Dumb Evangelicals Are Holding the US Hostage– The Story the Media Won’t tell

The media failed to tell the real story of how we reached the shutdown and brink of default. To get what’s happening to the GOP and, to America, you need to understand the theology of the extremist frankly stupid and misinformed evangelical heartland. We don’t have a political problem. We have an evangelical stupidity problem. The Republican Party has fallen into the grip of an evangelical-led group of religious fundamentalists who are either true believers or who know how to cater to them. Now the experience of the hostage taking these “Christians” did in the shutdown is over, it’s worth figuring out how things got so crazy because they will again– until we admit who and what is at the root of our political dysfunction.

In the late 19th Century a battle began between fundamentalists and liberal Protestant theologians. The battle between those who claimed to believe in the Bible literally and those who wanted to bring historic fact, science and nuance to their faith raged on into the 20th Century. By the mid 20th Century the liberals had won the argument but they lost the popular vote as it were. But for all its popularity fundamentalism was no longer intellectually respectable. So it was rebranded by a core group of image conscious preachers and evangelists as “evangelicalism” to take the edge off the scorn reserved for faith rooted in biblical literalism.

The echoes of the bitter theological battle left the evangelicals feeling embattled and adversarial. Then from the mid 20th Century forward, Billy Graham, and many other evangelicals (including my late evangelist father and religious right founder, Francis Schaeffer) convinced a huge swath of America to convert to born-again faith. While the evangelical camp grew the mainline denominations shrank. The fine print of conversion to a hot literal faith included a directive to not to trust facts (the way those liberals did) but to look for special information which was visible only to the faithful. This way of thinking led inadvertently to an us-or-them view, revealing those with whom you disagree to be not just wrong, but lost, or even willfully evil. When politicians operate from this mindset, the agenda is no longer political. It’s a holy war.

While the Tea Party gets blamed, there tends to be silence about these folks’ religion. But to cover the story of the takeover of the GOP by extremists without delving into the beliefs behind it is inexcusable. I’m not anti-religious. I’ll be in church next Sunday. I’m just against the insanity of literalistic, retributive theology that’s the basis of the bitterness evident in the recent shutdown and near default.

The evangelical subculture has bought into an angry God whom we must placate by being saved through a revivalist born-again formula. This pits the true believer against not just science but any information that comes through nonapproved channels. There are two kinds of facts: theirs and ours. This theology has trained millions of brains to choose between God and truth. The folks that believe in a literal Bible don’t believe in evolution, in global warming, in gay rights or, we now know, even in increasing the debt limit. These are not theological issues per se but the spirit of sectarian warfare is at the heart of the bitter refusals to be swayed by mere facts.

Delusional religion has become delusional politics. The evangelical establishment teaches a literal return of Christ to judge — and kill — the unbelievers. This is extreme stuff, and that spirit of retributive extremism has jumped the tracks into our politics. That is why we are where we are. And it’s a fact that the media, today’s mainline denominations, the more moderate members of both parties and the general population seem to find too embarrassing to address honestly.

When secular pundits wonder why a segment of the population seems hard to convince of basic economic or environmental facts and that segment opts for their own special facts mainlined from talk radio or Fox news or the religious right media, what they miss is that the political, fact-free beliefs are possible only because of the religion that demanded a choice between facts and faith, between science and theology. What they miss is that this is just the latest battle in the liberal fundamentalist confrontation of the early 20th Century carried on by other means.

Where will it all lead? We’ve certainly not heard the last of the Tea Party, or whatever the group of mostly white right wing evangelicals next forms itself into. Expect more self-inflicted chaos.

What can we do about it? The media can start by dropping the idea of some moral equivalency. Wake up pundits: it’s not only OK to call dumb religion stupid it’s necessary to do that for the good of our country. (You could do worse than learn just how nuts these guys are by reading latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality.)

Sure there are extremes on all sides. But one party is not being dominated by people who believe that Noah loaded dinosaurs onto the ark and that the earth is 6000 years young. One party is not dominated by leaders ready to destroy the good name, faith and credit of our country out of theological spite, nor spurred on by false claims that our president isn’t a real American or a Christian.

