Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Church of Satan: Faith in System = Faith in Heaven 

Atrios links to a good article at Espn.com about the Pat Tillman morass. I have highlighted a key section, in which the commanding officer who may have been partially culpable for Tillman's death suggests that the Tillman family's unhappiness with the army's obfuscation is a result of their lack of Christian faith.

In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November
2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he'd learned Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother
and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died,
objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a
repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother's body was returned to the
United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley
in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings
of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in
their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: "When you die,
I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that.
So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans' religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, "I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know."

Asked what might finally placate the family, Kauzlarich said, "You know what? I don't think anything will make them happy, quite honestly. I don't know. Maybe they want to see somebody's head on a platter. But will that really make them happy? No, because they can't bring their son back."

Kauzlarich, now 40, was the Ranger regiment executive officer in Afghanistan, who played a role in writing the recommendation for Tillman's posthumous Silver Star. And finally, with his fingerprints already all over many of the hot-button issues, including the question of who ordered the platoon to be split as it dragged a disabled Humvee through the mountains, Kauzlarich conducted the first official Army investigation into Tillman's death. That investigation is among the inquiries that didn't satisfy the Tillman family.

"Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we're
not Christians, and the reason that we can't put Pat to rest is because we're
not Christians," Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, said in an interview with ESPN.com.
Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe
in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion. "Oh, it has
nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady," she said
sarcastically, "But it is because we are not Christians."

After a pause, her voice full with emotion, she added, "Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn't lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very
humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything
those [people] are, he wasn't."

This shows very clearly how fucked up the whole political-religious situation is in the U.S. It is one thing to hold onto a literalistic belief in heaven, as a place that makes everything happy after you die. Serious theologians do not believe in this sort of heaven; language used about the afterlife has to be understood as having a different sort of reference than language used about this life. How could it not? A theologian might say that such language is both true and metaphorical at once.

But in any case, a literalistic belief in a happy place after death is common enough, and has always been part of popular Christianity. The belief has dangerous implications--it can lead to quietism, accepting this life in expectation of the next, as Marx argued. It can also give the believer real courage; he may decide that certain compromises with evil cannot be made in this life, because the next is infinitely more important. That is why there have been, throughout the history of Christianity, acts of unthinkable bravery and martyrdom (which means "witnessing" in Greek) performed in the name of a justice that transcends the merely civil order of this world.

Anyway, my point does not concern the equivocal ethical implications of belief in the afterlife. What is remarkable about Kauzlarich's conception of "faith" is that it identifies faith in the afterlife with "faith" in "the system" (meaning state-manufactured death-as-entertainment). American "Christians" don't even have the minimal fortitude required to say that even though things aren't good in this world, the oppressed should pipe down because they will be repaid after death. This sort of false hope requires at least a brief, glimmering awareness of present reality, before it is accepted, or ignored, in light of putative heavenly reward.

This awareness is far too much for Kauzlarich. His "faith" is so completely negative that he can't even come up with the mere idea of something better (not even a cartoon image of "paradise"--to hope for this would be to make some sort of distinction between present and future, between this "system" and some other). His "faith" is simply total mental shutdown. What happens now is the afterlife; "faith" is, without any modulation, submission--and the attendant perpetuation of thoughtless mechanical functioning.


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