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Opposing the Religious Right
It is now necessary to explicitly oppose the religious right, its leaders, its beliefs, its immoral political influence.
By Ed Knudson
The religious right practices an irresponsible politics threatening the future of the United States, the peace of the world, and the integrity and purpose of the historic Christian church. We encourage everyone, citizens and people of faith, to actively and publicly work to challenge the religious right and its leaders, to reduce its influence in the public sphere, and remove them from electoral offices.
The groups and candidates of the religious right are not responsible actors within local or national political processes. They are hurting themselves, the constituencies they claim to represent, and the communities in which they become involved. They also do not reflect the faith and witness of the historic Christian church.
It is therefore necessary to organize specifically against them. Religious right candidates have been able to insert themselves into the political process through the Republican Party, to the degradation of that party. They get elected often by hiding their true beliefs and priorities. Every effort needs to be made to expose them, make sure they do not get elected, and where they hold elective office to remove them.
In the past three decades the quality of the political process in this country has greatly deteriorated. One of the principle reasons for this has been the rise of the religious right. Claiming to be legitimately Christian the religious right in this country has engaged in a politics of irresponsibility both in the content of their political and religious views as well as the methods they have been willing to use to influence the political process and even get themselves elected to office. It has become important for citizens and responsible people of faith to organize specifically against the groups and leaders, candidates and public officials who represent the religious right.
False Issues – Abortion has been the key motivating issue that has enegerized the religious right. Although abortion is a legitimate political issue, the religious right has falsely associated it with a whole range of what they call family values. If one is opposed to abortion it should not be necessary to vote for candidates who represent extremist positions on these other issues.
Racist Beginnings – The religious right began organizing as a political force especially with the development of private, so-called Christian, schools in the South to avoid integration of the public schools.
Dishonest Political Philosophy – The religious right advertises itself as opposed to big government, opposed to the use of government to regulate the economy and society, yet promotes wildly expansive roles for the legal system to be involved in the sexual and personal lives of citizens. They do not want a smaller government. They want a more powerful government that will use the power of the state to impose their view of biblical morality on society, a view which itself is not truly biblical. The religious right is dishonest; it is adding a corrupt element to political debate in our society.
Against Equality for Women – The 20th Century saw the development of a full and equal role for women within society, economy, and the political process. The religious right is a social movement opposed to this major change. It promotes the simplistic view that women must obey men in family life, a view not supported by a full reading of scripture. It appeals to and encourages the fear, uncertainty, and anger of men which has been generated by the changing role of women in society.
Outrageous Religious Claims – Spokespersons for the religious right claim that their views, and only their views, represent what God intends for the country. To oppose them is to oppose God, in their understanding. This is a completely inappropriate claim to be made within the political process of a democratic society and is making it impossible for the society to discover and develop what may be appropriate relations between church and state. The extremism of the religious right is completely outrageous and must be rejected. There is a point at which a democratic society cannot tolerate an intolerance that makes democracy impossible.
Misrepresentation of Constituents – The religious right teaches its members to be involved in politics to oppose abortion and homosexuals and promote prayer in schools as if these are the crucial issues of the day worthy of the expenditure of time, effort, and money. Constituents of the religious right are most likely to be people in the lower and middle income groups, people whose actual needs and interests have to do with real economic conditions in the nation and local communities. To the degree that those real needs and interests are better represented by the Democratic Party leaders of the religious right are unfaithful to their own constituents when they promote voting for Republican candidates based on the narrow religious issues defined by the religious right. The religious right works against the real interests of its own constituents. This is the height of political irresponsibility.
Promotion of False Doctrine – The religious right has allowed itself to be captured by doctrines inimical to the historic Christian faith. Leaders of the religious right espouse the doctrine of the religious marketplace, for example. They claim that that religious discourse is true which is able to gain the most adherents. The television preacher able to gain the most viewers thus is the most successful and must be speaking the truth of Christianity. The congregations largest in numbers must be the ones that are speaking the truth of Christianity. That is a total and complete distortion of the Christian faith and is absolutely false according to any honest reading of the bible or the history of the Christian church. It is a modern heresy in the church and should be labeled clearly as such.
