Right there at the top of the Top Ten, those Commandments Fundies want to carve into monuments, paint on walls in school cafeterias, and use as a substitute for American law (but don't actually intend to follow), are these:
* You shall have no other gods before me.
* You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven or on earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.
Simplified, that second one means don't create idols or false gods and worship them. White proceeds to list and describe the idols that Fundies worship.
God as Idol
This god isn't the god of the bible. Yeah, this god is created by stringing together unrelated biblical verses, but it was created to justify prejudices. And it is the same god that approved of the Inquisition, the Crusades, the war against Native Americans, and slavery, and opposed women's rights.
But this doesn't describe the God of the bible – the whole bible. All of the bible points to Jesus. Jesus summarized the Top Ten into two Great Commandments:
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.White responds to those gathered at Glen Eyrie, the retreat that presented the battle plan against us:
Wasn't it plain to them that this ancient holiness passage from Leviticus [the one that calls for homosexuals to be put to death] that they were using as a law to support their prejudice was trumped, invalidated, annulled, quashed, overthrown by the two great commandments? Had they learned nothing about how God views the "untouchables" from the example of Jesus, who embraced the "untouchable" leper; who praised the "untouchable" bleeding woman; who drank from the bucket of the "untouchable" Samaritan whore; who dined with the "untouchable" Jews who collected taxes for Rome; who let the "untouchable" prostitute pour expensive perfume on his feet and dry them with her hair; and who healed the "untouchable" homosexual companion of the "untouchable" Roman centurion?The lesser god, the one who supports Fundie prejudices, is an idol. He who worships a lesser god violates the Top Ten and the Two Great commandments.
Bible as Idol
Fundies speak of an inerrant bible, one that was essentially dictated by God. This is bibliolatry, defined as "having an excessive reverence for the letter of the Bible" The Fundie says: God said it. I believe it. That settles it. No questions. No discussions. No possible change of mind or heart.
But... The commandments of Jesus contradict those of Moses. Who wins? The bible is the story of God and those who encounter him. It wasn't supposed to be a guide to biology, geology, or astronomy. What about the Spirit of Truth who has been speaking through "Copernicus, Galileo, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Bach, Handel, Newton, Darwin, Kepler, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pasteur, Einstein, George Washington Carver, Rachel Carson" and many others? White wrote:
Nevertheless, an inerrant Bible as they define it is the frame through which fundamentalists view the world. That frame can bounce off every idea you throw at it if your understanding of a biblical verse doesn't agree with theirs. They aren't interested in the meaning you find in a biblical passage. They aren't even interested in the truths scholars, historians, and linguists find there. For fundamentalists, the canon is closed. No more inspiration is needed. The Holy Spirit is as unnecessary for understanding holy writ as is the knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. Fundamentalists know exactly what every verse means and woe be unto those who disagree.
Many Fundie leaders pull out particular verses to create bogus spiritual laws. An example: Want to be rich? See Luke 6:38 – "Give [to my ministry] and it shall be given to you..." This implies that the giver, or the Fundie preacher, can control God – my giving requires God to give me wealth. Other spiritual laws promise health, success, and salvation. But religion isn't a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
Fundies worship the text of the bible, not God. This is idolatry.
Family as Idol
Every Fundie organization that exists to harm us either has the word "family" in its name or at least has protection of the family as a top goal. Declaring harm to the family is the easiest and most emotionally charged (and thus vote getting) way for them to reach their goal of declaring homosexuality harmful in general.
In the previous post of this series I included a quote from Robert Skolrood, one of the leaders. I repeat it here (and add some more):
It is impossible for Christianity to make peace with homosexuality because homosexuality denies, really, the fundamental values of Christianity. It denies life, it denies God's expressed desire that men and women cohabit, and it denies the root structure that the Bible prescribes for all mankind and the family. What these people are against is absolute values. And Christianity is one of the stumbling blocks in their way.White breaks it down in more detail than in the previous chapter.
"… impossible … to make peace... " That's mostly because Fundies have decided it is impossible. Our existence is too much of a challenge to their beliefs. So another way to reach them must be found.
