There used to be a message painted on the side of a barn that was visible from the freeway south of Salem: “Soldiers of the Lord, Armor Up!” I had a creepy feeling every time I saw it.
That feeling is still with me, even stronger now. For the Christian armoring-up is no longer an admonition but a reality. Fundamentalists are fighting battles on many fronts. And they mean business. This is no joke. It’s war.
Read T.A. Barnhart’s excellent essay that was posted today on BlueOregon, “The Religious Right’s Coming Civil War?” Barnhart includes a question mark in his title, but this reformed fundamentalist is confident that the war is coming:
There is a battle coming, and it won't be restricted to politics and elections. Those who believe they are God's chosen will act upon that belief…I just know the mind set, the vast and unshakable belief in the holy righteousness of their thoughts and opinions. They have created God in their own image, and they will seek to force us all to kneel before their self-created idol. What happens when we necessarily refuse?
I don’t know. Nobody does. I’m sure that it won’t be a well-mannered fight, however. The progressives, independents, humanists, and other tolerant people believe in being reasonable.
Reason means squat to a fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, Jew, or adherent of any other faith-based religion. Fundamentalists don’t believe in reason; they believe in the revelation of their holy book or religion’s founder. Unbelievers are toast, fit only to be buttered up and crunched into oblivion.
I’m reading Charles Freeman’s excellent (though scholarly) book about the rise of Christianity, appropriately titled “The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason.” This morning I got to the cheery part about the Christian emperor Justinian massacring 30,000 to 50,000 of his own citizens in 532.
A contemporary historian, Procopius, said: “Justinian did not see it as murder if the victims did not share his own beliefs.” Christians were excusing the killing of infidels way before al-Qaeda.
Now, I’m not suggesting that non-religious folks like me and my wife need to worry about the Christian right causing us physical harm. (Laurel does, however, fret about the imposition of a fundamentalist dress code for women, since she’s guessing that it wouldn’t be based on the teals and purples that she favors, nor would fused glass earrings likely be on the approved jewelry list, which would render meaningless countless hours of Laurel’s shopping.).
But the Christian jihadists are unabashedly out to dominate American culture. That’s why they consider themselves to be fighting a “culture war” to defend traditional values.
Hmmmm, that’s funny. I’ve always thought that my non-Christian beliefs were a lot more traditional. After all, I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life and find the theory of karma/reincarnation to be a pretty compelling basis for morality. This has been a traditional Hindu belief for way longer than Christianity has been around.
No matter. Fundies like Cal Thomas, whom I saw interviewed on a Nightline program last week along with the more moderate conservative George Will, come right out and say that debates over single issues like the teaching of intelligent design can’t be isolated from the Grand Christian Fundamentalist Culture War.
Thomas said that Christian red-staters are fed up with having their values shut out of public schools and rejected by godless judges. He ran off a bunch of interrelated battles that all coalesce in the broader culture war: gay rights, Terri Schiavo, display of the Ten Commandments, prayer in schools, teaching of intelligent design/creationism.
Christians like Thomas don’t want to peacefully coexist in a diverse culture where many faiths and non-faiths are practiced. They want to make Christianity the state religion, just as in the good old days (to Christians, not for pagans) of Constantine. Witness yesterday’s religious rally that attacked “arrogant” judges, broadcast to churches all across the country.
Gosh, for some reason I thought Christians went to church on Sunday to be spiritual, not political. Obviously I misunderstand Christianity; I guess it doesn’t have much to do with Christ.
If you want more proof that T.A. Barnhart is correct—the Christian right is out to start a culture war that could tear this country apart—I offer as evidence a portion of an email message that I received recently from Ford Vox. Ford is the founder of Universism, a faithless approach to spirituality that matches up well with my own churchless leanings.
He had lunch with a director of Focus on the Family, a Christian right organization. After what he hoped would be a “diplomatic meeting” between two people on different sides of the culture war, Ford had this to say to his fellow Universists: (which I’ll include as a continuation to this post)
Friends, I will not be surprised if in this century our politics devolve into the violence implicit in all political decision making. The current means I see our progressive political organizations employing have no chance in hell. There is no role for politics when faith this strong is involved. There is no role for negotiation, for trades, for compromise. This highly distilled faith will wipe the civil veneer from politics, revealing the armory underneath. Civil wars have started over religion before, now I know why.
The Universist Movement has miles to go before visibly matching their cultural force. I do not know for certain how our unique strategy will fare, but I am more convinced than ever of the need to at least try subverting religion from within.
I know now that Focus on the Family is a paramilitary institution, and the Bibles they carry might as well be the machine guns of the U.S. Military. There are increasingly few degrees of separation. They are sincerely and deeply committed to making their way of life the law. Law, with the force of arms. This is not their reluctant admission or my deduction, this is unequivocal statement. They are smart, numerous, wealthy and influential enough to achieve it. Of that I have no doubt.
Their faith may be blind but they look at everything else with a microscope. They are highly informed and jacked into the beat of the culture. This is not your father's Inquisition.
The question is, are we smart enough to stop them? I hope so, otherwise people like me will have to step aside; a more physical set of skills will be required.
FOR THE FUTURE,