The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America

The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America

by Kimberly Blaker, Edward M. Buckner, Edwin F. Kagin, Bobbie Kirkhart
     
 

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On September 11, 2001, Americans witnessed horrific carnage inspired by religious extremism. We saw that religious fundamentalists will stop at nothing to reign terror on those they regard as their enemies. In our response, we began to focus on the oppressive treatment of women and children in other parts of the world where religious fundamentalism rules.

Yet

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Overview

On September 11, 2001, Americans witnessed horrific carnage inspired by religious extremism. We saw that religious fundamentalists will stop at nothing to reign terror on those they regard as their enemies. In our response, we began to focus on the oppressive treatment of women and children in other parts of the world where religious fundamentalism rules.

Yet, even now, most Americans fail to realize the magnitude of problems posed by our own country's Christian fundamentalism and Religious Right. We regard such dogmatism as odd but non-threatening. We reason, "Why should we be concerned, so long as it doesn't affect us?" But the problem does affect all of us. It affects those women and children in fundamentalist Christian homes who suffer severe emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. It affects minorities, particularly African-Americans, and gays and lesbians.

Equally disconcerting, the problem affects adherents of non-fundamentalist faiths and those with no religious beliefs who are prime targets of fundamentalists' prejudicial attitudes. To the Christian Right in America, even mainstream Christians whose tenets differ from those of conservative Christianity are violators of the will of God and must reform. American Christian fundamentalists are working to change laws of our land and thus force all Americans to conform to strict religious ideologies.

Kimberly Blaker's The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America is not just another book on the Religious Right. John Shelby Spong, best-selling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism calls Blaker's book "a thorough analysis of a present crisis." In this stark and troubling account of the Religious Right's vision for America, readers will come face-to-face with fundamentalist goals and tactics that have long been under way.

Blaker's carefully documented and compelling narrative exposes the full spectrum of issues on the Christian fundamentalist agenda. Rarely have these issues been examined so thoroughly; at least one has never been examined and exposed nationally.

This absorbing expos� urges mainstream Americans to recognize and oppose the encroachment of Christian fundamentalism on our secular society. It is a stirring appeal for religious freedom and the protection of civil liberties for all-including for the extremists who would deny such rights to others.

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Editorial Reviews

Cultic Studies Review
This book is an encyclopedic indictment of the extreme Christian right, but its content can be applied to any extremist belief system. It and the current world situation can help awaken us to the need to consider and better understand all sides of religious differences and see them in total and true perspective. The book is recommended for what it is: a well-articulated informative secular presentation in the debate between liberal and conservative views of religion and the danger in extremes.—Frank MacHovec, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Virginia and Rappahannock Community College, and Cult Studies Reviewer and Editorial Board member for the American Family Foundation's Cultic Studies Review.
Gerald A. Larue
As Kimberly Blaker and her colleagues illustrate in this powerful expos� of the aims, purposes and programs of the Religious Right, the real threat comes from within. And if ever the caution uttered by President James Madison is to be heeded it is now. He stated, 'I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.' In page after page of carefully researched and well-documented evidence Blaker shows how those who would have the United States recognized as 'a Christian nation' and 'under God' are ready to disregard 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' and impose their religious beliefs on others.

In other words, this book is a "must read" volume. It cautions against the tendency to dismiss as minor the efforts to take over local school boards by the Religious Right so as to control of curriculum and indoctrinate future voters. It alerts readers to the importance of actions by powerful governmental appointees (such as the Attorney General) who bring their personal theology into the official decisions and actions. The Fundamentals of Extremism constitutes a call to action by citizens whose theology and vision of America recognizes our right to be free from the efforts of zealots to limit our cherished freedoms.
Emeritus Professor and Religion Adjunct Professor at University of Southern California, author of Playing God: Deciding Your Life and Death

John M. Swomley
In fact, this is the most careful and devastating evaluation of the impact of fundamentalism on American society, politics and customs ever produced in the United States. . . .

I have seldom if ever reviewed a book so cogent, factually accurate and enlightening as this one. It opened a new vista of knowledge and insight that will make a significant contribution to American parents, educators and thoughtful religious and humanist leaders."(Note: This endorsement can be read in its entirety in the Foreword to The Fundamentals of Extremism.)
Emeritus Professor of Social Ethics, Saint Paul School of Theology, author of Liberation Ethics, Religious Liberty and the Secular State, and president of The Churchman Co., Inc.

John Shelby Spong
Kimberly Blaker and her associates have put together a blockbuster expos� of the activities of the Religious Right. With incredible precision and cogent images, they tell their story in such a way that readers may turn quickly to their sources with confidence and security. This is no shallow treatment of an emotional subject, but a thorough analysis of a present crisis.

