Why The Last Thing We Need Is A Fundamentalist President

I have no faith–ironic, that–in someone who purports to place their religion over everything else in their life.

That’s the basis of my voting habits, and the basis of who I feel I can support in government elections. For the purposes of this article, I won’t be delving into details–there’s not enough coffee in the world for me to do research this close to (and assuredly after) lunch–but you can safely assume I’m talking about all those in power who don’t think Evolution is valid, or who would see Creationism taught in schools. Fill in your favorite right-wing politician wherever you think is appropriate.

Further, I’m going to be using Wikipedia as a primary source. Scoff away if you want, but keep in mind that Wikipedia does have that handy “Sources” section at the bottom of every article, and you’re quite able to click a footnote and then click a hyperlink.

You can also see this as a troll article, if you want, but that’s not how I intend it. I’m really freaked out when I see people like Rick Perry start up organizations dedicated to turning it all over to Jesus. Why? It’s simple: Religious faith of any sort is based upon a willingness to put your life in the “hands” of a being who is not of this Earth, does not reside with us, and damns those who do not fit in the Christian pigeonhole.

“Woah now,” you may be saying, “where does that come from, Mr. Hoity-Toity secularist?” Well, here’s a body count of the Old Testament. Disturbing shit, right there.

And while the Old Testament God may have handed the reins over to a decidedly more chilled-out God, we must take into consideration Christianity’s impressive kill count.

Let’s take, for example, The Crusades. It’s estimated that anywhere from three million to nine million, depending on which source you want to take, people died on either side. That’s a hefty number, and all at the beck and call of the Lord God’s representatives on Earth.

But, I admit, there’s a vastly different Christianity on Earth today. The Christianity of Earth, by and large, is a very modernist thing. While the cornerstones of the faith like belief in the redeeming presence of Christ, and the ensuing eternal salvation, are still there, the how-tos and why-fors are vastly different. Do people go about getting saved by committing virtuous acts, or is just standing up and saying, “I am filled with the Holy Spirit” enough to be saved?

The Bible, in this as much as in many other subjects, has evidence for every interpretation of “salvation.

But that thought of virtuous acts–or, for example, going out and giving out aid to the sick and needy, or even not being a dick–wasn’t the norm where I grew up.

I grew up in the shadow of the First Baptist Church in Smyrna, Tennessee. And to my classmates, saying that you believed in Christ was enough of a hall pass to be juvenile delinquents–because it didn’t matter to them as long as they were saved spiritually and went to youth group every week, they were golden.

When I talked to them about that, and brought up the idea that, when it comes to a straight-Tanakh interpretation, the idea of a heaven isn’t existent in Judaism, the overwhelming response was, “Why do anything good?”

Well, that delves into the notion of tikkun olam. Put simply, it means “repairing the world.” Judaism is, by-and-large, a world-bound religion. Yes, you have stuff like the Kabbalah, which is all mystical and spiritual and cool, but for everyone who practices that, you get–rough estimate–five hundred Jews who are going about their lives, bespectacled and neurotic, trying not to piss off the Gentiles.

The world is all we know, and all we know about the world is that one day, we will die. In the meantime, there will be taxes.

But seriously. The world isn’t perfect. Everyone who is even the slightest bit aware of their surroundings realizes that fact. The difference between Judaism and Christianity–for example–is that while Christians look at the world, shrug, and say “It’ll be better when I die,” Jews are supposed to look at the world and think, “How can I fix this?”

So, why do anything good? Because the world is all we know, and for the fifty to seventy years we have on this world, we’d better do our best to make it an enjoyable experience for ourselves. Better, make it a great experience for everyone around you, because, while Hell may be other people, those same people live among us, and we’d better all get along, because they’re able to make our lives miserable if we don’t.

So, going back to the start, why do I get antsy around the Christian Right, or fundamentalists, or evangelists? Because they put the hope of a magical, perfect afterlife over what’s right in front of them.

To wit: There’s an evangelical Christian in my office, who shall remain nameless. One day, just before May 21, I came into the office around 7:45 to work on some writing before work, and overheard a conversation between her and another coworker.

Evangelical 1: I look around at everything going on in the world, and I just know that the world is coming to an end.

Evangelical 2: Yes.

E-1: I mean, I don’t know if it’s going to be now, or later–no one does–but I look at all the kids being greedy, and then an earthquake in Japan, and then politicians being greedy, and I see that we’re in the End Times.

E-2: That’s exactly right.

E-1: So, I don’t worry about not getting Medicare, or Social Security, because I know I won’t be on this Earth when all the money runs out.

