is Sunday, turn rather to the Lections arranged for us by the Lectionary Makers. Finally, as the Church year approaches its glorious close, we have one of my very favorite texts in the Bible:

The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Jacob, you might remember, had all kinds of curious ideas about God arise spontaneously within his heart over the course of his complicated life. He id know that his father, Isaac, had spoken with God, had received certain promises, and so also his father, Abraham. He knew that those promises were going to be his. And yet he felt helpless because people like Esau and Laban were always in his way. And so, on one or two occasions, he “made” the promise come about, through ingenuity and hard work. I think we may perfectly well wonder what sort of “religion” Jacob had as he went along through his life.

That’s the problem with religion. Does it even work? How can you get God to do what you want? You need things—so many things—health, clothes, food, love, meaning, purpose, hope, and the latest iPhone.  

And there sits God. Why doesn’t he do something? Why doesn’t he bring the rain and the freedom and the energy independence?

And so Jacob arranged for himself his birthright and his blessing. And then he had to run away to spare his life. As he left, with nothing in his hands, the heavens opened up to him, and he saw a ladder with Angels ascending and descending. Now, all these years later, he comes back and a Man wakes him and wrestles with him all night, until the break of day.

And what may we discover, by looking back all these thousands of years later? Jacob goes limping into the morning, renamed, as helpless as ever. Only it is his own helplessness that he has discovered, rather than the helplessness that we all project into the heavens. Who does it belong to? Who really has power?

How strange that a Man would come down that ladder and be able to discern the thoughts of the mind and the desires of the heart. What strange religion is this where you set aside all of who you are and come with nothing—no goods to offer, no name to be known by—and come away limping.

But what a limp. What a love. What a relief to have a Savior who saves people before he even thinks of making countries or nations. What a mercy to find that God himself comes into our lives and rearranges what we want and who we are. What a glory that he speaks and his Word brings about his will. How painful when we find that we have been made to bend–body and soul–to understand it. How gracious that he doesn’t let go until we have learned his name and learned what kind of Love he is.

And now, if you will excuse me, I must rush around the church, for I am already here and there a bunch of cups of coffee to drink and people to talk to. Have a nice day!

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