Frank Schaeffer: Understanding Fundamentalists’ Need To Hate The Sinner

Frank Schaeffer wrote an excellent article, Understanding the “Reason” Why Fundamentalists Must Exclude Gays (and Other “Sinners”).  I love this man’s honesty.  — and these “reasons” are so painfully obvious to everyone looking at these folks from the outside, especially to us apostates who’ve seen it before from the inside.

Here’s part of it below (emphasis mine).

Right Wing Fundamentalists, be they Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish or Muslim, must hate gays (and other sinners) no matter what they say about hating the sin but loving the sinner.


Fundamentalists have to “stand against all compromise” because they themselves are in a constant battle with temptation and these temptations lead to questioning what they say they believe. And if they open that questioning door there is so much that is so plainly insane in their various scriptures that to even look into the room in their brains where all the dark little doubts are kept is to start a process where their whole faith will unravel.

The reason they have to hate every “deviation” is simple: At some point in their lives most fundamentalists do ask questions. At some point they also grow weary of fighting their own bodies. At some point they have a choice: to listen to their reasonable doubts and follow their questions, and therefore grow and change their minds by admitting the fact of paradox, or deny the reasonable voice of doubt and redouble their efforts to “keep faith.”

If on top of wrestling with doubts religious believers are earning both their living and deriving their meaning from a religious leadership role — and the power it gives them over other people — then they have all the more motivation to deny their doubts (and their bodies and/or their sexual orientation) and dig in their heels.

I think that is why so many closeted gay Evangelical men turn out to be leaders in anti-gay iniatives. I think this is why so many leaders in Congress harping on “family values” or state governors crusading on platforms of “moral rectitude” turn out to be mired in some sexual scandal, say taking trips to South America to visit their mistresses, or getting caught in men’s rooms playing footsie with the gay guy in the next bathroom stall. I think that is why sometimes the sons (or daughters) of some religious leaders are, counter-intuitively, harsher and even more extreme in their views than their parents.


In the 1970s and 80s, I was the Schaeffer version of a Franklin Graham-type [son of Billy Graham] of harsh and absolutist self-reinforcing extremist. The more doubts I had the farther to the Right I moved ideologically, as if shouting loudly and angrily enough could solve my problem. Sadly I was the person who pushed my father farther to the hard Right.

It turns out that Evangelicals (and other conservative religious people) have to lie about the “Lost” in order to square the circle of their own anti-reality, anti-truth, anti-science theology.


What Pat [Robertson] did was to say about the Haitians what Evangelicals, conservative Roman Catholics, fundamentalist Muslims and other literalistic religionists say (and/or believe) about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people or about anyone else whose nature — or what befalls them (say getting pregnant, being born gay or crushed in an earthquake) — puts them on the “wrong side” of “God’s blessing.”

For instance, Evangelicals go so far as to tell lesbian, gay, bisexual/pansexual, and transgender people that they can be healed of gayness, and even healed of gender ambiguity! They tell them that they can “change” and become heterosexual and thus “normal” if they only choose to accept Christ and/or seek godly counseling and admit that their gayness is a “chosen lifestyle” and that they weren’t born that way regardless of what gay people themselves say about how and when they discovered they were gay.

The history of theology (Christian or otherwise) is the history of people desperately trying to fit the way things actually are into the way their holy books says they should be. And since the holy books — if taken literally — are filled with backward nonsense, something has to give.

What “gives” is decency, compassion, honesty and truth. Result? Some people do what my mother and dad did, spend a lot of time making excuses for God. The other result is the congenital sneakiness of fundamentalist religion pretending that it is more enlightened than it is or ever can be. Roman Catholic medieval dogma is rechristened as “Natural Law” and Creationism is re-baptized as “Intelligent Design,” Islam calls the oppression of women the “protection of women” and so on. Proposition 8 in California is presented as something to “protect children” and so forth.

Why do religious fundamentalists hate “sinners” (in other words anyone not like them)? Answer: because otherwise they would have to blame God following the logic of their own theology. They have to say gay men and women chose to be gay or that the disaster in Haiti was “caused” by the Haitians themselves. They must say this because otherwise — according to the logic of their own ideas — they must blame God, for instance, for gay men and women even existing!

Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.


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