Holy war

How an unholy alliance of Catholics, Mormons, and evangelicals seeks to control our lives
By JEFF INGLIS  |  June 28, 2010


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And so it came to pass, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and evangelical Protestants have banded together to battle, well, the rest of us — the heathens, the godless liberals, the Hitchens-reading progressives.

If you are unmarried and have sex, you're one of us. If you are married and use birth control, you are among the damned. If you are gay, you are especially damned. And if you are straight and favor gay rights, you're just as fucked.

This triple entente of sky-god worshipers — call them the Unholy Alliance — have amassed an almost unlimited treasury with which to wage war on abortion rights, birth control, and legislation that might support women's or gay equality.

The rest of us can run, but none of us can hide from the Unholy Alliance. From California to Maine, the Alliance has done a hell of a job killing same-sex marriage. There is no way to deny the unholy triumph.

The weirdness of all this is that each faith's tradition holds as a central belief that the others are not true believers; Catholics go further, believing that Mormons are not even Christians.

There are similarities among the three, of course — a professed desire to do good in the world, and to help people be part of something larger than themselves. As a result, many interfaith groups work together to fight hunger, poverty, and low-quality health care, bringing to bear their congregations' numbers and wealth to make others' lives better.

Now, though, as religious leaders from these sects — previously suspicious of each other — collectively redirect those resources to gender and sexual politics, they are looking beyond doing good in this world, toward creating what they view as God's world.

To really understand what's happening, we have to look beyond rhetoric and into theology. At the heart of this political work is an unwavering approach toward sin. Most faiths teach that there are certain practices that followers should shun, such as the Jewish and Muslim ban on eating pork. But some teachings in conservative sects go deeper, asking followers not only to refrain from forbidden behaviors themselves, but to work to prevent others from engaging in them.

A good example of this comes from Elmer Towns, the 77-year-old evangelist who in 1971 co-founded Liberty University with Jerry Falwell. "We no longer believe the Bible is the means of authority for how people should live," he laments to the Phoenix over the phone from his home in Virginia. "Sin is sin."

Towns would prefer Americans to live more godly lives — whether they are believers or not. "America has always been, let the minority have their say — let the majority have their way," he says. (He is careful to note Jesus's Biblical urging to "love your neighbor as yourself," but still sees the active purging of society's moral wrongs as "God's work.")

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