Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ideology as Idolatry, Part 3E: Decisions for Christ, Dionysus and Aphrodite

Here, my blog series on Ideology and Idolatry continues, in which I explore how I think the same concrete reality is being spoken to by David E. Fitch in The End of Evangelicalism?, on the one hand, who speaks of the “empty politic” and ideology of evangelicalism, and by N.T. Wright in Surprised by Scripture, on the other hand, who speaks of the idolatry that drives our world.

See Part 1: Setting the Stage
See Part 2A: The Inerrant Bible and Apollo
See Part 2B: The Inerrant Bible and Apollo
See Part 3A: Decisions for Christ, Dionysus, and Aphrodite
See Part 3B: Decisions for Christ, Dionysus, and Aphrodite
See Part 3C: Decisions for Christ, Dionysus, and Aphrodite
See Part 3D: Decisions for Christ, Dionysus, and Aphrodite

Gays as Pleasurable Evangelical Sacrifices to Dionysius and Aphrodite

From Brokeback Mountain

Well, as per the above about the continuing prevalence of the assumptions behind “the Decision,” it appears as though our evangelical Paris (see the end of the last blog post of this series) hasn’t repented but, instead, has given himself over to either worship of an Aphrodite he doesn’t recognize as such or entanglement in an empty ideology with an absence at its core that leaves him with no way of ordering the desires of his body.

Precisely because “the Decision” means nothing in actual life or for the desires of our bodies, Fitch discusses in The End of Evangelicalism? how we as evangelicals don’t have much of a clue what we are for when it comes to sexual desire, but we sure do know what we are against. Evangelicals ignored how Carrie Prejean sexualized her body in numerous ways, but, in the very same breath, they celebrated how Prejean was absolutely certain in her rejection of gay and lesbian sexual relations. Again borrowing from Zizek, Fitch therefore says that Prejean illustrates how evangelicals use the gay or lesbian as an object in the world that defines what we are against.

Zizek’s terminology for this, which Fitch discusses, is that the gay and lesbian becomes the “object petit a.” Because we are driven to fill an emptiness that lies at the core of our ideology, our identity comes to be defined not as that for which we stand but by that against which we stand – particularly regarding sexual desire. Evangelicals also come to be defined by other desires born of our bodies against which we stand, such as for food, alcohol, tobacco, or dancing. These become further examples of our “empty” politic.

According to Fitch and Zizek, part of what happens when an ideology of “the Decision” comes to define itself against an “object petit a” is perverse enjoyment of such self-identification that occurs after initiation. This would partially explain why, despite the blatant inconsistency of a morally failed heroine of the faith, the leaders of evangelicalism paraded Ms. Prejean before the world as such. Evangelicals took perverse pleasure in defining themselves against LGBQs but blinded themselves to how Prejean was the opposite of an example of what evangelicals say they supposedly stand for when it comes to sexual ethics.

The work of this perverse pleasure is exposed when we lay judgment upon the “gay/lesbian.” The object of the “gay/lesbian” enables us to ignore the disordered desire in our own lives that arises as a result of the lack of meaning of “the Decision” for actual, concrete reality. Like Ted Haggard, then, we ignore our own disordered desires while feeling good about ourselves for not being “them” (the dreaded gays). We set ourselves up against them.

Judgment against “the other” as an object against we stand becomes a badge of honor. That particular badge of honor of standing up against homosexual unions even comes to identify us as evangelicals. So we have made “the Decision,” and it finally means something! We can live however we want, as long as we preach against the gays. Like Haggard or Prejean, we end up saying, in effect, that, “as long as we preach against “the gay/lesbian”, everything else will be OK.

As with the Mayan empiric worship, when the sacrificial blood of decapitated enemies of the Mayans became the life blood of the empire, evangelical self-identification comes from the enemies against whom evangelicals stand in joyful antagonism. For Zizek, this is part of the very definition of ideology. Such self-identification of evangelicals in accordance with their ideology parallels Mayan decapitation of enemies in another way, too. Evangelicals are initiated into a “system of belief” that is constituted by cognitive machinery that occurs in the head. As discussed previously in Part 3 of this blog series, that’s precisely why the evangelical body is left to be ruled by Dionysus and Aphrodite. The head has been dismembered from the body.

In the interview on Larry King Live, referenced previously in another Part 3 of this blog series, soon after King and Haggard finish talking about his preaching against homosexuality, Fitch discusses how King shows a clip of Haggard’s preaching that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group. Fitch says there is a strange revealing here in the juxtaposition between Haggard’s preaching against homosexuality and his declaration that evangelicals have the best sex.

It reveals that we are driven not so much by the fact that homosexuality is wrong but by the fear that they - the other, against whom evangelicals identify themselves - might enjoy sexual pleasure more. There is perverse enjoyment in and behind the exclamation that, “We have better sex than you, or at least we’re striving for it!”

