Why this is not the end of the religious right, even though it should be.
Years ago, Christian fundamentalists re-branding themselves as Evangelicals traded compelling persuasion for coercive power. They were tired of being marginalized. The conservative, white, male wanted his position of privilege back. He wanted to pledge “one nation under God” and tender “in God we trust,” so he traded credibility and integrity for manipulation and hypocrisy. They asked their God for success. Unfortunately, they misjudged their increasingly skillful political chicanery for God’s blessing. However, recently a multicultural group of people, who believed in Jefferson’s Wall of Separation, disgusted with the racism, bigotry, misogyny, and hypocrisy of these re-branded fundamentalists said, “Enough is enough.” They embraced tolerance, fairness, and equality in the pursuit of happiness. Even though marginalized and in the minority, they persuaded their fellow Americans to support throwing the fundamentalists back over Jefferson’s Wall. Most did not want God’s help, but they just might chuckle to know that God warned those re-branded fundamentalists that His wisdom was found in weakness never in power. Every American should rail against the hypocrisy of these Christian fundamentalists. Every American should point out that they spend more time and money on their positions of power and their control over people, than proclaiming the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and modeling his behavior for others to emulate. Americans should decry the misrepresentation of our history and documents to privilege their narrow understanding of Christianity in order to push an agenda of racism, bigotry, misogyny in the name of religious freedom. We should scream hypocrisy, when they inconsistently apply biblical principles that reinforce their social comfort zone, while rationalizing away the ones that make them uncomfortable. Let’s all agree we will not ignore these inconsistencies because it is hypocrisy. Let’s not forget, like all fundamentalists these Christian fundamentalists are religious hypocrites. They are in the idolatry business. They make something or someone more valuable than God. Then they profit from others who worship their idol. White, male, privilege and their American dream put “under God” in the National Anthem, and “In God We Trust” on our money, so when they render unto Caesar, they can pay homage to their idol. It is time to have the hard conversation with our friends, family and neighbors on the Religious Right. Their devotion is idolatry. Spend any time with these re-branded fundamentalists, attend their services and seminars, listen to their sermons, watch their videos, read their books and blogs and you soon realize that the leaders are profoundly disappointed in their followers. For all their bitching and moaning at others outside their enclaves, they insist that their followers do not listen very closely to their teachings, or read their Bibles much and pray even less. Surveys done by their own statisticians show that people who attend Evangelical churches most Sundays are indistinguishable from their secular neighbors who don’t. Of course leaders are both accountable and responsible for the beliefs and behaviors of their followers. Inside their VIP rooms, with the doors closed, whispered in hush voices, these re-branded Evangelicals admit there is a crisis within their leadership ranks. A number of re-branded Evangelical ministries produce lists of those leaders who “fall” in ministry. A recent list from just this half of this decade reads like a prison block of sociopaths. Murder, rape, kidnapping, sexual molestation, assault, child abuse, embezzlement, theft, blackmail, tax evasion, and mail fraud appear multiple times. Also included in the list, but without indictment and jail time was the rampant consumption of pornography, cover ups of sexual misconduct, sex before marriage, adultery, soliciting prostitution, homosexuality, spousal abuse, failure to fulfill job descriptions, exorbitant salaries, elder and member abuse, widespread disregard for organizational by-laws, defaulting on loans, civil lawsuits against other Christians, accusations of libel and slander, and copyright infringement. I would use the analogy of glass houses, but there is nothing but shards of glass everywhere we look. One recalls Jesus’ words recorded in John, but possibly never uttered, “Let you without sin throw the first stone.” It is time to remember that 21st Century, American Evangelicalism is nothing more than a re-branded version of 20th Century, Protestant, fundamentalism. It is time to beat it back to the margins of our culture where it belongs. Protestant fundamentalism was a reaction to the spreading secularization occurring in American culture, due to the incredible and undeniable advancements attributed to modernity particularly in STEM-related fields. Evangelicalism as we know it today began after the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the late 19th early 20th Centuries. In other words, American Evangelicalism is a (post)Modern movement. As such, it deftly utilized techniques of (post)Modern historians, artists, sociologists, literary critics along with recent technological innovations from the very science they decried, to create a parody of Christianity. They called this back to basics movement Evangelicalism. I’ll say that a bit differently. Protestant Liberalism is a child of modernity. In reaction to religious liberalism, conservative Protestants created fundamentalism. When people questioned the assumptions and aims of modernity, they questioned the credibility of both religious liberalism and fundamentalism. With its intellectual, social, and political capital spent, fundamentalists began a re-branding initiative called Evangelicalism. 20th Century, American Evangelicalism is nothing more than a (post)Modern reaction to the failure of Christian fundamentalism. In its formative years, Evangelicals succeeded in distancing themselves from their old fundamentalist friends and degraded its corrosive effects on evangelism and discipleship. Unfortunately, Evangelicals took their eye off the ball. They optimistically assumed fundamentalism was relegated to the trash bin of history. Some very difficult historical, social, and political problems turned their attention away from the priorities of evangelism and discipleship. The continuing success in STEM-related fields for explaining how life began, how to improve it, and how we will ultimately destroy it still confounds most Evangelicals. The growing income gap between the rich and the poor, and the polarization of a two-party political system privately divided Evangelicals. The remaining systemic racism, bigotry, and misogyny dismissed by Evangelicals upset their millennial children, who are now rejecting their parent’s religious convictions. Meanwhile, some of the vindictive old timers never forgot the abuse they endured. They remained militant, although marginalized and ridiculed for their promise to never compromise with the world’s system, which was run by Satan and his host of demons. They patiently waited and attentively watched for an opportunity to reassert their dominance and control. In 1978, the Southern Baptist fundamentalists planned a strategy to do just that. They voted out, fired, and demonized the Evangelicals of their Southern Baptist Convention. The hostility, aggression, and dishonesty with which the inquisition was carried out against brothers and sisters, who built the denomination to the largest and most vibrant one in the world horrified fellow Christians, even though they just stood by and watched the carnage. Other fundamentalists screwed up their courage, deployed the same strategy, and marginalized centrist Evangelicals in denominations, churches, and parachurch organizations all over America. These new fundamentalists, by cannibalizing their own, took over the Evangelical movement in less than twenty-five years. And let’s not assume this movement is spent. Any religious group that uses anger and fear to motivate its devotees can quickly reorganize and resource their next attempts at control. Today they are depressed. Tomorrow, they may be manic. Christians should reach across and join hands with other religious and secular groups that embrace freedom, fairness, and equality in the pursuit of happiness. We should distance ourselves from Christian fundamentalists and degrade their corrosive influence. The modern world and the secular public square will always have room for the Christian who faithfully tells others about God’s mercy and kindness. My favorite agnostic and secular gadfly found especially attractive the Christian’s hope that an impartial divine being might fully and finally end all suffering and punish every unrepentant evil-doer. I like those words…attractive and hope. Even in a secular democratic Republic, humanity’s need for transcendent meaning demands the religious cry out in the public square. This voracious appetite for answers to ultimate questions will not be satisfied by the secular atheist. However, it is a secular, democratic Republic that provides the public square for the religious to call out. Any kind of fundamentalism that would dominate and control that space using selective interpretations from ancient texts is the very repression our Bill of Rights protects us from. This is not the end of the religious right, but it should be. Let us continue to push it back to the margins of our great Republic. It is time to distance ourselves and degrade their ability to erode our freedom.