In The New Demons, Jacques Ellul speaks about the gods we worship today, especially Jupiter (the god of politics).
Because devotion to Jupiter is so intense, political activity is considered the most meaningful of all activities. Sadly, this devotion to a most conventional yet thoroughly destructive Olympian god characterizes even Christians and churches. We have developed the strange notion that we are serious witnesses to Jesus, and worthy of attention from non-Christians, only when we get political. How we get political—progressive, conservative, or restorative—doesn’t matter. It’s getting political, showing our devotion to Jupiter so that we are like everyone else—that matters.
Jacques explains that Christians get themselves into trouble this way because “their religious mentality…plays tricks on them. As Christianity collapses as a religion, they look about them in bewilderment, unconsciously of course, hoping to discover where the religious is to be incarnated in their time. Since they are religious, they are drawn automatically into the political sphere like iron filings to a magnet” (199).
Now Christians and churches regard themselves as enlightened when they abandon Jesus, the one true god and true human, to seek the justification for and meaning of their existence from Jupiter. “Christianity no longer means much, but it is restored like new, and reinvigorated if Christians get into politics…Everything which carries the political message, everything expressed in terms of political commitment, is now justified and legitimized” (200).
We find ourselves in history’s most intensely religious situation, with societies, cultures, and personalities intensely devoted to the six Olympian gods, for three historically unique reasons.
To begin with, the growth, over the last two hundred years, of an unprecedented Global Technological System (GTS) has been “the most remarkable, glorifying adventure ever known to man” (203). Our power over people and the rest of creation is the greatest ever. Our knowledge of everything from protons to galaxies is unprecedented. And all of this power and knowledge finds its effective place in the rigorously integrated whole of the GTS.
At the same time, we daily hear of wholesale destruction and horrific death. “What upsets us, fills us with anxiety, and sends us into deep trauma…is the unending vision of the most bloody of all worlds” (204). Tragically, the GTS which brings us our most fascinating adventures is the same GTS that drives us to massacre one another and enables us to do so with such deadly efficiency.
Finally, we all share “the growing conviction that we are faced with…insurmountable difficulties, and the good apostles of progress fail to console us” (204).
Because we Christians and churches have abandoned Jesus and seek our security, happiness, meaning, and justification from the Olympian gods, especially Jupiter, we leave our lost neighbors no alternative but to mistakenly seek salvation from those same gods. Those same gods then use their desperation and ours to enslave us ever more deeply.
What Jacques would rather see us Christians do is the work of desacralization. He’d like to see us repent of our devotion to the Olympian gods and, instead, break their spell over our society and culture. He believes we can do this, but only if we, as Christians and churches, “supplied a reason for living adequate really to sustain life, and an answer really satisfying and clear” (208). If we can’t do that, and right now we can’t, he recommends we “allow the rest of civilized, modern, and scientific humanity…to sleep peacefully in its religious dream” (208).
Let’s do better!
Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.