The Spectre of Radical Christian Fundamentalists In Britain

When it comes to the mainstream media in the UK, The Daily Telegraph is about as conservative as it gets. So when it comes to running an article on conservative evangelical Christians, what sort of thing can we expect from the Telegraph? I dare say it would shock American readers.

To help promote long-time Telegraph photojournalist David Modell’s contribution to the Channel 4 TV programme Dispatches, they’ve run a story about his discovery of Christian fundamentalists. You want to scare Brits? Start an article with something like:

“They think society should be built on their beliefs. They claim non-believers are damned.”

Oooooh…. It’s like something out of horror film. Christians who believe they should have an active faith-based input into politics and they think you have to be a Christian to go to heaven. But it’s worse:

“But these radical Christian groups are not in America – they are here and are aiming to change the laws of our land. . .”

So not only are they politically active “born-again types” – they’re in Britain! And I’ve reduced the font size of these quotes from the original, just so you don’t get too frightened. But it gets worse. They even have Christian schools based on this sort of curriculum. What sort of horrible indoctrination is taking place? Well, here’s what David Modell found when he visited one such school:

One little girl has to do a science test. A classroom assistant kneels next to her, takes her hand and says: “We pray, Father, that you’ll help her check all her spellings. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

The test is multiple choice. Question five is: “God made the world in [BLANK] days.” The options are “five, six or seven”. The six-year-old carefully writes “six”. The right answer.

This scene would be surprising enough if the school were in America’s Bible Belt, but the voices around me are English, and we’re in Bristol.

Can you believe it? Prayer for help with spelling? What is the difference between this and children being trained as suicide bombers by Islamists? David Modell doesn’t think there is any. Besides, you start praying about spelling tests and who knows what you’ll be praying for next? For everyone to play safely and not get hurt during recess? For God to heal people and makes them better? They’ll start believing that God actually answers prayers, and then where will they be? And remember, the worst thing of all is that they are English.

American readers – at least my regular American readers and most non-liberal Christians in the US – will probably still wonder if I am making this up. I wish I was. The school in Bristol using Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum is a frightful thing to secularist, modernist Britain. After all, they, and schools using similar curriculum like the Alpha Omega based school from which I graduated those many years ago, are very mainstream in America. But then again, in America, the idea that Jesus saves is not radical, revolutionary, or dangerous.

David Modell is most worried because these people (remember, not stupid Americans, but actual British people) think the Bible is (shhh….) true. You know, literally true. “Not all evangelical worshippers hold such hard-line beliefs, but the fundamentalists will almost certainly describe themselves as evangelical.”

What’s worse (as if it could get any worse) not only are they teaching their children this stuff, they are getting involved in politics. Modell looks at Christian Action Research and Education (Care) – an organisation featured in the Independent, about which I commented at the end of March. What’s so scary about them?

The organisation’s published doctrinal basis is distinctly fundamentalist and among other things talks of “the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture and its consequent entire trustworthiness and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct”. In other words, the Bible is the literal truth.

The Bible is trustworthy? Could British people actually believe such a thing? And these people are lobbying Parliament?

Where does David Modell think this is leading? He attends a seminar in Islamic fundamentalism. “But another thing strikes me while listening to [the] depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: he could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I’ve met.” Yes, Britain will soon be a Taliban-style repressive theocracy. Like America, apparently.

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12 Responses to “The Spectre of Radical Christian Fundamentalists In Britain”

  1. noel adams Says:

    The worst exampel though a few years back was the attemped take over of Erick Pickles conservitive assocation by such folk the increse in numbers seemed great until the AGM when there was a trot stile booting out life long members off the committie. I am no fan of torys but was glad to hear central office stood them down and called fresh elections.

  2. sol Says:

    Well, it seems everyone likes democracy until Christians make up the majority.

  3. John of Indiana Says:

    Not having a horse in either race, I hold to the view that Fundamentalism *IS* dangerous, matters not whether you’re discussing Christian, Islam, Pastafarian, Gardnerian, Wiccan, Frisbeetarian or whatever flavour of Fundamentalism. If it holds that it is the One True Way, and feels the need to take over the running of a country, it can’t be a good thing for the non-believer.

