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The American Taliban 

I was so amused by Mr. Epstein's letter in Source (April 16) that at first I thought it intended to be satirical. It was

I was so amused by Mr. Epstein's letter in Source (April 16) that at first I thought it intended to be satirical. It was such a perfect presentation of the usual non-sequiturs, pseudo-history, myth making, errors and canards of the loony Right, that I assumed it must have been written in jest. Its delivery, in the tone of one who is as uninformed as he is supremely self-assured - so like the boss in "The Office" - was first class. The "Jesus Loves You" finish was a classic of the condescension and hypocrisy at which American Evangelicals lead the world! I even drafted a quick note to the editor of Source to compliment him for being so brave as to publish a letter that so effectively satirized the Christian Right. But Mr. Epstein, like the large slice of the US population he so closely resembles, is serious - and dangerous.

People who argue as he does are headstrong, uninformed, resistant to persuasion by reason, averse to learning and thinking, afraid of ideas that challenge their world-view... but they are not necessarily stupid. To R.T. Tihista (Source, April 23) I say this: it makes no difference that there's no "God" in the Constitution, "In God we Trust" was an afterthought that, adorning "the root of all evil" is most likely an egregious insult to God, and that the Eisenhower administration came up with "under God"... these are mere "facts" and the Mr. Epsteins do not live in the "fact-based" world. They live in the world of "The Crucible." It is a mistake to assume that you can challenge them in the usual way by presenting evidence and facts, even direct quotations from Jesus, that prove them wrong. Fear and ignorance immunize extremists from reason and argument.

Their worldview and their feelings of self-efficacy are founded on a set of assertions. One of these assertions is that the US is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by Christian Founding Fathers and it is rightly occupied - perhaps even only rightly occupied - by Christian people. Millions of Americans believe - very un-Constitutionally - that people who think differently to them should stay quiet or leave the country. They feel the US socio-political and theological, perhaps even the ethnic pool should be kept pure or their Nation - they believe, for murky reasons, that this is THEIR nation - is weakened by the presence of unlike-minded people and their contaminating values. To them, variety breeds weakness, not strength.

Naturally they never notice that their position is anathema to Jesus' teachings. Most of them are strikingly unfamiliar with Jesus' teachings and many secretly regard them as a tad too liberal and distinctly "un-American" ...with His talk of "blessed Peacemakers... the Meek...turning cheeks... helping the poor" and all that stuff. Mr. Epstein's "Christianity" prefers the cut and thrust of the Old Testament. He uses his creed as a means to Power, particularly political, financial and military power; a means of exclusion and of enforcing one's particular set of values (ironically mislabeled "Christian Values") on non-Christian residents and citizens. It is also, sadly, the only means by which he is ever likely to feel superior to his fellow citizens. What Mr. Epstein is arguing for, what he and his ilk would like to see come about - were it not for that pesky Constitution - is the establishment of a Protestant Evangelical Theocracy with he and his ilk acting as American Taliban.

Unconvinced? If not that, then what?

Richard Shortall

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