Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right

Overview

The bestselling author of Stranger at the Gate provides an inside expose of the Christian Right's agenda-and a playbook in how to resist it.

This Fall's midterm elections will see much discussion about the enhanced power of the Christian fundamentalist Right, leaving many people to wonder: just who are these people and what exactly do they want? What are their ultimate goals? The Reverend Mel White, a deeply religious man who sees fundamentalism as "evangelical Christian ...

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Overview

The bestselling author of Stranger at the Gate provides an inside expose of the Christian Right's agenda-and a playbook in how to resist it.

This Fall's midterm elections will see much discussion about the enhanced power of the Christian fundamentalist Right, leaving many people to wonder: just who are these people and what exactly do they want? What are their ultimate goals? The Reverend Mel White, a deeply religious man who sees fundamentalism as "evangelical Christian orthodoxy gone cultic," believes that it is not a stretch to say that the true goal of today's fundamentalists is to break down the wall that separates church and state, superimpose their "moral values" on the U.S. Constitution, replace democracy with theocratic rule, and ultimately create a new "Christian America" in their image. White's new book, Religion Gone Bad, is a wake-up call to all of us to take heed.

White is singularly qualified to write this expose of the Christian Right because he himself was a true believer who served the evangelical movement as pastor, professor, filmmaker, television producer, author, and ghostwriter for such fundamentalist leaders as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham, all of whom he got to know well. As he writes, "These are not just Neocons dressed in religious drag. These men see themselves as gurus called by God to rescue America from unrighteousness. They believe this is a Christian nation that must be returned forcibly to its Christian roots."

He is also a gay man, who made news when he came out more than twelve years ago. White has gained a unique understanding of the fundamentalist agenda because, since the fall of "godless Communism," homosexuality and abortion have become the primary targets through which fundamentalists have created fear, raised money, and mobilized recruits. Religion Gone Bad documents the thirty-year war that fundamentalist Christians have waged against homosexuality and gays and lesbians and offers dramatic, heartbreaking evidence that fundamentalist leaders-Protestant and Catholic alike-are waging nothing less than a "holy war" (jihad) against sexual minorities. By focusing on the current plight of gay people in this country, White addresses the wider issue that fundamentalist Christianity-like fundamentalist Islam-has become a threat not just to gays, but to all Americans who disagree with fundamentalist Christian "values."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Christian activist White is a refugee of fundamentalist organizations, a conservative Christian minister, and gay. In his 1994 autobiography, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, he explained why he feels that homosexuality is natural to his lifestyle, and in Religion Gone Bad, he documented at great length even to the point of tediousness that Christian fundamentalists are on a militant crusade to prove that homosexuality is unnatural, elective, and a curable social disease. What makes White's testimony believable is that he knows fundamentalism from the inside, since he once worked closely as a ghostwriter for a number of fundamentalists. His strongest critique here of the Christian right focuses on its political power tactics, its efforts to show only one side of an issue, its push to make gay marriage illegal, and its attempt to have the Bible replace the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. One of the more positive aspects of the book is the last chapter, which describes the work of Soulforce (www.soulforce.org), the organization of which White is cofounder and president. Soulforce is dedicated to ending religious-based bias against gay and lesbian Americans and embraces nonviolent tactics as a way of furthering programs of social justice for sexual minorities. Recommended for all libraries. James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Evangelical minister White reiterates his impassioned charges (many from his 1994 autobiography, Stranger at the Gate) against the Christian Right movement, footnotes and all. A gay Christian living in Virginia, the author sets out to convince readers that the stronghold known as the Christian Right is a ticking time bomb about to explode. The aftermath, he claims, will result in the reclamation of inalienable freedoms from those who are homosexual or support gay rights. Drawing on his 25-year history serving as a ghostwriter, pastor and television producer for such well-known and ultra-controversial dignitaries as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham, White provides an arsenal of longwinded proof that conservative religious fundamentalists are poised on both financial and organizational platforms to incrementally "take back America." He cites extremist anti-gay, anti-abortion groups like Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family and D. James Kennedy's Focus Action, both of which in his view demonstrate an "equal ignorance" in "declaring war" on homosexuals and the "corrosive . . . gay agenda." The author extensively details the basic framework and functionality of fundamentalism, as well as the secrets to its successes. These groups plan on advancing their cause, he warns, by disseminating damaging, malicious anti-homosexual rhetoric. After breathlessly comparing and contrasting right-wing Christian politics and philosophies to fascism and Nazism, White ends his book-length conspiracy theory on two positive notes: reclaiming the Bible as a tome of goodness and introducing Soul Force, the pro-gay activist organization he developed in 1999 with his partner of 25 years. Stating thathe is "not a Christian basher," he argues his case credibly, if a bit heavy-handedly. Effective mobilization tool for those who share the author's mindset, but too narrow in its focus to garner much appeal to readers of other persuasions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585425310
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/7/2006
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Mel White is a writer, filmmaker, and former ghostwriter of books, authobiographies, and speeches for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Oliver North. He is the author of such inspirational bestsellers as In the Presence of Mine Enemies and Tested by Fire. Presently, Dr. White serves as the National Minister of Justice for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches from his position as Dean of Dallas's Cathedral of Hope (M.C.C.), the largest gay and lesbian church in the world. He and his partner, Gary Nixon, live in Dallas, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

ON JULY 1, 1999, Matthew and Tyler Williams broke into the country home of Gary Matson and Winfield Scott Mowder, a well known and much loved northern California couple. The Williams brothers tortured and killed these two innocent men for one reason and one reason alone: they were gay. The men's nude bodies were found the next day riddled with bullets. Investigators determined that the Williams brothers had stood on chairs at the end of the bed and "blasted away at the gay men."

