Joe Biden’s religion informs his politics. “For him,” says his friend, Sen. Chris Coons, “they’re rooted in faith… that’s sustained so many ordinary Americans.”
Since Biden is a practising Catholic, one must infer that this confession has historically “sustained so many ordinary Americans”. In fact, from the time of its founding, the American state has been perhaps the most anti-Catholic one in the West.
In fact, hatred of apostolic confessions was largely what united many Americans in the first place, and indeed brought them to those Atlantic beaches. That’s why, of the original 13 colonies, only Pennsylvania didn’t have anti-Catholic laws, and in most of the others the practice of Catholicism was banned on pain of death.
Only one of the 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence was a Catholic, while most of the other Founding Fathers were deists at best. They tended to loathe apostolic confessions with different degrees of intensity, with Jefferson perhaps representing the most febrile.
That situation began to change somewhat with the arrival of numerous Irish, Italian, Polish and Hispanic immigrants, but the US remains a predominantly Protestant country. Only 22 per cent of her population are Catholics, a religion so far espoused by just one of her 45 presidents.
It’s hard to claim on these bases that allegiance to the Vatican is an election winner in America. If anything, it may well be an election loser.
So much more should one appreciate the subtlety with which Joe Biden offset that drawback in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. By sending masterly oratorical signals worthy of Demosthenes and Cicero, he reassured the voters that they shouldn’t worry.
He’s a Catholic in name only. In his heart, he embraces a Gnostic cult that was, for many centuries and in various guises, the deadliest threat to Catholic Christianity, one that almost succeeded in destroying it in the early Middle Ages.
The signals Joe sent the public show that he is a fully paid-up Manichaean. Those who believe in reincarnation would even be justified to suspect that he is Prophet Mani himself, even though Joe doesn’t look one bit Persian.
Even a believer who doesn’t wish to advertise his faith is nevertheless bound to let it slip out. Thus a Christian who recites the Bible every Sunday or a Jew who does so every Saturday will inadvertently use Biblical words and phrases even in everyday speech. Moreover, he’ll manifest a way of thought shaped by his faith even if he tries not to.
I don’t know how closely Americans are going to analyse Joe’s speech, but I’m sure they’ll receive the Manichaean messages subliminally. The choice of words and imagery will tip them off.
Manichaean theology denies the omnipotence of God and therefore the derivative nature of evil. It postulates the dualism of good and evil, each emanating from its own god, one good, the other bad. Man, to the Manichaeans, is the battleground on which those two deities square off.
What’s important for my purposes here is the terminology with which a committed Manichaean will inevitably betray his background. Prominent in that lexicon is recurrent juxtaposition of light and darkness – with the Manichaean himself usually representing the former and his adversaries, the latter.
With that in mind, I invite you to read Joe’s speech and appreciate the numerous tell-tale signals he so cunningly sent the voters.
To start with, Joe branded his opponent as an enemy of everything good in life: “Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy – they’re all on the ballot.”
By inference, Joe is a force for good, defending all its manifestations from evil. This is good knockabout stuff, even though it’s not instantly obvious how Trump threatens science. I had to think about that one for a second, but then I realised that the science Joe meant is the kind that shaped the Paris Accords, which Trump left and Biden promises to re-enter.
But never mind the message, feel the idiom. For Joe didn’t express himself in the Christian terms of good and evil. Instead he consistently relied on the contrast between light (him) and darkness (Trump).
“Give people light and they will find the way…,” Biden said. “The current president has cloaked America in darkness for far too long.”
That crepuscular situation was about to change: “History will be able to say that the end of this chapter in American darkness began here, tonight.” That is, with Joe’s speech at the Democratic convention. His words, therefore, have the magic power of light, a sort of Manichaean fiat lux.
And then: “’Hope is more powerful than fear and light is more powerful than dark.” That’s good news: God’s proxy, whom Mani called the Primal Man, and Mr and Mrs Biden called Joe 77 years ago, will triumph over the devil.
In that capacity, Joe represents “hope for our future, light to see our way forward, and love for one and other.”
There, I hope I’ve thrown some light on the shrewd subtext of Joe’s speech, clearly designed to reassure the anti-Catholic Americans that he isn’t really a Catholic, but a Manichaean.
He’s guaranteed to carry the Manichaean vote, but I don’t know if that will be enough to get Joe elected. I am sure, however, that it’s enough to get him excommunicated. He probably wouldn’t mind: it’s a small price to pay for the White House.