Robert F. Jakubowicz: Deep roots of coffee cup furor
PITTSFIELD >> The Facebook post by a self-styled evangelist claiming that a red coffee cup with just the Starbucks logo. without any seasonal designs, shows that the CEO of that company "hates Jesus" is a ridiculous and extreme religious view. But it should not be scoffed at because it is representative of the views of a confrontational religious faith, known as fundamentalism, whose followers have taken over the Republican Party primary election process as a voting bloc to spread their beliefs.
These extreme Christians see conspiracies everywhere which become targets for their theological rage. The post about Jesus-hating Starbucks management because of its coffee cups certainly sounds like one of their nonsensical religious causes.
But more importantly this group has made itself into a driving force behind the current campaigns of the Republican Party candidates vying for the party's presidential nomination.
These fundamentalists claim they want America to go back to the basics or fundamentals of religion. They believe in creationism and consider Darwin's theory of evolution as their public enemy number one. Ben Carson, one of those current leading Republican candidates, has called evolution a "fairy tale."
They believe, according to Karen Armstrong in her book, "The Battle for God," that they are fighting a cultural war against a too big, scientific and secular government. They oppose the Affordable Care Act as a major government threat to their sacred values from religious liberty to right to life.
All of the GOP candidates make sure that they repeatedly mention their vow to repeal this law. They also all say they want to greatly shrink the government. They consider President Obama as either a Muslim or the incarnation of the Antichrist.
Carson and Donald Trump are leading the group in playing this campaign card. Trump, in his inimitable style, is trying to outdo his fellow candidates by suggesting a boycott of Starbucks over its red coffee cups.
This fundamentalist movement originally spread its faith by influencing state legislatures in a handful of southern states to pass laws that made the teaching of the theory of evolution a crime. In 1925, John Scopes, a high school teacher, was convicted of violating such a Tennessee state law. During the course of this trial, the mainstream media vilified and made fun of the conservative Christians in the town where Scopes was tried as well as those in the nation who supported the Tennessee law.
After this trial, the fundamentalists were greatly embittered against American mainstream culture because in addition to the public media insults, they suffered the legal injury of Scope's conviction being overturned on a legal technicality by the state's highest court. They began building their own religious-based counterculture.
Bob Jones pilgrimages
One of the building blocks was the creation and expansion of Bible colleges. These institutions were designed to be both safe havens from the sinful mainstream culture for the young students and to graduate them into becoming teachers, politicians and so on to spread their religious faith.
Bob Jones University, which was founded in 1927, was one of these colleges. This South Carolina university has become a important campaign stop for Republicans presidential candidates. After losing the New Hampshire GOP presidential primary to John McCain, George W. Bush quickly traveled to this university before the next primary election in South Carolina, to give a political speech in which he mentioned repeatedly that he was a Christian.
Liberty College is another one of these colleges. It was founded by Jerry Falwell who became publicly involved in politics with his old-time fundamentalist religious views. He said, according to Armstrong, that the election of Bill Clinton as president let Satan loose in this country and that Clinton would destroy the military by letting gays serve. This college is also a must campaign stop for GOP presidential hopefuls.
This minority of fundamentalists have become a political force with their electoral clout in the Republican party. And it must be reckoned with by mainstream Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are still a majority in this country.
Mainstream GOP party leaders and members would be well-advised to quit their meaningless party line of "taking back the government" and instead work on taking back their party primary elections from the fundamentalists. They can do this by turning out in large numbers in their primary elections and by lobbying state legislatures to change safe gerrymandered electoral districts for fundamentalists into truly representative districts.
Otherwise, Americans one day soon might find themselves being led by a president whose policies would be based on the song "Give me that old-time religion."