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Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer

Posted April 30, 2009 | 06:48 PM (EST)

My Favorite Hate Email From the Religious Right


I received this email from a priest. At least it was signed! (The misspelling of the President's name, double question marks, capitalization etc., is in the original.)

Frank, I just read that you are supporting the pro-abortionist Barach Hussein Obama... Now you support a man who is the dream come true of everything ANTI-Christian. Are you no longer Christian?? I was stunned... Please respond, How could you post on the Huffington Post, the most anti-Christian, anti-traditional site?? These people HATE everything Christianity stands for!
In Christ, Father G.

Rant starts here: I can only imagine the steady diet of junk ideology that must have been pouring from right wing web sites, evangelical leaders, talk radio and bizarre newsletters into Fr. G's head to have pushed him -- a priest no less, supposedly a confessor, shepherd and comforter -- to put politics ahead of faith and thus berate a complete stranger and question his faith on the basis of who that stranger voted for or what web sites he writes for!

The Religious Right has seduced millions of Americans with titillating hatred and lies, including people like Fr. G. Lies -- the Earth was created in six days and is not warming, Obama is a secret Muslim -- perhaps the Antichrist! -- and wants women to have more abortions, gays are trying to take over America, the United Nations (and/or Obama and/or the president of the European Union) is (also?) the Antichrist, an unregulated free market economy is Christian, guns keep people safe, stem cell research equals infanticide, capital punishment is good, immigrants are the enemy etc., -- are accepted as truth by a whole substrata of "Christians" determined to judge their country as "fallen away from God" because they don't agree with their fellow citizens' politics.

Appeals to facts get nowhere with these folks because they don't trust any sources but their own emanating from an alternative right wing universe, so arguments become circular. The more impartial, serious or academic the source, the more suspect it becomes. Propaganda, fulminating (and fund raising), hate of gays, women, our government, big city folks, the educated "elite," everything-not-like-us-"Real-Americans," supplants compassion and even common sense. And one is guilty by association. Write for the "wrong" people -- "these people" in the words of Fr. G -- vote for the "wrong" president, and it's off to the stake.

It's not fair to hold fundamentalists, even ones masquerading as priests -- I say "masquerading" because nothing could be further from the spirit of faith than Fr. G's smoldering email -- to a higher standard than the rest of us. Fr. G's lack of connection to reality, let alone the compassionate tradition of his beliefs (or to simple manners) is a symptom of the larger American entertainment-oriented and compartmentalized moron culture we live in and have all been tainted by.

The late Neil Postman, author, New York University professor and prophet, predicted how and why people such as Fr. G would be living in a half-assed dream world cut off from reality. Postman was best known for his 1985 book about television, Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he wrote:

Television is altering the meaning of 'being informed' by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information -- misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information -- information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing....What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumble puppy.

Postman is not the only person to have accurately predicted where we were headed and the sort of society that our disjointed news media-as-entertainment, texting as "writing," blogging as "news," would produce. RoboCop (1987) was a mediocre (and nastily sadistic) little movie but director Paul Verhoeven got one thing right: the "news" shows on TV in his futuristic dystopia. His parody of glib, cheerful trivia clips as news has come horribly true, even more so with the advent of the ideologically divided web, wherein people have their "information" filtered by like-minded ideologues and rarely encounter views they disagree with. As Postman predicted, Huxley's prophetic vision came to pass: we are "a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies."

We live in the spiritual/political/intellectual equivalent to the 1979 movie Mad Max. Unlike that movie's post-apocalyptic landscape, the external trappings of our civilization are in tact but our intellectual life is running on inertia. Metaphorically speaking, if Fr. G is all of our "priest," then his "flock" is made up of the sorts of people that Jay Leno interviewed on the street in his hilarious (and depressing) recurring "Tonight Show" gag where he used to ask questions such as, "who is the vice president?" or "who was Christopher Columbus?" or "finish this saying, a stitch in time saves -- "and most respondents could not answer.

We have become a nation of not terribly bright children who essentially have a collective learning disability manifested by an inability to concentrate or defer gratification, hold one thought long enough to see it through to a conclusion or contemplate making real sacrifices for long term benefits. The Fr. Gs of this world are the result.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. He is author of the forthcoming Patience With God -- Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism) and also 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 (Now in paperback in bookstores everywhere).