Today, as I witness the possibility of losing the last shreds of liberty to a fundamentalist theocracy, I am reminded once again of my college research paper and how “dangerous” research, critical thinking, and asking the right questions can be. All those years ago, I extricated myself from the fundamentalist Christian programming of my family and subculture, and now I am watching it threaten to engulf my entire country.
To even attempt to understand the religious right, which many are now naming “Dominionism”, one must grasp the mental duress it holds on its followers. I should know; I was one of them. Axiomatic in the worldview of the fundamentalist, born-again Christian is: “I have the truth, I’m right; you don’t have the truth, you’re wrong.” As a result, critical thinking, research, or intellectual freedom of exploration are not only unnecessary, they are dangerous and potentially heretical. Paul Krugman noted in a recent article that while the religious right bashes academia for its “liberal bias,” studies of the political persuasions of college and university professors indicate that persons who prefer academia as a lifelong career tend to be more liberal, just as those who prefer the military as a lifelong career tend to be more conservative. The halls of academia do not spawn the likes of Tim LaHaye or Pat Robertson. Remember, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
But simply shunning critical thinking does not make one a terrorist. What does, however, is the notion that because one “has the truth” and everyone else who believes differently is “wrong”, those individuals will be condemned to spend eternity in hell and must be incessantly reminded of their fate and their “inferior” status in the eyes of God. Moreover, because of one’s “superior” spiritual status, one has the so-called “divine authority” to subvert, by whatever means necessary, the very machinery of government in order to establish a theocracy in which one’s worldview is predominant.
When sufficiently pressed, Christian fundamentalists intractably argue that people are poor because they have not been born again. Like the Puritans of seventeenth-century America, wealth is a sign that one is following the will of God, and poverty indicates that one is not. People are poor because they are doing something to cause themselves to be poor, and whatever that may be, the underlying cause is that they do not have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Increasingly, one sees many faces of color in fundamentalist congregations, but those individuals are almost without exception, born-again Christians who tow the dominionist line with other people of color.
Dominionism deplores the mental health system. Like those who are poor, the mentally ill would not be so if they were born again Christians. After all, mental illness is a label given by the Dr. Phils of the world to people whose minds have been devoured by Satan. What they really need is Christian conversion and of course, a great deal of medication from the pharmaceutical lobby. The only valid therapist is Jesus; down with Oprah, God bless Joyce Meyer. Obviously, according to Dominionism, government should not be financing mental health programs.
And what about addictions? In case you haven’t caught on to the drill yet, Jesus is the answer to that one as well. Who needs a Twelve-Step program? There’s only one step: Accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior as soon as possible, and your addictions will be erased faster than those eighteen minutes on the Richard Nixon tapes. (Remind me to write another article on the religious right AS an addiction.)
Christian fundamentalism in “cafeteria style” has chosen which parts of Jesus’ teachings it chooses to honor and which not. Preference is always given to the “I am” passages such as those in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, “ I am the door; the bread of life; the way, the truth, and the life; the light of the world; the living water,” and so on, supposedly claiming to be God and commanding his listeners to accept him as the only way to live forever with God in heaven and escape eternity in hell. Little attention is given to the Sermon on the Mount and the many passages where Jesus condemns the wealthy and the religious leaders of his time for their callous, hypocritical, mean-spirited absence of compassion. In fact, theologians who pay much attention to Jesus’ teachings on compassion are viewed as bleeding hearts, unorthodox, and not really Christian. For this reason, Pat Robertson stated on his 700 Club program, January 14, 1991: “You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’ have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.”
Let us not overlook the obvious: Dominionism is about dominion — over women, children, the poor, people of color, alternative sexual orientations, and the earth. It fits so nicely with fascist tyranny.
Christian fundamentalism is fundamentally UN-American. Dominonists clearly desire a revised United States Constitution that will institute a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. As Katherine Yurica has so assiduously reported, the Dominionist agenda would shred the Constitution and end the democratic republic our Deist founding fathers hammered out for five grueling months in 1787 in Philadelphia.
In fact, Pat Robertson believes that only Christian people should interpret and benefit from the Constitution. Again, on his 700 Club, December 30, 1981, he stated that, “The Constitution of the United States, is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society.” Never mind that most of the founding fathers did not consider themselves Christian and clearly, adamantly, and unequivocally defended the right of everyone in America to believe — or not believe, as he/she chooses.
I hope Americans outside the Bible Belt become more aware that reasonable people down here are being suppressed. It’s an insidious threat. A lawyer I enjoy at another forum calls it the American Christian Taliban. I think that’s not a bad label, with all the appropriate connotations. Except that they are really quite unAmerican, which is why I prefer Christianofascists.