Do Moderate Christians Enable Fundamentalist Agendas?

I have a theist friend who thinks I’m too quick to blame some of the world’s ills on religion. After all, he was raised in religion. He believes in god, and he doesn’t care if anyone else does or not. He isn’t trying to force it onto anyone else. He isn’t writing to legislators to ask them to incorporate his beliefs into laws that impact anyone else. And none of his friends or family has ever done anything like that, either. Christianity isn’t impacting U.S. policy. I’m simply imagining things.

My friend is an example of what Sam Harris discusses in his writings when he describes how moderate Christians act as a buffer—a safety net—for fundamentalist Christians who are pushing their agendas into public policy and legislation. To criticize such a Christian agenda insults moderate Christians (like my friend) who are quick to defend that their religion should not be blamed for public ills. After all, what moderate wants to be held responsible for harmful public policies and legislation?

Say that religion is at the root of such a problem, and you get shot down before you’re even out of the gate (if I can mix my metaphors)—not by overzealous fundamentalists, but by moderate, liberal Christians—like my friend. Point out where religion harms society, and you’re met with the shout down—from moderate, middle-of-the-road Christians—that you’re guilty of painting religion with too broad a brush. You’re cherry picking lunatics and fanatics and trying to impose that dysfunctional mess upon all Christians, who are, for the most part, socially benign.

To be honest, I have no idea if the majority of Christians are “moderate”—in the sense that they have personal beliefs they don’t try to spread around or impose on others. I have no aversion to assuming most Christians fit that bill. Certainly most believers I have met personally aren’t any different. But whether they have majority numbers or not, it’s the fanatics that are running the program, invading politics, and shaping law and policy in this nation to bend it to a fundamentalist Christian agenda.

If a silent majority doesn’t like being represented by a squeaky-wheel faction—I recommend they should learn to speak up against their brethren whom they condemn privately as “lunatics” and “fanatics.” Instead, from what I can see, moderates would rather use their collective, “majority” voices to speak out against anyone else who condemns their fanatical members publicly. And here I have to excuse (and applaud) more responsible, moderate Christians—few though they may be—who do actually counter fundamentalism publicly, such as Barry Lynn Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

But it can no longer be denied, by any reasonably informed person, that public policy is being shaped by Christian agendas—whether it is the work of a fanatic, but highly politically efficient, minority of Christians or not. And if the moderate middle rebuffs criticisms of their more fanatic brethren, denies there is any problem in their midst, and refuses to join anyone in confronting the negative elements within their own camp—how are they not part of the problem? These moderates aren’t just guilty of letting the fundamentalist element run roughshod while they sit silently by, they’re actually protecting fundamentalist actions against legitimate criticisms by throwing the accusation “gross generalization” and “prejudice alarmist” at anyone who dares claim there even is a problem to criticize within the Christian ranks.

In the editorial section of this morning’s Austin American-Statesman, there are two articles that address the statistically observable supreme failings of Texas’ abstinence-based sex education in public schools. One article, “Learning Sex the Texas Way,” has this to say:

“Gov. Rick Perry’s office said he is comfortable with the abstinence-based approach. ‘We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage,’ said his spokeswoman.”

Make no mistake, Perry has won re-election in the past. I cannot claim that he is unpopular. And I’m guessing he knows who his supporters are. What politician doesn’t? If he put forward policies not backed by the majority of voting Texans—how would he remain in office? Any thinking person might legitimately then ask, “what constituency would support failing programs and policies that put their own children at risk of deadly STDs and unwanted pregnancies?”

Let’s examine that question.

At the American Family Association (AFA) online, in their article, “Abstinence-Only Education Proves Effective,” it states, “there is no logical reason why abstinence-only education would not be effective in reducing sexual activity among teens.”

Logical or not, we come pretty close to abstinence-only in Texas—and it’s not working as it “logically” should.

Just to cement that this is a Christian organization, in their section “Does AFA hate homosexuals?” the site states:

“The same Holy Bible that calls us to reject sin, calls us to love our neighbor… AFA has sponsored several events reaching out to homosexuals and letting them know there is love and healing at the Cross of Christ.”

Make no mistake AFA is a Christian coalition.

Another supporter is The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. On their site is an article “Support Abstinence Education,” that says, “Don’t let the Senate jeopardize the future of abstinence education. Call or e-mail today!”

Do I need to keep going? The religious right has code words as well, such as conservative, family values, traditional, moral, and so on. They have less overtly religious organizations as well, such as the National Review—which bills itself as a “conservative” media source. Not every group is an outright Wallbuilders. But the more you educate yourself about these issues, the faster you begin to recognize the words that equal “Christian.” Doubt me? Try following a few of these sites for a month to see if you don’t start seeing particular words and phrases that begin to stand out as secular, yet repetitive.

