Soteriology concerns the question “How then shall we be saved?”
Different religious systems have different diagnoses of a) what’s wrong with us and b) how we can be saved from it.
Christian soteriology teaches that the thing wrong with us is sin, that is, loss of the divine life of communion with God for which were intended. Salvation means reunion with that divine life, which we cannot achieve on our own since we are a) finite and b) fallen. The big insight of the Christian view of salvation is that expecting to achieve it on our own is like expecting Hamlet to break out of the play and meet Shakespeare. It cannot be done. If Hamlet is to meet Shakespeare, Shakespeare must write himself into the play as a character. And if Hamlet is to come to share in Shakespeare’s life then a miraculous transformation of Hamlet’s entire being must occur so that he is no longer a mere fictional creature but real as Shakespeare is real.
The assertion of the Christian tradition is that the union of the human and divine has therefore been achieved for us by God the Son “writing himself into the play” by becoming man, dying for our sins, and rising again as the first (but not the last) fully divinized human being to share that divinized human life with anybody who wants it. That is what salvation is all about, Charlie Brown.
The Church’s soteriology is unique in that, at the end of the day, the way salvation happens is through a Person–Jesus Christ–rather than through a system of either belief or ritual. Salvation is something God does for us, not something we do to earn God. To be sure, our free and obedient response is part of how we are saved. But grace is always prior because salvation is always God’s persistent initiative. Even our free response is, at the end of the day, a gift from God to us.
Now that is not the only soteriology in the world, of course. Lots of other soteriologies are proposed and new ones pop up from time to time.
These days many run after ideology (which is just a modern word for “heresy”), imagining it to not be part of Old and Busted Religion. Yet Ideology virtually always masks a theory of salvation whereby the initiate embraces the TRVTH about class struggle or racial identity or evolution or electricity or economics or some pyramid scheme or recreational chemicals or you name it and, through some system of doctrine and practice, finds the happiness for which we are made. Desiring happiness is not optional. We can’t not seek our happiness. The desire for happiness is hard-wired into us by God. Even a member of a suicide cult is seeking his happiness. The only thing we can do is seek it in right or wrong, wise or stupid, destructive or constructive ways.
Many if not most systems, whether openly religious or the veiled religion of ideology, are a mixture of both wisdom and folly, because all systems are constructed by us, and we are both able to seek truth, but are also broken. If you want to get the hang of Nostra Aetate, think of it as the Church evaluating other religious systems to find whatever points of agreement she can with them in a “glass half full” approach, as distinct from previous evaluations which tended to be a “glass half empty” approach.
One emergent soteriology is MAGA. MAGA Christianity consisted of a fairly simple soteriology: Opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the MAGA. So long as you rubbed your Precious Feet pin or recited the mantra “But abortion!” you could essentially say or do anything without consequence or responsibility, especially if you are rich and white, and above all if you are Donald Trump.
But as time has gone on, MAGA Christianity has largely abandoned even the pretext of interest in the unborn and come to devote itself more and more nakedly to its core ambition: naked grasping for power for and money for whites as it morphs into full-bore and unabashed MAGA antichristianity. This was always its real goal as it used the unborn as human shields, but it at least felt an obligation to perfume that stench with a bit of pretense spun from a debased Christian aesthetic compounded of smells and bells (for Catholics) or Precious Moments figurines and Gun-toting Jesus (for Evangelicals). But as time has gone on, the Christianesque aesthetics and the phony “prolife” stuff have evaporated and a new aesthetic and soteriology are emerging: the Suffering White Man standing between Civilization and the brown hordes. It is still coalescing, but you can see it everywhere. From MAGA Catholic Matt Walsh, Suffering White Man:
…to Timothy Gordon, MAGA Catholic social media minipope, wondering how white cops can even hold back the tide of brown anarchy if they cannot murder brown people with impunity:
…to Tucker Carlson, America’s most influential white supremacist now that Trump is gone:
…to MAGA public intellectual Ben Shapiro, offering Deep Thots on Justice:
…to Austin Ruse, MAGA Catholic and Proud Boy zealot:
…and mocker of black murder victims:
…and White Victim Soul:
…to the Babylon Bee, which ceased being an Evangelical satire magazine and is now simply an organ of white supremacist propaganda…
…the emergent soteriology is that the Browns are simply an inherently violent race who care nothing about justice but simply seek anarchic bloodshed and destruction for no reason, thereby necessitating white rule by any means necessary to keep them in order. Suffering whites, despised and rejected by a human race unworthy of them, must take up the White Man’s Burden and, gosh darn it, rule the browns for their own good.
Matt Walsh, having made clear the Victim Savior status of the Oppressed White Race, also makes clear that only White Oppression of Browns can save his oppressed fellow whites. Oh sure, he says it’s not a Race Thing, but he chooses to say this in direct response to a Georgia GOP law deliberately aimed at crushing the brown vote:
Walsh cheers for Georgia’s crushing of voting rights for minorities and declares himself brave for doing so. Such a declaration of “courage” is one of the consistent marks of a person committed to grave evil. The code language about “weeding out the unfit” particularly charming. And he proclaims himself fit to sit in judgment of the rest of the Church with his truly true salvific message of superiority over the “unfit” in a new book called Church of Cowards, which gets helpfully platformed and spoonfed as normative to the rest of the MAGA cult by such mediators as Matt Fradd, now thoroughly ensconced in Steubenville, where he networks with Franciscan University (which gave Austin Ruse an honorary doctorate) to help keep it strong as an anti-Francis/Trump adoring MAGA hatchery.
As ever, in the MAGA cult where accusation is always confession and prophesy is always wrong, nothing will be learned and no errors admitted now that Chauvin has been found guilty. When you are the savior victims of the human race, bearing the White Man’s Burden to bring order to the brown savages half devil and half child, you cannot sin. You can only be sinned against. So when your false prophecy of exoneration and your vision of an America in flames is not realized, you don’t admit you were wrong.
