The Religious Right

I’ve been reading lately on evangelical Christianity–especially American evangelical faith and its relationship to Washington. Like what are the differences and smiliarities between a Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (Answer: Robertson is the son of a Senator. A Charismatic and Pentecostal Preacher who adheres to a minority strain of theology–knonw as Dominion Theology which believes that God lost control of the earth after the Fall and that the Lord requires a covenant people who are willing to take “dominion” over secular institutions to help bring about the End of Days. Like Run for President as Robertson did in ’88, own a television station, pray that the Lord open up seats on the Supreme Court. Falwell is an old-school Baptist. The son of a drunkard, who attended a rinky-dink Baptist Bible College. Falwell does not go in for speaking in tounges. Originally he was adamantly opposed to religious interference in secular affairs–particularly when those religious leaders were typically campaigning for Civil Rights.)

But what they do have in common is bringing evangelicals into the political process: Falwell through the Moral Majority, Robertson through 700 Club. Both as fundamentalist apocalyptic Christians are staunchly pro-Israel.

[Sidenote for the reader. If you have ever wondered why evangelical Christians are so pro-Isreal (while usually blaming all Jews for Jesus’ death) the key lies in the Book of Revelation. Thsoe who read the Book of Revelation literally as a guidebook to the future events of the world find their justification for the expansion of the State of Israel beyond the 1947 UN Mandate borders (i.e. The West Bank). All of the Jews must return to Israel before the Final Tribulation and the Return of Christ. Unfortunately most if not all of those Jews are going to perish in a horrible death. Sorry about their luck.

It must be surreal to be say a Russian Jew, persecuted in your land, accepting money to seek refuge in Israel from a white, American Evangelical Christian, who has a nice smile on his face, but secretly sees you perishing so that his God can triumph.

Normally I use the words fundamentalist and evangelical Christian interchangably. But that isn’t exactly right. Evangelicals historically, especially in the 20th century have been more connected to revivalism (think Billy Graham), show-manship (or lack thereof, think Elmer Gantry), emotional-pietistic outbursts, saving souls, as well as, in some cases, more willingness to work on social justice issues (Social Gospel movement of the 19-20th centuries). Fundamentalists, at least originally were more doctrinaire, more concerned about saving the”fundamentals” of doctrine at all cost. Fundamenatlists, originally advocated complete separation from society. Evangelicals wants to convert everyone and save as many souls as possible. But recently the two have merged in many ways. This movement is quite modern in its flexibility, lack of historical consciousness (as opposed to say Roman Catholicism), and emphasis on the individual. Fundamentalism is really the inverse of the modern project. They try to deny the modern world, but end up using the modern world’s processes to try and overtake/destroy the modern world itself, thereby showing their secret fascination.

There is only one law to the Realm of Consciousness–you become what you meditate on (particularly if you meditate on what you supposedly “hate” or “revile”). This applies particularly to violent fundamentalism, especially of a Islamist strain. The Left will not be able to win back the US government until they realize this fact–until the see the logic of the underside in its conservative reaction.

It is very interesting to me that the evangelical and low Protestant churches have always been the gathering place for Americans disgruntled with their government. In the days of the Founding Fathers, the country was run by a wealthy land-owning EastCoast elite. The Founding Fathers, to a man, were basically Deist, many influenced by certain strains of Masonic theology.

The other super-fascinating trend is that fundamenatlism does not come on the scene until after a liberal-modernist religious movement has first taken route. So for Protestant Fundamenatlism was originally only a Northern phenomenon. Fundamenatlism was started in the North, not the South. Fundamentalism was a distinct reaction to critical modern Protestant theology brought over from German theological centers and imported to American Prot. seminaries in the late 19th, early 20th century.

Fundamenatlism did not hit the South really until the Cultural Revolution of the 60/70s. That is why the political and cultural awakening of a Jerry Falwell is so amazing–Moral Majority was not founded until 1979, the year I was born!!! Falwell had been a pastor far longer than that. That was the same year that hardline traditionalists elements in the Southern Baptist Convention instigated a coup d’etat and assumed leadership of the church body.

Also interesting to note is that evangelicals were not at the front of the anti-abortion crusade. The Catholics for a long period of time were the only ones who carried that torch. Dr. C.Everett Koop (later Surgeon General under Reagan) was the first evangelical to really raise the issue. He was later criticized for putting his own personal beliefs aside as Surgeon General in advocating distribution of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS.

The way I see it, these evangelicals again are teaching us something about what the modernist/postmodernist American project, both politically and culturally, is missing. Their policy recommendations are often ludicrous and unworkable, but that doesn’t mean they should be laughed off as extremists, religious looney-toons, or backwoods imbeciles. Their criticisms are often far more penetrating than most people, even myself at times, would like to admit. We have to remember their ranks are filled (not exclusively mind you but in large measure) by those rejected by the modern/postmodern project. What is experienced as liberation for post/modernists is idolatry for them, is the rejection of their entire worldview. Sadly, once many have missed their opportunity to grow accustomed and flourish in our world during youth, they are sent down a track that is often very difficult to turn back from.

For all the talk of faith-based values voting and the influence of the Religious Right on the Bush administration (or Reagan before that), most of it is liberally hooey. The fact is the so-called Religious Right hardly makes a real dent in Washington. Sidney Blumenthal wisely noted that the Republicans, since at least Nixon, have played a wise game with the mostly naive evangelicals.

The game consists of two gambits. Step 1: Encourage their continued organization and missionizing activity, get them out to vote. Step 2: After being elected, keep them in a perpetual state of mobilization–then give them the old run around.

And if you think that is not the still the case, consider the following.

The 2 Supreme Court nominations. John Roberts will pass quite easily. Then the Sandra Day O’Connor seat, probably goes to Gonzalez, maybe a woman but likely Br. Alberto. Roberts and Gonzalez will not overturn Roe v. Wade. It won’t happen.

The Evangelicals go through periods of total withdrawl from society–as they did after losing The Scopes Monkey Trial. Technically winning the battle, losing the war. They then re-group, batten down the hatches, stick together, and eventually the pendulum swings back the other way and they go on the march. They are led out of the wilderness through a period of optimism to euphoria, believing they have achieved their goals (as in Bush’s election and re-election), but as a matter of course, their moment of “triumph” will actually be the beginning of the end.

The optimism and euphoria will quickly devolve into depression and calls amongst a new generation of evangelical leaders to withdraw from society. They will blame their own sinfulness for the failure–e.g. “It was getting our hands dirty in the world of politics that caused us to fail. We were no longer not of this world, too enamored of the lure of Mammon, and so God has punished us righteously.”

This is their moment in terms of the Supreme Court and they are not going to get it. They will never have a better chance, and it ain’t gonna happen. Whatever Bush’s personal beliefs–and they are genuinely evangelical I’m certainly not denying that…those who do are just ideologically driven–he is too political of an animal to actually allow a full-scale evangelical take of American politics. The fact is that the Bible is not a handbook on how to run a modern global economy, doesn’t give any hints about how best to fund public education, make sure the roads and sewers work, make sure automobile traffic flows properly, or any other number of things governments must do. Neither does the Quran for that matter.

The Evangelicals would never subscribe to this position of course, but on a larger scale, the Bible, I don’t believe, advocates many real specific moral positions either. The New Testament usually speaks in more generic terms: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And so on.

The evangelical-fundamentalist camps have no argument for why they read the Bible as literal word of God. There is no line of Scripture that states it should be read literally. That is a choice, a paradigm, a practice of reading that unfortunately only reveals a very limited and partial worldview–higher biblical paradigms reveal higher worldviews/states.

They have no basis as to why they pick and choose certain moral offenses from the Bible as still immoral–e.g. homosexuaity–but do not hold to others….like Jewish dietary laws or women wearing headdresses and not being allowed to speak in public.

And I’m wondering how best to reach such people beyond vague references to the need for conversion, mercy, love, courage, honesty, truth, and the like. Their worldview is so set for the majority. It gives a strong self of self, in-group, and mission in an otherwise ambiguous world.

It was like the guy who helped me get my keys out of my car at the park. I had locked them in the car, but fortunately the window was open just enough for him to stick a hot dog poker in and lift my shorts up (the keys were in the right pocket). He was so kind, so helpful. Then as Chloe and I go to leave he hands me a card and pamphlet. I leaf through it down the road, and it is typical Reformed Theology-Evangelical Fair: “All have fall short of the glory and majesty of God. Only confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in your Heart and you will be saved.” There was a list, asking me of which following sins I had committed, and then informing me that my eternal soul was up for grabs. How could a person one minute be so gentle, so loving and at the same moment hand me something that was so filled with revulsion, violence, and psychological hatred? Like Jekyl and Hyde. So bizarre. Such an interesting, if dark, perspective.

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Published in: on September 22, 2005 at 7:33 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Not directly related to what you wrote but an excellent reminder in this moment all the same…

    “There is only one law to the Realm of Consciousness–you become what you meditate on…”

    Thanks, I needed that.

    Scott


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