Putting aside the grievous ignorance of continental drift and tectonic plates–two scientific principles that I was under the assumption were taught in schools across the world–and basic human nature, I was appalled by this sort of talk coming from people who are in a profession that deals solely with Medicare and Social Security.

My thinking is that if you’re not concerned about these programs, and the effect they have on people’s lives, because you’re going to get zapped up to Heaven one day, then why are you in this profession in the first place?

But this, sadly, isn’t an isolated incidence. It’s estimated that over half of Congress rejects Darwin’s theory of Evolution and the numbers for the public are significantly higher–or lower, depending on how you want to look at it.

So why am I unfairly focusing on Evangelical Christianity when one could make the case that every religion has its own doctrine that they’d like to put in place? Because the Evangelicals have a much stronger hold on American politics than any other group, and because they successfully, time and time again, manage to dupe the American public into thinking they’re trying to make the world a better place.

See, they’re not trying to make the world a better place. They’re trying to make the world a Christian place. And not the sort of Christianity that would back a state that assists the poor, but the sort of state much more akin to something out of Randian politics than the Sermon on the Mount.

I’m singling them out because while they may state that Democrats want to turn the country into a socialist paradise with their activist judges and legislation, they’re just as guilty of propping up Christian-backed moves to turn the country into an Evangelical haven. You know, more than it already is.

And that’s a dangerous thing, because these people, ultimately, don’t believe that anything around us matters. What they think matters is something that cannot be proven, and will damn anyone who does not label themselves a Christian.

So my question is: Why trust these people with running a country? Why would you put your well-being, and the state of your community, in people who steadfastly believe that the only existence worth living is devoted to solely praising God? Why not support those people who, instead, say that the world is the only thing we know, and we’d be better off if we spent our lives raising everyone up to the same level?

If a voter backs a candidate who subscribes to the stubborn ways of the Christian Evangelical/Fundamentalist, then they are doing so mainly because they wish to see their morality pressed upon everyone else. And while that does jibe with the evangelical aspect of Christianity, shouldn’t the free will of the worshiper be enough to sustain them? Does a voter really need the rest of the nation to march lock-step with their beliefs by way of legislation?

Or, put another way: Wouldn’t it be better if the sinner came to Christianity of their own accord?

I don’t know, I’m asking. I know the tenets of Christianity, and I know the call to proselytize is one of the driving forces of Christianity. I don’t honestly know, though, what the drive is to force the belief on an entire nation at the voting booth. If you’re concerned about rendering unto God and Caesar, then shouldn’t you back a separation of church and state? Why would you want the inherent sinfulness of democracy to taint a “Christian nation?”

Hell if I know.

While I continue to be judged as going to Hell because of my religious choices, I’ll keep researching candidates and voting on them not for their religious beliefs, but for their background in education, their understanding of the law, and their willingness to repair the world.

Looks like I’m screwed.

4 thoughts on “Why The Last Thing We Need Is A Fundamentalist President

  1. As much as I agree with many of the points about what you say, I do have to take issue with the sentence

    “The difference between Judaism and Christianity–for example–is that while Christians look at the world, shrug, and say “It’ll be better when I die,” Jews are supposed to look at the world and think, “How can I fix this?”

    Christians all the round the world are doing their best to fix the world in every way they can. One of the fundamentals about the world from a Christian perspective is that we have to have actions to make our faith real, and those actions are to make the world better. Someone like William Wilberforce is a good example.

    However, I very much agree that I don’t like a lot of what comes out of many a political evangelists mouth. I think Stephen Colbert said something about this which I loved “Because if this is gonna be a Christian nation that DOESN’T help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition—and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

  2. Good point, and taken.

    I think there’s an inherent difference between those who go out and do work that actually benefits others and the sort of Evangelical Christianity I see in from a lot of people who put the Baptist label on them.

    I think that there’s a difference, though, between faith-backed humanitarian work and secular humanitarian work. In my experience, there are those who go out and do missionary work for the opportunity to ‘spread the word,’ as it were, and not necessarily because helping their fellow man on this Earth is their focus.

    I think it’s obvious, but if it needs to be stated, I’d be more in favor of secular humanitarianism, as practiced by The Peace Corps, because there’s not the overhanging baggage of dogma.

    If I were a person on the receiving in, though, I’d definitely take whatever help I could get. I might be wary of people dropping hints about accepting Christ, though.

  3. Saint Francis of Assisi had it right when he said this “preach the gospel, and if nessecary use words”. In my opinion the best form of Christian outreach should be the kind where Christians go out into the community (whatever community that may be) and offer people help etc and only when/if they ask why do we start talking about God/Jesus.

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