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"Messiah Complex" often ends in conflict

A lot of people in our nation who lean to the right, the religious right, have taken on the mantle of a very dangerous, deniable, pathological premise: the United States, Imperialistic America, was the land chosen by God to bring the globalized, white (civilized) phenomenon to the world—this was the Manifest Destiny of those descended from European extraction. This is the basis of the pathology of the anointed myth (a term used by Robert Jensen, well-known author of books about whiteness in the San Antonio Express-News, March 21, 2000, p. 7-B; Dallas Morning News, March 24, 2000, p. 25-A).

We ought to carefully remember the fact that the land-owning wealthy plantation elite men who formed the Federal government, voiced & wrote that America was to be the beacon of Democracy, the light on the hill, as a model to all nations of the world. Our pathological history of genocide, slavery, & unjust laws that discriminated against persons/communities of color, somehow just doesn’t fit with who we say we are as a nation

All of our past injustices can easily be rationalized and justified, so in our creative genius what we did was create a story that we believed in, even if there was no truth to it. It did include much glory, righteousness, and patriotism. We created our storyline and narrative, and as the title of one PBS documentary explains, Race is the Power of an Illusion. Thus, anything that contains accurate information/content about our racialized pathology is screened out, ignored, rigidly defended, made a source of conflict and argument, and all of this happens due to cognitive dissonance—a sort of mental filter that usually produces a “flight or fight” response when we’re presented with new, unfamiliar information; the other reaction is denial and disbelief concerning the errors of so many of our cultural, racialized stereotypes.

I’ve learned throughout the years, in working on dismantling racism, as a co-facilitator of dialogue groups, training groups, and other projects, not the least being my own writing about these issues, that inviting God or Religion into the discussion, generally only adds a murkiness, emotionality and dissonance to one’s comprehension of what’s right, and what’s wrong (using moral & theological language). In other words, certain people permit themselves to be ensnared by the delusion, much as an addict begins to live out a role of dependency on a chemical of choice; this is where pathology enters, and sanity usually fades. We confidently believe we are players in the eternal plan. This is the crusade of the anointed, chosen ones. The USA is our golden destiny!

Obviously, this is a very heavy title. Anciently, in the nation of Israel, a priest usually anointed the future ruler; this lent credence to the theocratic paraphanelia that needed to be included in the anointing of a king, queen, prince or princess. In other words, it wasn’t so much that a prince may be worried about his kingship, or a queen her queenship, but it was part of what Israelites considered a God-ordained process, not a self-chosen process by some individual who has dominant power.
The idea that someone would take the label of “anointed” or implicitly assume that this is the status of those of European descent who colonized North & South America is a paradoxical fallacy. This is probably one of the most egregious & repugnant consequences of how God or Religion may be appropriated to one’s own people group in order to prove their own existence as Messiah: Rollo May used the term Messiah Complex. This is most likely one of the most arrogant worldviews anyone might believe in; it must be admitted that other nations have their own ways of doing this as well. The fundamental problem is that U.S. Imperialism has raped, pillaged, and raked away the resources of other nations in such an intense, monstrous & widespread way.

Ultimately, we’ve created the illusion of race (superiority or inferiority) through our own stories. This was the story we craved to believe, but who wants to doubt their own memory, and their own historical backdrop, and their own story? Not a lot of people would choose this option. What this calls for is the sacred investigation of our psycho-historical past, the willingness to be open to the accuracies of our racist background, instead of superstitions, myths, and lies, America, the great Democracy, has spent so much energy trying to live up to the illusionary model of the Beacon of Justice for the rest of the world. All of us needs to be self-reflective, and using Critical Thinking skills around these issues, and confront our need for social justice and equity for all people groups. This is compassion for the world, and I would rather choose compassion than continually lying to myself about the facts around my own racialized identity. That’s a pretty hollow & empty conclusion.

© Christopher Bear-Beam July 6, 2014

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