May 30, 2006


Tyranny of the Christian Right (Michelle Goldberg, 5/30/06, AlterNet)

Whenever I talk about the growing power of the evangelical right with friends, they always ask the same question: What can we do? Usually I reply with a joke: Keep a bag packed and your passport current.

I don't really mean it, but my anxiety is genuine. It's one thing to have a government that shows contempt for civil liberties; America has survived such men before. It's quite another to have a mass movement -- the largest and most powerful mass movement in the nation -- rise up in opposition to the rights of its fellow citizens. The Constitution protects minorities, but that protection is not absolute; with a sufficiently sympathetic or apathetic majority, a tightly organized faction can get around it.

The mass movement I've described aims to supplant Enlightenment rationalism with what it calls the "Christian worldview." The phrase is based on the conviction that true Christianity must govern every aspect of public and private life, and that all -- government, science, history and culture -- must be understood according to the dictates of scripture. There are biblically correct positions on every issue, from gay marriage to income tax rates, and only those with the right worldview can discern them. This is Christianity as a total ideology -- I call it Christian nationalism. It's an ideology adhered to by millions of Americans, some of whom are very powerful. It's what drives a great many of the fights over religion, science, sex and pluralism now dividing communities all over the country. [...]

In the coming years, we will probably see the curtailment of the civil rights that gay people, women and religious minorities have won in the last few decades. With two Bush appointees on the Supreme Court, abortion rights will be narrowed; if the president gets a third, it could mean the end of Roe v. Wade. Expect increasing drives to ban gay people from being adoptive or foster parents, as well as attempts to fire gay schoolteachers. Evangelical leaders are encouraging their flocks to be alert to signs of homosexuality in their kids, which will lead to a growing number of gay teenagers forced into "reparative therapy" designed to turn them straight. (Focus on the Family urges parents to consider seeking help for boys as young as five if they show a "tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.")

Christian nationalist symbolism and ideology will increasingly pervade public life. In addition to the war on evolution, there will be campaigns to teach Christian nationalist history in public schools. An elective course developed by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a right-wing evangelical group, is already being offered by more than 300 school districts in 36 states. The influence of Christian nationalism in public schools, colleges, courts, social services and doctors' offices will deform American life, rendering it ever more pinched, mean, and divided.

There's still a long way, though, between this damaged version of democracy and real theocracy.

That the Christian Right's entire agenda can be achieved by changing just two or three seats on the Supreme Court suggests just how tenuous the secular revolution always was in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2006 7:29 AM

We can't allow those Christians to control our government. I mean, look at US history: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. Christians, the whole lot of them. Oh the horror!

Posted by: Gideon at May 30, 2006 8:00 AM

One counters a mass movement with a mass movement. Ms Goldberg's mass movement lacks critical mass.

Posted by: jeff at May 30, 2006 8:34 AM

The secularist movement is too self-destructive to win--they breed themselves out of the battle.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 8:39 AM

The poor woman is besotted and benighted.

Posted by: erp at May 30, 2006 8:59 AM

A few weeks ago, my son's teacher and a few parents were fretting with dead seriousness about "Harper's religiosity" and the dark places it would lead us. His offence? He finished a speech with "God bless Canada." I mean, can Savonarola be far behind?

Posted by: Peter B at May 30, 2006 9:20 AM

No doubt the really funny thing is if you pressed Ms. Goldberg on the issue, she'd tell you that Christian fundamentalists are either equally or more repressive than they hardest line Shiira law adherents out there, and certainly more than any other religion that those in the U.S. seeking spirituality on a path less travelled by the unsophisticated masses in America would prefer to follow.

Posted by: John at May 30, 2006 9:27 AM

She thinks your basic box-stock Mk. 1 Mod. 0 midwestern Evangelical Protestant is a fanatic? Obviously, she's never met any Marxists. :-)

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 30, 2006 9:46 AM

"Keep a bag packed and your passport current."

Hasn't that always been the normal procedure for the rich and connected supporters of the side whose ongoing tyrrany or corrupt regime is about to be overthrown, or otherwise unceremoniously dumped from unearned or usurped power?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 30, 2006 9:46 AM

"Keep a bag packed".....

