If it fits on a T-shirt, you need to think more: On fundamentalism

God said it.

I believe it.

That settles it.

If you were immersed in Evangelical culture during the 90s, like I was, you’ll recognize that as the text of a popular T-shirt. Even back then, I resented the sentiment, which gave me a mental image of a Bible Heisman – someone gripping a King James translation in one hand whilst stiffly holding up the other and leaning away.

Don’t confuse me with subtleties, that shirt meant. Don’t bring gradient shading or a different interpretation or, most importantly, any of your annoying questions. I have all the answers.

One guy who owned that shirt once wrote an impassioned editorial in the campus newspaper, imploring his “little sisters in faith” not to worry about equal pay, because “equal pay does not advance the cause of Christ.”

It sure helps us buy our groceries, though, I thought but didn’t say.

That was the year we had a pro-life group speak in Chapel. They assured us that it was exceedingly rare for a woman to become pregnant from rape. It was the year one of the guys from our brother dorm told me that the way he planned to find a wife was, he was going to choose a girl who turned him down at least three times for a one-on-one date because that’s how he’d know she was “pure.” It was the year the music professor had to resign because people found out she was gay.

“We can’t help our temptations,” one of my choir friends said, upset. “She’s a lesbian, but…she isn’t practicing.

How else is she gonna get it right? I thought but didn’t say.

Anyway. I haven’t run in Evangelical circles (double meaning intended) in years, yet I’m often forcibly reminded of that T-shirt as I keep up with the news; read certain blogs; and talk to people who have no experience with the particular black-and-white mindset I’ve described here. But, instead of “God said it. I believe it. That settles it,” the messages – all of which could fit on a T-shirt – are:

Transwomen are women. Transwomen are women. Transwomen are women.

Sex work is work.

Porn is empowering.

Some men have vaginas.

Check your privilege!

Having marinated, as I did, in smug zealotry for many years, I recognize it when I see it. The currency of each  of these pomo statements – and plenty more you’ll find repeated in liberal feminist circles – has more in common with fundamentalist, totalitarian religion than with rational, secular discourse. Every time I hear this kind of thing, I remember a guy in my Old Testament History class nodding his head sagely the day Kurt Cobain died, saying, “Well, he’s not in Nirvana now.

I have all the answers.

I, and others who agree with me, are the only people who really see the truth.

Everyone else is blind, mistaken, an apostate, and going straight to Hell.

It’s up to us to correct them. Let’s keep the message simple.

 

Twenty-three years later, I’ve kept the good stuff; the real stuff. I’m no atheist. And, as a return on all those years, I got three bonus gifts, like those awesome sunscreen moisturizers Sephora stuffed into my bag after I spent too much in the store:

(1) I can think for myself.

(2) I can tell immediately when someone else wants to think for me.

(3) I can wager a pretty good guess as to why. A hint? Power. See also: Control.

Fundamentalism does two things at the same time: It makes you doubt your own perceptions and therefore yourself; and it assures you that the belief you’re repping makes you unassailably right.

A belief – especially the unwavering kind unleavened by facts or examination – can be far more dangerous than any idea. A belief can be a fetter; a blindfold; a too-tight, lettered T-shirt you put on willingly and then have trouble taking off.

 

 

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