Seriously, how do you not love an article with a title like Spaceship Jesus Will Come Back and Whisk Us Away? It sounds like something I’d say to casually take the piss out of one third of the world’s population.
And it’s a really good article, analysing and deconstructing a great deal about the evangelical/fundamentalist movement in the US in recent years. It’s written by someone who used to be a part of it, and is still a Christian – if anything, this seems to give him far more insight than most into just how wacky it is, and why, and lets him comment on it with far more eloquence than my usual approach of calling it wacky and moving swiftly on.
There’s really only two things I can think about it which aren’t whoops of encouragement and agreement.
First, there’s my usual confusion over how someone who understands the history and context of their religion so well can still see so much purpose in adhering to it. That’s too pithy to really summarise what I want to say, and maybe I’ll go into this in more detail later. But for all that the author shares many of my liberal and progressive values, and understands the distorted motivations of the fringe lunatics with whom he reluctantly shares the label “Christian”, he still finds enough divine inspiration in the Bible to believe that parts of it accurately describe the life of the all-powerful creator of the universe incarnate on this earth. And for all that he explains what drives the nutjobs to “interpret” their preferred passages the way they do (particularly as regards Revelation and the impending apocalypse), he’s also read this same book with his own interpretation, and decided which bits are important and which aren’t.
Anyway, the second point is possibly more interesting. The only part of the article that I really took issue with, and started getting mentally defensive over before I’d even thought about it enough to decide what I believe, was when he brings up Richard Dawkins and the atheist movement. And that’s a good reason to be very suspicious of my thoughts. But I still don’t think it’s an entirely fair parallel, at least as far as it’s drawn here.
The New Atheists have played into the evangelical/fundamentalist’s hands. Each side fans the flames of victimhood. “An atheist can never be president!” says one side. “A Christian never gets a fair shake in the New York Times!” claims the other. Each side is led by opportunists claiming to speak for a beleaguered minority.
Indeed, Dawkins needs the evangelicals and they need him. As the authors of An Evangelical Manifesto wrote, “striking intolerance shown by the new atheists is a warning sign.” Conversely, how would Dawkins’s followers use their Scarlet A pins to open their conversations if America weren’t full of evangelical/fundamentalists? The fundamentalists in both camps need to claim they are hated. The leaders push their followers to fear each other to maintain their identity—and lecture fees.
I’m not at my most brilliantly analytical at this time of night, but this kinda seems to miss the point of what both these sides actually want, what it is they’re fighting for. The fundies he’s talking about are eagerly trying to usher in the end of the world, and see the long-awaited come-uppance for all those non-believers. They’re not going to be happy until Jesus has killed “all those smart-ass Democrat-voting, overeducated fags who have been mocking us”.
Whereas Dawkins and his atheist militia aren’t after any such sweeping change. They’re trying to make people aware that the non-believers are here, and that everyone’s going to have to get used to these types of opinions being expressed. There can be a measure of over-excited arrogance to some of the rhetoric, depending on who’s talking and in what context, but generally speaking we’re not just the equivalent “other side” to the religious loons. If America weren’t full of evangelicals/fundamentalists, maybe we wouldn’t need the Scarlet A pins. We could just be another part of the demographic, saying what we want to say, not making a huge fuss over it, not having to worry about dicks on major news networks blaming us for everything that’s wrong with the world. I think we’d be okay with that.
Sure, maybe I’m getting a little defensive, I can’t really tell. I need tea, then bed.
Oh, one more thing: someone found this blog earlier today by searching for “Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss”. You may be interested to know that this new title by award-winning children’s author Andrew Norriss is indeed out, um, soon. For more specific details, I imagine there’ll be updates here and on his Facebook page in due course.