As if the Southern Baptists hadn’t laid enough devastation on their own country, and the Middle East didn’t have enough fundamentalist fanatics of their own, Iraq’s post-Saddam legacy now includes this:
The first Baptist church ever established in Iraq was dedicated with more than 700 people in attendance. Leaders say the church, called the National Evangelical Baptist Church in Baghdad, is the cornerstone upon which future Baptist work in Iraq will be built.
In addition, teams of Baptist volunteers have worked in various regions of Iraq, distributing food and Bibles and sowing seeds of interest in what God wants to do in the nation.
In a sense, the Baptists should feel much more comfortable in Iraq, since the agenda of Christian fundamentalists — traditional gender roles, strict hierarchies of power, compulsory heterosexuality, and theologically based government — is much more compatible with radical Islam than with a secular constitutional democracy. Their influence on the government in the past 20 years has culminated in America becoming a truly frightening place to live in. It has also become a truly frightening place to live with, as both the Middle East and Europe can attest to since the 9/11 bombings. Still, we’ve done an admirable job of resisting the full force of the Religious Right’s attempts to build a theocratic kingdom over the bones of every feminist, queer, or Jew in the union. Watching the flood of gay marriages is just one way that we can see how we’ve kept them from the omnipotence over our lives, loves, and laws that they want so much.
So, Iraq seems like a natural playground for fundamentalist Christians, except for the fact that they’ll probably get blown up by people who want just the same things they do but with different names. It’s hard to see a Baptist church lasting much more than a month when Islamists have done such a good job of blowing up trained, well-equipped soldiers on a regular basis. And in their deaths, these Baptists will probably be as like their Islamic counterparts as they were in life: martyrdom, after all, is their key to the kingdom.