Though Christian religion has always played a part in US politics, identify and culture it has never been seen as a danger to the rest of the world. Now things have changed, and the danger is real and tangible as the balance of power among the different religious strands has shifted significantly and this may have dramatic consequences for the US itself, Europe and the rest of the world as whole. The more conservative and cultish strains of American Protestantism are gaining ground over the traditional Liberal Protestantism that dominated in the US during the middle years of the 20th Century.
The Presidency of George W. Bush embodies this change and his book, “Decision Points” gives ample insight on how much Religious Fundamentalism had an influence on his actions has a President and this was reflected especially in his Domestic and Foreign Policy decisions.
The Christian Fundamentalist have slowly, but effectively, infiltrated the ranks of the Republican Party, and this explains its moving away from it’s core belief as historically it was founded on the principles of liberty and anti-slavery, into a modern Christian Neo-Nazi White Supremacist political movement whose adherents see themselves as the “Chosen People” and they have a duty to spread their own sense of warped values Throughout the world.
The changes brought by this progressive infiltration of Christian Fundamentalist doctrine within American Republicanism are yet to be fully understood, and are greatly underestimated by Liberals, progressives and Liberal Christians in the US as well as by most of the European nations.
And here lies the danger.
Attempts to emasculate the US Constitution, The Bill of Rights, curtail the rights of abortion; trying enforcing Creationism and Intelligent Design in American Schools, the lack of a nation-wide national curriculum for schools, the ability of parents to take children out of the public school system and home school them so that they can be brainwashed and indoctrinated with Fundamentalist Christian doctrines, and take away any critical or inquisitorial curiosity; legal attacks by State Governors to the very principle of separation of Church and State etc, etc. Tend to be seen as isolated incidents and not part of a global political strategy.
The inevitable results on American education are visible, like here, for example:
This systematic destruction of the American education system and the lack of political will to redress the situation cannot be explained in any other terms than a well thought out political strategy by very able men and women that understand the value of religious populism and intellectual ignorance as a political weapon, to achieve their ends and, or, maintain their financial and political hold on the nation.
To better understand how all this develops in the US one has to look at Protestantism and its history. American Protestantism which grew out of the 16th Century Reformations of England and Scotland has included many divergent ideologies and worldviews over time. Three strains, however, have been most influential:
1) A strict tradition that can be called Fundamentalist
2) A progressive ethical tradition known as Liberal Christianity
3) A broader “in-between-the-two” tradition that is known as Evangelical.
American Protestantism is composed by all three strains, and though one has to read carefully into a strict interpolation of these strains, because in general American Christians tend to mix and match theological and social ideas from the three without concern for any consistency. Yet it is important to describe the chief features of each strand and what their possible implication could mean in a political contest for US Domestic and Foreign policy.
Protestantism as a religious movement began in Central Europe in the early 15th Century, in effect separating itself from the central Christian doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.
Though Protestantism may vary in its different denominations it has across the board two basic principles, that of “Justification known as Sola Fide (Sole Faith), and the “Priesthood” of all believers and all Protestants whatever the denomination regard the Bible (Sola Scriptura) as the sole authority in matters of faith for all Christians.
Whatever the Protestant denomination, and American Protestantism is no different; all were affected by the fundamentalist-modern controversy of the early 20th Century, as in the 1800s most Protestants believed that science confirmed Biblical teaching, but when Darwinian Biology and scholarly “higher criticism” led to the inevitable consequence that the Bible’s authorship and veracity was put into question the American Protestant movement broke apart.
Modernist argued that the best way to defend Christianity in an enlightened age was incorporate the new discoveries into existing theology, and mainline Protestant denominations followed this logic. Fundamentalists strongly opposed to this have always maintained the literal truth of the Bible.
They themselves split into two sub-strands of Fundamentalisms one “The Separatists” arguing that all true believers should abandon those churches or congregations that tolerated modernism in any form. The other, known as Neo-Evangelical (Or New Born Christians as they like to called today), on the contrary, sought a continual engagement within the new social structure. Meanwhile the Separatists withdrew from both politics and culture.
