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Opinion: Temples of the gods

The Left discovers sacredness. In a manner of speaking.

A full moon rises over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington Jan. 28, 2021. (CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters)

“Sacred” is not a word or concept that has ever come naturally or easily to leftists. For the left, the beginning of all wisdom is the denial of God and the Divine. So it was a surprise to discover during the past several weeks that it has not been struck entirely from their vocabulary. Only a profound shock could have restored its usage.

That shock arrived on January 6th, when a crowd of Trump supporters (along with, it appears, a leavening measure of antifa and Black Lives Matter activists) crashed the Capitol Building, driving lion-hearted legislators behind their desks and causing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Amazon from the South Bronx, to fear for her life. (It was from fear of some of her colleagues, she has explained to excuse her absence, that she stayed away from the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States two weeks later, though the connection in her mind between the two events is unclear.)

The ensuing riot, in which five people—four of them demonstrators—died, was immediately branded by legislators of the Democratic and Republican parties and by the media as an “insurrection” against the federal government, an act of lèse majesté against “the People’s House,” and a profanation of “sacred ground” by the wrong People. (“Our United States Capitol is sacred ground”, remarked Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who added: “We should feel violated when the legacy of freedom enshrined in that building is disrespected and desecrated…”)

The idea of government ground and buildings as sacred places largely died out in the West with the collapse of the Roman imperial cult that began to erode when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and declared a policy of official tolerance of the Christian religion and its adherents. The imperial cult included the worship of the Roman emperor and of the official gods of Rome, each one dwelling in a temple consecrated to himself. Public worship did not occur within the temple buildings but outside them, ensuring a respectful distance between the god and his profane devotees.

The gods of the state represented the Emperor, the Imperium romanum, and the legislators below him—not the Roman people. The priesthoods of the Roman public religion were reserved exclusively for members of the aristocratic and elite classes. The claim to the divine right of kings arose in medieval Europe, persisted through the early modern period, and was dispensed with in the 18th century. While the Jewish and Christian religions have traditionally taught that government comes from God, the God of the Jews and the Christians is not the god of the Romans before Constantine, and certainly not that of Western democrats and progressives in the 21st century.

Today America’s anonymous gods represent the unacknowledged Party of Government, composed of Democratic and Republican politicians about equally, who have been elected to federal office and of the permanent federal bureaucracy templed in the District of Columbia. Despite the ceaseless disputation and wrangling between the parties’ representatives in both Houses, Congress is agreed on one thing: its absolute belief in the sacredness of the United States government and of the deep state: the locus of the Party of Government and the embodiment of the Imperium americanum.

Citizens, public and private, who challenge, oppose, defy, impede, criticize, or otherwise trouble and annoy the Imperium and attempt to thwart its designs are viewed by it as the equivalent of what Alexander Hamilton 230 years ago called the “Great Beast” and Hillary Clinton described as the Deplorables—the kind of people who supported Donald Trump for the past five years and have been protesting what they believe was a stolen election that ought to have been contested by their Republican legislators in Congress.

Despite their self-imagined superhuman powers, the American gods are deathly afraid of the Beast and determined to destroy it, view all means toward that end as legitimate, and are pondering which would be the most effective—and final.

It’s an easy assumption that the supreme god of the Party of Government is government itself; a god with the power to dethrone and hurl down the Lord of Hosts. That conclusion would be a false one. The Party gods have no Emperor above them to worship; nor, in the end, do they worship the American State.

Instead, each worships himself—as gods are inclined to do—to whose interests and ambitions he is most firmly attached, and to which he is devoted as his final end.


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About Chilton Williamson, Jr. 15 Articles
Chilton Williamson, Jr. is the author of several works of fiction, narrative nonfiction, and “pure” nonfiction, including After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy and Jerusalem, Jerusalem! A Novel. He has also written hundreds of essays, critical reviews, and short stories for publications including Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Harper’s, The New Republic, National Review, Commonweal, The New Leader, The American Spectator, among others. You can visit him online at www.chiltonwilliamson.com.

11 Comments

  1. We read: “‘Our United States Capitol is sacred ground’, remarked Cardinal Wilton Gregory.” And here we thought that partial-birth abortion was the real “sacred ground”, according to Aztec-priestess Nancy Pelosi.

    Also overlooked, already, is how the riot at the nation’s capitol mimics what had already taken place in Seattle earlier in June. There, the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) resulted in abandonment to the mob of the East Precinct Police Station, plus an encampment that lasted months. While five were not killed, there were four or five shootings, some of them fatal.

    To what extent did unprepared and inept handling of CHOP in Seattle set the table for a wave of urban unrest and finally a very similar organized event on the steps of the nation’s capitol buildings, three thousand miles away across flyover country? Initially, the in-over-her-head mayor of Seattle had likened CHOP to a neighborhood “block party.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitol_Hill_Autonomous_Zone

  2. Religion as polity has arrived. Williamson Jr has a point, although I disagree with his take on the fright of Ms Occasio-Cortez. What occurred at and in the Capital was conducive to trauma. Bullets were flying people screaming people died. It was used according to the adage never let a crisis go to waste by the newly ensconced administration to the hilt. “For the left, the beginning of all wisdom is the denial of God and the Divine” (Williamson Jr). And the price for men of conventional religion is now being extracted. As in all despotic godless regimes distrust will inevitably prevail “Without a clear and broadly accepted public code of morals, the conditions for ethical responsibility do not exist, and no one can be trusted by anyone else” (Peter Kwasniewski on Communism). “Terrorism is the only possible substitute [for morality], and it is terrorism that reigns today in Russia” (Pius XI Divini Redemptoris 23). Reigns of terror existed in Revolutionary France, the Soviet Union, Mexico with the Cristero War under President Plutarco Elías Calles 1924 and beyond, Nazi Germany. And now beginning in America. A new administration contends that anyone who disagrees with their policy on open borders, migration, abortion, irregular sexuality is hateful, anyone who disagrees with election manipulation, who questions election results is treasonous, anyone who is White is a supremacist, anyone who supported Trump, and potentially all Republicans are fascist terrorists. All belonging to this group require either reprogramming, or may depending on their opposition to Leftist ideals be denied access to civil liberties such as employment, air travel. The new administration is both supported and empowered in this by media, communications giants, Silicon Valley, glitterati. We trump that with Our Lord. And with just expectation the Pontiff. As the prophet said, Gird your loins.

    • I have need to add something in the affirmative regarding our faith during this trial well depicted by the author. Deplorables we may be to the world to God his favored disciples. Historically the Church has responded to persecution with increase in vitality and renewed vigor. It’s our providentially chosen moment for sanctification in loving witness to Christ.

  3. I liked this article. Your final comments can have a both/and position. In the USA Catholic Social Teaching appears, in practice, to give primacy to governmental solutions, with all power being given to the administrative state, just like China. It is getting to be to the point of giving this administrative state the limitless powers of godhood, the idolatry of government. The preferential option of the administrative state being the destination for all power, a new Tower of Babel, sort of like Mount Olympus, home of the pagan gods of Greek mythology.

  4. Wonderful article!!
    It doesn’t take a deep review of American history to know that the Congress has been a gaggle including a large number of liars, bribe-takers, life’s losers and cowards. From the first Continental Congress, the bane of Washington to today’s Congress ruled by a demented hag, the notion that it is hallowed is preposterous.

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