If knowledge is power, as I believe it is, then the knowledge presented in this book will go a long way toward helping the United States retain the freedom of being a society, which though secular, can allow and even encourage a mature spirituality to develop. That is no small achievement.
best-selling author of Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism

Nadine Strossen
The Fundamentals of Extremism is an especially important book for all who care about the rights and well-being of women and children. It explores religious extremists' attacks on the civil liberties of women and children, in general. It also exposes the dire effects of these attacks upon women and children within too many Christian fundamentalist homes, in particular.
President of American Civil Liberties Union, Professor of Law, New York Law School
Richard Dawkins
I have just read this brilliant book from start to finish, almost without a break, and I am stunned and horrified by what I have learned. The fundamentalist Christian Right is America's Taliban. With the exception of the burqa (and even that, one feels, is missing only because St Paul forgot to mention it) all the ingredients are there: slavish adherence to a misunderstood old text; hatred of women, modernity, rival religions, science and pleasure; love of punishment, bullying, narrow-minded, bossy interference in every aspect of life. The Religious Right represents organized ignorance, organized bigotry, organized nastiness - and these people are on their way to taking over the Republican Party. Not least, the book persuaded me how muddled the fundamentalists are. They think they are patriots, yet they fight the letter of the Constitution and the spirit of the Founding Fathers every step of the way. The Religious Right is, in the deepest and truest sense of the word, un-American.
Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, author of Unweaving the Rainbow

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780972549608
Publisher:
New Boston Books
Publication date:
08/30/2003
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 8.74(h) x 0.94(d)

Read an Excerpt

Those who control what young people are taught, and what they experience-what they see, hear, think, and believe-will determine the future course for the nation.[i] --James Dobson

Who could say it better than Dr. James Dobson, former Professor of Pediatrics and founder of Focus on the Family? He is known to Christian conservatives as America's foremost parenting authority and is the calm voice parents across the country turn to daily on more than 2,000 radio stations. From Dobson, they seek answers to questions regarding marriage, relationships, and childrearing.

To others, Dobson is known for his strong web of ties to the Christian Right. In fact, his ability to wield power over the Republican Party suggests he is the Christian Right. Dobson, an evangelical, a patriarch, and an advocate of corporal punishment is an opponent of reproductive choice, homosexual rights, free speech, liberal sex education, and the right to die with dignity. Yet, he has a remarkable ability to manipulate unsuspecting Americans who otherwise might not agree with his views. His sly maneuvering through the political arena unseen and unheard-except by those whose chains he pulls-has been a key to his power and success. Dobson's pronouncement, however, which opens this work, is a revelation into the evangelical and fundamentalist mentality. It displays a hunger for mind control of youth, scarcely different from Pakistan and Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalists.

Many Pakistani children are raised in such a controlling environment. Pakistani Muslim boys as young as six, mostly from poor families, are often given over to madrasahs, or religious schools, where they spend their youth learning an extreme form of Islam. In the madrasahs, boys are given little opportunity to socialize, spending most of their first three years memorizing the Qur'an in Arabic, a language they do not even understand. They are taught no science or math, and the only history they will ever learn is of the Muslim world. It is the graduates of these madrasahs who "swell[ed] the ranks of the Taliban" in the mid-1990s.[ii] The Taliban continues to gain adherents through the training of children, from an early age, to think dogmatically-as do the Taliban leaders.

Similarly, Christian fundamentalists frequently home school their children or send them to ultra-conservative Christian schools in an effort to limit socialization that would otherwise open doors to critical thought. The key concept of fundamentalist education is controlling what children learn. As do those funding and running Pakistan's madrasahs in preparation for the Jihad, Dobson realizes, "If the salvation of our children is really that vital to us, then our spiritual training should begin before children can even comprehend what it is all about [emphasis added]."[iii] Dobson further reveals:

"I firmly believe in acquainting children with God's judgment and wrath while they are young. Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to skip over the unpleasant scriptures in our teaching. The wages of sin is death, and children have the right to understand that fact.[iv]"

Christian fundamentalist schooling is known for indoctrinating children through recitation and memorization of Bible verses and prayers, reinforced with hellfire and brimstone lectures. Moreover, these children are taught from textbooks that distort scientific and historic facts. As you will learn in Chapter 3, these children learn only what neatly fits into the myopic views of their parents and teachers. In math, they are taught only mechanics and absolutes. New math that teaches problem solving skills is abhorred because it reveals that everything is not black and white.

Fundamentalists know too well that children who learn to think on their own may someday stray from their indoctrination. The ideology of children in fundamentalist families is predetermined. Mind control, therefore, is the mode by which fundamentalists, whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or any other group, gain adherents. Authoritarian in nature, their interpretation of sacred texts calls on them to dominate society and to "determine the future course for the nation," as Dobson suggests. If fundamentalists do not guard against children learning to think on their own, they risk turning out adults who will choose a path inharmonious or even opposed to their own. For many fundamentalists, this path is simple, to serve God by bringing him loyal servants. However, a large proportion work to raise leaders and followers who will bring about political change and build a society ruled by an ideology not conducive to democracy. Equally troublesome, some fundamentalists intend to raise an army of puppets who will kill-and even die-for their predetermined cause.

America's new war on terrorism, resulting from the staggering death toll of the September 11, 2001 attacks, has made one thing clear. Those who threaten our lives and security, even those who stand in the way of capturing terrorists will be wiped out for the good of the world-that is, providing they are neither Christian nor American. There has been a disturbing double standard in the United States' way of dealing with extremist factions. The Bush administration's objective to exterminate terrorism abroad, neglects to recognize and address the dangers we face from within our own nation. In fact, President George W. Bush has called for more of what contributed to such an atrocity in the first place-the intrusion of religion into government.

America is not immune from breeding such extremism, as was seen when Christians Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Nichols and McVeigh were influenced by the extremist Christian Identity movement. The bombing was McVeigh's way of speaking out against the government invasion of the Waco Branch Davidians, a Christian sect. It was also in retaliation of the shooting deaths of the white supremacist Weaver family at Ruby Ridge, followers of the Christian Identity faith.

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