The three contemporary streams of American Protestantism:
c) Neo Evangelical
Lead to different ideas and views on what America’s role in the world should be and on how America should be run internally.
In this context the differences between American mainstream liberal Christian Protestants and the Fundamentalists and the Neo-Evangelicals are deep and profound. While American Protestant Christian Liberalism promotes a vision of a stable, enlightened domestic and international policy for the US and the rest of the world, and places importance between the good relations between believers and non-believers, and this can be seen in the very essence of the US Constitution and the message that the so defined “Founding Fathers” tried to bring across when it was framed. The Fundamentalists and the Neo Evangelical adopt a complete opposite message.
Both Fundamentalist and Neo-Evangelical are profoundly anti-intellectual movements, they couldn’t survive otherwise. Their common denominator lies within the doctrines of the theology espoused by the Christian Identity movement, which includes Anglo-Israelism and British Israelism the basis of Anglo-Saxon colonial policy in Africa (In my country it was the basis of Apartheid). A theological belief that Anglo-Saxons, Celtic, Scandinavian, Germanic and associated cultures; thus Americans and Canadians (to a lesser extent) as direct descendant of those cultures are composed by the descendants of the ancient Israelites. A virulent, racist and anti-Semitic theology that promotes the belief of racial superiority and provides “the glue” of Fundamentalist and Neo Evangelical Christian Right Wing movements; the rise of Hitler and German concept of “Herrenrasse” (Master Race) shows unequivocally what such groups are capable of given the right economical and political conditions that allow them to take control of the levers of Government.
The above explains why the Christian Fundamentalists and Neo Evangelicals have a profound hatred towards the secular world, secular morality, and are completely intolerant regarding those who do not accept their belief system. While certain groups of Christian Fundamentalist tend to close themselves within closed communities of their peers and not partake in political and social events, the Neo-Evangelicals are more interested in developing an all embracing Christian Worldview, and then systematically trying to apply it to the world.
Like their Fundamentalists Muslims counterparts Neo Evangelicals are very good at working and infiltrating the secular system from within. One thing is to reject the evolutionary science, science, intellectualisms, or even history because of a deep seethed belief, against all evidence to the contrary, of the infallibility of the Bible, another is manipulating a system by developing a pseudo-scientific paradigm like Creationist Science, and seek political office to influence legislation to force secular schools to teach it and withdraw one’s children from schools who do not.
It is not surprising that unlike Europeans, a certain part of Americans want as little Government intervention as possible in issues such as health, education and Federal influence on the legislative autonomy of the single states of the Union, as a strong secular government with a strict idea of separation of church and state, and who force them to pay taxes as they should, would certainly create problems for the Neo Evangelical fundamentalist agenda.
The strings of intellectual and political defeats incurred by Fundamentalist Christianity in the 20s, 30, 50s 60s and 70s has in no way dampened their fanaticisms and has actually made them more determined to follow their ideas to their logical conclusion.
In many ways as far evolution goes they really haven’t evolved at all from the core principles that characterized their forefathers who labored to institute Christian Theocracies under the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell, as well trying the same in New England in the 17th Century.
Finally the Fundamentalist and Neo Evangelical committed belief of an apocalyptic vision of the end of the world and the Last Judgment, due to the fact that being Biblical literalists (completely devoid of logic or critical thinking), they believe in the dark prophecies in both Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, notably those of the book of Revelation, that foretell great and terrible events that will bring down the curtain of human history. Satan and his human allies will stage a final revolt against God and the elect few; they the believers will undergo terrible persecutions, but Christ will put down his enemies and reign forever over Heaven and new earth.
These visions are not only indicative of racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic beliefs that these people would immediately put into practice if given half a chance, but are a serious threat to the idea of the evolution of a secular world, driven by technological advances and where believers in whatever Religion can co-exist in peace due to a general cooperation of all intelligent people of all religious tradition or of none.