When Sally Williams asked her son, Matthew, why he had killed "the two homos," his answer was recorded by prison officials: "I had to obey God's law rather than man's law. I didn't want to do this. I felt I was supposed to...I have followed a higher law...I see a lot of parallels between this and a lot of other incidents in the Old Testament...They threw our Savior in jail...Our forefathers have been in prison a lot. Prophets...Christ...My brother and I are incarcerated for our work in cleansing a sick society...I just plan to defend myself from the Scriptures."

On Sunday morning, November 17, 2002, while still awaiting trial, Matthew Williams, who once vowed to become "a Christian martyr," wedged himself between the toilet and the far wall of his cell, slashed open his femoral arteries, his arms and his neck with a razor and bled to death. On March 3, 2003, Tyler Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder. Facing a life in prison, Tyler apologized to the families and friends of the gay couple he had murdered. "I have repented to the Lamb of God for attempting to take His place of leadership in dealing with the world's evils and in not patiently waiting for His timing."

Compared to the horror of Matthew Sheperd's execution felt by millions around the world, few people even noticed the life and death of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder let alone the suicide of Matthew Williams or Tyler William's sentence to life in prison. And yet this untold story of four wasted lives is just one more smoking gun found at the scene of another crime caused directly by fundamentalist Christian leaders whose obsessive anti-homosexual campaign leads to tragic consequences they will not admit.

Go back a few paragraphs and re-read the words Matthew Williams used to defend his heinous crime. This Bible-based fear and loathing of homosexuals was shaped in William's mind—just as it is being shaped in the minds of tens of millions of Americans—by the anti-homosexual teachings of the radio and television fundavangelists, the Southern Baptists, Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints (Mormons), fundamentalist leaders in every Protestant denomination and priests, bishops, and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, especially Benedict XVI, whose antigay obsession has led to the current inquisition against innocent gay priests and seminarians. To young Williams, if homosexuals are such a "threat to the family, to the church and to the nation," it only seemed natural to eliminate that threat.

At his trial, Williams made the connection between the fundamentalist Christian teachers and preachers who had influenced his life to the murder of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder. "You obey a government of man until there is a conflict," he explained. "Then you obey a higher law. So many people claim to be Christians," Williams added, "They complain about all these things their religion says are a sin, but they're not willing to do anything about it. They don't have the guts."

How long will it take for gay-bashing fundamentalists, Protestant and Catholic alike, to realize that their anti-homosexual campaign leads directly to suffering and death? At the trial of the men who killed his brother, Mark Matson, who holds a doctorate in New Testament studies and teaches at a Christian college, admitted to a reporter that "Gary saw the danger of the religious right." Apparently, it was the one thing the two brothers disagreed on. "It is ironic to me," Dr. Matson admits, "that his reaction was correct. For him Christianity or at least a perverse segment of it was dangerous."

It took the torture and murder of his brother for Mark Matson to realize that "a perverse segment" of Christianity is dangerous. What will it take for the rest of us to realize that fundamentalist Christianity, that "perverse segment" of the Christian church, is a threat—not just to lesbian and gay Americans but to all Americans who refuse to support their so called "absolute values" or join them in making this "a Christian nation"?

Fundamentalism, like a mutating virus, infects and sickens Christianity—especially evangelical Christianity—on a regular basis and the plague that follows infects and sickens the nation as well. Contaminated evangelical preachers and famous evangelical "personalities" are particularly contagious, especially those with powerful media ministries. Professional clergy and committed lay leaders who have also been infected by fundamentalism seem helpless in recognizing the symptoms let alone in treating the disease.

Curing those who exhibit signs of the virus, stopping the plague and preventing its immediate reoccurrence will not be easy. Whether or not the 'body of Christ'—let alone our American democracy—survives this illness, develops at least a temporary immunity, and grows strong and healthy again is a decision every one of us must make...on a daily basis. We can watch in silence as fundamentalist Christianity reshapes church and state in their own idolatrous image or we can choose to resist guided by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance. I hope I can persuade you in Religion Gone Bad that we must resist before the fundamentalists do what they have promised, turn the world's oldest democracy into a theocracy ruled entirely by "righteous men."

I also hope I can persuade you that the struggle for "gay rights" is the next stage in the broader struggle for civil rights in this country. Consciously or unconsciously, fundamentalist Christians are using their anti-homosexual campaign to test how much intolerance the American people will tolerate. The intolerance must end. By working to achieve liberty and justice for gay and lesbian Americans, we are actually working to achieve liberty and justice for all Americans. This is the time to rediscover our own progressive moral values, reclaim the spiritual high ground, and resist those who demean and dehumanize any of God's children. This is not just a struggle to win civil rights for gay Americans. It is a struggle against fundamentalist Christianity (to use their words) "for the heart and soul of the nation." It is a struggle we dare not lose.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

    An insider's account

    Mel White gives an eye-opening history of his first-hand experience with some of the world's biggest "christian" leaders and exposes their political agendas and bigotry. Very interesting read, especially since the author was ghostwriter for some of these guys biographies... ie Jerry Fallwell and Billy Graham!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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