I mostly grew up in the south, and in rural areas at that. Alabama. Texas. And now that I’m a smart-assed liberal in the Pacific Northwest, married to a Yankee woman, I meet a lot of folks who just don’t get how batshit crazy Evangelicals really are, that they really believe that stuff, and that, yes, they’re coming for your rights. Because Jesus!
So, urban people. People who grew up more or less normal, who went to public schools, who maybe acknowledge Christmas and Easter, but who have no problem with dancing, shorts on women, or Harry Potter. Let me try to explain to you why you should worry at least a little about the Evangelical effort to transform America into some version of Gilead.
When I was a kid, the Christian homeschooling thing was not seen as essential. In fact, it wasn’t necessary where I went to school, because they just brought Jesus into the classroom. In fifth grade, the Gideons came to our class and handed out those little red bibles. (We all naturally turned to Revelations, which is the epitome of “God, this acid is so good, let me write this shit down.”)
Before every sports event, the team prayed as one. Then someone prayed over the loudspeaker before the game. Prayer not allowed in schools? Hell, it was fucking mandatory. Refusing to join in would only illustrate to everyone in town that you were SATAN’S SPAWN. Which, of course, I was. But not for the usual reasons.
The usual reasons that most people are going to hell is a long list, but I’ll try to sum up. You’re going to hell if:
- You’re Catholic (that includes “Catholic Lite” Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc.)
- You’re a member of a Christian “cult” (such as Mormons)
- You’re literally anything but an Evangelical
- You do anything that is generally disapproved of in your town, including (for the girls) having sex, wearing too much makeup, wearing too little clothing, reading questionable books (even longer list), having questionable ideas (such as, “evolution is a fact”), thinking for yourself, disrespecting men, disrespecting busybody preachers’ wives, and swearing
Now, I know, you’re thinking, “Wait. There’s no way that a whole town or school system can be completely run by religious interests in America because of ‘separation of church and state.’” Technically, you probably could sue a school board or some such over this and probably win. But then you’d have to move. It’s a Catch-22. Oh, and the local Baptist preacher was a substitute teacher. And a preacher’s wife was the (meanest and most sadistic) basketball coach. She forbade some of us to come to her class when we dressed for “Punk Rock Day.” I personally considered that a victory.
You might be getting the idea that when these folks go around saying that “this is a Christian country,” they really believe that because they LITERALLY DON’T KNOW ANY NONCHRISTIANS. Everything around them reinforces this belief. This isn’t to say that nonchristians don’t exist in Texas. They do. But it’s not obvious.
For example, we had to drive 30 miles to see a movie in the theater. I once dragged my parents to Waco to see “Yentl” for a matinee. Weirdly, the theater was packed. About halfway through, I realized that the entire theater was full of Jewish people. Don’t laugh. I had no idea there was anything like a sizable Jewish community in Waco, Texas. But there they were.
My mother liked to go to church to visit with people. She started dragging me with her to the Baptist church where most of the town went. When new people walk into an Evangelical church, it’s like throwing raw meat to a hungry Doberman. The preacher spots you immediately. The deacons spot you immediately. And they start working on you. How happy they are to see you, how thrilled. They practically pet you in their enthusiasm to reel you in. The deacons will come to your house. The preacher’s wife will be super friendly.
On the second Sunday, the preacher made it obvious that none of us would be allowed out of the building until my mother and I joined the church. Here’s how that goes. The service ends with a hymn. This particular hymn had six stanzas. We sang them all. And then, after “encouraging” folks to come forward, he had everyone sing them again. The only way to put a stop to this nonsense was to give in and go up. So we did.
Once they’ve captured you, little fly, they begin to work on your psyche. Little suggestions. That thing you like to do, well, God probably doesn’t really approve. It would be better if you did this church thing instead. And before you know it, you’ve been sucked into church 24/7 and no longer have a life of your own. But that’s just the new blood. People who were born into this system are either imprisoned for life or manage to escape. And escapees are on their own, let me tell you, because the Evangelical god does not like for you to hang out with disgraced, nonchurchy sinners. If your spouse doesn’t agree with your new church family, it’s better to get rid of the spouse. Or kid. But first, they WILL try to convert them.
By the time I went to college in Austin, Texas, I had escaped. I would no longer go with my mother. I was not a Christian, which of course half the town suspected BECAUSE I WAS CLEARLY A WITCH OR SOMETHING. It had always been there. But I was naive. I dated a Christian guy with a “live-and-let-live” attitude. But that was wrong, because these kinds of Christians cannot “live and let live.” He tried to convert me. Repeatedly. So I ended it.
Around this time, a Christian friend of his named Warren started to date Joanie. She was an only child from Seattle. She had big ambitions: a double major in Russian and Journalism, and then she would live in Russia and do her work. But after dating Warren for awhile, she converted to Christianity (because he expected her to). Eventually, they split, but when I ran into her a year later, she had started to date an even more Evangelical guy. She was talking about marriage and housekeeping and womanly stuff. I asked her about her dream? Russian journalism? She just stared at me with Stepford eyes.
Meanwhile, I had asked Warren why he was ever interested in dating me, a complete nonbeliever. He just shrugged and said, “People can change.” What he meant was, “I could change.” Um, no.
If all of this sounds kind of cult-like, that’s because it is. Church membership means church tithes. It also means controlling the lives of the members. Can you imagine what kind of folks would be attracted to a job like that? I’ll wait.
The brainwashing is bad enough, but understand what they’re brainwashing with. God created you and will gleefully send you to a fiery hell for not following the rules (defined by the preacher). God created the earth in six days. God creates a brand new soul for every homunculus that manages to come together, and if it gets tossed by nature or a healthcare clinic, then that little soul is sent to hell to burn forever. This is a real belief. Also, God intends for the Jews to hold Palestine and Jerusalem so that the apocalypse can occur (Revelations again) and Jesus can return and send all the Jews who won’t convert to hell. Yes, really. (For more fun Evangelical views of the End Times, which they believe is imminent, look for the “Left Behind” series.)
If any of this sounds a little wacko, that’s because it is, but you won’t convince the True Believers of that. So when they say that they believe that a birth-control pill is also consigning little souls to hell, you should understand that they are coming for your birth control. And, women, your jobs. Because you belong at home. Under men (figuratively and literally — I don’t think they explore much outside of the missionary position).
You may think that a “live and let live” philosophy should apply to religion, too, but in the case of Evangelicals, you would be wrong. Your very nonbelieving existence is a threat to their beliefs. It’s not enough for them to reject abortion and birth control, gays, economic and social justice (what wouldn’t Jesus do?), science, and equal rights, but if you don’t also conform, well…they may literally explode. Or something. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t have to make sense. It’s not enough that “God” will send you to hell. Like the good authoritarians they are, they want to ensure that you tow their line.
Just remember that the Evangelical god is like a toxic Evangelical daddy: a tyrant with lots of kids who demands that everyone accommodate his whims, no matter how ridiculous or harmful. Punishment is swift, and you will learn to fear this god.