Bill Maher as a Secular Prophet
There is a very popular video making the rounds on You Tube of Bill Maher( for our friends across the pond he is a highly controversial satirist) in which he spares no feelings at his disgust with “christians” and their hypocrisy. Typical of him he does not observe any rules of language but as offensive as some might think he is he is nonetheless absolutely spot on! One of his favorite targets is the “Evangelicals”. Now I know it is considered by many, including some who follow this group, to be improper and even uncharitable to comment on other communities and or churches. I understand the more nobler reason but far too often it is a matter of one sacred cow not fouling another’s stable. What Maher is saying is way over due . In the U S religion in general and churches in particular have been given, at least in the immediate past, a free pass on almost everything. With the revelations about sexual abuse of children in the Roman Church that “free pass” is less and less an option. Personally I have never believed in polite deference to religious associations, persons, or denominations. Indeed that is one of the reasons that I rant and rave about silly titles becuase amongst other things Imperial Roman/Byzantine/European Courtship/American celebrity type of titles just confirms that hypocritical deference!
In American culture words are used no matter the real meaning becuase it “sounds” good or it “markets well” and this is enormously true in the realm of religion. A quick example is the word “cathedral”. Here in the U S it can mean simply a “big building” which has absolutely nothing to do with a bishop or his or her chair or a diocese! This is true with the word “evangelical”! What the word has come to mean in this country is a highly emotionally charged entertainment like worship with a “feel good God and Country” ideology that passes for theology and a political agenda that seeks a legal conquest of the culture! Jesus, in the so called evangelical world, is a blue eyed blond headed American who is God´s CEO! Anyone who disagrees is “anti-Christian” or at the very least anti-religious! “Evangelicals” have come to represent ever thing that secular America hates and hate is not too strong of a word. I think for a majority of Americans “evangelicals” are the people who wants the government to interfere and control “the bedroom” and the schools but nothing else particularly in the affairs of business which many evangelicals consider God’s chosen economic system! These are the people who hate gay folke, believe women should be silent and submissive and look upon immigrants at the very least as pests and at the very worst terrorists! The origin of the word and its original meaning refers to the teaching of Jesus on the concept of “perfection” which means “wholeness” rather than the absence of blemish or deficiencies. The second usage in the New Testament is from the ancient Greek for messenger not an adherent to a particular school of religious thought and or practice.
When I was growing up the Southern Baptists were the “evangelicals” who worked tirelessly to prohibit the sale and consumption of anything alcoholic. The joke however was always told that the Board of Deacon’s of the Baptist Church met at the ABC Store (Alcoholic Beverage Control if you were in North Carolina or the Red Dot Store if you were in South Carolina). Or as the saying went “We Baptists do on the back porch what the Catholics do on the front porch! The other “Baptist” issue was dancing, don’t even think about card playing unless it was “Old Maids” and that could be suspicious! In fact when the local Episcopal Church rented an old building in the county seat to use as a “teen club” with bands and dancing the Baptists almost hemorrhaged! The Baptists were also opposed to stores being open for business on the Sabbath (Sunday) at least initially.
The Methodists were a “little evangelical” but not near like the Baptists. The Methodists stick in the craw was drinking and in fact Methodists at an early age were encouraged to “take the pledge” to never drink anything alcoholic. They like the Baptists even used grape juice for Communion. Try as they would to convince people that Jesus first miracle really did not turn the water into wine but Welsh’s grape juice it never really took for no one really believed that privately even if they did not say so publicly! Smoking and dipping were allowed though frowned on in both the Methodist and Baptist Churches but some of the more primitive Pentecostals did not allow either.
Presbyterians were really in the minority and were not so gung ho about matters of drink and tobacco let alone dancing so they did not count as “evangelicals”. Lutherans were even less than the Presbyterians and depending on whether they were of German extraction, which due to the late war most did not want to own up to, not only was drinking not condemned but it was enjoyed as long as the Baptists and Methodists neighbors did not know it!
The Episcopalians,who were absolutely NOT evangelical, and the only reason we had an Episcopal parish was because of a former slave holding family of the War of Northern Aggression fame who were a pretty fancy bunch and that thought being Episcopalian went along with their station, had the idea of live and let live or something nigh as close! Now the Episcopalians were also called “Whiskeypalians” becuase wherever you found four of them you found a fifth! Not only this but according to the above mentioned churches the Episcopalians were dangerously close to the Papists who were naturally Roman Catholics! We by the way did not have a Roman Catholic parish until 1954 and that was only becuase some “rich white Yankees” came down to help start a new manufacturing plant!
As far as anything sexual everyone knew everyone did but no one ever talked about it, end of discussion, period! Things like divorce were not topics of general discussion and no one but no one married a divorced person in the Church! No one ever talked about abortion or even birth control let alone any kind of same gender playing around!
The real difference between the present day “Evangelicals” and very religious people of the old days of my childhood was a lack of political force behind them. Even the most ardent teetotaler did not want the imbiber put in public stocks or buggy whipped nor did anyone think that folkes that danced should be imprisoned! There was an almost gentleman’s agreement between the Churches and the government including the local sheriff. Everyone knew for example that it was the bootleggers and the Baptists in particular that kept the county “dry” (in theory anyway).
This is not true any more. The present day “evangelicals” have a political ideology supported by a heretical theology and an American contrived and imaginary mythology that demands that people, like it or not, be forced to accept these zealots and their agenda. Not only this but unlike the olden times the modern day “evangelicals’ demonize those who oppose them! Whether it is the immigrant, the African American, women or gay folke these contemporary Pharisees have no problem in excluding and dehumanizing any one who does not meet their standards. When it invariably happens that a leader of this new and dangerous religious party that tries to pass as Christian, is found with major skeletons in his closet almost always sexually conjugal in nature, all that is required is a few crocodile tears of a pretend repentance and he set free to go and sin again er I mean sin no more!
So when I see Bill Maher and others even when they do so in a most vitriolic way condemn a false “Christianity” I am not either surprised or angry! Many times it is the “secularists” that are the prophets saying what the preachers are afraid to!
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