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The Religious Right and the Corruption of Christianity

March 6, 2014

My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right. ― Abraham Lincoln

The dangers of religion corrupting politics was well-known by our Founding Fathers. Although six generations removed from the first English settlements in the New World, they knew that the early colonists, fleeing religious persecution in Europe, lost no time in establishing their own form of religious persecution once they ran things. A form of persecution that was, in some ways, more oppressive, bizarre and cruel that the persecution that drove them to the New World. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the punishment for having a different point of view (religious or otherwise) could result in painful, public and humiliating punishment. In extreme cases, one could be tied to a pole and burned alive.

Hence the Establishment Clause of our Constitution which forbids an official State religion, and outlaws any proscriptive religious test to hold public office. Of course. The Tea Party extremists who are outraged because they believe President Obama is a Muslim have not read this part of the Constitution that they claim to love so passionately. Regardless of the Religious Right’s constant bleating about how this country was founded on “Christian” principles, nothing could be further from the truth. Our country’s Constitution is more a product of the intellectual elite of the day trying to apply some fundamental ideas of the Enlightenment than it was Jesus writing the founding documents through the hands of the Founders.

Since the day’s of the Reagan administration, we have seen the corruption flow the other way. Right wing politics is corrupting religion in general  and Evangelical Christianity in particular. There has always been this corruption of course. The Ku Klux Klan has always claimed to be a Christian organization, for example.

Jesus saves, but the Klan kills.

But this trend is accelerating at an alarming rate in the modern era. The hate-filled ranting of the Evangelical right bears resemblance to neither the Christianity of my youth, nor the Christian ideals that I was taught. Let’s start with the Conservative Bible. It turns out, the Bible that has been the single source of truth for Christians for over a thousand years, and has been defended as the infallible Word of God by the faithful, especially Evangelicals, turns out is a deeply flawed document—wrong in many ways, but in particular, it is just too damn liberal for today’s conservatives.

The idea is to make the Good Book more palatable to today’s conservatives. For example, they change Jesus saying “Blessed are the meek” to Jesus saying “Blessed are the God fearing”. “Meek” does not sit well with today’s chest thumping Christian Right. They have taken the passage describing the women about to be stoned for adultery out altogether, because the admonishment of Jesus to let the person without sin cast the first stone is just too squishy and liberal for today’s blustering, he-man conservatives. When Jesus says “Peace be with you”, it is rewritten as “Peace of mind be with you”. Jesus was certainly no liberal pacifist. No sir! The list of conservative revisions goes on and on.

These revisions are not based on any knowledge of ancient Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic. Nor are they based on any genuine scholarship of the original texts. The only purpose of these modern day revisions is to take out the annoying liberal slant of the Bible we have all used for over a thousand years. The surprising thing is that these non-scholarly revisions have not provoked howling outrage from the Evangelicals, who after all, claim that the Bible, particularly the King James version, is infallible and perfect as written. But as we know, right wing politics trumps religious faith.

Now that the Evangelicals are peeing in their pants in outrage because Arizona will not implement a law that out would allow them “religious” exemption from civil statutes that bar discrimination against fellow citizens, its time to step back and examine this issue in some detail.

They love to trot out the old Leviticus warhorse about homosexuality being an abomination, even as they sit down for Easter dinner to gorge themselves on ham (also a Leviticus abomination). There are many evils in the Old Testament that would not be tolerated in a pluralistic and free society: genocide, polygamy, slavery, and the slaughter of perfectly innocent people, to name just a few. There are even rules about infanticide.

Fun fact: the one rule you expect on infanticide—don’t do it!—is not in the rule book.

When I ask Evangelicals about this, their standard response is that we have a New Testament, Praise Jesus! This frees us from all of the Old Testament rules and replaces them with a message of love, forgiveness and eternal life. Except for that one tiny part of Leviticus, which seems to remain in full force and effect. This is a circle that cannot be squared and they do not even try. But no matter. Evangelicals are quite accustomed to turning a blind eye to their own flabbergasting inconsistencies and hypocrisy. Yet another example of how their political/social agenda corrupts the very message of love, forgiveness and eternal life that they say they advocate.

