Post-Shutdown the Evangelical Movement Is Going to Die Faster Than Ever — GOOD!– Now Actual Christianity Might Have a Chance to Flourish

The 2 weeks of shutdown madness has accelerated evangelical movement’s devolution by 10 years or more. The shutdown is to the evangelical establishment what that fabled 4-hour erection is to Viagra users.

I predict that the unwinding of the loony literalistic evangelical “Bible-believing” movement, made respectable by people like Billy Graham and Christianity Today magazine, just took a quantum leap. American evangelicals are looking into a grim future where they’re both loathed and feared. They are already losing their young people in droves. I mean, who wants to be led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Franklin Graham?

Sometimes everything changes instantly: 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, rock-n’-roll, the discovery that women like sex too provided a new shared awareness when there was a definite before and after change in perception. Pre-WW II Germany was where you went to study medicine, music and culture. Post-1945, there were no good Germans. Even Bach couldn’t save their reputation. Pre 9/11 we were invulnerable. Post-9/11 America was a paranoid surveillance state scared of its own shadow filled with people busy taking off our shoes for TSA agents.

Post the evangelical-Tea-Party led shutdown, (Yes, the Tea Party and evangelical movements are more or less one and the same) there will be few serious people who want to associate with the people who share the theology of the raving morons who brought us to the shutdown anarchic brink.

The heart of the matter – the religious delusions that led to political delusions that have been near fatal — is what I explore, expose, mock and I pray, will help destroy — in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” My book is a work of dark humor (by a writer who used to be an inmate in the evangelical asylum). But the funny has just gone out of the movement I take aim at. My book is funny, but the make-believe world I expose in all its insane glory just crashed into our reality and no one is laughing.

It’s one thing for a Bible-thumper to hand you a tract. It’s another thing for that same delusional person to hijack the value of your home and IRA. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the Republicans have done to the respectability of the evangelical establishment that has backed the “family values” folks what the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did to the “respectability” of social racism. Post-killing you might still have been a southern fried bigot but at least on business trips up north, you cooled it with your stock-in-trade racist jokes, at least in polite company.

So it is that the sort of people who used to think that working for some respectable evangelical outfit like Christianity Today magazine or Wheaton College or even a do-good feed the hungry-type NGO gave their literalistic theology cover will have to recalculate.

What’s looming now for the evangelicals is the realization that their cover is blown. They theologically affirm what is just one more version of fundamentalist Christianity– minus actual snake-handling. They may say “we’re not like Ted Cruz” and sniff at the Tea Party, but they’ll tell you, if pushed, that they believe in the “Rapture” and that gay people choose that “lifestyle.” They’ll tell you that the Bible is inerrant. In other words they can put on a tweed jacket and get a theology degree, but they’re still living in the thrall of very stupid ideas. And now we all know that living in make-believe land in one area of life leads to delusional behavior in other areas. In other words we all know that it’s not a coincidence that deluded religionists just led us to the brink. Their crazy faith made for crazy politics.

Like the Koch brothers, who’s doom is now irreversible in the history books, post-shutdown, so too will the respectable evangelicals have a hard time passing themselves off as normal or even morally decent responsible people. Tough to do with all those pictures of Ted Cruz being cheered by your cousin, your pastor and your denomination burned into the public mind. Tough to do when your friends discover that you believe in a myth-based reality where Jesus walked on water and so did Sarah Palin.

What Joe McCarthy did for anti-communism’s good name, Ted Cruz (not to mention his raving preacher daddy) and company just did for everyone that calls themselves conservative let alone evangelical. The accelerated evangelical discrediting means that evangelicals will:

  • Lose their young people at a faster pace
  • Have lost face for good
  • Have become a feared and pitied weird minority on a par with survivalist and bigamist communities as far as national respect goes
  • Will be the kiss of death for any serious political leader (Chris Christie stayed away from the “Values” gabfest this weak).

I guess the lesson is this: live in your own walled-off echo chamber long enough and you’ll start to believe your own nonsense. It started with belief in the Bible as “true in all it affirms,” despite science, “inerrant,” despite just about everything, and “prophetic” in spite of the fact Jesus never came back… and won’t.

