It’s gotten to the point that whenever I hear the word “evangelical” of late, a case of the cold shakes descends upon my fragile, aging system.
Now, perhaps there has always been an underpinning of apprehension for me with the term evangelical, given the fact that I’ve forever been leery of the Bible Belt-type of philosophy, a way of thinking never known for open-mindedness and tolerance; it’s a biblical closed shop, as it were.
But add right wing and Christian to the mix, and you have the right wing evangelical Christian movement, a tsunami of conservative thought that largely paved the way for a bigoted, sexist, divisive, shallow, morally bankrupt ignoramus to become president of the United States, the most powerful individual in the world.
How people who call themselves Christians could possibly support a Donald Trump is, on the surface, near incomprehensible, contradictory or even hypocritical, but perhaps, ultimately, it says a great deal about so many of the individuals attracted to right wing evangelicalism.
Even this past week, the Bible-thumper crowd was raising its ugly head in Alabama, the God-fearing types adamant that they’d rather have an accused child molester in the Senate than a Democrat; there’s nothing wrong with a grown man dating a 14-year-old girl, some of them were saying; after all, the argument was made in some Republican circles, Joseph, an adult carpenter, married Mary, a teenager. (Although the relationship was strictly platonic, if we are to accept Mary’s permanent virginal status).
Well, turns out these Christian Samaritans won’t let you volunteer on the campaign if you are Satanic enough to support a gay lifestyle and gay marriage.
So all this nut-caked mixture in the States of politics and religion has made me, as I say, even more on the cusp of bodily shakes when I hear the word evangelical.
And I’ve been hearing it locally, right here in our little old province of Newfoundland.
You may have read or heard of Operation Christmas Child, a supposedly charitable campaign run by a group called Samaritan’s Purse, a non-denominational evangelical organization (there’s that word again) that arranges for schools (including those in Newfoundland) to fill shoe boxes with small gifts that are then sent to needy children in 150 countries.
Sounds just grand, right?
Well, turns out these Christian Samaritans won’t let you volunteer on the campaign if you are Satanic enough to support a gay lifestyle and gay marriage. God forbid. And if you don’t swear allegiance to such a belief system, well, then, you can’t help little kids with Christmas.
Last year, a Burgeo woman was turned down for a volunteer position because she refused to sign a statement that basically smacked of homophobia.
And this past week — finally — the province’s English School District directed all of its schools to cease participation in Operation Christmas Child.
Proper thing, I say. It’s a shame it was permitted to poke its homophobic, narrow-minded, evangelical (oops, that word again) nose into Newfoundland’s business in the first place.
Hopefully, teachers are being encouraged to talk up the issue with their students, to give them an idea of what real Christianity is all about.
Also, just the other day, I read a story in The Telegram about Danny Williams and his wife donating $50,000 to Teen Challenge Canada, a “strong faith-based” group planning to establish a rehabilitation centre for female alcoholics and drug addicts in St. John’s.
Williams can obviously distribute his millions or billions of dollars wherever he wishes; that’s his prerogative. (Big of you, he would probably suggest, rightfully so).
And Teen Challenge Canada has a right to look to the public for donations as it attempts to raise a million bucks for its centre.
But make no mistake about it: this is another slice of the evangelical world in Newfoundland, and one has to wonder whether the institution will discriminate against those alcoholics and addicts who have no desire to accept god as their sobriety counsellor.
Will the managers there admit gay alcoholics or addicts to their premises?
Do you have to adhere to certain biblical philosophies before Teen Challenge Canada will help save your life?
If you believe in a woman’s right to an abortion, for example, will you be allowed inside the hallowed halls of the new rehab centre? (Or if you have such a belief, will you be encouraged to toss it aside?).
If you want to sober up or get off drugs, but are an agnostic or an atheist, will the door be slammed in your face?
And are you leaving yourself vulnerable to evangelical indoctrination when going through withdrawal at such a place?
There’s no doubt about the critical need for rehab centres in this province, but perhaps much more of the money government makes off the sale of booze and, next year, the sale of pot, should go towards the establishment of the type of facility where addicts and alcoholics do not have to promise an allegiance to some mysterious, abstract notion of a god before they attempt to straighten up their lives.
Besides, sobering up, straightening up, is, for most of the addicts I’ve known over the years, much more complicated than simply becoming a disciple of an evangelical god.
Oh, no, that word.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org