    And don’t count the US down-and-out yet. Fundamentalists continue to attempt their takeover of the great secular experiment, only to be turned out by the spirit of reason. The Dover BOE and their victory over “intelligent” flat-earth design comes to mind.

  4. sol Says:

    John, those Christians in the US who support intelligent design have not attempted to take over a great secular experiment. None of them would like to see the US in any condition that would be unrecognisable to the Founding Fathers. It can be more reasonably argued that the US in the wake of Warren Court (with Engel v. Vitale and its progeny) would be unrecognisable to the Original Experimenters. Not even the most Deist among them would have suggesting anything but Intelligent Design, nor would they have thought school could be properly taught without reference to it.

    The whole One True Way thing is hardly the position of a few crack-pot Christians. Again, historically (and we are talking 2000 years of history now) few would have hardly put the word Christian anywhere near a belief that suggested otherwise. Even today, amongst the 2 billion Christians in the world, this would be the view of a relative very few liberal Protestants, almost all of whom live in the US and Western Europe. They, it can reasonably be argued, are the radical fringe.

  5. John of Indiana Says:

    Hmmmm…. Now, Sol, if you had said Conservative Protestants, I would have agreed with you. There’s not a stitch of Liberalism in the dogma pushed by Parsley, Hagee, Copeland, the late Jim Kennedy, Big Fat Jerry and the rest. Indeed, any of them would choke at the suggestion.
    Anyway, these scoundrels have hijacked the religion, and the majority of those 2 billion you referenced either don’t know what’s going on, or think that since “Oh, they’re not in OUR church” that it’s no concern of theirs.

    Most of us Westerners, believer and non, can agree on how dreary it’d be to live under Islamic Fundamentalism. Why do you suppose that we (for the most part) aren’t worried about Chirstian Fundamentalism? Because we’re all pretty much the same colour and don’t have exotic names? I wonder.

    I would like to think that if presented with the curriculum of ID or Creationism, that Jefferson would have laughed at the idea, perhaps first observing “Who designed the Designer?”. Then again, there’s plenty over here who claimed that he nevered penned the phrase “An Impenetrable Wall”, claiming that it’s a Liberal Plot…

    Thinking again of the Dover School Board, this is a favoured tactic of the so-called Religious Right, to get “their” people elected to school boards, town councils, etc. , if not in sufficient numbers to totally railroad the bodies, at least enough to paralyze the proceedings.

  6. sol Says:

    I think one of the reasons that most Americans (and I would distinguish Americans from other Westerners) are not worried about Christian fundamentalism is that American is still a largely Christian culture. About half of Americans attend church on a weekly basis. Over here it is probably less than 10%. In the town where I teach, there is not a single person under 20 in any of the churches. Come to think of it, there are only a tiny number under 60.

    After all, what is it that is on the fundamentalist agenda that worries very many people? Abortion? Most people are opposed to it any way. They may not want to abolish it altogether under any circumstance, but they don’t like it. ID? According to mainstream media polls (I use the one from CBS), most Americans already believe in literal 6-day, young earth Creation. Of the ones that don’t, only 11% believe in non-theistic evolution. Same-sex marriage? Again, most people are already opposed to it.

    The thing is, the so-called fundamentalist agenda is nothing like the Islamist agenda. It’s not colour or names: it’s substance.

    I have to disagree with you about Jefferson. As a Deist, ID without reference to the Christian God is exactly what he believed in. He had no problem with Paley’s 1802 watchmaker analogy in positing the teleological argument, because there is room in it for God to wind the watch and then walk away, as the Deists believed happened with Creation. It has nothing to the with the impenetrable wall – which was his view about the relationship between the institutions of Church and State, not religious people with religious worldviews (who were in the vast majority in his day) and the shaping of policy.

  7. John of Indiana Says:

    Well, I think the reason most Americans are oblivious to Fundamentalism, and I might add, R. J. Rushdoony’s “Reconstructionism”, is because we have become the most stupidest, poorly-informed bunch of couch potatoes in the world. More people here can recite the gory details of Brittney Spear’s sex life from Age 14 than can name their congressman.

    The idea that God just “wound the watch and walked away” could explain why he’s been so quiet these last 2,000 years. If He did indeed put it in motion then moved on, what’s the sense of pleading with Him daily for winning lottery numbers, “prosperity”, tragedy to befall Obama, etc? It’s almost a paradox.

