by Charles S. Garabedian
Living in Post-Christian America
In the realms of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism today, one of the popular things to do is declare that we all live in—catch the term—Post-Christian America. A statement like this is usually prompted by the latest statistics indicating that ordinary Americans are less religious than they were some stated number of years ago and that Americans churches are losing members to the atheists, agnostics, and nones (meaning people with no current religious affiliation).
While such losses are indeed occurring across the board, we think the term Post-Christian America is in some ways a hallmark of fundie spiritual pride, arrogance, and conceit. Christian fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals believe that they, and they alone, are the only “true” Christians left in the United States. In other words, the word Christian applies to them only. Therefore, if people are buying less of what they are selling and members are leaving their churches, then this must somehow be Post-Christian America.
Just to blow the lid off this fundie lie, we must advise you of the results in the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study for 2017, which is based on a sample size of 35,000 people from all 50 American states. According to this study, 45.4 percent of the American population of about 320,000,000 is Mainline Protestant, Historically Black Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox Christian, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Other Christian. Another 25.4 percent of Americans are Evangelical Protestant. According to the PEW total, 70.6 percent of Americans are Christians.
While Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are included within the 25.4 percent Evangelical Protestant category, we hasten to point out that many Evangelical Protestants are neither Christian fundamentalists nor conservative evangelicals. They are called Progressive Evangelical Protestants. Furthermore, a number of Historically Black Protestants are classifiable as Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. However, the Pew Research Center’s bottom line is that 70.6 percent of all Americans are Christians.
How do you have a Post-Christian America when 70.6 percent of all Americans are still Christians? You enter The Twilight Zone where a portion of the fundie mindset resides. The Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals do that by claiming that Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, many Historically Black Protestants, and Other Christians are not “true” Christians like the fundies. By slyly cutting all of those American Christians out of the Christian pie chart, the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals suddenly make up less than 25.4 percent of all Americans vs. more than 74.6 percent brazen American heathens.
Clearly, this is not Post-Christian America because 70.6 percent of all Americans today are Christians. The term Post-Christian America is a bold-faced lie being propagated by Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals as part of their self-serving “oh woe is us” narrative—knowing full well that Americans in general tend to sympathize with any group that can successfully paint itself as an underdog. If they were to look Jesus straight in the eyes and tell the truth, it would be more accurate to say that they are living in Post-Christian Fundamentalist America.
Doctrine of Separation
Many Christian fundamentalists are required to practice the doctrine of Separation from Sinners in this life here on Earth. However, I do not see how this is possible when Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as much as we do ourselves in Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12-30-31. No person can truly love their neighbor in that way if they must perpetually reject and shun their neighbor. Truly loving someone requires a goodly measure of personal relationship with that person through time.
In addition, the Bible says that we Christians are all still sinners even after we have been saved by grace through repentance and belief in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (I John 1:8-10). Therefore, the fundamentalist Christian is required by fundie doctrine to perpetually reject and shun himself. How do Christian fundamentalists manage to avoid getting in the car and going grocery shopping with themselves? How do they avoid spending an evening with themselves? How do they avoid accompanying themselves on trips to the bathroom? How do they avoid spending a night in bed with themselves? How do they separate from themselves when they are always with themselves throughout their lives? It seems to me that the cognitive dissonance here must be enormous.
Sure. The fundies claim a number of scripture verses for their doctrine of separation, and they note that the ancient Jews were required to keep themselves separate from their heathen neighbors. But you know what famous sociologist and anthropologist Emil Durkheim observed about human cultures and the cultural things people do. There is the official reason the culture states for doing a particular thing, and then there is the unstated, parallel, underlying real reason the culture does a particular thing.
Preventing a fundie church member from being drawn into sin is the surface, officially stated fundie reason for the doctrine of separation from sinners. But what is the unstated, underlying real reason Christian fundamentalists practice the doctrine of separation? I think the fundie church leaders are scared witless—not so much of sin entering a church member’s life—-as they are of their church members learning the unvarnished truth about their belief system.
Deep inside themselves, in a dark little room they almost never visit, the fundie leaders know that their belief system is weak and filled with inconsistencies, discrepancies, and conundrums that make no sense. Any intelligent and well-educated outsider who knows their Bible well; knows the ancient cultures of Judea, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean world; and knows the detailed history of the Christian faith can turn a double-barreled shotgun on their fundie belief system and blow it to smithereens with one truth after another—Blam!!! Blam!!! Blam!!!—right before the eyes of the average fundie church member. This is especially true for any church member who has not been thoroughly brainwashed from birth inside a fundie church.
