Anyone paying attention to the news in these United States is aware of the enormous sociological and political influence wielded by the Religious Right wing. They are well-funded, well-connected, and utterly determined to re-shape the country to conform with their particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity. It is necessary that their tactics be examined in order to expose their immoral and un-American agenda which they seek to impose on everyone else.
Let us begin by pointing out that there is no such single entity as the Religious Right. What we call by this name is in fact a huge conglomeration of organizations, political action committees, think tanks, fundamentalist churches and their leaders, and others who, even if they do not always work together, nonetheless share a common religious/political goal: the Christianizing of America. Such organizations as the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, the Eagle Forum, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice have enormous resources at their beck and call. To insist, as many fundamentalist Christians do, that they are the victims of discrimination is a laughing reversal of the truth: the Religious Right is a ubiquitous presence not only at the federal level, but at the state and local levels of government as well.
Obviously, when we speak of the Christian Right, we are not referring to all Christians. Rather, we are referring to those who view the Bible as an inerrant guide to their lives, a perfect text that should be interpreted and followed exactly as written—by everybody, Christian or not. This leads us to the first immoral tactic of the Right: the claim that all they want politically is “a place at the table.” This is nonsense. To extend the metaphor, what they really want is to own the table and the exclusive right to determine who comes to dinner. To hear its leaders talk, one would think that fundamentalist Christians are the most persecuted group in the country.
As but one example of the tendency to demonize everyone else, consider these words of Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and a prominent televangelist. Here is what he said during one broadcast of the “700 Club: “You say ‘you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians, and the Methodists, and this, that, and the other thing.’ Nonsense! I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the anti-Christ.” Given how he feels about other Christians, one can only imagine what Robertson thinks of atheists!
Religious Right leaders have come up with some truly frightening statements. Their plan for those who disagree with them is revealed in the “25 Articles” published by the Coalition on Revival: “We deny that anyone, Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, private person or public official, is exempt from the moral and juridical obligation, before God, to submit to Christ’s Lordship over every aspect of his life in thought, word, and deed.” Every aspect! This is religious totalitarianism at its most blatant; anyone who pooh-poohs the intentions of the Religious Right would do well to re-read this line until it finally sinks in. What they are saying is that every single American citizen must conform to their brand of Christian fundamentalism. It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize what these people, if given the total control they seek, would do with dissenters.
This “us vs. them” attitude of the Christian Right wing is frighteningly similar to the attitude displayed by the Christian Inquisitors of the late Middle Ages. This mindset is a recurring one in Christian history and is one of the main reasons for all the schisms in this religion since its inception. Intolerance and the desire for complete control are as foundational to today’s Religious Right as it was during the time of the Inquisition. This mindset manifests itself in various ways.
One of these is seen in the area of education. The Right’s agendas in this area are certainly no secret: the public schools must be replaced by fundamentalist Christian ones which teach that the Bible is not to be questioned. Evolutionary theory must be dumped in favor of Creationism or its latest spawn Intelligent Design. Despite repeated failures of vouchers, the Right wants them to be official governmental policy. These goals were clearly stated by Robert Thoburn, a minister associated with Christian Reconstructionism, a fundamentalist Christian theocratic movement: “Our goal is not to make the (public) schools better…our goal is to hamper them, so that they cannot grow…never lose sight of this long-range goal. Our goal as God-fearing, uncompromised…Christians is to shut down the public schools.”
The thinking behind this is very simple, although the Right would disdain putting it this way: science, logic, history, philosophy, and all other non-religious disciplines that contradict the primitive notions contained in the Bible must either be removed from the school’s curriculum, re-interpreted so that they seemingly conform to religious dogma, or else watered down to such an extent as to make it them all but useless. One can only imagine just how far the Right would actually go if they had the power they seek. Since the Bible says that illnesses are caused by demons, does that mean that witch doctors and conjurors would replace doctors? What would happen to hospitals in a Christian theocracy? Since astronomy proves that the biblical idea of earth being at the center of the universe is false, will it be replaced by astrology? Clearly, the Religious Right wants to return us to the Christian Dark Ages when their ideology reigned supreme.
Any objective reading of history will disclose that, throughout history, Christian leaders have fought almost any kind of scientific or social advancement with every fiber of their being. The church’s hostility toward vaccination against smallpox is well-known, to cite but one example. It should therefore come as no surprise that their spiritual descendants today are fighting the modern world with every tool at their disposal. The world is filled with sin, according to them. Homosexuality and lesbianism are unthinkable in their worldview and must be condemned. They hate the notion that a woman should be in charge of her own body. And, most of all, they hate the fact that their version of Christianity is no longer ubiquitously accepted as it was during the Christian Dark Ages. Today’s fundamentalists, like their medieval ancestors, want to create a Christian version of Iran, where fundamentalist Christianity manifests itself in virtually every aspect of life.
