Anyone who thinks that Christianity is a warm, fuzzy, loving religion needs to watch, or read, God's Christian Warriors – part of a CNN special series on Muslim, Jewish, and Christian fundamentalism.
The whole idea of a religious warrior is crazy, of course. That's what made the two hours my wife and I finished watching last night especially weird.
When someone fights for something real, that's understandable even if you don't agree with their cause. But when you see people all passionately fired up to defend something imaginary, that's bizarre. It'd be diagnosed as insane if it weren't for the pervasiveness of religious mental illness in so many cultures around the world.
Now, I'm all for a decent dose of craziness, because it makes life much more interesting. Unadulterated sanity is boring. However, the caveat is that crazy people can't mess up the lives of others. Then they have to be dealt with.
Unfortunately, it's tough to medicate the 53% of Americans who, according to CNN's Christiane Amanpour (host of the series), believe that evolution is wrong and creationism is right.
Nor to treat the delusions of the now deceased Rev. Jerry Falwell while he was alive, when he responded to Ms. Amanpour's question about whether he still believed that this nation's abortion policies caused us to be attacked on 9/11.
If we in fact change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the Lord to put his shield of protection around us as He has in the past.
Yeah, that shield sure was working well during the Civil War, when millions of Americans died. And go figure: the Supreme Court hadn't legalized abortion yet. Must have been some other national depravity that caused the Lord to lower his protective shield back then.
This way of thinking is utterly strange. Yet it was repeated over and over again during God's Christian Warriors. Most of the time by angry white men who are absolutely, completely, 100% convinced that they know what's right and how the world should behave.
If the loving touch of Jesus has made them humbler, gentler, and kinder, I can only wonder how off-the-wall they were before Christianity transformed their souls.
Jimmy Carter, a Christian president who seems to understand a more genuine message of Jesus, said:
It's impossible for a fundamentalist to admit he is ever wrong, because he would be admitting that God was wrong.
Well, that's only the case if you consider that you know all about God. Which Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalists do, because the Bible and Koran tell them so (leaving aside the not-so-small problem of the many contradictions between Old Testament, New Testament, and Koranic revelations).
It's when religious zealotry merges with political policy-making that things really get crazily scary. Pastor John Hagee is a fervent Christian Zionist. Israel can do no wrong in his eyes, which only see the world through Biblical blinders.
Amanpour asked him whether God really has a foreign policy. Indeed He does, Hagee said. In line with a "Supporting Israel" page on his web site, Hagee referred to Genesis 12:3 and told her:
Concerning the Jewish people, that's His [God's] foreign policy statement.
If you don't have that Old Testament passage memorized (and I hope to God you don't), here it is.
And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.
Dear lord. Hagee, along with millions of other true Christian and Jewish believers, wants the 21st century foreign policy of the United States to be guided by a vague Biblical verse written thousands of years ago. That'd be comical if it wasn't so serious in a nuclear age.
Fortunately for my teeth grinding (which otherwise would have been nearly continuous throughout God's Christian Warriors), there were a few Christians scattered throughout the program who embodied a more appealing form of Christianity.
Jimmy Carter was one. Richard Cizik, a prominent environmentalist evangelical, was another. (He says that polluters will have to answer to God, not just government.)
My favorite non-crazy Christian was pastor Greg Boyd. I've got to like an evangelical who's considered a heretic by fundamentalists. He talked about seeing a Fourth of July service at another church.
And there was patriotic music playing and a flag waving in the background. It showed a silhouette of three crosses. And four fighter jets came down over the crosses and split, with a flag waving in the background.
And there were some people who stood up. They were ecstatic. And I started crying, because I -- I wondered, how is it possible that we went from being a movement of people who follow the messiah, who taught us to love our enemies, to being a movement that celebrates fighter jets, that fuses Jesus' death on the cross with killing machines?
And that was, I guess, a -- a wakeup call to me about how serious this problem is among evangelicals in America.
The problem of unfounded righteousness always is going to be with us so long as Christians fail to recognize that they're fallible human beings, just like the rest of us.
It's fine to have personal opinions about what's right and wrong. It isn't fine to try to impose them on everybody else, using blind faith in an unknown God as your battle cry.
That happens to be the name of Ron Luce's movement: Battlecry. Luce, a forty-six year old, is out to save the youth of America. From what, I'm not sure. But whatever it is, it's dangerous. Amanpour asked him why he's declared war on the American lifestyle.
We call them terrorists, virtue terrorists, that are destroying our kids. They're raping teenage America on the sidewalk. And everybody's walking by as if it is OK, and it isn't OK.
Hmmmm. I guess Luce is upset because teenagers are having sex, smoking pot, drinking and doing other stuff that teenagers have always done.
If Luce was a decade or so older he'd have a memory of the '60s, like I do, and realize that a better term for "virtue terrorists" is "having a good time." (In fact, he admitted that he did these things himself when he was younger).
My parting piece of advice to any Christian warriors who read this post is this: it's all right to be who you really are, and allow other people the same freedom.
Observe the case of Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who came into the news today after pleading guilty to a bathroom stall incident. If you turn to Craig's senatorial web site, on his personal philosophy page you can read that one goal of his is to:
Defend and strengthen the traditional values of the American family.
That's great. And personally I've got nothing against Craig's bathroom stall behavior, so long as it is consensual. Here's what is reported to have happened after Craig went into a public rest room that was already occupied by a plain clothes police officer.
According to Roll Call, the arresting officer alleged that Craig lingered outside a rest room stall where the officer was sitting, then entered the stall next door and blocked the door with his luggage.
According to the arrest report cited by Roll Call, Craig tapped his right foot, which the officer said he recognized "as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."
The report alleges Craig then touched the officer's foot with his foot and the senator "proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times," according to Roll Call.
At that point, the officer said he put his police identification down by the floor so Craig could see it and informed the senator that he was under arrest, before any sexual contact took place.
One more Christian warrior, who was rated 100% by the Christian coalition, bites the hypocritical dust. May many more follow in his footsteps until honest this-is-who-I-am-ness rules the land.
Senator Craig, it's OK if you're gay. Just be who you are. Michael Vick, just tell us that you're sorry for your dog fighting – saying you've found Jesus doesn't make your apology any more believable.