Homosexuality "denies, really, the fundamental values of Christianity" Oh? Rick Warren, sounding very Fundie, wants to force candidates for public office to answer questions about abortion, embryonic stem cells, same-sex marriage, cloning, and euthanasia. Warren declares them as non-negotiable, as if they were foundation principles of Christianity. But aren't the foundation principles, taken from Matthew 25, supposed to be about feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, finding shelter for the homeless, and all the rest?
Homosexuality "denies life" Homosexuals don't make babies and without babies there is no national future. Never mind that many same-sex couples make great parents.
Homosexuality "denies God's expressed desire that men and women cohabit" It is this claim that prompts a lot of screeching about gays not really wanting to marry and wanting to destroy marriage.
Homosexuality "denies the root structure that the Bible prescribes for all mankind and the family." Ah, now we get to the core of the matter. When the family is described as a root structure there is a particular structure, a chain of command, in mind. White wrote:
God speaks to Jesus; Jesus speaks to men; men speak to women; women speak to children (and then to men of color, women of color, children of … but that's another story)White expands on that:
For Fundamentalist Christians, if God's chain of command is broken, chaos will prevail in the family as it does in the military, and homosexuals represent the greatest threat to that chain. …Yeah, gay men might give women ideas. So Fundie men are fearful of losing their position at the top of the heap. This is a very strong fear.
Then along comes "Steve," the dangerous "homosexual activist" who is definitely not submissive to authority but insists on defying it. … Rigid gender roles have been established since the beginning of recorded history. Keeping men in charge and women in their place is the way civilization has always worked. Accepting homosexuality not only flies in the face of natural creation (or so they think) but it threatens the overthrow of heterosexism, sexism, and homophobia … all established cultural norms.
And what happens if heterosexism, sexism, and homophobia are overthrown? Suzanne Pharr gives us an idea. There won't be tomboys or sissies. We will love anyone we want. We will be free to show affection to anyone even if they aren't a potential mate. Isolation will diminish. Jobs will be open to all. Men who don't have to assert their manhood will become less violent – something that will affect national and international politics. We'll wear whatever clothes match our personal comfort and style. There will be no gender roles.
All of that sounds pretty good to me.
Hollywood is very good at displaying the idealized family. That's bad enough for those who don't come from an ideal family. But Fundies take it one more step, condemning those who don't conform to their ideal. And a lot of families simply cannot match the Fundie ideal family. The family is an idol worshiped by fundamentalists.
Nation as Idol
We've heard the loud voices proclaim that: (1) America is a Christian nation that is held in special favor by God. (2) because of homosexuality God is (or will) withhold that favor and America will be destroyed. Therefore there must be an effort to (3) reclaim America for Christ. That comes with the understanding that something must be done about "the gay problem."
We've also long heard that the Founding Father's were Christian (actually, most were Deist) who intended America to be Christian (never mind that the only mention of religion in the Constitution is that pesky bit about not establishing a state religion). So we've been arguing over the real meaning of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
But the claim to America being a Christian nation uses a much older document – the Mayflower Compact signed on November 11, 1620. That's a little document written and signed by a group of fundamentalists fleeing persecution but intent on establishing some persecution of their own. Yes, the Mayflower Compact says the colony was established "for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith." But this claim that it is our founding document ignores that the majority of the passengers on the Mayflower were colonists without religious convictions and did not sign the Compact.
As we've seen and heard over the last 20 years there has been a strong effort to make that establishment clause in the First Amendment become meaningless. White documents the efforts and the rhetoric that go into the Fundie claim, much I've already analyzed here.
Back in 2002 Bush II gave a speech on Ellis Island surrounded by the Fundie leaders who worked hard to get him elected. In that speech Bush referred to American as he used the phrase "that light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it."
A British commentator noticed the similarity of that phrase to one in the bible referring to Jesus. That means with Fundie encouragement America is ranked with Jesus as
one brought into the world to bring God's plans into fulfillment. To suggest that a sovereign nation state with political priorities and military budgets has somehow a divine status is in my opinion at least as close as you can come to idolatry.White concludes this section by writing:
When the Bible, or the family, or the nation are adored, blindly, excessively, when they are so important that they take the place of God, they become idols. Unfortunately, idols fail. And when the people who believed in those idols with all their heart experience that failure, it leaves their lives in chaos.