Why use codes? Why not simply say, “This is my religious belief, and I’m going to do all I can to promote it in public policy and legislation”? AFA pretty clearly does this—so why not all organizations with a Christian base?

There is one clear advantage to hiding a religious agenda. Ask Intelligent Design proponents. When the courts tell you that teaching Creationism in schools is using the government to promote religion, and you can’t do that, you are forced to find more subversive, secular-sounding means to reach your goals. You take out “god” and put in “Intelligent Designer.” (Just make sure to double-check the search-and-replaces in your documentation really well before going to court.)

Still, today I realized something different and new and as enlightening as it is disturbing. I realized that even powerful mainstream critics of these religious fundamentalists have learned to pretend that this is actually a battle between secular ideologies—Republican vs. Democrat—and religion plays no part. In both opinion pieces, religion is oddly absent—as is any mention of who might be promoting such policies. Why call out Perry alone? Yes, he’s a politician, and his performance should be examined in the paper. I can’t deny that. But is a public official who has won re-election really the cause of bad policy or is he merely the elected representative for it? Again, without the support of the majority of voting constituents in Texas—he could not have won re-election. Perry is doing the will of the (voting) majority in Texas. And when his office can issue a statement such as the one quoted earlier—can there be any doubt it’s a Christian Right majority he intends to please?

What would happen if the paper
published an editorial critical of the “Christian” agenda to promote abstinence-only education? In addition to raising the ire of far right groups like AFA, Wallbuilders, Liberty Commission, and so on—they would upset, as well, huge numbers of “regular” people—like my friend—who would cry “foul” at being lumped under the umbrella of the fundamentalist “lunatic fringe” who are causing this harm.

But if I say Christians are at the root of the abstinence-only policy, I’m not generalizing any more broadly than if I were to say that horses run in the Kentucky Derby. The group promoting these policies consists of self-identified Christians. And the animals running in the Derby consist of horses. Do all Christians support these policies? No more than all horses run in the Derby. So, what’s the problem? I don’t care if some Christians—even most Christians—aren’t supportive of these policies. It’s no less true that the policies are, by the largest margin, Christian created, promoted and supported. But if we say that, nobody will hear—not because the Religious Right will shut us down, but because religious moderates will.

My friend made this point loud and clear. “There’s nothing religious in those articles. It’s just about the schools and education. Where do you see religion even mentioned?”

He’s right that I don’t see religion even mentioned. But I have to ask if he sees any mention of who is at the root of these policy directives? Does my friend imagine Perry just made this up himself?

Fundamentalist Christians use public policy and legislation to push their religion onto everyone else. Anyone who criticizes the far right source is immediately shot down by the moderate middle. And, for the most part, we all pretend religion has no bearing on public policy—to the point that many people actually believe this is true. Anyone who says otherwise is just an overly excited alarmist. And the fundamentalists proceed, without mainstream majority opposition or interference, to push their religious agenda onto everyone else, with absolute gratitude toward their moderate brethren—the ones who would never do anything to push their religion onto anyone else.

Schadenfreude!

Yes, there was a blemish on last night, which is that Christian Hate gets to crow about at least one victory. I am a little baffled about the Californians this morning. After all, they managed to deliver the state pretty handily for Obama, giving him no less than 61% of the popular vote there. So how they could have folded to fundamentalist fear so completely on the same night is rather strange. Still, I hope that this is just the beginning of Supreme Court challenges. There’s simply no room for this in an enlightened culture. And an enlightened culture is what I’m sincerely hoping America may start slouching towards during the next (being optimistic here) eight years of the Obama presidency.

But for now, I thought, for schadenfreude purposes, we’d take a look at a little of the morning-after whining from the fundie camp in response to the election. My oh my, I do believe it’s time to call the waaaambulance!

From the American “Family” Association, Donald Wildmon’s homophobic hate club, we get some advice for Christians: “Defend Life, Prepare for Persecution.” Since there’s nothing these people love more than to feel “persecuted,” I expect this is, perversely, good news for them.

[Tony] Perkins says Christians should pray for and return to a biblical model of holiness and righteousness. And believers in America, he adds, should prepare for persecution.

“We are going to see, I think, unprecedented attacks against our faith through measures like the hate crimes [legislation] to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” he says. “We’re going to see attacks on innocent human life through the Freedom of Choice Act, trying to erase all the gains that have been made in the pro-life movement. And I think even our freedoms are going to come under attack.”

