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God save America...The Race for the White House will be decided by Fundagelicals
Published on Monday, May 3, 2004 by the Guardian / UK
God Save America ...
The Race for the White House will be decided by Fundagelicals. That's Good News for Twice-born George Bush
by John Sutherland
 

The word "fundagelism" has never appeared in the columns of this newspaper. The term is, however, current in the blogosphere - that cyberforum which nowadays carries the most interestingly paranoid political debate. "Fundagelism" is not a word that trips easily off the tongue. It's a crunching together of the even more mouth-boggling compound "fundamentalist evangelism".

George W Bush is a fundagelist. Dad wasn't. George H Bush (not renowned for his Wildean wit) delivered his most memorable wisecrack on walking into a room full of fundagelists: "Gee! I'm the only person here that's only been born once."

His son is truly twice born, with two dads. Nor are the parents equal in the eyes of their son. The journalist Bob Woodward, as he recalls, asked the current president if he ever turned to the ex-president for help. "Well, no," replied Bush Jr: "He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength. There's a higher father that I appeal to."

There are, it is estimated, 90 million evangelical Christians in the US. If they can be mobilized, they will form a rock-solid foundation for November victory for the Republican incumbent. Chads need hang no more.

Of course, not all American evangelicals are fundagelicals any more than all Muslims are Islamic extremists. But lukewarm evangelicals (like the Islamists) are more likely to vote for their own kind - even if extremist - than the opposition.

What do fundagelicals instinctively oppose? Gay marriage, abortion, gun control, taxes, the UN (and the currently top-rated candidate for anti-Christ, Kofi Annan), withdrawal from Iraq, Michael Moore, Janet Jackson's left breast.

What do they believe in? Christian values and the future as foretold in the Book of Revelation. According to a Time Magazine poll (which strains credulity but seems to be valid) 59% of Americans trust that St John's prophecies will be fulfilled - probably during their lifetime. November could be a last opportunity to vote for God's preferred candidate. Iraq (ancient Babylon) figures centrally in the fundagelist vision of things, as does the Rapture, and the imminent mass conversion of the Jews (hence fundagelist-Zionism).

The White House has recently been accused of inveighing (via Nasa) against the movie The Day After Tomorrow (out on May 28) because it narrates the wrong apocalypse. One caused by man-made global warming, that is, rather than God's white-hot rage against sinners. The apocalypse depicted in Tim LaHaye's Left Behind books is, we assume, the US government-approved version.

Fundagelism presents problems for the Democratic party as it girds itself for the coming campaign. John Kerry is a Catholic. A former altar boy, he is (to the irritation of Catholic bishops) in favor of women's reproductive rights. Last week NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country's leading lobby for legal abortion, endorsed Kerry's candidacy.

Kerry so-called. Until a couple of years ago, the Democratic front-runner was assumed to be as Boston Irish as his namesake county. Newspaper sleuthing discovered that his paternal grandfather was, in fact, a Czech, Fritz Kohn, who changed his name. Kerry lost relatives in the Holocaust. Race-hate websites nowadays routinely abuse him as "Kerry (Kohn aka Cohen)". Famously, Kerry is a decorated Vietnam war hero who, like Siegfried Sassoon, threw his medals away in disgust at what he came to see as a futile colonial war.

Was ever a candidate for the presidency more triangulated? Pro-choice Catholic, Shamrock-Jewish, warrior-pacifist? In any rational contest, to be all things to all voters should be an advantage. But with fundagelism riding high, Kerry looks 110% flip-flop.

Last Thursday, the American PBS network ran a program The Jesus Factor. It made (for Democrats and, dare one say it, democrats) depressing viewing. America, it suggested, is aching for certainty. Any certainty. Fundagelism supplies it. God help America is all I can say.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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