“If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but have not love, then I am nothing more than a clanging gong or a resounding cymbal.” (1Corinthians 13:1)
And if I continue to speak in terms of tolerance and acceptance of the fundamentalist poison being pumped into the body of Christ, then I am actively participating in the death of the Word made flesh. I will no longer do that. I may not wield a weapon much more effective than a fly swatter in battling this many-headed parasite within our midst; nonetheless, I will swat and swat and swat at it. I am tired- sick and tired- of the loveless clanging I hear constantly coming from the back of the Church.
For me, the Gong Show is over.
Fundamentalism, within whatever culture or religion it begins to coalesce, does so in reaction to perceived Modernism. It is, by its very nature, a reactionary movement based on fear of that which is new, unknown, and uncomfortable. Just as the Church in Europe dug its Inquisitive heels into the backs of powerless peasants as the onslaught of Science and Art began to encroach on its once exclusive domain of cultural influence (read: power), so is modern day fundamentalism motivated by fear. And fear, fundamentalist leaders have found, is always a more powerful crowd-pleaser than love.
Fundamentalist Characteristic #1- Fear
Fundamentalists are afraid. They’ll deny that, but listen in on any television evangelist’s resounding message or- better yet- venture into a local, so-called, revival meeting. You’ll hear, for a little while, about God, about the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, and about the joy and peace that comes from knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. But it will amount to not much more than mere lip service to the language being used to present the evening’s real Star of the Show- Satan!
People who choose to live in fear need an enemy to be afraid of, and Satan fits that bill. He is not omniscient nor omnipresent, but somehow seems to know (according to the fear-mongering preacher) exactly where you are and exactly what your weaknesses are! He is always ready to attack, always prepared to tempt you, always whispering sweet seductive siren songs into your ready-to-hear ears. Most importantly, he is there to be blamed every time you fall from, or wiggle out of, God’s grace.
He wants your soul in hell,to burn eternally with the millions, billions of others he has already claimed. And to do that job, Satan needs helpers: the demonic hordes which do his bidding. There are, according to any number of deliverance ministries which fill tents and television studios across the land, a legion of demons out there, some of which are probably in you already. Which is why you smoke, drink, lust, fail to tithe, wear lipstick, have wet dreams, think goddam when you hit your thumb with a hammer, get bored in church, miss church, watch anything but “Christian” television, have debts, vote Democratic, despise the military-industrial complex, or drive a better car than the preacher.
Demons are everywhere. They are to be feared. If you’re having fun, feeling free, laughing, healthy, or making a good living- watch out! Because they’re getting ready to pounce- down your gullet, into your eyeballs, through your fingertips, or absorbed by your imagination. You must- you MUST- claim the blood of Jesus as it is being hustled by the speaker of the moment. Only tithes and offerings, and a walk to the front of that preacher’s altar will afford you protection from them! Do it tonight! Because you might be dead tomorrow! (And, if the fear-mongering preacher has learned how “properly” to do it, he/she will, at this point, begin to list the many ways you might be dead tomorrow!)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Who said that? Who’s that rabble-rouser trying to interrupt the meeting? Who dares to speak serenity; who is it that dares to bring talk of peace to this arena of fear we’ve been building tonight?
Oh, it’s Jesus..*
(More will follow. Everything about fundamentalism derives from fear, but the means by which fear is invoked are many and subtle. Unfortunately, the ramifications of lives lived in this inflicted fear are not so subtle. And so there is more to write. Much more.
But right now, I need to go wash my hands. They’re filthy.)
* John 14:27