Ivan Zahradka

Nancy’s finger and the mock Armageddon

According to surveys by the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of the adult population in the United States (77%) professed Christianity a dozen years ago. At the same time, surveys conducted in the last couple of years indicate that the religious map of the United States has gone through a significant change. Currently, less than two-thirds (65%) of the general public claim Christian beliefs, a fact that may seem sensational to a distant observer, given the traditional perception of American history. A hypothesis is thus necessary as to whether recent American events are related to changes in the religious beliefs of Americans, or whether they are an expression of the search for some kind of a new ideology of a more supportive and less “orthodox” Christian Americanism.

Fascinating, too, are the data on the longer-term trends in the relative representation of religious beliefs on the Capitol Hill. Over the past six decades, the number of congressmen claiming Protestantism has fallen by about a quarter. This means that Protestantism is hovering around an all-time low, and stands on the precipice of losing its “majority” in the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government (now 55.4% of Congress). Conversely, the number of members of Congress espousing political Catholicism has grown by more than 60% in that time frame, up to the level of 30% of Congress – but it should be noted here that this growth has not occurred in the last decade. Overall, people claiming beliefs labeled as “Christian” (Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and Orthodox Christians) make up a little over 88% of Congress. Thus, if numbers are any guide, Christians continue to be over-represented in the distribution of political power, with Catholics more heavily so than Protestants. In terms of party affiliation, all but three of the representatives and senators elected from the Republican Party claim to be Christian, with seven in ten being Protestants, and Catholics representing a quarter. On the other hand, on the Democratic side, the proportion of Protestants and Catholics among Democrats is relatively even (43% and 34.1%, respectively).

Why all these numbers? America seems to have been changing steadily for some time now in the direction described above. To the wonder of the world, Protestants are gradually losing ground in what appears to be a well-established and persistent long-term trend. Meanwhile, however surprising its popularity may be, Catholic Christianity is gaining ground in America. This creeping change has largely gone under the radar. Instead, the popular press and some non-believers like to dwell on the alleged threat of charismatic branches of evangelical Protestant Christianity to the entire world, represented though they are in Congress only marginally for some reason. However, to draw far-reaching conclusions from numbers without laborious and extensive analysis of all the relevant circumstances would probably be presumptuous. After all, the Christian element is still the overwhelming ideological, political, cultural, not to say hegemonic (and even sometimes destructive) force today it has always been. The US role in the world cannot be understood without acknowledging the importance of religious (primarily Christian) beliefs on the words and deeds of Americans. We must take into consideration the prospect of a long succession of Catholic President from here on.

So why all the trivial numbers, which will remain steady and won’t change much with the incoming 118th Congress? The main point here is to point out the marked contrast between words and deeds, between what on paper should be and what actually is. It seems as if unbearable collective egos of different Christian faith factions are manifested in a conflict that is at once political and sectarian. Thus we see a stark contrast between the Faith on the Hill and the faith of the Sermon on the Mount. I understand the latest American developments to be apropo to the now legendarily raised index finger of the outgoing Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, expressed in the violence against her husband. The recent rather disturbing American upheaval is no doubt subliminally connected to the threatening, raised finger, and also very likely a harbinger of incipient tectonic demographic and social change. Paradoxically, at the end of this America may be more consensual, more ideologically flexible, but probably even more (not less) hegemonic. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest to follow America’s ongoing societal change closely and analyze it carefully, for, though hardly anyone knows it today, what may eventually come of it can influence future world events.

Meanwhile, in my personal deep disappointment with some of the current manifestations of the intolerable collective Christian ego, I distill one clear warning and message to all democratically elected politicians. They must cherish the high standards (in all important respects) of their people; do not divide them, do not try to enrage them and drive them into the streets under the guise that you consider it a democratic requirement; strive to build basic unity in the mindset of the people, and especially strive to fulfill people’s longing for peace and tranquility, for opportunities for self-fulfillment in the company of loved ones and friends. Stop dividing people; give up the hope that people can be easily manipulated into irreconcilable ideological attitudes or even hatred, imagining that perhaps one interest group will prevail over the other one day, thus achieving its selfish goals at the expense of others. Whatever faith or branch we may profess, be each of us a brother or sister to one another and let’s put our common interest before our already unbearable and omnipresent group egos, demonstrated by a lack of brotherly love, mutual understanding and good-will. Let’s build the kingdom of God on Earth not by power but by love. Let’s put away our corrupt and cruel hearts. Let’s stop fighting and finally have mercy on one another.

About the Author
Ivan Zahrádka is a citizen of the Czech Republic. He was born and lives in central Bohemia. He graduated as a mathematician from the Charles University of Prague and soon devoted himself to teaching and scientific activities. However, he spent the greater part of his career as an investment management specialist working for a few domestic and foreign private financial institutions at home and abroad. He currently works in Prague as a civil servant in the area of the financial market regulation.
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