Nam Kiwanuka talks to celebrated novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson about her latest collection of essays, "What Are We Doing Here?" On the agenda: America's political polarization, the Christian right's embrace of Donald Trump, and whether Christianity has a place on the left.
I have come to the firm belief that in the United States the only prospect there is for the continuation of what traditionally has been liberalism in America is the propagation of The Law, the Prophets, the Gospel and the Epistles that are the basis of Christianity among the American people. That is, of course, and as is touched on in the discussion, not the same thing as what is generally called "Christianity" especially by the secular media who have a stake in the discrediting of genuine Christianity as they do discrediting the American liberal tradition because American media serves Mammon. That is as true of the "liberal" media that Marilynne Robinson says is kind to her, The New York Times, The Nation, because of their various financial and ideological inclinations. Among other things forced by the manifestation over the past several decades of political-supposedly religious life in America it is my conclusion that the quietism of American liberal Christianity Marilynne Robinson mentions, the delicate, polite reluctance to condemn the pseudo-Christianity of "evangelical" Christianity* which is in total and complete opposition to The Gospel of Jesus, the Epistles, is heretical and must be fought, has been a big part of the problem. I think one of the biggest things we need right now is for Christian liberals to attack that heresy with all their might. If they don't stand for that, they will not only suffer the decline we're always told those churches are in, they'll have made it inevitable.
It was reading larger numbers of atheists online, their thinking, their claims, and thinking about the logical and practical results of what they said that convinced me that atheism is inevitably, to one extent or another, materialistic, and materialism is inevitably opposed to that traditional American form of liberalism, out of which the concept of the commonwealth, the abolition of slavery, the rights of Women and workers and minorities and, yes, everything up to and including LGBT rights comes.
I mentioned in a comment the other day a discussion I'd had with an atheist who brought up the great and all consuming "Question of Evil" why bad things happen to the innocent, why there is suffering, why the evil prosper, etc. if there is a God who is good. I've got no more of an answer for that than the one that is given in the Book of Job, no one does. But the answer to an atheist raising it is more basic, how does an atheist find a basis for defining something, including the suffering of innocents, why the depraved and cruel prosper as being evil out of the basis of their materialism and atheism and there isn't even as much of an answer to that as the person who wrote Job down had for the Question of Evil. Atheism as a means of even defining something as being wrong and why people should not do evil if it benefits them or even if they feel like doing something evil shouldn't do it if they figure they can get away with it.
American style liberalism, the commonwealth, the rights of people to, as Abraham Lincoln so perfectly put it, the "natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of any one else" to the common concern for children, the impoverished elderly, members of minority groups "the orphan, the widow, the stranger among you," depends absolutely on a full and actual and effective belief that those things are commanded by God or The Creator, if you want to put it in the 18th century fashion that Jefferson and his drafting committee came up with as excuses for why they were leaving Britain. In the United States, that articulation will be Christian or it will not happen. Elsewhere it might be found in Judaism or Islam or some forms of Hinduism or other religious articulations of human experience and tradition but it is going to have to be founded outside of human consciousness because, minus that component, it can't be found there in any durable and reliable form sufficient to produce egalitarian democracy. As I have pointed out, that conclusion was long in developing for me but I can name the incident which started the crystallization process, it was when I read a barroom style atheist on Eschaton claim that "science has proved that free will doesn't exist". So, if someone wants to know what to blame my development of this theme on, it was an atheist who started it.
* There are liberal Evangelicals who are as liberal as any other Christians, some of whom put some of those officially called "liberals" to shame in their work of liberalism. Such Evangelicals are never mentioned in the Mammonist media, the last thing they want to do is call attention to such liberal Evangelicals who might attract those Evangelicals who find the official, media promoted version of "Evangelicals" morally wanting.