Right-wing Hate Mongering and Evangelical Christianity

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

He writes in Alternet: “The ugly side of Evangelical Christianity is very much to blame for the anti-Obama hyperventilating.  Former president Jimmy Carter went on the record to point out that he believes that racism is at the heart of the great deal of the extreme animosity being leveled at President Obama…if you’re going to blame one group above all others for the willful ignorance and continuing ugliness of the response to President Obama the best candidate would be the evangelical/fundamentalist community.  The angry part of the South Carter spoke of is racist because it’s dominated by a certain type of “Christian” culture.

Since Carter is also an evangelical Christian (as well as a Southerner) he would have done well to use his evangelical  insider status to point to not just racism but to scream bloody murder about a bigger problem today: the hijacking of Christianity as the source of the hate and anger directed against all things “other” by a vocal (and health care lobby-organized and funded) angry  minority of voters who are poisoning the American body… Are the New Atheists leading us to enlightenment? The problem with the recent New Atheist attacks on Christianity is that they mirror the hostility of the evangelical/fundamentalist subculture toward the secular society that it so disdains.  The real answer to the question; “Can Christianity be saved from the Christians?” is not going to be found coming from people like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris et al …The people running around calling Obama is “Hitler”, the so-called “birthers” and all the rest can’t be understood outside of the context of the hermetically sealed world-hating gated community known as Evangelical Christianity… The key to understanding the Evangelicals is to understand the popularity of the Left Behind series of books about the “return of Christ” (and the whole host of other End Times “ministries” from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine). This isn’t some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but evidence of the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community. ..The words “left behind” are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their “intellectuals” touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have indeed been left behind by modernity. They won’t change their literalistic anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against “the world.”…

Millions of evangelicals have been raised in homes where they’ve been isolated from the wider culture, home schooled and/or sent to “Christian schools” where they have been indoctrinated to believe that the Federal Government is the enemy of all true believers, that the “End” is near, that secular society is their enemy as is art, learning and culture.

They now form a Fifth Column of the deliberately intellectually disenfranchised. They know they are out of the loop and hate the rest of us for their own self-imposed isolation. I’m afraid they will soon turn to violence.

Here Are The Alternatives To Change the Theologically-Induced Hate Landscape:

A) all sane Americans must become atheists or agnostics,

or…

B) those of us who are Christians must rescue Christianity from the willfully ignorant evangelicals and fundamentalists.

I favor the second alternative.  First, having been raised in an evangelical/fundamentalist home I’ve long since moved beyond my background when it comes to my politics and my theology. That proves something; people can change their minds! I did.

But I believe more strongly than ever that we human beings are spiritual beings with or without the permission of those who take a purely rationalist approach to human existence.  The better — and I think only realistic option — is to regard religion as an evolving process of human consciousness and work to reform rather than eliminate it

In my soon-to-be published book Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism) I have very deliberately started a radical conversation through which I hope many of us can carve out a position that embraces religion while absolutely rejecting the type of insanity that has become synonymous with the word “Christian” in contemporary America.

Two “Threads” In Religion

As I argue in my new book the choice between the absolutist secular fundamentalism of the New Atheism and the authoritarianism of James Dobson’s-type of “Christianity” is no choice at all. The better alternative is to understand that there are two main threads running all through almost all religions including Christianity:

1) an open, inclusive and questioning thread

and…

2) a closed and exclusionary thread.

The more open thread is not some modern phenomenon developed by “liberal thinking.” As I explain in Patience With God this “thread” can be found in the earliest Christianity and Judaism.

If you look around and see  good results from Christianity, say from the invention of modern hospitals, which have their roots in religious groups or the music of JS Bach, you’re looking at the fruits of the best of the open tradition and thread.  When you see a group of scared racist white people like Joe Wilson in Washington DC screaming “liar” or “Obama is a socialist” or “Obama wasn’t born in America” you’re seeing the madness of the other thread: fundamentalism that wants absolute certainty about everything, and forces its followers to live in a narrower and narrower field of existence.

Conclusion

Christianity is worth saving from the Christians for two reasons.  First, because as moral and spiritual beings religion should feed our souls rather then strip out our humanity.  Second, because whether we like it or not, religion is here to stay. Better to shape it rather than to simply denounce it.

I may be an idealist but I believe that if others will step forward and add to what I have tried to begin with my new book together we can give good answers to both the extremes of the New Atheists and to the hate of the Evangelical fundamentalists. Join me to build a better vision. We might actually be able to change the conversation in America about religion.

Is that important? Yes, like it or not religion will not go away. It motivates the worst in the American psyche and some of the best too. It is Joe Wilson’s religion of hate but it also motivated Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps a generation from now the image of a typical Christian won’t be a hate-monger like James Dobson but rather a lover of peace such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, or a literary giant like John Updike, and yes, a President Obama.

The only real answer to the hijacking of Christianity by the Religious Right, the longevity of religion-based racism, and the backward and inward looking movement we now call “American Christianity” is not to talk everyone out a having faith but rather to fight for the humane and ancient thread found within the Christian tradition. Blaming everything on race is too easy.

If you get the chance to read Patience With God please let me know what you think of it. I’m asking one big question in the book: Can Christianity be rescued from the Christians? You tell me.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/142755/

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/142755/right-wing_hatemongering_fueled_by_christianity

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One thought on “Right-wing Hate Mongering and Evangelical Christianity

  1. I would argue that we need to also consider Christianity other than just of the evangelical variety. I know of some mainstream Christians who are intelligent and openminded in many ways, but who show signs of an exclusionary attitude that is grounded in their Christianity and which extends to their politics. Evangelicals aren’t the only Christians who have tendencies towards hate.

    As for your two threads, I think the line isn’t clear. There are many seemingly normal loving Christians who can be turned towards righteous hatred if faced with charismatic fear-mongering. The real danger is in this middle category (the majority?) of Christians who are morally undecided but easily swayed.

    If you’re interested, I wrote a post analyzing the relationship of Christians and violence.

    http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/morality-christians-vs-jesus/

    Like

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