While this may be new to the political debate, it isn't new to me. I've been trying to say that here in this blog for quite some time. I came from a church that for decades labeled itself "fundamentalist" and subscribed to a narrow path for "born again" Christians that was so narrow a way that it didn't even accommodate Jimmy Carter. It couldn't accommodate him because he was too "liberal" in his faith.
Less than a year ago, though, I found myself in a discussion with members of my own family who were prominent in the early days of that church and who remain politically on the right. Strangely enough, they behaved as though they had no concept of this idea of "fundamentalist Christianity." They wanted no part of that label, whatever it means.
I can see Christians wanting to give up a label that has become associated with Osama bin Laden and right-wing Islam. But what troubles me is that the right is now denying not just the label but the idea that they ever proposed that they and they alone were ever going to be fortunate enough to enter Heaven. That was central to the fundamentalist Christian faith two, three, four decades ago. Now?
It's not that these people don't still think that way. Clearly they do. It's that they are no longer willing to talk about it in public.
But why? It was central to fundamentalist "born-again" Bible-believing Christianity right up until George W. Bush became President of the United States. Why is it now something that needs to be hidden in a closet?
Why this dishonesty?
I'm inclined to think that Barack Obama hit the nail squarely on the head when he said that right-wing Christian leaders had hijacked the faith. All this fundamentalist talk about how narrow the path of righteousness is isn't really about living a righteous life in "fundamentalist" Christianity. What this talk is really meant to do is to divide the population into two camps, the "fundamentalists" who subscribe to right-wing politics and the "liberals" who don't.
Obama had it right. It isn't about Christianity at all. It's political.
I think that's why right-wing Christians are no longer willing to stand up in public and state what they have believed for decades, that they and they alone have exclusive access to salvation, that the rest of the world is going to Hell. Right-wing Christians now understand that this divisiveness was not spiritual but rather was political and they are too embarrassed and basically too dishonest to admit it.