So let’s tell the truth: a fanatical religious element is dominating our political life these days. Until this hard truth is called what it is and squarely faced, we’ll be stuck with these guys…  and gridlock. Wake up: our evangelical-led right isn’t interested in policy. They are an apocalyptic cult led by the none-too-bright. And they won’t quit. The answer isn’t dialogue but to marginalize the impact of religious delusion. Most Americans are sick of the charade. Political leaders who tell the truth will hear a sigh of relief from their constituents, as will religious leaders who show their congregants another way to approach the mystery of faith besides trying to destroy our government, dismantle our economy, and undermine our sense of decency.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.

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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.

  • bobo65

    It’s really more like smart hustlers that people will pay to tell them they don’t need to mind the teachings of Jesus!

  • JerseyJosie

    True Spirituality! Watch out Frank, one brand might not be so different from the other.

  • Randy Windborne

    About Frank Schaeffer: self-hating liberal retard accelerating the collapse of his own country with every post. Thanks, Frank!

    • sk

      and thank you for your intelligent, graceful, fact filled response. Oh, and your use of abusive terminology says all we need to know about you

      • tz

        It is a sad tendency in our contemporary culture that when one can’t make a rational rebuttal to an argument, that name calling, punning, denigration and character smear are apparently considered legitimate debating tactics. It happens on both sides of the political divide, but seriously, with Mr. Limbaugh starting in the late 80′s and many of the subsequent shrill right wing media following in his foot steps, much of the credit for this current dysfunctional political culture we have, can be given to the Right.
        I remember Mr. Limbaugh say he was doing the Lord’s work.

      • Randy Windborne

        Truth hurts, huh?

    • melissia

      Because everyone who disagrees with you must hate themselves?

      I wonder if I should turn that around back on you.

      Hrm. Ah, I know what to say!

      “Everyone who doesn’t approve of gay marriage is secretly gay themselves and just in denial of it.”

      And I can even provide studies and examples :)

      • Randy Windborne

        No, Melissa. I can’t help it if Frank despises his own faith.

        • melissia

          Except he does not.

          • Randy Windborne

            Merely those wicked, tricksy, evil evangelicals. We hates them forever! GRAAAAGH!!

          • melissia

            You’re being hyperbolic.

          • Randy Windborne

            Hyperbolic? Still better than being gullible, don’t you think?

          • Randy Windborne

            Tell you what, let’s consider an example. Frank thinks it’s dumb to believe the part of Torah where God created all a bit short of 6000 years ago … even though the key to the paradox sits in plain sight – in Beresheet 1 – for any educated reader. Educated in physics, that is. So, is Frank really the smartest person in the room? Are you?

          • melissia

            “Frank thinks it’s dumb to believe the part of Torah where God created all a bit short of 6000 years ago”

            He thinks it’s dumb to interpret it literally. The bible is not the answer to all of life’s problems; it doesn’t mention a lot of things in it, and that’s without even touching new technology and the like. Indeed, the bible itself says “the scripture is dead”, and you shouldn’t seek the law from it.

            “Seek not the law in your scriptures, for the law is life, whereas the scripture is dead. I tell you truly, Moses received not his laws from God in writing, but through the living word. The law is living word of Living God to living prophets for living men. In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the trees, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea; but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might be the everliving word, to teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and your spirit. They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights. They all speak to you that you may understand the tongue and the will of the living God, Jesus answered.”

            Perhaps one might even think to speak the old heresy that science is just the study of the laws of God.

          • Randy Windborne

            Well in the case of creation, you and Frank are simply uneducated or stupid. Or both. The Torah description of creation can easily be quite literal. Frank doesn’t want to believe it and thus disparages those of simple trust who do. Ironic that trust isn’t even necessary – just intelligence.

          • Sven2547

            …for any educated reader. Educated in physics, that is.

            Let’s talk physics. Care to explain your YEC solution to the “starlight problem”? How about isotope dating?

          • Randy Windborne

            Paradox is perception. Shift outside the box and the solution becomes blindingly obvious. Enough hints – now think.

          • Sven2547

            I wasn’t asking for a riddle, I was asking for physics. You seem to be incapable of answering these major questions.

            Acceptance of YEC is a wholesale rejection of most of what physics, biology, and geology have taught us. There is simply no evidence for it, and most of the existing body of scientific knowledge about the past and how the universe works directly refutes it.

          • Randy Windborne

            *sigh* I take it no one has bothered to teach you to think. Your perspective is constricted and thus the idea of t0 = -6000 years appears paradoxical. Appears. Broaden your paradigm and you’ll see the solution.
            I’m not gonna ruin it for you. Think.

