Author’s note – I am no politician. Neither am I a political scientist nor a pundit nor a fanatic. However, I am a member of society who sees the world through a lens of compassion and equality. As a white male, I am aware of the privileges I have been afforded through the mere accident of my birth. As a member of the LGBTQIA community, I am aware of the challenges I face in a world that still has a long way to go in accepting me and my peers as full and equal members of society. As a progressive Christian in the Bible Belt, I am aware that my beliefs are somewhat heretical in a society where being “saved” is the only measure of salvation regardless of the behaviors I exemplify and the values I hold.
To put it in simple political terms, the Left is right and the Right is wrong. Not only is Right wrong, but the Christian Right is also dangerous, and, from my perspective, one of the most lethal forces alive in America today. When I speak of the Right, I’m not talking about individuals. I love conservatives. I have a family full of them. They are good people, just like progressives. However, when I speak of the Right, I’m referring to a movement that, through powerful political connections, has permeated through governments, religious institutions, and social organizations and sees itself as the moral voice of America. I just don’t see it that way. Groups with benevolent names such as the American Family Association wield incredible political and social power. Modern day “prophets” such as Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and Ken Hamm capitalize on the fear of their followers with forecasts of doom for all who don’t believe just as they say. No matter how many times they are proven wrong by events that they fail to predict correctly, fear of God and those different than them keep their followers loyal.
In the early 1990s, when I was only 10 years old, I was introduced to the works of the famous musician, poet, and “theologian” Jimmy Buffett. My late aunt Peggy loved him and I loved her. We spent countless hours listening to him, singing, creating memories. These memories are still among my most cherished. Since that time, I’ve accumulated 50+ albums and have around 500 songs committed to memory. I remember very clearly in 1994 buying an album on cassette tape in Wal-Mart in Americus, GA. It was named Fruitcakes. The title song from that album had lyrics, which made no sense to a ten year old. But as I grew older, they rang true. As I sat down to write this morning, the words popped into my mind.
Where’s the church, who took the steeple
Religion is in the hands of some crazy-ass people
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples
The god’s honest truth is it’s not that simple
Jimmy was right, as he almost always is. How did we let religion become a political institution? How did we let religion become a multi-billion dollar industry that preys on the fears and prejudices of seemingly benevolent people? I don’t know the answer or the solution. All I know is that my God is greater than religion. But, that’s a topic for another time.
What I do know is that this dangerous political ideology played a large part in the 2016 election. In the prior two presidential elections, love and hope won. In 2016, fear won. Prejudices were one of the key elements. Don’t you know? Muslims want to kill us! All of them! They all hate us! If this is true, why aren’t they doing it? After all, there are about 1.7 billion of them. If this were true, wouldn’t they have started doing so on a large scale? Haven’t you heard? Perverted men want to dress like women and go in bathrooms and watch your daughters! Transgender people are perverted! All they want is to sexually prey on people in the bathroom! If this were true, wouldn’t it be happening? Wouldn’t it have been happening for decades?
My personal “favorite” of all of the hype, hysteria, and hate has come from the American Family Association and one of their radio hosts Bryan Fischer. With a stern face and angry, exasperated voice, he routinely says that around 75% of gay men are pedophiles. With all data and fact in the dustbin, he continually states this as fact. Regardless of the fact that self-identified heterosexual men overwhelmingly commit pedophilia, he still makes these claims and his legions of followers gullibly believe him. If this were true, wouldn’t we see this in society?
These are only a few examples of how the Christian Right has manifested itself in society. What do we do about it? As we start a new year, I can only speak for myself and offer a few words of advice on what we can do to make 2017 a better year. In my life, I will continue to practice acceptance of everyone, just like Jesus. I refuse to commit the sin of Sodom as stated by the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). I will help others without expecting anything in return. I will strive to love unconditionally. I will have dialogue with those different than me and realize that there is fore more that unites us than divides us. I will strive to be the hands and feet of Christ in all that I do.