The more I see of good ol' Mike Huckabee, the more I realize what a contemptible phony he his. It took me a while: there was a time when I thought his humor, his bass-playing rock'n'rollery, his aw-shuckery made him a likable guy, even as I disagreed with pretty much everything he said. There are, after all, several people I call friends from whom I'm as far apart as possible politically and religiously.
Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert.
It is dangerous, especially in America, because it is anti-democratic and is suspicious of “the other,” in whatever form that “other” might appear. To maintain itself, fundamentalism must always define “the other” as deviant.
But the chief reason that fundamentalism is dangerous is that, at the hands of the Rev. Pat Robertson, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and hundreds of lesser-known but equally worrisome clerics, preachers and pundits, it uses Scripture and the Christian practice to encourage ordinarily good people to act upon their fears rather than their virtues.
Fortunately, those who speak for the religious right do not speak for all American Christians, and the Bible is not theirs alone to interpret. The same Bible that the advocates of slavery used to protect their wicked self-interests is the Bible that inspired slaves to revolt and their liberators to action.
The same Bible that the predecessors of Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson used to keep white churches white is the source of the inspiration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the social reformation of the 1960’s.
The same Bible that anti-feminists use to keep women silent in the churches is the Bible that preaches liberation to captives and says that in Christ there is neither male nor female, slave nor free.
And the same Bible that on the basis of an archaic social code of ancient Israel and a tortured reading of Paul is used to condemn all homosexuals and homosexual behavior includes metaphors of redemption, renewal, inclusion and love – principles that invite homosexuals to accept their freedom and responsibility in Christ and demands that their fellow Christians accept them as well.
The political piety of the fundamentalist religious right must not be exercised at the expense of our precious freedoms. And in this summer of our discontent, one of the most precious freedoms for which we must all fight is freedom from this last prejudice.