The Christian Right Has Little To Do With Christ
Yesterday we took a look at the Biblical Jesus and found, that unlike many who speak in his name, that he was basically an anti-establishment rabble rouser who seemed just as adamant to force people to challenge preconceived notions as he was to spread the “Good News.” So if he was just a groovy guy seeking to “let the oppressed go free” than why does it seem like many “public Christians” are trying to keep women, the poor, and homosexuals down?
The answer can be found in the rise, fall, and rise again of the Christian Right. In the latter half of the 1970s, mega-church hucksters, like Jerry Falwell amongst others, no longer simply spoke about political issues but instead urged their supporters to support specific (conservative) candidates.
The Republicans later rewrote their platform to drop support for the Equal Rights Amendment—which many evangelical Christians objected to because of the Bible’s clear position that wives should be submissive to husbands—and to double-down on opposing abortion. In a sense, the GOP began to cater to the views of (mostly southern) white Protestants whose views were in direct opposition to Mainline Protestant opinion.
Many declared the political power of the Christian Right dead after Pat Robertson’s failed 1988 primary challenge of incumbent President George H.W. Bush, followed by Bush’s defeat by Clinton, a liberal southerner who was not against abortion and “sympathetic” to homosexuals. Yet in just two short years Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took hold of the legislature which, in turn, gutted welfare in the name of “reform” and passed the “Defense of Marriage Act” which the “sympathetic” President Clinton signed in 1996.
Still all this addresses is the “how” and not the “why” of it all. With the explosion of urbanization, science and technology, and more-recent immigrant births after World War I, the landscape of America began to change and with it so did then-modern religious leaders. This left conservative Protestants disheartened but content to retreat to their respective chapels.
Yet, once organized into a national coalition that had the attention of the Republican party, conservative Christians realized that they were a force to be reckoned with. This is not to suggest that behind-the-scenes Christian forces are pulling the GOP’s strings. In fact, if anyone is pulling strings it’s the moneyed interests that keep their boots firmly planted on the necks of both major parties.
Still, the rhetoric used by the early leaders of the Christian right is unmatched in keeping voters’ loyalty even when it’s against their own best interest. They painted their argument not as one of ideology, but of divine inspiration. America was God’s country and the Constitution was written by God himself and handed down the founding fathers.
With this in mind, the Christian Right is on a holy mission—some might say a Crusade—to protect America from evil. Progressives are not simply people with another worldview or ideology, but agents of sin. And that’s all the master manipulators of politics need.