Monday, October 27, 2008

The Politics of Fear

Ever since issuing its "88 Reasons For '88" enumerating all the reasons why Jesus would return 20 years ago, I, along with all thinking Americans, have let out a loud "Ssshhh!!!" whenever evangelicalism has its collective ear to the ground. Like with E.F. Hutton, when the evangelical movement talks, people should listen.

To hear the latest prognostications, we need look no further than Focus on the Family's "Letter From 2012 in Obama's America." If the Illinois senator is elected, we are told, we have the following events to look forward to: (1) The Boy Scouts will disband rather than being forced to let gay scout masters sleep in the same tents with young boys; (2) Not only "government schools" but private Christian schools will be forced to teach homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle; (3) In 2011 there will cease to be any Protestant or Catholic adoption agencies in the U.S. because they will refuse to place children in homosexual homes; (4) In 2009 Obama will force the military to recruit gays; (5) Public schools will be forced to disallow praying during, before, or after school; (6) Schools will be forced to stop allowing churches to use their facilities; (7) In 2011 all FCC restrictions will be lifted allowing pornography to be shown on all TV channels at every hour of the day; (8) In May of 2010 Al-Qaeda will recapture Iraq because of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country; (9) Beginning in 2009 terrorists will detonate bombs in two small and two large U.S. cities, due in part to President Obama stopping the wiretapping of our phone lines; and (10) Nationalized health care will result in long lines for surgery and no access to hospitals for people over 80.
So there you have it, America: Vote Obama and, to tweak Pedro Sanchez's campaign slogan, "all your wildest nightmares will come true."

My point is not to contest the likelihood, the goodness, or the badness of any of these predictions. My only observation concerns just how frantic and nervous American evangelicals become when threatened with a diminishment of their power.

Employing such scare tactics may indeed rally the troops, we'll have to wait and see. But more serious than what these tactics communicate to the faithful is the message they send to the world, namely, that Christians are so in love with and invested in earth that we will not sit passively by and accept such a demonic agenda as one that offers free health care for everyone and tarnishes the nobility of all of our wars by letting openly gay soldiers fight in them.

But ask our faithful culture warriors what "justification" means, and prepare for glossed-over eyes and a blank stare....