Chuck S. Garabedian is the owner, editor-in-chief, and principal writer at the Flee from Christian Fundamentalism blog. He is a Mainline Christian who was born and raised in the American South—the region where he has always lived and worked. During the 1960s, he grew up in The Methodist Church and The United Methodist Church in a highly conservative small town. He was also a member of a highly conservative Southern Baptist Convention megachurch in another small southern town. He made all of the traditional and appropriate conservative evangelical professions of faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior by grace—and they were all knowledgeably, earnestly, honestly, and sincerely made—with a clear understanding that he had tried to keep the Old Testament law in his own power and found it impossible to do no matter how hard he tried. This was followed by a full-immersion baptism in deep water. Today he is still a sincere and committed follower of our Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and he is a long-time member of The United Methodist Church.
Our blog owner recognizes that he is neither a good man nor a righteous man because only God is thoroughly good and righteous. He stands within the circle of sin on this Earth, as do all Christian and nonChristian men and women (1 john 1:8).
He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from a large, well-known American university. He is, by God-given nature and formal university training, a gifted scholar in the realm of the social sciences, which includes the realms of religion and faith. His definitely known gift of the Holy Spirit is the power of spiritual discernment.
For the past 25 years, he has spent a substantial amount of his spare time studying Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, and the so-called Religious Right in the United States. He has been a committed Christian Internet activist working hard against Christian fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals, and members of the Religious Right. In particular, he has been actively opposed to fundie takeovers of state/local school boards. Why? Fundie school board members love to censor or ban books. They relish introducing pseudoscience and revisionist social studies (a.k.a bold-faced lies) into public school classrooms. They would love nothing more than to turn our public schools, their administrators, and their teachers into marionette puppets of Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, and right wing extremist politics. Our blog owner’s on-line activism began with the famous Kansas State Board of Education Controversy (2004); moved on to the more famous Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover trial in Dover, Pennsylvania (2005); and then progressed on to the Texas State Board of Education controversies (2006-2018). The fundie scheming was soundly defeated in Kansas and Pennsylvania. The battle still goes on in Texas, where it has produced mixed results.
He is in agreement with numerous Christian scholars and ministers of the gospel who, through their own God-given gifts of spiritual discernment, have become highly critical and rightly critical of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. These individuals include, but are not limited to, Dr. James Barr; Dr. Keith Ward; Dr. John Dominic Crosson; Dr. Randall Balmer; Dr. Douglas W. Frank; and Sam Charles Norton. After his many years of study, he has come to the current conclusion best expressed by Anglican Priest S.C. Norton as follows:
More personally, though, I think what drives me is an anger, for it is the doctrines associated with [Christian] fundamentalism, which I rejected as a teenager, that prevented me from understanding Christ, and from coming into that fullness of life which was God’s eternal intention for me. Knowing what I know now, and knowing “from the inside” how liberating Christianity is, I am enraged at the spiritual havoc and cost of fundamentalist ideology. I now see [Christian] fundamentalism as a satanic ideology, a demonic possession: a cancer against which the Body [of Jesus Christ] must be eternally vigilant. Each instance must be excised and brought out into the light, thence to be cast out into the place where there is great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Let us give St. Paul the last word, as he sums up what I am trying to say: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Our blog owner is not a representative or member of any extant political party in the United States and does not speak for any political party. He considers himself to be an Independent voter, and he agrees with a good Christian friend in Texas who believes all Christians should be Independent voters, rather than being formally tied to a political party. Formal membership in a political party runs the risk of having spiritual matters dictated to a believer by their political party rather than the Holy Spirit, one’s personal conscience, and a close personal analysis of issues and positions. Our blog owner tends to be conservative on matters of foreign policy and progressive on matters of domestic social policy. The latter concern is driven by the the Holy Bible’s clear and unequivocal call for all Christians to minister to the needs of “the least of these” who live among us in this life.
