Religion, The Fundamentalists Don’t really Believe

Breast of Bible, artist gouache

“Kill them all,” he said with a big grin, “kill them all – in the Name of the Lord.” This American religious leader was on CNN at the time… live, national television, and he was dead serious. Who was this compassionless, bloodthirsty monster?

I didn’t really want to talk about this issue, but someone has to and the silence of others – True Believers who SHOULD be speaking out against religious legalism – forces me to do this. As for the bloodthirsty maniac, his name is Jerry Falwell, one of the preeminent leaders of western religious fundamentalism – or dominionism if you prefer. The name I think is more correct is ‘radical religionists.’ Now the words aren’t new: Ann Coulter, another regular on television and one who is accepted as a leader in radical religionism despite the fact she brags about her whoreish behavior – who loudly proclaims her Christian faith in one breath and talks about picking up men in bars in another, has said that we must kill all of their leaders and forcibly convert the survivors to Christianity. This is the face of religion today. You can see why I want to call this radical religionism and not Christianity.

Falwell is an American religious leader. He is a fundamentalist. He seeks and has gained great political power. He seeks and has gained great wealth. He takes personal credit for reelecting George W. Bush, although I suspect that this is just overactive ego: People voted for George for many reasons, such as John Kerry being a waffling slimy politician, and probably Falwell’s personal endorsement would be low on the list. But this journal entry is not about politics; it is about the gripe I have with extreme and legalistic religion today.

I didn’t mean to turn this artist’s journal entry into a religious tome, I really didn’t. Perhaps I wanted to talk about how I have lost my hope in the church as an agent for the good. But because I’ve had so much religious education and because I’ve invested most of my life in religion, I can’t seem to avoid this any longer. So bear with me for a bit…

I used to be very religious; I got a Bible education and even became a minister. I have  even taught college-level theology classes. But there were a couple of things that always troubled me in the back of my mind, such as the fact that so many ‘believers’ want to sit in judgment of others in contradiction to the scripture, and even violently attack those who do not believe exactly the same things they do. And then there’s the related fact that those who claim to believe the Bible, don’t.

I grew up in a crazy family but in that insane, Manson family-like milieu, my mother was a bastion of sanity – relatively speaking. And she always said, “actions speak louder than words.” And she also said, “When people tell you who they are, be skeptical. When they show you who they are, believe them.”

There is a huge disconnect between the fundamentalist leader’s presumed faith and their actions. I will show you …

Jerry is perhaps the number one spokesman for Christian fundamentalism. He claims that he loves God and claims to know that we’re all sinners …he says all the right religious stuff, and he’s mastered the art of saying it with a sincere look on his face. But he doesn’t REALLY believe, and I can prove it…

Love The Rich, Hate The Poor

Reverend Falwell, like Rick Warren, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, John Hagee, Pat Robertson and many others, has sought and has gained enormous political influence. It would be fair to say that most holders of political office fear Mr. Falwell and his cohorts, and will do much to appease them. Mr. Falwell is a rich man. Very rich. He has servants, he has a mansion, he flies around in a private jet. And he “earned” all that wealth by convincing people that he’s especially and uniquely in touch with God and that he is God’s spokesman. So people give him a lot of money.

If you believe the Bible and take it literally as Falwell claims to do, then you must know that the pursuit of wealth and political power is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, such conduct is shown to be particularly abhorrent in the New Testament. It isn’t just that money is the “root of all sorts of evil” as the Bible states, but also that Jesus explicitly condemned such behavior among his followers. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” And more than that, religious leaders who seek political control of people are known as Pharisees in the Bible, and they were THE NUMBER ONE target of Jesus’ condemnation – not, as you might have been led to believe, homosexuals or loose women.

Now people like Falwell always try to get out of this by pointing out that Jesus’ disciples replied to this remark by saying it must be impossible then, to which Jesus replied, “To man it is impossible, but to God all things are possible.” And then he says that the Pharisees weren’t condemned for being only for being legalists who tried to turn a personal relationship with God into State-sanctioned laws, but also for making more laws than God intended. According to Falwell, this negates Jesus’ original statements, so it’s okay for him to seek wealth and power at the expense of others. So why did Jesus bother saying it? According to Falwell, Jesus wasted his breath warning us about the pursuit of wealth and political power. He didn’t mean it. (!)

