American Fundamentalists
(Christ's Entry into Washington in 2008)
by Joel Pelletier
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The Movement
Religious, Political and Corporate Fundamentalism in America
(updated 10/19/04)

Fundamentalism is a way of thinking. Or, perhaps, not thinking.

Fundamentalism is all about being sure, without questioning.
Fundamentalism is binary (yes/no right/wrong good/evil).
Fundamentalism has nothing (necessarily) to do with religion, but it helps.
Fundamentalism says all markets must be free, the bible must be inerrant, and only one political party can be patriotic.

Fundamentalism is not about a way of thinking. Fundamentalism is about knowing: KNOWING that you're right. Fundamentalism is about believing - no, ACCEPTING something as truth, something SO true that it's unthinkable to even consider the possibility that it might not be true. Because, even ESPECIALLY because, the core of that truth is usually something TOO good to BE true - something so good that, like the guy with the gold bricks in the desert, you would rather die than give it up.

The three branches of modern American Fundamentalism have somehow converged, opportunistically using each other even when their ultimate goals sometimes conflict, because true Machiavellian ethics doesn't require you to agree with anyone, even your allies, as long as you might get your way. By themselves, each has struggled for credibility; together, they have the potential to destroy American civil characteristics of plurality and tolerance - and, ultimately, freedom itself.

The three branches of modern American Fundamentalism are:
Religious (you only get to heaven through our god, our way),
Economic (to not profit for yourself and your friends is a sin), and
Political (we are right about everything, and you are right about nothing)

But the Bible contains many things we now find repulsive and wrong, including slavery, selling your female children, and abandoning your family for god...
But all markets are not free - we can but shirts from India, China and Mexico, but not prescription drugs from Canada...
And one political party running everything and branding all others as traitors is called Fascism and/or Totalitarianism, but NEVER Democracy...

My problem with Fundamentalism is that Fundamentalism is not Reality

Reality is too complicated (Fundamentalism is simple)
Reality is too many shades of gray (there are no grays in Fundamentalism)
Reality is mostly questions (Fundamentalism is all answers, and avoids questions)
Reality is lots of mistakes, through which comes knowledge (Fundamentalists don't make mistakes, or at least can't think of any when "put on the spot")
Reality is messy, dangerous and expensive (Iraq is reality; the "sell" to go into Iraq does not resemble the reality in any way)

Fundamentalists generally have a zero tolerance policy regarding doubt; in fact, the true sign of a Fundamentalist is their unwavering acceptance of ANYTHING their leader(s) tell them, despite the facts. It's a club that welcomes all, provided you check your mind at the door.

That's one of the main attractions of Fundamentalism. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world where all the big questions have been answered, where you KNOW what is right and what is wrong, even what those words themselves mean? To know THE way to dress, to cut one's hair, when to bathe, what to eat, who to marry, when to pray - a fully structured life where you KNOW your place and your relation to the universe.

Where you are sure that you are good, therefore those against you MUST be evil; that the purpose of government is to make as many people as rich as possible, so that they, in turn, will insure that you stay in power; that there is no such thing as "objective journalism," only "right and wrong," and your job is to explain why; that America is the New Jerusalem, a Christian Nation meant to inherit the fruits of the Earth.

These things don't sound terrible to those who believe. That's just the way it is. It strikes me that, for a Fundamentalist, it must be really difficult to live in a truly multi-cultural, live-and-let-live society full of real people with real, everyday lives. Because diversity is living proof that the REAL world is full of millions of points of view, millions of little realities carried around in each skull. Diversity, on a daily basis, threatens little tiny Fundamentalist tenets, nibbling around the edges. And if even none of those ABSOLUTE truths actually turns out to be false, then maybe all of them are.

Because Fundamentalism is an all-or-nothing, winner-take-all philosophy. There is no interpretation (other than their own, since, by definition, Fundamentalism IS rigid interpretation), no 'wiggle-room,' no compromise.

The greatest danger of American Fundamentalism is that it is not compatible with Democracy.

Democracy is liberal, compassionate, open to all who wish to participate. Democratic laws are created by and for all, not by a few (who are themselves then above them). Democratic legislators serve at the will of their constituents, not their contributors.

The core tenet of Christian Reconstructionism is that Democracy is part of the problem, and Theocracy is the solution. Economic Fundamentalists are true believers in Monopoly Capitalism, praising multi-national corporations but NEVER multi-national labor unions. Political Fundamentalists don't care if America is liked - they only care about respect, which they are happy to define as fear.

But I can't believe that the people I have painted don't really know what Reality is. If it's just that they are simply self-serving, that's just ANOTHER example of America's wealthy and powerful being greedier and meaner than anyone else (we're still number one!). If it's all simply self-delusional spin, then please spare us the public therapy and find yourself a professional.

