Mel White has written a compelling book — one that should give us all nightmares. He writes to expose the long-term goals of the fundamentalist christian religious right, seeing part of the same evil story that Jeff Sharlet tells in The Family but through a different lens.
Sharlet focused on the quiet but insidious rise of political power won by the religious right from an espionage perspective, both literally (he was embedded with The Family at C-Street and had access to their inner circle) and allegorically (his work of non-fiction offers as much tension as any top-selling spy story).
Like Sharlet, White compares the fundamentalist christian right with Nazi strategies. Also like Sharlet, White writes with an insider’s perspective. But unlike Sharlet’s infiltration tactic, White’s insight goes deeper and is much more personal. As a gay pastor who worked directly with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, helping to put their thoughts into print, and who spent years trying NOT to be gay in all kinds of extreme ways (including electric shock therapy), one might say that White is all the way inside this part of the christian story.
The title Holy Terror refers to the sacred duty that White says the religious right believes is theirs to wage war on the LGBTQ community.
This knowledge — that there is a faction in the United States of people who believe that their god has commanded them to wage war on the LGBTQ community — is what most of my friends and family who are uncomfortable with my passion about this issue don’t understand. These people — yes, admittedly fringe, extremist, and not the majority, but with an influence that reaches into almost every church community, into media, into the national political sphere — believe that America as a nation will be punished by their god if homosexuality is not eradicated. And they believe that there will be collateral damage from that punishment, much as there was in the story of Lot. Their god will strike down not just the sinners, but those who failed at stopping them from sinning, as well as those who are just nearby.
They key idea here for me is not just that such extremist thinking exists, but that so many unsuspecting people feel the influence — indirect, but real — of it. The ultimate goal of this extremist thinking is for the sexual morality of fundamentalist christians to be enforced on everyone by law. If you think I’m exaggerating, you need to read this book.
White does an amazing job of laying out the history of a deliberate, strategic effort to influence the political and social fabric in this country. Most of us have no idea of that influence, of the historical arc, of the deliberate injection of terms and concepts, all as manipulative as the best ad men on Madison Ave. When you read this history, and then realize that (as a small example) Ralph Reed has again become a national figure… again…! well, it really should give us all nightmares!
White says: “It is not my right to judge. But it is my responsibility to point out that my old friends… are willing to take huge risks to accumulate the resources they need to “reclaim America for Christ.” It is a fatal mistake to see Falwell, Robertson, and the others as “kooks” and “crazies” when in fact they have recruited, trained, equipped, financed, and mobilized millions of Americans who are also willing to take great risks to get the job done.”
Any conspiracy theorist who can stomach a book filled with scripture quotes would appreciate White’s work. This is the book I might recommend to those who are detachedly on the fence regarding religion’s influence on politics and society (the issue of sexuality being only one piece); certainly I would suggest it for those who don’t understand the damage that’s being inflicted. I daresay Jeff Sharlet would agree.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.