The ReAwaken America Tour made its latest stop at Donald Trump’s National Doral Miami. The three-day revival ended last Saturday. Among the hodgepodge of conspiracy theorists and wannabe powerful preachers, Gen. Michael Flynn sounded the most ominous.
He said, “The other side is an ideology that, they don’t have faith, they don’t believe in God, they have no soul, they have no consciousness, when we think about something, we go black-and-white, right-and-wrong, good-and-evil. They don’t see things like that.”
Now, that is a mouthful to sling at fellow American Christians. I hardly know where to start, but making sure what the charges are against me and my tribe, let me repeat them. “The other side” — that’s Democrats, liberals, progressives and mainline Christians — “don’t have faith” in God, “don’t believe in God,” “have no soul,” and “have no consciousness.”
“Flynn has the freedom of speech to say these damning words, but he is not free from the damnation that follows his perfidious performance.”
It is not enough to say, “Not guilty.” These charges are too damning, too self-serving, too despicable, to be allowed another breath of fresh, free air. Flynn has the freedom of speech to say these damning words, but he is not free from the damnation that follows his perfidious performance.
I will discount his allegation that we don’t have faith and we don’t believe in God. Both those statements are so easily disposed of that we could allow a newly baptized 12-year-old to send the general packing.
We have “no soul” requires our attention. Flynn lacks theological sophistication. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be throwing around a word like “soul.”
Such language suggests the pagan assumption that we possess a soul that is eternal and that it is somehow separate from our body. Flynn doesn’t seem to know he’s embracing Plato because his knowledge of Plato probably is less than his knowledge of Saint Paul.
Assuming the general is not talking theologically, I can only surmise he is accusing us of not having any real love for our nation, no compassion, no empathy. One must be blind or ignorant to make such a reckless statement.
“One must be blind or ignorant to make such a reckless statement.”
As George Lakoff reminds us, “Behind every progressive policy lies a single moral value: empathy, together with the responsibility and strength to act on that empathy.” In every rights movement in the history of this nation — freedom from slavery, freedom for women, freedom for working people, the Civil Rights movement, the gay rights movement — there is the “soul” of progressive thought, responsibility and action.
The social safety net that keeps the poor from starvation, that’s from the “soul” of a progressive people. Progressive government exists to maximize our freedom. Its protection is there to guarantee freedom from harm, from want, from fear.
America’s greatest progressive president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, insisted all Americans deserve freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. The progressive John F. Kennedy cried “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Only people with “soul” can be that selfless.
As to God, Flynn is simply bonkers.
We say it together in our worship: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
As to consciousness, here’s a look at our developing ethical consciousness. As Old Testament scholar Ellen F. Davis notes, “Ethical consciousness, informed by a prayerful life within the faith community, is a legitimate hermeneutical tool.” The consciousness of progressives has led to eliminating practices that are inhumane, such as the exclusion of gays from marriage and ordained ministry.
“Flynn has a lot of nerve claiming we have no consciousness.”
Flynn has a lot of nerve claiming we have no consciousness. We are deeply aware of the encroaching fascism he represents. With a major assistance from Cornel West, we can see the market fundamentalism rooted in sheer greed that threatens our ability to be a caring nation. We are conscious of the aggressive militarism that undermines the processes of world peace. And we feel and see the escalating authoritarianism of our culture.
We are acutely conscious of the embedded racism Flynn and his compatriots deny so vociferously. Eddie Glaude Jr. raised our consciousness about the systemic racism of our culture in his book Democracy in Black. Ibram X. Kendi has instructed us in how to be “antiracist.” Will Campbell and J. Cameron Carter have ingrained in us that race is a theological issue.
Ta Nehisi Coates has reminded us of the awfulness of the “white supremacy” that now raises its ugly Jim Crow self in our midst. He has pressed our faces against the mirror of history, forcing us to see that poor whites in the 18th century made a deal with rich whites to accept the second rung on the economic ladder in return for not being considered Negroes. Poor whites got nothing out of this deal then, and they still are being used by the rich and the powerful.
Historian David W. Blight has enlightened our consciousness about the deal that brought the Confederate states back into the Union. White leaders in the North and white leaders in the South carved out a compromise that returned statehood and power to the Southern states at the expense of the newly freed slaves. The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were all but invalidated and Jim Crow, the KKK,and lynching choked the breath of freedom from the lungs of African Americans.
Do not, sir, have the audacity, to tell us we lack consciousness. You are blinded by the passive power of “whiteness.” You are clinging, with white-knuckled fists, to the bloody heirloom of white supremacy. Your ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.
It is you who lack consciousness.
We have lived with and through your kind since the dawn of our Republic. Everyone with a consciousness saw you coming long before you opened your mouth and betrayed your oath to be a patriot. You represent the worst of us, the worst of our ambitions, the worst of our fears, the worst of our violent anger, the worst of our ignorance.
General Flynn would be scary if he weren’t so pathetic. Yet we do not have the luxury of ignoring him. He represents the front line of danger of Trump fascism. We must condemn Flynn, his cronies and his sell-out preachers for magnifying and legitimizing Trump’s lies. Democracy demands our dissent.
Rodney W. Kennedy is a pastor and writer in New York state. He is the author of 10 books, including his latest, Good and Evil in the Garden of Democracy.
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