Crazy was okay, for a while, but then morphed into stuff sane people could test like, “Global warming isn’t real!” “Obama isn’t American!” “Being born gay is unnatural!” “There’s no need to raise the debt limit!” “Who needs an economy when Jesus is coming back?!”

One other thing: With evangelicalism out of the way — thank you Jesus! –  Christianity actually may flourish for the first time in American history. And to know what I think that inner spiritual flourishing might look like, you’ll have to read  And God Said, “Billy!” Hint: There’s more truth found in the least experience of ancient liturgical mysticism, love and mercy than in the entire commercialized politicized fake spiritual world of big time religion…. but that another story. Or as I put it in the book: “My final word to you is this Billy: If there is a Creator — and that is a big if — perhaps He, She or It embodies love. I believe that the source of love must be outside of our cold mechanical universe.”

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of And God Said, “Billy!” on Kindle and NOOK for $3.99 and in paperback too.

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • Dr. GS Hurd

    I think that you are an optimist, Frank. Failure will make the evangelicals all the more determined. They will embrace the idea of the “chosen few” all the firmer.

    • frankschaeffer

      Dr. Hurd, you make a good point. And thanks for reading my post. But even though they will ever be with us, like the poor, or in this case a bad lunch… the evangelical reputation as “mainstream” players is shot. They will fade with the Tea Party… Watch the young people now, give it a few years, and see what role evangelicals are playing… it will be at the margins I think. Best, F

      • Dr. GS Hurd

        Best wishes, and I hope you are correct. I just read

        Daly, John Patrick
        2002 “When Slavery was Called Freedom: Evangelicalism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War” University of Kentucky Press.

        Coupled with your “Crazy for God” and any recent books on the religious right by Hedges, Blumenthal, Phillips or Sharlet makes me dubious.

        PS: Heh heh, I have had “bad lunch” that wasn’t with me more than an hour or so…

        • Dr. Dumas Turd

          A Dr. of ANTHROPOLOGY!! Talk about a useless degree!! This explains his stupid self righteous misinformed statements!!

          The most useless degree imaginable. A PhD in Education is more useful. What a twat!!

          Do not listen to this joker, he is a bitter old man that thinks he knows WAY more then he actually does.

          All he does it make generalized misinformed guesses at what he “thinks.”

          Let’s all tell this retard to take his fake degree and shove it, along with his “know it all” worthless attitude!!!!!!!

          • tracy two crows

            If you’re going to troll,at least make an effort at not repeating yourself.The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.It’s apparent you need a back clasping crisp, white jacket and Thorazine cookies instead of a keyboard.Do get some help.

      • Richard Kent Matthews

        There were some early heretical movements in Xtianity that lasted a couple hundred years or so and died away. This fanatical Rapture movement is only less than two hundred. So, you may well be right about the imminent demise. It takes young people to invigorate a movement; the young Fundies are less and less every year. And the internet just may be the Second Coming they all needed. As a former Evangelical myself, I understand the determination. But it’s based in fear. And it’s two greatest enemies, even more than Obama and people of color, are the Vatican and Islam.

        • Dr. GS Hurd

          I don’t follow your argument. Islam and the Vatican are joined as the two greatest enemies of evangelical Christians? And these are worse than “Obama and people of color?”

          If I read this in the “simple, plain language way” like a good biblical literalist, it means you are a stinking racist bigot. I am sure that I must be mistaken. Did you mean that US evangelicals are stinking racist bigots?

          Could you perhaps clarify what you are really thinking?

          Additionally, I don’t deny that there is a considerable overlap between the “rapture ready” lunatics and evangelicals, but that is still not an identical match. The Dominionists, AKA Christian Reconstructionists, are every bit as insane, and a lot more politically dangerous. And, then there are the even more violent Christian Identity neo-facsists to consider.

          • cynthia curran

            Many of the Christian Identity are becoming neo-pagan. Woden is there new God, Christian Identity is for the old and many dislike evangelicals and are Radical Catholics and some Eastern Orthodox that think Putin is the greatest guy. In the Alternative Right there is a debate between Christianity and Paganism, younger types are going pagan of the Thor power types.

          • Dr. GS Hurd

            The Nazis ran through a very similar progression. You might find some interesting reading in;

            Bergen,Doris L.
            1996 “Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich” (University of N. Carolina Press)

            Heschel, Susannah
            2008 “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany” Princeton University Press

          • tracy two crows

            Thank you for posting these links.As someone raised in the dominionist evangelical movement(and ran as far and fast away as possible) I always have maintained they are Hitler’s dream come alive.I see I wasn’t too far off.

