Thursday, April 9, 2009

Growing Out of the Religious Right

I have had to seriously re-evaluate my thinking over the last several years. It has not been a pleasant experience. Forced to consider new avenues of thought; a new fard of ideas; setting aside long-held structures that have shown themselves to be fallible & down-right wrong; all these have meant a new paradigm of core belief.

Not new revelation but definitely progressive, I think. While it shouldn't have taken me by surprise, it did shake me a bit.

When I turned 40, my world changed. Things I disliked became almost a craving --- bleu cheese dressing, for example. Things I used to tolerate were now a scourge to my palate, e.g., Southern Gospel Music. Note that I don't think Southern Gospel Music is the worst thing to ever happen to Baptist churches (unlike one seminary professor, of whom I still chuckle when I hear him in my mind railing the near-heresy in many of the lyrics). Not at all. Rather I simply don't enjoy the genre & think that it appealed to a now twilight generation, no longer relevant to the modern culture. Many Southern Gospel churches that used to be stalwarts are seriously declining, while the contemporary style churches are growing. If you compared the theme of the sermons, they would not be that divergent, but the mode of worship is very different.

My first inkling that something was amiss in my Darkened State was when I first agreed with one of my college professors that the Founding Fathers were more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Apostle Paul. No way anyone can read the Founding Fathers & believe the Bible was the most influential source in the our nation's founding --- unless one is intentionally misrepresenting history like David Barton. (Anyone who thinks that guy is in any way honest in his presentation of "history" either has a political agenda & truth doesn't matter, or really show their complete & utter ignorance of fact. Barton flat out lies.) For a Neo Con Republican Southern Baptist in GA to agree with his professor on this was anathema. I should have known I was being corrupted by all this education.

The Dark Side got dinged again while in seminary & I was studying early Baptist history. When I realized that the Puritans set up the same sort of discriminatory theocracy they had escaped in England, I made the mistake of asking the professor about this --- & I did it in class, in front of God & everybody. The professor nodded & said "Yes, that is exactly what they did & it is why we Baptists hold so dearly to the separation of church & state." You could have heard a pin drop in the class. The prof might as well have had horns, a tail & had a pitchfork in his hand --- that is how the class looked at him. But you should have seen the light bulb go off over my head. It began to click for me.

As time went on I saw more things that didn't add up. The hypocrisy of the religious right high profile leaders, e.g., Swaggart & Bakker, didn't put a chink in my Conservative armor since they were Charismatic anyway. Then came Newt Gingrinch & his Contract with America, followed by news of his philanderings. Finally I thought we had mastered the political world with George W. Bush. But then came the increased spending to the highest deficit ever --- & the GOP didn't have the same uproar as when Democrats do the same thing --- followed by the erosion of Constitutional guarantees of privacy, speech & religious liberty. The Patriot Act replaces liberty principles with a Big Brother Safety Blanket. The Office of Faith Based Initiatives takes tax payer money & gives it to religious groups --- of a certain theological bent, I might add --- to proselytize under the facade of offering good deeds to the community. The use of Executive Orders to bypass the Constitutional system of law making became vogue. Privacy was replaced by safety precautions.

One day it dawned on me that my faith was being played as a political tool by people who wanted nothing but power.

My local state representative was shafting the people of GA with higher taxes, while claiming to give tax breaks & having an affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist.

I started listening to NPR & getting a whole different perspective on the news, information easily verified & that directly contradicts the populist rhetoric.

Then I started traveling & saw that in other parts of the world, there are better ways than the American system of doing things. The US of A is not automatically the best because we are America. There are other ideas that have more merit but we tend to be, well, arrogant.

Moving to a new way of thinking about faith, politics & just life in general has not been easy. It has, however, made me realize that it is better to be intellectually honest than to be a pawn for the power hungry.


Rod in Rabun Gap said...

I just found your blog, on Ralph Reed's list that he follows on his Ga. Mountains blog. I find you r thinking very provacative. I, too, have gone through a transformation in the last 15 or so years, not in my faith, but in where I put my faith. I used to think that if you couldn't trust the clergy, you couldn't trust anyone, but it seems that the leaders of my religion have become pawns themselves, not of a great and loving God, but of a secular movement that uses our faith and trust and fears to promote a Godless and completely misleading agenda.

That Baptist Ain't Right said...

Thanks, Rod! I checked out your blogs & left a comment. I do appreciate the good words. Whatever we want to call it, the unholy union of faith & politics =always= means genuine spirituality gets played by the Powers of This World. Thankfully my faith is stronger than ever; it is my distrust of politicians who wear their faith on their sleeve, & the religious leaders who meddle into politics whom I do not trust.

Check in often. Good to get to know you a bit.