A fun-filled decade of evangelically-driven American foreign and domestic policy is behind us and despite best efforts to inject last minute sex-appeal à la Palin, Christian fundamentalism is fallen. Helpful clarifications and labels like the Axis of Evil are out of vogue. Whereas previously, issues of national and international importance were seen through the handy prism of Dubya’s good vs. evil rhetoric, it looks as though we are actually going to have to think for ourselves again.
But the fact that Christian fundamentalism is losing its mojo does not mean that Christians are on the retreat. If anything, moderate proponents of the faith are emerging from the shadows. “I am a Closet Christian” confesses Ada Calhoun in a Dec 21, 2009 Salon.com article. A New Yorker, Calhoun talks about her fear of being outed as a Christian: “Why am I so paranoid? I’m not cheating on my husband, committing crimes or doing drugs. But those are battles my cosmopolitan, progressive friends would understand. Many of them had to come out — as gay, as alcoholics, as artists in places where art was not valued. To them, my situation is far more sinister: I am the bane of their youth, the boogeyman of their politics, the very thing they left their small towns to escape. I am a Christian.”
Agonizing about how to verbalize her views on faith, Calhoun says, “it’s hard to talk about any of this without sounding dumb, or like a zealot, or ridiculous. And who wants to be lumped in with all the other Christians, especially the ones you see on TV protesting gay marriage, giving money to charlatans, and letting priests molest children?”
Moderate Muslims face a similar challenge. After a decade of bad PR, the struggle remains to reshape Islam in the coming decade. “The good news is that those Muslims who espouse militant ideologies no longer find a physical home in mainstream Muslim America… the New York-based al-Qaeda supporting extremist duo that calls itself “Revolution Muslim” has been reduced to heckling mosque-goers from the sidewalk,” says Shahed Amanullah in altmuslim.com / Global perspectives on Muslim life, politics & culture.
“Muslims Denounce Terrorism / Terror Has No Religion” reads a bumper sticker sold by the The American Muslim. It’s hard to battle terror with talk of peace but as more and more voices demand an end to extremism, the tide may be turning. It doesn’t hurt that Obama gave his first interview as President to an Arab broadcaster; that his Cairo speech was well-received or the fact that his envoy to address the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is seen as more balanced than his predecessor.
What the coming decade holds is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, a new tone is being set. “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things….” said Obama in his Inaugural Address. Dodging any delusional salvation-through-Obama drool, perhaps there still is hope that childishly extreme religious rhetoric has seen its heyday in the US.