          • Sven2547

            I am thinking.
            I think evidence-based science is a useful way to learn about the universe.
            I think that when the universe appears billions of years old, the most sensible explanation is that the universe is billions of years old.
            For a guy with such a condescending attitude about education and “thinking”, you have a stunning lack of answers. Idly hand-waving away the vast body of human scientific knowledge isn’t “thinking”, it’s the absence thereof.

            Repeating over and over that someone isn’t “thinking” is not a substitution for an argument or an explanation.

          • Randy Windborne

            And yet you know you’ve missed something fundamental. Ask yourself this: from whence was this vast body of scientific evidence gathered? From what perspective were these observations made? Now, how would this differ from a creator’s perspective? (pause here for thought) And how do God’s first words recorded in Torah unlock the paradox? If you can’t get there from here, you don’t want to.

          • Sven2547

            Ask yourself this: from whence was this vast body of scientific evidence gathered? From what perspective were these observations made?

            People. Using tested and proven techniques and principles.

            Now, how would this differ from a creator’s perspective? (pause here for thought) And how do God’s first words recorded in Torah unlock the paradox?

            What does this have to do with physics? You were claiming you were “educated in physics”, but now I see you have confused “physics” with “theology”.

            The Starlight Problem isn’t a theological or philosophical problem. It’s mechanical. It’s physical. You can’t talk your way out of it by waxing poetic about “perspective” and scripture, you need to show numbers and mechanics. Next time, don’t go condescendingly claiming you have been “educated” in “physics”, and then flee outright from all scientific conversation.

          • Randy Windborne

            Apparently you have no grasp of the fundamentals of physics. That’s a shame, since you have mentioned starlight repeatedly – which is in fact key. Observed light indicates our universe is, what, something short of 14 billion years old? Light and time are conjoined from our perspective within the timeline. In fact all our observations are constrained by said timeline, yes? Would a creator’s perspective be so constrained? If scripture is accurate in that God sees the end from the beginning, what does that tell us about his point of observation? And what does that reveal about t0, the zero point of creation?

          • Sven2547

            There you go again. You start talking physics, and then you abandon it completely and swing off into philosophy/theology.

            Tell me: which step in the scientific method says “consult scripture and try to look at it from God’s perspective”?

          • Randy Windborne

            The scientific method is limited by the point of observation. Since all observations to date have been made within the timeline, no conclusions can be drawn regarding that which is outside of our timeline – in other words, “perspective” is essential. If God created light, he also necessarily created time (from our perspective). And if the timeline was in fact created by someone outside the timeline, then (1) observations within the timeline are incapable of discerning that fact and (2) the point of creation on the timeline is solely the option of the creator. God could have created the heavens and the earth tomorrow and no observation within the timeline could detect it. But here’s the $64,000 question: why would a creator extend the timeline back 14 billion years?

          • Sven2547

            What you are posing here is an unfalsifiable (and thus unscientific) hypothesis.
            We agree that all the evidence points to an “old” universe.
            Science dictates that this supports the hypothesis (now a theory) of an “old” universe.
            You, in stark contrast, ignore that evidence, making the unjustified claim that an almighty creator recently created an old-looking universe. This is really just Last-Thursdayism.
            If your hypothetical agent (God) gets to ignore the laws of science then that’s fine, but you may no longer claim your hypothesis is scientific. What you are posing here is philosophical, nothing more.

            Think of an hourglass. You walk into a room and see an hourglass running, with about half its sand in the bottom and half in the top, falling slowly.
            The logical conclusion is that this hourglass was turned over a while ago.
            The illogical conclusion is that the hourglass was produced with half its sand in each chamber, and it was only started moments ago.

          • Randy Windborne

            The evidence was all obtained within the timeline and thus says nothing about what may or may not exist outside. If you’re only willing to accept what your in-timeline technology can observe, then you are unwilling to hear God, much less share your life with him. It’s your choice – just be aware that it’s a choice.

          • Sven2547

            Yes, science is limited by what’s testable and verifiable. You claim that this doesn’t account for things “outside the timeline” (whatever the heck that means) which is utterly untestable and unverifiable.

            Once again you’re spouting philosophy, not science. You can choose to reject science if you want, but then don’t go claiming that you are thinking scientifically. You’re not.

          • Randy Windborne

            Science is a tool useful within its limitations. I respect the methodology, but recognize the limits. Scripture indicates God makes direct contact across the boundaries. If he has not spoken to you, I’m sure he has his reasons.

