Addison Del Mastro is assistant editor of the American Conservative and somehow I stumbled onto a column he wrote yesterday about right-wing patriotism, Men Without A Country. "[T]oday," he admitted, "the trope that ostentatious patriotism is the province of the right has reversed. Many social and religious conservatives in particular, as well as critics of America’s expansive and imperialist foreign policy, no longer celebrate American exceptionalism, if they ever did. Some elements of the far right over the last decade have even pined for leaders on the order of those in Russia or China. It would not be impossible to find a Twitter personality welcoming Russian assistance in overthrowing the contemporary West’s secular globalism. This is far from representative, but it reveals something about the trajectory of current attitudes. At worst, it evinces that dreaded slide towards authoritarianism. At best, it could be the prelude to a less hubristic national self-understanding."
Reading his pain is... painful.
Folks like TAC’s own Rod Dreher, and many further to his right, particularly in the “Catholic integralist” sphere, seem to be asking themselves: if secularism, consumerism, and general depravity are American, what does it mean to be a patriot? “Shoring up the imperium”? Or realizing that Jesus and America are not moral equivalents? The sometime escape hatch-- that America is an idea, that idea is godly, and the America that actually exists today is not the genuine article-- is as heretical as it is absurd.
Nonetheless, many right-leaning self-professed patriots have slipped into a nationalist version of Catholic sedevacantism, clinging to the notion that America is a Platonic Form in the ether, a Form more real than the contemporary nation-state that occupies central North America, with all of its actual attributes that conservatives are not so keen on. Others seem to view themselves as men without a country. And still others, perhaps most on the mark, admit that even the Founding Fathers did not believe their experiment would endure forever. A country may have a character or a “personality,” but it does not have an immortal soul.
I felt like sending him John Pavlovitz's most recent sermon, which took the form of a letter to the evangelical church (and, I daresay, far right Catholics): Dear Judas. It's searing... to put it mildly, but not undeserved. "Dear Evangelicals, he began; I thought of you today." John told them he had been reading the Bible and jogged their memory by reminding them it was the book "from a sitting president’s recent upside-down, tear-gassed, church steps photo op." He came across Matthew's story of Judas' final moments... "overwhelmed with guilt, in a searing, sweaty panic-- realizing that he had betrayed his beloved Jesus and sent him to an unthinkably violent death, all for thirty cold pieces of silver that now felt worthless in his hands."
He’d kissed him and he’d killed him, just to gain a quick windfall that he suddenly realized was fool’s gold.
He died knowing he’d forfeited his soul and couldn’t get a refund.
I wonder if you will ever have such a last-minute awakening: a similarly sickening moment of clarity-come-too-late, when you look around and see all that you’ve destroyed and how many people you’ve grievously wounded-- and if you too will realize that you’re now permanently in the red because you have abandoned your namesake for another name that adorns very different kinds of buildings.
Take a moment and survey the coins in your hand, now, friends.
Roll them around your fingers.
Feel the weight of them.
Your thirty pieces of silver were these last four years,
some Supreme Court Justices, a couple hundred of lower court judges, the temporary high of a few political wins,
the bully pulpit of a President’s Twitter feed for forty-eight months, and perhaps soon, a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body.
That was your soul’s selling price.
Was it all worth betraying Jesus for, I wonder?
Was it worth brutalizing the already vulnerable and oppressed, whose lives he said he inhabited?
Was it worth aligning with this petulant, profane Caesar in all his pervasive and prolific violence?
Was it worth driving a generation from the Church that Jesus built to be a refuge for wanderers, a balm for the hurting, a destination for weary pilgrims, and a home for prodigals?
From where I’m standing, it wasn’t.
From where I’m standing, you’re bankrupt.
From where I’m standing, you’re stuck.
I’m out here with the multitudes who will never darken the door of one your gatherings ever again because they’ve seen your greed.
I’m here with those whose last remaining tethers to religion have been fully severed seeing you abandon the tender world-loving heart of Jesus, in favor of a thin facade of nationalistic bravado.
I’m here alongside hundreds of thousands sitting vigil for a democracy teetering precariously on the edge of death at your doing.
I’m with the disparate humanity who can find something redemptive and beautiful-- anywhere else but alongside you.
I’m here with those whose grief you have manufactured, whose peace you have interrupted with chaos, whose voices you have intentionally silenced: with the poor and hurting and the hopeless.
I’m there because Jesus is there; where he’s always been. You are there with those thirty coins and the time that is running out. He will outlive you.
I imagine you’re not able to mourn any of this right now; that you still feel like you’re winning. You are still in between the payoff and the wake-up, and so all you’re feeling is the fleeting rush of a deal with the devil that always seems like a win-- until it doesn’t.
But one day soon (either here or hereafter) you’re going to reach the place all Judases eventually find themselves: realizing all they’ve lost to gain a world:
They’ve lost everything that matters.
Hope those thirty pieces of silver were worth that.
This apocryphal tale has been making the rounds online in Europe. I thought today would be a nice day to share it here:
One day Donald Trump dies and goes down to hell where the devil is already waiting for him.
He says to Trump: "Okay, we have a problem here now. Hell is full, but you definitely belong down here."
He thinks for a moment, then he says: "Let's do it like this: I have three people here who were not as bad as you were. One of them can go to heaven, then his place will be free for you. But since you will then have to take over his duties here in hell, I'll let you decide who you send to heaven and thus take his place.
Trump makes the deal.
The devil leads him to a door. He opens it and Trump sees Barack Obama and a swimming pool. Obama jumps into the pool again and again, dives for something, but always comes back to the surface empty-handed. That was his fate in posterity.
Trump: "No, this is not for me. It looks exhausting and ruins my hairstyle."
They go to the next door. Behind it is Al Gore with a sledgehammer in his hands. He's hitting huge boulders with it. He doesn't take a break.
"No way," says Trump, "I have shoulder problems! I'd be in pain all the time."
The third door. Behind it Bill Clinton. He lies on his back on a couch, his arms tied above his head, no clothes on his body and his legs spread apart. In between Monica Lewinsky. She does exactly what she has become known for.
Trump looks, looks again and is speechless. Finally he says:
"Yeah, I like that! This is a job for me!"
The devil grins broadly and says: "Okay Monica, you can go!"