Taking the Long View in the Dog Days
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 02:13:08 PM EST
Its the dog days of summer and almost nobody has the time or interest in reading some long essay on the Internet -- even if it runs against the grain of the Conventional Wisdom. (Maybe especially if it runs against the grain of the Conventional Wisdom.) Its too hot, or too raining, or people are too on vacation or too something to get into something like that.  

Anyway, having recently published one of those in The Public Eye, I am grateful that the dog days have not deterred Bill Berkowitz, Rob Boston, Scott Isebrand, Bill Lindsey and Paul Rosenberg from enhancing our summer reading with some thoughtful responses.  

Bill Berkowitz writing at Buzzflash observes:
Right-wing Christian evangelicals and conservative Catholic leaders had been down this road before. In 1995, Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, under the direction of executive director Ralph Reed, was riding high as the most important and influential Religious Right group in the country. Reed wasn't satisfied sitting on his laurels. Always thinking of ways to increase the Coalition's political power, he came up with a diversification plan: go after minority and Jewish voters, and, perhaps more significantly, convince Catholics they had a place in the Christian Right's big tent... but the Catholic Bishops opposed the Christian Coalition's co-optation of the word Catholic and The Catholic Alliance never became the powerhouse Robertson and Reed had hoped.

George W. Bush's first campaign for the presidency vigorously targeted the Catholic vote. The thinking was that "compassionate conservatism," as represented by his faith-based initiative, would pry Catholic voters away from the Democrats.  

These efforts have led to The Manhattan Declaration.

Rob Boston writing on the Wall of Separation agrees that the emerging Catholic/evangelical alliance is troubling. He should know. He attended the press conference announcing The Manhattan Declaration and recalls "being struck by its openly theocratic overtones."

Paul Rosenberg writing at Crooks & Liars is interested in my take on the long view in light of the recent set backs for the Christian Right in the area of marriage equality. I wrote: "It is easy to forget that much of Christianity is still emerging from the fog of religious war and the smoldering tensions of the Protestant Reformation."

That's not exactly how most political observers -- even on the left -- approach trying to understand the Religious Right, and it's exactly why they all should be paying more attention to Clarkson, and the developments he tracks -- central to which is an unprecedented degree of cooperation between Protestant evangelicals and the Catholic Church.

William Lindsey writing at Bilgrimage observes

...it's not in the least accidental that the mantra the U.S. bishops began to chant as the 2012 elections approached was precisely this three-part mantra about abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty as intrinsically connected issues, issues on which the church stands or falls today and where it has a political obligation to impose its will on the culture at large, if Christianity is to retain any influence at all in secular culture at this point in time. This was a primary theme of the U.S. Catholic bishops' "Fortnight for Freedom" in the 2012 election cycle, and the "religious freedom" guru of the bishops, Archbishop William Lori, made it explicit in a homily entitled "Godless Secularism Assaults Life and Liberty" on the eve of the elections.

That homily suggests, as Fred notes, that all Christians who do not buy into the ideology and rhetoric of the religious right about the trinity of core issues now defining the religious right are not truly Christian: they're, in the words of Lori, "Godless secularists." As the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, stated on behalf of the bishops' conference in January 2012, marriage and religious liberty "stand or fall together," and, by implication, the church itself stands or falls according to its determination to oppose abortion and marriage equality as interlocking issues, and in the name of "religious liberty" when the culture at large moves in a direction different from that proposed by the bishops.

Increasingly, with the direct leadership of the U.S. Catholic bishops, the religious right movement is depicting itself as the defender of authentic Christian and American values that are under assault by mainstream culture and the current political leaders of the nation. As the Manhattan Declaration makes plain, the movement is threatening outright resistance insofar as the culture at large and the political sphere move in directions that the religious right wishes to place off-limits, especially regarding the issues of abortion and marriage.

Fred's conclusion:  

The Christian Right, stung by recent losses in the culture war, is publicly doubling down on its antichoice and antigay positions. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have found common ground--and the motivation to set aside centuries of sectarian conflict--by focusing on these issues while claiming that their "religious liberty" is about to be crushed. The movement is mobilizing its resources, forging new alliances, and girding itself to engage its enemies. It is also giving fair warning about its intentions. It may lose the long-term war, but whatever happens, one thing is certain: It won't go down without a fight.
Scott Isebrand writing at Religious Right Watch calls my essay "almost certainly prophetic."  That is, of course, something I would almost certainly it rather not be.

The Roman Catholic Church (RRC) and Evangelical/Fundamentalists have been warming up to one another since the Anita Bryant days.

I was shocked in 1978 to see some of my Baptist Bible College schoolmates who were pastors sitting on the same platform with the Bishop of Wichita urging the voters of Wichita to overturn the anti-discrimination law the city council had passed.

While at BBC we were taught about the many errors/heresies of the RRC but these pastors were willing to overlook all that to ban together with the RCC to overturn a law protecting Gay & Lesbian people.

by JerrySloan on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:04:20 PM EST

And forcing their hand at others to win elections by making sure that those who would most vote against them cannot. What we could be seeing is what has been simmering under their surface is making its way to their surface showing they want revolution by force if they can't win by any other means. The question is how will they possibly do it if the majority can maintain against their onslaught of votes, money and political chicanery to win over us. They made sure they still had the majority in the House even though their people lost. They altered the voting districts so they squeaked through. Being antinomian they believe they can do anything to gain their ends. We cannot and should not be like them.

by Nightgaunt on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 09:20:41 PM EST

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