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Let’s Stay Pure, America

November 17, 2015

Let’s Stay Pure, America

In this fantasy, the 1st Commandment is: Thou shalt not be impure.

But it’s hard to be pure. It takes a lot of will power and discipline. Or, one can simply fantasize that one is pure—or pure enough. “Pure enough” is at least better than impure.

One can’t be God, after all. He’s the model of Purity, and the judge of what is “pure enough” living. For Christians, and especially American fundamentalist Christians (as for fundamentalist Jews and Muslims) God has told us, in His Holy Word, how to be pure enough for His love and our salvation. We all have a duty to read and do as we are told. God will reward us if we do so. That’s how we, and others, know that we His “pure enough.”

This is the fantasy of purity and innocence. I think it is a major psychopathology of our democracy. It is a fantasy of the truly exceptional. Some of us, thank God (but few of them), have achieved “pure enough,” and have been washed of our sins, making us 100% pure in His merciful eyes. But now we must do what is required of us.

Our fantasy traces back to the Puritan settlers of MA Bay Colony in the 1630s, whose mission was to purify Christianity. They believed that the mission was difficult but not impossible, and they accepted it, because God willed something really exceptional for them, a place of the exceptional. He had set aside a New Jerusalem, in the New World, a New England, as the place where His kingdom would be established on earth. In the fullness of time, which they believed was any day now, the trumpet would blow and Christ would walk the earth, separating out the pure enough for heaven, and sending the others to eternal fire.

Meanwhile, in the South, our fantasy traces back to the psychological need to be pure enough in spite enslaving millions. That mission was, of course, impossible; and so the familiar, quasi-religious stories had to be invented and promulgated to justify the lie, justify the pain inflicted, relieve the emotional pressure of hypocrisy, and teach the methods of sustaining the racial purity of plantation society. A powerful image was invented, to symbolize the faith, the discipline, the reward, and the evidence of reward: the pure white woman, kept in her place on a pedestal.

In conservative Christian doctrine, then and now, humans cannot be pure through their own efforts alone; but once they have been redeemed they form God’s chosen people and form a community of saints. They can then take strides to keep that community, God’s community, pure.

They must rid the true-believing community of the willfully impure, by casting out the devil, indigenous “red devils,” witches, heretics, nonbelievers, believers in a false god, aliens, liberals, and unrepentant sinners generally.

No Muslims allowed! And no illegals. (In the ‘30s it was Jews. Next?)

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