Darryl Wimberley, author of “The King of Colored Town,” responds to NY Times op-ed’s omission of religious fanaticism as a cause of the current violent and anti-social behavior among Americans; mentions MRFF

Published On: January 14, 2022|Categories: MRFF's Inbox, News, Top News|3 Comments|
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From: Darryl Wimberley
Date: January 14, 2022 at 12:09:33 PM MST
To: Michael L Weinstein <[email protected]>
Subject: from Darryl response to Brooks Fri NY Times op ed AMERICA IS FALLING APART AT THE SEAMS

Mikey, I am sure you are familiar with David Brooks, a widely published author and frequent opinion writer for the New York Times.   Mr. Brooks wrote an article in this Friday’s Op Ed, “America Is Falling Apart At The Seam”, to which I felt obliged to respond.  As are you, I am an AFA grad. When I was commissioned in 1971, I took for granted that the values embued at the Academy would endure, among these that the chain of command is color-blind and that our Founding Fathers created a firm separation between Church and State.   

As I learned some years after graduating, and as you learned from painful and personal experience, USAFA is not immune to bigotry, nor to the influences of social pressures and politics. Very well-intentioned folks like Mr. Brooks seem, too often, insulated from the kind of bigotry that you and the MRFF have worked for years to expose and to counter. I cited you and your work at MRFF as part of my response to Brooks’ column.  Here ‘tis.


From:  Darryl Wimberley, author of: The King of Colored Town, first winner of The Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction 

For: David Brooks

Re:  Your Friday NY Times  OpEd

Mr. Brooks, hello and I hope this finds you well.  I read your Friday’s Op-Ed lamenting the rise in violent and anti-social behavior among Americans, but I am frankly nonplussed that you have “no idea” what lies at the root of this tide of vitriol and bad behavior.  I can’t believe my note, here, will tell you anything you don’t already know, but if you are familiar with the thesis I am about to try to cement, you ought to have some notion, at least, why Americans are “suddenly” losing their sense of societal decorum and obligation.

I will focus on one factor influencing day to day behavior in the US. Americans are  behaving badly because millions of Americans have convinced themselves that the America they actually value is threatened by people who are not white and who do not share a particular view of an American exceptionalism requiring absolute fealty to Jesus Christ.  For these folks, mostly now Republican, the only way to be a true American is to accept a not-so tacit theocracy with a very militant view of God’s Truly Begotten Son as the authorizing deity.

 A major and growing cancer manifest in the Jan 6th insurrection also plays out in airplane aisles and parking lots. The boiling resentment fueling these varied eruptions is felt by white folks whose identity and dominance, long threatened, now sees God’s hand in retribution. These congregants do not attend the sort of Bonhoefferian church or moderate temple that you often laud as a balm for social ills. Moderate Christianity or Judasim have not been the driving force in pulpits for a long time.

Growing up in the deep South and attending Baptist and Church of God and revival services, I knew as a teenager that these congregants ONLY felt fealty to a country specifically and “exceptionally” guided by God which as a corollary required an absolute intolerance, and often hatred, for any group challenging that identity. Millions and millions of Christian evangelic citizens simply do not believe that America should have a plural or secular government—this latter defined as any government or polity not specifically white-obeisant and Christian.

And these groups increasingly turn to militant Scripture to justify a holy war against the unbelieving. In this connection, the once-euphemistic term “Spiritual Warrior” has veered to Old Testament craziness. Quoting a sociologist Robyn Willey in his own March 23d, 2018 article, University of Alberta writer Geoff Mcmastern warns of attempts by this growing sect to convert indigenous populations in Canada. “Instead of focusing on personal salvation, as does mainstream evangelicalism, ‘NAR [National Apostolic Reform ]extends it to people groups, nations, communities and geographic areas. So instead of exorcising demons from a single individual, you can talk about exorcising demons from an entire people, group or community.’ says Willey. ‘Convinced they are soldiers in God’s army, NAR apostles aim to eventually take over governments and save the world from corruption and idolatry, establishing God’s new kingdom on Earth.’ ”

NAR’s stated purpose does not vary substantially from Christian nationalist movements in the US. The belief that any government not obeisant to Jesus is illegitimate gives easy rise to the justification for using any means to stop a government that demands a separation of church and state and to violently attack any group espousing values that do not kowtow to conservatively Xtn dogma.  I have seen the effect of this militant resurgence in evangelic life first-hand.  I have a good friend who attends “Spiritual Warrior” classes in what used to be a fairly normal Lutheran congregation in Austin, and his attitudes toward things heretofore not remotely religious – vaccinations, toilets for transgender students…etc etc etc—has taken an alarming Old Testament twist. For my friend, Jan 6th was not an insurrection but a prophetic moment calling Christians to oppose any Democratic pol, position, or government. For my friend and millions of Xtn citizens Donald Trump is God’s imperfect vessel on the way to converting the nation—or damning it.

