One of the curious features of the MAGA Freak Show is that it constantly looks to rich white cowards who know nothing of personal suffering or sacrifice as their saviors/gurus/guides/messianic leaders: Trump, Limbaugh, this gormless dweeb. People who have achieved nothing but hurting others. And, where possible, the cult seems to favor those who literally had everything handed to them without working a day in their lives, like Trump and Carlson. I tend to think it’s because the Cult fantasizes about being like them, but what is essential, whether or not that fantasy is fulfilled (and it won’t be) is the promise of the Savior to his cult to be Like You So That I Can Save You from Them. And by “Them” of course is always meant the Brown and Poor the Cult hate and identify as the problem because they are too stupid to see that they themselves are the problem.
The identification of the rich robber baron as the populist hero is a unique American spin on Robin Hood, which is itself a mythical reworking of Jesus Christ. Jesus, though he was rich, for our sake became poor so that we, through his poverty, might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). He empties himself so that we might be filled, becomes man that we might, as Athanasius says, become God. Similarly, Robin of Locksley is a noble, but he is willing to assume a life of poverty for the sake of the poor.
But in the American version, played out in real life with the likes of Trump, Carlson, and the other thieving populists of the MAGA/FOX industrial complex, the rich of the MAGA cult would not dream of such a thing. They steal from the poor and give to themselves. They sit on literal gold thrones and claim a commonality with the Common Man while they fleece him blind and tell him to fear the brown man, woman, and child. And the poor whites who worship them are fine with it, because they promise to punish those browner and poorer than themselves. As LBJ said:
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
The mythology even penetrates our superheroes. It’s what ties Batman and Ironman together: the belief that you can serve God (or at least Justice) and mammon, apparently on the theory that “The rich cannot be bribed” or some such thing. But of course, as Chesterton observed, “The rich man has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.”
Steinbeck observed back in the 30s that Americans tend to labor under the notion that, when they are struggling financially, they are not poor but are instead temporarily embarrassed millionaires. It is a mark of the American character to live by such optimism. But it is also a deep mark of American character–particularly of white America–to let rich people tell poor whites that their troubles will be over if they take their rage at their poverty and exploitation out on those weaker than themselves and not on the rich who exploit them. It’s worked for 400 years. Tucker Carlson is just the latest practitioner. And a third of the electorate gives absolutely no sign of having learned a damn thing, which is why it is important that the rest of us do not let down our guard and imagine the infection has done anything but go into remission. We must keep working to extirpate this vile cult in 2022, 2024, 2026 and beyond until it is destroyed. Supposing it died with the end of the Trump Administration is like taking your first penicillin pill for a staph infection and then throwing the rest of your meds away. Ignore it and it will roar back stronger than ever.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45)
I lost my breakfast when they played a clip of Tucker saying “We will not be intimidated – we will not stop speaking the truth.” Because just last year Fox News’ own lawyers argued in court that the things Tucker says on his show cannot reasonably be taken as factual, and the judge agreed.
My dear Wormwood:
Do remember we are there to fuddle the human creatures. From the way some of you young tempters talk, anybody would think is it our job to *teach*.
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape
Something I read recently that’s stuck with me: You’re always two or three bad months away from homelessness, but you’re never two or three really good months away from being a billionaire.
Or maybe it was years. Point still stands, though.
You start with a condemnation of Tucker Carlson, a man I have no interest in defending, detour through an odd take on superheroes, and sum up with a Chesterton quote: “The rich man has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.” I thought your point was going to be that getting rich by lying and fomenting strife was evil. By the end, however, it seems that being rich itself, not doing evil to become rich or doing evil with your riches once you have them, is evil. Am I misreading this?
“being rich itself, not doing evil to become rich or doing evil with your riches once you have them, is evil.”
Yes, that’s what Jesus said: wealth corrupts the soul. Witness his famous line about camels and needles; or the fact that his first words of advice to the rich young man were “sell everything you have and give it to the poor”; or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where the rich man dies and goes to Hell, even though the only thing Jesus tells us about him is that he was rich. Jesus just assumed, and expected his listeners to assume, that rich people go to Hell.
Mark may have a different explanation of what he intended to convey here, but your interpretation of him is quite biblical and Christian.
Jesus and Chesterton are making the same point: ““Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest — if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this — that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor.”
“ The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. ”
I sure wish I could post my favorite picture of Cardinal Burkehere. Or a picture of the richness of the Vatican palaces. Or a picture of the wealth inherent in so many Catholic churches. or a true picture of the financial resources of the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The sheer amount of gold, property, money, fantastic buildings, Land in rome and other capitals, and on and on and on and on…
Simply boggles the mind.
I always thought the Indiana Jones movies were somewhat morally suspect, but there was one scene where Indy had to choose which of the many cups in front of him was the holy Grail. almost all of them were gold and jewels, cups surely fit for the king. he chose the one simply carved wooden cup, saying that this was the cup of a Carpenter. Of course, he got his reward for doing so. So the whole story, steeped as it was in an admixture of Christianity, welsh and Germanic mythos, and religious symbolism, Boiled down to a simple choice.
Is Christianity what it says it is, or is it what it appears to be?
Being rich may not, in theory, be inherently evil, but in actual practice, the concept of the universal destination of goods means that there are few ways to become rich and no way to remain so without doing evil. Short of inheriting a fortune or winning the lottery, you can’t get rich in the first place without stealing money that rightfully belongs to others, usually by overcharging consumers and underpaying laborers. Once you have that kind of wealth, unless you give most of it away, you’re hoarding far more than you need of something that someone else needs and doesn’t have nearly enough of, which is the same as stealing from them, as far as Catholic moral and social teaching are concerned.
N.B. My last comment was supposed to be a reply to robertrchase but apparently the reply thing isn’t working for me. Could be an issue on my end. Let’s see if I’ve got it fixed.