          • Sven2547

            Earlier you said

            Frank thinks it’s dumb to believe the part of Torah where God created all a bit short of 6000 years ago … even though the key to the paradox sits in plain sight – in Beresheet 1 – for any educated reader. Educated in physics, that is.

            Now you finally seem to be conceding that your scripture-based claims have nothing whatsoever to do with physics or physics education. Good. Don’t make that silly claim again, please.

          • Randy Windborne

            I’m sorry you are uneducated and incapable of rational thought.

          • Sven2547

            Now you’ve shifted from theology to insult-flinging. Sorry, still no physics present in your commentary.

          • Randy Windborne

            Until God reaches across the boundary of eternity to you, you’ll be limited to what you can observe and verify.

          • Sven2547

            …you’ll be limited to what you can observe and verify

            Yup. That’s science. It gets results. Science is the difference between credulity and incredulity. Vague claims of invisible, undetectable forces puts you in the same category as homeopaths, Feng Shui practitioners, and $20-an-hour psychics.

          • Randy Windborne

            OK. Either God has not revealed himself to you or you have chosen to reject him. I leave you to your wisdom … and your ignorance.

          • Randy Windborne

            BTW, I’m quite certain Frank would agree with you. Knowing and walking with Messiah is all about trust. And clearly, neither you nor Frank are willing to trust. I cannot help you.

    • jcinco

      eff off, rube.

      • Randy Windborne

        And bless you too, jcinco!

    • Oswald Carnes

      About Randy Windborne: an anti-American scumbag whose brain was damaged by a huge scab on its way into the world.

      • Randy Windborne

        And yet still clever enough to manipulate libtards to do his bidding. Thanks, Ozzy.

        • Oswald Carnes

          Hope you’re in heaven soon! Don’t forget to take that clumsy slut with you!

          • Randy Windborne

            Actually I’ve decided to stay, Ozzy. But if you have the balls to challenge that decision feel free to try.

          • Oswald Carnes

            Sure! Just step on my property and you’ll get to find out my feelings about the 2nd amendment.

          • Randy Windborne

            Shakin’ in my boots.

  • http://www.createsuccessseminars.com/ weshopper

    Kind of interesting to see a guy that won’t accept facts call YOU a retard, Frank! As a former fundy, I’m cheering you on. And you’re quite correct – when you indoctrinate people to label facts they don’t like as ‘from the devil’ they won’t just do it with doctrine, they’ll do it with everything. The right-wing preachers put a ring in their noses and march them around. Too bad.

    • zola98

      This RC loves you Frank, you speak to the truth and educate and inform us about what’s really going on with these pseudo christians.

      You mentioned they believe in a retributive God but my Bible talks about the compassion of God the Father, yes He can and does get angry and will smite the evil doers down, but overall He’s a loving, patient, compassionate God who sent his beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ to teach us the ways of God and righteousness and who sacrificied Himself on the Cross for our redemption and salvation.
      I pray for these people as I know they have been led astray through their ignorance and gullibility. We do need to confront them with the truth and facts. Let them explain themselves.

      Btw, I do hope and pray their ideology and beliefs don’t catch on in Canada.

      • 1smartcanerican™

        you might want to keep an eye on Harper and his cronies :)

        • zola98

          I know, I’m hoping and praying he gets his ass kicked in 2015. I still can’t believe anyone with an ounce of intelligence voted for him, but then the same eejits voted for Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto. There’s just no understanding some people.

          • mapleleaflover

            You need to read Marci MacDonald’s “The Armageddon Factor” to learn how these dreadful evangelicals have already infiltrated the Conservative Party and the PMO.

          • zola98

            Holy crap, seriously. I know there are a few in his party but not to the extent you state. Will make a note of the author, Thanks. Guess that’s what Harper means when he says ‘by the time he’s finished, we won’t recognize Canada.’ ???

            I’m just reminded to the Wild Rose Party in Alberta and that some of the candidates were pushing for anti abortion laws etc., which cost them the election? Heard Harper was really disappointed.

  • Minus25

    I don’t understand any of it. My family has been Atheist for 4 generations and even my family member that signed the declaration was Agnostic.

    • Nelson

      LOTS of the founders were not remotely religious in the sense of the nut cases of today. Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were appalled by organized religion. Many were deists, who believed in a god of some sort, but not Christians

  • Tony R.

