by Charles S. Garabedian
Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are in the beginning throes of decline in the United States, especially among young people in the Millennial Generation. I believe one of the primary reasons for this incipient decline is a matter of false perception within the American fundie population.
As the advertising magnates on Madison Avenue in New York City will tell you, it is not so much the reality of a product that counts as it is the general public perception of a product. In other words, you can have a really lousy product, but if the public wrongly perceives it to be a good or even wonderful product, people will come in flocks to buy it. By the same token, you can have a really wonderful product, but if the public does not see it that way, few people will buy it. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism in the United States have a double-barrel shotgun of a perceptual problem, and the business end of that barrel is pointed straight at them. They have a false perception of themselves, and they have a false perception with respect to how the rest of humanity sees them. In other words, Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals possess a false self-perception and a false perception about the American public.
False Perception No. 1.
The people who are entrenched in Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism do not perceive that anything is wrong with them, their churches, or their belief system. This has been true from their beginnings in the early 20th century when this uniquely American belief system was first invented by men—not God—and then horribly and insanely reinvented year-after-year from 1970 to 2018.
While the people who hold to the fundie system might sometimes recognize and openly confess their own failings as individual human beings, they believe (quite wrongly) that their overall belief system (which must be taken or left as a whole package) is entirely of God, wise, true, and perfect in all things. Therefore, they perceive that all is well with their fundie belief and behavioral systems.
The fundies believe nothing needs to be changed within that unique belief system. Any observed losses of people on their part are just the sinful world abandoning truth or refusing to embrace the clean, delightful, and perfect. In fact, as my web friend, Ms. April Kelsey, has pointed out on her blog (Revolutionary Faith), the fundies perceive (wrongly) that their own false list of self-manufactured causes for abandonment fully explains why people are beginning to leave the fundie belief and behavioral systems. For more on that, please click on the two following two safe links:
Because of this false self-perception, fundie leaders and pastors refuse to believe the list of real reasons the fundie system is being abandoned or avoided. They do this even when their own people and outsiders tell them the real reasons—straight up.
False Perception No. 2.
Many Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have a false perception of how the rest of humanity (including the rest of Christian humanity) looks at them and their traditional church culture. They see themselves as a frugal rural or suburban family: clean cut dad in a navy blue suit and tie with a black Bible in his right hand; a beautiful wife who stands submissive beside him in her homemade dress (pattern bought at Wal-Mart); and two adorable children (one boy and one girl) who were saved by Jesus at the ripe old age of 6 years. (Never mind the reality that kids this age know more about Mickey Mouse than Jesus).
The fundies see themselves as solid American citizens who have made it in the right and clean way—the baseline standard for what a real American should look like and be. Therefore, in their minds, both they and their churches must surely look normal, appealing, and even magnetic (like Jesus was) to most outside onlookers on the American stage How could it be otherwise? Jesus has blessed them all with his very own exclusive stamp of personal approval. Any normal American would be crazy to leave one of their churches or avoid coming to one of their churches. So, what’s not to like?
The reality is that many in the rest of humanity (including people in other Christian churches) do not perceive the fundies, their fundie churches, or their fundie systems in the same way the fundies perceive them to be—and the fundies consistently fail to understand this. The fundies would say:
Why do people run away from us fundies? That’s easy. We are offering Jesus to them!!! They are all vile sinners fleeing from the convicting guilt and pain emitted from the light of Jesus that they must surely see in us as we approach them.
Huh-uh!!!! Nope!!! That is not what most people see in the fundies—not really. If you will recall, multitudes of people were magnetically attracted to Jesus and his message of hope and love in Roman Judea (circa 31-33 A.D.). People were not running from Jesus in those ancient times. As the New Testament clearly records, ordinary people were running to Jesus in great throngs.
Most Americans do not see Jesus and that same magnetic image of love and hope in modern fundies. Instead, they see the fundies as badly screwed up people alone—not as Jesus. They see the fundies as people alone—not just as themselves—but rather as individual and horrifying living symbols of all that is bad and evil within Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.
They see the fundies as representatives of a combined oddball religious belief system and a perverse human subcultural system that has become cultic in nature. With it, they also see their rather sorry 100-year-old fundie religious history wrapped like a rotting albatross around their fundie necks. The overall perceived image in the general American mind looks, sounds, and behaves very much like the man in the black hat in the video clip below. In six words: “Fundies Tend to Creep People Out” at a certain level of perception that is partly in the conscious mind and partly in the unconscious mind of the American public.
Let me ask you a question. Would you run away from or refuse to run to the guy in the black hat in the video clip below? I sure would!!! Any sane person would. The real Jesus of the New Testament never presented himself to the world in a way that would conjure up a creepy mental perception like this man in the black hat does. However, the fundies of today evoke a public perception similar to this, and that perception makes the American people want to avoid or flee from fundies—no matter how friendly they are. Please take a look at this video clip:
Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism today are bad religion products with bad public perceptions—a Madison Avenue advertiser’s worst nightmare—and both bad designations have been well-earned and well-deserved over the past 100 years. This is why Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are beginning to decline today. This decline is not about rejecting Jesus Christ. Rather, it is all about the creepy fundie people and the weird extra baggage in their unique belief system and behavioral system.
At the behest of Jesus Christ, the American people are finally waking up to all of the pain and agony these fundies have both created and ignored in a world that was aching for the real Jesus Christ of the New Testament—and his love and peace. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism often harm people outside the fundie realm, and they often destroy the mental health, joy, and sense of true inner peace for many of those who abide within the fundie system. However, Jesus is beginning to reform the American church for the 21st century, before our very eyes today, and He is beginning this process by cutting the fundies down to their real size, which may take a microscope to see when his Holy cutting is eventually finished.