With all the controversy over Obama’s minister Rev. Wright
dominating mainstream media, some astute political observers are wondering why
John McCain’s big time buddy John Hagee of San Antonio isn’t receiving the same
breathless coverage. After all, Hagee made a name for himself in D.C.
by promoting Christian Zionism, a wacked-out religious ideology that promotes
an extreme form of Zionism, that Hagee and others belive is necessary to bring
the End Times they think the Bible prophesies. Luckily, some people are beginning to dig,
including the current Rolling Stone gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi, who
went undercover in Hagee’s church, pretending to be a new convert.
The article is a must-read, and not just because Taibbi, in desperation, concocts a story about being raised by an alcoholic clown in order
to survive gender-segregated group meetings with his cover intact. For those unaware how far gone Christian
fundamentalism has gone now that it’s become a branch of the right wing
revolution, this article will be a splash of cold water to the face. For instance, speaking in tongues, once the art
of a select few believers, has become a mandatory part of worship at Hagee’s
church. So is undergoing demon explusions, in which people fling themselves violently to the
floor, play-acting at expelling demons inside that cause
everything from homosexual longings to cancer to anal fissures.
But what struck me as most relevant for the purposes of
reproductive rights activists–who no doubt will immediately read the
Taibbi article, since the parishioners he infiltrates are our opposition–is the pathetic
masculinity issues that permeate the worship. The broken souls that gravitate to Hagee’s
church and many like them (who then hit the streets as anti-choice, anti-sexual health protestors who pressure the government to institute abstinence-only education and to
ban same-sex marriage) aren’t drawn by the promise of salvation as
promised in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You can get that at your staid, regular-sized (as opposed to mega) church
down the street, the church that mostly stays out of politics. The allure of modern fundamentalist
Christianity, on the other hand, is salvation through stratified gender roles. Jesus Christ won’t just save your soul, but
make your erections just that much more erect.
One of the implicit promises of the
church is that following its program will restore to you your vigor, confidence
and assertiveness, effecting, among other things, a marked and obvious physical
transformation from crippled lost soul to hearty vessel of God. That’s one of
the reasons that it’s so important for the pastors to look healthy, lusty and
lustrous – they’re appearing as the "after" photo in the ongoing
advertisement for the church wellness cure.
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In these Southern churches there
are few wizened old sages such as one might find among Catholic bishops or
Russian startsi. Here your church leader is an athlete, a business dynamo, a champion
eater with a bull’s belly, outwardly a tireless heterosexual…
It certainly explains why the modern fundamentalist church
treats abortion and birth control–never once mentioned in the Bible–and
homosexuality (mentioned in the rules-heavy parts of the Bible that also
condemn cutting your hair and eating cheeseburgers, parts that Jesus explicitly
denied had relevance for the modern believer) like the most grievous sins and
threats to humanity imaginable.
The vicious cycle goes something like this: Otherwise
hard-working men find that you just can’t stretch a dollar like you used to. They
feel emasculated, especially in comparison to their fathers, who often had two cars, a mortgage, and a housewife on the
salary of just one worker. While the
correct solution is to demand a return to the liberal economic policies of the
mid-twentieth century that created that prosperity, this solution
overwhelms. But here’s your local
megachurch fundamentalists offering an easy solution to feel like the man you
thought you could be. You can’t afford
to be a breadwinner, but you can hang onto straight male privilege! Every woman deprived of her reproductive
rights, every gay person deprived of the right to marry suddenly makes you look
so much stronger, so much more manly
in comparison. You’ve got a boot on your
neck, but as long as you apply yours to someone else’s, you aren’t the
bottom of the heap.
Of course for women that won’t work, but there’s another story just for them. It’s the story of a time when women lived free of financial worry or
the stress of ambition, living gleeful lives of low-stress industrious
housewifery with complete dedication to familial subservience creating sheer bliss. Reproductive rights are then
a dangerous drug, access to fleeting pleasure that will deprive women of
real, stable happiness from male-dependent security. Never mind that even June Cleaver only had
two children. Perhaps those who achieve
true housewife bliss finally overcome sexual desire? Becoming a true woman is like being a Level 8
Scientologist perhaps; the goal on the horizon seems far off, but you continue
to strive because you’ve heard there are superhuman powers at the end of the
Easy answers permeate this church, as is evidenced by the
belief that nearly every ill imaginable is the result of demons lurking under
the skin, left there by generational curses put on you by parental and
grandparental sin. Open your mouth and
vomit out your demons and all your problems will go away. No wonder then it’s easy to believe that all
gays have to do is just pray the gay away or that women with unplanned
pregnancies are just delusional if they think their circumstances come with
real world problems. Just vomit out your
demons! It’s easy; you don’t need an
abortion. Vomit out the demon of no
health insurance or vomit out the demon of not wanting to be a mother at 15.
The only demon you can’t vomit out, it seems, is the demon that makes the
pregnancy persist against your will. In
this much, we all agree, it will require a doctor’s intervention to expunge
the undesired condition.