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11/17/2004 Entry: "Embattled faith needs enemies for focus"

"It's the secular version of a recent open letter addressed to Bush by Rev. Bob Jones of Bob Jones University: 'You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.'"
Embattled faith needs enemies for focus, by Gene Lyons, Posted on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 (click on LINK for the rest)

Well, isn't that lovely. I wasn't aware I despised anyone's Christ, except when someone is trying to shove Him down my LIBERAL throat.

Is this really the cost of appreciating other people's points of view? Obviously no good deed does go unpunished.

Embattled faith needs enemies for focus
by Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 17, 2004

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/story/adg/99086

To hear the TV preachers tell it, the Lord ordained George W. Bush's election over Sen. John Kerry. Fundamentalist divines and their media accomplices haven't sounded this smug since Prohibition. Indeed, possibly not since 1928, when Herbert Hoover crushed "blue state" Roman Catholic Democrat Al Smith of New York. (Ironically, Deep South states loyal to segregationist Democrats supported Smith when even his home state did not.) Anyway, we all remember how well that worked out. "This was Providence," said former Nixon aide Charles Colson, Watergate era jailhouse convert. "Anybody looking at the 2000 election would have to say it was... a miraculous deliverance, and I think people felt it again this year." Bush's second term, Colson thinks, is God's way of "giving us a chance to repent and to restore some moral sanity to American life."

Had Kerry prevailed, maintained Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, who meets regularly with White House political strategists, it would have signaled that God had cursed the United States. "The Bible says godly leadership is a sign of God's blessings and a lack of godly leadership is a sign of God's judgment," he opined. "I don't see Kerry as a godly leader."

Now call me anything you like, but I see no evidence that God ordains the winners of elections any more than football games. (I've yet to see a quarterback point heavenward after throwing an interception.) But having lived in the Bible Belt for many years, I've learned a few things worth keeping in mind as we stumble toward the second term of God's own president.

First, fundamentalist Christianity is an embattled faith, requiring an ever evolving enemies list to keep its focus. One year it's Satan worshippers, "secular humanists" the next. Panic over supermarket bar codes allegedly harboring the Mark of the Beast yields to worry that Harry Potter novels may seduce America's youth into witchcraft. This year's enemy is Democrats. Even secular pundits have taken up the cry. The soulless pseudo-sophisticates of Boston and Seattle, we're told, must henceforth take moral instruction from backwoods Mississippi.

Lest you think I exaggerate, here's one GOP thinker's question. If no longer the party of Truman and Kennedy, "who, apart from effeminate latte drinkers in New York cafes, Hollywood airheads and gangsta rappers in inner-city ghettoes, do the Democrats represent now?"

By "Hollywood airheads," he presumably doesn't mean Mel Gibson or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and certainly not the sainted President Ronald Reagan. The rest requires no translation. The 49 percent of Americans who voted against Bush, see, aren't "real Americans" like you and possibly me. They are perverts, subversives, heretics and mongrels, fit for kicking.

It's the secular version of a recent open letter addressed to Bush by Rev. Bob Jones of Bob Jones University: "You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."

Which brings up another aspect of the Falwell/Robertson/Jones/Dobson/LaHaye world view certain readers may find controversial. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Apart from the timeless topic of Other People's Sex Lives, nothing gets fundamentalist Christianity's spiritual entrepreneurs going like vengeful Old Testament tribalism. The basic con is to insist upon the literal, historical and scientific accuracy of every syllable in the Bible while focusing selectively on passages confirming pre-existing phobias. Hence, they rarely are more dogmatic than when they are ignoring, if not actively contradicting, the essence of Christ's teachings.

I recently read much of Rev. Tim La-Haye's "Left Behind" series of 12 novels about the coming Apocalypse for an essay in the November 2004 Harper's. Nowhere did I find any of that sentimental rubbish about blessed peacemakers, turning the other cheek, loving your enemies or judging not lest you be judged. Nothing about caring for the poor and afflicted or warning sinners against casting the first stone.

To read the series' roughly 1 million words, you'd never know that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount—or that he specifically and repeatedly warned his followers against idle speculation about the "End Times." Yes, Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination. Also wearing garments of two fabrics, eating pork and shellfish, and planting two crops in one field. It recommends stoning to death anybody who works on the Sabbath. Exodus stipulates how to sell your daughters into slavery. My point is simple: Faddish fundamentalist tribalism is currently riding high for several reasons, real fear and genuine moral confusion among them. Lost on America's perpetual frontier, millions yearn for a faith that promises the comforts of certitude and the enchantments of sorcery in a single beguiling package. Historically, however, these jokers have always overplayed their hand; I'd say they already have. Meanwhile, the millennium has passed, the End remains as near and far as ever, and the best argument against these ecclesiastical con men remains a moral vision they only pretend to honor.

 

 

 

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