Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Soul Power
I have said this here before, and now I'm going to do it again: I do not believe that the average American has the slightest idea how extreme are some of the religious ideas animating supporters of the Bush Administration. I think that Christians from liberal denominations generally think that everybody who calls themselves "Christian" believes in the same god, and that their miscellaneous doctrinal differences are ultimately just fiddling at the margins and not to worry--in the end, they'll all stand together playing harps in Heaven. And as for unchurched liberals, they're willing to let people believe more or less anything they want as long as it makes them happy. Because liberals, Christian and not, don't deal with hardcore fundamentalists as anything but an abstraction, they don't see them as a threat.

Well, wake up. Millions of Americans are yearning for the certainty that fundamentalism provides. They anxiously await the Rapture, and their delivery from this sinful planet--and they want their government to make sure nothing happens to screw it up. Some, the Christian Reconstructionists, would prefer to see the government hurry it along. And all of them will turn out to vote for George W. Bush in November because they put their eternal souls at risk if they don't. So as Joe Bageant writes on ICH News, fundies may be culturally isolated, but that doesn't mean they don't have clout. And many of them would use their clout to remake American society into something reminiscent of the Old Testament, right down to the stoning--of both unchurched liberals and liberal Christians.

Bageant's piece serves as a good introduction to the doctrine of Christian Reconstructionism. (He recommends Georges Monbiot as someone who can tell you more, and I'd also recommend the folks at Political Research Associates, especially the inimitable Frederick Clarkson.) He also writes about the experience of being a liberal in a fundamentalist family--which goes a long way by itself to show how hardcore some fundies can be.

The problem--which neither Bageant nor I quite know how to solve--is what to do about Reconstructionists and other fundamentalist hardcores. Religious belief is in some ways indestructible, so there'll be no convincing them to become Unitarians or anything. Neither will it be easy to convince other Christians to swallow their ecumenical impulses and say that a group of coreligionists is misrepresenting the spirit of Christianity. Voting against Republican candidates--who are a million times more likely to be enablers for the thought processes behind this pathology even if they don't believe in it themselves--couldn't hurt. But that's all I've got.

Of course, not everybody thinks it's possible to reclaim America for Jesus, even if Bush gets reelected and installs righteousness everywhere. Some folks think they need their own country. (More details here.) If they'll let me know when they're leaving, I'll help 'em pack.

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