  8. sol Says:

    You are correct that there is no point in the Deist praying for anything.

    I think the reason some people think God has been quiet is that they aren’t listening. If we can’t hear Someone speak, we can’t always assume that it is the Speaker who is at fault.

    You still haven’t explained what aspects of fundamentalist or Reconstructionist agendas should worry people.

  9. John of Indiana Says:

    Well, one aspect that comes to mind of the top of my head is the desire to make, as Huckabee said, “The Constitution more in line with God’s standards”. Does that include taking “mouthy” children to the quarry and stoning them to death? How about eating shellfish? The complete implosion of the textile industry because of the Mosaic prohibition against mixing fibers in the cloth? No more Cotton-Poly or Wool-Spandex blends. How do you suppose a law laid down 6,000 years ago would deal with things like Coolmax, Polarfleece and Microfibers? Stem cell research? Transplant research? So-called “Crimes against Nature”?
    Rushdoony wrote about this thing called “Theonomy”, Where “man’s law” is inferior to “god’s law”. I think he got the concept from our old friend John Calvin, and believed it was the way to go.
    I don’t want to live in a society like that. Funny, but they have an Islamic version of that in Saudi Arabia, and that’s considered by most of the rest of the world as a Bad Thing, mostly because of it’s cruelty to women, but the idea of instituting it in s secular country where a majority of people THINK they know why they call themselves Christian is supposed to be a Good Thing?

    Depends on who’s Ox is being gored, I suppose..

  10. sol Says:

    Rushdoony was one of the most gentle people I ever met. A lovely man. One of the most touching things was how he was with his wife who was nearly blind at the time.

    I went to a Reconstuctionist college, so I know a few things about this. I would not have expected you to be familiar with the ends and out of theonomy – you never cease to amaze.

    Theonomists distinguish between those aspects of the law which have a binding morality and those which are ceremonial and foreshadowing of Christ. Not all theonomists agree on where these lines are drawn. As for mixed fibers, the issue seems to be the mixing of plant and animal fibers. Thus, the issue of synthetic blends a non sequitur.

    However, issues like stem cell research and transplant research can be discussed within a theonomic construct. For example, a theonomic approach would oppose embryonic stem cell research, because the end result is the destruction of the embryonic human. However, the equally productive adult stem cell research doesn’t have the same life and death implication.

    As for the crimes against nature, well, you don’t need theonomy to tell you right and wrong there. Nature speaks for itself. I suppose you are worried about the capital offense. I suppose a theonomist might suggest that sometimes when the state will not carry out appropriate sanctions, once again, nature speaks for itself.

    Theonomy is – to the great consternation of many non-theonomic Calvinists – rooted in Calvinism. No longer being a Calvinist, most of my theonomic friends would not consider me a theonomist.

    Now when it comes to mouthy children, I don’t see the need for a quarry.

  11. Matt Says:

    My parents used the ACE curricula when they home schooled me. I really did get a lot out of it. Its very protestant, of course, but the pedagogical techniques were valid and the breadth of information I was exposed to was far greater than anything my friends were getting in public schools. The ACE course on Collectivism traced the movement from the Tower of Babel to the American Communist Party, and in the process introduced me to all the great thinkers in philosophy, economics, and politics. The Koine Greek course was good, too. But the French course was horrible. Hopefully, they have improved it since 1983.

  12. CanadianOrthodox Says:

    I love the fact that David Modell actually states near the end of the article:
    “But another thing strikes me while listening to Mr Solomon’s depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: he could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I’ve met. He says these crazed fanatics believe any non-believer is destined only for hell (check). That they must convert all non-believers to their belief (check). That they think society must be built on their beliefs alone (check). ”

    HILARIOUS –Modell is the one who doesnt see the irony that Muslim fundamentalists KILL people regularly and preach murder and violence against nonmuslims widely!
    Yes those crazzzzzzzy fundamentalist christians scaarrryy they gasp give out pamplets on the street. OH MY!

    Because you KNOW evangelicals blow up train stations, catholics slam airplanes into buildings, orthodox christians strap bombs to themselves, copts riot at cartoons of Jesus, baptists behead people, pentecostals carry out terrorist attacks……oh wait NO THEY DONT!

    Modell you moron are you that far gone from common sense?

    oy vey.


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