The Inclination to Pedestalize: Myths like the Lost Cause and, of course, the Big Lie

Monumentally Big Lie

“Look here,” as Alan Watts (see bio here) often said parenthetically, when someone is put up on a pedestal, it’s generally because they’re being “kicked upstairs,” promoted, as it were, to a higher but less desirable position, especially one with less authority. Watts argues compellingly that Jesus is a good example of this. Jesus, Watts argues, was almost instantly pedestalized in an effort to lessen his inclusive, social impact and to create an effective exit strategy for those throughout the ages who are inclined to reject precisely what Jesus fully embraced (Here’s the sample of Watts’ work that I will refer to and cite from below – circa 1960). You’ll see that Watts explains how Jesus was turned into a “freak” and how the dominant, fundamentalist forms of “Christianity” have become nothing more than freak shows, a view that I’ve held for quite some time – before, during, and after my years as a Benedictine monk and then an ordained Roman Catholic priest. Notice, please, that I am not calling all of Christendom or any other particular tradition “freak shows,” thank you.

So, what does this have to do with the Myth of the Lost Cause or the Big Lie? To proceed let me set the stage, in case you’re not a mind reader or a frequent flyer on this illustroblogal journey, by citing Ty Seidule’s 2021 book, Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause. I created a post on the subject back in May of 2021, click here to see it. General Seidule’s book helped me understand the living connection between the myth of Robert E. Lee and the “Lost Cause” and the myth of Donald J. Trump and the “Big Lie.” Both of these figures, like Jesus, were pedestalized; although, unlike Jesus, Lee and to a larger extent Trump collaborated in their pedestalizations. Jesus had nothing to do with his own pedestalization; he was too busy depedestalizing the divine.

Back to Alan Watts. The inclination to pedestalize Jesus, to prefer his exclusivity and divinity over his inclusivity and humanity, is a reflection of monarchical forms of government and, of course, ecclesiology. As Watts states, “all Western religions have taken the form of celestial monarchies and therefore have discouraged democracy in the kingdom of heaven.” It wasn’t until the fifteenth century “as a consequence of the teaching of the German and Flemish mystics…there began to be such movements as the Anabaptists, the Brothers of the Free Spirit, and the Levelers and the Quakers. A spiritual movement which came to this country and founded a republic and not a monarchy…But you see, ever so many citizens of this republic think they ought to believe that the universe is a monarchy, and therefore they are always at odds with the republic. It is from principally white, racist Christians that we have the threat of fascism in this country, because, you see, they have a religion which is militant, which is not the religion of Jesus, which was the realization of divine sonship, but the religion about Jesus, which pedestalizes him, and which says that only this man, of all the sons of woman, was divine. And you had better recognize it. And so it speaks of itself as the church militant. The onward Christian soldiers marching, as to war. Utterly exclusive, convinced in advance of examining the doctrines of any other religion, that it is the top religion. So it becomes a freak religion, just as it has made a freak of Jesus, an unnatural man.”

I’m going to leave it there for now. I won’t say anything more about slavery or white supremacy. Check out Ty Seidule’s book and other resources for that. As is so often the case, my cartoons and photo mashups are my first and only voice. While I’m working on them, I’m able to engage in related subjects in a precognitive, nonverbal way. We got a lot of work ahead of us to form a more perfect Union (look up the etymology of perfect, it means “by doing;” it’s not a destination, not an end point; it’s a journey. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. You can use the form below.

Lee on Traveller – Trump on EZ-GO

Our Annual Christmas Letter: M

This year, as the national forces of ignorance and authoritarianism mobilize, the folks here at portfoliolongo.com would like the letter M to tell our story. It’s a relatively simple story, not unlike the stories encapsulated over the last 6 years in our previous Christmas letters. It’s a story of some irony, much hope, and absolute impermanence – best summarized in a saying so popular that even President Abraham Lincoln used it in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1859: “And this, too, shall pass.” (See the excerpt and citation below.)

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.” (Click here for the full speech.)

Thinking about Hannah Arendt

…and what happens in the absence of genuine education, when propaganda and marketing hollow out one’s voice… [prompted by this article shared by a friend]

Reference photo source: click here.