By Libby Lawrence Nov. 17, 2020
As I have mentioned in another blog, I grew up Pentecostal. My Mother had the Christian radio station playing all day every day. Billy Graham of course, J. Vernon McGee, Jack Van Impe, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Charles Halff, John Hagee, Billy James Hargis, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Charles Swindoll, and many, many more.
Many of these were ranting and raving about evil. About Communists, Atheists, Homosexuals, non-Christians, Demon Scientists and Evolution, witchcraft, demons, rock music, profanity, people who don’t read the Bible every day, – nearly everything made the list. Imagine you and your sibling, late teens, gay, listening to an anti-gay rant by a preacher, and hearing your Mother say “All those filthy homosexual demons need to be lined up against a wall and shot!” Yeah. That was fun.
I’m no stranger to Christian Hate. There is a lot of it out there. Forget loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, forgiving 70 x 7, the Good Samaritan, and all of that nonsense. A lot of modern Christians preach that stuff until they see something they don’t like, or someone dares to disagree with them. Then it’s scorched earth policy all the way. DESTROY. The non-Christian (whatever is the outrage du jour) needs to die.
Trump’s Followers seem to have embraced this mindset with a vengeance. Democrats are the ENEMY. As Jeffrey Denny says in his blog, one of his Republican Facebook friends found out he was a Democrat, and gave him a list of all of the things HE hates(!): “America, the flag, patriotism and our heritage; Jesus, Christian God and the Bible; traditional family and family values; capitalism and free enterprise; the Constitution, especially freedom of speech and gun rights; law and order; Blue Lives, White Lives and All Lives; decent, hardworking Americans; straight white men like me; and above all, the real truth. College cooked my brain into tapioca, allowing evil fascist leftist professors to indoctrinate me into their hateful liberalism.” https://jeffreydenny77.medium.com/why-do-trumpers-hate-most-americans-9c6f8a4e9e9e
White Supremacists and Militia Groups are also almost entirely Christian. Daryl Johnson published a great article on the subject here: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2018/holy-hate-far-right%E2%80%99s-radicalization-religion There’s a huge theme in all of this: “My Values need to rule America. My values are God-Given. Natural order must be preserved. (White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Class Division, etc.) Government laws aren’t real unless they fit my theology.”
Now I’m just going to put personal opinion out there – this is from experience and observation, but not much research. Why are so many Christians so violent and hateful? Well, for one thing, Christianity is a Tribal Construct. And tribalism can be defined as safety within one’s group, with any threat coming from outside the group. Trump supporters, White Supremacists, Proud Boys, and many churches fall into that definition. (I’m not unaware that being with Democratic Friends also can be tribal in nature.) Within your group, group values are RIGHT. Anything that challenges those values is EVIL.
Christianity is Punitive. Elicka Peterson-Sparks makes this point clear in her book, “The Devil You Know”. https://www.amazon.com/Devil-You-Know-Conservative-Christianity/dp/1633881504 (ooh, read what the great John W. Loftus wrote in his review.) It’s a really good book. Too bad a lot of these violent Christians would burn it on sight. (sigh)
But yes seriously – any religion that preaches eternal punishment burning in hell is punitive. And think about that Noah’s Flood Story, the story of Sodom, and some other Bible stories for just a second. Humanity was evil. Drown them. Burn them. Evil needs to be destroyed. It really kind of boils down to that. And there are quite a few Fundamentalist outliers that actually pray for Jesus to come and kill all the non-believers – soon. After he takes their group to Heaven, of course.
Christianity is Focused on the Afterlife. It’s generally not focused on the here and now unless it’s about making “Christian values” paramount. Soulforce calls this “Christian Supremacy” actually. I like the term. https://www.soulforce.org/christian-supremacy Acts of charity are described as “earning crowns for Heaven”. Charity is given when there is a perceived reward, like converting someone to join their church, or for accumulating good deeds for a reward in the afterlife. And when it comes to the insular churches who see themselves as surrounded by evil, this means caring for those who share their mindset – and those people only. Don’t sin-stain yourself by having contact with non-Christians! (I . . . don’t think . . . that’s what Jesus would have wanted, actually . . . ) They’re helping their fellow church members get into heaven, that’s what’s important. Understand me, please, I’m not saying ALL Christians only help others out of a sense of what they’ll gain for their service. I’m saying that the mindset of gaining piety points to get yourself into heaven, and sometimes to elevate oneself to a higher class of heaven-dweller, is pervasive.
Christianity is Egotistical. It is rooted in a sense of superiority, a sense of being RIGHT and of being a member of a Chosen Few, of being Better Than (point your finger at any group that offends you). My Mother was the poster girl for Holier-Than-Thou Piety. She was raised very poor. I mean, no electricity, no running water, no money for clothes or toys poor. But she had Jesus and her Bible. The Bible was useful for proving others were wrong and she was right. Therefore, she was actually better than all of the kids in her school who had Stuff. This mindset was the bedrock of her adult character.
And note that when my Mother was young, quoting a Bible verse was power. As much as I like the above comic, in her day, in her white rural town, nobody would have dared object to a Bible verse.
Anyone listening to Church Hymns and Choir Anthems will hear a theme running through many of them: I’m going to sit at the Heavenly Table, God has made a place for us, God guides us, God blesses us, God protects us, God will Heal Us, God gives us strength. We praise Him for all He gives. (I have sometimes sacrilegiously described this as “God as Santa Claus”.) I have been playing for churches for most of my life. I can only think of one Choir Anthem that asks God to help us care for others.
This egotistical superior mindset is another piece of the tribal identity that helps Christians de-humanize non-Christians as other.
There are good Christians out there. They exist. I know a few. I love John Shelby Spong and John Pavlovitz. Pavlovitz, in my humble opinion, embodies what Christianity maybe COULD be: loving, caring, forgiving, non-judgmental. I don’t know how to get through to people who revel in hatred and demonize most of the human race though.
And this is obviously just a work in progress. I’ll be re-writing this one for sure.