The Flee from Christian Fundamentalism blog is not a political blog. It is primarily a Christian blog that sometimes touches on political matters—but only to the extent that the Christian faith and politics intersect—or crash into each other. Unfortunately, they crash into each other often in the United States.
The “Least of These”
This required ministry to “the least of these” consists of far more than just “sharing the gospel message of repentance and salvation by grace through Jesus Christ.” Our blog owner affirms that this part (Part I) of the so-called Great Commission (not a Bible term) is important. However, sad to say, many Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals seem to believe that they have few, if any, obligations of Christian love beyond just that and that alone. The “least of these” (and the legitimate needs of many other wounded and outcast men, women, and children in this life) often fall by the wayside. They so easily forget that Jesus was a poor person and an outcast in his own time on the Earth.
The fundies usually justify this abandonment of Holy scripture and their slacker mentality toward “the least of these” with some version of the following:
Why sharing the gospel message of salvation alone is love. Who cares if people shiver in the cold or starve in this short 80 years of life here on Earth. A life of suffering here is so tiny and inconsequential when you consider that burning with pitiless pain in the fires of Hell is forever. Therefore, we should set aside caring for the needs of people in this life and focus only on saving their souls from the certain fires of Hell after they die. After all, these are the few last remaining days of the end times, and Jesus will return any second to rapture all of us “true” Christians out of here—and then rain down well-deserved tribulation upon everyone else who is left behind. Yes, the end of time is so very, very, very close now. Therefore, let us all forget about those other things Jesus said, did, and commanded in the New Testament with regard to helping “the least of these” and other needy people in this life. We no longer have time for much of that in these few last days. We have a far more important emergency rescue operation underway to save souls, and we are operating under severe time constraints!!!
In other words, the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals of today often behave as if Part I of the so-called Great Commission was the only thing Jesus ever thought was important in scripture. Just minimize or give passing lip-service to Part II of the Great Commission—that being nearly everything else Jesus ever commanded, ever said, or ever did in the New Testament. Jesus said it best—and it applies to American fundies today:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matthew 15:8).
Moreover, when some fundie churches and missionary organizations do extend token physical aid to “the least of these,” the soup, bread, and medicine are often viewed as little more than animal bait to lure in starving, hurting, and diseased sinful worms for a fire and brimstone sermon. The fundie feeling seems to be that poverty, sickness, homelessness, or any other needy condition a person might have in this world is a direct result of their sins, and their neediness is God’s punishment visited upon them for these sins. Therefore, more than anything else, they need the salvation of Jesus alone to release them from God’s punishment. Then this release will move them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps (even if their boots have no straps); found their own high-technology firm; assume sole financial responsibility for their own lives, and vote a straight Republican ticket in every election for the rest of their lives. Indeed, the latter has become so bad that one often wonders which is most important to a Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical—following Jesus or following the Republican Party?
The fundies seem to easily forget that many of the needy people Jesus would call “the least of these” in our country are already devout Christians. Knowing Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, and living in communion with him each day, do not necessarily chase away a low IQ, poverty, physical sickness, mental illness, loneliness, homelessness, economic ineptness, or any other needy condition in this world. Our blog owner grew up as the son of poverty-stricken Christian parents, and he knows from firsthand experience that this fundie view of American poverty is both false and just plain evil.
Contrary to fundie thinking (or lack of it), the Holy Bible contains approximately 2,000 verses where God stands with the poor and oppressed who live among us here at home and around the world—and Jesus is not talking about standing beside them. Jesus makes it crystal clear in the Bible that He stands as “one of the poor,” so much so that if you fail to feed a hungry person, you are simultaneously failing to feed the hungry Jesus. Jesus is one in personal identity and solidarity with the “least of these” at all times. Take a look at this—if you dare:
Those 2,000 Bible verses command the Jewish people and Christians to lovingly meet the needs of “the least of these” and stand up for them with strong voices and strong actions in public—and the Bible never specifies that government programs are the wrong way to serve their needs. Why? Religion and government were one and the same among the Jews of ancient Israel in Old Testament and New Testament times. Fundie hatred of U.S. government entitlement programs for the “least of these” is a clear sign that they have abandoned the Kingdom of God in favor of their own personal selfishness and greed.
