Gay marriage: why fundamentalists hate it
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You live in a godless land like Europe, an American city or you at least grew up in the nicer part of town and your parents were Episcopalians.
I grew up in Savannah, GA, a tolerable and tolerant small southern city. Savannah had a Jewish mayor back in the 1950s and when I was in high school most of the dances were held at the local B'nai B'rith.
Savannah, like any place in the American south had lots and lots of churches. From the big old churches (John Wesley visited Savannah) like the one that has the oldest church organ in North America to the small churches attended by the Hardshell Baptists (a real denomination), down to the little shanty churches with odd names like Nazarene Mt. Olive Holy Miracle Tabernacle.
One of my first memories is of a Baptist church my grandmother took me to when I was a toddler. Not much older one of the things I did with my childhood best pal was go to church with her.
Later I'd go to church with a friend from Junior High. I got washed in the Blood of the Lamb.(I got saved!) My parents followed me to that church, eventually my daddy also numbered himself among the born again. I grew out of it, he didn't and would call me on the phone to tell me that he hoped I wasn't going to Hell.
I've never regretted my years among Fundamentalist Christians. I've always known they were there, tens of millions of them. Many of you have become acquainted with their existence since the President Bush II and his strategists have chosen to send a jolt of fear through them in an effort to insure a 2004 electoral victory. You see less than a fourth of America's self-identified born again population voted in the 2000 presidential election. Had a more sizable number visited the polls no one could've called the election stolen.
When the Supreme Court overturned Texas' sodomy laws it brought a vast inventory of latent homophobia out for retailing. The Republican leaders saw this and months before newspapers and bloggers were expressing their shocked and awed disgust had planned to exploit it. (My business partner sent me a link to The Nation many months ago that spelled out with spooky accuracy what we're seeing now.)
In blogspace you see people innocently wondering why we can't just get along. Fundamentalist should acknowledge the rights of gay people. Should understand that queer sexuality isn't a choice. That being ex-gay is a disgusting hoax. That is all nice. Myself I wish I could ship every religious fanatic to Mars (as in Cyril Kornbluth's The Marching Morons).
To an American Christian Fundamentalist it is all really simple: homosexuality is a sin. Why: because the Bible says so (what the Bible says is irrelevant, this is what they think the Bible says). People who repent and love Jesus will be granted the strength to overcome temptation (or delight as we know it). Why: the Bible says so. Only a fool, or a na´ve person thinks of dissuading a Fundamentalist Christian (or any believer in anything) that their interpretation of the Bible is wrong. Most American Christians think God spoke in attractive 17th century English (as taken down by his secretaries at King James order). Preposterous? You bet. Doesn't matter. These poor critters think a whale swallowed Jonah. They think their God created material reality in seven days and then took a day off. They are trying to rid American public education of the theory of evolution. It has been decades since the state of Tennessee tried to pass a law redefining pi as 3.0 but the mindset hasn't advanced much.
How do you have a dialogue with people like that? To them gay marriage is a perversion of God's ordained sacraments. As you may remember a couple of their more visible leaders have blamed the mere tolerance of gay people on everything from hurricanes to the bombing of the World Trade Center. And Hell, let us not forget Hell. People who sin and don't repent will go to Hell (a real place like Miami) and suffer unendurable, unending pain. Why: the Bible says so.
Detach yourself from rationality for a moment. You believe that an act will cause a person infinite pain. That a person who encourages a behavior known as 'sin' will cause others to also suffer eternally. As long as your sanity is on hold imagine that you know of a man that rapes and murders babies. And that this condition is a communicable disease that if it isn't suppressed will cause others to rape and murder babies. Welcome to the born again American's idea of sin.
If you thought someone wasn't merely engaged in act that would cause horrifying human misery but cause that misery to spread like a contagion what would you do? Welcome to the born again American's idea of sin. When we talk about the core of Fundamentalist Christians we are talking about a social and political species whose social and moral reality is starkly insane to most reasoning people. Perhaps C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton were humane Christians. They aren't the average small-town, Baptist voter.
Or small city like my hometown of Savannah. Over the last several decades the tolerant mainline American denominations have steadily lost members. The violently conservative churches are the ones that have prospered.
The church that I went to as a teenager was an early member in the all but forgotten Moral Majority. When my family first attended that church it was a couple of ugly little buildings. Membership soared and within a few years the church created a huge complex including a fleet of buses and it's own elementary school.These folks have always been here. They used to have more influence over American politics. They faded but they've returned. Their political power has been waxing for a good twenty years. Near as I can tell Philip Jenkins* is one of the few people who appreciate this. (Not to mention the increasing power their Third World equivalents have in the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion.)
They are the enemy, a simplistic assertion, sure. The average fundy is little more than a na´ve bohunk, boob. Their leaders have grandiose visions of knocking down the Supreme Court, taking over local governments. They want to revive the old image of America as God's gift to the world: to lead the decadent Old World from its damnably secular ways. (I'm not going to try to justify those statements here; I have another weblog that often documents their frightening theocratic dreams.)
Other issues may affect some of those silly fundies when they finally vote. Monitoring as I do almost daily how humane politics, desires for pluralism offend them; more pertinently scare them I won't hope for that surprise gift. Besides analyzing elections before they have happened is as foolish as casting the I Ching or wondering what Bigfoot is (a hoax).
If you made it this far, you may think I'm nuttier than the people I'm describing. Pity I can't teleport you to a Baptist church in, say, Bacon County Georgia. That is an oddity you may demur. Then I'd have to transport you to churches in Southern California, Montana, Indiana and points in-between.
No reason to talk about logic or reason. These are the gut level beliefs that tens of millions of citizens of the US know as the truth. You might as well politely ask a tornado to go away.
Humanistic and liberal historical forces may yet win the day for us gay folk who'd like our relationship with our loved one to have legal status (and sacramental if you care about that sort of thing).
Myself I think this culture war may last for some time.
About my Christian Fundamentalist past: Bible Baptist Church of Savannah, GA