.Our Cross to Bear

Christianity has a dark side that this country can no longer afford to ignore

On March 16, 2021, a man shot eight women to death in Acworth, GA, a small town outside of Atlanta. Six were Asian, and two were white. All worked in massage parlors. 

The gunman, Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, had grown up in the conservative Crabapple Southern Baptist Church in Milton, GA. Crabapple preached that sex outside of marriage was strictly forbidden. Long was a tormented soul who believed his visits to the massage parlors caused him to “fall from grace.” Obsessive guilt drove him to commit his depraved act. 

The press alleged that racial animus caused his rage, and his church immediately condemned the crime, saying it was “nothing less than rebellion against our holy God and his word.” Then they expelled him from church membership. 

That it was an act against God and his word need not have been said. But the lack of empathy or compassion for a member of their congregation who had “fallen from grace” or for the young women he had slain is disturbing. 

Even more disturbing is that Crabapple Church appeared unaware of its complicity. Its harsh condemnation of sex outside of marriage, the shaming and his fear of damnation surely contributed to Long’s derangement. Yet, there were no consequences for the church, and Long was sentenced to life in prison, as he should have been. If he had belonged to a more tolerant and compassionate Christian sect, of which there are many, the entire affair might not have happened. 

This incident sheds light on why countries and states that are highly religious have higher crime rates than those that are more sectarian. Religion has a dark side, the founders understood this, and it motivated them to create our politically secular nation.

I have seen no objective evidence that the God of Christianity or any other deity exists. Still, many good people follow Christ’s teaching and work to improve our liberal democracy. Yet the dark side persists, especially within the evangelical community, and continues to harm society. Fundamentalists have convinced themselves that their God wants America to become a theocracy, and they work toward that end, even knowing that it would violate our constitution.

The Christian right wants our society to conform to its religious and moral code. Their primary interests seem to be abortion and sexual mores, including gay marriage and other LGBT issues, still seen as fundamental human rights in other advanced countries. They would impose their dark and bizarre views of sexual morality, the same repressive code that tormented Robert Aaron Long, on everyone. 

That is also the objective of the “stop-woke” agenda of Ron DeSantis and his followers. It is wrong thinking, as is the concealment of white culpability for slavery, the flip side of “stop-woke.”

Good people today recognize that most children are virile males or feminine females from infancy. And some are of both sexes, to varying degrees. We know gender is not absolute but a continuum from female to male. Some children grow to become football players, and some ballerinas. And a few become gay football players and lesbian ballerinas, and others don’t identify with either extreme assigned sex. That is a fact of human nature and has been throughout history. State legislatures restricting school curricula cannot and will not change what nature’s God created, and it will harm those it claims to want to help.

Open-minded Christians understand that and reject the “stop-woke agenda.” They accept diversity in a way that Jesus would approve and know that literal interpretation of the Old Testament can have irrational and unjust consequences. Adultery? Death. Curse the parents? Death. Blaspheme? Death.

There is a symbiotic relationship between religion’s dark side and dark money. Dark money funded the campaign that stacked the Supreme Court and overturned Roe. Evangelicals and the wealthy have a common interest in undermining American democracy in favor of autocracy. The Christian religion could then reign supreme, and would-be oligarchs would maximize their wealth like their Russian counterparts. Democracy is the safeguard against both.

Would we be better off if the religious right and oligarchs succeeded and we became a theocracy led by an autocrat? We certainly would not. Look at the data for personal happiness. By that measure, the top 20 countries in the world are democracies, and 19 of those countries’ citizenry are irreligious by a large majority. The exception is the United States, which ranks 19 in happiness. The data implies that if we were less religious, we would be happier people. That religion is declining here is apparently a good thing. 

The result is essentially the same, using standard of living as the measure. But now consider Russia, Belarus and Turkey, autocracies that often appear in today’s news. In happiness, they rank 74th, 73rd and 102nd, respectively. These countries are also quite religious; Russia-85%; Belarus-71%; Turkey-98%. Why would any freedom-loving American aspire to be like them?

We should be happy that we are a secular nation and work to keep it that way. Yet, in their effort to undermine faith in our democracy, the right often and forcefully complains that we have lost our way, that liberalism and diversity have weakened the country. They say that our government is incompetent, that our scientists can’t be trusted, that our children are being brainwashed, that religious liberty is under attack, that our elections are fraudulent; the list seems endless. They are a very unhappy crowd who want the rest of the country to join them in their misery.

But what is bewildering is that they complain about nonexistent problems. Most flagrant is election fraud. More than 60 court cases filed after the last presidential election confirmed the integrity of that election. And after spending thousands of hours and hundreds of millions of dollars searching for voter fraud, the right came up empty-handed. Ironically, their effort has confirmed the integrity of our election system. 

Only for-profit Fox News, especially Tucker Carlson and his proud friends, have misled their audiences, publishing fake news stories about conspiracies, election scams and government incompetence that they know are not true, as the Dominion lawsuit has revealed. Carlson’s hypocrisy, fawning over Trump in his broadcasts while privately saying, “I hate him passionately,” is astonishing. Fox News has caused enormous harm to our democracy, and its viewers.

A truly “fair and balanced” news organization would not pander to its audience but would address real concerns. Gerrymandered districts, dark money and a Senate apportioned equally to the states, regardless of population, compromise our democracy. Unlike in the past, public opinion doesn’t align with congressional action, or Supreme Court decisions for that matter, on far too many issues.

With less grumbling, whining and fear mongering from the far right, we could be more free, more happy, less guilt-ridden, with reduced crime. 

Bob Topper, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a retired engineer.

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