Spirituality and Insurrection
Photo Credit: Getty Images/erlucho
“People like to say there is only one God. They are wrong. People believe in many Gods, each mirroring the mindset of the believer.”
I wept for my country as an insurrectionist marched through the Capitol of the United States carrying a Confederate battle flag. I wept for democracy as tens of millions of Americans swallowed the Kool-Aid of fascism fed them by right-wing media and demagogues. And I shudder at what is to come: years of violence at the hands of fascists draped in an American flag drenched in racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic rhetoric. And behind them all is a God no less racist, misogynist, anti–Semitic, and anti-democratic.
To read the emails in my inbox you would think that religious Americans are united in defense of liberty and their condemnation of the traitors who attacked the citadel of American democracy. You would be wrong. There are millions of believers whose God supports fascism. They are not an aberration, they are not heretics; they are God-fearing and God-loving women and men who believe they are doing God’s work in the world. And they are. It is just that their God isn’t my God.
People like to say there is only one God. They are wrong. People believe in many Gods, each mirroring the mindset of the believer. Polytheism, not monotheism, is the norm. Case in point: the God of Doug Sweet an insurrectionist from Virginia interviewed by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ Jan. 11, 2021).
According to Mr. Sweet, before storming the Capitol he prayed to God asking, “Lord, is this the right thing to do? Is this what I need to do?” He felt God’s hand pushing him through the doors of the building. “I checked in with the Lord. I never heard a ‘No.’”
There are millions of believers whose God supports fascism.
He never heard “No” because he was already committed to “Yes.” Mr. Sweet wanted to storm the Capitol, so his God wanted him to storm the Capitol as well. The God of Mr. Sweet sanctioned Mr. Sweet’s desires. God always supports the desires of believers whether those desires are racist, misogynist, irrational, fascistic, violent, or the opposite. “God” is an amoral and apolitical nihilist, who provides sanctification for any ideology.
The Wall Street Journal painted Mr. Sweet as a conspiracy theorist and QAnon devotee. He is all that: “I’m not going to open a court case saying [Ms. Clinton] eats children. But I can believe that she might eat children.” But so what? Lots of people believe crazy things and most of those things are held sacred by mainstream religions. The problem isn’t Mr. Sweet and the millions of people like him. The problem is the Gods these people believe in and the religions that promote them.
I’m not anti-religion and certainly not anti-God. I’m simply pro religions and Gods that speak to the unity of all life as an expression of nondual Aliveness (Chiut in Hebrew) and that promote a nonzero ethic that sees the welfare of one interdependent with the welfare of all. My God demands exactly what the Prophet Micah’s God demands: Justice, Compassion, and Humility (Micah 6:8); something I suspect Mr. Sweet’s God does not.
More from Rabbi Rami on religion, from the print issue of Spirituality & Health.
My son is taking a class called Comparative Religion. Wouldn’t humanity be better off with only one religion?
Rabbi Rami: Would we be better off with only Bach and not Anoushka Shankar? Would we be better off with only Georgia O’Keeffe and not Hokusai? Religion, like music and art, is an expression of human creativity and should be studied the way we study art and music: not by comparing one religion to another, but by appreciating them all as expressions of humanity’s quest for meaning through myth, story, and ritual. Replacing a course in Comparative Religion with one called Religion Appreciation might be a move in the right direction.