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The Horror of God’s (Christian) Warriors

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More than Jesus Camp, more than Alexandra Pelosi’s Friends of God, Christiane Amanpour’s God’s (Christian) Warriors alternately scared, stunned and infuriated me. Scared because I was reminded once again of the massive commitment of time, energy, and resources the religious right in America has at its disposal–it’s a machine that never rests. Stunned that they have been able to basically take over our democracy and set up a “shadow government,” and yet they remain tax-deductible and unaccountable. And infuriated because of their relentless and unchallenged deception, manipulation, brainwashing of children, and outright hatred of democratic principles.

God’s (Christian) Warriors aired on August 23, 2007 and additional encore airings. I didn’t find any DVDs for sale, except bootlegs on ebay. But this program is a must-watch for any serious proponent of a secular society. If you can’t find a copy, the transcript is here. We have our work cut out for us.

Make no mistake, the evangelicals have hijacked the democratic process. Though former President Carter is optimistic that “the high power of being a fundamentalist has reached its peak and it has passed,” the religious right still regularly swings elections: The 2004 presidential race between John Kerry and George Bush was decided in Ohio. During that election, pastor Russell Johnson ran a religious get-out-the-vote campaign fueled by his opposition to gay marriage.

JOHNSON: 3.3 million people in Ohio in ‘04 showed up to vote for a marriage amendment…
AMANPOUR: It was against same-sex marriage…The measure passed with almost two-thirds of the vote.
JOHNSON: Afterwards we did the surveys. They voted 6-1 for President George W. Bush.

Since Ohio was won by a mere 118,601 votes, we can pretty much credit this specific wedge-issue in Ohio for putting George W. Bush in the white house for 4 more years–with all the attendant consequences for the nation and the world (inaction on global warming, 2 conservative Supreme Court justices, failed strategy in the Iraq war, and new lows for global perception of the United States, to name just a few).

But to really understand this phenomenon, one has to go back to Jerry Falwell, who’s been at this game for over 50 years–and who Amanpour interviewed just a week before he died. Falwell was unrepentant to the end. His Liberty University is busily training a new generation of activists to combat science, as he put it “comparing science and scripture, evolution and the creation,” as well as “legal pit-bulls” (complete with their own mock Supreme Court chamber to practice overturning Roe v. Wade).

He reiterated and elaborated on his statement of blaming 9/11 on America’s cultural values (which he supposedly had apologized for–not):

AMANPOUR: You know, you caused a huge amount of controversy after 9/11 when you basically said that the Lord was removing his protection from America.
FALWELL: I still believe that. I believe that a country that is…
AMANPOUR: And that America probably deserved it.
FALWELL: Here’s what I said, what — no. I said that the people we have no are responsible must take the blame for it…We’re killing a million babies a year in this country by abortion. But I was saying then and I’m saying now, that if we, in fact, change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built, we cannot expect the Lord to put his shield of protection around us as he has in the past.
AMANPOUR: So you still stand by that?
FALWELL: I stand right by that.

Which leads me to inject a note of levity here (you can either laugh or cry about statements like Falwell’s, I guess I’d rather laugh). Christopher Hitchens commented after Falwell’s death that “if someone had given him an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox.” Couldn’t have put it better.

As virulent and pervasive as Falwell’s hatred was, he and others like him represent a cartoon version of religious activism, appealing to the worst instincts of the most bigoted and narrow-minded believers. You know, the kind who grew up going to Jesus Camp. Most mainstream Americans would bristle and dissociate themselves from such unthinking viciousness. But unfortunately, these extremists have the broadest audience, the most money, and make up the power base of the national evangelical organizations. Efforts to moderate the message have been met with hostility.

For example, Richard Cizik, vice-president for governmental affairs of the National Council of Evangelicals, became concerned several years ago after examining the scientific consensus on global warming. He immediately began to preach a gospel of caring for the earth. “He told us to do that, to watch over and care for it, right in the Book of Genesis, right there. It’s caring about issues that will impact millions of people, like climate change.” This stance earned him the ire of “25 other prominent evangelical leaders [who] have called for [his] resignation. They accuse him of using global warming to — quote — ’shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably, the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.’”

So lets get this straight: National Council of Evangelicals is calling for the resignation of a man who puts the welfare of the entire planet above their petty fascist agenda to control America’s sexuality!!

This is what I’m talking about when I say these people scare the hell out of me. Because they are extremely committed to their cause, they wield tremendous power, and by taking these kinds of actions they are controlling the future of America and by extension the world. If we want our children to live in freedom, and if we want action on the climate, they must be stopped.

