Fundamentalism Is A Political Movement
I have made the argument before (here and here) that Fundamentalism is essentially a political movement rather than a religious one, it is true of the Taliban in Afghanistan and it is certainly true of Fundamentalist Christians in this country. Evangelicals are about spreading the word of God through testimonial and recruitment, Fundamentalists are about strict adherence to the Bible through legislative action. To a Fundamentalist, adherence to God’s words are not an option, but rather an imperative and not just for himself or herself, but for everyone. Our Constitution was designed to protect us from Fundamentalism and fighting for our Constitution is the only thing that will stave off the American Taliban.
I suspect that even Fundamentalists would not argue with that assessment, after all, they are highly organized and highly funded in their efforts to change the laws of this land to reflect and enforce their worldview. I also suspect that they would consider themselves Christians first, and Americans second, so there would likely be no apology for their actions. There is a sense among the faithful that what is good and right, is ordained by God, but good and right are far too subjective in a world made up of shades of gray. Where our collective worldviews overlap, is where we must legislate from, but the fringes are where we must draw the line. This is what it means to live in a free society, compromise and the common good is the focus and not any one minority view takes precedence over the rest.
The Bible was around when our country was founded, if our forefathers had wanted to establish a Christian Nation, they very easily could have. But they didn’t. Instead they were careful to keep God out of the equation and instead referred to “their creator”, meaning whatever higher (or lower) power each individual chooses to credit with life as each of us understands it. Even a strict constructionist will have a hard time coming to a different conclusion.
Religion plays a large role in American society, whether good or bad, that is the reality, but we are given a legal framework for how to deal with that fact and we must use it. I would prefer that God not be referenced in the Pledge of Allegiance, on our money or in our courts of law, but I also am not burning to take them out. But it is also important to remember that the word “God” was not put there by the framers of our Constitution, it was added later in the ebb and flow over the years of Fundamentalist surges, and I would argue that it makes our country weaker.
By adding the word God to our Pledge of Allegiance, we have not expanded God’s influence. We have only managed to make the Pledge obsolete. I will forever remember the Pledge, as I said it every day in school growing up. My daughter doesn’t know it at all. Fundamentalists will argue that Secularists are to blame for driving the pledge out of our public schools, but I would argue the opposite. If in 1954, the Knights of Columbus hadn’t have insisted that the Pledge of Allegiance to our country also become a public prayer, the Pledge would still be recited in our public schools today. If we are to honor our history as a tolerant, open and free society, God must not be forced on the public, but rather chosen by the faithful. Government is for the people, all of the people, and Church is where God is best honored.