reviewing holy terror

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.

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3 Responses to reviewing holy terror

  1. One thing I don’t understand. Why homosexuality? Why should this imaginary God not smite America for adultery, given the increase in divorce and remarriage, or for its foreign wars, or even for neglecting the poor?

    • Mindy says:

      Right. Not logical, I agree. But here’s a guess: divorce rates and adultery rates in the US (both affiliated and non-affiliated with religion) are too high, the church would have to reject too many. And we are too comfortable and complicit as a society with our affluence to want to stop war or truly help the poor. Those who are other-than-heterosexual are an easy, minority, not all that well understood, target.

      Perhaps that leads to this guess: it’s not the particular issue that mattered, but that one could be found that would corral (control) the masses. I have great suspicion about the motives of those who played a leading role in growing this christian army and engaging in this battle.

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