Uneasy Feelings from Many Years of Fundie Watching
(1) Because he has lived in the American South all of his life, the owner of this blog knows from personal experience what many of the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the Bible Belt (and elsewhere in the United States) are really like. He knows how angry many of them are. He knows how ignorant and uneducated many of them are. He knows how racist many of them are. He knows how proud, arrogant, and self-righteous many of them are. He knows how hateful many of them are—especially toward nonChristians and nonfundie Christians. Some among them love sending out hate mail and death threats to people who publicly disagree with their religious beliefs. Large numbers of them write mean-spirited and hate-filled comments at the ends of on-line newspaper articles, on-line magazine articles, and blog articles. Here is one of our blog owner’s favorite real life examples of fundie hate mail, which contains the usual spelling, capitalization, and syntax problems:
Mr. M Weinstein I am a spirit-filled ordained pastor of The Gospel from the great state of Nebraska. Stop your attack on God Almighty and His only Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Stop your attack on His holy Christian wariors in our armed military forces! My congregation includes many military from the nearby air force base. We pray as one for you to die tonight in your sleep leaving a bloody mess for your family to find at daybreak.
You can just feel the New Testament “love of Jesus” oozing from that one. Right? You may read that one and numerous other examples of Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical hate mail and hate comments by clicking on the following safe link:
(2) Many Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals evidently think they now sit on God’s throne in his place. They know who is definitely going to burn in Hell forever—and if it is you—they are more than happy to throw that conclusion at you, harangue you with it, demean you with it, and harrass you with it. If a person disagrees with their beliefs, a very few of them are even crazy enough to commit murder. Despite laws against religious discrimination in the workplace, if your religious beliefs are different from those of a Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical personnel recruiter, hiring manager, or business owner, and you are publicly critical of fundie beliefs, then look out! Some may search for sneaky ways to avoid hiring you or clever ways to fire you from your job as punishment for daring to hold and voice religious beliefs different from theirs.
(3) Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the Bible Belt and elsewhere in the United States love nothing more than judging and punishing ordinary citizens they choose to define as sinners or the apostate enemies of God. Who is an enemy of God? An enemy of God in their eyes is an unsaved sinner or any person who dares to publicly disagree with their narrow-minded fundie religious beliefs, no matter how untruthful, unloving, hurtful, or unGodly those beliefs might be. Any person who refuses to adhere to the fundie hardline on controversial scriptural, religious, social, political, or behavioral issues is automatically defined as an enemy of God in fundie eyes. If you study western civilization and its history (particularly in the realm of religious fanaticism), you will quickly find a knee-jerk sentiment that the enemies of God must be converted or be destroyed.
(4) Simply disagreeing with the fundies on religious matters angers many of them so much that they often utter the five most infamous code language words in all of Fundieland:
I will pray for you!!!
These five words are often stated with great anger and agitation. What do they mean when translated from fundie code language into modern English? They mean:
Here’s a figurative middle finger—and F-bomb you!!!
Moving to and Living in the American South in the Age of Trump
As noted earlier, our blog owner grew up in the American South and has lived there all of his life. The few people (mostly Mainline Christians) in the American South who take seriously all the words, deeds, and commands of Jesus in the New Testament are some of the kindest, friendliest, and most hospitable people on planet Earth. Unfortunately though, the American South is quite literally saturated with Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals—mostly various stripes of baptists. Many of these fundies look just as friendly on the surface as the local Mainline Christians—that is until they find out that you believe in the Bible and Jesus differently from how they believe in the Bible and Jesus, or they find out that you do not share their right wing extremist politics and all of their so-called “family values.” God help you if they find out you are an agnostic, atheist, or follower of a locally unpopular foreign religion.
