Many Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals spread lies, even when they know lying is a sin and what the Bible says will one day happen to all liars:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
They also put a heavy emphasis on what they define as “Right Doctrine,” which means their particular Bible-based beliefs and their personal beliefs (usually read into the Bible from outside it). They think all of these beliefs must be understood and must be believed by all outsiders in precisely the same way that they understand them and believe them. Unfortunately, since the fundie resurgence began in about 1970, they have added to their agenda a number of other unwritten doctrines that are not-so-much based on the Bible, but they are often practiced (implicitly or explicitly), and they are sometimes vigorously defended. I refer to these often unwritten doctrines as Rot Docterns because they tend to be selfish, self-serving, and rotten to the core. A fairly large number of these Rot Docterns exist, and I have been meaning to build a list of them whenever a new one is encountered. I already know from experience that this list will be long when it is eventually finished. Three of these “Rot Docterns” are simple, straightforward, and relevant to the subject at hand:
Rot Doctern No. 1. It is okay and even admirable for Christians to tell lies if they believe the lies that are told will advance the cause of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Rot Doctern No. 2. If you get caught in a lie for Jesus, never publicly admit that you actually told a lie for Jesus. Just deny it without explanation, deny it with an explanation (if possible), avoid the subject entirely, change the subject, or just move on beyond it as quickly as you can.
Rot Doctern No. 3. If you proclaim you are a representative of the Lord and you tell a lie for Jesus enough times over long enough a span of time, your fellow Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, as well as many people outside the fundie ranks, will come to believe that the lie you are telling is actually the truth.
I am so sorry to have to say it because one would expect better of people who claim to follow Jesus Christ, but that last item of “Rot Doctern” is a version of the Big Lie concept popularized in Nazi Germany by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, who was Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. The public relations, marketing, and advertising professions in the United States have long recognized the value of the propaganda techniques used by Dr. Goebbels. If you doubt me, just ask yourself why that wonderfully advertised Dodge Caravan you bought in 2002 pooped out at 99,000 miles (mine did) while the Honda Odyssey van you are driving now has 250,000 miles on its odometer. We were had by advertising propaganda!!!
Unfortunately, Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are major supporters of the so-called Religious Right in the United States, and the various parachurch organizations that support and constitute the Religious Right hire public relations, advertising, and marketing firms to develop clever public relations strategies and tactics to advance their religiopolitical agendas before the Christian public and the American public in general. Personally, I believe these firms (and assorted insider organizations and individuals that engage in similar work) are the original sources of the three “Rot Docterns” listed above. In many cases, Christian fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals, and many other Americans have been had by the packs of lies that have resulted from these strategies and tactics, and they actually believe many of these lies are the truth. Others know or suspect they are lies, half lies, deceptions, or distortions of truth, but they pass them on anyway because they think they will advance the cause of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.
Let us briefly examine some of these common lies that I often hear from Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical pastors, church members, and many unchurched people on our American streets. These lies hearken back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called ban on prayer in American public schools in 1963. Here is our short list of six common Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical lies:
Lie No. 1 – It is illegal for children to pray to Jesus in American public schools. This statement is often followed by the desperate and almost tearful plea: “Oh please!!!??? Why won’t you just let the poor, pitiful, oppressed little children pray to Jesus? It’s such a small thing.” Been there. Heard that pitiful fundie plea.
Actually, the statement in bold is indeed a lie. The truth is that every child in American public schools has the right to bow his or her head and pray a silent or even audible prayer to Jesus anytime they wish during the school day—as long as that prayer is not performed in such a way as to disrupt the normal course of the school day and its learning process. It is also legal for groups of students in our public schools to pray together during the school day as long as the students alone initiate the prayer and carry it out. Shocked? You should be because you have been fed this very common Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical lie for decades, and you have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
The primary concern of the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on prayer in our public schools (and related law) was to prevent public school administrators, teachers, staff members, and meddling outside parents and religious organizations from coming into our public schools and conducting religious discussions, services, indoctrinations, and activities whose purpose was to teach a particular religious viewpoint to students or coerce students into participating in prayers or other religious activities that are contrary to their beliefs and those of their parents. Prior to 1963, it was technically legal for a Christian fundamentalist public school teacher to stand in front of her class of 40 first graders (all Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Pentecostals) and frighten them to death with going to Hell because their evil mommies and daddies had made apostates out of them down at their apostate churches. Of course, that probably did not happen very often because irate parents would have been up in arms about it. However, in those days, the parents and children of Jewish, nonChristian, atheist, and agnostic parents were most offended by those now illegal kinds of school religious activities.
So what kind of prayer is illegal in public schools today? Public school administrators, teachers, and staff members may not write prayers for students to repeat, order students to pray, or lead them in prayer during the school day. In addition, they may not participate in the legal prayers initiated solely by students (because it would look like the school is officially endorsing the prayer), and they may not witness, proselytize, or teach their faith (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever else) to students. The ultimate goal of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling (and related law) was not to chase God out of our public schools, as many fundies have falsely claimed over the years. The actual goal was to protect parents and their highly impressionable school children from the unwanted poking of local government noses (public schools) into the private religious affairs of families, thus leaving religion where it should be and where the Bible says it should be—in the hands of parents, their own children, and the houses of worship they support with their tithes and offerings. Personally, I am grateful for this 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. It keeps the fanatical noses of fundie public school administrators, teachers, staff members, and outside meddlers out of the religious lives of my United Methodist children at school. Many millions of other Christians, people of other religions, and people of no particular religious persuasion are equally grateful.