  • Dave Woodruff

    Thank you Frank for your no-holds-barred analysis. However, I do take issue with the words of your fictional character. The universe is by no means a cold machine as is evidenced by our own existence and doubtless millions of other life-sustaining worlds. Sometimes I think that the only purpose for maintaining a belief in a supreme being is to make us feel special.

    • Dr. GS Hurd

      Since nearly the entire universe is deadly to Earth’s living things, I’ll credit that it is a “cold” universe. As gravity, and nuclear physics can account for the atomic elements and their properties, I’ll credit that it is a mechanical universe.

      Recent advances in neurochemistry seem to make “love” a biochemical reaction to the environment. But as some point we do question reductionism, and ask if there is something to the process that allows for “epiphenomena,” AKA that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This can be a hazardous path, see:

      Harrington, Anne
      1996 “Re-Enchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler” Princeton University Press

      • Dr. Dumas Turd

        A Dr. of ANTHROPOLOGY!! Talk about a useless degree!! This explains his stupid self righteous misinformed statements!!

        The most useless degree imaginable. A PhD in Education is more useful. What a twat!!

        Do not listen to this joker, he is a bitter old man that thinks he knows WAY more then he actually does.

        All he does it make generalized misinformed guesses at what he “thinks.”

        Let’s all tell this retard to take his fake degree and shove it, along with his “know it all” worthless attitude!!

        • Dr. GS Hurd

          This obnoxious burr has been spamming any discussion I have entered from Disqus.

        • english_teacher

          Other than insults and unsubstantiated statements, perhaps you can be specific in a civil way as to why you have this opinion of Dr. Hurd. I do have my doubts that you can present a case. Plus, based on your ranting comments, I’d have to say that you’re the one who is coming off as bitter, misinformed, and worthless here, rather than the doctor.

  • Paul Bruggink

    Frank Schaeffer,
    On what basis do you conclude the following: “Yes, the Tea Party and evangelical movements are more or less one and the same”?

    • vinceNYC

      I agree with….the evangelical movement i i’m a christian in name only and the tea party is a milder version of the kkk….

  • Donovan Moore

    A lot of people never got it that Billy went to Bob Jones University. That is like being in the Nazi party. Geez.

  • jondrake

    Frank, do you think the Resurrection of Jesus was made up or faked?

  • Carl Wilton

    I hope you’re right in your assessment of the future of Ted Cruz and his fundamentalist cronies, but your use of the word “evangelical” is extremely careless. Don’t forget, both Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo call themselves evangelicals. And yes, Billy Graham went to Bob Jones University, but changed considerably in his theology over the years, to the point that he spoke out vigorously in favor of unilateral nuclear disarmament (to the consternation of some of his evangelical fellow-travelers, who by then were lining up with Jerry Falwell & Co. – although, sadly, his son Franklin displays little of his old man’s late-career generosity of spirit). In Europe, “evangelical” is a term broadly used to describe what we would call “mainline Protestant.” Maybe a label like “rapture fundamentalists” would work better for you – reflecting the fact that it’s not just a very conservative view of biblical authority that’s the issue, but also enthusiastic endorsement of the “Left Behind” misinterpretation of the book of Revelation.

    • tracy two crows

      I just call them what they are,The Christian Taliban. They are terrorists,plain and simple,following Rushdoonys Plan for Fascist theocracy to the letter. I was raised in that insanity and what few family I have left are arse deep in it,and it has destroyed my family completely.Anyone who wonders how Hitler got so many folks to do such terrible things needs to look NO further than this Movement.It isn’t Godwin when it’s correct.Their agenda fits perfectly over Hitler’s like a glove.And they can’t be exposed fast enough,our nation depends on it,and so does mine,and others actual literal safety.It isn’t safe here in The South right now if you aren’t one of them.My 42 death&rape threats,the vandalism of my car and home since moving here a year ago prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.The only reason they aren’t Stoning and beheading yet is because we still have them hamstrung legally,which is why they work so hard to eradicate Separation of Church and State.Time to arrest them for Sedition and Treason like we would any other terrorist cell.