The worst portions of the American South for encountering right wing extremist fundies are the small towns and rural areas. The very large cities like Atlanta, Houston, Nashville, Austin, New Orleans, and Miami tend to be diverse, tolerant, and highly cosmopolitan places with numerous well-educated citizens. When it comes to the very worst of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, some states in the American South are far worse than others—again primarily in their small towns and rural areas. Which ones are the worst in our honest opinion? Try Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Up-State South Carolina, North Carolina, and Northern Florida. We would like to include Kansas and Missouri on this short list, but they are not Down South.
If you are a Mainline Christian (United Methodist, Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc.) or a member of a nonChristian religion like Islam or Buddhism—-and you are planning a corporate or personal family relocation to a small town or rural area in the American South—-three of the first things you may encounter after you arrive are as follows:
(1) Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals may swarm all over you and your family to save you from Hell (the unique fundie way) and insist that you absolutely must convert to Christian fundamentalism or conservative evangelicalism—and attend their fundie church—and their fundie church only. (Warning: Many southern fundies do not handle rejection well. In addition, they tend to despise the Roman Catholic Church and some highly devout Roman Catholics. Why? For many decades, their fundie preachers have convinced them that the Roman Catholic Church is an evil, anti-Christ organization administered under the ultimate leadership of Satan.)
Even though it violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, numerous public school administrators and teachers in the American South will try to indoctrinate your children with Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism on the sly in their public school classrooms—desperately hoping nonfundie parents will never complain about it. [Our Advice: Get the telephone number of you local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office when you first arrive at your new home Down South; be prepared to use it; and sue the pants off any public school system, administrator, or teacher who tries to mess with your nonfundie child’s religious beliefs.)
(2) In our honest opinion, Christian fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals, and the redneck population of the American South despise Islam and Muslims with an almost perfect hatred. All you have to do is visit assorted websites and comment sections on the Internet; read the comments at the ends of southern newspaper stories; or have breakfast in a small town southern restaurant and strike up a conversation with the diners about Islam. The fundie locals will be happy to tell you that Allah is actually Satan. Mohammed was just a stupid man Satan duped into following him, while he was falsely masquerading as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Quran is a book of pervasive evil and violence from cover to cover. All of this makes Mohammed the Prophet and Messenger of Satan—and it just naturally follows that all Muslim men, women, and children are the worldly spiritual offspring of Satan.
Two words should never be mentioned in the presence of any southern small town or rural fundie: Sharia Law. Southern fundies fear Muslims will one day take over the United States and use brute force to impose it on them against their will. They are enormously hostile to the very idea of Sharia Law. Southern fundies get especially outraged and highly militant when small groups of peace-loving and law-abiding Muslim men, women, and children try to build mosques or Muslim worship centers in their small southern towns and rural areas.
In truth, within the pages of the Holy Bible, God commands Christians to love all other people in this world—including Muslim peoples—not hate them. Here at the Flee from Christian Fundamentalism blog, we think Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical hatred and mistreatment of peaceful Muslim men, women, and children are unChristian, evil, and just plain low-down.
(3) Southern fundies are really big on social conformity, and they despise anything that smacks of rebellion against their local religious, social, subcultural, and behavioral norms. After getting settled into your new home, you may encounter social pressure in your everyday life to conform with the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical cultural, social, religious, moral, and political agenda (and sentiments) that are predominant in your region of the American South.
Moreover, you may find that the gatekeepers and protectors of “the local sociocultural system” are often locally wealthy and powerful attorneys; medical doctors; politicians; businessmen; and Boss Hogg-types (see Dukes of Hazard) who are informally charged with “keeping all the local people in line.” This local, informal social influence is a subcultural holdover from the more formal authority of the local White Citizen Councils of the Jim Crow Era (1882-1967). In that era so long ago, similar members of local Southern communities were in charge of squashing or lynching uppity negroes, managing the behavior of white trash, and keeping Yankee civil rights meddlers out of local affairs. It is not nearly as bad now as it was when we were children in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these white folks are no longer particularly interested in African-American people (except for suppressing their votes), white trash, or Yankee meddlers. How does our blog owner know about this? He grew up as white trash in the American South and experienced it firsthand.
