September 10, 2006

The New Bible Thumpers

The cover story of Time Magazine is here.

It's a new evolution of an old trend--the trend where people get rich off of Christianity. In the old days, it was the televangelists and the leaders of megachurches who fleeced their followers into tithing and filling up the offering jars. Now this worship of money is becoming part of their official church doctrine because "God never intended for you to be poor."

I don't know if this is particular to Christianity or to fundamentalism, but the Christian fundamentalist religious right never seems to run out of creative tricks and loopholes to absolve their members of personal responsibility to become better people. I've seen this both in their actual members and in their sermons--if they want to murder people (e.g. George W. Bush in Iraq), they'll justify it. If they want to cheat on their wives, they'll justify it. If they want to elevate money as one of their higher goals, they'll justify it. After all, this is the one religion in the world where a person can be cleansed of his sins just by asking God for forgiveness. You can lynch a man from the back of your pickup, but if you pray for forgiveness from the Almighty before you die, you're going to heaven. People like Malcolm X, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, and Gandhi, however, are going to Hell because they're a bunch of pagans.

From my own personal experience, most Christian fundies eventually develop an attitude of no-responsibility. After all, if God won't punish his worshippers for murder, cheating, or idolizing money, why should his worshippers get bent out of shape over it?

I've seen this fundamentalist hypocrisy all over the far Christian right. They can and will justify ANYTHING. When George W. Bush sends soldiers into Iraq as part of his "crusade," he says that God is behind him. When the Spanish had their crusades hundreds of years ago, they justified their actions with the same argument.

I'm not against Christianity. I have many friends who are serious Christians. But there is a big difference between simply being a Christian and being a fundamentalist. To be simply Christian is a lifestyle. It means that you believe that Christ died for your sins, and that you live your life according to Christ's message. It means that you're an individual who is part of the community and who happens to believe in Christ. A fundamentalist, on the other hand, sees himself as a soldier for Christ. The fundamentalist believes that we are constantly at war, that our war is over values, and that every nonbeliever is going straight down into the pits of Hell because he doesn't think as other fundamentalists do.

This new focus on money is just one part of the isolationist outlook of fundamentalist Christianity. In this new doctrine, God wants you to enrich yourself. He doesn't want you to help others, nor does he care very much about other spiritual aspects, but he wants you to be rich. Again, it's the "soldier" mentality at work. These legions of new fundies are at war, trying to enrich themselves financially while ignoring both: a) their communities, and b) their own spiritual quest.

It's a real shame that people in the richest nation in the world continue to adhere to a fundamentalist religion that denies them human compassion and that teaches them to fight the world around them. Religions should be creating a world where people work together, where they have empathy for other human beings, and where they see generosity as a life goal. This self-aggrandizing behavior of the Christian fundamentalists does nothing to help its members, nor does it make our world a better place. As Rick Warren says in the article, "You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth."

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