When fantasy role-playing replaces faith

When fantasy role-playing replaces faith March 2, 2015

Peter Montgomery of Right Wing Watch shares the latest from “ex-gay” anti-gay apple-tosser Linda Wall, and it is glorious. Wall writes for Matt Barber’s religious right site Barbwire (not to be confused with the softcore Pamela Anderson remake of Casablanca), where she deliriously taps into the zeitgeist of contemporary white evangelical Christianity.

Wall’s recent piece is so over-the-top that if she weren’t already an established character in the religious far-right, I would question the authenticity of this column. It reads like a poe — like a parody that some prankster snuck past the editors of Barbwire in an attempt to ridicule their ideology by cranking it up to 11. But you can’t parody a parody. The strain of evangelical Christianity that Barbwire caters to and embodies is, itself, a crude caricature mocking the revivalist faith that it mutated into a political movement. By showing us that in all of its dazzling ridiculousness, Linda Wall provides a kind of service.

Here’s a taste of her epic handiwork, “Satan and the GLBT Demons (part 1)“:

Ask yourself who would take the Creator’s “rainbow in the sky,” a promise to mankind, copy it and make it the logo for sexual perversion?

Who would counterfeit the holy institution of marriage, one man and one woman, and re-write it to mean men can marry men, and women marry women?

Who would dare challenge God’s creation of male and female and offer the use of chemicals and sex surgery so some can masquerade opposite of their birth sex?

It is none other than Satan himself. His task is to make war with the remnant that keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. He still comes as “an angel of light.” He knows scripture and can add to it and twists it so that the elect would be deceived if that were possible.

This is Westboro-style anti-gay rhetoric, but LGBT people are really just a random variable here. Those first three paragraphs of anti-gay rhetoric can be — and often are — exchanged for an equivalent throat-clearing warm-up involving Satanic baby-killing abortionists, uppity feminists, godless evolutionists, New Age environmentalists, commies, socialists, public school teachers, immigrants, Muslims, papists, Democrats, Episcopalians, Unitarians, welfare queens or dirty hippies. The specifics don’t really matter in this fill-in-the-blank rant.

Whether the purported topic is gays or abortion or whatever, the function of those paragraphs is just to build enough momentum to reach that fourth paragraph:

It is none other than Satan himself. His task is to make war with the remnant that keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. He still comes as “an angel of light.” He knows scripture and can add to it and twists it so that the elect would be deceived if that were possible.

The subject here is not Them, but Us. Everything Wall has to say about the demonic evil of those she condemns is said only to provide contrast that will allow her to portray herself and those who reward her as the most righteous people who ever lived.

This is the core of white evangelical Christianity ca. 2015 — a self-aggrandizing fantasy. The culture warrior faith of the religious right is sometimes criticized for being overly negative. That’s a misconception. All the things it seems obsessively negative about are really of no consequence to them. Their message is actually overwhelmingly positive. It is a steady stream of hyperbolic, unwavering, unquestioning praise and celebration. All of it directed toward themselves and their own pious righteousness.

Just look at what Wall has to say there about Satan. None of it is actually about Satan. It’s about her. Satan is just a pretext for a series of astonishing assertions she makes about herself:

1. She is part of a righteous “remnant that keeps the commandments of God;”

2. Unlike others, she “has the testimony of Jesus Christ;”

3. It is not “possible” for her to be “deceived” about the meaning or interpretation of scripture.

I can’t witness someone singing their own praises that loudly without being reminded of one of my favorite Mencken/Ashman songs — “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast.

But Gaston’s egomania can’t compete with Wall’s. The cartoon villain has to be coaxed into this celebration of himself by his fawning lackeys, while Wall’s self-praise is wholly self-initiated.

So why doesn’t the Barbwire audience recognize the ridiculousness of Wall’s pompous posturing? Why don’t they laugh at her the same way they laugh at Gaston?

Because it’s all first-person plural. Because she includes her audience in her extravagant self-praise. Her self-flattery offers to flatter them as well if they agree to play along.

tumblr_inline_miid22JI1A1qh8y6p“Satan and the GLBT Demons” offers any reader two options. You can stand back and laugh at the audacious self-regard of this wild fantasy. Or you can accept the invitation to play along with the delusion.

The latter choice offers emotional rewards. She’s offering you the chance to be a saint, a martyr, a hero — with none of the risk or sacrifice that such things usually require. She’s inviting you to participate in a fantasy. All you have to do is say yes. Say “Amen.” Accept that she is, in fact, a paragon of virtue and part of the righteous “remnant that keeps the commandments of Christ” and she will, in turn, declare that you, too, are a part of this heroic remnant, uniquely bearing the testimony of Christ, immune to deception, exclusively entitled to say what “scripture” means and to say that it means you are better than everyone else.

But how can such a fantasy be sustained? How can this delusion of superlative righteousness survive in the harsh light of reality?

That takes some effort, and it can’t be done alone. We’ll get to that in the second part of this post.

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