Another fun fact: Jesus was so perturbed by homosexuality that it is never mentioned in the entire New Testament. Yet these people are working overtime to deny American citizens equal rights and protection under the law. They are trying desperately to perfume the pig of bigotry with the pleasant scent of religious faith. But a pig is a pig—and it still smells now matter how much perfume they try to apply.

Then of course us their feverish attempt to rewrite history to conform to their social and political agenda. Here are but three examples: Tom Delay proclaims that the Constitution was written by God. Even the slavery parts I suppose. Maybe not the Establishment Clause. But if God is infallible, how do we explain the Amendments? Did God make a mistake in the original draft, and are the Amendments are just a rewrite? Or does Rev. Tom think that all the amendments should be repealed to bring it back in line with God’s original purpose? If one believes, as the Evangelical do, that the Divine is infallible, there are some thorny questions ahead.

The Christian right has convinced themselves that the Founders were fundamentalist Christians just like just like the fire and brimstone Baptists and snake-handling Pentecostals just down the street. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Founders came from a variety of religious traditions, none of which even remotely resemble today’s Evangelicals.  Franklin and Jefferson were deists, Washington was pantheistic, to offer but three examples. During one difficult session during the drafting of the Constitution, some delegates suggested that the assembled stop to offer a prayer. Hamilton noted that he saw no reason to call for foreign aid.

The one thing that they all agreed on, however, is that religion is a private matter and the State should stay out of it. How else do you explain the Establishment Clause? Oh, right—this crowd has not read the that part of the Constitution.

Thoroughly discredited “historian” David Barton (he has no training as an historian. He does, however, have a B.A in Christian Education from Oral Roberts “University”) continues to push the strange idea that the Constitution is based on the Bible (why not? Tom Delay believes it was written by God—see above). Yet, the only mention of religion in the Constitution requires the State to stay out of it. Nothing he says or the “evidence” he provides has been validated by anyone who actually has been trained as a scholar or historian. In fact, these scholars and historians have debunked everything he has said on this topic.

Yet these myths and falsehoods persist, because this is what Evangelicals want to believe. They never let the truth get in the way of a either a good story or a warped ideology.

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4 Comments
  1. Russia has invaded the Ukraine, China is playing the bully in Asia, Muslims are chopping of heads, whipping gays, mutilating women, Millions are struggling with crappy OCare insurance or none at all and bigdogdancer is up in arms about some crackpot evangelicals.

    Yup, that’s about right.

    • I thought people like you were all in favor of whipping gays. Didn’t Bryan Fischer (probably my favorite evangelical nut job) call Putin a “Lion of Christianity” for whipping gays? The American Right has been in love with Putin since the days when W looked into his eyes and got a “sense of his soul”. I wonder what he thinks of his soul mate now, after both Georgia and now Ukraine? What do you think?

  2. You think wrong if that is what you think about me but that is no surprise to me.

    And then what’s this about the American right and Putin? Who was it that said to Dem mockery that Russia was our greatest geopolitical threat? And then there was Sarah Palin who called it straight.

    Wherever do you get your strange ideas?

    • You are but one member of the Radical Right who has had a long standing love affair with Putin, in spite of his atrocities. Giuliani thinks he is a great leader. Palin thinks he is a manly man. The same cast of wing nuts that are trying to do everything they can to deny equal right and protection under the law for those citizens with whom they disapprove.

      Putin invades Georgia, under W., and the world is outraged, including the right. But the wing nuts did not jump on W. as weak. feckless, indecisive, yada yada. At least they could have faulted him for being an extremely poor judge of character, but no. But when Putin does exactly the same thing to Ukraine, the American Right blames…wait for it…OBAMA!!! Could it possibly be that Putin was emboldened, not by Obama, but by the fact that Russian troops are still in Georgia? Perish the thought. Everyone in the Fever Swamp knows that everything that’s wrong with the world is OBAMA’S DOING. Putin is plying all of you for fools (which is the next post coming BTW).

      I understand why you think my ideas are strange. My ideas come from evidence, rational analysis and critical thinking–things that do not happen in the Fever Swamp. Why don’t you try challenging an actual idea, instead of reducing everything to a petty personal attack?

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