You may not immediately recognize the name Christopher Stroop, but if you follow news about religion on Twitter, chances are you’ve seen the hashtags he’s created. He’s the brains behind #EmptyThePews and #ChristianAltFacts (those threads are all well worth the read if you are someone struggling with trauma from growing up in fundamentalist culture).
Stroop is also known for taking to task journalists who misrepresent fundamentalist views as something fringe, when in fact the beliefs they hold are more common than we’d like to admit.
Franklin Graham, for example — son of the legendary Rev. Billy Graham — recently posted on Facebook that the word “progressive” is a synonym for “godless.” While it’s tempting for exvangelicals and atheists to laugh it off, the worldview Graham speaks of has deep roots in American history and culture.
Stroop explains in a recent blog post:
Graham’s very radical, black and white way of thinking, with its specific conflation of progressivism and atheism is, in its most immediate American context, a product of the Cold War, though it also has deeper historical roots. While specific terminology varies over time and with respect to particular confessional vocabularies, this general way of thinking about religion and secularism (which Graham also conflates with Communism) can be found among Protestants, Orthodox Christians, and… Catholics. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as conservative Christians pushed back against modernizing forces, the association of Christianity with freedom and atheism with unfreedom was a useful tool for right-wing Christians, one that has often been, and continues to be, employed for the kind of interfaith efforts among traditionalists geared toward domination rather than the common good, a phenomenon I refer to as “bad ecumenism.”
Graham’s view of humanity, as you might have guessed, is pretty grim. His views come from a framework that paints all of humanity as innately depraved. Life without God, he believes, is no life at all. It makes sense, then, that he comes down so heavily on feminists, the LGBTQ community, and liberals in general, not just because they support causes he considers sinful, but because they are groups that seek to make life better in ways that don’t include God or religion at all.
That is Graham believes Christians must take over the government. How else will people understand that they are worthless and don’t deserve nice things?
Make no mistake, American democracy is up against a relatively large, well-heeled, and highly organized Christofascist bloc whose rhetoric reveals their contempt for pluralism and democratic norms and their desire to impose theocratic authoritarianism on the rest of us. To resist, we need to know how to understand and contextualize that rhetoric. Many of us who have lived and left right-wing evangelicalism and who have been trying, in some cases for years, to expose the Christian Right as authoritarian and abusive, are ready to serve as interpreters.