Some topics are extremely uncomfortable to discuss, especially when they force us to confront the fact that some of the people we live with in America harbor views that are, to put it bluntly, grotesque. But it’s time we confront some of these views and place them firmly at the center of our national discourse. If we ignore them, or minimize them, or pretend they don’t exist, they will persist and possibly metastasize.
It has been clear since the Presidency of George W. Bush that a sizable number of Evangelical Christians in America harbor extremely literal interpretations of biblical scripture, and anyone who has been keeping track of them knows that they put the Bible before our own Constitution, which is, to be blunt, an essentially un-American stance. The American experiment requires–yes, requires–that all citizens subordinate their religious views to a defining document that controls our collective culture, the Constitution.
We have to be clear and firm that anyone who would put their religious text above the Constitution is going against the spirit of America and is a threat to our Republic. Many have casually referred to Christian fundamentalists as “American Taliban”, but this is not joke nor hyperbole. Christians who put the Bible ahead of the Constitution are in every meaningful way on the same road as the Taliban. They haven’t turned to violence YET but clearly this is only because they will, for the time being, pay too great a price–not because their morality prevents violence.
With the election of Trump, the fundamentalists see an ally and are emboldened. They’ve exposed the fact that they have no morality, they have no principles–they only want to hang onto privilege and power no matter what the cost. Their white, patriarchal fantasy will not die quietly. They will do whatever they can to hold on, whether it means gerrymandering or changing rules or rigging elections or defrauding or cheating. They don’t care that Trump is the most immoral, dishonest, graceless, angry, petty, foul man to occupy the Oval Office in our history–just as long as he keeps them at the social helm. And to do this, it will require less and less Democracy, and more and more Authoritarianism.
This point was elucidated well in a provocative editorial in the New York Times three days ago by Katherine Stewart, and is worth a read:
Organized religion is shrinking in America, and perhaps that’s why its members have been so vocal and organized in recent years. They’re scared. And a cornered animal is a dangerous animal. We have to keep a watchful eye on religious fundamentalists who don’t really give a damn about the Constitution–except when it serves their purposes–and would toss it aside in a heartbeat to install their own religious dictatorship.
We have to ask this question in the public square:
Do you put the Constitution first, or do you put a religious text first?
Anyone who does not put the Constitution first must be described accurately as someone against the spirit of our nation. Tolerance is important, and goes a long way, but there is only one thing we can’t tolerate, and that’s intolerance. And there is no better example of intolerance than religious fundamentalists, who allow only one way to life. The Taliban and ISIS are urgent examples of where fundamentalism leads if unchecked.
So this is not a drill. This is a crucial issue that must be discussed in the light of day, in the public square, no matter whose feelings get hurt.