Frank Schaeffer Exposes Fundamentalist Christianity on The Rachel Maddow Show

Last night, my TV was on but I wasn’t really paying attention… all of a sudden, I heard some of the harshest criticism of fundamentalist Christianity I’ve ever heard on network television. I stopped doing my work and started watching. I’m pretty sure my mouth was gaped open the whole time.

It was amazing to hear anyone say these things — even better that it came from someone who used to be a fundie himself.

Frank Schaeffer was the man speaking on The Rachel Maddow Show. He’s the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.

Video is below:

And a transcript:

Schaeffer: … The mainstream not just media but culture doesn’t sufficiently take stock of the fact that within our culture we have a sub-culture, which is literally a fifth column of insanity, that is bred from birth through home-school, Christian school, evangelical college, whatever, to reject facts as a matter of faith.

And so this substitute for authentic historic Christianity, and I may add as a little caveat here, I’m a church-going Christian, really brings up the question:

Can Christianity be rescued from Christians?

And that’s an open question and when you see a bunch of people going around thinking that our president is the anti-Christ, you have to draw one of two conclusions: either these are racists looking for any excuse to level the next accusation, or they’re beyond crazy, and I think beyond crazy is a better explanation.

And that evangelical subculture has rotted the brain of the United States of America.

We have a big slice of our population waiting for Jesus to come back, they look forward to Armageddon, good news is bad news to them.

When we talk about the Left Behind series of books that I talk about in my book Crazy for God, what we’re really talking about is a group of people who are resentful because they know they’ve been left behind by modernity, by science, by education, by art, by literature.

The rest of us our getting on with our lives; these people are standing on a hilltop waiting for the end. And this is a dangerous group of people to have as neighbors and they’re our national neighbors and this is the source of all these insanities that we see leveled at the president.

One way or another they go back to this little evangelical subculture… it’s a disaster.

Maddow: … How do you work to move people off of that position? It doesn’t seem like facts are relevant in trying to move people away from these beliefs.

Schaeffer: You don’t work to move them off this position. You move past them.

Look, a village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot. It’s as simple as that, and we have to understand: we have a village idiot in this country. It’s called fundamentalist Christianity.

And, until we move past these people, and let me add as a former life-long Republican, until the Republican leadership has the guts to stand up and say it would be better not to have a Republican party than to have a party that caters to the village idiot, uh, there’s gonna be no end in sight.

The next thing they’ll do is accuse Obama of being the anti-Christ and then who knows what comes next? On and on it goes.

There is no end to this stuff. Why? Because this subculture has as it’s fundamentalist faith, that they distrust facts per se.

They believe in a young earth, six-thousand-years-old, with dinosaurs cavorting with human beings. They think that whether it’s economic news or news from the Middle East, it all has to do with the end of time and Christ’s return.

This is la-la land, and the Republican part is totally enthralled to this subculture, to the extent that there is no Republican Party.

There is a fundamentalist subculture which has become a cult. It’s fed red meat by buffoons like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other people who are just not terribly bright themselves, and they are talking to even stupider people. That’s where we’re at. That’s where all this is coming from, and it’s becoming circular, it’s becoming a joke, unfortunately a dangerous joke, because once in a while one of these loony-tunes as we see, brings guns to public meetings. Who knows what they do next?

It’s a serious thing we all have to face, but the Democrats and sane Americans just have to move past these people, say ‘go wait on the hilltop for the end, the rest of us are going to get on with rebuilding our country.’

Maddow: … Is there anybody on the right who could be constructive here if they wanted to be? To the extent that people could be moved off of these conspiracy theories? I understand your point that it’s true that not all of them could be, but is there anybody who could be influential to try and stop the impact of these conspiracies?

Schaeffer: Look, in the year 2000 I worked for John McCain to try to get him elected in the primaries instead of George Bush, but John McCain sold out by nominating… Sarah Palin who comes directly from the heart of this movement and carries with her all that baggage, so he sold out.

