What I Don’t Mean
I don’t mean that Christians are like the Taliban. Most Christians in my experience are basically good people who try to be kind to others and generally, perhaps only casually, live by the teachings of Christ. For the vast majority of my life I’ve self-identified as Christian. I’ve even actively participated in leadership roles in numerous churches throughout my life. I think that living by the teachings of Jesus Christ is a good thing.
Most Muslims (about 1.57 billion people) are kind, peaceable people. They follow a faith practice articulated by the Qur’an. But a small group of fundamentalist extremists have turned their very narrow, extreme, Muslim views into a scorched earth political movement defined by coercive terrorism. I see a small group of self-labeled fundamentalist Christians beginning to follow a similar path.
The Christian Taliban
The teachings of this small sect of fundamentalist Christians are so narrow, so extreme, and so out of sync with the predominant culture of the US as to drive followers away. And, even though these fundamentalists despise this fact, culture is ultimately the final metric on this planet. As their influence has dwindled (mostly through attrition) they have begun to self-label as “persecuted.”
Ironically, however, these fundamentalist extremists are actually the ones who habituate persecution: persecuting minorities, women, and gay people. Their shrill, militant rhetoric has, at times, incited actual acts of terrorism: bombing abortion clinics, murdering doctors. Their relentless hate speech against homosexuals has resulted in an untold number of suicides by gay people. But, once again, their assault has moved beyond words: Jeff Sharlet has done excellent work shining the light of day on these extremists intimate link to the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” legislation and more.
One of the most dangerous defining characteristics of what I’ve called the Christian Taliban is the success of their efforts to legislate their narrow beliefs into law. They unyieldingly pursue turning their religion into political currency, even vigorously claiming that the separation of church and state is not a founding principle of this country.
They have systematically worked for years to control the Republican party and have been frighteningly successful. Their efforts are rigorous at both the state and federal levels and can easily be seen in the rampant successes they have had passing activist, unconstitutional, anti-abortion legislation in numerous states over the past several years. You can see the influence of their perverse thinking in the political rhetoric of “legitimate rape” and “real rape.”
Make no mistake about it: this is a political movement, not a religious one. These extremists want the church to be the state, and the state to be the church because of the power they would accrue to themselves. If that power were ever to be theirs, the scourge of their religious whip would be full bore, murderous terrorism.
The Damage Is Done
The damage to traditional Christian faith practice is immeasurable and is sadly already done.
Jesus Christ defined his time on this planet by an unyielding focus on social justice. Yet, in a world of unprecedented social injustice, of wars, genocide, hunger, and ecological and monetary disasters of monstrous proportions, Christian faith practice is now commonly defined by the work of the Christian Taliban who have created a moral agenda elevating racism, misogamy, and homophobia as central tenets of faith practice. In so doing, they themselves are catalyst to the secular trends in this country as the legions of twenty- and thirty somethings flee organized religion in the United States. I find worrisome that their own behaviors contribute to their further radicalization as more and more young people abandon their failed political-religious brand, further fueling their efforts to then force people to follow their utterly unchristian views.
These extremists don’t care about the cause of Christ. They only care about perpetuating their privileged and profitable position. These are the very people Jesus Christ stood against. Why isn’t the rest of the Christian church actively and vocally following Christ’s example in this matter?
A Must-Read on This Topic: Fred Clark’s post: Neil Steinberg & Dave Gushee on the damaging idea that ‘hating gays is a bedrock of Christian faith’
The whole Southern Baptist denomination came into existence in 1845 because of racism, which that denomination did not (could not?) denounce until 1995.[Updated 8-14-13: 10 Worst Terror Attacks By Extreme Christians and Far-Right White Men