Evangelicals have a problem: they want to involve themselves in politics -- for instance by praying that the Obama speech at the Democratic convention is rained out, as James Dobson of Focus On the Family called for. Some evangelicals are embarrassed by such antics. What can they do? Nothing because their theology acknowledges no central authority. Evangelicals don't "do" structure. They don't do government, or bishops or tradition. They just do "me" and "I" never we. So their individualistic and narcissistic village idiots-Dobson, Robertson, Osteen etc.-are in charge by default.
The whole point of Evangelical Christianity is a consumerist-oriented do your own thing approach to Jesus. This is a departure from historical Christianity centered on a liturgical tradition that had to do with faith lived in community and beliefs defined by tradition, not the individual pastor standing in front of the congregation holding forth according to whim. But evangelical "worship" is nothing but grandstanding. It's all about the sermon and the pastor's personality. I know. I was once one such "personality," Evangelical big-time flash-in-the-pan leader egomaniac, until I got out in the mid 80s.
Evangelicals reject all traditions and structures, other than their very own personalized interpretation of the Bible, so there is no there, there to appeal to. Evangelicals can't police themselves or call one of their own a nut for the same reason that the village idiot smearing himself with excrement can't point the finger at another idiot wearing his pants on his head and call him crazy. Each has a "personal relationship with Jesus." So maybe Jesus told that guy to put his pants on his head!
Evangelicals get direct messages from God. So who needs tradition, let alone government? That is why Evangelicals are opposed to all structure. They hate government, and they hate the idea of bishops telling them what it means to be a Christian. They hate the idea of health care for all that might involve someone (other than voices in their heads) telling them what to do. And they want the "right" to own guns, raise kids on myths and own that SUV and believe that more drilling for oil will bring down the price of gas. They also want God to speak directly to them, never mind a community of faith. And God seems to tell them weird stuff. So today's crazy person is tomorrow's best selling Rick Warren or Victoria and Joel Osteen. And how can they be crazy? Look how big their churches are! They measure up to the only real Evangelical creed-the ability to make money and be successful in commercial terms.
Evangelicalism is a series of personality cults masquerading as religion. (As I demonstrate in detail in my book 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.) That's because Evangelicals say they believe in "sola scriptura" in other words the Bible only. That works out fine until they start arguing about biblical interpretation. Each pastor and individual becomes their own pope. That turns pastors into nothing but glorified entertainers, wherein the hottest ones pull the biggest congregations. Success-measured in attendance and dollars-becomes the metaphor for spiritual wisdom. Dobson rakes in millions, so God must be on his side! Joel and Victoria Osteen have 40,000 members of their Houston "church" so they must be sane, even if co-pastor Victoria allegedly assaulted a flight attendant over a spilled drink and paid the fine to make the incident "go away."
The Historic Church by contrast never held the Bible up as a magic book that could solve all your problems but rather regarded the Bible as just one element of a liturgical tradition based on community, worship and participation. It never was about the hyped-up spoken word in the mouths of hyped-up "personalities," it was about community. It never was about grandstanding entertainment, but about a liturgy that was the same wherever you went within Christendom; up until the church split in 1054, into Western and Eastern churches and then the later fracturing of the Reformation followed by the era of Protestant chaos and lastly American-style Evangelical every-man-for-himself insanity.
So ... when some fruitcake like a James Dobson comes along and his organization calls for rainmaking to spoil the Obama speech, or the egomaniacal cult leader Victoria Osteen co-pastor of the biggest mega sect in Houston, allegedly assaults an airline flight attendant, there's not much other Evangelicals can do who are embarrassed by their pet-buffoon-of-the-moment, other than to wring their hands. That's because Evangelicalism is really just another version of American individualism and the entertainment industry wherein "freedom" is interpreted as the right to be a consumer and choose one's favorite products from ski mobiles, jet skis, a trip to the Bahamas, a new-car or joining a the local mega church of the moment. Victoria Osteen today, Rick Warren yesterday, whatever wanders in tomorrow, with a book deal and nice way of talking.
Evangelicals can't criticize other Evangelicals' idiocy. After all with a few exceptions, they are all waiting for Spaceship Jesus to take them away, have declared evolution a lie, are anti-culture, art and life, and don't believe in global warming, are still saying that Iraq was behind 9/11, and want to attack Iran with what is left of our overstretched military that their born-again, Evangelical Low IQ frat-boy in the White House systematically has put at risk.
Since the Evangelical right wing movement cannot speak with a prophetic (let alone single) voice, because it has become the consumer/entertainment culture, it's left with turning itself into a public joke and/or nuisance much as a spoiled three-year-old at a birthday party will insist on getting attention by throwing pieces a birthday cake across the room. So Evangelicals have played spoiler and (with a few notable exceptions such as Richard Cizik) led the charge against the environmental movement, against doing anything about global warming, against reforming health care, against caring for our military and now against Senator Obama. They are the people turning the anti-Obama screed Obama Nation into a national best seller, and never mind it's by the same proven opportunistic "Swift Boat" liar -- Jerome R. Corsi -- who was totally discredited for his lies in the hatchet hate job he did on John Kerry.
The Evangelicals are accustomed to supporting liars. They supported George W. Bush again and again because he played footsie with them on abortion, Jesus, and gays. And now most Evangelicals are out to stop Obama, America's best chance for a fresh start in a world grown understandably sick of us.
The Evangelical mask is wearing thin. Sure, there are some Evangelicals who want change but for the most part the fools that put George W. Bush in the White House are now reduced to trying to get Jesus to rain out Obama. That's because they have no answer for the America they have betrayed.
Evangelicals are reduced to throwing fistfuls of "cake" instead of answering uncomfortable questions such as: why have you Evangelicals supported the torture of prisoners of war? And why have you Evangelicals led the charge on defending a rape-the-earth Republican Party in hock to the oil companies?
With no answers, better to just try and rain on the other guy's parade.
Frank Schaeffer is coauthor of HOW FREE PEOPLE MOVE MOUNTAINS-A Male Christian Conservative and a Female Jewish Liberal On A Quest For Common Purpose and Meaning. He is also 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