Thursday, May 26, 2005

THE OBSESSION OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT

By William Fisher

Try Googling: “James Dobson, Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, and Religious Right”. Then click “search within results” for “Bush Administration, Human Rights, Civil Rights, Freedom of the Press, Independent Judiciary, Guantanamo Bay, Intelligence Reform, Prisoner Abuse, Poverty Reduction, Religious Tolerance, US Aid”.

You may be surprised by the results.

Out of millions of documents, you will find virtually none that refer to Guantanamo Bay, Prisoner Abuse, Poverty Reduction, Religious Tolerance, or Intelligence Reform.

On the other hand, you will find hundreds that refer to Bush Administration, Human Rights, Civil Rights, Freedom of the Press, and Independent Judiciary.

But these are almost exclusively devoted to the relationship of these issues to one over-arching subject: SEX.

Thus, the “human and civil rights” citations are about the evils of abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, teen pregnancy, contraception, and kindred issues.

“Freedom of the Press” is reduced to attacking the ‘left-wing bias’ of journalists who disagree with the religious right – and lionizing those who agree.

The “independent judiciary” category is monopolized by Roe v. Wade, Terri Schiavo and other end-of-life issues, opposition to ‘activist’ judges who ‘legislate from the bench’, Darwin vs. Creationism, and embryonic stem cell research, support for Bill Frist and Tom delay, and acclaim for President Bush’s court nominees.

US AID is dominated by scathing criticisms of the family planning, HIV prevention, and sex education programs America funds in poor countries.

And under “Bush Administration”, you will find unquestioning enthusiasm not only for the president’s positions on these issues but, implicitly and explicitly, for virtually every position and action Mr. Bush has ever taken.

So the issues most trumpeted by the so-called religious right are about how we got here, how we reproduce ourselves, how we should die, the kinds of intimate relationships we should and shouldn’t have, who should judge the appropriateness of those relationships – and how our Constitution should be protecting us against the ‘devil’ in our midst.

In other words, by an obsession with reproduction. SEX!

How the religious right got from Calvin to “The Crucible” to Condoms and Terri Schiavo requires a long journey through history. For theological scholars – indeed, for all of us -- it is a fascinating and illuminating journey. But we’ll have to save that for another time.

For now, the more relevant questions are: Is this what faith is about? And, if not, where are those people of faith who express alternative views? And why aren’t we hearing their voices?

Well, you may not have noticed, but we are. These voices are not as deafening or as undoubting or as strident as Pat Robertson’s or Jerry Falwell’s or James Dobson’s. But they’re out there. And they’re struggling to be heard over the cacophony of the politically-savvy, exquisitely-organized, Bible-quoting machine of the extreme right wing of the God-squad.

There are many moderate voices among ‘people of faith’. Perhaps best known is Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical Protestant who edits “Soujourners” magazine and is the best-selling author of “God’s Politics”.

Wallis says, “I've witnessed a new movement of moderate and progressive religious voices challenging the monologue of the Religious Right. An extremely narrow and aggressively partisan expression of right-wing Republican religion has controlled the debate on faith and politics in the public square for years. But that is no longer true…"The monologue of the Religious Right is finally over, and a new dialogue has begun!"

There are, he says, “visible signs that the Religious Right does not speak for all Christians, even all evangelical Christians. What I hear, from one end of this country to the other, is how tired we are of ideological religion and how hungry we are for prophetic faith.”

Wallis is conservative theologically, yet believes his faith mandates support for progressive policies. "The Bible is full of poor people," he said. "Biblical politics has the poor at the center."

Wallis is not alone; many religious groups and conservative Christians oppose the Religious Right -- both in politics and in their church hierarchies. For example:

The Interfaith Alliance "is a non-partisan, clergy-led organization dedicated to promoting the positive, healing role of faith in civic life and challenging intolerance and extremism."