    Claptrap. The United States wasn’t anywhere near default and the shutdown happened because Barack Obama and Harry Reid, who aren’t members of the GOP (gasp!!) dug in their heels and absolutely refused to deal with the GOP unless Obamacare was 100% funded, thereby holding the federal government and America hostage and subverting the separation of powers specified in the U.S. Constitution. If the House of Representatives decides it doesn’t want to fund some aspect of the government, they are completely within their Constitutional authority to do so. You can read about it in Article I, Section 7, Clause 1.

    If you could get a news story as simple as this so screwed up, Frank, can we trust you with even small things, like getting your shoelaces correctly tied?

    • sk

      talk about delusional

    • melissia

      “The United States wasn’t anywhere near default”

      It was EXTREMELY close to it.

    • tz

      Dug in their heels? Yup, finally, after 5 years of trying to reach out and compromise only to get back stabbed by the GOP.
      You do realize the ACA was funded whether or not the shut down happened?
      Care to get back on topic and address the subject of this essay, that would be the Fundamentalist right wing influences within the GOP?

    • jcinco

      you appear to be a member of the proudly ignorant, now go send sarah your milk money, k?

    • Sven2547

      because Barack Obama and Harry Reid… dug in their heels and absolutely refused to deal with the GOP

      You use that word, “deal”, but you have absolutely no idea what it means. The GOP wasn’t offering a deal. In fact, the GOP were not offering any concessions whatsoever. It was a one-sided list of unreasonable demands.

  • tim barone

    well this is painting with broad… messy… strokes… might a little “nuance” be called for in your thinking as well as your faith?

    • melissia

      But the thing is, the author is pointing out that fundamentalists, be they Christians or Muslims or anything else, do not like nuance, because that means that you disagree with them, and that makes you evil.

  • melissia

    This reminds me of people who talk about how a government shutdown is a great thing, then in the same breath whine about how the government shut down is killing their town, without ever seeming to be able to connect those two things. It happens all throughout Texas as an example, even up to our state government, which “proudly” rejects money that would be used to help children and the needy because “OBAMA!”, then complaining about having to raise taxes in order to pay for things.

  • R.T. Flakfizer

    I miss Francis. I wonder what he’d think watching his son turn into a the sort of prophet that “all men speak well of.”

  • gkmtn

    am curious as to your choice of language: Dumb. Stupid. In another life, I
    was an amateur educator re destructive cultism and the 1st big lesson I
    learned was the followers are taught that the devil will try to take them
    down through the people who — fill in the blanks/tell them they are stupid,
    tell them they are brainwashed ~ whatever — and as soon as they hear
    “others” say exactly what the leaders told them they would say it
    re-enforces the power of the leaders because they appear to be all-knowing
    and truthful. Of course, as you know, it is a bit more complicated than
    that but the point is if we do what the leader ays we will then we just help
    the leader win… Many people are good people who are used and abused by
    those desiring power via “religion” and I’m not sure proving their
    abusers right is the way to go. I will say to them you are misinformed but I
    will not say you are stupid. (Most of the time, anyway, I’ll never be
    perfect!) Can you take a minute to share your thinking on the pros and cons
    of that?

  • Bruce Backus

    No Pastor is perfect, however, they do deliver the word they Jesus is our salvation. Billy Graham is an honorable man and his ministry should not be judged.

    • Averyfoto

      Billy Graham is a complete and total fruitcake. The world would be a much better place without close minded psychopaths like him and obviously you. You idiots would rather destroy the world while believing your special than to admit your wrong and let society progress scientifically. American christians are no different than Islamic extremists and there is nothing honorable about any of you.

  • Marcia Everett

    Heard you on Ring of FIre Radio You were awesome. You should contact the Atheist Community of Austin and appear on the Atheist Experience show. Their audience would appreciate this latest story.

    • frankschaeffer

      Thank you Marcia! How about you contact them and make the suggestion? Best, Frank

  • In the eye of the beer holder

    So let me get this straight. General sinfulness of mankind is not sufficient in accounting for the problems of a country. We must single out specific groups as extra special sinful to better target the blame. I See . . . . It’s been tried before.

  • crystalwolf

    Thank you Frank for this. What is your opin on What Pope Francis said? He basically called the Tea Party a cult? Thank you.

  • Debra Hunter

    What is Jesus delivering us from? They say he is a “Savior” what is he delivering us from?