Jesus actually explained how a rich man like Falwell could get into heaven. He didn’t leave unanswered the question of how such seemingly impossible things could become possible with God: When a rich man approached him as to what he should do, Jesus told him plainly, “Sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me.” – Don’t hold your breath waiting for Jerry or any of the other evangelical millionaires to do that, but if they really believed what they claim to believe that’s exactly what they would do.

Jerry says he doesn’t really live the rich lifestyle he so clearly leads. The church just gives him all this stuff, he says, and he is powerless over it. Anyone can see that this is a load of crap.

Falwell then tries to compare himself with Old Testament characters that were rich. Of course, those characters lived under the old covenant, when God dealt with nations instead of individuals – according to the Bible – which is why Abraham could have sex with prostitutes and Lot could pork his daughters and they were still okay in God’s sight. Jesus was very clear about what he thinks of the accumulation of wealth under the new covenant.

In the early church, wealthy people who wanted to become Christians followed Jesus’ instructions and sold their possessions. Everyone shared what they had together, and nobody was left wanting, unless everyone was left wanting. There were no elites in the original church. We know this from history. Jerry and his cohorts like Warren, Dobson and Robertson would have a cow and go blind if they had to share their wealth!

Meanwhile, Jerry rubs elbows with the rich, serves the interests of the super-rich, while actively opposing anyone who thinks that poor people should get a fairer deal in this country, that we should maybe at least treat the poor as well as every other western democracy. Jerry won’t stand for that. So the preeminent representative of Christian fundamentalism declares that we should love and cater to the rich while scorning the poor. And not Falwell alone, of course. Yeah, that’s the Bible message for sure.

Heaping Judgment

The second thing Jerry would do – if he really believed in what he claims to believe – is to stop condemning others, because anyone who really believes the Bible knows that a person’s life and any judgment thereof is strictly between that person and God – it is never our place to usurp God’s place and declare judgment.

Some try to retreat to a passage which mentions to judge righteous judgment. But is Jerry Falwell really righteous? Is he sinless? Does he not instead bear all the marks of a false prophet? Isn’t he teaching Paul’s very definition of “another Jesus?”

Love The Fetus, Hate The Child

Jerry proves he doesn’t really believe what he preaches – he proves it every day, again and again. Not him alone, but all the other false prophets with him. James Dobson, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson… I’m looking at YOU!

While Mr. Falwell and others scream loud and long about abortion, killing children once they are born is no problem in his eyes. After all, many of the people already killed in our religious wars are small children. Tens of thousands of them. But that’s okay, according to Jerry. Once they’re born, Jerry and Pat and James Dobson tell us, they can go to hell.

People can argue about abortion because a fetus is not a separate entity in the sense that it could exist outside of the mother. I don’t want to debate abortion, though, I will only point out the hypocrisy of someone foaming at the mouth over abortion because they supposedly “respect life” so much, while calling for genocide of brown people and displaying indifference to the suffering and death of tens of thousands of already-born children every day, as Jerry says, “in the Name of the Lord.”

It goes much further than that, of course. Jerry Falwell (and Pat Robertson and Rick Warren and James Dobson and D. James Kennedy and many others) as an ally of wealthy elitists, opposes universal health care and any other program that might save the lives of children who have already been born and who could be saved except for the greed of a few powerful people. If your kid is born with a killer illness that could be treated if only you had half million dollars but you work for wal-mart, tough! As far as Falwell and his ilk are concerned, you can go die and be quiet about it. That’s Jerry Falwells fundamentalist Christianity: Love the fetus, hate the child.

No matter how much Jerry professes to love the Lord, no matter how polished and practiced his performance is – and it is very practiced, he can’t really believe the things he claims to believe in and still live the life he leads or advocate the things he advocates. And he can’t hide from what is plainly visible in his life. If Jerry Falwell is an example of a “Man of God” then God must be pure evil. But as I said, this is only further evidence that Jerry and his friends preach another Jesus – the one we were warned about.

