As the fundamentalist culture grows in America and throughout the world, it becomes more evident that it becomes increasingly more detached from the society it hopes to impact. Such separation — whether deliberate or not — is a clear indicator of how such groups have created an elitist mindset. Sadly, it is an attitude that is often bereft of the temperance of reason or compassion.
A few years ago, those within the fundamentalist movement identified themselves as being a “subculture” within the overall American culture. After all, the “Christian” (read: fundamentalist) segment had a sanctified version of just about everything out there. There were Christian books, Christian movies, Christian TV show, Christian campgrounds, Christian music, Christian schools, Christian clothing labels, Christian businesses, Christian this, and Christian that. Interestingly, nearly everything that was the “sanctified” version was just a bad copy of the original, with less guilt or “sin” attached.
There are Christian MMA fighters (including a gym run by a friend of mine). For those who like death metal, yes, there’s even a non-deathy-Christian version of that. Not surprisingly, a Google search for “Christian Romance Novels” had quite a few returns. So did a search for “Christian Porn.” I think I need some brain bleach now.
At the very core of this need for “separate but less sinful, and equal-in-their-own-minds” mentality is the fundamentalist need to be “holy.” After all, they say, the Lord calls them to be separated unto him. One definition of “holy” is to be “set apart for God.” I guess they just take it a little more literal than they probably should have.
As the rise of fundamentalism continues in American culture, the nature of those “Christian” elements grows increasingly more homogenous. A new Christian school is far more likely to mandate curricula that include creationism as “science,” a simplistic and literalist interpretation of Scripture, and history that’s so intensely revised that it is unrecognizable to scholars who are actually historians.
Interestingly, there is a certain amount of biblical basis for this kind of separation from “the world” mentality:
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18, NIV)
Yes, this used to be me. I was all about the “Separate but Christian” mentality because it was so critical to keep from being tainted by the vile, evil world around me. It’s kind of a silly mindset, really. We spend our time in church in a vain attempt to recover from the rest of the week, hoping that a demon didn’t climb on our back. Or something.
It’s not that the “world,” the cosmopolitan society outside of the church was secular and suspect. To the fundamentalist, that world is just downright evil. Every TV show, every comedy routine, every film, album, book, and website — if it wasn’t specifically “Christian,” then it was “of the world” and therefore damned.
What’s more, there were special publications and productions that were especially bad. When the Harry Potter books became international bestsellers, they were berated because they “taught witchcraft” to unsuspecting children. Cartoons like The Simpsons were blasted because they “promoted the homosexual agenda (whatever the hell that is). Today, Glee and Modern Family and other popular TV shows are showcased by fundamentalists as being “evil” because they portray LGBT people in a positive light. The horror!
Speaking of horror, I wonder if they’ve figured out that The Walking Dead is a great allegory on how the rest of us see fundamentalists?
As I began my journey away from fundamentalism (which began years before I began to accept myself as a gay man), I came to a startling revelation: Society has no clue what fundamentalism supports. They only know what fundamentalists oppose.
It wasn’t long before I came to a second conclusion: They don’t support anything at all. It’s all opposition. It’s a war — a constant battle with the devil, the world, and the “flesh,” a fundamentalists “carnal” or sinful nature. There can never be a true victory as long as the heart beats. Sure, they might have “testimonials” about certain posts, but the war rages on.
In short, there’s no celebration of faith. Only mourning.
This is part of the reason why hate groups like the American Family Association and the Family Research Council make certain demands of their corporate neighbors. When JC Penney announced Ellen DeGeneres as their new spokesman earlier this year, a wing of the AFA demanded that the retailer fire DeGeneres and remain “neutral” in the “culture war.”
Neutrality might be the demand from fundamentalists for retailers and those who support LGBT rights or marriage equality, but they’re in that war to win, no matter the cost. For them, there is no neutral ground. They’ll fight their war with anyone to ensure they’re reigning supreme over their latest enemy. Once it was the blacks. Later, the communists. Then it became the women. The hippies. The Muslims. The Gays.
They claim that their goal is to “protect children,” but their real goal is all too obvious: to control, dominate, or completely avoid the conversation and to vanquish their enemies into oblivion. Their aim is either to oppress their enemies no matter the cost, or to pretend they don’t exist.
It’s this singular dedication to fighting their “culture war” that drives them to attack, to suppress dissent, and to simply say “that’s the way it is.” No questioning is allowed. No independent thought is permitted. Women do as they’re told. Children do as they’re told. Anything that doesn’t fit the mold is ejected or tossed aside.
What fundamentalists might call a “tell-it-like-it-is” simplistic notion (for example: women can’t preach in church or must wear long hair/have a head scarf) is little more than a rejection of nuance or theological study that presents a much more complex picture. I don’t know whether this disdain for education is out of fear of being “liberalized” or just pure laziness. Either way, it’s a disturbing trend that has reached into the culture at large, and into the political mainstream.
This anti-smarts mindset took the country by storm with the folksy, wink-wink, joe-sixpack-sy charm of Alaska’s Governor (at the time), Sarah Palin, who was selected by John McCain to be his running mate in his quest for the White House. Palin, who discussed during one interview about a nonexistent “Department of Law,” and couldn’t name a single publication she read to stay current during another, personified the image of the “political ignorant” better than anyone since Dan Quayle.
Now, in 2012 — deep into the 21st century — we have yet another Presidential candidate that openly disdains education because he declares that it’s all some plan by the President to turn them into copies of himself. This same candidate, Rick Santorum, calls for de-funding public universities as well (Santorum’s education was public universities, by the way). It’s clear that Santorum’s hopes for getting the GOP nomination by pandering to fundamentalists — who despise education — at a time when college graduates are competing for jobs around the world.
The world is a tough, complex, ever-changing society that has managed to integrate thousands of religions into it, yet barely survive. Technology continues to add to the complexity, but even still, we have large segments of our Christian culture that persist in a dangerous, backwards mindset that declares “All I need is the Bible.”
In fact, several fundamentalist denominations have eschewed the educated community altogether, in favor of building “Bible Colleges” which do little more than indoctrinate according to that denomination’s belief system. Whether it’s Jerry Falwell’s Regent University to the countless Bible colleges that dot the landscape, all of them have a clear religious and political goal to churn out more carbon copy preachers that toe the line. History is twisted into a revisionist version of “Christian” American history. Science is minimal at best, and highly suspect.
Frankly, it’s a zombie culture that feeds itself with its own brains.
Clearly, to be a fundamentalist, one must reject science, tarnish history, use technology only to further your agenda and simplistic doctrine, treat education as a foolish old coot on a mountain, and tell women they must wear a head scarf. Tell the world how much you hate gays, communists, blacks, women, and smart people.
Everything in the world is suspect, and would be an attempt by that evil devil to tempt us or deceive us away from what they saw as a holy life. In other words, they have more faith in the devil to deceive them than in God to lead them.
Thank God I grew up.