Degradation of a Major Political Party – The Republican Party has allowed itself to be captured by the religious right. Ronald Reagan was the first presidential candidate to explicitly appeal to the vote of the religious right. He did not further their programs, however; he used the religious right to get elected but did not work seriously on abortion or prayer in schools, for example. The religious right over the years has become more and more frustrated but now in George W. Bush has found a president willing to try to implement their views and as he tries to do so the extremist nature of these views are being exposed to the public. Historically, the Republican Party has represented interests of business owners over workers and there has been a healthy tension between these two interests. Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon, for example, successfully promoted programs for environmental quality. But now the religious right has helped elect an administration which is turning away from clean air and water to advance the narrow interests of a few industrial producers. In some places the religious right has actually taken over the machinery of local Republican politics. In those places the quality of debate within the political process has declined; the harsh and hysterical rhetoric of the religious right has taken over. This is sad, indeed, and degrades the Republican Party and makes it incapable of being a means through which honest political discourse is possible. Thus the greatest good for the local community can not be identified and accomplished.
Vicious Misuse of Homosexuality – The religious right has found it to be a highly successful organizing method to attack homosexual persons. There is within society a natural hesitancy about homosexuality. But whatever one’s moral views on this question, the religious right has created a much greater problem here than it has resolved. In fact, its vicious attacks on homosexual persons, its misrepresentation of the real issues involved, its false readings of the bible on the question, its lack of compassion, and especially its supposed claim that ridding society of homosexuals is somehow the essence of support for the family, are all evidence for the moral degeneracy of the movement itself. The religious right is fundamentally immoral in the way it addresses the issue of homosexuality in society. Homosexual persons grow up in families, after all. Why is it a family value to attack homosexual family members? The reason religious right leaders find the issue so helpful to them is that they are able to use it to organize people and get donations to their cause. This is reprehensible and irresponsible and completely contrary to the whole ethos of Christian faith.
Cynical, Profiteering Leaders – People need leaders. Large numbers of people can be mobilized by false leaders, just look at Nazi Germany. Leaders must be responsible. But the religious right is led by cynical leaders who have discovered they can make money by manipulating people and appealing to their worst fears and uncertainties, and this in the name of Christianity. The religious right has built its movement on exaggerated claims that homosexuals are trying to destroy the society, for example; they get money by playing on people’s misunderstandings of the nature of homosexuality. They get money by making people angry toward those terrible secular humanists who have taken over the schools and are trying to corrupt the minds of their children. These leaders are successful to the degree they keep their people mad and angry, frustrated and fearful, and this is the very opposite of the authentic Christian message, of course. It is time for people of faith to reject such leaders explicitly and work to expose this irresponsible leadership.
Promotes Global Conflict – The religious right promotes an apocalyptic historical world-view dangerous to the peace of the world. It is one thing to believe in a coming world conflagration; it is a dangerous thing to use that belief to justify military conflict within practical political affairs today. This world-view is based a complete misreading of the bible, especially the last book of the bible, Revelation. This view has been promulgated in various ways, including popular novels sold in supermarkets across the country. These novels help create a literary consciousness conducive to encouragement of war; they are written to make money for their authors and further the dangerous apocalyptic perspective.
Summary - The Republican Party has closely associated itself with one particular expression of religious faith, the religious right, to the exclusion of other religious expressions. It’s candidates seek to be elected by articulating the ideas, beliefs, doctrines, principles, and practices of that particular religious expression. Once in office, and especially in the last few years, Republicans have sought to actually legislate and govern based on the ideas, beliefs, doctrines, principles and practices of this particular religious expression. A political party is in essence committing itself to particular ideas and understandings of God, God’s law, God’s will in specific human affairs. Questions of who God is and what God intends for the world are now the subject of political debate as if such questions can be decided by majority vote through power politics.
Republicans have been so successful in recent years in presenting themselves as the “party of God” that popular opinion polls are reported to the effect that persons who believe in God and go to church are likely to vote Republican and those that do not are likely to vote Democratic. The Republican Party has polarized the American people on the basis of religious faith. Many leaders and followers of the Republican Party have adopted the rhetoric of the religious right that Democrats are the party of so-called secular humanism responsible for all the evil they claim is causing a moral breakdown of the country, that the Republican Party represents a kind of salvation from moral decay by returning to God. Republicans claim they will preserve “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, they will put the ten commandments back into courthouses, they will lead the nation back to being what they claim it has always been, one "Christian" nation under God.
For all these reasons the religious right should be explicitly opposed in our time. Please add your ideas for how this might best be done.
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