This is not the world I wish to live in, and I refuse to allow them to destroy my country, my culture, my planet. I was born here, and whether my descendants came over on the Mayflower, or walked down from Canada, that's what America is - people from all over who came to make a better life, and DID. I refuse to become just another disgusted expatriate American artist. This thing is now global, and as Americans we have a responsibility to everyone else on the planet who cannot speak out and cannot vote here. Information is power, and this painting is my way of fighting back.

Or else the terrorists really do win, whomever they may be...

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American Religious Fundamentalism

Christian Fundamentalists, in the form of Christian Reconstructionists and Dominionists, have been actively pursuing an agenda interpreted by Rushdoony, formalized by North and subsidized by Robertson and his Christian Coalition, since the 1980's. Because of the unprecedented wealth created by media, investments and generous tax policy to the uber-wealthy, a small group of extremely wealthy individuals have financed, through tax-exempt foundations and think-tank doctrination centers, an entire generation of theorists, economist and commentators that today can make Fox News or CBN look like just another "news network."

America was founded by fundamentalists, so it is our cross to bear. There were Economic fundamentalists in the Virginia Colony, but the true virus of Fundamentalism was planted by my own direct (maternal) ancestors, the Massachusetts Pilgrims. John Winthrop and his followers were basically kicked out of England, then kicked out by the Dutch, so they took their chances and came to the New World where no one could boss them around. Roger Williams had to leave Massachusetts and founded Rhode Island to get away from this authoritarian government; Benjamin Franklin fled his hometown Boston at age 14 hating religious authoritarian government so much that he made sure the separation of church and state was codified in the Constitution. The "Blue Laws" banning Sunday retail store hours and the sale of alcohol in Massachusetts was only overturned while I was growing up in the 1970's.

It's because of the theories and writings of Rushdoony, and the speeches and activism of his son-in-law Gary North along with Christian educator and "Left Behind" co-author Tim LaHaye that the separation of church and state is so in peril today. They were telling their people in the 1970's and 80's that Evangelical Fundamentalists Christians should run for every office in the US, after which they could run everything and turn the country into a Fundamentalist Theocracy. They also want to destroy all public schooling, which frowns on their proselytizing, first by pulling out all of their children to "home school" them THEIR way, and now by pushing Voucher programs to bleed public school funds. Once public schools collapse, left with only the most problem children, they can step in and offer to take over public education, but without the tolerance, diversity and humanist requirements (science, etc.) of secular bureaucrats.

Oh, and teacher's unions - our Christian Fundamentalists seem to be a particularly cruel strain of Libertarian free-market capitalists, with a total lack of compassion for anyone but their own. They reject Evolution and Darwin because it challenges a literal reading of Genesis, but embrace Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest when it comes to economics. California extremist/millionaire Howard Ahmanson Jr. even suggests that the New Testament does not mandate feeding the poor or the minimum wage. Since they are staring at the eye of a needle between them and heaven, America's Christian extremists have to find other justifications for their special place with god.

So, because of the power of media, a couple of generations of Americans have been raised thinking that CBN is news, Trinity Broadcasting is entertainment, and if you believe in Jesus you will get money (only, of course, after giving them 10%). "Creation Science" is a legitimate alternative to Evolution in public schools, the Federal Government is giving millions of dollars to religious organizations - all Evangelical Christian, of course - that don't have to hire Muslims, Jews or Atheists.

And, according to them, America is a "Christian Nation," as opposed to a nation founded by Christians (well, Deists actually, a VERY different animal from today's Christian Fundamentalists).

The biggest and VERY REAL danger of American Religious Fundamentalism today is not that they are really any more different than they have ever been. They think generally the same as Fundamentalists have always thought: "we're just trying to make things right, to keep things right, to insure that things STAY right." What IS different today is the potentially lethal combinations of wealth, media and modern military technology. Up until a hundred years ago or so, the worst thing some lunatic could do was convince enough people to go wipe out the next village. Today one button can end it ALL, for ALL of us. The power of today's global media, the mutual benefits of cooperation that exist between Free-Market, Political and Christian Fundamentalists, and the financial resources to keep those messages going, make this REALLY scary.

No, I mean REALLY - no ghosts, demons or space aliens, just people in the HIGHEST seats of power who REALLY believe that god put them there, so whatever they do to stay there is right. This self-justifying Determinist point of view always ends, interestingly enough, with the people at the top where they know they belong - at the top. The problem is, these guys have turned winning into another Fundamentalist cult. They don't like to lose, and they have the money, the media, the bombs and a bad attitude about losing. In their scenario they CAN'T lose, because god put them at the top, and Jesus will come back only AFTER they blow everything up. So the sooner they get started, the better...

Throughout history many suicide soldiers/bombers (not just in today's Middle East) have been told that, as martyrs, they will go to heaven and inherit worldly riches they have so far lived without. American Fundamentalists, even if they REALLY screw up, believe they still win.

But what if they're wrong?

