Guns and Jesus (Not to Mention Mohammed)

Grace Baptist Church in upstate New York, following the lead of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, is giving away an AR-15 assault rifle -- you know, the kind that killed kids at Sandy Hook Elementary.
What does it say about a church when gives away an assault rifle as a door prize?

All that and more. In trying to lure gun-hungry men back to the Bible, these fundamentalist churches demonstrate one thing fo' sho': Old Time Religion in America has fallen into the same snake pit as Islamism.

Delusional, in its understanding of theology and of contemporary American society. Jesus had his moments of anger, and he apparently said some weird things about swords, but the worst violence he could be charged with is withering a fig tree.

Yet, see this thread on for a lengthy discussion under the subject line: "What would Jesus shoot?" Be sure to scroll down to the illustration of Jesus teaching a young boy how to handle a handgun.

It's a double delusion, because the external threat of violence has never been lower. Violent crime in America has plummeted. Gun ownership has likewise fallen to historic lows -- except among white Republicans and evangelicals, who largely overlap. What this means is that many of those who (mistakenly) feel the need to own guns for protection actually put themselves at risk by doing so. Nearly 100 people a day die of suicide in America. Most of them are men, most of them are conservatives, and most of them die by pulling the trigger of their own guns.

Desperate, because Christianity has lost its grip on our culture. Americans are abandoning churches like never before, and youth are leading the way. A third of the young have bailed out on religion. Why? A major reason is the incessant anti-gay hatred preached by churches like those cited above. A new study finds that nearly 70 percent of Americans ages 18 to 33 accept gay marriage. Sorry, bubbas, giving away guns won't "cure" that.

Dangerous, because the endless churning of fear, resentment, and twisted idealism in the cauldron of Old Time Religion stirs up an old and hideous wraith: fascism. That may seem out of place in liberty-loving America, but if the jackboot fits...

And it does. The celebrations of gun-toting violence, the radical revision of history into self-justifying myth, the casting of an inability to impose religious rules on all Americans as a loss of religious freedom, the self-pitying grievances, the venomous attacks on women, foreigners, Muslims, Jews, gays, and the calls for insurrection -- all these and more are hallmarks of a fascist movement.

Curiously, this is where Islamist fascism comes in. It matches up almost perfectly, including savage attacks on fellow (Shi'a) Muslims. If a picture's worth a thousand words, a click on this link should be worth twice that, because you'll soon find images of Jesus and Osama bin Laden each posing with a rifle. Really, fellas? That's who you want to model your savior after?

Only fear, and the exploitation of fear, could produce such monstrosities. Human nature has many dark corners, but the fear of humiliation lies in one of its deepest recesses. Humiliation prompts the most irrational, violent, and destructive reactions. The reason's not hard to grasp.

At the risk of oversimplification, let's glance at this through an evolutionary lens. We are social yet sexually competitive creatures. Hence, our access to resources, including mates, is largely determined by our social status. Celebrity, even for something as trivial as being a Kardashian, pays. No wonder, then, that we constantly and anxiously monitor our social standing among our peers, and the social standing of our peer group. Unfortunately, some use the humiliation of others to boost their own status. And humiliation, I believe, is the wellspring of fascism.

For some -- especially men raised in an "honor" culture -- humiliation is worse than death. No wonder, then, that Nazism grew out of a toxic brew of Prussian honor, Aryan myth, and the all-too-real humiliation imposed by the Versailles Treaty at the end of World War I. No wonder that Islamo-fascism grew out of the extreme honor culture of desert tribes, a crushing loss of status in being colonized following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the Caliphate restoration myth.

And no wonder that Christo-fascism is taking shape before our eyes as white men steeped in biblical fundamentalism, John Wayne movies, and the honor culture of the Old South find their status as top dogs in our society losing all credibility.

White men? I generally scorn that kind of reductionism. But it's true. Sarah Palin apart, it becomes clearer by the day that women are bailing out of the comically misogynistic GOP. As for minorities, well, let's just say that Bobby Jindal must be feeling mighty lonely these days.

But here's the thing: It's not that white men in America are actually worse off. In fact, Tea Party types tend to be in that affluent class whose incomes have been rising. Their political power is far greater than their numbers, because of fanatical pressure groups like the NRA, the immense wealth various rightwing billionaires put at their disposal, and that blunt truth that fear pays at the polls.

Cynical manipulators get this. There are fortunes, both political and monetary, to be made by persuading anxious people that they are being humiliated by smart-ass elites and lazy, unworthy minorities. And there is no more convenient path to such anxious people than through the wide-open doors of a fundamentalist church. Giving out guns just saves an extra trip.