I don’t see anybody on the Republican Side of things these days who has the moral standing to provide real leadership or who will risk their position to do so.

Wow.

Kudos to Rachel for bring people like Schaeffer and Jeff Sharlet on her show, to call out the worst of Christianity for what it is: A collection of lies, believed by the most gullible among us — people who show an unwillingness to accept reality even when it’s right in front of them.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The only thing Republican politicians love more than God is getting re-elected. As soon as secular thinking gets majority status again, they will drop God-talk and hopefully return to the way the Republican party was back in the 1950′s and earlier.

    All things considered, I like Ike.

  • Tony

    My favourite line of this tirade was

    Look, a village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot. It’s as simple as that, and we have to understand: we have a village idiot in this country. It’s called fundamentalist Christianity.

    That is Tshirt worthy.

  • eL_sTiKo

    All gold. Bravo to them both for being honest on air.

  • Hector

    It was an awesome segment…completely. I watched it last night and had the same experience as Hemant.

    Definitely Tony, those sentences were golden and belong on a shirt.

  • Colin

    I missed last night’s show, but I saw him on Rachel’s show about a month ago. He makes for a fantastic guest!

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  • The Rebel Teapot

    Thank you so much for posting a transcript.

  • Laura Lou

    Rachel is just amazing like that. I watched it live and I love it when she has Schaeffer on her show.

  • Neon Genesis

    You can download the episode for free from the Rachel Maddow podcast on iTunes if anyone missed it.

  • Edmond

    The sad thing is that the whole WORLD is like this, not just our country. Whether you’re crazy for God, or crazy for Allah, or crazy for Krishna, you’re still just crazy. Can we few sane ones move human society past the village idiot majority?

  • CrankyMama

    I think I’m in love!

    The village idiot comments had me laughing out loud…love it!

  • cathy

    “that they distrust facts per se.” I don’t like this common notion that it is the distrust or doubt that is the problem, the real problem is that they do not distrust or doubt enough. A really distrustful person would turn a skeptical eye on the major unsubstantiated claims. We should welcome distrust and doubt, what we should fight is the blatant refusal to analyze or apply those doubts to other areas.

    As to the village idiot quote, consider how this sounds in respect to seeking accomodation for the disabled. “We can’t reorient the village for the idiot.” ‘We can’t reorient the school/government office/public space for the mentally disabled, wheelchair users, the blind, etc. The fundamentalists are not ‘idiots’ in the sense of mental disability, and they are not ‘crazy’ in the sense of mental illness. I do not like coopting terms used to describe disabled people for use as insults against a group of intentionally ignorant a-holes.

    “you have to draw one of two conclusions: either these are racists looking for any excuse to level the next accusation, or they’re beyond crazy, and I think beyond crazy is a better explanation.” I’ve already adressed the use of crazy, but my point with this is why do racism and irrationality have to be mutually exclusive? They are intentionally ignorant and irration AND big old racists. I think those two things are not so disconnected at all.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Cathy, as a former member of the Village Idiots club, I cannot help but disagree.

    They distrust the very IDEA of facts, and our ability to judge them. They think that human reason is their enemy, and is not to be trusted. They don’t WANT to be skeptical – they want to accept what their magic book says and consider everything else “the enemy”.

    And yes, many of them ARE idiots and/or crazy. The difference between accommodating fundies and accommodating the disabled is that accommodating the disabled does not cause a clear and present danger to the country.

  • billybee

    As I watched it last night, I thought that he was reading my mind.. or I was dreaming…it was awesome.

  • Jay

    That was awesome.

  • AxeGrrl

    Tony wrote:

    My favourite line of this tirade was

    Look, a village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot. It’s as simple as that, and we have to understand: we have a village idiot in this country. It’s called fundamentalist Christianity.

    That is Tshirt worthy.

    I was thinking precisely the same thing!

