The Reactionary Christ

The Starbucks Christmas coffeecup fiasco:

Apparently there are no liberal or conservative Christians in America, only reactionary Christians. Without fail, when public awareness turns its gaze upon the next feast day of the Christian liturgical calendar (except Pentecost, because no one knows what it is), this or that wacky corner of American Christianity will complain about some such nonsense and then it is open season for the reactions.

As a friend put it recently, we are now encountering fourth-level meta reactions: “outrage about the outrage about the outrage.” Every year some piece of nothing is presented as the foundation for quickly building a moralistic platform out of plywood and glue. This year it is Starbucks’ stupid red cups. In response, the holy, morally pure objects of the True Meaning of Christmas are thrust into social media: foster children, refugees, homeless people, poor nations, real religious persecution, the environment, Syria, something about Advent. Never you mind that people spouting these moralist tropes have little to no actual encounter with any of the people they're talking about. Liberal reactionaries need only wait as their conservative brethren dutifully choose the outrage du jour for the season.

Worse, news outlets that pass along the story appear to be reporting on a phenomenon that has no existence outside of one man's viral video and the echoing likes and shares of the unthinking masses. The moderately liberal moralist response to these kinds of non-stories shows the utter lack of politics among liberals. Far from building a constructive political foundation addressing the realities of life in America, liberals are in a constant state of reaction—reacting even to essentially fabricated movements on the right. As for conservatives, their response to this liberal cacophony is to double down on a felt sense of persecution and injustice that allows these kinds of stories to flourish in the first place.

This would merely be a disappointing trifle if reactionary politics were not a hair's breadth from fundamentalist politics. The right and left feeding off each other in the way described above cannot help but devolve into feuding fundamentalisms, each spouting its own doctrinaire moralistic truisms and working to dehumanize and silence its opposition.

What is required is a politics of reconciliation and love wherein disparate individuals are encouraged to hold political tension together and work through problems based not on whatever common wisdom they bring to the table with them, but through encounter of each other and the world with eyes unburdened by fear, hatred, loss, and the will to power.

This is the politics of the cross.