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American Political Fundamentalism

Political Fundamentalists, in the form of the far right take-over of the Republican party, have concluded that there is no reason to compromise, that they ARE right and everyone else was wrong (even EVIL and TRAITORS), and that ANYTHING you had to do to win and STAY there is justified-as long as you win.

When seen through the Fundamentalist perspective, everything the current Bush Administration has been doing since they came into office makes absolute sense. As Fundamentalists, they believe that they are RIGHT about everything they are doing, don't allow discussion of their actions or intentions, and have made it a policy to keep from Americans (and the World) as much information the government used to provide as possible (including constantly canceling government reports and studies - but only the ones that consistently show their actions in a negative light). Like all Fundamentalists, they don't admit to "interpretation." If the economy has improved, they claim the responsibility, and if things go wrong they deny it, ignore it or blame it on outside circumstances (including the Clifton Administration, out of office now for almost 4 years).

They promised to run the government more like a business. My first impression, based on their own words, is that they don't actually believe that they are "above the law." A business sees no RIGHT and WRONG as far as law is concerned. In business, laws are simply negotiation points, and they are always working to move the line over just a bit more. The current (as of 6/04) administration battle over the definition of "torture" is a clear indication that they believed that all they had to do was redefine the term "prisoner" and "torture," and then place these activities offshore to stay out of American Court jurisdiction. Political fundamentalists currently running all three branches of our government act as if they are not accountable to anyone.

This lack of accountability is a major function of believing that anything you do MUST be correct, since you are on the CORRECT (or, at least, winning) side. I believe that government is ALL about accountability, and the founding fathers of this country understood this, which is why they created a balanced government. By relying on self-interest and transparent accountability, everyone is forced to act out in the open and stay honest, and we (as voters) retain the ability to throw the bums out if they do things we don't approve of.

The Bush administration says "Trust Us," once again confusing faith with the role of government. It is not the government's right to ask for our "trust." It is their JOB to constantly prove that their actions are legal and beneficial to us. Reagan himself said "Trust but verify," but how can we verify if everything is classified and the media acts only as stenographers?

The current American executive administration is also the culmination of lessons learned by the political ideologues of (mostly) the Republican Party, started in the late 1970's. The far-right of the Republican Party realized, with the success of Ronald Reagan, that they can place a charismatic spokesman in the President office, but policy can be decided on and run by back room individuals who, if totally honest with voters, would NEVER be elected. I believe they hated Clinton so much because he out-Reaganed them - charisma, down-to-earth hominess AND a liberal (at least regarding social issues) agenda, added on to an intellect they could not hope to defeat. The best they could do is stall and keep him from doing anything, but as hard as they tried they could not kick him out of office.

They could not control G.H.W. Bush the way they did Reagan, and he lacked charisma and could not get re-elected even though he planned and executed the first Gulf War flawlessly (and because he put together a TRUE, voluntary coalition, it actually generated a cash profit). Bob Dole was NOT their kind of puppet, and it would not have mattered who they threw at Clinton. But George W. Bush represented the ultimate front for the far-right agenda, an agenda that could never receive popular support if disclosed. G. W. Bush ran as a "moderate," a "uniter, not a divider," and (the ultimate in contradictions) a "compassionate conservative" (a phrase borrowed from Marvin Olasky). Behind the scenes, in the private fund-raisers and meetings held by G. W. Bush in front of core supporters, he talked of his true fundamentalist vision, based on Christian Fundamentalist thought, of right/wrong, religious education and proselytizing in public schools, with a winner-take-all approach to world politics and economics. Why anyone would trust his vision on these things, especially business, is a mystery to me - he proved that he could bankrupt any business he was involved in, and only managed a profit as a baseball team co-owner because his only job was to cheerlead (he cashed out selling to Tom Hicks, long-time ultra-conservative buddy and VP of Clear Channel).

The biggest danger posed to American Democracy by Political Fundamentalism is the attitude that there can only be ONE correct party, and locking it into long-term power by any means necessary is the daily task of Karl Rove and Tom Delay. If they succeed, no other party or point of view will be permitted to present bills, set committee and floor schedules, and convene Grand Juries and ethics probes. No Republican will EVER be investigated by the Justice Department for ANY reason, and any media outlet that embarrasses them will be cut off from any and all access to the government. This is already happening-EVERY decision made by this administration has to pass a "global political test"-will it benefit the current political party in power, and keep them there. If the answer is no, the bill is dropped, the initiative is abandoned, the study is eliminated.

This is not government for ALL the people, only for the winners. And the rest of us are just losers. Deal with it. A permanent one-party system is NOT what the founders imagined, and will destroy anything resembling democracy in this country.

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American Economic/Corporate Fundamentalism

(essay on the way...)

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2004 Joel Pelletier, joelp.com, email: joelp@joelp.com, web design: the Way Home media

Original text & images protected by copyright law; reproduction without consent prohibited.

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