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Religion Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Christians fundamentally gone wild
By Nick Paccione
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 20, 2006, 01:23

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If sin exists then Christian fundamentalism is as sinful as sloth, greed or gluttony. It�s a lifestyle that promotes surrender to the temptation to simplify the complexities of life by letting someone else do your thinking for you. The typical fundamentalist will extol this state of mind as surrender to God. I think they say �let go and let God� or some such thing. Truth be told, it�s simply intellectual laziness.

As society seems to lose its moral compass and crime and decadence seem unrelenting, the fundamentalist maintains that they have a sure thing in their relationship with Jesus. Everything may be out of control in this world, but they speak assuredly of their salvation and their escape from reality because they�ve �accepted Jesus and are guaranteed eternity with God.�

Sadly, you�d never know they had found such peace because as a whole they are among the most strident crusaders in judging and condemning other people. Their fervor is easily mistaken for anger. An undergraduate psych major will tell you, people work too hard at convincing you that they�re right because they�re really still trying to convince themselves. From my experience with them, they also seem to be lacking in any semblance of serenity that one would expect from someone that�s on their way to Paradise in the afterlife.

The fundamentalist Christian will tell you that they are absolutely certain about the meaning of Scripture and it�s the word of God that inspires their lives. Few understand the historical context of their Bible and the multitude of problems with Paul�s contradictory writings. In many cases they decide what Paul should have said then interpret his words to fit their preconceived ideas. Most are suspicious of Catholicism because of its pageantry and �non-biblical traditions.� This is laugh-out-loud silliness being that it was Catholic monks who hand-wrote the bible and passed it along with their own prejudices and political opinions long before the invention of the printing press.

Fundamentalist Christianity was initiated as a reaction to 19th century Protestant liberalism that was seen as a threat to the �basic truths of faith.� The fundamentalists of that time felt a need to firm things up by establishing non-negotiable fundamentals of the Christian faith based on a literal reading of the Bible. In today�s arena, we have the same notion from fundamentalists and we have scores of charlatans standing by to take their money to promote the cause. Look no further than most televangelists and their get-rich-quick shenanigans.

Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ted Haggard live like royalty in multi-million dollar mansions spawned by their preaching. And flying under the radar are a slew of other ministers that have become multi-millionaires by collecting from the faithful and furthering the idea that the Bible is to be read as word-for-word literal. All of them promote the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. And every single Christian I have ever heard or met who claims that the Bible is literal truth is hypocritically selective about which Bible passages are literal and which are not. A rule of thumb seems to be �If the Bible quote condemns your sins, then it�s a literal rule, if it condemns something I�m doing, then there�s some wiggle room.�

Ask a divorced bible Christian about Jesus� literal condemnation of divorce. Or ask a wealthy bible Christian about the bible�s condemnation of capitalism and the accrual of interest on a loan. The Bible�s blessing of making your fellow man your property through slavery seems to have suffered under closer scrutiny too.

The belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible is a violation of the history and tradition of scripture itself. Scripture was never written to stand on its own apart from the community of sages and storytellers. Only the wealthy and prominent even owned a Bible before the invention of the printing press in 1455 and it still took centuries before the bible of today became a best seller. Of course the fundamentalists will tell you that it was God who invented the printing press so as to get the Bible out to every Las Vegas hotel room.

A community of believers existed long before the printed texts existed. And those who want to claim a strict �religion of the Bible� should do their homework and face the fact that the Bible itself contains no list of its inspired books.

Fundamentalists of all the world�s religions hold to the frightening notion that there is some exaggerated contrast between this world and the Kingdom of God. They live a very unbalanced, less than wholesome existence of warped spirituality when they talk of �fleeing this world.� �I�m in this world but I�m not of this world� is one of their more arrogant proclamations. This is troubling on many levels. Obviously it leads to a lack of concern about important environmental issues. And with a crackpot like George W Bush as the most powerful proponent of this nonsense, it makes you wonder if he is intentionally trying to bring about the Rapture -- a notion about the end of the world that springs from the Fundamentalists� interpretation of events in the Book of Revelation.

On the other hand, if insider reports are to be believed, Bush and his advisers have been faking their adherence to the born-again agenda because they know that�s where the votes are. �Tempting Faith,� was published last month and written by Republican Christian Bush supporter David Kuo, who says some of the nation�s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as �the nuts.� �National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as �ridiculous,� �out of control,� and just plain �goofy,�� Kuo writes.

Giving Bush the benefit of the doubt -- he may be a true believer but Karl Rove shrewdly knows how to exploit Bush�s faith for political gain. This is evident if only because we know so much about Bush�s relationship with Jesus through well-publicized sound bites and calculated interviews. Fundamentalists would never see the exploitation because it�s intrinsic to their belief system that a good Christian must �bear witness.� In their eyes Bush�s public pontificating is seen as following the evangelical rules of the game. And in fairness, Kerry, Clinton and Carter tried to get in on the Christian action, too, with erratic and usually embarrassing results. Though, they never went so far as to call themselves fundamentalists.

But back to the �not of this world� topic, it�s a slap in the face to Christ himself when you deny the importance of this world and the life that we are intended to live here. The incarnation of Jesus screams of living in the here and now and doing your best to make a positive difference while you are in this world. Fundamentalists are so involved in their relationship with God that they effectively exclude people of different stripes from life�s equation, except for people who think exactly like them and in some cases people that they hope to convert.

Many who have tried to convert me to faith in a literal Bible have been women. I�ve learned to get a firm commitment from them that every word of the Bible is to be taken literally. Then I direct them to read Corinthians (which has little bearing on my life but supposedly does on theirs). �Let women keep silent. It is not permitted for them to speak, but to be in subjection, just as the law says. If they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home.� The Bible specifically forbids women to teach men about religion. (Just think! If the Bible were not selectively taken literally by Tammy Faye Bakker and Jan Crouch, we channel surfers would have been spared a lot of pain over the years.)

Most troubling is the notion that God�s will has something to do with the �American Way.� Some of the founding fathers were Christian but if fundamentalist born-again Christians took the time to read the writings of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, they would be sorely disappointed to find that these men had little patience for strict Biblical adherence. They were firm in their stance that �accepting Jesus� was not the means for salvation.

Franklin consistently attacked religious dogma, arguing that morality was more dependent upon compassionate actions rather than on strict obedience to literal religious orthodoxy. In other words, he believed that acting Christ-like is more important than accepting Christ.

Jefferson was a Deist. He believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death. He believed that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but Jefferson scorned the ideas of Bible-believing fundamentalist Christians. He firmly rejected the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God.

George Washington was an early supporter of religious pluralism. When hiring workmen for Mount Vernon, he wrote to his agent, "If they be good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists." Historians still argue about his commitment to Deism over Christianity but all agree he was certainly not a fundamentalist.

When I�m confronted with Christian fanaticism from the types who want prayer in public and the Ten Commandments posted in our courthouses, I direct them to the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes as purportedly delivered by Jesus Christ. As a liberal progressive, I would be amenable to posting the Beatitudes in public if the fundamentalist Christians would agree to support the sentiment of Jesus� words:

�Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation."

"Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger."

"Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep."

"Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.�

Add to this that Jesus said, �Blessed are the peacemakers;� �Love your enemies;� �It�s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God;� �Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers -- that you do unto me.� These words are at odds with the lifestyle and preaching of today�s televangelists, fundamentalists and conservative politicians. Let�s accept these words as literal and let�s post them all over the USA. Better yet, let�s simply practice what we say we believe.

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