In response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2000 amendment of their “statement of beliefs” to worsen discrimination against women, former President Carter publicly broke with the convention. He described the document:

Women must be submissive to their husbands and no woman can be a leader in the church as a pastor or deacon in the church and that women are precluded from instructing men. So those things have been of great concern to me.

So Carter and former President Clinton got together and “formed what they call the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant calling on Christians to focus on issues like poverty rather than on divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage.” Carter outlined their goals: “We have adopted as our guidelines a gospel based on peace and justice and humility and service and love that really helps people who are in need.”

These elements of progress in the American religious landscape are opposed by the extremists at every turn. Another example of this internecine warfare within the religious right is the church of Greg Boyd in Minnesota, who opposed the politicization of religion. Though a committed Christian, he gave a series of six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword.”

In them he asked:

…how is it possible that we went from being a movement of people who follow the messiah, who taught us to love our enemies, to being a movement that celebrates fighter jets, that fuses Jesus’ death on the cross with killing machines?

I am very concerned about the extent to which what’s called the kingdom of the world, the politics of the world, is being fused with our faith, in some cases, almost like a Taliban, an Islamic state, where, you know, it’s like we want to run a Christian society and enforce Christian laws. And my concern is that that is very damaging for the church and it’s also very damaging for society.

He also decried the evangelical focus on sexuality:

But the Bible also says that gossip — in fact, right next to homosexuality, it mentions gossip, and it mentions greed, and it mentions gluttony. In fact, greed and gluttony are — are two of the most common sins, held up in the ancient world as the supreme sins. And they’re frequently mentioned in the Bible, way more than homosexuality.

I never quite understand what sin gradation scale some people go by where they decide that certain sins are worse than other kind of sins, and those are the ones we need to go against.

And he thinks the best way to be “pro-life” is to focus on issues of poverty rather than the divisive politics of abortion.

Boyd lost 1,000 members of his congregation for being too “liberal” and “soft” in his message. He has been vilified on the internet by other evangelicals as a “heretic.” In response, he says he wants a “divorce” from right-wing politics.

Rays of hope such as Boyd are greatly overshadowed by the scandalous demagoguery and high-pitched yelling from the likes of Rick Scarborough, Christian Zionist John Hagee, or the 12-hour-a-day grass roots activism of Danille Turissini of Positive Christian Agenda. Not to mention the cynical machinations of teen-mind-rapist Ron Luce, founder of Battlecry. These people are literally out to realize Boyd’s (and our) worst nightmare.

More than any event in recent history, with the possible exception of 9/11, Amanpour’s documentary has brought me to a new level of awareness. Writing and discussion of philosophy about atheism will not be enough. We are going to have to match the tactics of the religious right, and match their money dollar for dollar. Or get ready to be horrified at the turn our country will continue to take. The Bush presidency was just the start of what they have in mind. Whoever is elected in 2008 will determine the makeup of the Supreme Court as well as America’s all-important response to climate change. I’m hoping Carter was right when he said evangelical influence was on the wane. But given their steely determination to seed the culture with committed and brainwashed zombies with law degrees to control political outcomes in all three branches of American government, I wouldn’t be so sure.

Amanpour has done a great service to the atheist movement. By remaining impartial throughout her presentation, she gained incredible access to a broad spectrum of religious bullies and tyrants, who hung themselves quite nicely with their own words. She didn’t have to say anything. We (and hopefully most of the sensible American people) are allowed to draw our own conclusions–and they are terribly frightening.

She concludes with this admonishment about Christian extremists: “We cannot and should not ignore them. And with this report, we have tried to explain them.”

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Comments (9 comments)

Jeff / September 8th, 2007, 12:28 pm / #1

NIce, Sean. Amanpour is second only to Fareed Zakaria as my most-trusted journalist. She even had the balls to call out her own network for being bullied by Fox News and the administration into false reporting on the lead up to the Iraq war.

I saw the Christian God’s Warriors…and it was excellent. But I don’t really care about the Jewish and Islamic versions. I want to focus my mind on the Culture War and Christianity. Jewish and Islamic faiths could never change the very fabric of our society like right wing Christians can.

Sure, there’s terrorism, but unless they get multiple warheads and learn how to detonate them, food poisoning will kill more Americans than terrorists. Besides, I trust they won’t get a nuke and even if they did, it would be nothing like the destructive power of the ones we have.

BlackSun / September 8th, 2007, 1:20 pm / #2

Jeff, you are right. This makes me want to ignore completely what the morons in Iran, etc. are doing. We have enough problems right here. I’m hoping to find a way to be much more instrumental in this ongoing fight than I have been for the past few years as simply a writer.