    (about the ‘village idiot’ bit being bumper-sticker or t-shirt worthy:)

  • AxeGrrl

    Edmond wrote:

    The sad thing is that the whole WORLD is like this, not just our country.

    I understand what you’re trying to say, but no, the ‘whole world’ isn’t ‘like this’.

    Look more closely at the various stats on all the industrialized nations and you’ll find that the U.S. has a much bigger ‘village idiot’ problem (meaning fundamentalist religion) than all of the rest.

    But hey, at least you have Turkey! (one of the few nations that is more distrustful of the Theory of Evolution than the U.S.)

  • AxeGrrl

    Cathy wrote:

    As to the village idiot quote, consider how this sounds in respect to seeking accomodation for the disabled. “We can’t reorient the village for the idiot.” ‘We can’t reorient the school/government office/public space for the mentally disabled, wheelchair users, the blind, etc. The fundamentalists are not ‘idiots’ in the sense of mental disability, and they are not ‘crazy’ in the sense of mental illness. I do not like coopting terms used to describe disabled people for use as insults against a group of intentionally ignorant a-holes.

    I have one question…..

    Why are you assuming that words like ‘crazy’ are (most usually) associated with disabled people? When I hear words like ‘idiot’ and/or ‘crazy’, I most certainly DON’T think of disabled people first.

    If I were a disabled person, I’d be insulted, frankly.

  • Laura Lou

    MikeTheInfidel said:

    They don’t WANT to be skeptical – they want to accept what their magic book says and consider everything else “the enemy”.

    I think this is best described by Right-wing authoritarianism. They don’t want to fact-check. They don’t want to consider opposing views. They want the truth to be handed to them. They want simple views of right and wrong. They want someone (an authority) to take care of them. Christianity cradles them like this.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    To Cathy

    Note that calling someone crazy isn’t necessarily an insult to real mad people. Belief in a fundamentalist world IS actually crazy.

    Crazy doesn’t have to be the result of brain damage, traumatic events, etc. It can be the result of brain washing too.

    We should always try and use the words we mean rather than use hyperbole. But i genuinely believe that the word crazy is both accurate and appropriate for fundamentalist belief.
    Ignorant is also appropriate and accurate. These people do not know or understand the world they refuse to believe in, and as others have mentioned, this is an active choice for them.

    I saw this clip on Crooks and Liars and it really hit home to me how unusual it was to see this maddest comdemned as what it really is. Go Rachel and and Go Frank!

  • Carlie

    Thank you for the transcript – it’s a lot easier for me to read than to sit through video. I’m glad he said it, and I hope others start having the courage to call a village idiot a village idiot.

    I had to laugh, though, at his use of the phrase “Democrats and sane people”, as if they were distinctly different groups.

  • Revyloution

    This guy confuses me more than the loony fundies. How does someone accept that the life of Jesus was reality, not a fairy tale (He said he was a christian at the beginning of the clip) but then discount huge parts of the only book that has the only record of his existence?

    I imagine he is on a slow path to atheism, that will probably get derailed when he gets a terminal disease. I just don’t understand how people can be so rational about the what the bible claims, then turn around and still call themselves Christians.

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  • Oberon

    I just don’t understand how people can be so rational about the what the bible claims, then turn around and still call themselves Christians.

    Oh well, I like Mickey Mouse but that doesn’t mean I think mice wear red shorts and white gloves.

  • http://www.rose-rosetree.com/blog Rose Rosetree

    Beautifully put, Hermant!

    What I do for a living is to use deeper perception to hold a magnifying glass up to life (and make hypocrites accountable).

    I, too, was open-mouthed when watching this show. In fact, I may have been drooling, it was so incredibly refreshing to hear words like these on a big TV show.

    I’m opening up a contest for doing Aura Readings of three Fundamentalist Republicans. You’re cordially invited to enter. (You’ll find info at today’s post, September 18.)

