Fundamentalists

They are taking over the US, and they’re coming to the UK – fundamentalists are hijacking Christianity and squeezing out people with any sense at all.

It makes me sick to think that Bush was re-elected by people claiming to believe in the same God as me, and the reason given by these people was “moral issues”.

MORAL ISSUES?

Meanwhile, I’ve had my own taste of fundamentalism back home.

Moral Issues? Presumably by that you mean ignoring any concept of right and wrong and voting on a narrow point of theology?

You know, fundamentalism ought to mean going back to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and re-evaluating everything we do in those terms. Wouldn’t that mean providing for the poor instead of giving vast tax cuts to your super-rich friends? Wouldn’t that mean taking care of the people under your command instead of sending them on a war of personal revenge mixed with greed? Wouldn’t that mean showing an iota of concern for people? And as a president, wouldn’t it mean accepting your duty to lead wisely, allowing people to act freely instead of taking away their rights to privacy, freedom from intimidation and freedom of religion? Wouldn’t it mean showing mercy to and care for the “alien” (foreigners) in your land?

But it seems to these people that’s not what it means. What is means is not only that a previously unheard-of literalism is applied to the Bible (taking the kind of “worship the book” attitude that is taken in Islam, but which is forbidden in Christianity where we worship God and learn about him from the Bible) but also that the strange conclusions which are drawn from that literalism are taken to be more important than the basic moral laws which are infused through the whole of the Bible, not to mention explicitly stated on numerous occasions in both the old and new testaments.

Yes, strange conclusions. How many verses are used to back up the opinion that a person becomes a human on the point of conception? 2? So you vote for the hater, the greed-feeder, the alien-oppressor, because he is against abortion. How many verses do you need about taking care of the alien and the oppressed? I don’t know when a fetus becomes a person – but I do know that the leader of a country is supposed to care about the dignity of humans under his authority, instead of lying to them about how rich his tax cuts will make them (while wages in the US slip downwards) and lying to them about why they should fight and die in a weak and corrupt foreign country.

How many verses condemn homosexuality? 5? How complex is the context? Should we ban men having long hair? Should we stone people for having sex during a woman’s period? I don’t know what I think about homosexuality – I genuinely don’t know, but I do know the impression given in the Bible about how God feels about oppressing the weak and not defending the powerless.

Speaking of which, which part of “Blessed are the peacemakers,” do these people not understand? How is leaving the Israelis and Palestinians to fester a “moral issue”?

So we come to my local experience. I went to a meeting about Israel and Palestine this week, and I heard some of the violence that is being used to oppress and drive out the Palestinians from their homes. But no matter what your opinion is on this situation (and certainly the Israeli government has the right to try and protect their citizens), what really got me going was the utter idiocy of some of the people who came along.

A direct quote:

“We have to remember that God is on their [the Israelis’] side.”

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FROM?

Even if we presuppose for a minute that Jesus’ coming and saying everything was different (remember the phrase “new covenant”?) made absolutely no difference, where did you get the idea that God has always been on the Jews’ side?

Did you forget the exile? How about when Moses had to plead with God not to wipe them all out? What about the countless times they disobeyed God and he scattered them, made their enemies defeat them, or left them to fester in their sin?

ARE YOU AN IDIOT?

The ridiculous thing about this is that there really isn’t one verse in the Bible you could twist with your idiotic literalism and come to this conclusion in the first place. Where did you get it from?

So I came closer this week to throwing in the towel than I’d like to admit. How can I say it is reasonable to believe in God, when so many of the people who say they believe in the same God are so happy to believe such stupid, stupid things?

But I remembered that there have been other heresies, and there have been other mistakes in the church, and somehow we’re still here.

And somehow I still believe in God and I still think he wants people like me to argue and persuade these people that they’ve got their priorities muddled, and they should take another look at the “fundamentals”.

But I hope he and you will forgive me for letting off steam a bit before I try.

13 Replies to “Fundamentalists”

  1. Thank you for this brilliant article.

    > So I came closer this week to throwing in the towel than I’d like to admit. How can I say it is reasonable to believe in God, when so many of the people who say they believe in the same God are so happy to believe such stupid, stupid things?

    I had a similar experience in July: the crushing awareness that an evangelical Christian was at the helm of the world, and the apparent result was ill-justified war, environmental profligacy, reduced freedom of speech, and disregard for the poor. But I hold on to my faith, knowing that a truly Biblical religion is better than that, as you’ve argued.

    Your report about what people said at the Israel/Palestine meeting makes me feel physcially sick.

    Now, let me say a few words in defense of Republican voters in the US. I do think it’s important not to tar them all with the same brush. Many vote for Dubya for reasonable reasons: he’s an evangelical (I can imagine being pleased, in the abstract, that someone with beliefs close to what I think are right is in power); people feel that marriage is being undermined; people care about the value of humans in the womb. My problem is not these reasons, but that as you say, there are other deep Biblical concerns that would probably be better addressed by Kerry. I’m very concerned that evangelicals in the States are so attached to one side – there always needs to be a critical distance between prophet and king.