Epiphanist / September 8th, 2007, 8:40 pm / #3

Black Sun. Thank you for taking the time to have a look at my site and provide some feedback.
I am glad that you could recognise poverty as one of the basic concepts of faith. The concept of poverty creates a worldview which balances the equally simple worldview to which you aspire. Both views are valid, the second one is implied in some of the work on my site, but not in a way that you are likely to understand. As you know, you can’t write about everything at once. Nevermind, I must be keeping you from your bigotry.

Gary H Johnson Jr / September 8th, 2007, 9:19 pm / #4

Is it bigotry if you militantly disagree…if you are willing to fight over what you believe to be injustice…even if the majority is of the unjust opinion on the issue with which you are willing to fight, Epiphanist?

Strange that you should place this dig here, following the article which notes in a positive way that “pro-life” deals more realistically by helping cure the ills of poverty rather than worrying over abortion.

Blacksun, the article was good - as a general rule though, while Christians are killing you softly…the Iranians and their pitbulls might have sharper mushroom-cloud bites than the deluded anklebiters of the Western Cross.

You do have some tolerance issues…but I lend that to passion. Everyone who has a sense of righteousness about their cause, a cause they have embodied as identity, goes through a militant phase…it is a natural metamorphosis.

Personally, I don’t like Amanpoure’s style of reporting…couldn’t care less about the faith vote…and predict that Hillary Clinton will win the Presidency by 6+ points with Barak Obama as her VP in 08. But…I don’t believe Jimmy Carter is EVER right, and I am from Georgia.

vjack / September 9th, 2007, 8:12 am / #5

I recorded the 3-part series during one of the encore broadcasts. I watched the one on Judaism last week and the one on Islam last night. Both were very disturbing and explained a great deal about why the Middle East is the way it is. I found the one on Islam quite a bit harder to watch than the one on Judaism, mostly because the scenes of people crying over some long dead Imam showed the power of religious delusion so vividly.

I’ve been saving the one on Christianity for last. I know it is going to be the most difficult of the 3 to watch, particularly because I still feel traumatized by Jesus Camp. I am acutely aware of my irrational desire to stick my head in the sand and hope it will just go away.

I think what is so hard is that I feel like I need to do something immediately to fight back against this insanity, but I’m not sure what to do. Among the many difficult emotions is a sense of powerlessness.

BlackSun / September 10th, 2007, 1:20 pm / #6

vjack,

I missed the last half of the Judaism one, but just the first half has really gotten me to rethink my position on Israel. Now with seeing more of the Christian Zionism, I am thoroughly disgusted with how much in common these two groups have. I wish there was a way to champion the role of secular moderates in Israel without helping the extremist zealots.

I share your sense of powerlessness–yet we have the facts on our side. So that has to somehow translate into an advantage. I’m hoping we figure it out soon. The Battlecry organization alone is enough to make me want to drop everything else I’m doing and go after these maniacs full-time.

heather / September 10th, 2007, 6:09 pm / #7

Any idea if its on Youtube?
I really want to see it, (although I suspect it will be anything but a pleasant experience) and it doesn’t seem to have a UK schedule.

BlackSun / September 12th, 2007, 12:31 am / #8

Heather,

Here is the youtube link.

SOJOURNERTRUTH / May 26th, 2010, 1:31 pm / #9

I ALWAYS FIND IT FASCINATING THAT A LIBERAL FEELS SOMEONE ON THE RIGHT HAS "HIJACKED" THE POLITICAL PROCESS WHEN THEY SUCCEED. I BELIEVE IT'S CALLED MAKING USE OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS THROUGH THE DEMOCRATIC PROCEDURE WE CALL VOTING. IF YOU WANT TO LOOK AT SOMEONE WHO HAS TRULY HIJACKED THE POLITICAL PROCESS AND IS CIRCUMVENTING THE CONSTITUTION, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LOOK TO THE CURRENT OCCUPANT OF THE WHITE HOUSE. THE BOTTOM LINE IS, WHY ARE YOU FOLKS SO AFRAID OF CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME WE BLEW UP NEW YORK SKYSCRAPERS, DESTROYED SUBWAY SYSTEMS, BOMBED HOTELS AND KILLED HUNDREDS, INDEED THOUSANDS, OF INNOCENTS. YOU'RE LOOKING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION FOR ENEMIES OF THIS COUNTRY. JUST GET OVER IT AND LIVE WITH IT: CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS ARE A FACT OF LIFE. SORRY IF THEY "DISTURB" OR "TRAUMATIZE" YOU.

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