Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Christian Right XII 82

Synopsis from American Theocracy Chapter 6 (conclusion): The United States in a Dixie Cup: The New Religious and Political Battlegrounds

Born-Again Republicans: 2004 and the New Religio-political Map

Forty-three to forty-six percent of Americans describe themselves as born-again, though perhaps half that number would not pass a strict set of follow-up criteria. Separately, forty percent of Americans say they frequently attend religious services (though some academics argue that 30 percent would be a more accurate figure). Combining these overlapping groups, religious voters cast about half of America's votes, and among whites, 70 to 75 percent supported George W. Bush, representing “by far the largest portion of his electoral coalition,” Phillips writes. USA Today said, “Forget the gender gap. The 'religion gap' is bigger, more powerful and growing.”

Phillips goes into detail discussing the differences between red states and blue states. He also says these are not all differences in values. “Values are what society holds; what churches hold is theology and belief.”

In winning re-election without expanding his base, Bush did the near-impossible: he got reelected in 2004 on a narrow base without broad support. Bush lost support among Muslim Americans and among mainline Protestants, but gained in other religious groups. Phillips says that the new border between red and blue runs from southern Pennsylvania across Ohio through southern Indiana and Illinois to Iowa. The western battle occurs in Oregon and Washington, where the most irreligious area of the country meets a western movement of Mormons, Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God and Nazarenes. “A second set of western battlegrounds lies in the Southwest: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.” Emigration and influence from California, northern retirees, Hispanic Catholics and resort communities bumps into Mormon, conservative Baptist, evangelical and Pentecostal contingents (some of them Latino) as well as the “Little Texas” areas of New Mexico and Colorado.

Comparing Bush's re-election in 2004 with Reagan's re-election landslide in 1984, the worst Bush declines from Reagan occurred in new Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, California, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Michigan, Colorado and Washington. The smallest decreases occurred in Alabama (actual increase), West Virginia (actual increase), Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Wyoming, Indiana, Minnesota and Texas. The top four for Bush – Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee – “are fundamentalist and evangelical strongholds...” Phillips reminds us.

9/11: Seizing the Fundamentalist Moment

Phillips' research revealed that “Fundamentalisms arise in times of crisis,” and he quotes Fundamentalisms Observed. “A crisis of identity”' is perceived “by those who fear extinction as a people.” Bruce Lawrence, a professor of history at Duke University, notes that there is a predilection among fundamentalists to impose God's will – the one true faith – on other peoples as well as an intolerance of dissent and a central reliance on inerrant scripture for ideology and authority.

Charles Kimball identified five central fundamentalist tendencies:

              1.  Claiming absolute truth
              2.  Seizing upon an “ideal time” as in claims for imminent
                   cataclysms or end times
              3.  Fostering blind obedience
              4.  Using ends to justify means (such as deaths or acceptance of
                   collateral damage)
              5.  Pursuing “holy war” as in the Crusades (or, to an extent, the 1991 Gulf war)

A “double-coding analysis” reveals by Bruce Lincoln of the University Of Chicago shows that Bush's October 2001 speech to the nation about the military response to 9/11 included phrases from the Revelation of St. John (6:15-17 about the wrath of the lamb) and Isaiah (about evildoers hiding in caves and the lonely paths of the godless.) Similar religious phrases and images were used by Bush's acceptance speech in 2004.

Phillips collects the conclusions of religious experts to contend that Bush's approach to foreign policy and anti-terrorism was itself fundamentalist in tone and attitude, that the U.S. Government is doing God's work. “Bush's fusion of a religious outlook with administration policy is a striking shift in rhetoric. Other presidents petitioned for blessings and guidance. Bush positions himself as a prophet, speaking for God,” David Domke wrote in Bush's Fundamentalism.

The Emerging Republican Theocracy?

Theocracy means some degree of rule by religion. In 2004, there was unprecedented mobilization of churches in support of Bush's re-election campaign. In a post-election analysis by the Washington Post, it was reported, “national religious leaders, and their lawyers, also made a concerted effort to persuade pastors to disregard the warnings of secular groups about what churches can and cannot do in the political arena.”

Much of this strength is geographic and regional. “It is in their own strongholds –placers like the west Texas Bible Belt, Greater Utah, and the northern plains – that U.S. Churches,” specifically the SBC, Mormon and Lutheran churches, “have their highest ratios of adherence,” Religious Congregations and Membership 2000 states.

However, as political operators like Georgia's Ralph Reed acknowledged years back regarding the tactics of the Christian Coalition, stealth is a major premise, furtiveness a byword. The Christian right usually does not like to acknowledge what it is doing or where, a point made in an article, “Stealth, Secrecy Are Reed's Calling Cards” in the October 23, 2005 Atlanta Constitution. There is also a series of articles by Frederick Clarkson in the march to June 1994 issue of The Public Eye.

Phillips writes, “As for the leanings of key GoP leaders much of the attention focused on George W. Bush and Tom DeLay, the Republican House majority leader, who openly aid, “God is using me all the time everywhere, to stand up for a biblical world view in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me.” However, the larger tale lies in data showing that in 2004 all even of the top Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate, starting with Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and working down to Senator George Allen of Virginia, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, boasted 100 percent ratings from the Christian Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson in the wake of his 1988 presidential bid....Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut in late March 2005 sadly declared that “the Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy.”

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