Fundamentalist Characteristic #2: A Belief in the Supremacy of a Bygone Era
Question: How do you know you’re talking to a fundamentalist?
Answer: His mouth is pointing toward 1955.
Of course, if you’d have been talking to that same fellow in 1955, he would have been extolling the virtues of some pre-Roosevelt time frame- before Big Government took over and the Welfare State had taken root, etc., etc., on back to whatever set of days upon which he could most comfortably project his own historical fantasies.
As Modernism began to push at the borders of ancient Israel, in the form of Babylonian hordes, the time and person of King David began to be touted as the pinnacle period of Jewish history. Everything good and worth preserving about Judaism was located in the reign of David, “a man after God’s own heart.” Oh yeah, Moses was still important, but King David was a fighter, a military man, a defender of the faith. And when encroachment is perceived at the borders, that’s the kind of leader who takes center stage in the hearts and memories of those who believe they are being encroached upon.
The desire for America to “go back” to a time when prayers were rammed down the throats of schoolchildren, before Roe v’ed Wade, and when everyone went to church in real Sunday clothes, is one of the most prominent themes in fundamentalist preaching and political activity. The 1950s seems to be the magic time that those fearful of today’s perceived Modernism are pining for, although it’s easy to see that they really are speaking of a mythological time when you try to pin them down to specific years of their supposed Golden Era.
But, oh! The glorious memories of those days in the 1950s when we were still a Christian nation! Back when:
* African Americans still had to drink at special fountains, eat in the kitchens at restaurants, pay a poll tax, pass a literacy test to vote, go to separate and woefully unequal schools, and sit in the back seats of public transportation in most of the South.
*Women were at fault when their husbands beat them, had no control over their man’s urges to procreate, and were fed amphetamines by family doctors to lose weight while they stayed at home working and waiting for their allowances.
*Men were not men unless they looked like every other man in gray flannel suits.
*Girls could look forward to being wives, nurses, or teachers.
*Boys had better be able to play football or baseball, or find a dark and lonely closet to hide in.
*J. Edgar Hoover could wear his tu-tu while he was ripping apart the careers and lives of countless thousands of people and casting aspersions and suspicions on hundreds of thousands more, while his Senatorial counterpart Joe McCarthy, was preparing the way of the Lord with sneering, drunken vengeance.
Such a fat underbelly exists on any body of time, no matter how glorious the memory of that time may be. It is human, not prophetic or divinely inspired, to wax nostalgic. But it is evil to pretend that for one brief, shining moment Camelot was anywhere, or real , and then to legislatively, shamefully, and coercively force others into that fictional fantasy land.
The primary motivation of fundamentalists in this regard seems to me to hinge on their overuse, and blatant misuse of the word Christian. They love the adjective itself, while merely putting up with him from whom the word was derived. They have made Jesus, the Christ, into a caricature of their own dark selves: he is an Islam hating, W Bush supporting, moralizing, tight-assed and uptight prig in his present adjectival incarnation who is concerned above all else that is wrong with the world, that two people of the same gender might possibly be able to enjoy the legal benefits of a state-sanctioned, contractual marriage.
“Follow me,” Jesus said. When he said that, he could not have imagined the eventual transformation of his life into a set of rules, regulations, dogma, and doctrines preceded by the institutionally mandated imprimatur Christian. If he were here physically right now, I think he might even be looking about for a whip to drive the profit-loving, status-lusting, power-wanting, people-separating, science-ignorant, lust-suppressing , 1955 time travelers from the portico of his Daddy’s Temple.
Which is what I think as many of us as possible to should be willing to help him do. You know- follow him for a while, instead of his self-appointed, self-righteous, self-perpetuating spokesmen.
One thought on “Fundamentalism: The ‘Good Old Days’ of Jesus”
Just me, sitting in the back pew of your church, enjoying the fresh air and the good word. Keep talking, now.