  2. Excellent article. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to investigate all that American politicians say in their arguments. To what extent does Bush actually quote the Bible on these issues, and to what extent does he just take these issues as given? Is there a symbiosis between church leaders and the politicians?

    >The ridiculous thing about this is that there really isn’t one verse in the Bible you could twist with your idiotic literalism and come to this conclusion in the first place. Where did you get it from?

    What about Genesis 12:2-3 etc., Exodus 6:7-8 etc.? I’m sure those could be used. But when it comes to God being on someone’s side, the nicest verse must be Joshua 5:13-14:

    Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

    “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

  3. I agree completely, Anonymous.

    I can’t understand the blindness of people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ yet support a man who:
    – has had more people executed in Texas than other governor
    – goes to war on a very poor pretext
    – cuts down on peoples’ access to contraception.

    The ‘pro-life’ sentiment vis a vis abortion of Bush and his religious cronies is far more ‘anti-woman’ than it is pro-fetus.

    As for gay marriage…it shouldn’t be an issue since the only argument against gay marriage is ‘it says in the Bible that it’s wrong’, and since the US isn’t (officially) a theocracy laws should NOT be created purely for Biblical reasons.

  4. I came across this interesting letter from an American in the Times. It’s online at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-1354771,00.html

    November 12, 2004
    View of Bush’s ‘moral’ majority

    Sir, The US election is over and the Christian evangelicals in this country are crowing that they were instrumental in securing another four years for President Bush (letters, November 5). It is probably surprising to many Europeans, as it is to nearly half of the American voters, how these moral people can so easily dismiss 100,000 Iraqi deaths to favor a President who would advance their social war against homosexuality and abortion rights.

    But, for those who know American history, this ability to exercise selective morality is hardly novel. Whenever America has needed land or resources, we have always found the means and forged the excuse for a war that would spread liberty to peoples reluctant to welcome our uniformed forces of freedom. And always we have claimed the sanction of the Almighty in our objectives.

    In this, of course, America is no different from former imperial powers. And now, with the help of Great Britain, we will have another four years to establish democracy over the second-largest oil reserves in the world.

    Faithfully yours,
    BUCK RUTLEDGE,
    3732 Dance Avenue,
    Knoxville, Tennessee, TN 37919.
    November 9.

  5. >As for gay marriage…it shouldn’t be an issue

    Again, I’m pretty ignorant about what American politicians say, but I’m sure they go beyond just saying “it says in the Bible”. I imagine they’d claim that gay marriage devalues ‘traditional family’ and therefore undermines society. Whether that’s true or not is of course another matter.

    >laws should NOT be created purely for Biblical reasons

    On Question Time, I saw people claiming there was more to it than just imposing ‘Christian’ views on the state. They argued that we all get our views from somewhere – Christianity, Plato or wherever. The important thing is that Bush was elected to govern and therefore is allowed to act according to his views.

    That all opens up the big question of “How should a democracy work?”…

  6. But the ‘traditional family’ is another notion that is good ‘because it says so in the Bible.’

    I agree that we all get out views from different places. I think there is a difference, though, between advocating something purely because that is what the Bible says (allegedly), and something that can clearly be seen to be positive to society.

    If it was proven that 90% of longterm gay partnerships become violent, then I would certainly think again about supporting the legalisation of gay marriage. As it is, I have not come across any study that does not ultimately come down to ‘because the Bible says so.’ In which case we might as well make churchgoing compulsory as well.

    The Bible says many good things. Many of the good things are clearly good (although sometimes difficult to put into practice). With something like homosexuality, though, the reason behind the admonitions against homosexuality are unclear.

    I know I have written this badly; I am tired.

  7. >I think there is a difference, though, between advocating something purely because that is what the Bible says (allegedly), and something that can clearly be seen to be positive to society

    I agree. I just get the impression many of these people have managed to convince themselves that there is more to it than that. Tho I’m speculating.

  8. Thank you for this article. I really share your commitment to keep believing and keep hoping that people will listen.

    I heard recently of a meeting about Palestine (could this be the same one?!) where a local church seemed to have deliberately sent people along to heckle. It practically makes me spit with anger. As you say, how can people fail to see how God feels about injustice and oppression of ALL and ANY people?

  9. Agreed agreed agreed.

    For the very reason you had to let off steam is the same reason I don’t tell people straight out I am a Christian. They might mistake me to have morals similar to Mr. G.W.Bush.

    Thank you for your article.
    ~

  10. The Genesis and Exodus quotes need to be taken in the context of God totally rejecting (temporarily) his people when they disobeyed him.

  11. One thought about this issue: When so many more Palestinians are dying than Israelis in this situation, and often Palestinian deaths look like revenge for terrorist attacks (and sometimes houses are bulldozed in collective punishment which surely is precisely revenge) is Israel following the doctrine of “a life for a life”?

    Leviticus 24:17-22

    This command apparently is intended to make people show restraint when they have been hurt, rather than being harsh as we often see it.

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