Many fundie preachers know this and desperately try to keep their church members away from outside bearers of truth. This is done to maintain the preacher’s dictatorial control over the cult-like fundie church and its people—to protect the fundie system and to protect the preacher’s own God-like image and personal welfare within the fundie church.
How do they do this? From birth, they teach their church members that all nonfundie outsiders are evil and dangerous sinners. They teach them that even the slightest microscopic deviation from the strict doctrines and beliefs they have been taught may be enough to pull their souls into the Lake of Fire to burn forever in pitiless and excruciating pain that will never end. They teach them that any steady, long-term relationship with an outsider may cause such a deviation, which they naturally define as sin.
In other words, any outsider who knows the factual and spiritual truths about many of their phony doctrines and beliefs is a real risk to point out the glaring holes in their belief system and pull a fundie person and their family out of the fundie church. That means a loss of prestige and power for the fundie pastors and other church leaders, a loss of tithes and offerings, and a lowering of their salaries. It also poses the risk that the leaving person will take other church members and their purses with them when they leave. Thus, when push comes to shove, the doctrine of separation from the world is really all about a massive glob of manufactured fear and a massive avoidance of facts and truths to protect the fundie belief system and the church leaders who benefit the most from it.
I Will Pray for You
Do Christians pray for each other and pray for the benefit of nonChristians? Mainline Christians, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians do that all the time and without any malicious intent. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals do too—in their better moments when they are not seething with malicious intent. However, we are going to briefly discuss those numerous moments when the fundies use the sentence “I will pray for you” as a malicious code phrase within their fundie code-word system.
Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals often get into heated arguments with nonfundie Christians and nonChristians about various Christian faith, Holy scripture, religiopolitical, and behavioral issues. This happens often in on-line discussion forums, on faith blogs, and in the comment sections at the ends of on-line newspaper stories and magazine articles. If a fundie is in an argument and being bombarded with so many facts and so much truth that she can no longer stand the heat in the kitchen, she will (in utter frustration and agitation) blurt out: “I will pray for you!!!”
On the surface, this means the fundie has concluded that the nonfundie party is so far over some edge that only emergency prayer and the direct intervention of God himself can change their mind. However, I and many other nonfundies see it as something different. We see it as the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical code phrase for the old extended middle finger and “F-Bomb You!!!” We take it as the malicious insult that it truly is, and the fundie doing it automatically loses any credibility that she might otherwise have in a debate or argument with a nonfundie. Why? Mainline Christians and other nonfundie Christians take prayer as a serious matter—something that is not to be trifled with in this cavalier manner and something Holy that is not to be casually hurled around as a cloaked four-letter insult in a moment of dire frustration.
I have noted over the years that female fundies are far more prone than male fundies to using “I will pray for you” as a four-letter expletive of utter frustration. I am not sure why this is—other than the possibility that fundie women tend to be what they often self-describe as a prayer warrior. In a fundie belief system that is well-known for treating its women as second class citizens and submissive, brainless slaves of the household, perhaps fundie women feel that prayer is one of the few real powers they still have left in this life. Thus, they perceive it to be a throwing stone more readily at hand in a moment of intense frustration.
Therefore, remember this fundie women and men. When you get agitated and yell out “I will pray for you” to a nonfundie Christian or an unbeliever, you are hurling what is understood to be a malicious, four-letter insult—and in so doing—you are enormously damaging your so-called witness. No one is going to take you seriously from that point onward.
You also need to understand that many nonfundie Christians (like me) do not want your prayers. Why? You fundies are mean-spirited and ugly in dealing with outsiders. You have a penchant for telling lies. You possess personal wickedness and corruption you are unable to see in yourselves—and you do it all in the name of Jesus. Therefore, we suspect your prayers are nothing more than acts of human vanity that may not even be heard in Heaven.
I know you are outraged at a statement like that. But remember, some of your most famous fundie preachers, like the late Dr. Adrian Rogers in Memphis, have made similar statements. That is precisely how many of you fundies treat the men and women outside of your own faith circles nearly every day of the week. How does that feel slammed back into your faces? You fundies might want to give some serious thought to how poorly you treat people outside of your own faith circles.