In our fast-paced, dog-eat-dog political society, “enemies” must be identified and destroyed in seconds as if we all live in some kind of video game. We know how to slap labels on each other in a split-second and then we only listen to those with a similar label. This keeps things simple and removes the need to stop, listen and think. Against this “identify and destroy” backdrop I am going to attempt to relate my very personal views on born-again fundamentalist Christians (BAFC) and their misguided following of the Republican Party. I was born and reared a BAFC Republican.
Before you tune me out please know that I’m not lumping all Christians into the same category, so please, do not label me a “disgruntled, excommunicated Christian” and do not dismiss me as another “Jesus Freak”. I hate religion. Religion has nothing to do with God or principles. Religion is simply a set of rituals. I just want to relate my personal experience of growing up in a fundamentalist environment and my total befuddlement as to why the principles that I was taught are not followed by the people who reared me.
My first lesson as a BAFC was about freedom. I was taught that in the USA I am free to worship as I please and as a BAFC, I am free to worship and speak directly to God. The second lesson I learned, and this one made me a believer, was that God knows what is in my heart: if I am good, God knows it and will save me. God doesn’t care about skin color, nationality, education level or sex; all that matters is what is in my heart. And because God knows my heart, all public, religious rituals are simply vanity. Lesson three: be good by following the simple rules laid out by Christ: turn the other cheek; love your enemy; do good to them that despise you; love your neighbor as yourself; do unto others as you want them to do to you; actions must come from a place of love or else they are a hollow gesture; and serve God by doing these good deeds rather than serving mammon (materialism).
I was six-years-old when I learned these lessons. Do you have any idea how wonderful the world appears when you think that those three lessons are universally held by everyone? I followed these lessons as I grew up, but by the time I was 20, BAFC’s decided that those lessons I learned were in actuality “secular humanism” not “Christian Fundamentalism”, so I could no longer call myself a “Christian”. The logic for why humanism is secular and not from Jesus goes like this: humanism traces its roots to socialism, communism, Marx, and Satan. I think I have that order correct, John Loeffler explains it all at steelonsteel.com. (warning: coo-coo!)
The point is that the same basic principles that had once made me a right-wing, BAFC Republican, now made me a left-wing liberal.
It is worth noting here that this “secular humanist labeling” I was experiencing was also happening to President Jimmy Carter at the exact same time. In his book, Our Endangered Values President Carter describes how in August, 1980 the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention said to Carter, “We are praying, Mr. President, that you will abandon secular humanism as your religion.” President Carter was a Southern Baptist at the time. President Carter notes that the premise of being a “Fundamentalist” is that we “cling to the fundamental elements of our Baptist beliefs and resist the pressures and influence of the modern world.” (p. 32).
I believe that the principles I learned as a child are sound, honest, respectful and correct, I absolutely refuse to change them. Principles are principles; they don’t change to fit the circumstance. I’m no longer six-years-old so I understand that Jesus, the man, may not have walked the Earth let alone handed down these principles. However, the principles of doing all things from a place of love, treating others the way I want to be treated and shunning materialism are by any logically measurement, “good” principles by which to live. And logically although the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved, if God does exist in the omniscient form as I was taught, He can see my heart and judge it to be good or bad. Who am I to argue with an omniscient decision? All I can do then is live my life according to these sound principles. These sound principles give no quarter to materialism or putting profits or country ahead of people.
As I was saying, there was a shift in American Christian morality circa 1980 described best by Andrew Bacevich in his book, The Limits of Power (pp. 31-43) and by President Jimmy Carter in his book, Our endangered Values. Basically the Christian Right decided that it would no longer follow the principles of Christ that I was taught in my childhood. President Jimmy Carter addressed America in 1979 and accurately stated that America needed to live within its means. Ronald Reagan stepped in and said that’s all rubbish; if Americans want more they should have more. The BAFCs hitched their wagon to Reagan and pursued materialism over God because it was anti-socialist to do so. The logic is: the more we pursue materialism, the less secular humanist (socialist) we are. So in their desire to drive off the specter of socialism the BAFCs chose to be good American capitalists and defined “winning” as “dying with the most toys”. All the BAFCs had to do was find passages from the Bible to support the acquisition of material goods at the expensive of other people and at the expensive of ruining the environment. Given that the Bible has been used to support slavery, finding scripture to support greed isn’t too hard.
BAFCs found their Bible scriptures and twisted others to fit their lifestyle and by the time the terrorists attacked on 9/11 it was hard to find a BAFC who followed “Christ’s” principle of turn the other cheek. Instead they all went “Old Testament” and demanded an eye-for-an-eye, completely ignoring and violating Christ’s words in Matthew chapter 5:
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Now I know perfectly well that the fundamentalists can take this passage, break it down and show me that it actual means an “eye-for-an-eye” is God’s will, but the only reason they do that is to make it fit with the US policy of an eye-for-an-eye. They don’t take a stand against the Middle-East wars because that is “un-American”. They justify breaking Christ’s rule by stating that the war is God’s will. This is a conscience choice to be pro-USA rather than pro-God. They simply meld the two into one: “God bless America” whatever the US does is God’s will, end of story. This “logic” is really creepy because it translates to absolute power. The leaders of the Christian right can spin Christ’s message any way they want, but it is completely narcissistic to believe that God has given His blessing to the US for absolute power. God just cannot be that narrow minded.
There is no Biblical justification for a BAFC to put America ahead of Christ’s principles and no reason to try and “justify our bloody deeds in the name of destiny and in the name of God”**. It’s gross and disgusting because it shows a total lack of knowledge of US history. “Winning” as Sarah Palin puts it is all that matters, how you win means nothing anymore. The BAFCs support the system that says it’s ok to live beyond your means, it’s ok to exploit other countries to help American’s have more, it’s ok to harm the environment in order to have more, in a nutshell “greed is good”. None of this steaming pile of horse manure is justified by the principles I was taught to believe-in as a BAFC. Worse of all is if a BAFC truly loves God and truly puts God first why would he want God to bless this steaming pile of manure?
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon,” (Matthew 6:24). America serves mammon. Anyone who tries to claim any differently is ignorant to the fact that America runs on “the desire for more”. We are not “citizens” we are “consumers”. No American tries to deny or hide the fact that America is all about the acquisition of more. The question is: how is that NOT putting mammon first? The only way for a BAFC to reconcile supporting a country that puts mammon first is to fool oneself into believing that God has sanctified the country to do so in His name. However, Matthew 6:24 says that this is impossible.
I will not follow those who try to tell me that capitalism-America-style is sanctified by God. People are what matter to Jesus. This fact is inescapable for a BAFC. Therefore, America’s belief that free-market capitalism (greed) will always keep America “winning” is Anti-Christ. The American political party that has the deepest belief in free-market capitalism also has the biggest following of Born Again Fundamentalist Christians. Because the Republican Party supports free-market capitalism more than any other party, corporations support the Republican Party. To get BAFCs to vote in an Anti-Christ manner, corporate leaders and Republican politicians claim to have a belief in God and thus that makes them morally superior. However, as Christ said, “You cannot serve God and mammon,” so there is no way their claim of moral superiority can be true. But the Corporate leaders and Republicans know all too well that, “Morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose,” Friedrich Nietzche.