To this weary artist who has spent fifty years watching, listening and yes, cringing with eyes and ears wide open, these new “jesus-jocks” certainly look different – many dress in jeans, sport soul patches and defend their manhood by lauding the extreme violence of UFC while “preaching the gospel” to hundreds and sometimes thousands of faithful followers. They are entitled leaders who demand and receive absolute submission, insisting they be referred to by titles such as “Pastor”and “Bishop” by their parishioners, staff and close friends.
But if you close your eyes and listen closely to their machismo sermons and mental games, you hear the same rhetoric espoused by religious fundamentalist leaders from the past. Leaders such as Bob Jones and Joseph Smith come to mind.
Same bully pulpit. Different players.
Richard Rohr says, “Fundamentalism is a huge mental game played by people terrified of inner experience. Those who don’t have full inner authority rely on external forms. The dualistic mind divides experiences, knowing everything by comparison: for instance, the good guys and bad guys”.
Fundamentalism at its most fundamental is fear. It is a merit/demerit system. It takes the forms of legalism and idolatry of its leaders. Rohr says, “Fundamentalism creates a system of words, bible quotes, and techniques for salvation that are supposedly certain, so that you can always knows the ground on which you stand and keep God on your side.” Just as Afghanistan and Iraq provide the impoverished breeding grounds for Muslim fundamentalism, America’s collapsing family system and absent or abusive fathers breeds Protestant fundamentalism.
People who are attracted to fundamentalism, Rohr states, “are suffering from a lack of masculine energy, a lack of union with the heavenly Father.” As you listen to the almost psychotic ravings of these “new” fundamentalists (friends have given me mix-tapes that would be hilarious, if they weren’t so desperately sad), it is easy to hear the dearth of inner peace and father’s love.
When fundamentalism and fear become the essence of a religious community, artists and creatives will either flee or be destroyed.
And unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening around the world. Creatives by the millions are fleeing fundamentalist religions. It doesn’t matter if the label is Muslim or Protestant, the end results are creative and artistic death.
Freedom is the opposite of fear, and just as I have written about the impact of religious control on our sexuality, the same is true of our creativity. The gifts of the gospel are freedom and a heavenly Father’s affirmation and love. Fear breeds death. Freedom brings life. Control breeds clones. Freedom brings creativity.