In Jesus’s Name, Whatever

Last week, I got a copy of AT WAR WITH WAR, which is a collection of black and white  illustrations (woodcut, pen and ink, etc.) by the design legend Seymour Chwast, who co-founded Push Pin Studios with Edward Sorel and Milton Glaser. The book is built around the theme of violent conflict over the last 5,000 years. I backed it as a Kickstarter project managed by Designers and Books, and it’s the second illustration project I backed this year. (Here’s the first, by my friends Amy Goldwasser and Peter Arkle.)

The illustrations are interspersed with essays about war, and in the front pages, there’s an excerpt of “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain, wherein Twain skewers anyone who would invoke God in justifying wholesale violence for the pursuit of power.

Which feels like a gut punch in the current political environment. One the most repulsive things to me personally about what’s happening is how many Evangelical Christians pervert the Christian faith to justify some of the worst things the Trump campaign has done. (A Twitter user in my timeline asked me earlier if the Bible demanded that everyone pay for health insurance for other people. I replied that yes, it actually did. Christ exhorted his followers to take care of the sick, and he didn’t mean only if it’s personally convenient for you and costs you nothing.) Add to that persecuting gay and trans people, inflaming anti-Muslim rhetoric, stoking xenophobia, denying women basic reproductive care, etc.

These things are bad enough on their own, but they’re also done while looking the other way while their candidate of choice brags about sexual assaulting women, his own infidelities, boasts about stealing from people he owes money to by not paying them, openly discriminates against minorities (and has been sued for it) and seeks to punish the poor for their poverty via an appalling array of retrograde policies. He is so unfamiliar with humility that he views it as weakness and is therefore terrified of it and seeks to embody its opposite. He lies so frequently and indiscriminately that “pathological” seems like an understatement. He has no empathy for anyone but himself and even his self-professed loyalty to family hasn’t prevented him from being awful to his sons, sexualizing his daughters, and discarding wives once they cease to provide him with enough novelty and sexual validation. He seeks wise counsel from no one–largely because he is threatened by it, because it’s too humiliating to be confronted with what he doesn’t know. And he takes no personal responsibility for anything, so is incapable of confessing or repenting anything. There is literally nothing about Donald Trump that embodies any of the teachings of Christ. These behaviors are the purest antithesis of the tenets of Christian theology.

I grew up Southern Baptist and am not religious anymore. But if I were, I’d be hard pressed to define what Christianity means in an American context because it’s come to represent selfishness and greed. (Prosperity gospel is perhaps the most obscene modern incarnation of this, but that’s another post.) 

This is not really what the Chwast book is about, but it was the first thing that struck me when I saw the Twain passage. And that was on page 8. I hope that I don’t find the rest of the book more painfully relevant as we move forward.

Or we move, at any rate. Right now it doesn’t feel like we’re going forward.