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American Xtian Family Values

The best thing about reactionary xtians in the US is that their propensity to make the most hilariously ahistorical assertions provides endless amusement for left-wing bloggers.  (Of course, shits-and-giggles aside, the fact that they have can influence public policy is not, admittedly, very funny.)  I mean, take this reply to an excellent marxist approach to Queer liberation.  Commenter "Paul" complains that marxism is just "conjecture" and then goes on to conjecture about God, the "nuclear family", and Darwinism.

Point being: American right-wing Christians have a bizarre and ahistorical fascination with the nuclear family that forms the foundation of both their religion and politics––a terrifying Political Christianity that has far more global influence than the Political Islam overly highlighted by an Islamophobic discourse.  The reactionary xtian ability to command this discourse continuously places "family values" at the centre of electoral politics in the US and Canada––and though we are expected to believe that queer rights can only be accomplished under the auspices of imperialism [take, for example, Israel's attempt to paint itself as a defender of queer rights against the onslaught of Arab "barbarism"], we simultaneously expected to see such demands as a threat to so-called those "family values" that, as the commenter cited above argues, is the result of a "natural concept" that exists outside of history.

Eat your American apple cake of nuclear family freedom!

Due to my background, however, I have great sympathy for a liberation theology critique of rightwing Christianity.  Nor am I the only marxist drawn by this narrative.  Terry Eagleton, for example, has tried to reconcile parts of the gospels with marxism.  Alain Badiou has made a lot of fuss about St. Paul and universalism.  Even Slavoj Zizek, in one of the only books by him that I've found interesting, has tried to reconcile radical Christianity with marxism––but with a lot of useless tangents, unfortunately, about Star Wars and Lacan.  And yet none of these thinkers have managed to approach this topic with the same revolutionary zeal as liberation theology that, rightly or wrongly, better understood the problematic and was better equipped to think its way through the theological obstacle course.

This is why I find the liberation theology critique useful for providing an interior rejection of the ideology of hegemonic Christianity.  Liberation theologians such as Jose Miranda and Samuel Escobar, for example, have argued that we cannot divorce Christianity from the historical development of its ideology.  In other words, the ruling theology is, in each and every era, the theology of the ruling class––and before Christianity was adopted by a ruling class it was ideologically alien from what it has become today.  Take, for example, the position of Origen who was the prime theologian of the Christianity that was the target of lions in the Roman circus: he argued that the adherents of this rebel religion should never align themselves with the state, should never serve in its government or army––if they did, they should no longer be counted as Christians.  Compare this, however, with the theology that emerged after Constantine adopted Christianity: now we have Augustine arguing that Christendom is Empire, the Catholic Church is formed, and all Rome is the City of God on Earth.  We can continue to understand the development of Christianity through ideology at other crucial points in history: the extension of the just war doctrine to the doctrine of conversion, where it is adapted to settler-colonialism; the Protestant Work Ethic, where it is adapted to the emergence of capitalism.

The mainstream first world ideological adaption to so-called "family values", however, is tragically amusing.  First of all, it doesn't seem to understand that its beloved "family values" is not transhistorical but, rather, the product of Victorian England: the family of the days of Jesus is not the same as the so-called "nuclear family"––and yet the reactionary commenter, mentioned above, believes that this historical arrangement of the family is a natural law.  Secondly, I've never been able to understand how mainstream xtians are able to endorse "family values" despite the fact that their Biblical Jesus rejected even his own family and made numerous pronouncements against the biological family.  No family values, that Jesus!

Bad Jesus!

None of this, of course, is to argue for some "authentic christianity" that exists outside of time and space.  All I'm trying to do is point out that both the various expressions of christianity and its expression of so-called "family values" are the product of the historical development of ideology.  That anyone who argues for some ahistorical concept of the family premised on naturalized christianity is only thinking their way back to the nineteenth century.  Better yet: that the primacy of the family doesn't even exist in Church doctrine––and you'd think that both Catholic and Protestant variants of christianity, obsessed as they are with policing the family, would have tried to delete this obvious fact by now… But it's not liking the ruling theocratic classes of Christianity, like any ruling class, have been entirely self-reflective.  Then again, Origen must be so annoyed by these "family values"––not to mention xtians proudly serving in the military––that the dust in his unmarked grave must be circulating with enough atomic force to power an entire hemisphere.

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