    And whether you Friendly Atheists believe in the idea of Aura Reading or not, know that I stand with you in complete solidarity about the dangerous cult called “Fundamentalist Christianity.”

  • Jeffrey

    @Revyloution, I was thinking almost exactly the same thing. I loved most of what Schaeffer had to say, but I was bothered that he had to add the caveat “I’m a church-going Christian”. Is he trying to say that it’s okay if you’re a believer just a little bit, but if you’re a believer a whole lot then you’re crazy?

  • http://innerlight-radiantlife.blogspot.com/ Paul Oakley

    Amen!

  • CatBallou

    I do think Schaeffer’s mentioning his status as a Christian was useful, because—whether we like it or not—it gives him credibility with an enormous part of the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the reason Obama embraced Christianity before he entered public life. And for many people, being Christian (or Muslim, Buddhist, etc.) is just the default status that connects them to their communities. I’m not dismayed when reasonable people fail to become atheists!
    As for Cathy’s comment that fundamentalists aren’t distrusting or doubting enough, I think she’s overlooking the crucial word “facts.” We don’t want them to increase their doubts about reality!

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Rose, I think we would be more convinced of the idea of aura reading if there were any consistency at all in the results.

  • Jeffrey

    Unfortunately, being a Christian, is NOT “just” the default status that connects their communities. Being a Christian says certain truths about themselves. If they’re Christians, if that’s what they’re going to call themselves, then it says that they believe in the Christian beliefs. That MUST include a belief that Christ WILL eventually return. It means a belief in the rapture, Revelations, all that. It will also mean a belief in an actual Anti-Christ. You can’t just say “oh, well, the bible is true and everything, but the people who say Obama is the Anti-Christ, they’re crazy!” Because SOMEBODY has to be the Anti-Christ, right? Why not Obama? What basis do you have to say that you BELIEVE in the rhetoric of the bible, you BELIEVE there will be an Anti-Christ, but anyone who believes it is our current president is nuts?

    I loved 99% of what I heard in this video, but this one point has always buggged me about religion, and Christianity specifically. Besides having no 2 religions that agree on any whole universal truth, you won’t find any 2 DENOMINATIONS within the SAME religion agreeing on it. You could lock 2 Christians from the same church in a room, and eventually they will be fighting over whose interpretation is right.

    Schaeffer has the right idea about crazy religious believers, of course, but if he’s going to call himself a Christian, then he’s still in the same club as they are. He just thinks he’s sitting at the cool kid’s table.

  • DSimon

    I tend to agree with Cathy on this. This use of the word “crazy” is insulting and stigmatising to people with mental illness, similarly to how derogatorily calling something “gay” even without any direct reference to homosexuality is still insulting and stigmatising towards gay people.

  • Hector

    I think in a way, some people who are very critical of fundamentalists but remain Christians, do so almost nominally. I believe it is so that they have some sort of ‘credibility’ and get other Christians to read or listen to what they have to say.

    I think if he had said “I am an atheist” in that interview— all the Christians would be like “Ah shit, I knew it” but because he said he is a Christian (and I’d say on Dawkin’s scale a 3) he had some sort of clout still.

    Cathy and DSimon… “crazy” can be insulting indeed but I don’t think most people say “crazy” to mean “mentally ill” anymore.

    Even so… some would contend that “Crazy for God” in the context of fundamentalism would equate to a mental illness.

    Interesting link below for a recently published document.

    http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/andrew-newberg/how-god-changes-your-brain/_/R-400000000000000134594

    “Fundamentalism, in and of itself, is benign and can be personally beneficial, but the anger and prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
    - Intense prayer and meditation permanently change numerous structures and functions in the brain-altering your values and the way you perceive reality.”

  • Jeffrey

    I just didn’t get the impression that he cared about having clout. He reiterated numerous times that “You don’t work to move them off this position. You move past them.” He said that he felt that no one was in a position to be constructive or influential, I presume he was also including himself among those no-ones.

