Normally I try to be as generous, welcoming and irenic as possible. One of my favorite slogans actually comes from my venerable partner Tripp Fuller at Big Tent 1 when he said that the ‘tent’ should be big enough for every former incarnation of our self … but I was never a fundamentalist. I flirted with being one in Bible College but never converted.
This past week I was flying back across the country after visiting my family and I was rummaging through my Ipod to see if anything caught my attention. I stumbled on an old Slavo Zizek lecture. As with all Zizek lectures he wandered through almost every topic under the sun – but two caught my attention: pornography and fundamentalism. I want to try and connect them here.
In a pornographic movie, the dialogue is secondary. It is merely window dressing. Think back to your younger years – before you were a christian. The dialogue is a thinly veiled, contrived scenario to get the actors into the same space. It is little more.
A handyman comes over to a lonely women’s apartment to fix a hole in the wall. She says something about another hole that needs attention.
You get the idea. The dialogue is superfluous to the real intention. It is poorly written and even more poorly delivered. The dialogue is a facade, it is merely intended to set up the main activity. It allows for the suspension of suspicion so that one can enter into the fantasy.
Dialogue performs the same function for Christian Fundamentalists.
Don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying that the verbiage of fundamentalists is insincere or disingenuous. It is not. Fundamentalist believe it with all their heart. What I am saying is that the words in church perform the same function as dialogue in porn. The words that are spoken are secondary to the main activities: nationalism, militarism and capitalism (some would add patriarchy).
When I was in Bible College I used to set my VCR to record TV preachers while I was at school. I loved listening to preachers. I wanted to be one and I modeled myself on the famous ones. I even sent money to folks like Chuck Swindoll so I could get their tapes and listen to them over and over.
The more I read the Bible, however, the more I realized that something was wrong. At my evangelical college we studied the historical context of the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East. We even touched on some Roman legal stuff for the New Testament – while avoiding things like Empire for the most part. [Jesus’ message was spiritual after all, not political.]
I started getting a pit in my stomach when pastors would shoe-horn modern issues between the lines of scripture. It made me nervous when they would draw a direct line from ancient Israel to modern America. My fallout actually came in two parts:
- Step one was simply (but quietly) objecting to the lack of translation or conversion between Old Testament Israel which was a theocracy and America which was democracy … and a pluralistic one at that.
- Step two was the vehement (nearly venomous) push-back I got when broached the subject.
It was in the vicious rebuffs that something grotesque was exposed. The words that were spoken – while important and delivered with conviction – were secondary to the real driving influence and aim. The real engine is nationalism, militarism and capitalism. Those are the real gods of American fundamentalists. The christian verbiage is the fiberglass body. It is important, visible and gets most of the attention but it is not what is driving the machine.
Like dialogue in porn, it is only utilized to get the players into proximity with each other. It is only used to set up the main (real) activity.
Ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Why are voices raised, fists shaken, and teeth gritted when fundamentalists talk about God pouring out love for us in Christ and salvation being found in ‘the way, the truth, and the life’? Why doesn’t the medium match the message?
- Why is there unquestioned support for modern Israel regardless of their atrocities and unjust behaviors?
- Why is it permissible to be so aggressive with people who disagree with you on issues like who is allowed to be married (a civil union) by the state?
The reason that the medium doesn’t match the message is because the real message is not found in the words. Like dialogue in porn, it is only meant to set up the scenario for the real activity. Spend all the time you want on analyzing it or the logic behind it, but it is like capturing fog. It is a temporary holder for the main event. In fundamentalism’s case, that is nationalism, militarism and capitalism. Don’t get distracted by the christian verbiage or the message of Jesus – you will only be frustrated and baffled. No, there is something else driving this machine. Just ask questions, even quietly, and you will hear where the real priorities are.
I know that normally I am not this critical,
but as you will see in the following posts,
we have a real problem on our hands.
Why this matters so much is covered in part 3: It’s a Sign.