The social costs of the failure to accept reality

Andrew Sullivan explores the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and meth:

Well, since I’m not a Marxist, I do not believe that rigid fundamentalism is a simple by-product of poverty. But I do agree with my reader that economic decline, unemployment and cultural alienation undoubtedly fuel meth and probably contribute to fundamentalism’s growth. But the interaction is almost certainly complex and two ways, creating a mixture of economic despair, collapse of self-confidence, bewilderment at modernity and the lack of a traditional Christianity that, at its best, really did help people confront the ordeal of living.

Fundamentalism’s failure to encourage genuine, humble and humane faith that can finally come to terms with science and history is critical to this, which is why, increasingly, I think a reform of Christianity is central to preserving the liberal constitutional state. What has replaced real faith is, in fact, a form of neurotic attachment to literalism in Scripture (effectively debunked by scholarship), to authority figures who enforce order, if not coherence, onto otherwise chaotic lives (think Dobson or Ratzinger or Warren), rigid attachment to untruths in human history (as in denial of evolution), or the insistence of maintaining the appearance of Godliness to avoid confronting real human sin (think Ted Haggard or the countless child-abusing priests). None of this helps anyone actually cope with modern life, because it is too opposed to modern life. And so fundamentalism as a coping mechanism in fact makes it all much worse, as rising rates of dysfunction, family breakdown, illegitimacy, abortion, HIV transmission, and drug abuse in the Christianist states reveal – just as the sexual dysfunction in Islamist societies cripples and immiserates them. If you want to find Ground Zero for this confluence of poverty, isolation, Christianism and meth, take a trip to Wasilla, Alaska, whence the new Esther has emerged.

First of all, I agree with most of Mr. Sullivan’s analysis.

The part that gives me pause is his reference to a “traditional Christianity” that “really did help people confront the ordeal of living.” It sounds a lot like the “good old days” reminiscing from traditionalists about a golden era that never really existed. That said, I won’t dispute the accuracy of the remark on traditional Christianity. I don’t claim to be an expert on religion, and perhaps this era really did exist at some not-too-distant point in time, and at that time, having faith in God really did make people’s lives better than they would otherwise have been. I will assume, for the purposes of this entry, that this analysis is accurate.

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