Evangelicals stand against homosexual unions, because they are a sign of unhindered sexual desire. As the gays and lesbians enjoy unhindered fulfillment of sexual desire, evangelicals take pleasure the sacrifice of the gays as the “other.” And, like the ancient Mayans, through the life-blood of this act of sacrifice, evangelicals gain their identity. The pleasure of the Mayan’s sacrificial victim has become the pleasure of the empire itself. Evangelicals make unhindered fulfillment of sexual desire part of their very identity, as well. Evangelicals have taken that sexual fulfillment of their sacrificial victims and assimilated it into their own life-blood. That’s precisely why Haggard leads evangelicals in claiming that they get more pleasure than anyone out of sex!

The same inconsistent duplicity of the evangelical politic (way of life) of salvation is repeated. It means nothing, but we’re going to make it mean something! Is it a coincidence that what Haggard forced his “Decision” to mean - in this case, that evangelicals have the best sex - sounded like it was placed on his lips by either Aphrodite (if he was talking to married couples in his congregation) or by Dionysus (if Haggard was referring to his secret homosexual exploits)? Dionysus was also known as “the god who appears.” And, Aphrodite was famous for having no childhood, because she was the goddess of what fully grown adults do to make new little beings appear in the world, which is exactly what Haggard said evangelicals are best at doing!

Images of Dionysus and Aphrodite Are Crafted by the Hands of Evangelicals

This inconsistent duplicity in the evangelical belief and practice about salvation referenced in the linguistic world of “the Decision” is, later on in the same Larry King Live interview, embodied in the caller interaction portion of the show. Someone called and said he had recently come out as a gay man and asked Haggard if he could be a Christian. Haggard tells the guy that everyone needs “to read our Bibles and pray…use the Scriptures as your guide and ask God to reveal things to you by the Holy Spirit in fellowship with believers. You will grow.” Haggard recommends to the guy that he do the same exact things that Haggard had just told Larry King didn’t work for him! Haggard recommends the same individualist, cognitively driven discipleship that Haggard had told King had only “made things worse.” What had lead Haggard to be shaped into the image of Dionysus, he recommends to others.

Haggard doesn’t deal with the contradictions at hand, that the Bible (as a conceptualized artifice to be taken in cognitively and passively) tells me one thing, and my body tells me another. Instead, Haggard re-enacts “the Decision.” He affirms the need to believe in the bible, to make “the decision”, and to keep doing it, even if it is completely separated/distanced from the body. Haggard knows of no other way to think of his desires. He must keep the ideology in tact. Such a re-enactment of “the Decision” constitutes his act of polytheistic worship to Dionysus and Aphrodite that is not challenged by the empty ideology of “the Decision” that, by definition, has no bearing on our bodies or our actual, concrete lives.

The “system of belief” that was built by human hands over centuries of Protestant thinking and practicing leaves us with cultural artifacts like Ted Haggard, Carrie Prejean, and Jessica Simpson, figures who reveal how evangelical hands that tend the soil out of which our socio-political body grows has shaped said body in ways that don’t bear the imageo dei.

As I noted previously in this blog series that, in Surprised by Scripture, N.T. Wright says that there are two ways in which gods are recognizable both as gods in the first place and as the particular gods by which we recognize them:
“First, those who worship gods become like them; their characters are formed as they imitate the object of worship and imbibe its inner essence. Second, worshipping them demands sacrifice, and those sacrifices are usually human. You hardly need me to spell out the point. How many million children, born or indeed unborn, have been sacrificed on the altar of Aphrotite, denied a secure upbringing because the demands of erotic desire keep one or both parents on the move?”

To that very point, the statistics for divorce inside and outside of the evangelical church in America are staggeringly minimal. The abortion rates inside the evangelical church, however, are lower than the national average. Is that, though, because evangelicals embody the virtues they claim by making “the Decision,” or is the difference because abortion is an ideological sign by which evangelicals identify themselves with “the Decision”? In other words, do fewer evangelicals get an abortion because it and the way of life it embodies is wrong or, rather, because evangelicals don’t want to lose certainty in “the Decision” and, thus, in being a member of the body politic defined by said “Decision”?

If evangelicals didn’t get abortions because it’s wrong, then evangelicals probably wouldn’t be getting divorces, either. But, they are. It’s another inconsistency that reveals the emptiness of the ideology.

Also, though fewer evangelicals get abortions as compared to the national average, the numbers are still high. This also suggests that maybe our ideology points to our idolatrous worship of said ideology that was crafted by our own hands. Or, perhaps, the numbers suggest, as N.T. Wright indicates above, idolatrous worship of Aphrodite, whose image – Jessica Simpson and Carrie Prejean – appears out of the soil of the culture to which we tend with our very own hands. Or, perhaps a third truth remains. Maybe evangelicals are pagan polytheists, and we worship the system we crafted and that is represented by “the Decision” and Aphrodite, who is represented by Jessica Simpson and Carrie Prejean, and Dionysus, whose prophet is Ted Haggard.

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