It’s easy enough to dismiss evangelical Christians as paranoid and hysterical – take Harold Camping of Family Radio Worldwide who has made the news for his Bible-based calculations that the world will end May 21, 2011. Or one could easily think of them as a smarmy but harmless expression of all-American hucksterism, ranging from the scandal-plagued donation grubbing of Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, and other television ministries and the bizarre perversity known as “Prosperity Gospel” to the bland positive-thinking ministries, such as Rick Warren’s, whose theology seems to owe more to Dale Carnegie than Christianity. One might be able to shrug off the residue of queasy feeling induced by proto-totalitarian movements that occasionally spring out of the movement, such as the Promise Keepers or Quiverfull, to note that lately evangelicals in many areas of the movement have moved away from social conservatism and begun to work for more appropriately Christian endeavors such as a return to social justice or the growing conviction that stewardship of creation entails an environmentalist, or at least conservationalist, activism.
Great! But how about evangelical Christian desires for mass graves and brutal despotism? The New York Times is reporting that it was in fact leaders of the American evangelical movement who were directly behind the recent Ugandan efforts to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death, potentially setting off a witch-hunt and bloodbath.
Over the past few decades, opposition to homosexuality, alongside the fight against abortion, has emerged as one of evangelicals’ core political agendas. In their paranoid view, homosexuality is a monolithic and cohesive conspiracy with an “agenda” that conspires to undermine Christian culture, although nothing anywhere points to where or how gays might undermine any straight Christian’s moral resolve (except, of course, by revealing the hypocrisy of much of the evangelical leadership when scandal erupts). This hysterical view of homosexuality is deeply tied with evangelical anxieties about their inability to achieve cultural or political hegemony, and as a desire for that hegemony is generally expressed in explicit theological rhetoric, opposition to homosexuality has begun to acquire the theological implications of a violent crusade against evil. Did anyone think exporting virulent ant-gay rhetoric to a society where notions of privacy and tolerance are not as paramount as they are in ours would have any result other than calls for executions and brutal repression?
The Times reports that these leaders are now backpedaling their involvement last March in the conference on homosexuality in Uganda which produced the legislation, given the attention that the episode has received lately in the press. But the fact remains that nationally recognized evangelical leaders worked with Ugandans in crafting the legislation, one bragging shortly afterward that their efforts that month were to create “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”
Evangelicals are actively involved in exporting the murder of people they stigmatize as unholy out of our country, where these murders cannot be carried out, to countries where they can, with the explicit intent of terrorizing people here and everywhere.
Yes, evangelical Christianity is a complex, multifaceted movement, and its adherents shouldn’t be idly condemned. Close examinations of their daily lives, thoughts, and concerns will likely reveal decent, concerned, ethical people dealing with many of the same problems and issues the rest of us struggle with. And toleration of others’ religious conviction and conscience is laudable, even when their beliefs verge on the ridiculous or vile. Yet toleration need not mean silence and acceptance. Evangelical Christians, like Catholics, should now be questioning their affiliation, given their close separation from mass murder and brutal despotism. If they aren’t, the rest of us should be helping them. Knowing what we know, we should ask, why would anyone want to associate with this movement?