Amanda Marcotte writes about The Christian right’s obscene, defining hypocrisy.
Whether it’s liberal college professors supposedly turning kids to Marxism or gay people who are accused of recruiting, over and over you hear the claim that the children of conservatives are in serious danger of being talked into everything from voting for Democrats to getting gay-married. …
… I think I know where conservatives get the idea that other people are sneaking around trying to indoctrinate children into unthinking ideologies. It’s because they themselves are totally guilty of it, both in terms of trying to recruit other people’s children and trying to frighten their own children about the dangers of exploring thoughts outside of the ones approved by their own rigid ideologies.
Marcotte provides several examples, from a group operating in Portland pubic parks that entices children with games and then teaches them about Hell, to the growing “home schooling” movement that encourages parents to keep their kids out of public school so they won’t be exposed to any but an extremist, right-wing religious ideology.
You can trace the anti-public school hysteria back to Brown v. Board of Ed. (1954). Before court-ordered school desegregation, even (white) conservative Bible Belt parents thought public school was one of the great things about America, and only those idol-worshiping Papists sent kids to parochial schools. After Brown, however, suddenly public school education was no good.
Parents yanked their kids out of public school and sent them to all-white “Christian academies,” which sprang up suddenly like mushrooms after the rain. The first voucher programs began then, so that tax dollars could follow the white children into their new white schools. But when the private schools also had to desegregate to survive, the home schooling movement was born.
By now, the home schoolers probably don’t consciously associate home schooling with racial segregation. Their “cause” has morphed into a general mistrust of mainstream America.
Karen Armstrong, who writes about religious history and fundamentalist movements around the world, defines fundamentalism in a broad sense as a reaction against and rejection of modern Western society. Fundamentalists, in different ways, all attempt to establish enclaves of pure faith that shut out any other views. Those they come in contact with who aren’t “them” must be assimilated. And in time, if that doesn’t work, they must be eliminated.
There are two chapters in Rethinking Religion dedicated to religious mass movements and religious violence. These chapter propose that the two factors always present in violent mass movements are a holy cause — defending the faith against those they think are its enemies, in this case — combined with a fanatical grievance, or the belief they’re the ones who are the victims. You see this in violent Islam, in the violent Buddhists in Myanmar, and also in mass movements that are not expressly religious. If religion isn’t the “holy cause,” sometimes belief in a glorious national or racial destiny will do nicely as well.
The “Christian Right” in America definitely shows all the symptoms that lead to violence. They are obsessed with the belief they are being persecuted and are surrounded by enemies. A growing subculture of ignorant religious fanatics could prove to be a huge and violent threat eventually. I’m not sure what to do about it, but it’s not healthy.