Obama stated during the presidential campaign that one of his top priorities upon taking office would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. Perkins says Christians will have to be resolute in defense of what they know to be right.

Hate, fear, ignorance and bigotry, of course, being the top four items on that list of what they “know to be right.” It’s amazing how upset they get when they’re told, by civilized, decent people, that it really isn’t nice to hate those different from you and that you should try to be more compassionate and tolerant. Those are two concepts just not in their lexicon.

Over at that delightful nuthouse, the Christian Worldview Network, columnist Jan Markell reveals another problem they have with Obama: they worry that he’s unfair competition for Jesus!

Two years ago came a charismatic man named Barack Obama who was engulfed in a cult-like atmosphere. Some actually called him “the messiah.” Shrines were built to him. A Web site said, “Obama is god.” There has been a messianic fervor, adoration and a worship-like atmosphere surrounding him. At some rallies people fainted at the sight of him. Young children recorded on YouTube sang songs to him stating he would change the world…

Well, Jan, if you’re actually worried that our president-elect is actually competition that the son of God has to worry about, sounds as if you aren’t giving your God enough credit, eh? Anyway, the above is all followed up by the usual butt-ignorant whining about “socialism.”

And of course, over at the WorldNutDaily, that repository of all things most ludicrous and histrionic that erupt from the crusty bowels of the extremist right, they couldn’t resist this headline:

Hamas praises Obama win as ‘historic victory for world’
Terrorists drafting letter of congrats to be sent directly to president-elect

I’m sure there’s more of this hysteria out there, and if you want to dig it up, please be my guest. Meanwhile, I’m going to sit back, eat myself a heaping slice of schadenfreude pie (thanks for the recipe, Scalzi), with a side of schadenfreude cobbler and washed down with a big old extra-fattening schadenfreude milkshake. Yum!

Wildmon is simply freaking!

Donald Wildmon, patriarch of the American “Family” Association, is really really upset that McCain/Palin are flailin’ in the polls, you betcha, and he’s sent out one of the AFA’s typically histrionic “Action Alert” e-mails in the hopes of rallying the Hate+Fear Brigade to save America from the scary libruls.

After the usual whining, blaming the ascent of Obama to obviously slanted reportage from the “liberal media” — as if they were the ones responsible for Palin’s inability to answer a direct question from a journalist with anything resembling a coherent sentence or displaying even passing knowledge of the topic at hand; as if they were the ones responsible for ramping up the hate rhetoric at recent McCain/Palin rallies, prompting those stalwart supporters of the far right to shout things like “Kill him [Obama, that is]!” within earshot of TV crews; as if they were the ones responsible for McCain’s failing to articulate any kind of platform to support the idea that his administration would be anything more than a continuance of the neocon string of disasters that Bush is leaving behind — Wildmon goes into full-on “end of days” Armageddon mode.

If the liberals win the upcoming election, America as we have known it will no longer exist. This country that we love, founded on Judeo-Christian values, will cease to exist and will be replaced by a secular state hostile to Christianity. This “city set on a hill” which our forefathers founded, will go dark. The damage will be deep and long lasting. It cannot be turned around in the next election, or the one after that, or by any election in the future. The damage will be permanent. That is why it is so important for you to vote and to encourage friends and family to vote. This is one election where your vote really counts.

Slippery slope much, Don? Well, this is all grist for the mill, after all. Getting people worked up into a lather of fear is fundamentalism’s stock in trade, and it’s a rhetorical tactic understood by many an ideological zealot in the political realm since time immemorial. Such as…

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

No, I’m not Godwinning by bringing up Goering’s famous remarks about war. I’m merely pointing out that Wildmon’s principle here is the same. “We’re being attacked! [by evil secular libruls who want to take our Bibles away] Vote now, or we’ll be exposed to danger!” An appeal to fear, with no basis in reality, in order to get his followers to vote his way.

So yes, everyone should vote, and do it early. Because what Wildmon means when he talks about the “Christianity” he says is threatened is his own, particular brand of homophobic, xenophobic, anti-science, anti-progress, anti-equality arch-fundamentalism. It doesn’t even include liberal Christians, those millions of believers who don’t think that “get the fags!” was part of Jesus’s message. To Wildmon, those kinds of Christians doubtless hold pride of place on his “Not True Christians™” list.

So vote, all you secular liberals! And won’t Wildmon be surprised when, in a liberal secular America, religious freedom is allowed to flourish? Sure, there will be some things you aren’t allowed to do. Such as use the government to promote your beliefs over others, or to impose your beliefs as “alternative theories” in science classrooms. But prohibitions like that are all in keeping with supporting religious freedom. After all, if you make Christian prayer mandatory in public schools again, what does that mean for all those non-Christian students? The Jews, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans and otherwise? (The typical AFA answer to that question, I suspect, would be “Screw ’em, they’re going to hell anyway,” which is not exactly productive. But dealing with fundie ideologues rarely is.)

Anyway, those are examples of conditions our Constitution already covers. That’s another difference between secular liberals and fundie neocons. We respect the Constitution, while they only ever treat it like a list of technicalities to be gotten around.

America as Wildmon thinks he has known it — a thoroughly fascistic, totalitarian Christian theocracy — has never existed. And though the neocons have been doing all they can to bring it about over the last eight years, a vote for the sane ticket — the one Wildmon fears to the core of his pitiful, benighted little black heart — will ensure that America remains the country it was in truth founded to be.

So vote! After all, we all want to read the despair-laden blatherings that will issue from Wildmon’s pen on November 5, after Obama has won, don’t we?

Let’s make Donald Wildmon’s nightmare come true!

Via Brayton, I come across this awesome piece over at OneNewsNow, the “news” site of the fundamentalist hate group American “Family” Association. You know, the same people who had that hilarious editorial gaffe recently involving an Olympic track star.

Wildmon has his knickers in a twist over the upcoming Proposition 8 vote this November in California, in which the haters hope to make gay marriage illegal until, presumably, the end of time. If the Christians lose, Wildmon warns, well, down that slippery slope we fall!

“If the homosexuals are able to defeat the marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then the culture war is over and we’ve lost — and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society,” he adds.

The vote in California, Wildmon explains, will affect the entire nation. “California is a big dam, holding back the flood — and if you take down the dam in California, it’s going to flood 49 other states,” he illustrates. “It will destroy marriage as it has been known for thousands of years, and with that the cultural decline that normally would follow.”

You know, the homophobes constantly rail about how recognizing gay marriage will somehow destroy their own, sanctified straight marriages, but they never explain how. That they take this approach to the argument seems to say voluminous volumes about the insecurity they feel about their own personal situations in marriage. If any situation, including someone else’s marriage, could possibly threaten your own marriage, then your marriage is already a failure, and it’s everything to do with you, gang. How a bunch of folks absolutely none of these terrified, insecure Christians will ever meet personally could threaten them, simply by deciding to commit to one another in marriage while happening to be the same gender, is simply absurd to contemplate. Unless you contemplate it in the context of fundie fear, not reality.

As for secularism replacing Christianity in America, well, three cheers for that and it’s about time! Naturally, the Wildmons of the world will see nothing but the downfall of civilization in such an occurrence. But again, reality paints a different picture. Sure, a nation in which people enjoy happiness based on concepts like personal freedoms rather than the phantom “happiness” of religion’s pie in the sky promises, which merely mask a host of debilitating fears and neuroses, would certainly be hell on Earth to the AFA and their sheep. Read the comments attached to the OneNewsNow article to shake your head over the whirlpool of insecurities and phobias these poor people flounder in.

Ahoy, Californians! Get out there and give Prop. 8 a sound defeat this fall. Because I really really want to read Wildmon’s editorial the following day!


Addendum: Well, clearly it’s true that traditional marriage is always a paradise of connubial bliss where nothing ever goes wring and which never leads to a cultural decline of any kind. Or maybe, where the husband in this case is concerned, teh gayz made him do it after all…

Fundie homophobes provide your daily dose of comedy

In case you hadn’t caught this: Donald Wildmon’s anti-gay hate group the American “Family” Association has its very own “news” site, OneNewsNow, which may or may not be as thoroughly bugnutty as WorldNetDaily, that repository of pure, unbridled right-wing parallel-universe lunacy. I can’t be bothered to read it regularly enough to make comparisons.

But ridicule made the rounds of the blogosphere yesterday when it became known that OneNewsNow apparently has some sort of built-in find-replace feature that automatically turns any mention of the word “gay” into “homosexual.” Why they consider this necessary or desirable is best known to themselves. But it resulted in an amusing editorial faux pas when the site posted an article about Olympic track and field star Tyson Gay. Gay’s name was changed to — you guessed it — “Tyson Homosexual,” with the article bearing the following howler for a headline: Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials

The laughs kept coming with such priceless bits as:

On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999…

Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal, but by the halfway mark he had established a comfortable lead.

And my favorite…

Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: “A little fatigued.”

Go, girl! While OneNewsNow has since corrected the mistakes, Google has cached the original page for your entertainment.