There is a new thing happening in media and we need to tread smartly as we deal with it. My latest peek at this phenomena comes from this HuffPo piece by Franky Schaeffer. The son of renowned evangelical thinker Francis Schaeffer, Franky (little known but often referred to on this blog, here, here, and here) has been on a crusade for quite sometime now to paint religiously motivated conservatives as somehow having compromised their Christian faith. While I agree that it is possible for political activism to become an idol that blocks our true deep spiritual development, Franky seems to think that if your faith has political ramifications at all you’re somehow compromised – at least if those political ramifications are conservative.
In the latest HuffPo piece he picks up a drum beat that he has used before that now seems to be gaining momentum. Ostensibly he is promoting a documentary, but consider:
As my dad’s sidekick schmoozing with congressmen, famous preachers and even US presidents, I watched and participated during the 1970s and 80s as fundamentalist religion shaped American politics.
Note that term, “fundamentalist.” It is showing up more and more and more in any MSM discussion of religion. The term Evangelical is disappearing rapidly. This is not all bad as that word has been beaten out-of-shape so badly has to no longer have meaning. But “fundamentalist” is no substitute. Modern Evangelicalism largely arose as reasonable response to the hyper-conservative, often unreasonable. rise of Fundamentalism. Modern Evangelicalism arose and came to be the mainstream of Christianity in America, consigning the Fundamentalist to the corner with the crazy uncles where they belonged. But more and more it seems that if you are religious and politically active, you are “Fundamentalist.”
This relabeling has arisen for numerous reasons. Two important one comes to mind. One, Evangelicals are largely spent as a political force – they have not gone away mind you, they just are no longer much of a political movement. (This is a story all to itself and for another time.) Secondly, the rise of terrorism by fundamentalist forces in Islam has created a convenient association between the word “fundamental” and extremism. Attaching such a label to reasonable domestic religious forces recasts them not as political opponent, but as enemy. The net result is that in the mind of the average liberal, religiosity of any sort, because it is all somehow “fundamentalist,” can simply be disregarded.
There was nothing fundamentalist at all about the religiously motivated political action that arose in the 70′s and reached its peak of influence during the Reagan years. It was conservative, but hardly fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is marked by such things as young-earth creationism and a condemnation of virtually all divorce. That is far to the right of the abortion and same-sex marriage opposition of the modern Evangelical. But there is that label being stuck to us.
As we watch the White House compare Republicans to bomb vest wearing terrorists and say they do not have to give anything, we see the game that is afoot. We are being demonized. It is just that simple.
We have to make our stands on the issues known – REPEATEDLY, but you cannot argue with demonization. “You’re a jerk” – “No I’m not” is not much of an argument. We need to do more.
Now, more than ever, we have to be good people of reason. Who we are in our political conduct and in our personal lives is the only thing that can put to the lie the charges being hurled at us. Now, more than ever, our faith has to be evident not just in our words or even in our stances on the issues, but in our bearing, our conduct and our families. Now, more than ever, we have to be the shining city on a hill.