If you’ve ever seen the film Falling Down (1993), you’ll remember Michael Douglas as William “D-Fens” Foster, who has lost his job, wants to get home for his daughter’s birthday, and while stuck in a traffic jam one day, just snaps. At one point in the film, after all sorts of mayhem Foster cannot deny responsibility for, he says, in a moment of self-illumination, “I’m the bad guy?”
The America Family Association’s Buster “The Meat” Wilson, who earlier this year claimed Obama planned to declare Christians mentally ill and lock them up, is having a hard time with the idea that the Boy Scouts need to join the rest of us in the 21st century and drop their dehumanizing stance on gays.
The other day, Wilson had a William Foster moment:
‘They hate gays, they won’t let known gays be scout leaders, so if you don’t stop supporting them we’re going to tell the world that AT&T and UPS and all these other groups, we’re going to tell the world that you’re anti-gay yourself.’ Of course, AT&T and UPS are pushing the screws on the Boy Scouts because they don’t want to get labeled by the Human Rights Campaign as bad boys. I want to tell you something, this is, what has happened to us? It’s like somewhere between 1998 and 2005 we fell asleep, we went into some sort of slumber, it was like some sort of magical spell over all of us and when we woke up we were a different place. Actually it wasn’t 2005, actually it was 2008; it started in 2008 and it was culminated on January, 20, 2009, and if you’re smart enough you can figure out what I’m talking about there.
We woke up and it was like all of the sudden the world was upside down and respected godly men like Franklin Graham and Greg Laurie are no longer respected, they’re hate mongers, they’re filled with hate. When we went to sleep it was sort of understood around the world that homosexuals are out there and homosexuals want to be accepted and they’re pushing for some things and that’s the reality of the world we live in. But when we woke up it was like everybody who is not homosexual-supportive is the bad guy. I mean if I believe the Bible and what the Bible says about homosexuality I’m a hate monger.
Yes, Buster. You are.
And it’s kinda funny, really, because Wilson speaks of waking up and finding out his world has turned upside down.
Now he knows how folks felt in the fourth century when Christianity turned the polytheistic world upside down, and outlawed all forms of belief but their own. He knows how the Gnostics and others felt when the Orthodox church decided only Orthodox Christians were real Christians. Now he knows how we all felt after the Religious Right took over the Republican Party and changed the landscape of American politics by religionizing them.
The worm turns, Buster. The worm turns. Look at some recent history: Liberalism busts out against Gilded Age excess, conservatism suicides with the Great Depression, and then the 50s come and suddenly repression is all in vogue again. Then the 60s come and life reasserts itself and we didn’t have to repress anything anymore. Then the Moral Majority pisses on our boots and tells us it’s raining. We get a new term: “Culture Wars.” Suddenly, the liberal society we had built up since the Great Depression is portrayed, biblically, a society ruled by Satan. Everything that was good is suddenly evil. Buster and his friends literally turned the world upside down.
Now it’s liberalism’s turn again. We’re pushing back. Younger people are proving adept at bullshit-spotting: they are giving up; stomping on Buster’s meat and walking away. Alternative religions and atheism are on the rise and Christianity is on the decline.
In a world ruled by causation, none of this is surprising. Christianity was its own worst enemy for the better part of twenty centuries. I’ve used this A.H. Armstrong quote before and I will appeal to it again to make my point:
The choice of the way of intolerance by the authorities of Church and empire in the late fourth century has had some very serious and lasting consequences. The last vestiges of its practical effects, in the form of the imposition of at least petty and vexatious disabilities on forms of religion not approved by the local ecclesiastical establishment, lasted in some European countries well into my lifetime. And theoretical approval of this sort of intolerance has often long outlasted the power to apply it in practice. After all, as late as 1945 many approved Roman Catholic theologians in England, and the Roman authorities, objected to a statement on religious freedom very close to Vatican II’s declaration on that subject. In general, I do not think that any Christian body has ever abandoned the power to persecute and repress while it actually had it. The acceptance of religious tolerance and freedom as good in themselves has normally been the belated, though sometimes sincere and whole-hearted, recognition and acceptance of a fait accompli. This long persistence of Theodosian intolerance in practice and its still longer persistence in theory has certainly been a cause, though not the only cause, of that unique phenomenon of our time, the decline not only of Christianity but all forms of religious belief and the growth of a totally irreligious and unspiritual materialism.
Armstrong concluded that “the triumph of Christianity carried in it, as perhaps all such triumphs do, the seeds of future defeat. The Church in the fourth century took what it wanted and has been paying for it, in one way or another, ever since.”
So it’s hard to feel sympathy for Buster or his meat. Causation – and the historical record – says Buster and his fellow religious bigots did this to themselves.
The story is that when General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, the British army marched out to the tune “The World Turned Upside Down.” That’s where I’d like to see Buster’s story end, in the shame and humiliation of surrender of a cause lost, marching into history and into a world that will be, for him, what the world has been to so many people for twenty centuries: a living hell.
It sucks to be you, Buster. And by the way, that Rick Santorum-booster, Franklin Graham, who like the Christians of old likes to decide who is and isn’t a real Christian, was always a hate monger. I wrote yesterday about the Religious Right’s reaction to NBA player Jason Collins coming out to accolades rather than condemnation. Remember the language used: aberrant, immoral, abomination. How does this language make you anything but a hate monger?
But hey, welcome to the great new world, Buster, and to the triumph of the modern liberal democracy.
Oh. And you’re welcome.
 A.H. Armstrong, “The Way and the Ways: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in the Fourth Century A.D.” Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984), 1-2.