Religious Fundamentalism: How “They” Tell “Your” Story-Continued from Yesterday

   So far we have looked at two sides of the Religious Fundamentalists success in telling "their" story. Fundamentalism, of the right or left, has deep cultural roots. The opposition to Fundamentalism tends to be somewhat elitist, and so lacking in the deeper cultural roots. What the Religious Fundamentalist can do with one Word-Image requires a one hundred page white paper from his Elitist Opponent. 

    Deep cultural roots include (but are not limited to) images like Stock Characters (think Falstaff in Shakespeare; they finally had to hang him to get rid of him), commonly accepted cliches (the Right is moral, the Left is smarter) and traditional alliances (the old time religion; it was good for Paul and Silas, it's good enough for me).

    Assiduous use of cultural rooting enables Religious Fundamentalists to tell your story as their story. The successful politician is the one who makes his audience feel as though their values/interests are his own. He tells their story to them, as though it is his story, as well.

   In Texas baptist life, the maelstrom that began in SBC politics in 1979 presented a simple issue; one side (the Right) believes the Bible, while the other side (the Left) does not believe the Bible. Therefore, anyone who did not side with the Right did not believe the Bible. In this discussion, the Bible became a Stock Character rather than a religious document of historical, philosophical and scientific worth. The moral implications of not being with the Right (the Bible Folks) were vast; abortion on demand would proliferate and homosexuality would overcome (convert) decent, innocent folks (as though these decent, honest folks were both mindless and spineless). The accepted Traditional alliances became paramount. If you did not hold to the old alliances you were not with the Right, and, so, did not believe the Bible, and, so, opened the floodgates of morality to the Liberal, Left-Wing agenda.

   The Right would say, "Bible." Their elitist opponents would sputter, pale visibly, and start to talk, at some length and fatuously, about "baptist distinctives." The Religious Fundamentalists told "their" story better because of their deep cultural roots and because their elitist opponents could never quite condescend to the masses without appearing condescending. The Fundamentalists were a monolith, until they seized paramountcy, at which point they began to fragment over the distribution of spoils. The Elitist Opposition Party never had a cultural message and could not have stayed on it for more than a humming-bird's breath, anyway.

   The illustration above is one from my past. I lived it. It is only one anecdote and it must be taken that way. The Islamic Fundamentalist has his stock characters, his own trite sayings and his own ancient affiliations. What I use, above, is something I observed. It is part of my past, a past from which I am emotionally, spiritually and religiously detached. What goes on with either group is not a concern of mine at any level other than as a public intellectual, so don't invite me to your hunt. I have very moved and left no forwarding address.

   Today, after review, (which I will not do every day during this series), let's look at how to roll back the tide of Religious Fundamentalism.

    Decide the tide must turn. Religious Fundamentalism simply cannot be allowed free rein in religious life. Religious societies can talk about the peaceful path of our religion until we are blue in the face. One IED speaks louder and longer than a thousand sermons on forgiveness. Religious Fundamentalism is the end of religion. 

   Throw money at it. Yes, I know, this is the Liberal, Left-Wing answer for all things, but as long as Religious Fundamentalism attracts money (and with it, power) the thinking Religionists will have to use the chosen weapon of their opponent. Money, time and effort will have to be used in an effort to ask people to pull up from their cultural roots. 

   The late Charlie Wilson got the US Congress to put a ton of money into Afghanistan for weaponry to fight the USSR. He succeeded. What he could not get was money for schools and roads and agriculture after the war. Fifteen years later, we are back in Afghanistan, fighting the old fighters, who got money from someone else.

   If you want to roll back the tide of Religious Fundamentalism, make it inexpensive to go to a less Fundamentalist school. Educate the Fundamentalism out of the next generation. Make them think.

   This will require a thinking leadership. In Texas, in baptist life, you just don't have any such leadership. A middle-class economic revolt (for historical reference, see the Boston Tea Party) is necessary to winnow out the careerists and to call out the sacrificial public servants who are out there somewhere, excluded from leadership and even fellowship by persons who currently lead you down the primrose path to continued decline.

   If anyone is to lead you to pull up deep cultural roots and actually think your way through complex issues, the leader must be someone able to make a compelling argument for change. He/she must be able to articulate how his/her change is not betrayal, much less mere reaction. In short, he/she must have a plan. The Religious Fundamentalists have a plan. They have a story. "They" tell "your" story better than "you" tell it.


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