The Rev. Albert Pennybacker, a Lexington, Ky.-based pastor, is head of the Clergy Leadership Network, a cross-denominational group of liberal and moderate religious leaders seeking to counter the influence of the religious right and to mobilize voters to change leadership in Washington. Pennypacker says he is “tired of the conventional wisdom that equates religiosity with conservatism. He says the religious right “often squeezes out the left in public debate”.

Sojourners for Peace and Justice is an evangelical progressive Christian commentary on faith, politics, and culture. Episcopal Bishop John Chane said at a recent Sojourners/Call to Renewal chapel service: "We've gone from a war on poverty to a war on the poor."

The Evangelical Environmental Network is a coalition of Christian groups promoting environmental protection.

A web site by a former Catholic Priest turned Methodist minister, “Christ as a Liberal”, demonstrates a religious/political alternative to the Religious Right.

These are but a few of the so-called "freestyle evangelicals" who are averse to the right wing's intolerance and lack of charity. Their concerns extend beyond the conservative morality issues of abortion and gay marriage to a broad range of issues –from social justice for the poor to America's role in the world.

They are beginning to attract sizable audiences. And for at least some politicians, their message is beginning to resonate.

For example, Governor Bob Riley of Alabama proposed a tax increase to help the poor, calling this action his Biblical duty. On CBS News, Gov. Riley said, "we're supposed to love God, love each other, and help take care of our poor."

And former US Ambassador to the United Nations John C. Danforth, a former senator and an Episcopal minister, says he does not fault religious conservatives for political action on high-profile issues like the Terri Schiavo case, but that the Republican party has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement. He warns that, aside from obvious First Amendment issues, the work of government and political leaders is to hold together as one people very diverse nation in which religion can be uniting influence but is more often highly divisive.

Karl Rove notwithstanding, ‘people of faith’ like Jim Wallis and John Danforth may well be triggering a backlash against right wing Christianity. Watch this space!

William Fisher writes for InterPress News Service. He has managed economic development programs for the US Agency for International Development and the US State Department in the Middle East and elsewhere. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration.

57 comments:

  1. So no "up-or-down vote" on stem cell research?

    I don't even know why Bill Frist went to medical school for. God obviouslly takes care of everything. The religious right doesn't want us to do research on diseases. We should just sit around and let God makes us well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find it most encouraging that other religious people are standing up to the fanatics so obsessed with sex in one form or another. A problem: there are 30 million fanatics and their Pastor from the megachurch in Colorado, next to the US Air Force Academy, meets with Bush every Monday morn.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Also...do a search adding the words: dominion theology, kingdom now, Rushdoony, Gary North and see what comes up.

    The term Religious Right is a blanket that hides a lot that is actually going on.

    Those guys have an agenda and they have stated it...they want to take over America and the world!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've asked repeatedly why sex is more a more egregious transgression than glut and nobody's given me an answer. Meanwhile, Falwell, and all his chins, goes in for heart surgery. How can a fat, gluttonous, pig who obviously abuses his body, point his fat, stubby finger at someone who is having sex? Why do they always point out to sex, whle more people are dying and being denied a quality of life due to obisity?

    ReplyDelete
  5. My question is, WHY is the Religious Reich so obsessed with sex? Are they not getting any themselves? No, that can't be it - look at all the adultery that comes to light among them all the time. Maybe somebody with a psychology background could hazard a guess?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I cannot belive how bad things have gotten in this country, it seems like everyday some Nazi christian fundamentalist is doing something that makes all Americans look like stupid barbarains. There does seem to be hope Bush only won by 3%, while Nixon in 1972 won by 23%, and Reagan won by 18% in 1984. 59 million people voted for John Kerry the most Liberal Democratic nominee since Dukakis. Kerry got more votes than Reagan. And Bush's approval ratings on all issues continue to sink so the public is beginning to reject the extremism in the republican party

    ReplyDelete
  7. On sex: Everyone has a natural desire for pleasure, and sexual pleasure. By making sex bad, you can ensure that all your followers will have guilty feelings, which you can then exploit. And have you seen them do that???