My sweet a$$. How many hits did Canada's embassy web page on emigration get after the '04 election.
Hundred(s) of thousands.

And how many Americans actually moved there to escape the jackbooted tyranny of George W. Bush? Statistically speaking, as the Canadian Govt will attest.... ZERO! Nada. Goose egg.

"Keep a bag packed." Spare me. Millions of people all over planet earth will flee their homelands due to politics or economics. Michelle Goldberg and her AlterNet buddies are NOT among them, and never ever will be, no matter what the Right does and no matter what their tearful bloviating.

I don't insist that they do, that would be obnoxious. I would only ask to stop fooling themselves about "packing their bags". They stopped fooling the rest of us ages ago.

Now, it's off to the border to address the millions who want to flee their homelands.... to come to Bush's America.

"Keep a bag packed." Yer dreamin', sweetheart.

Posted by: Andrew X at May 30, 2006 9:56 AM

What she fails to realize is that American evangelicals have such a profusion of sects and denominations that any sort of real "fascism" is impossible, because they can't agree on anything beyond extremely broad, simple measures.

Most of the things she points to that would make American society in her view "pinched, mean, and divided" are preservations of the existing status quo rather than changes. In the most extreme cases, she could accuse them of trying to take America back in many ways to the society that existed from the 1700s until the 1950s.

Posted by: John Thacker at May 30, 2006 10:36 AM


Not if you're lucky.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2006 10:40 AM

If you had devoted you life to a multi-generational movement to destroy civilization, to build Utopia on the ruins, and watched Religion rebuild in less then twenty years, you would be upset too.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 30, 2006 11:22 AM

It may be that the leftists just don't get it, that they just don't understand the American Constitution.

It was never that mere government had the power to deform civil society in one direction or another. Certainly it was never intended that a scant majority, or worse, a few unelected judges, could change the meaning of words used to define fundamental institutions.

The left has been wielding the apparatus of state coercion, in Marxist fashion, to transform society, and society is pushing back.

The Goldberg article makes a very intereting point about Iraq. The left, in America and is the rest of the would, is lusting for another Vietnam. They hope beyond hope for another scene of helicopters on the embassy roof.

Yes, comrades, this would be a Dolchstoss, and, yes, this would have effects you will not like. There is no "anti-war" movement this time. The issue is only our role as the world government conducting the global war on terror.

"Ending" Iraq the way our enemies foreign and domestic desire would have consequences far beyond a temporary setback for the followers of Bush's favorite Philosopher. The witches and queers are willing to pay this price, but no one else is.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 30, 2006 11:42 AM

Mr. Thacker has hit the nail on the head. This article is dumb, dumb, dumb, and shows that Ms. Goldberg knows absolutely nothing about religion in America.

Posted by: b at May 30, 2006 12:11 PM

Lou -

Consider if you will, that, if what you say did happen, it would be no less than the SECOND war fought by the US that was lost entirely at home by leftist activism. (Or at minimum, perceived as such, certainly correctly in the case of Iraq.)

Wonder where THAT little reality would lead?

Posted by: Andrew X at May 30, 2006 1:17 PM

John -

I thought we could all agree on pot-luck suppers.

Posted by: Shelton at May 30, 2006 2:35 PM

Wonder where THAT little reality would lead?

You aren't questioning their patriotism based on their actions and results acheived, are you? Because if you listen to them, undermining your society is the highest form of patriotism.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 30, 2006 2:49 PM

Raoul: But "undermining your society" is just loaded with pejorative connotations. It sounds so much better when you use a word like "dissent"...

Posted by: b at May 30, 2006 2:56 PM

Shelton, with this bunch pot-luck suppers would be some mighty fine dining. I'll bring the paper plates and coffee.

Posted by: erp at May 30, 2006 4:43 PM

Peter B:

They could build The Bonfire of the Inanities.


Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 30, 2006 7:33 PM

Matt. We'll roast marshmellows too.

Posted by: erp at May 30, 2006 7:50 PM