In fundamentalist circles, the Christian
doctrine of love and devotion blends sheer hypocrisy with a primitive
agenda of enforced ignorance and intolerant control.|
By William Marvel
has been my observation that the sincerity of a person’s religious
devotion can best be gauged by how vocal that person is about it: the
greater the volume, the less genuine the spirituality is likely to be.
Whenever people introduce themselves as Christians, ask what church I
attend, or voluntarily announce a personal devotion to their lord and
savior, I usually work a couple of fingers into the pocket where I keep
my wallet, just to make sure it’s still there.
Plenty of people manage to follow a particular faith with varying
degrees of credence in the literal truth of its sectarian doctrine, and
even to incorporate their beliefs into their daily lives, without
hammering their neighbors over the head with the need to follow suit.
That fails to satisfy many of the faithful, however, and they must
raise the subject at every conversation, stubbornly insisting that
their obsession become yours. This seems especially true among those
who make a direct or indirect living off such discourse, as though they
feel the need to practice their skills on every innocent victim who
falls within earshot.
On a recent trip to Kansas it was my misfortune to attend a convocation
of in-laws that included a host of real and would-be preachers. I can
hardly say which disgusted me more, for both the ordained ministers and
self-anointed truck-stop preachers engaged in an Olympic contention to
determine who could praise and worship Jesus the loudest and longest.
They managed to turn a friendly family gathering into a fundamentalist
camp meeting, hijacking a folk-music jam and transforming it into a
gospel-fest, drowning out and driving off any who found it obnoxious.
Obviously they enjoyed the spotlight in which they cast themselves, and
that affection for attention may, after all, explain their attraction
to the raised pedestal on which they place themselves.
How strange, though, that those of the most pious rhetoric seem to be
the greatest parasites of their circles, happy to let their wives,
daughters, or parishioners support them and their families while they
contend for the choice seats in heaven. How odd that those advocates of
self-help and personal responsibility demand such hand-and-foot service
from the distaff sides of their families. Perhaps women do, indeed,
have no purpose except to serve man. Man, meanwhile, has no purpose
save to serve God and obey the president—so long as he may be
Republican and vociferously Christian.
It was perversely amusing to note how consistently those professional
proponents of self-restraint and sacrifice (and their families) all
seemed conspicuously oblivious to the admonitions against gluttony,
sloth, and avarice. Obesity seemed the norm, rather than the exception:
one minister’s wife looked exactly like a blue-ribbon turnip from the
state fair, while another sprawled like a sperm whale, watching her
blubbery little girl lurch from table to table to siphon off hot dogs
and hamburgers. Arguments against earthly materialism also found
precious little sympathy, especially among the ministers’ own families.
Their children all expressed impatience for the next planned purchase,
from a tract house to some useless piece of Wal-Mart trash-to-be.
The bile would not rise so sharply in my craw if such comfort-loving,
Bible-spewing cultists did not intend to impose their beliefs on me,
but that is the plan. Christians across the country plot their places
in the political hierarchy, from which they can inflict their hidebound
superstitions on society at large. Colleges, like Patrick Henry in
Purcellville, Virginia, specifically prepare Christian undergraduates
for careers in governmental evangelism. Students learn all they need
(avoiding evolution and other heretical "theories") to turn their
fantasy of a Christian nation into an enforced fact—just as their
parents and teachers would impose their primitive ideologies on a
Such scenes of indoctrination and deliberate isolation help me to
understand why the otherwise sensible people of Kansas so quietly
accept their role as national laughing stock for the Jumping Jesus
school of biology espoused by their state school board. The advocates
of the New Christian Nation seem perfectly innocuous and inoffensive
until they achieve a seeming majority within any medium, including a
backyard picnic. Only when they take actual charge does it become
obvious that their professed doctrine of love and devotion disguises an
agenda of studied ignorance and intolerant control.
Buy a book on this topic:
The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism
William Marvel is a free-lance writer and U.S. Army veteran living in northern New Hampshire. His books include Andersonville: The Last Depot and Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox. You can send your comments to Bill@interventionmag.com
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005