    The guilt can be turned into anger. Why is it that the Deep South has the most fundamentalists, and the most warlike culture? It is no accident!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Most Reich Wing fundamentalist are using the the law like NAZI's! They are the ones you pay for sex with children and are the the real Haters of God! Their way or the Hiway? Let them move to the Middle east and see how far their crusade goes over with real religious people!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree whole heartedly that sex in all its forms is an obsession of the neanderthal, extremist, ignorant, don't they realize that sex is why they are on this planet, right wing Bushites? It's almost funny if it wasn't so scary. You would think they had just landed at Plymouth Rock. I'm sick of it-people better start waking up and fight for their basic human rights of sexual freedom-as long as it doesn't take advantage of other citizens. Kinsey was so far ahead of his time in being aware that ignorance in sexuality was not good for the human species-honesty about sexual human behavior was the best policy. We have to battle these idiots-NOW!!!

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  10. You know, I just finished reading a book ("Love the Sin" by Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini)which made the incidental suggestion that one of the reasons the country at large is so obsessed with the morality of sex is that it helps people convince themselves that since they toe the sexual morality line, they're moral people and can thus ignore the areas like the economic sphere and international justice where they have been acting decidedly immorally. I think they might be on to something. Then again, if one does some reading on the topic, the religious right seems possessed of just as much kink as everyone else....

    ReplyDelete
  11. With all the talk about religious "right" (should be wrong) I wish some one would start a movement called
    RELIGIOUS LEFT.
    I'll bet that would get lots of adherents.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The religious right reminds me of that old joke about the guy in the shrink's office.
    The psychiatrist shows the man a series of ink blots, asking him what he sees in each. Each of the man's answers is related to sex. The shrink reluctantly tells the man that he is, in fact, obsessed with sex.
    To which the man replies "I'M obsessed with sex?!?!? YOU'RE the pervert with all the dirty pictures!"
    Yup. That's the religious right for you. Blaming all their own failings on the rest of society...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great read. If you found this of interest check out, Soldiers of Christ I http://www.harpers.org/SoldiersOfChrist.html & Soldiers of Christ II http://www.harpers.org/FeelingTheHate.html
    Chilling stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  14. It is sad to see many "Christian" leaders stray so far from the original mission Jesus led 2,000 years ago. In my reading of the gospels, Jesus did not work to change Caesar's laws or to stop abortion or to get more "just" judges appointed. Jesus had a mission to serve the people and make their lives worth living. He helped them individually and collectively realize that the battle to overcome evil is more within one's own self and one's faith, not outside of self (i.e., reform government and man-made laws).

    It seems like the Christian right is just being allowed to have center stage so they can blow smoke, and inadvertently hiding issues from the public that possibly will have a greater detrimental impact to our society than this smoke they think is so vitally important. I think Jesus said something about what God thinks of these Christian leaders.
    `You teachers of God's law will have trouble! You have taken away the key of the door where people can go in and know what is true. You yourselves did not go in, and you stopped those who were going in.' (Luke 11:52)

    ReplyDelete
  15. The obsession of the judeo-christian-islamic "sand religions" (a term a native american friend coined) extremist elements with sex may well spring at least in part from the ecological niche that spawned them. Controlling the breeding stock in a harsh environment with limited resources is a key to power. This of course also explains the misogyny that is one of their corner stones. If one represses and denies such a strong drive, and one of the most marvelous opportunities for connection to another human being, the deed does not go "unpunished". Worse yet repression may break through in perverse ways increasing guilt and causing the need to project that guilt onto others and punish them for your sins. While picketing the local Baptist Palace where the Ayatolla Prevert was sponsoring Tim LeHaye in a daylong seminar on the Rapture, sexual obsession came up and one of the young women mentioned a standing joke she had heard in Australia, "Thank God they sent us the criminals and the US got the Puritans!"
    As the nuns who taught me used to say "Use your head for more than a hat rack."

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