Ever since 9/11 (and before that, but not as much) we’ve heard the word “fundamentalism” in the news almost every day. The problem is we don’t get much of an explanation. No doubt, we get the idea that some fundamentalists are at least bigoted or at worst, violent. Fundamentalism, whether we like it or not, is gaining power every day in America thanks to the Religious Right’s promotion of Christian nationalism, which is based on fundamentalist views of the Bible.
Christian fundamentalism involves the notion that Christianity is the only religion that is “right” with God. Its rules for interpreting the Bible, anchored in inerrancy of the Scripture, result in chopping up the the Bible into different time periods called dispensations (among other things) to “prove” it has no contradictions. There’s much more to this topic, but those are the highlights, in my opinion.
The Fundamentals, pamphlets distributed in the 1920s that I wrote about in my first post for Fundamentalist Fridays, set the stage for this version of Christi
anity to gain a stronger foothold in our culture. It now permeates our government, i.e. members of “The Religious Right” assert that God tells them to run for office, legislators try to pass laws that deny teaching evolution in schools, the LGBT community is abhorred. The list goes on.
I’m still learning about fundamentalism and how it underpins Christian nationalism. I have sought information from many scholars and investigative journalists who’ve put in the time and elbow grease to write books that inform readers who care.
This post will offer some bits from one of them who is a journalist: Michelle Goldberg. Check out her website. Also, from the back cover of her book, Kingdom Coming, (2007), we read she is a contributing writer to Salon. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the New York Observer, the Guardian (London), Newsday, and elsewhere.
My blog posts, you can be sure, are only meant to pop in to say “Hi.” Books, on the other hand, move into your house and stay a few months. Maybe you’ll be interested in reading ones that I cite here. On other Fridays, I’ll share from other sources.
Kingdom Coming by Michelle Goldberg is about the rise of Christian Nationalism in America. What’s that? In a nutshell, it’s the belief that our country is supposed to be Christian and run by Bible-believing and Bible-obeying Christians in government. It says that Christians, the ones who take literally certain portions of Scripture, have the God-given right to rule the “non-believers.” This is called dominionism, which comes from their idea that God gave Adam dominion over all the earth. This is NOT what the United States of America stands for.
Bits of Background
From page 10: “To understand how the Christian nationalists have consolidated so much power, it is necessary to trace some recent history. The movement has several antecenents, most obviously the fundamentalist preachers (and Nazi sympathizers) Gerald B. Winrod and Gerald L.K. Smith. Depression-era demagogues who railed against communism, modernism, and big government (and, in Winrod’s case, Darwinism), both peddled a right-wing gospel conflating Christianity and patriotism. Smith was the founder of a group called the Christian Nationalist Crusade, whose magazine, The Cross and the Flag, proclaimed, “Christian character is the basis of all real Americanism.” (There’s a note citing the source for this at the back of Goldberg’s book.)
Table of Contents
Most of us have heard the phrase “Ignorance is bliss.” Maybe it is true regarding some things, but not when it comes to deciding who is going to be in charge of others. Sidenote: My father, a microbiologist, used to say, “If you knew what was in your food, you’d never eat.” So there’s that. But to be a good citizen, we need to be an informed citizen. To be enlightened, we need to understand the ignorance that has gained power. I know this ignorance upon which Christian Nationalism is based. I was part of the “religious right” in a fundamentalist cult for seventeen years. It produced a constricted version of myself. It made me view anyone who believed differently as a threat. It made me afraid of doubting my beliefs in order to test whether they were good or not. Until I did. Finally, I began to think again after 17 years of clinging to what I thought was “the truth.” So, fundamentalists can change.
When I wrote my memoir about escaping The Way, a reader of an early version suggested I give my chapters titles that told the story. I did my best with that. In Goldberg’s book, I think her table of contents tells a story, too. A story you might want to read.
Introduction: Taking the Land
Chapter 1: This is a Christian Nation
Chapter 2: Protocols of the Elders of San Francisco: The Political Uses of Homophobia
Chapter 3: Lord of the Laboratory: Intelligent Design and the War on the Enlightenment
Chapter 4: The Faith-Based Gravy Train
Chapter 5: AIDS Is Not the Enemy: Sin, Redemption, and the Abstinence Industry
Chapter 6: No Man, No Problem: The War on the Courts
Conclusion: Exiles in Jesusland
Epilogue: After the Fall: The Future of Christian Nationalism
Praise for Kingdom Coming
“Michelle Goldberg ventured into the heartland of American fundamentalist extremism and returned to warn us … Every patriot who still cherishes the freedoms we inherited from the nation’s founders should read her book.” —Joe Conason, author of The Hunting of the President, Big Lies, and The Raw Deal
“A potent wakeup call … An impressive piece of lucid journalism … Carefully researched and riveting.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Happy Friday. Have a great weekend.
Your writer on the wing,