It is still an idea current on liberal blogs, and apparently in the NCC, Episcopal, and Methodist Church hierarchies, that evangelicals in general, and especially fundamentalists, arrive at their “peculiar” social ideas because they hate women and/or gays and/or sex and/or change – or that they fear same.
It’s a popular interpretation. Certainly, it’s the one we would pick up from popular culture. I think a different pathology is of greater importance. I’ve met lots of folk who hate or fear women, gays, etc, and I’ve met a lot of evangelicals and fundamentalists. I don’t find any overlap in those groups. Perhaps by location (New Hampshire) I meet unrepresentative samples of one or the other. This guy Fred Phelps out in the midwest (reportedly a Democrat, BTW) may fit the stereotype, but no one I meet does.
What I find in evangelical and especially fundamentalist culture are socially clumsy or irritating people, particularly males. My impression is that it is more comfortable to feel rejected and isolated because of one’s religion than because of one’s personality. Guys that are a little too loud, or declare their opinions tactlessly, or find lame jokes funny pop up everywhere, but we seem to have more than our share. Overfriendly, overweight guys, or leaner guys who are perpetually irritated about peripheral doctrines – I know lots of fundamentalists like that. Guys who like to show off their unimportant facts that other people don’t know… gentle guys who want to help but are intrusive - like Ned Flanders on The Simpsons, who tries to cheer you up by coming to your door with the family and singing “Arky, arky.” I often wonder who they’re irritating away from the faith out there. Relatives and coworkers, most likely.
Come to think of it, the cultural stereotypes on The Simpsons are generally more accurate than the popular imagination. Not that the stereotype applies to all of us. I, for example, am charming and socially facile.
As I said, there are guys like this everywhere, but we seem to have lots. What pathology is common among our females I am less certain of. Very insistent women, perhaps. And older women who speak like benevolent elementary schools teachers, even to other adults. The kind who love flannelgraphs.
Just as no one wants to think “people hate me because I’m a hapless jerk,” and would rather think “people hate me because I’m a follower of Christ,” so too going in the other direction. People would far rather think of themselves as hating fundamentalists because “they’re evil and filled with intolerance” than because “they’re socially clumsy.” That would be a petty reason for such intense dislike.
From my observation of the critics, both live and in writing, the petty reason is actually the main reason. I have long held that liberalism is more of a social than an intellectual discipline. These are people who believe that sailing races are more elevated than NASCAR, after all. Showing that you “get it,” that you understand the cultural references, and referring cynically to those things that all the dupes fall for is half the fun of liberalism.
If you think I’m way off the mark with that, then you really don’t listen very well. I work in a liberal environment and hear the condescension every day. Very seldom, by the way, do I hear even a sketchy intellectual argument defending liberal ideas. Some days I think it’s all social – just another way that the cool kids get to show their stuff.
So – I put the observed data of how many socially clueless people the fundamentalists have, and matched with the observed data that social skill is overvalued among liberals, to see whether there’s some relationship. Looks like a close fit from here.