Lie No. 2 – It is illegal for a public school child to bring her Holy Bible to public school. Actually, it is perfectly legal for any American child to take her Bible to a public school with her—just so long as she does not use it to disrupt the normal course of the school day and the learning process. This means the student with the Bible cannot stand up in the middle of an American history lecture, hold up the Bible in her right hand, and yell out: “This book says you are all going to Hell!!!” Of course, any similarly rude or disruptive nonreligious activity would not be tolerated either.
Lie No. 3 – It is illegal for a child to read the Holy Bible during his or her day at their public school. The truth is that a child can read the personal Bible he or she brings to school during the school day—just so long as he or she does not read it at an inappropriate time or in such a way as to disrupt the normal course of the school day and the learning process. For example, the child may not read the Bible when her teacher has instead just ordered all class members to read Chapter 3 in their American history books. The child can read his or her Bible during personal time at school such as during lunch break, recess, or study hall.
Lie No. 4 – The word of God has been kicked out of our public schools. Not true. In fact, if you will go to the school librarian at your child’s public school and ask if they have a copy of the Bible on their library shelves along with all of their other books, she will most likely say “yes” and go show it to you. She will also tell you that any student who uses the library is free to take it down off the shelf, read it, study it, and take notes on it. Hardly any well-trained school librarian believes in banning books, which violates the policies and values of the American Library Association.
Lie No. 5 – It is illegal for a Christian public school student to share her faith in Jesus Christ with another child at school. Within the bounds of reason, good sense, and normal social propriety, it is not illegal for a child in public school to share his or her faith in Jesus Christ in a normal conversation with another child and even ask that child if he or she might be interested in becoming a part of their faith. She even has the right to share printed religious literature. This can be done as long as he or she does not share their faith at an inappropriate time or in such a way as to disrupt the normal course of the school day and the learning process. In other words, a student may not take on the role of a loud, aggressive, and taunting street preacher in a public school hallway, and a student may not set up a Billy Graham crusade in the gymnasium during his physical education class. However, students and parents should be aware that if their child shares her Christian faith (or other faith tradition) at school in an inconsiderate, rude, harassing, predatory, or some other inappropriate way with another child and that other child becomes highly offended, feels bullied, or sustains emotional scarring from the encounter, her Jewish parents and their lawyer may come down on the school and your child like a ton of bricks, and the sharing may be labeled by the school system as religious harassment, which would be regarded as disruption of the school day. In such cases, your child may be ordered to cease from disruptive faith sharing. In other words, the child needs to use some basic common sense and good manners to do her faith sharing in a kind, gentle, and polite way.
Lie No. 6 – God has been kicked out of our public schools. As you can see from the five explanations above, nothing could be further from the truth. Children have a right to free exercise of their religious rights in their public schools—just so long as they are not disruptive in exercising them. They can pray to God at school individually or in groups, and they can do it publicly or privately—and audibly. The Holy Bible is alive, well, and can be read in our public schools. It sits on the library shelf in the public school library for any student to read. Faith in Jesus can be shared between students both orally and with written religious materials at school.
Finally, as a practical matter, God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are everywhere on Earth, including in our public schools. No one has the power to kick them out. No one ever will have the power to kick them out. God is everywhere—perhaps making Lie No. 6 the biggest of this bunch.
However, do not take my word for it. I am not a lawyer, and I am not handing out legal advice or counsel here. You can get the full truth on what people can and cannot legally do with religion and prayer in our American public schools by reading the following brochure put out by the U.S. Department of Education:
My only purpose is to use the six lies above to demonstrate to you the fact that Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have long engaged in lies, deception, misinformation, and information withholding—especially with their own people—and they have done it over, and over, and over, and over again infinitum ad nauseum, especially since about 1970 when the so-called Moral Majority and Religious Right were created. Those of us in the wider Christian community outside of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism have a regular term we use for this kind of fundie prevarication. We call it “Lying for Jesus.”
Such Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical deceit can arise in just about any American religious or sociocultural context, but it is probably fair to say that it most often arises in the contexts of: (1) public education; (2) real science vs. creationist pseudoscience; (3) the social sciences (particularly social sciences education); and (4) the odd notion that the United States was officially founded as a Christian Nation—that one perhaps being the biggest of all the lies Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals tell.
With regard to the Christian Nation lie, we urge you to check it out with any Ph.D American history professor at a major state university (Ohio State University, University of Texas, University of Tennessee, University of California, etc.). They would be happy to verify for you that this is indeed a lie. Just do the following: (1) list all of the major state universities on a huge piece of paper; (2) attach the paper to a wall; (3) have a friend blindfold you; (4) throw a dart at the paper on the wall, and (5) call an American history professor at the university your dart strikes. You will find out pretty quickly that this notion of a Christian Nation is nothing but a pile of recently fabricated fundie bullshit. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals may be entitled to their own separate sets of beliefs, but they are not entitled to their own separate sets of historical facts. The truth is where the facts are, and the facts do not support the many lies Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals tell.