CP and Fundamentalism

CP (The Christian Post) claims to be the most popular evangelical newspaper, beating even Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham. Apart from factual issues, this also raises the issue of evangelicals versus fundamentalists. Their recent article, “David Daleiden fined $195K amid court battle over censored Planned Parenthood footage,” highlights the difference.

Fundamentalism originated in the 1920s, as a reaction against modernization. At this time biblical scholars, especially in Germany, said the Bible was not the literal word of God, but had evolved. Some of the Five Books of Moses are older than others, undermining the claim that God gave all of them to Moses on Mount Sinai. Furthermore, even the older books were composite works of different authors and redactors. Modernists also said that some of the Bible was mythical, not God’s literal truth.

This was also a time when not only scientists were coming to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution - nearly half a century after its publication - it was even becoming popular. Fundamentalists were having none of it. The Bible was the literal word of God, not subject to change or fancy interpretation. It was sinful and damnable to believe otherwise. This was the time of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial over the teaching of evolution in public schools.

It was also the time of the new Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, a hugely popular organization only nominally related to the post-Civil War Klan. The Second Klan was founded and led by fundamentalist preachers, and spread in large part through fundamentalist preachers, who were hired as recruiters. The Klan was the militant wing of the fundamentalist movement. They not only helped pass Prohibition, but they were the driving force behind America’s first immigration laws, designed to keep out Catholics and Jews. It was unconstitutional to do this directly, so they used some complex geographical workarounds to get the job done.

Fundamentalists were a dour lot, and the Klan even more so. Like Jesus and the money changers, they flogged sinners – especially kids and adulterers making out in Model T Fords. While relatively few hung black folk, none of them were willing to convict lynchers. They claimed to be the salt of the earth, leading simple, upright lives.

Things changed after World War II. Prohibition was long gone, and Franklin Roosevelt helped bring electricity and indoor plumbing to the South - not to mention a great deal of money. America’s economy was rebuilding the world, and even the South was prospering. Fundamentalists no longer had to lead such simple lives, and didn’t. They danced and used makeup and went to the movies - all of which were previously considered damnable sins. Times were changing.

This was when Billy Graham and introduced a new version of conservative Protestantism, one with a smiley face. This was evangelicalism, which largely replaced fundamentalism over the next few decades. The theology was essentially the same, but evangelicals were allowed to enjoy their new-found prosperity, unlike those dour fundamentalists, who either died off or loosened up. (Fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson started smiling, and usually passed for evangelicals. They saved their fire and brimstone for special occasions, or special targets like queers and baby-killers.) Evangelicals still supported Jim Crow, but most objected to lynchings (though not enough to convict lynchers).

Fundies rejected the media, with its immoral influences from Hollywood (and the Jews running it), not to mention the news media (also run by Jews), and science. Evangelicals were more tolerant of non-literal approaches to the Bible, the news, and even Hollywood – though they made sure it was censored. Billy Graham reserved his fire and brimstone for Commies and pinkos. When it came to most fellow Americans, he said live and let live. In the aftermath of the Nazis, ecumenism became very popular.

The Pendulum Turns

The “good old days” peaked in the late 70s and early 80s, back when there were plenty of good jobs in factories and you could do well with a high school degree – and often do pretty well without one. But since then, the average (median) worker hasn’t progressed, while the rich have grown far richer, and the poor have been boosted by food stamps and other programs. No one is starving, and relatively few go to bed hungry, but economic well-being is relative, and if you aren’t keeping up with the Joneses, you’re not happy.

Under these conditions, evangelicals are becoming more like fundamentalists. They’ve lost their smiley faces, and are following leaders who spew fire and brimstone. These hatemongers and their sympathizers are the core support for Donald Trump and The Christian Post.

About that Article

CP’s lead: “The undercover journalist who in 2015 exposed Planned Parenthood's baby body parts selling operation is fighting a nearly $200,000 fine amid an ongoing court battle.” First, they call David Daleiden an “undercover journalist.” Second, they claim the Planned Parenthood sold baby parts. Both claims are false. The courts have rejected the false claim about Planned Parenthood, and fined David Deleiden for spreading that false claim. CP is indulging in demagoguery and hate-mongering, appealing to their core fundamentalist followers.

The article is a prime example of alt-right journalism. Wikipedia’s article on Deleiden has a far more accurate account. First, the video in question was made while he was part of an anti-abortion group; he was not a journalist. Regarding the video, Wikipedia says:

Planned Parenthood states that they may donate fetal tissue at the request of a patient, but such tissue is never sold. According to Molly Redden of The Guardian, the content of the videos was "broadly considered to be false, the product of aggressive and misleading editing". However, the videos themselves have never been empirically proven to be false. Fusion GPS, the production company Planned Parenthood hired in the wake of the scandal to debunk the videos, rigorously analyzed them and found what they considered to be "...‘substantive omissions’ on Daleiden's part. It should be noted, however, that Fusion GPS has been accused of acting out of liberal bias.

I am not concerned with the details of Planned Parenthood’s operations, merely with the fact that The Christian Post grossly misrepresents the situation.

Evangelical papers like Christianity Today usually contain feel-good pieces about some evangelical who has done well in some way or other. They are basically harmless, though their implication that faith caused these good results is dubious. While The Christian Post has its share of such puffery, it also runs a lot of alt-right demagoguery, and even has a columnist that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has repeatedly listed as a hate-monger. CP is like Fox News on steroids. If they’re telling the truth about their circulation (which I doubt), it’s another sign that the country is falling on hard times.


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