I’m not addressing – and will not address – whether or not Jerry or anyone else is a “real” Christian, or is “saved.” That’s none of my business. They could simply be mistaken. You shouldn’t assume I’m talking about anything except the exact issues that I address here. Anything else would be an unwarranted assumption. I’m asking, does Jerry (or most other fundamentalist Christians) really believe what he claims to believe, and the answer is clearly, NO. There is no possibility of reconciling the Falwell-Robertson-Dobson preaching of power and money with what Jesus plainly taught in the Bible.

Sin is sin, we’re all told. The things Jerry does, he does knowingly and willfully. He’s proud of it, and quite willing to brag about it. According to Jerry, his incredible wealth and political clout just proves that God is blessing him. Again, it doesn’t mean he isn’t saved, but it DOES mean that he is misleading others and thus causing terrible harm.

If you really believe the New Testament and want to take it literally as Jerry claims he does, then you must admit that Jerry’s lifestyle and his advocacy of cruel social Darwinism must be an affront to God. That’s IF you take the Bible literally, as Falwell claims. I’m dealing with his words versus his life. Nothing else. And again, he is far from alone. This does not mean that you need to be his judge, you just need to stop following him (and those of his ilk).

The vast majority of Bible scholars say that the Bible is to be taken as a guide via examples and stories, and is not to be taken as literally true in every aspect. It should be interpreted spiritually, just as we are shown over and over again by example in the New Testament.
There’s more….

* * *

Whenever you write anything questioning some item of faith, you get hate mail. Not just hate, but death threats. People say in effect, “believe in Jesus as I conceive of Him and an inerrant Bible as interpreted by my particular sect, or I will kill you. I will kill your family, too. So you’d better repent!”

Stop and think about that for a minute…. If the people who write this kind of mail actually believed in the things they claim to believe in, why would they have a violent reaction to someone who has questions? Why would anyone who has faith and believes his faith is true be afraid of facts, reason, or logic? Wouldn’t they be content with their relationship with God and not worry about what others say?

Well, the answer becomes obvious once you dwell on it for a while: These people, deep down in the back of their minds, know – or believe they know – that their faith isn’t real. In the darkest corners of their minds they harbor a deep suspicion that they’ve built their lives around falsehoods, and staked their hopes on illusions.  And that is why they are scared.

It is as if someone made a house of glass, and then told him or herself that it was an impregnable force field. And the only way he/she could sleep at night was to keep telling him/herself over and over again that his or her flimsy shack was really an unassailable fortress that could be touched by no one.

Then one day I come along and walk up to the thing and say, “Hey, wait, this is just glass. There’s no force field here. Look, I’m touching the glass!”

The person can’t live with the truth. The illusion that he/she lived in a fortress was all that kept him/her going. The reaction must be immediate, and violent. The awareness of truth must be stopped at all costs, lest the world of the fortress-owner collapse and dissolve into nothingness.

The violence and hate of  of some “believers” proves that they don’t really believe in the things they claim to believe in. That is why they are afraid.

So it is with the followers of the false prophets, who have invested their lives and personal identities in the teachings of someone who has strayed far from the real words of Jesus and the Apostles.

It is disappointing to see that so many people who claim faith are so unbelieving in their lives. They are full of hate and call it love (or God’s judgment, just to absolve themselves of responsibility for what they are doing), full of fear that they call faith, and full of self-doubts that they call persecution – again evading responsibility for their own misgivings and putting them off on others. I’m not their judge. I wouldn’t do that, but I can say that I am here to speak the words of TRUTH … and the Word will set you free.

Alas, many do not believe. They profess, they proclaim. They don’t really believe it. And this fact must be hidden at all costs, even if we have to kill them all in the name of the Lord.

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We don’t have much in the way of Christianity today – not that could be identified from the New Testament. We have Churchianity. Churchianity is a religion that manages to avoid all the good things the Bible says true religion should practice and instead substitutes a compassionless, hard-hearted legalism that was once called the School of the Pharisees. And that is what is taking over America.

Breast of Bible, artist gouache

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