by Charles S. Oaxpatu
Two Things Bible-believing Christians Are Famous for Doing
I grew up in the American South and have lived here all of my life. Religion has always been a big factor in life down south—particularly what has been described by its adherents as Bible-believing Christianity. This term is pretty much synonymous with the terms “Christian fundamentalism” and “conservative evangelicalism.” The chief characteristic of Bible-believing Christians is their belief that the Bible (particularly the 1611 authorized King James Version) is the inerrant word of God (as written in the original manuscripts, which just happen to no longer exist, making this claim conveniently unverifiable). The term inerrant means that the Bible contains no factual errors, no scientific errors, and no stated internal contradictions of any kind. In most cases this doctrine of inerrancy means that every word in the Bible, by some miracle of ancient inspiration, is a directly stated word straight from the mouth of God himself and straight into the eyeball of the Bible reader.
Furthermore, this doctrine of inerrancy holds that, except for a few places that are clearly allegorical, the Bible should be read simply and literally because God caused the Bible to be written so simply and clearly that even the most simple-minded of average persons will understand the full word of God. Put another way, as Bible-believing Christians have actually told me: “The Bible is a simple book written for a simple people.” Biblical scholarship that goes beyond solely using scripture to understand other scriptures is generally discouraged. Finally, the Bible and its words are believed to be a mystery to nonfundie Christians and nonbelievers, who by hardline definition do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. (Heaven forbid that God himself might have some say in this matter.) They can read the Bible—but they do not understand it. The “true” Bible-believing Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit within him. Therefore, the Holy Spirit reveals to him the unique and true meaning of the scriptures, which others cannot see, as his eyes read the words of the Holy Bible.
This brings us to William Jennings Bryan, American citizen, Bible-believing Christian, populist politician, and perennial losing candidate for President of the United States. Most Americans remember him as the Bible-believing court opponent of Clarence Darrow in the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. This is the court case where school teacher John T. Scopes was put on trial for violating a Tennessee law that made it illegal to teach biological evolution in Tennessee public school science classes. Bryan was an arch opponent of evolution because it violated the simple, literally read creation stories in the Book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible.
One of my favorite journalists and historians was the late Alistaire Cooke, a British-born American journalist who wrote a now famous and very good book entitled America: A Personal History of the United States. This 1972 publication was so well-liked that it was turned into a copyrighted 13-part television series on American history, one teachers still use to supplement lessons on American history in K-12 classrooms. In the television version, Cooke stated that William Jennings Bryan believed in two documents that he considered to be Holy writ, the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. Over my many years of studying Bible-believing Christianity, reading the writings of Bible-believing Christians, hearing their sermons, and reading their various commentaries, I can pretty much agree with Cooke’s perspective on Bryan. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the United States tend to hold the U.S. Constitution, its Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and to a somewhat lesser degree The Mayflower Compact in a degree of high esteem lesser than, but clearly bordering on, the Holy, and from that point, at least reaching out for the notion that these documents too are somehow “the word of God.”
Here is my most important point in this background discussion. Listen up!!! Just as fundies believe mainline Christians and nonfundie Bible scholars have undermined, corrupted, and sullied the one, true, only, and unique understanding of the Bible held alone by Bible-believing Christians, the U.S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, and other assorted knaves and fools have similarly undermined, corrupted, and sullied the “true” meanings of the words in the key founding documents of the United States. In other words, Bible-believing Christians, sitting under their own fig trees and reading these documents simplistically and literally (or not at all), know better than anyone else what our founding fathers truly meant when these documents were written and what they really mean today. How is that? I do not know for certain. However, I suspect they have drawn a Bible-reading analogy. They believe that the indwelling Holy Spirit has somehow given them special knowledge and intuitional understandings of our American founding documents that only a person with a truly Godly, Bible-believing worldview can fathom.
Main Topic for Today
Todd Starnes, the religion journalist at Fox News, has his panties all in a twist about a voluntary-attendance baccalaureate service (a religious service) held recently for graduating high school seniors in Opp, Alabama. This was an allegedly illegal religious service because it was held inside a taxpayer-owned public school, and the public school administrators and teachers were helping to plan it and set it up—and they were participating in it along with the students, which if true, was a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such religious services and school personnel participation are illegal. With this in mind, the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin wrote a letter to the school system to point out their sin against the U.S. Constitution, and then the usual local and national fundie outrage and kerfuffle ensued. (After all, God officially authorizes only Bible-believing Christians to point out sin in the public and private domains.) You may read the Todd Starnes article by clicking on the following safe link:
After reading over the many comments on this Starnes article from outraged Bible-believing Christians living in Opp, Alabama, and elsewhere, I felt compelled to leave a large comment of my own. My comment was based on three things:
(1) The content of the actual statements various commenters made in their comments.
(2) Reading between the lines of these comments (as my college English professors taught me).
(3) Quite similar statements and complaints I have heard and read from Bible-believing Christians across many years.
Quite frankly, I was appalled and shocked at the stated and implied contents of these comments from Bible-believing Christians and assorted political conservatives—and what these comments reveal about their way of thinking and their worldview relative to the traditional American legal understanding of the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights, which is the first 10 amendments to the constitution.
Text of my Summary Comments on the Reader’s Comments
“After reading most of the comments below, I have gleaned several observations and themes that pretty much summarize them: