Reflections on Post-Truth, Brexit and Trump as signs of pain and disappointment in our humanity in a post-Christian age
Whether we like to face it or not, but both the vote for Brexit and Trump are a sign not just in the sense of disenfranchisement, but there is also a palpable sense of disappointment with life particularly the ongoing struggle with the pain of life. I do think this situation is largely due to the reduction of religion and in particularly a healthy sense of a hopeful spiritual disposition, and in our largely western post-secular culture, we have turned to consumerism and materialism to fill this pain and disappointment, which actually never works.
Religion and Spirituality have worldviews that take us away from escape and avoidance or distraction, to having to face this pain and sense of disappointment. Those who are having to deal with mental illness and addiction will tell you that we do a lot of things that are not healthy to try and quell the pain and disappointment of life, and they can lead to illness and for some the taking of their own life.
Religion and Spirituality tell us that actually we will only find peace and times of happiness if we face ourselves, face our pain and face our fragility and the truth that we only have a short time to live well in this life. We have made this so hard by becoming so individualised and atomised that many of us feel a deep sense of loneliness and isolation even when we live in Cities.
Some have described Trump and Farage as adult children, and there is so much truth in this. They are men who I would say have not faced the need to deal with their ego, the false-self, their pains and disappointment, and instead have got by using materialism and wealth, and importantly here, projected their pains and hurts onto others such as immigrants, Europeans and the European Union, the establishment, experts, women, Mexicans, the list is endless. They are both infantilised by the post-religion culture we have created, and are adult children because basically they have not faced their humanity, and therefore their need of God. All of us if we are to deal with pain and disappointment have to face these ultimate existential questions of existence, and decide how we will deal with them.
This is also why we live in what is called a post-truth era, why? Because in an infantlised world, the truth is whatever we want it to be, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions and to existentially project it at others, again the great sign of the false-self. Both Trump and Farage psychologically must never take responsibility for their actions to be able to maintain such a worldview, have you ever heard reported any of these two ever saying sorry?
Ultimately religion and spirituality require each of us to face our pains, our disappointment our fragility and our humanity. We have to make peace with ourselves and not project this at others, we need to face the calling to a form of self-control and discipline that gets beyond an eternal adolescence and face ourselves. Otherwise we become narcissistic Peter Pans who are dangerous to ourselves and dangerous to others. This is why Trump and Farage are dangerous.
The central truth of the Abrahamic faiths is a challenge to this unhealthy state of affairs. Central to the three is the Shemah, adapted into the New Commandment in Christianity. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One, you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with your mind and with all your strength…. and you are to love your neighbour as your self. Or as Abbot Jamieson has said(former Abbot of Worth Abbey) Love God, Love yourself and Love Others. You cannot do this without facing yourself and the pain of life and disappointment, that our culture tries to avoid…..
So what is a Christian, a personal of faith or spirituality to do in this age? Well firstly we need to live the walk and be disciplined about facing ourselves, and the second, in a faith and spiritual groups, I think we called to be communities of resistance, to challenge those social, economic and political forces that threaten to take our individual and collective life away from us, and we should not underestimate the power of resistance, hope keeping, and seekers of the common good. Faith traditions and communities are essential to this.
The danger for us is, as in Nazi Germany, is that some Christians and Churches collude with these distorting and dehumanising forces – for example the number of conservative evangelicals that voted for Trump? I cannot understand this…. so we need to be careful to, as there will be Christians and Churches which will collude with the unhealthy culture and political rhetoric that promote a spirituality of hate, jealousy, greed and selfishness. The way we resist this is by sticking close to Jesus of the Gospels, and not define ourselves in opposition to various people groups, and most of all, do not lash out of a spirituality of ‘victimhood’. When we are all victims, no one takes responsibility for their words or actions.
So let us hold onto the truths of our situation and not avoid it, let us as spiritual and faith communities be resistant to the forces that divide and dehumanises, and let us do all we can for the love of God and to seek the common good.
Let us take the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others, to guide the Church into a healthy positive alternative living out the dreams and hopes of the Kingdom of God, and follow Jesus who’s way of Love as Light challenges all the forces of darkness…… May God be with us in these difficult times, and let us not sleep walk into the dangerous situation of the 1930s when the Church did nothing to resist facism…… May God be with us all. Amen.