The idea that Barack Obama is the Antichrist (which I blogged about before) is one of those “crank” notions that apparently refuses to die. According to Public Policy Polling, nearly 1/3 of New Jersey Republicans believe Obama could be — or truly is — the Antichrist. Rachel Maddow recently had Frank Schaeffer — the evangelical preacher and former Religious Right activist — on her show to discuss this. I have rarely seen anyone express the problem of Christian fundamentalism any more concisely than Shaeffer does here. He posits that these folks constitute an American subculture of their own, complete with its own customs and suppositions (transcript courtesy of Alternet; a Youtube video of this is below):
But I think the larger point this brings up is that the mainstream—not just media, but culture—doesn‘t sufficiently take stock of the fact that within our culture, we have a subculture which is literally a fifth column of insanity, that is bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, whatever, to reject facts as a matter of faith. And so, this substitute for authentic historic Christianity …
Stunning, yet true … Christian fundamentalists do — in fact — utterly reject all facts that even appear to have the possibility of refuting their beliefs. They do not care what it is, they just refuse to accept it — reflexively and without hesitation. They view “facts” as impediments to belief … hurdles they must jump on the road of faith, if you will, or tests of faith thrown in front of them (by God or by Satan).
But Schaeffer doesn’t just leave it at that, he continues, explaining things even better:
And when you see a bunch of people going around thinking that our president is the anti-Christ, you have to draw one of two conclusions. Either these are racists looking for any excuse to level the next accusation or they‘re beyond crazy? And I think beyond crazy is a better explanation.
And that evangelical subculture has rotted the brain of the United States of America and we have a big slice of our population waiting for Jesus to come back. They look forward to Armageddon. Good news is bad news to them.
When we talk about the “Left Behind” series of books that I talk about in my book “Crazy for God,” what we‘re talking about is a group of people that are resentful because they‘ve been left behind by modernity, by science, by education, by art, by literature. The rest of us are getting on with our lives. These people are standing on the hilltop waiting for the end.
And this is a dangerous group of people to have as neighbors, and they‘re our national neighbors. And this is the source of all of these insanities that we see leveled at the president. One way or another they go back to this little evangelical subculture. It‘s a disaster. …
There is no end to this stuff. Why? Because this subculture has as its fundamentalist faith that they distrust facts per se. They believe in a younger of 6,000 years old with dinosaurs cavorting with human beings. They think that whether it‘s economic news or news from the Middle East, it all has to do with the end of time and Christ returns. This is la-la land.
And the Republican Party is totally enthralled to this subculture to the extent that there is no Republican Party. There is a fundamentalist subculture which has become a cult. It‘s fed red meat by the pawns like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other people who are just not terribly bright themselves and they are talking to even stupider people. That‘s where we‘re at. That‘s where all of this is coming from.
Schaeffer has a little advice for the Republican party, too:
And until we move past these people—and let me add as a former lifelong Republican—until the Republican leadership has the guts to stand up and say it would better—it would be better not to have a Republican Party than have a party that caters to the village idiot, there‘s going to be no end in sight. …
Look, in the year 2000 I worked for John McCain, to try to get him elected in the primaries instead of George Bush. But John McCain sold out by nominating Sarah Palin who comes directly from the heart of this movement and carries with her all that baggage. So, he sold out. I don‘t see anybody on the Republican side of things these days who has the moral standing to provide real leadership, or who will risk their position to do so.
I agree with Schaeffer on this … unfortunately there are no serious, credible, competent Republican leaders capable of seizing the reins of the party and casting off the fundamentalist subculture. At the moment, this “lunatic fringe” of furious and often armed wing-nuts is their sole source of political power (since they no longer hold the White House, Congress, or a majority of state houses or governorships). The GOP does not believe it can afford to jettison them. Of course, if they did, they would widen their appeal immensely among the 75% or so of the US which is not enslaved to religious fundamentalism … and in so doing they might acquire political power they currently don’t have. But, to their own and the country’s detriment, they staunchly refuse to take “the leap of faith” required to find out.
Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog.
Lastly, here is Maddow’s interview of Schaeffer, courtesy of Youtube: