The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Faith-Based Logic: Faith-Based Hate

On June 12, 1967 the Supreme Court decided the case of Loving v. Virginia, a case overturning the faith-based bigotry forbidding interracial marriage. Originally Virginia courts ruled against the couple using faith-based logic. In his ruling against the Lovings Judge Leon Bazile preached, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The Supreme Court ruling was a major step forward for equality of rights before the law for all Americans and ultimately helped forge the recognition of rights leading to marriage equality for same-sex couples — a move Mildred Loving vocally supported. Mildred noted how anti-gay rulings were based on the same faith-based logic used against her and her husband.

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love.

… Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

In 1960 the prominent evangelical loudmouth Bob Jones went on the radio station of his “Christian” university — named after himself, of course — and preached a faith-based defense of racism. Of course, like many evangelicals he didn’t defend his own right to be racist but a right to impose racist laws on everyone else in the name of his faith. Jones saw racist legislation as so intertwined with southern evangelicalism that he chose Easter Sunday to preach “Is Segregation Scriptural.” His answer, of course, was a loud affirmative.

One thing inherent in evangelicalism is the natural superiority of the evangelical to all others. His wishes and desires are those of God and what God wants God gets, and it is the role of the state to use as much force as necessary to guarantee it. The basic premises of the evangelical faith are authoritarian in nature and followed to their logical conclusions end in theocracy — if you don’t believe it just look at today’s Republican Party after it was taken over by the Religious (most evangelical) Right.

In his sermon Jones insisted, “When the Bible speaks clearly about any subject, that settles it. Men do not always agree, because some people are dumb — some people are spiritually dumb; but when the Bible is clear, there is not any reason why everybody should not accept it.” Racist legislation, Jones insisted, was clearly preached in the Bible. As he told his listeners — no doubt at home shouting, “Praise Jesus” with every defense of Southern bigotry — “the Bible is perfectly clear on races–just as clear as it can be.”

Using the same logic we hear from today’s evangelical hoards Jones insisted there was no prejudice against black Americans by the born-again crowd. The reason for race conflict wasn’t something due to the Klan, lynchings, segregation, etc. The problem he said was “education!”

Modern education came along and put the opinion of man above the Word of God, and man has come along and tried to give us an explanation. All you have to do is live up to the Word of God, and you will have no trouble about knowing how to meet life’s problems.

Note how Jones assumed his conclusion as his premise. He starts with the claim that the Bible endorses his racism and anyone opposed to it is putting the “word of man” above “the word of God.” When Jones speaks, he speaks for God, unlike anyone who disagrees with him.

It was all quite logical to the evangelical: “God Almighty did not make of the human race one race in the sense that He did not fix the bounds of their habitation. That is perfectly clear. It is no accident that most Chinese are in China.”

Jones did reveal more than I suspect he intended: he outlined the logic of religious authoritarianism: “If a race is in the will of God, it is not inferior. It is a superior race. You cannot be superior to another race if your race is in the will of God and the other race is in the will of God.” Those “in the will of God” are superior, those not in God’s will are inferior.

If two races both obey God, which to Jones meant segregation, neither is superior to the other. But, it also follows that if one race is disobeying God — and violating segregation — then the disobedient race is inferior. This logically follows for individuals as much as for races. Thus Jones outline a logic that said evangelicals are superior to all others and the proof is evangelicals alone believe the “word of God” and follow it. If others did so they would be evangelicals — that they don’t is proof they aren’t evangelicals and thus automatically inferior.

As Jones put it, “no race is inferior in the will of God.” It’s only when they are outside God’s will — disobedient to evangelical teaching, that they become inferior. And by definition that means no equality of rights before the law for non-evangelicals.

Jones completely washed over the violence inherent in Southern segregation and racism. He insisted, “No two races ever lived as close together as the white people and the colored people here in the South and got along so well.”

He did admit there were some problems now and then, he said, “there will be a flare-up… but then we adjust everything sensibly and get back to the established order.”

Jones made it clear each race must live in it’s place in the established order: “You cannot run over God’s plan and God’s established order without having trouble. God never meant to have one race. It was not His purpose at all. God has a purpose for each race.”

What is that purpose? Well, there were other doctrines popular in evangelical circles at the time — where blacks were cursed by God to be a servant race to whites. When I was a high school kid I went to an evangelical school run by the largest evangelical church in the world: First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN run by the hypocritical Jack Hyles. I remember him preaching on Noah and the flood and how after the flood God cursed Noah’s son Ham to be a servant. Hyles thought it witty to point out, “What happens when you burn ham? It turns black!” His followers obediently laughed.

The 4th president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Patrick Mell, told the church:

From Ham were descended the nations that occupied the land of Canaan and those that now constitute the African or Negro race. Their inheritance, according to prophecy, has been and will continue to be slavery . . . [and] so long as we have the Bible . . . we expect to maintain it.

Fellow evangelical Baptist preacher Iveson Brookes claimed that part of the curse meant God punished the descendents of Ham by “flattening his head, kinking his hair, and blackening his skin, thereby making him black and subject to slavery.”

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary admitted in 2018 that all it’s founders were ardent slavers. They…

…argued first that slaveholding was righteous because the inferiority of blacks indicated God’s providential will for their enslavement, corroborated by Noah’s prophetic cursing of Ham. They argued second that slaveholding was righteous because southern slaves accrued such remarkable material and spiritual benefits from it.

The Hyles church openly sold the racist trace of Rev. John R. Rice, publisher of the extreme evangelical Sword of the Lord newspaper. Rice was another evangelical who understood the “clear word of God” which meant race-mixing was verboten. As he saw it the only people proposing desegregation or marriage equality for people of different races were “socialists, the communists, the professional and paid Negro leaders, and politicians who hope to gain votes, raise enmities, hurl epithets, threaten force, and incite hate.”

This had to be opposed, said one of the most prominent evangelical leaders of my youth, because it would “result in intermarriage and the mongrelization of the race and the breakdown of all the southern standards of culture.”

For the evangelical, God’s word is always clear and coincidentally corresponds with the individual believer’s own petty prejudices and hatreds. Because his beliefs are “faith-based,” they aren’t inferior for lacking logic or evidence, but superior and should be imposed on others. Religious freedom for the theocrats is NOT the right to practice their religion, but the right to impose it by state-sanctioned force on others.

Today, across the country, we see a monstrosity of a political party ruled entirely by the most hateful, irrational evangelical types in America. The GOP welcomes to its bosom even those extreme evangelicals who embarrass their fellow believers. It openly proposes laws taking the bizarre, irrational beliefs of evangelicals and imposing them on the entire society.

If the evangelical hates abortion it must be illegal for all people, even non-evangelicals. If evangelicals hate transgender people then parents who help their trans children should be arrested as “child abusers” or “groomers.” Evangelicals hate drag performers therefore Republicans start proposing laws to make it a crime for children to see one. If Disney World supports equality of rights for LGBT people then special laws are proposed to punish Disney World alone!

Over and over the evidence proves today’s power-hungry evangelicals believe they are superior and their “faith-based” beliefs — no matter how recently they invented them — endows them with superior status. That status then gives them the right — nay, the obligation — to impose those beliefs on non-evangelicals, all of whom are inherently inferior to themselves. And the Republican Party is happy to assist then on the road to tyranny.

As Barry Goldwater lamented: “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me.”

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.