Religion, Fundamentalism, Gnosticism, BLM: Part III
Religion and politics organize power by means of narrative and of narrative’s embodiment in emplacements on the high and holy places. To be effective over time, a mobilizing narrative must be enacted and represented in concrete form. The importance of liturgy and symbol cannot be overemphasized; culture is not “soft materials poured in from the top.”
Statues, monuments, churches, and temples have a function far beyond the ornamental. The destruction or removal of any of these amounts to a partial delegitimation of the narrative which they represent.
Martin’s Religion and Power speaks of how “religious deviance…the common currency of social solidarity and of conflicts over place and power…was converted by nationalism into treason and by secular ideology into political deviation. Radical sectarian movements flare up, sometimes in iconoclastic fire storms that leave no icons behind apart from hacked and eloquent remains.”
One of our cherished contemporary myths, involving the triumph of science over religion, blinds us to the many survivals and renewals of religious modes of thought, including our own. Our most valued beliefs, practices, and institutions–our inalienable rights, the wall between church and state, representative democracy, the efficacy of free and rational debate, equality before the law–appear to many of us obvious, reasonable, and inevitable, only because articulated in a nationalist liberation narrative and in an impressive symbology in stone, bronze, and law.
We are insensible to the danger of our present iconoclasm because the very myth by which we live persuades us that we do not live by myth. To those so persuaded, the removal of a statute is a simple negotiation; they can see neither how it destabilizes their own myth, nor how those advocating its removal thereby assert power.
The Postmodernism and cultural Marxism in which the organizers of Antifa and Black Lives Matter have been schooled are not similarly deluded about the religious nature or potency of symbols.