Holy Terror: Mel White’s compelling and human account of the Christian Right

Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right tells us to deny Gay equality, by Mel White is a compelling read with an immediacy that draws one in and keeps one’s attention.  Mel brings us into his insider view of the Religious Right .I grew up in an (moderate) Evangelical denomination in which I’m ordained, and so I’m somewhat familiar with most of the Fundamentalists Mel White is writing about.  Even so I got a better and more human view of the leaders of the Christian Right than I had before reading Holy Terror. Mel White doesn’t just give us a peek inside he offers analysis of the movement and its faith and politics.  White concludes with a way to engage and counter the Christian Right and their anti-homosexual ideology.

Part one and two of Holy Terror, gives us a look inside the rise and workings of the Religious right by looking at six main evangelical and fundamentalist leaders and a gathering of fundamentalists at Glenn Eyrie conference center in Colorado in may 1994 .  White introduces the reader to the Fundamentalist leaders and their beliefs about homosexuality; we meet them through Mel White’s recollection.  In part two we move from Mel’s own personal knowledge of the leaders to transcripts of video from a closed conference at Glenn Eyrie.  In this we get a glimpse of the ideas, the personalities and the tactics of these who have had political as well as religious goals to spread their ideas and ensure that America remains a “Christian” nation in name and morality. From the author’s perspective they are genuine and authentic but honestly wrong about a number of things but most relevantly, wrong about homosexuality.  In these first five chapters White walks the line between a sympathetic account of those with whom he has major disagreement and a biting expose on what Mel White believes to be a dangerous group.

Parts Three and four move into analysis and response to this religion with a narrowing agenda and focus on homosexuality, taking up an overtly political agenda to carry out its ends.  Chapters six and seven show how the Christian Right and Fundamentalism are both a Christian and an American heresy.  In chapter six we see how the Christian Right has made an idol of the United States.  In Chapter seven White shows us how fundamentalism as a phenomenon is a form of fascism.  While White makes some interesting points in these two chapters, I feel the book is at its weakest here.   White doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with his own analysis of fundamentalism qua fascism.  Even so, if we leave aside the labels, chapter six and seven do show how a narrowing of a focus and an obsession with homosexuality and gaining political influence has distorted Christian faith.

Part four White asks what shall we do, (or to quote Francis Schaeffer “How Then Shall We Live.”).  In these chapters White is the most compelling and vulnerable as an author.  These three chapters mirror the first three chapters where we see the founders of the Christian Right in their humanity and genuine (if wrongheaded) beliefs.  In the last chapters White seeks to show himself as someone who has struggled with the appropriate response to the Christian right, and still struggles in himself with the desire to demonize.  His solution to his own anger and frustration and pain is three-fold: “reclaiming” political values, reclaiming moral values, and non-violent resistance.  Chapters 8 and 9 have parallel weaknesses to chapters six and seven, but in chapter ten White shines again as he invites the reader on a journey of following Christ through the challenging path of non-violence, in response to and engagement with the Christian Right.

In Holy Terror, Mel White gives a compelling and riveting account of the Christian Right and its narrowing focus and intensified political activity in opposing homosexuality.  White goes beyond the “ Lies the Christ Right Tells us to Deny Gay Equality” to both give a human picture of those involved but also offer us a way to with White engage and counter the Christian Right in its Political agenda.  While there are some deep flaws in Holy Terror they are the flaws of a human on a journey of following Christ in the midst of pain and controversy.

Mel White Links:

Mel’s website: http://www.melwhite.org/

Mel’s blog: http://www.melwhite.org/blog/

Mel White on Anderson Cooper: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDRpTsdKQS4

Mel White on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/revmelwhite

Mel White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MelWhite