Based in KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, ROBERT BINGAMAN IS A WRITER, An artist, and A PERSON WITH IDEAS.

Why we resist

A lot of the Christians I know and respect can speak with wisdom and eloquence about whether evil exists, where it comes from, and how it spreads. To hear them speak on these subjects is to be deeply compelled by the notion that fear is most potent when it isolates us—and further, that it is weaponized when we use it to lie to ourselves, and then others. Too often, the intelligence and awareness these people possess is not seen or understood by the many non-believers I know. Christians are often described as ignorant, if not stupid people.

But just as often—and especially lately—many of the Christians I know have described the forces beneath our politics as merely political, and have expressed (or feigned?) confusion when they hear Trump and his ascension described in such epic (biblical?) terms. Even by some in my own family, the conversation is summarily simplified with platitudes I have no choice but to distrust: "I don't think he's perfect—he wasn't my first choice—but I'll be praying for him to lead." For how long did Christians of the past pray that tyrants who used Christ's name would "lead" before they changed their mind? I challenge not the act of prayer, but the willingness to discern.

It strikes me as at least possible that in a strange pivot, some Christians are all of the sudden willing to describe the situation in smaller, more "worldly" terms. As if, in the face of truths that would force quite uncomfortable wordly realignments (like, say, who you voted for), they would rather be left alone with who they are; free not from the patterns of this world, but happily a part of them—willing to play their part in us-vs-them (instead of good vs evil). More such words from a friend: "I have grown tired of being told by the left that I am hateful, prejudiced, homophobic and uncaring because I dare to have a different view than the Hollywood elite, but I haven't cried myself to sleep one night since Hillary named me deplorable." But if we give so much weight to the names others have given us, are we not ceding our attachment to the truth? I have seen a kind of embittered embrace of "deplorable" by many Christians—t-shirts were printed—and it strikes me as self-defeating and toxic.

Such proclamations are often bookended with some notion that "God is in charge." But more and more, what I'm really hearing is, "leave me alone." The uncomfortable truth worth discussing is that no one—truly not one person—wants to be known as hateful or uncaring and that, simultaneously and paradoxically, some humans (if not all) have been hateful and uncaring throughout history.

If, by chance, such words remind you of yourself—I would urge an open mind to these questions: Have you been party to a lie? Has fear—of one kind or another—led you to assumptions and conclusions? Has anyone involved in politics or media invoked that fear? And even if not in your case—are you willing to consider that this has indeed taken place at large within your church and country? And because it comes from within your system of belief, rather than without—is a more dangerous lie than most at play? And—not unlike an historic moment some 2,000 years ago—is the truth about that lie being discovered from outside organized religion? Has the notion of personal economic or especially physical safety been the open door to something more toxic within you, however well disguised? To be clear, I couldn't possibly judge such a person if their answers were yes.

Stupidity used to be on the fringes

That thing that hath been