You evangelical leaders have a choice before you: rejoin American society as it is and love the actual country you're part of, or stick to your mythical Disney remake of a Little House On the Prairie fantasy and fade away -- forever.
To you "moderate" and "respectable" evangelical Christians and you "middle-of-the-road" and "ordinary" Republican fellow travelers -- as distinct from the extreme fundamentalist lunatic fringe and far right of both of your groups -- a word of warning.
You know me and you knew my late father Francis Schaeffer. Without his (and my) work evangelicalism and its close tie to the Republican Party would not exist as we know it. You also know that some 30 years ago you were giving me standing ovations in your biggest meetings, from the Religious Broadcaster's annual convention to the Southern Baptist annual convention. I preached in your leading churches from Falwell's church to Dr. Kennedy's. Now I'm like a pebble in your shoe that you wish would just go away. And believe me, I'd like nothing better than to forget my past. But before stepping back to the reality-based community I offer you a few words of warning.
The bubble of unreality and mythology you have chosen to live in is now coming back to haunt you. American "believers" are out there arming themselves, comparing our president to Hitler, saying that reform of health care would lead to "death panels." You respectable evangelical leaders -- and I'm talking about the editors of Christianity Today magazine, the people running the Billy Graham Association, you presidents of the evangelical universities and colleges from Wheaten to Gordon College and, yes, and you too Rick Warren -- you know perfectly well that the "birthers" and the "deathers" and all the rest represent the equivalent of your very own evangelical village idiot.
But how did your "village idiot" get so damned crazy? What did you do to contribute to this insanity where people get in the face of senators and congressmen and scream: "God will judge you"?! And if violence is used against our leaders because of the ramping up of the rhetoric who is to blame?
You respectable leaders are! Your silence is to blame! Your complicity in preaching myths is to blame!
Who is Glenn Beck's and Fox News' audience? Who are those 20 million Americans on the fringe of the fringe sucking up every lie told by Rush Limbaugh? They're mostly some of your people and you know it.
How did they get this way?
Because if you live in a mythical universe and parallel society you eventually begin to believe your own bullshit. If you divide the world into "lost" and "saved" and say God will punish the lost -- forever -- your hate of the "other" will someday explode.
How long did you think you could go on telling people that because of the legalization of abortion the federal government is your sworn enemy, before someone would take you seriously and kill an abortion provider thinking they are doing "God's will"? How long was it before people would entirely abandon reality and facts after they'd been weaned on your creationist anti-science myths? What about all your groups, such as the so-called Reconstructionists, that so many of your leaders quietly have been either part of or followers of that have a deeply embedded racism in their "theology?" What of the bizarre C-Street gang, and your tie-ins with them through such exercises in getting close to power like the Presidential Prayer Breakfasts? When have you all -- the respectable leaders -- stood up and denounced and called out your haters?
You the "moderate" evangelical leaders and "respectable" Republican leadership have nurtured the beast of ignorance in your bosom. Now it's about to bite you -- big-time. Your willfully ignorant followers are inflicting the rest of this country with the image of hate, intolerance and sheer stupidity on a level that is hard to believe. One of your own idealized leaders, a member in good standing for 25 years of the Assemblies of God denomination -- your very own fellow evangelical Sarah "Death Panel" Palin -- is what's left of the evangelical movement that used to follow sane writers like CS Lewis.
If you want to salvage anything of the movement that my father helped you build and that I contributed to (back in the day when people like James Dobson were giving away 150,000 copies of my book A Time For Anger), you'd better wake up and smell the coffee.
Here's the reality: by unhooking yourself from our culture, through your own hermetically sealed mirror image imitation culture, with your own TV stations, radio stations, publishing houses, bookstores, homeschool curriculum and on and on you've been living in an unreal universe. While you've been away there have been changes.
Let me bring you up to speed: The United States of America is a diverse, multicultural, multiethnic multireligious society. It doesn't belong to white middle-aged men yelling at meetings surrounded by their ignorant equally dumb rube women. This crap may have worked for 1920s lynch-mobs, but we've moved on.
This country belongs to black and brown and white people, to Asians to Hispanics, to atheists and agnostics and believers, and to the folks like me who used to be Republicans and left in disgust and voted for President Obama. It belongs to gay people who have the right to live together, marry and raise families. It also belongs to people like me who consider themselves to be Christians but are ashamed to be addressed as such, given that your village idiots are the image of what our faith has come to mean: the hate-filled, anti-gay, anti-Obama party of reaction.
If you wish to save what is left of your movement, it might be an idea to begin to tell your people that you've been wrong about a lot of things. Rejoin the rest of us. Let your kids go to schools with other children instead of hiding them away like jars of last year's jam in your homeschool and Christian "school" cupboards. Watch, listen and read something once in awhile it isn't derived from your own hermetically sealed subculture. And while you're at it, get used to the idea that our black President is a great man and that he has a good chance of leading us out of the wilderness the born-again idiot Bush led us into -- if you will call off your attack dogs and allow our President to do his job.
Do any of you still follow Jesus? Would Jesus make himself the tool of the insurance companies' and lobbyists depriving the poor of care?
Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism)