Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Rise of the Uber-Christian Right in American Politics

Continuing with the theme of religion and U.S. politics, one of the most important trends in recent years has been the stealthy rise of the uber-Christian right in state and federal government offices. These days, Tea Partiers get all the press due to their goofy Obama=Hitler signs and the fact that many of them are armed to the teeth. Unlikely the Christian right, however, Tea Partiers are likely to remain on the margins of U.S. politics because they have not learned to hide their more odious opinions (see Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act); for the most part, the Ayn Rand/One World Government/Don't Tread on Me crowd is far too weird and clownish to win higher office.

Not so with the New Christian right--a movement that dates back to televangelist Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in the 1980s. Over more than two decades, the Christian right has honed its multi-vocal message. Activists, politicians and civil servants belonging to the movement have learned the fine art of speaking in code to their believers while sounding believably mainstream, multi-cultural and progressive to Americans outside the movement. Their most salient victory was electing George Bush Junior to the presidency.

In recent years, an even more radical offshoot of the radical right has made inroads into American politics. The Charismatic or neo-Charismatic or neo-Pentacostal movement is characterized by revivals and the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, miracle healings, and exorcising demons (I am not kidding). The New Apostolic Reformation movement includes a network of "prayer warriers" in all fifty states who conduct spiritual/territorial warfare to cleanse cities and towns of demons that they deem responsible for society's ills. Over the longer term, they aim to reclaim the "Seven Mountains of Culture" (business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family and religion) and ultimately establish a theocratic government.

This would all be rather amusing if the movement hadn't already succeeded in making substantial inroads into state and local governments (including Sarah Palin in Alaska, both gubernatorial candidates in Hawaii, and police departments in Newark, Orlando, Baltimore and elsewhere). As for Palin, an astonishing video went viral around the time of the 2008 elections showing a Kenyan "Apostle" and NAR director for East Africa giving Sarah Palin a blessing to protect her from witchcraft and demons.



Creepy.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor and rising GOP star, is said to have performed exorcisms when he was in college. Other connected GOP luminaries include Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (MN) and Senators Sam Brownback (KS) and Jim DeMint (SC). The uber-right Christian movement has also infiltrated the military, and there are reports of American servicemen and -women proselytizing and handing out bibles in Afghanistan, in open violation of the military code. Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department was staffed with graduates from a right-wing Christian law school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, and right-wing Christian-dominated school boards have rewritten history textbooks to include God as a major player in our nation's history. The NAR also has extensive ties with public officials in foreign countries, including the backers of the "kill the gays" bill in the Ugandan parliament that would make homosexuality a capital offense.

Secular and moderate Americans are encouraged to pay closer attention to the activities and goals of this insidious movement.

6 comments:

  1. Do you not believe that God played a major role in American history? There are quotes upon quotes as to how divine providence played a role in the founding of this great nation. This information used to be included in our history books until the progressives began to take over the education system in the earky 1900s and began to re-write history! I believe that it is the LEFT, not the right, that has re-written history. So many decisions were based based on Judeo-Christian principles as the nation was founded. What would be your idea of the right kind of America? Should we just eliminate all belief in GOd and not allow freedom of religion or freedom of speech as outlined in the 1st amendment?

    I, your cousin, consider myself a conservative and also believe that I might be classified as a tea-partier. I love my country, and though I know that there have been flaws and mistakes we have made in the past, I think our country is basically good. Name one other country that has fed as many people, or helped as many people in need, as th United States of America. What other country has spent so much precious time, energy and blood defending freedom around the world? I personally do not believe in certain values that you have defended in your blog, such as homosexuality, etc., but you don't see me lobbying to get rid of homosexuals. What happens to people like that in Muslim countries? Heck, what happens to women who dress improperly in certain places?
    I am not so sure the left shares the tolerant view of the right. They would just like to see us go away just as Stalin made the people of Ukraine go away by starving millions of people to death. How about the far-left Utopia in Cuba and of course the collectivist menatlity that existed in Germany during Hitler's reign?

    I am noy suggesting that Obama and his chronies are Hitler, but they are rapidly centralizing all power in DC and circumventing the constitution of this great land. They have seized so much power it makes my head spin! That's waht I'm ticked off about! What about my kids...and there kids, that will have to pay off all this ridivulous debt? Do you believe that the way to get out of debt is to spend more money? On what planet do these people live?

    Anyway, what I see is a bunch of hypocrits on the left. They believe in freedom of speech as long as you agree with them. If not, then the righ should be silenced. There are many efforts to shut down talk radio etc. by the left. But I see no efforts by the conservative "tea partiers" to shut down the far left commentators that dominate the mainstream media! Though I respect your right to your opinions as stated above, I am also proud to have the right to disagree. That is what America is all about. My only question is...how much longer will we have the right to carry on a dialogue like this?...I hope forever. I've rambled long enough.

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  2. The spelling in the above comment is bad. Sorry! I'll proof read my next comments more closely!

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  3. Erin. I can say safely that I don't care for the Christian right's domestic agenda any more than you do. However, I'd suggest focusing less on their personal religious beliefs--which I agree are a little creepy but also a personal matter which is protected by the first amendment. Also, if one looks into mainstream beliefs of many mainstream religions you'll find some odd stuff. So what?

    Focus more on outing the specifics of their public political agenda. Specific examples of the code speaking. By the way there is some good research on that by Djupe.

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  4. @Bruce: I first want to say that I'm really happy that you are reading and posting here b/c it gets a bit boring preaching to the choir and I welcome vigorous debates. So, welcome!

    As for whether I think God played a major role in American history, well, I don't believe in a higher power, so I guess my answer would be no. And I am not convinced that God played a role in American history just b/c major figures claimed divine inspiration. I could claim that Flying Spaghetti Monster has had a major direct influence on my life, but that doesn't make it true. And if I had kids who were being taught in *public* school financed by public money about a Judeo-Christian God intervening on the side of America against her enemies, I wouldn't be too happy about it. I'm a big believer in the constitutional principle of separation between church and state-- keep the fact-based education in the (public) schools and the faith-based education in the homes, churches and private schools.

    To be clear, I am not trying to restrict anyone's right to exercise their religion, but if *your* exercise of religion is interfering with *my* exercise of non-religion (which happens when you teach my kids about God and religion in publicly-funded schools), then that is a violation of my First Amendment rights.

    The founding fathers were a mix of Christians, deists and agnostics. Washington famously never partook in sacraments at Church, never took communion, and waited outside when Martha did. He did not mention Jesus Christ anywhere in his many letters to friends and family.

    Benjamin Franklin was a professed deist who famously said "lighthouses are more useful than churches," and "I looked around for God's judgments, but saw no signs of them." Thomas Paine was also a professed deist, who stated "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."

    Thomas Jefferson admired the teachings of Christ, but also said "We discover in the gospels a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstition, fanaticism and fabrication." He famously made his own bible by cutting the passages on miracles out of the King James version with a razor b/c they were "superstitious," and retitling the abridged version "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

    Abraham Lincoln rejected Christianity and espoused views that were borderline atheist according to his former law partner.

    Homosexuality is not a "value," it is an orientation. And btw, the Church's position has changed with respect to this. Dallin Oaks has said that homosexual urges are real and strong, and may be innate. The Church no longer punishes people for having homosexual urges, you are just not supposed to act on it (i.e., have homosexual relations).

    http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/same-gender-attraction

    3) Who said anything about Muslims? And women and minorities are treated better in America than in Saudi Arabia? I would hope so. But that's kind of a low bar, wouldn't you say? Also, no leftist I know thinks that Cuba is a utopia. That is a made-up fact by Fox News commentators.

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  5. P.S. How exactly is Obama destroying America? As for out-of-control spending, a major chunk of that is due to the massive bailout of the banking sector, which was arranged while Bush was still in office. Moreover, Bush was by far the most profligate president since LBJ in the 1960s! This includes a 1 trillion dollar war, another trillion or so in tax cuts to the wealthy, out-of-control defense spending, and another trillion dollars for a prescription drug benefit for the elderly. I don't recall "fiscal conservatives" being upset about deficit spending under Bush, who turned a 236 billion *surplus* in Clinton's last year of office into a 1.2 billion dollar *deficit* when he left office:

    http://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/dont-blame-obama-for-bushs-fy2009-deficit/

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  6. @Jonathan: the personal religious beliefs of the New Apostolic Reformation is precisely that they should take over American society and government. They don't really have a unifying creed, so I am not sure what you mean by "focusing less on their personal religious beliefs." As for casting out devils and speaking in tongues, this is their other main identifying characteristic.

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