        I am not sure if folks not raised in the mid-Ages or modern evangelic circles realize how seriously millions of Americans take the notion of damnation.  For many citizens, “Damn it to Hell” is not a metaphor.  Many, many evangelic congregations in the US today feel fully justified to subvert any government or castigate any individual who does not support a Xtn and evangelic basis for America’s political legitimacy and when they encounter an obstacle to that dominance, they frequently damn their enemies, “acting out” in what they would describe as justified, and righteous, indignation.  You may be familiar with Mikey Weinstein and his MRFF foundation; take any random sample of Mikey’s hate mail if you are unconvinced how this virulent strain of Christianity has poisoned day to day life in America—not to mention in state legislatures and in the halls of Congress. 

       A gentle challenge to you, Mr. Brooks: It seems to me that you have a tendency to invoke church attendance and religious life as automatic requirements for good society and to discredit the awful things done in the name of religion over centuries of history. You often write of the salutary effects of social gatherings in temples and churches without seeming to care whether the claims to authority are based any anything but myth and human invention.  [ I like Thomas Jefferson’s solution: Keep all the quotes from Jesus; eliminate any reference to divinity. ] You also sidestep or greatly downplay the deleterious effect of some churches and religious groups on general society. For example, your Friday Op Ed implies that a lowered church attendance correlates with recent trends in awful behavior.  Well, church attendance was sky high during the Jim Crow years and that did not improve white behavior toward African Americans. The huge revivalist movements bringing folks to church post Civil War were specifically instigated to keep Black populations… and later on Communists or aetheists..whomever… from gaining political power.  Church attendance was certainly higher when I was a teenager in the mid 60s than it is today, so what is the difference in behavior then and now—? You really have no idea?

       Well, one huge difference is that white evangelics who maintained a sense of dominance and cultural superiority for decades are seeing their cultural influence erode and when they saw that erosion begining to extend to political life, the response of self-described Christians was not simply to become more active in social life but to become more bellicose.  Newt Gingrich understood this and so did the Koch brothers.  Trump understood right away that the resentments seething in rural and Christian regions had little to do with policy, or abortion, but had everything to do with resentment over a loss of influence at the local high school and in Congress.  People like Ted Cruz have no illusions what it means to be a spiritual warrior. He barely bothers to hide political ambition and a drive toward theocracy in the guise of more measured rhetoric.  

        I am guessing you have read Andrew Whitehead’s May 27, ’21 article for the TimesMr. Whitehead describes a moral stance that he attributes to 20 percent of mostly-white Americans today. From Mr. Whitehead’s article:  ”…The relationship between Christian nationalism and anti-democratic attitudes has a long history in this country. Limiting access to voting and employing violence in order to disrupt the democratic process are not aberrations. After the Civil War and throughout the years of Jim Crow, Christian leaders routinely provided the theological arguments needed to rationalize limiting Black Americans’ access to participation in the democratic process. They explicitly tied these efforts to their desire to protect the purity of a ‘Christian’ nation…”

      It would be wrong, of course, to draw a straight line from these sorts of global and political actions to rants against flight attendants or threats to poll workers. But to pretend that there is no connection at all–? 

      Just to give you some idea. 

     Best to you and yours,  Darryl

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3 Comments

  1. Grey One Talks Sass January 15, 2022 at 7:02 am

    Every day I ask for guidance that my steps, thoughts, and actions align with for the good of all and may it harm none. That is my path. I honor my fellow citizens agency to choose their own path for is it not said there are as many ways to the light as there are people but there really is only one way.

    As a person living in a civilization I put aside my personal desires when I agree to be constrained by common laws and regulations. In Captain Dummy Speak that means I follow the Constitution and Bill of Rights + rules specific to each location.

    If a person rejects the rules we each agree to follow (and I’m not saying our existing rules are good or just. #AuditAllTheThings only that We have these rules and processes for… reasons) what status should they have? I guess we could jail them all but in my opinion that would lead We The People back to where we are now.

    We really need another way.

  2. NotanOmission January 17, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    It’s not an omission if someone does not believe it is the cause. Just because it is one person’s viewpoint doesn’t mean it has to be another. GTFO
    And actually, the violent crime is due to a LACK of religion and morals, just the opposite.

  3. Grey One Talks Sass January 26, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    The facts show violent crime is caused by lack of resources, meaning housing, food, opportunities for work, etc. Deny a person the ability to take care of themselves and the brain goes into a place where survival is key and anyone in the way is expendable. I’ve been there. Didn’t like it. Would rather not be that way again, thankyouverymuch.

    Religion, on the other hand, historically causes violence and divisions. How can We The People view religion as one voice when we see multiple “First Church of” branches all over the USA. They all can’t be First which leads to a There Can Only Be One mentality.

    If anyone needs me to I can repost Emo Phillips greatest joke ever told. It really is a keeper. Point is literal Bible believing Christians can’t even agree upon the meaning of their holy book. Perhaps they should be taking care of their internal issues before forcing their interpretations on the rest of us?

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