If you live long enough, you can tell when the re-runs are playing. Now eyeing 80, I find some of the re-runs are no better now than the first performance.
For instance: When the Southern Baptist wars began in 1979, theological conservatives asserted that liberalism was being taught in the seminaries and warned that unless Bible-believing Southern Baptists intervened, the denomination would go the downward way of other denominations.
It was true that the seminaries presented differing viewpoints on all sorts of issues — that’s what institutions of higher education are supposed to do. But when investigations were conducted, no champion of liberalism was identified and cashiered, although professors left in disgust or in fear of the loss of freedom to be educators rather than indoctrinators. When further attempts to accommodate the concerns of the conservatives were made, it became clearer that accommodation and parity never were the goal. The goal was complete control.
Over the course of a decade, the disgruntled continued their false charges of liberalism, waging their crusade as viciously as any political campaign — including rigging elections by bussing sham voters to the polls, and getting “fake-media” journalists fired — and finally achieving their goal, a complete takeover of the denomination. They declared their victory to be a resurgence of the Bible-believing Baptists over Bible-denying impostors.
Not long ago I heard Franklin Graham say theological “progressives” — which likely includes folks like me — really don’t believe in God at all. And to be honest, sometimes I do wonder if he and I believe in the same God. But such is the conservative script: Demonize the opposition and be relentlessly bold in defaming all who are not with you until finally your lie prevails.
“But such is the conservative script: Demonize the opposition and be relentlessly bold in defaming all who are not with you until finally your lie prevails.”
Taking over a nation takes longer. You begin by charging the opposition with a lack of patriotism, of being soft on communism (as did McCarthy and Nixon), of failing to maintain law and order and of rewarding “welfare queens” (as did Reagan), of abandoning family values (as did Gingrich), of controlling the press and media (as did Fox News and Rush Limbaugh), of denigrating conservative views in our educational institutions (as did Bill Bennett), of practicing “judicial activism” and “legislating from the bench.”
By relentlessly charging the opposition with crimes against the welfare of the nation, you create and enlist an ever-growing coalition of malcontents and concerned but gullible citizens. But you keep your true objective hidden, never letting the public know that being “fair and balanced” is not what you seek. No, your goal is a remaking of America according to your brand of conservativism.
But, keep a nation marinating in this unsavory stew for decades, and what happens?
A crafty, amoral narcissist enters the scene, marshals all the passions of the resentful and the fearful and presents himself as The Restorer of America. All news other than the Leader’s news becomes fake news, and all agendas other than the Leader’s are deemed anti-American. Truth becomes a matter of subjective preference, and any setback is due to liberals’ rigged processes. When all else fails, secretly orchestrate a violent overthrow of the republic and whitewash it as an act of patriotism.
Recently one of the Leader’s earliest supporters and first pick as his National Security Advisor said the Pledge of Allegiance phrase, “one nation under God” (“under God” being an unfortunate Eisenhower era insertion), suggests we need only “one religion.” In context, he surely meant the Christian religion, and more particularly the religion of American evangelicals. His words ought to make every Baptist heart flash with horror.
“If this trend continues, dissent in either political or religious conviction will be no longer permissible.”
If this trend continues, dissent in either political or religious conviction will be no longer permissible. “True” believers will have purged the dissenters, the disloyal, the progressives, the liberals, and even the moderates. The takeover of the nation will be complete — without one shot being fired. Democracy will have become a de facto dictatorship.
Walking in my neighborhood during the final weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign, I was stunned by a yard sign of one neighbor who, perhaps sensing the imminent defeat of his candidate, protested in these words: “So, you HATE him so much, you prefer a TOTALLY different America than we have today??”
A year later it is much clearer which candidate and faction wants a totally different America than the one we have had since 1789.
I’ve seen this movie before.
Dan Day is the author of Finding the Gospel: A Pastor’s Disappointment and Discovery and more recently Lively Hope: A Taste of God’s Tomorrow.
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