Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Christian Jihadis, American Taliban and the Christian Right: For Jason Pitzl-Waters

Over at The Wild Hunt, Jason Pitzl-Waters has produced a fascinating and well-documented series of posts on Christian Dominionism.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the expression, it is a blanket term used to describe a number of militant right-wing strains of Christianity.  Speaking of one of the most prominent of these, Christian Reconstructionism, Frederick Clarkson says:
Generally, Reconstructionism seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of "Biblical Law." Reconstructionism would eliminate not only democracy but many of its manifestations, such as labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools. Women would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment beyond such crimes as kidnapping, rape, and murder to include, among other things, blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality.
As you can imagine, the Dominionists are quite popular among those Neopagans who are most committed to identifying as persecuted victims .   If you've ever dreamed of being a heroic crusader against Voldemort and the Death Eaters Evil Christians, the Dominionists can provide you with a never-ending fapfest of fun: nothing says you're a real Witch like people seeking to burn you at the stake. It's tempting to write both groups off as a delusional dumbshits put on this planet to entertain each other.  Tempting, that is, except for the distressing fact that a number of influential people - including Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann - actually take them seriously.

And so, to my Burning Times obsessed readers,  I offer this challenge in the face of the Dominionist threat: grow the fuck up and learn the difference between reality and a role-playing game.  (I'd add "shave your neckbeard and get those cheap Chinese resin statues off your altar" but let's take things one step at a time).  What follows are some pointers to that end.

All Dominionists identify as Christians, but not all Christians identify as Dominionists.  In fact, most hard-core Dominionists consider mainstream Christian denominations to be mere empty shells, bereft of the Holy Spirit.  (Unless, of course, they're active servants of Satan like the Roman Catholics and Mormons... ).    Your average Neopagan has more in common with a "Poinsettias and Easter Lilies" churchgoer than either has with a devout Dominionist.  Tarring all Christians with the "intolerant Fundie" brush isn't just unfair.  It alienates many potential allies who have nothing to gain and everything to lose from a Dominionist rise to power.  

In my original response to Jason's post, I questioned how useful words like "American Taliban" and "Christian Jihadi" are in understanding Dominionism.  There are Christian organizations which I would consider to be terrorist or at least sympathetic to terrorism.  The anti-abortion Army of God comes to mind immediately: so too does Christian Identity and other groups which have combined Christian imagery with white supremacist philosophies.  But in the end "Taliban" is the "Nazi" of the post-Godwin's Law world.  It's a facile analogy intended to score quick emotional points in a discussion, and one which rarely sheds any kind of light on extremist religious movements Islamic or otherwise.

Criticize behavior.  Make sure that everyone knows Reverend X or Candidate Y advocate the execution of homosexuals or believe the First Amendment only applies to Christians.   But do so in a sober and respectful fashion: there's no need to bang on the table when the facts are most assuredly on our side.  Most Americans have serious problems with many of the tenets of Dominionism -- and that includes devout Christians like Hal (The Late Great Planet Earth) Lindsey.  Getting sucked into name-calling and mud-slinging exchanges will only serve to distract from the damning evidence and thereby further their cause.

I noted many responses from Pagans who stated they had experienced harassment and violence from Christians in their small, typically southern, towns.  At the risk of sounding insensitive (not that this has ever stopped me before), I might ask, "So why did you go public with your religion anyway?" Christians  believe they need to spread the Good News to the nations and see persecution as a fate to be sought: I haven't found similar behavior in any pre-Christian faith.  If you want to fulfill the classical Christian roles of evangelist and martyr, why not stay Christian? If nothing else, it would improve relations with your neighbors.

(All snarkiness aside, I can think of many good reasons for standing up against intolerance or for an unpopular but righteous cause.  If you choose to go public with your religion despite potential risks, you should do so for one or more of those reasons.  You should also understand the potential consequences of that action and believe the potential reward to yourself or to others outweighs the cost.  The Gods love  heroes who are willing to suffer and die for a good cause: they're less keen on ego-driven self-immolation or juvenile attention-seeking behavior).