Opinion » Bill Cope

Good Xians, Bad Xians

And a few ways to spot the difference


Good Xians, Bad Xians

This last week, displayed prominently on a reader board you can hardly miss if you're driving I-84 to Boise from Meridian and points west, was this message: "EDUCATION IS USELESS WITHOUT THE BIBLE." The quote was attributed to Noah Webster, known for his fine dictionaries. Now, maybe Noah said it, maybe he didn't. There is a cottage industry of Christian fundamentalists desperate to prove that the earliest Americans were just as nuts as they are, and if history doesn't bear them out, they aren't shy about rewording it until it does.

This particular message board has come up with plenty of zingers before, my favorite being the classic, "GOD CREATED ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE." (I've been itching to ask the guy who thought that one up ... "Well if God didn't create Steve, who the hell did?") And some years ago, I actually turned another one of their nuggets into a column. (On that occasion, the board read: "ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A RELIGION THAT WILL LEAVE YOU IN THE DARK. THINK CALIFORNIA," and it referred to the power-grid crisis the Golden State was having at the time. Since that crisis turned out to be the result of Enron's manipulation and greed rather than environmental regulation, I've been waiting five years now for a retraction to show up on that reader board--maybe even an apology to environmentalists. To date, no luck.)

I wouldn't want the people of this church barn to think I'm picking on them specifically. I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say I'm certain the members of that congregation are no more or no less nuts than members of any congregation in any fundamentalist hive anywhere in the country.

But it just so happens that big freeway-side pop-up of theirs is a convenient way for me to keep up with what's going on in the collective mind of their brand of faith-based delusion, and I thank them for that. How else would I know what gormy little claustrophobic paranoias they are hatching without that reader board? Other than blowing a Sunday by attending a fundamentalist service, that is. Uh-huh, like that's gonna happen.

My first impulse was to turn old Noah's (alleged) quote into another column--to point out that if education truly doesn't mean squat unless it complies with Biblical precepts, it will come as quite a shock to a great many well-educated people. Stephen Hawking, say. Or any astrophysicist, for that matter--or anyone involved beyond a Ma and Pa home-schooling level with the biological, geological or about every other -logical science you can name. And won't all those New Delhi engineers and doctors and technicians be surprised to find out the educations they are taking American jobs with aren't worth the paper their diplomas are printed on, having wasted their schoolin' days as Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists?

I also thought of using this reader board sentiment to illustrate how the religious right simply cannot abide with anything that doesn't bend to their will--how if you've ever doubted they want to turn every aspect of American life into a testament to their fevered vision, this should confirm they are after no less than a complete theocracy, dedicated lock, stock and public school system to the Christianist manifesto.

But I'm not going to write that column. Not today, anyway. Life's too short to spend it all worrying what the nuts are up to, and between writing about the latest dimwitted thing they're pitching and writing about the latest dimwitted thing their favorite president is pitching, I hardly have time left over for any fun. Besides, I've been a little tough on our evangelical neighbors of late. If you didn't know me, you might think I was, like ... you know ... waging a war on Christianity. I sure don't want anyone thinking something like that, for Christ's sake. Hell, my momma was a Christian.

So I thought I would take this opportunity to demonstrate that I am definitely not waging a war on Christianity. And to that end, let me say how appreciative I am for all those fine, decent, generous, peace-loving, humble and accepting Christian souls who aren't gormy little claustrophobic paranoiacs. I'm referring to the millions of devout followers of Christ you don't see on Fox news posing as experts on what's destroying America's moral fiber. Who aren't preaching something so backwards and childish that you want to gag when you hear it. Who aren't filming their every sermon so that they can have their own show on the public access channel. Who aren't called into the White House whenever some feeble president needs a pat on the head. Who aren't making cheesy teevee commercials that try to make Jesus out as a cowboy. Who aren't always trying to kick-start Armageddon in the Mideast. Who aren't always bitching about a Ten Commandments monument somewhere, or a phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, or gays, or Planned Parenthood or secular humanism. Who aren't always claiming to know the mind of God. Who aren't always in someone else's face.

There is no good way to include all the good work these good people do--daily, quietly and without the need to get their mugs on the news for doing it. But I thought if I were to borrow something from another old column of mine--a partial list of church organizations that stood against Bush's war in Iraq (beforehand, mind you)--it would give an idea of the breadth and depth of what I consider the real Christianity. The Christianity that will have to prevail (over Christianism) if Christianity has a snowball's chance of surviving in an educated world.

Here they are, in part: The World Council of Churches--The National Council of Churches--The Interfaith Alliance--the United Methodist Council of Bishops--United Methodist Clergy--United Methodist Women's Division--the Episcopal Presiding Bishop--the Presbyterian General Assembly Council--leaders of the Lutheran denominations as well as the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalists, the Friends, the Quakers, the Amish, the Mennonites, the Brethern, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and, last but not least, Pope John Paul II.

There they are, in part. The Christians who did what Jesus would have done. The Christians I'm not waging war on.

Not to say there isn't a war being waged on them--or more to the point, their struggle to follow the teachings of Christ. But it ain't me waging it, Brothers. In fact, gentle Christian, if it's your downfall you fear, keep an eye over your right shoulder.