If there were only one religion in England there would be danger of despotism, if there were two they would cut each other’s throats, but there are thirty and they live in peace and happiness.
This is the last article in this series. I hope it has been of interest and enlightening to all who have read it. One thing I have learned through all my research is that you can never let your guard down with these people. When you do, you get presidents like George W. Bush, or congressmen like Tom DeLay or Governors like Sanford. So I think we have established that the Religious Right has had a profound influence our culture and the American dialogue, most of it not pleasant. I think if you were to go back and review all the posts in this series, you would be able to say a great deal more influence than they should have. Part of the answer as to why they have inserted themselves so “incestously” into our political landscape is because they learned the lessons of the 60’s. They adopted the organizing element of protests of the 60’s from radicals of those days who have migrated toward conservatism and are happily applying the same skills they used in the 60’s to work with the religious right and to facilitate an alignment of Evangelicals and a few Conservative Catholics. The alignment is termed as a “cobelligerent” alliance for the purpose of fighting the Right to Life and the GLBT issues in our society. However it should be noted that similar to Progressive Evangelicals, their are probably many more Progressive Catholics that take a softer view of these issues. Change.org summed this “co-belligerent’ agreement(link below) as:
If you take a few dozen Catholics, mix them up with a large pack of conservative evangelicals, throw in a former Nixon official who went to jail for obstructing justice, and add the woman who is the leading activist trying to keep marriage rights away from LGBT people, you get what’s now better known as the Manhattan Declaration
. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it is. It’s the right-wing’s new call to arms that is not only reviving the buzzword “culture wars,” but is a sign that conservative religious leaders will stoop to the lowest levels imaginable to make sure that LGBT people are pushed back into the closet and that women’s rights are sent back to the days of back alley abortions and “Mad Men” housewives.
What is the Manhattan Declaration? It’s a statement put forward by upwards of 150 religious leaders — from Catholic bishops including the Archbishop of New York, to conservative political legends like Dinesh D’Souza — that says conservative religious folks are called by God to go nuclear in order to prevent abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research and a host of what they call “fundamental truths.”
These two groups(Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics) drew up a document called the Manhattan Declaration facilitated by First Things, a publication and activist group founded by John Richard Neuhaus(a former Lutheran 60’s activist) and other theocons. While the Manhattan Declaration was just finished last November, it has been in the works since the 90’s. The men responsible for the theocon movement’s continuation from the 70’s to present are Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak(also on the board of the Institute for Religion and Democracy). The Manhattan Declaration is what people might expect, opposition to abortion, gay marriage/homosexuality and for religious liberty. The religious liberty piece of this declaration is somewhat confusing since this country was founded on that premise and it is written into our Constitution, in the First Amendment. Perhaps they are referring to religious liberty in the sense that all people should practice religious freedom as they see fit? but I highly doubt that one. Without being able to question any of the people who wrote this declaration, it is hard to imagine exactly what they mean in this section. They do, however, manage to quote Doctor Martin Luther King Jr from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in this section of their declaration:
Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming thetruth as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
I find the reference to Dr. King a bit offensive as the Evangelical leaders on the right ridiculed him and refused to offer their support during the Civil Rights era. In fact, it was the progressive Christians, Catholics, Jews and Mainline Protestants, who stood with Dr. King and his SCLC during those trying times. Not one of the Evangelical leaders who wrote this declaration stood alongside Dr. King. You would have found William Sloan Coffin, Rabbi Herschel, Rabbi Davis, or Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwermer who gave their lives alongside James Chaney on the backroads of Mississippi, but not a Falwell or a Dobson or a Robertson. I also find it offensive that they write “or any other anti-life act”, yet continue to support the death penalty. I am not sure how they see it, but the death penalty is an anti-life act. So, while we have moved on to a new era of “change and hope”, you can see the Religious Right is never going to stop pushing their brand of religion on the rest of the nation and the world.
The Religious Right has insinuated themselves into politics, family issues, global issues, education, business, entertainment/the airwaves, media/the arts, religion and they have been successful(wildly) at it, working for years to achieve their goal. They have cultivated some extremely wealthy laymen like Erik Prince, Peter Coors, Phillip Anschutz,Howard Ahmanson, Rupert Murdoch(ABCFamily and NewsCorp), and the wealth alone of the Evangelists that have built their empires. They experienced 8 long years with direct access to the President of the United States and a myriad of public offices, sometimes syphoning off government funds for their outreach programs of which there are thousands around the world. However now that we have a Democratic party President, we have all experienced the increased rhetoric of anit-government, socialism, the taking away of freedom and Constitutional rights, just as Neuhaus and his band of theocons did during the Clinton administration(see First Things website link provided below) when they tried so hard to convict President Clinton on any scandal they could dream up. And that was not the extent of their meddling in political affairs during that time.
While they can continue to meddle in all aspects of the global neighborhood, I would like to believe it is possible they will not succeed in their quest for global domination. But, it is up to all of us to be aware of even the smallest nuances in our daily lives. Do background research on people who are making claims that seem off kilter for any reason. We should be suspicious and should cultivate suspicion of any and all who promise to save us from the exigencies of freedom. Learn the code words these people use to signal their intent to others within their belief or social systems. After all, we have that modern advantage of the Internet that “Al Gore invented for us” and while I insert a bit of humor in here, it is an invaluable tool for research. Speak up when someone makes outrageous claims or even what might seem logical claims with no basis for their reasoning. These people are no smarter than the rest of us and alot of times they will be using the “talking points” of the movement without any idea of the meaning of their rhetoric. If you are a regular member of a church, look for the signs of a takeover by conservatives in your parish/demonation. Are they fairly new to the congregation? Is their rhetoric against the philosophical beliefs of the denomination? Are they working to turn others in the congretation to their way of thinking, either outright or behind the scenes? Do they call meetings of members without the pastor/priest’s attendance? These are all signs of an effort to “SteepleJack” a church and they have the backing of the Institute for Religion and Democracy pushing their efforts. Learn the names of the players in this organization, it is widespread and huge, however it is not difficult to learn the various institute names and their outreach programs. It will definitely allow you to gain a better perspective into why a media outlet has brought a particular person on to defend or “prosecute” a particular issue, that person is going to give them the answer they want. They are chosen for a specific reason.
We have moved on to a new era in politics with the election of President Barack Obama, however one thing you can always count on, the Religious Right will always try to make a comeback, they have over and over again. Remember this, they are working from a “revisionist historical vision” when they frame theoconservatism as a recovery operation. They simply ignore or distort the complicated religious views of our founding fathers as well as their [justified] fears of religiously inspired tyranny and sectarian violence. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison were all either deists or liberal Christians inclined to doubt the divinity of Jesus Christ and the possibility of revelation. The US Constitution, in itself, is famously silent about God, as are the the essays that make up the Federalist Papers. One exception is two passing references by Madison, in fact in article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by Washington and endorsed by Adams, unamimously ratified by the Senate it clearly states that the United States was not founded on the Christian religion:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Revisionist history is a favorite pastime of the Religious Right and the Republican party as a whole, however no matter how hard they try to change it, the written word is out there for us to seek and understand. How terrible would it be to have the theocons/religious right come to power and destroy all of our historical documents. Those of us in the here and now would surely be aware but generations to come would never know the true history of the United States of America, rather it might be taught as the “misunderstood” past.