A Kind Invitation to All Nonfundie Americans
Despite all of that, our blog owner encourages all of you nice folks who live up north and out west to move to the American South and settle here in vast numbers—the more millions—the better. We especially invite Mainline Protestant Christians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Greek Orthodox Christians, Russian Orthodox Christians, and members of other religions to move to the American South and settle all over the landscape, especially in its small towns and rural areas. Over the past 50 years, the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical wasteland that is the American South has been gradually changing as a direct result of your past emigration to the American South and your religious beliefs, education, wealth, influence, and public activism as emigrant citizens.
If millions and millions and millions more of you will just come on down here, buy a house with some land, and set up business, your collective presence will eventually break the fundie stranglehold on the American South and turn our fundie wastelands into gardens of true Christ-like love and beauty. You and your family have the power to finish changing the American South by wiping away forever the sinful filth of fundie religious militancy, authoritarianism, church politicism, racism, white supremacy, ethnic prejudice, sexism, misogyny, money-grubbing, materialism, Bible idolatry, bold-faced lie-telling, firearms worship, love of violence, despising of “the least of these,” and hatred of fellow man that are rooted so deeply in the fundie Christian subculture and traditions of the American South. Please dear folks……..please. I am begging you. Come on down here in overwhelming numbers and help us finish changing the traditional American South into a hospitable place of love, peace, and emotional tranquility that reflects the true New Testament mind and heart of Jesus Christ.
Fundie Religion and Political Tyranny
After many years of studying Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, and the Religious Right, our blog owner has concluded that a strong central thread of authoritarianism and tyranny runs through all three. He strongly believes that this dictatorial thread poses a grave threat to the traditional American liberty and freedom the people of the United States have cherished for the past 242 years.
Right now, at this very minute, a number of Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are working hard behind the scenes to turn the government of the United States into a dictatorial theocracy run by future fundie leaders. They are called Christian Reconstructionists, Dominionists, and Theonomists. These modern-day heretics have a great deal of subliminal and direct influence on a number of Christian fundamentalist; conservative evangelical; and Religious Right leaders—and on ordinary fundie Christians. For example, the so-called 7-Mountains Movement in American fundie Christianity is a watered down form of Dominionism.
Dr. Rousas J. Rushdoony (now deceased) was the evil, racist, Jewish-holocaust-denying creator of Christian Reconstructionism. He was also the founder of the Christian homeschooling movement in the United States. Some of the educational tools (textbooks, workbooks, etc.) used by Christian homeschooling parents today (unbeknownst to the parents) are designed to subliminally indoctrinate their children into this heresy. The hope is that this subtle brainwashing will one day turn these innocent kids into adult Christian Reconstructionists, Dominionists, and Theonomists. If you would like to know more, just Google the following four search terms:
- Dr. Rousas J. Rushdoony
- Christian Reconstructionism
- Christian Dominionism
Our blog owner was a postage stamp collector in his childhood. One of his favorite sets of American stamps was the American Credo Series, which was issued by the U.S. Post Office in 1960 and 1961. Each stamp in the series was printed with a small portion of a famous quotation from an American founding father. One quotation in particular caught his attention and made a lasting impression on his young mind. It reflects how he feels today about the dangers posed by Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, the Religious Right, and all of the evil contained within them. This is the full quotation from American founding father Thomas Jefferson:
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Christian fundamentalism, conservative evangelicalism, and the Religious Right contain within them the virulent seeds of a future American tyranny. The evil within them must be actively—but peacefully—opposed at all costs if Americans are to remain a free people under the U.S. Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and a respect for Universal Human Rights on planet Earth.