TruthDig and Beauty

I have to admit that Chris Hedges had not floated into the sphere of my awareness prior to yestereve when I caught up with Book TV's In Depth for January 2012. I was, somewhat against my will, impressed. His bona fides are pretty - well - bona fide. He's been places, done things. I like that he argued with Hitchens and Dawkins. I like that he read Niebuhr and Arendt and admired Bonhoeffer.

I have to confess that, liberal progressive Democrat that I profess to be, I am made a bit uneasy, sometimes, by the more stringent social critics from "my side of the aisle." I will even confess to having a bit of an issue with the Noam Chomskys, Howard Zinns and Amy Goodmans of the world. But I also admit that they are likely more correct in their analyses than I want them to be.

I'm not inclined to believe that people, even people at the top, are evil, per se, in the time-honored tradition of Scrooge and Messrs. Potter and Burns - but that they avidly pursue self-interest with little understanding or need to understand the impact of their actions on the world around them is evident. The bonus debacle was proof positive, as was the failure of the big banks to address the mortgage meltdown in humane ways and their obvious attempts to make up for losses caused by credit card reforms by dinging the bank accounts of people who can't afford to keep large balances.

Oh, I think a few of the rascals are genuine rascals and should be exposed to be so and thrown out or in(to prison). I suspect that most of them simply bought into a way of living and thinking of which the surrounding culture has seemed to approve. And unfortunately I also think that the surrounding culture has trashed a good many of the traditional barriers to rascally behavior. One of those barriers, I almost hate to admit, used to be religion. And here, I think, is where Hedges comes in.

One of the benefits that accrued from being an acknowledged "Christian nation" was that, even if Christianity was not practiced by one and all, it was culturally understood that it should be. And when the fat cats became a little too fat, their feet could be held to the fire and shame could induce them to bestow a little more largesse. Even more important, shame could induce congresscritters to pass legislation that curbed the worst excesses and opened doors for more ordinary folks to participate in the overall fortune of the nation.

But the religion of Christ the redeemer that informed those reforms has given way before the religion of the angry God.

Hedges, with a theological background of his own, knows this and has addressed it in his criticism of the liberal churches, their late arrival on the scene of civil rights and ecological awareness and their inability of late to challenge the precepts and conclusions of the religious right.

He offers, for example, an alternative to the insistence that the Ten Commandments be chiseled into the courtrooms of the nation. People who call themselves Christians, he suggests, should insist on a different list. This list has come to be called The Beatitudes, and it goes like this:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

You can find Hedges' columns at TruthDig.