In my last article, I shared why I joined the military, a bit of my experience so far, and what I’d tell those considering it for themselves. Toward the end, I dipped into the economic outlook that has made the military the most viable option for many looking to secure an affordable education, and I pointed out what I see as a single thread running through these topics: the disproportionate influence of Evangelicals on American society.
In order to fill out the rest of the picture, we will now move into the political portion. Keep in mind, it’s coming from a person who enjoys listening to this while he sleeps. There are a lot of reasons I felt I had to join the military, and none of them are very good. They all shine light on aspects of this country that are easier to be complacent about. It’d be nice if parents were more supportive of their queer and trans children. It’d be nice if employers paid enough for students to work during the summer and pay for their education the following semesters. It’d be nice if United States drone strikes targeting extremists never claimed the lives of innocent children. In order to improve any of this, though, perhaps the first step we must take is choosing to believe that it can be better, which is a skill I’ve only recently begun to rightfully see as necessary.
Growing up in Evangelicalism, we were taught that the whole Earth was going to Hell in a handbasket (for those who are not familiar, this phrase in this context means “ending in disaster, soon”). We were told an apocalypse would come any day, and there would be signs and wonders leading up to it. So, when scientists would raise concerns about global climate change, we would often laugh, and say, “you’re right, the Earth is about to get really warm, because it’s going to be consumed with fire, and G-d will create a new Earth where G-d will reign for a thousand years.” As an adult, it’s been difficult to escape this mindset. I still believe the Earth will come to an end someday, or at least our place on it will, but something in me thinks G-d will let us burn it to the ground all by ourselves, and the last great species to be wiped out by homo sapiens will be homo sapiens. In this moment though, I must believe in a better future, or there will be no motivation to put in any work in the present. If I thought the world was ending tomorrow, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this.
In the past, I’ve utilized my small platform to decry what I see as a disingenuous system of judgment employed on the part of conservative Christians like my father. I’ve explained how Evangelicals proclaim their beliefs as being the one and only will of G-d as revealed in the Scriptures, then update them whenever it becomes obvious they were only based on fear and prejudice to begin with. Give an Evangelical a Bible, and he can give you biblical reasons why he shouldn’t be asked to help anyone or do anything for the good of society. Give him access to the sermon archive of John Piper, and you won’t make it out alive. But there’s something more sinister going on when it comes to their goals as political influencers. Evangelicals would rather America be a theocracy than a republic, and their foreign policy is driven by a rabid desire to see the world go up in flames as they are raptured into the presence of G-d. Many Evangelical Christians believe that the United States’ support of the nation of Israel is crucial, as they hold that if the Jewish people rebuild their Temple and reinstate the old sacrifices, this will ultimately bring about the return of Christ and the end of the world as we know it (source, source). If you ask them this outright, they may claim that their own personal support of the state of Israel comes from a G-d-given love for G-d’s chosen people, and this seems honorable enough. At the end of the day though, Evangelicals generally have no qualms about living out their eschatological fantasies in the realm of U.S. foreign policy.
Good policy decisions are based on a shared belief that we can build a better world for tomorrow, for our children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Evangelicals are exercising an absurd amount of political power relative to their numbers, and readying their escape pods in the event of an apocalypse they are working to bring about. Most of us want a fair economy, a safe place to live, work, and worship, and a country with foreign objectives we can feel good about being a part of. Many Evangelicals don’t want anything to do with the democratic ideals that shape our Republic, and their political goals consist of winning sway in the courts system in order to base laws on tenets of Christianity while they await the imminent return of Christ and the destruction of the Earth.
At the same time, because Evangelicals see our present human condition as terminal, they don’t mind when the politicians they’ve worked to elect give in to corporate interests. They’re just not concerned. As a result of this, for many decades now, the Republican Party has managed to depend on corporations for their money and Evangelicals for their votes. They make a lot of promises about abortion, they may claim they don’t support same-sex marriage, and they fear-monger about Muslims, Asian people, immigrants, or anyone who happens to be making White conservative Christians uncomfortable at the moment. Once they get into office, though, they deal out the tax breaks and the benefits to those who bankrolled the campaign and won them their position. If they get around to taking the slightest, most superficial action regarding abortion, “religious freedom,” or foreign policy that supposedly makes the return of Christ more likely, the people who voted for them are content. As Republican politicians have made it easier for corporations and CEOs to avoid contributing to society or providing employees with a living wage, they’ve generally done very little to actually benefit the interests of the Evangelicals who got them into office, though they’ve done a great job of indoctrinating a generation of conservative Christians with principles of laissez-faire capitalism.
This may come across as aggressive, and perhaps I should remind you that I was once an Evangelical. I understand exactly why they take these things so seriously, and why they see nothing wrong with voting in accordance with their religious beliefs. It’s just one facet of being “all in.” My goal is not that Evangelicals be ostracized from society and I would certainly denounce any persecution of Evangelical Christians. They deserve to buy a wedding cake and use the public restrooms at Target just like the rest of us. A lot of my frustration with Evangelical ideology is rooted in anger at my past self for ever believing the things I heard from my parents at the dinner table every evening. They recalled the details of their eschatology so pristinely, it seemed they had shared John’s dream on the island of Patmos. They truly believed that if two men who loved each other could legally get married, it would ruin the institution of marriage in the United States, and somehow, they convinced me to believe that too, for a time. People like Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh convinced them that the “welfare state” was resulting in “welfare queens” purposefully abusing the system in order to essentially steal from hard-working, honest Americans such as themselves. They believed this, so I believed it. That was the story of my young teenage years.
My hope is that an Evangelical person reading this could say, “you know what, when you put it like this, I can’t believe so much of my life has been based on something so bizarre.” Unfortunately, if you’re part of a group that claims to be chosen by G-d, believes G-d’s Son will return to Earth any day now, and seeks to employ political sway in bringing about this return, I must admit, it begins to sound more like a cult than a religion.
These two articles have been all over the place, and I am impressed if you’ve made it here. They probably should have been a YouTube video. To summarize, I joined the Air Force because it promised even more than the support my parents would have provided, had I been straight. If someone you know is in a similar circumstance, encourage them to learn all that they can about it before making a commitment, but support them if they decide to join. Unfortunately, we don’t yet live in a country in which a solid education can be earned without generational wealth, significant support from parents, or military service. And of even more dire circumstance, if we ever want to move forward as a society, we’ll have to convince Evangelicals to have “bright hope for tomorrow,” even if tomorrow has 100% less fire and brimstone than they would like it to. Or, of course, we could abolish the filibuster and the electoral college, two things with racist origins (1, 2), but that’s a conversation for another day.
Note: these two articles are littered with links. A few of them provide some informative context, and some are more humorous, while providing informative context in their own way. I do this so that people with a background and perspective wildly different from my own can still understand some of the reasoning that guides my thinking and even the jokes or asides I employ.