This hatred of modernity manifests itself in many different ways. Occasionally we see it in individual letters to the editor of local newspapers. We also see it at the national level, as when the entire Republican Party lines up behind anti-abortion and other issues. It says quite a lot about this community that they are so concerned with everyone else’s sexual issues, yet real moral issues such as over-population, the destruction of the environment and war are accorded such short shrift.
One of the key interests of the Christian Right is in their view of science, in particular scientific evolution. Creationism is an idea that has evolved (pun intended) over the years. In the early years of the Right, creationism was explicitly religious in nature, and fundamentalists sought to introduce the biblical notion of “special creation” as a legitimate scientific alternative to evolutionary theory. However, this idea was repeatedly struck down in the higher courts as being religiously based, and not scientific. As a result, the Right has adopted new strategies in order to force it into the scientific curriculum. Creationism is now usually called “Intelligent Design,” although the basic tenets remain the same. Fortunately, the courts have seen through this dishonest attempt at obfuscation and have (so far) upheld the theory of evolution as constituting not “mere theory” but rather solid scientific fact.
Despite these and other repeated failures, the Religious Right refuses to be cowed and continues to waste taxpayer’s money for things the taxpayers don’t want in lawsuit after pointless lawsuit which they must know they will lose. The Right is nothing if not determined; they continue to trot out the same ideas, re-packaged, re-worded and re-named in the (usually) vain attempt to mislead the public. One increasingly popular tactic is to re-name legislative amendments in such a way that they sound innocuous and harmless. For example, voucher amendments, which voters have repeatedly rejected, were transmogrified into the “Religious Freedom Act,” introduced by Rep. Ernest Istook in 1995. This stubbornness reflects a simple fact about the Right: they want their ideas to be implemented as public policy, and no amount of facts or voter rejection will dissuade them from their goals.
Some of the Right’s strategies are downright crude. For example, biology textbooks often have the sections discussing evolution torn out or glued together, proving that certain Christians are not above petty vandalism if it suits their needs. Another strategy is to place religious tracts in these textbooks. Library books that offend them are often checked out and never returned.
Dishonesty is at the heart of religious fundamentalism. Although its main tenets are not true, what is more ominous is the length the Right will go to in order to achieve their ends. One particularly egregious example is the case of David Barton who, despite having no historical credentials, nonetheless has become one of the Right’s most popular speakers by claiming that the founders of this country were all devout Christians and intended this to be a Christian nation. Back in the early 1990s, he produced a video entitled “America’s Godly Heritage” in which he introduces one historical “fact” after another at breakneck speed, the intent being to convince his viewers that traditional history has it all wrong: the founders were all Christian fundamentalists who intended that this be a Christian nation. Barton’s presentations are slick, and give numerous “quotes” from the fathers attesting to their devout faith. The only problem with all this is that the quotes are spurious; the founders secular intentions permeate their writings and completely disprove Barton’s dishonest contentions. When his lies were exposed in the mid-1990s, Barton disappeared from the scene for about a year. When he re-appeared, he continued on his merry way as if nothing had happened, using the same false quotes and lies to fundamentalist audiences who believe every word of it. Apparently, dishonesty is a virtue—if employed by Christian fundamentalists.
David Barton’s false history is but one example of how the leaders of the Religious Right often embarrass themselves and reveal their true colors with some really outlandish statements. Perhaps even more amazing is the reluctance of the mainstream media to call them to task for all this; scandals affecting the Right are either ignored altogether, or else given short shrift by the supposedly “liberal” media. For example, Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, made a reference to the stealth political tactics and campaigns conducted by the Right (which always tries to pass itself off as “mainstream America.)” Here’s what Reed said: “I want to be invisible. I do guerilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag. You don’t know that until election night.” Or, consider the words of Randal Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group: “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…Our goal is a Christian Nation. We have a biblical duty. We are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.” With such undemocratic and un-American sentiments being voiced time and again by our religious leaders, politicians and political pundits, there is absolutely no excuse for the supposedly independent media to be ignoring the threat they pose.
Finally, lest there be any doubt what the Right has in store for us, consider Terry’s words during an anti-abortion rally in Willoughby Hills, Ohio in July, 1993: “Our goal must be simple: we must have a Christian Nation built on God’s law, on the Ten Commandments. No apologies.”
The Christian Right Wing is clearly a fringe religious group that seeks nothing less than the total control of all the major institutions of American life. Their agenda poses a threat to every thinking American, whether moderate Christian, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan, Buddhist, Agnostic, or Atheist. While they constitute a minority, their influence is significantly out of proportion to their numbers, and is measured in their energies and determination to force their most un-American agenda on everyone. While they drape themselves in the flag, their real banner is that of a totalitarian dictatorship.
Despite that, the Religious Right is not the single greatest threat to our survival as a nation: Apathy is. Back in the 1930s, apathy and appeasement created an atmosphere conducive to Hitler’s rise, resulting in the devastation of the Second World War. Unless today’s Americans shore up and display some backbone, our country’s survival is indeed at risk. We are not a Christian nation, but a free nation. One can only hope that America will wake up to the fact before our freedoms are lost.
By: Jon Nelson