  • Alec

    I hate to, but I will admit it. I used to part of this insane sub-culture. I was very conservative, and very Christian. I would say that I was a fundie, but actually, I had no idea what a fundie was. I really knew next to nothing about religion, but I “knew” that God existed. I really didn’t even pay attention to other religions, or really any contradictory evidence for that matter. I was in a way a Creationist, but again, I didn’t know what that was. I was raised a Republican, and a Christian, but I did eventually develop an interest in science. Once I realized that there were conflicting ideas, I thought about, and abandoned both views. But during the election, I fully supported Sarah Palin, I thought that Obama might be the anti-Christ, I “knew” that he was a Muslim, was a terrorist and was born Kenya. Oh yeah, I watched Fox News all the time. I supported the 2012 doomsday hypothesis, believed that Jesus was coming again, and all that psuedoscientific bullshit.

    I guess something clicked, maybe my prefrontal cortex developed, because now I’m a full-blown skeptic, a fiscally Centrist, culturally Liberal, Agnostic Atheist and proud of it.

  • Kristi in kc

    Too many of these Fundies, who lead mundane repressed lives, have had The Left Behind series as their only source of entertainment. And since they are GUARANTEED to come out on the winning end of the ‘end times battle game’, they are hoping for nothing more that to get to be a part of it in this lifetime. What a shame that they are actually hoping . . .no, actively attempting to bring about a major global disaster. That way they get to participate!
    - Ah, the village idiot.

  • Matt D

    @ DSimon and Cathy

    what adjectives would you use? whats wrong with “crazy”? It’s a perfectly valid use of the word. I’m no shrink, but i doubt “crazy” is in any of the pysch texts.

    what other adjectives are off limits? should we stop describing things as “ancient” or “old” because octegenarians may be offended?

    that’s just C-R-A-Z-Y

  • Ed V.

    Reading the posts here, I think one could conclude that most of the participants agree that religious fundamentalists are crazy. I don’t agree–Chrisitian fundamentalists are, in the main, not crazy and all would be well advised not to brush off into a pile with a crazy label. Many fundamentalists are in fact quite intelligent and they have an agenda that they believe in and towards which they are willing to ignore much of what is truth. But that makes them ignorant, not crazy.

    Most of them are dug in on abortion issues and same-sex marriages. Those are the stakes that hold the line in the sand. If any persons are not in line with their thinking on those two issues, then it doesn’t matter what else they stand for, how intelligent they are, how strong their abilities to lead are and on and on. They too watch Fox News as “the only broadcast news with the truth.” Fundamentalists and even some some Christians who are not traditional fundamentalists, are willing to accept and repeat as truth most anything that want to use in discrediting the opposition.

    I highly disagree with the post that stated that the United States was the only country with religious fundamentalist problems. If that is accepted by the poster, then how does one explain the ruthless brutality in the name of Allah in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, parts of Indonesia and several other countries to some degree.

    The last election and the months since that election, have given rise to ridiculous behavior on the part of conservatives of a radical nature, whether they are Christian or not. They are polarizing like the formation of a black hole. This is a dangerous time and all would be well advised to take the radical conservatives very seriously, and not limit the extreme to fundamental Christians.

    But, I could be wrong!!

  • Margie

    I was wondering if anyone has heard of people losing their jobs after being asked if they were Christian in predominantly fundamentalist Christian communities? Of course the official reason they’re let go is something made up, with the question asked behind closed doors with no proof. That happened to me. I used to be a fundamentalist Christian. Repetition and mind control techniques are used to get them to believe in crazy sounding things, starting with something very close to truth and so slowly moving them to obviously outlandish concepts that they don’t recognize them as such. They would have known it was out there like everyone else if the outlandish concept was what they heard first. I also like that a Christian is addressing the danger. That seems to be the best way to deal with it.


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