Religion: We’re all freaks now

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, June 1, 2016

By Daniel Gardner

I grew up in the buckle of the Bible Belt where everyone was Christian except for a few Jewish families. Thankfully that’s changed. People of all stripes are coming out of their closets in America and I think that’s great!

After moving to a Chicago suburb for graduate school nearly 40 years ago, I began bumping into people who were not Christians and saw nothing wrong with that. It was refreshing to interact with people who didn’t pretend to be Christians just because everybody else was. Nowadays it’s ok to be whoever you are in the Bible Belt. Don’t get me wrong. You’ll still get the stares or whispered comments, but you’ll have a larger community of other freaks to protect you from the self-righteous remnants of the Bible Belt.

In fact, the smallest community of freaks these days are evangelical Christians. I remember hearing Richard Nixon talking about the “Moral Majority” and naively believed that the vast majority of Americans shared traditional biblical values. In the 1950s “Christian” and “American” were essentially interchangeable in the South.

On a side note, last year while visiting friends in Russia I met new friends who were atheists, but they were also Orthodox…because they were Russians! “Never mix religion and politics” is a truism even though nationalism and religion almost always go hand in glove around the globe.

Meanwhile, back in America, how should evangelicals interact with American culture that is shifting quickly to the social and political left? A friend recommended reading Russell Moore’s book, “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.” Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ve only read a couple of chapters, but have agreed with most of what Moore has written.

Frankly, the culture wars we are fighting today (racism, genderism, sexism, and religious liberty to name a few) are not that much different from other generations. The Bible is very clear about isms. God did not hide His sensibilities while breathing His holy word through those who penned the Scriptures. Of course, many have twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction arguing their god or no god is better than God of the Bible. Bless their hearts.

As an op-ed writer, I routinely argue for or against any number of political or social issues in today’s news. Most of my critics call me names and tell me to shut up. (smiley face here.) All op-ed writers have critics who pretty much do the same thing. As a believer I try to interject a little biblical truth into my op-eds. Anyone who dares mix faith with opinions will automatically draw the ire of self-righteous critics. Look what happened to Jesus: critics crucified Him! What’s the worst that could happen?

Now that everybody is coming out of their respective closets, I hope we can civilly continue to discuss the pros and cons of all the issues and politics facing our culture and world today. We will always debate because we will always disagree. But, evangelicals need to debate without losing the gospel, i.e. what God has done for humankind.

Religions teach what people must do to reach God, heaven or nirvana. The gospel says none of us can do anything except receive the priceless gift He has bought for us.


Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, Miss. You may contact him at, or interact with him on the Clarion-Ledger web site