Case in point, Rod Dreher: In a piece he originally titled “Who Killed George Floyd? George Floyd” Dreher openly blamed the victim. He then changed the title, but went on blaming the victim–while also prophesying both exoneration for his killers and riots from the lawless brown hordes haunting his persecuted imagination.
When these police officers go free — as they will deserve to, based on what is seen on these cameras — riots are going to sweep the nation. As Whitlock says, sports stars, the media, and many others have promulgated a sacred narrative in which Floyd was the innocent victim of racist police officers. It is not true. I think a decent case could be made that Derek Chauvin used excessive force, even though the neck restraint was legal under Minneapolis police guidelines. But murder? Not remotely. You’re not going to get a conviction for that.
George Floyd is dead today almost entirely because of George Floyd.
This Profile in Courage changed the title of that post and responded profusely to the many horrified people who took him to task for it. What he never did was retract the column or admit he was wrong. On Tuesday, he responded to the verdict with this:
Note the caption to the photo. He has no opinion, but the verdict is part of a race-hatred crusade against the White Savior Race, the true victims of the murder of George Floyd.
In short, the MAGA cult no longer is asserting salvation through pretending to care about abortion. It is now asserting the Right Kind of White (the MAGA White, not the cursed Race Traitor Progressive)…
…is the Victim Savior, targeted for cancellation by the brown horde. They are men of sorrow and acquainted with grief, despised and rejected, bruised for the transgressions of the horde and wounded for their iniquities. There is nothing for it but for them to Rise Again in power, and destroy the power of the horde to vote or wield power or punish their murderers in a court of law…
It’s a heavy load, but for the good of their victims, they are willing to once again Take Up the White Man’s Burden to save the world.
I took a look at the Babylon Bee this morning. Wish I hadn’t. It was disgusting.
Thanks for the warning… I was going to say that BB tweet that Mark referenced seemed particularly stupid.
Two things which may be of interest. 1. A podcast interview with Kristin Du Mez, the author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. https://podcast.thedispatch.com/p/jesus-and-evangelical-politics. The is a follow up podcast which in part deals with what characters, real or fictional, should be considered good examples of Christian masculinity. https://advisoryopinions.thedispatch.com/
2. You might also like Tim Powers’ story, “The Bible Repairman.” The way he repairs Bibles is to scorch out any sections which make his customers upset. Thus, if they are adulterers, he removes every mention in their Bibles to adultery!
That was good. There are good examples of Christian masuclinity too be found.
I always thought it was strange when men who clearly were annoyed/discomfited by babies most of the time, wore precious feet pins on their lapel at mass. Frank Pavone is the prototype of these weasel-like characters.
Brown baby Jesus wouldn’t have passed the test.
White savior, gun-toting-vigilante-Jesus would give them a religious thrill. (I was going to write something more crass and to the point, but can’t because I’m my mother’s daughter.)
I will however say that all of these macho statements, and virile accoutrements are what we call in my family, “extensions”, for men with a painfully embarrassing condition. Poor Tucker. There are some things money can’t buy.
Jesus was perfectly Anglo-Saxon in his humanity, which is further proof of his perfect divinity. And I have never suffered from same-sex attraction, nor do I intend to.
Austin Ruse, Annex to the conclusions of the Ecumenical council of Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921.
Oh, and the more crass version would not only be more to the point, but in the case of many of these unsavoury characters, I suspect, simply true. Nothing is more exciting than an entire network of fakes blondes talking disparagingly about brown and black men.
There is a big difference between someone who is sam sex attracted, and the soft, self indulgent narcissism that produces what the Pope once referred to as being “Marica”. These American Maricas are so certain that white males are the rightful, first born heirs to the kingdom, that anything short of this is an outrage. What the rest of us see is a bunch of silly props and signaling. What they see in themselves is an amalgam (in greater or lesser degree depending on what part of the country they are from) of Rocky Balboa, Clint Eastwood and James Bond, defending truth, honor and justice on behalf of the country. They see strutting cocks. We see bedraggled roosters putting their feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk.. They hear the call of an eagle, and we hear the silly screeches of a peacock.
It doesn’t matter if they drive an Italian sports car, or a monster truck with twin flags streaming behind them, (have you seen the ones with the steel balls hanging from the the tow hitch?)–if their courage and valiance in maintaining that perceived order of sonship manifests itself in kneeling on someone’s neck, or spitting upon the tyranny of a facemask, they are a bunch of Maricas who can’t hold a candle to the masculinity of an elegant gay man. The couldn’t even *see* all of the props and extenders on their hero Donald Trump. While some of us were laughing on the sidelines thinking everyone could see it, we choked on our own laughter when we realized how many *couldn’t*.
“Clearly, the verdict is supported by the facts.” – Jeanine Pirro, Fox News, Tuesday. She wasn’t alone – many relatively mainstream right-wing commentators have voiced support for this verdict. After all, the Minneapolis Police Chief himself testified against Chauvin at his trial. When police decide to kick out one of their own, it supports the “just a few bad apples” narrative of police reform, as opposed to the wholesale structural reforms supported by the left.
But there are a few hard-core right wingers denouncing the verdict, and they are appalling. If even the “just a few bad apples” narrative sticks in their craw so badly, one wonders what a cop would have to do to get them to admit a problem.
I’ve received fundraising materials from Priests for Life. They are designed to engender outrange; they’re flashy; they’re incoherent. And in areas where I have some specific knowledge, they contain some outright lies. You can add that to the list of reasons that Pavone might give you the creeps; he’s dishonest on so many levels.
Dishonest salesmen. Who could see that coming?