Stealth Evangelism 3.0: The Remarkable Resilience of the Religious Right
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Oct 08, 2014 at 11:16:57 AM EST
In 1990, a young Ralph Reed, newly hired by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition to oversee its daily operations, told the Los Angeles Times that, "What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and one state at a time. I honestly believe that in my lifetime, we will see a country once again governed by Christians...and Christian values."

A year later, in an interview with Norfolk, Virginia's Virginian-Pilot, Reed talked about the organization's stealth political strategy, a strategy aimed at having Religious Right candidates hide their social agenda, while talking about other issues more attractive to voters, such as lower taxes: "I want to be invisible. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."

In a 1992 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Reed, who left the Christian Coalition a few years later to start up his own public relations firm, and was later caught up in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, explained stealth: "It's like guerrilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to improve his artillery bearings. It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under the cover of night."

In the intervening nearly twenty-five years, the Religious Right has used a number of strategies, from Reed's stealth tactics to developing high-powered political organizations and high-profile leaders like the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell, the Christian Coalition's Pat Robertson, and Focus on the Family's James Dobson; from placing a succession of anti-gay and anti-abortion initiatives on state ballots to mobilizing committed conservative grassroots activists.

Religious Right's resilience

At the same time, the Religious Right developed a formidable infrastructure, numerous media outlets, mastered the use of the Internet, and has become heavily involved with social media. Despite the more recent advent of Tea Party groups - many of which embrace various aspects of the Religious Right's agenda -- the Religious Right remains a significant player on the political landscape.

While Ralph Reed's stealth strategy helped grow the Christian Coalition, it would seem to be more difficult to employ similar stealth tactics nowadays, what with the Internet, social media, YouTube and the like tracking just about political candidates says and do.

However, these days, there's a new wrinkle to stealth; stealth evangelism camouflaged as charitable activity, says Rachel Tabachnick, an associate fellow at the Somerville, Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates, and the author of a soon-to-be-released PRA report titled "Religious Right Leaders Use Prominent Athletes and Movie Stars, Scam Progressive Donors to Advance Outreach."

According to a PRA email, Tabachnick documents how Religious Right "leaders are purposefully camouflaging their anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive freedom agenda with progressive language and seemingly-secular causes. Using this model, they're successfully raking in huge donations from well-known progressive donors, Hollywood celebrities, and business executives who would be horrified to learn to whom their money is going."

Stealth evangelism

I asked Bruce Wilson, a longtime researcher and writer covering the intersection of religion and politics, the Director of the Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE), a project of Truth Wins Out, and the co-founder of the Talk2Action religious blog, how he defined stealth evangelism camouflaged as charitable activity?

Wilson said that he "looks for truth in advertising; how an allegedly charitable activity presents itself to the general public, and whether it is different from how it presents itself to evangelical audiences?" He investigates "reports from the field, from as many different sources as possible, to confirm that it's really charitable activity rather than primarily about proselytizing or advancing some other agenda?"

Wilson pointed out that "With honest charitable activity carried out by religious groups (the charitable work of the Catholic Church is a good example), there's little to no direct attempt to evangelize; human needs are simply addressed and the faith is spread, mainly, by the good example set by those doing the charitable work.

"On the other end of the spectrum are those who practice 'stealth evangelism' in the name of charitable activity. Usually, such efforts do address human needs to some extent but the primary objective is to evangelize; the charitable work is seen as a way of getting access to the target population which, increasingly, are children between the ages of 4 and 14.

"At the heart of this issue is something called the 'Samaritan Strategy' - a redirection of the energies of the politicized Christian right that began decades ago. Thus, the Christian right has moved, quite aggressively, into international missions work - orphan care, economic development, etc."

I asked Wilson how the Religious Right's new iteration of stealth differed from Ralph Reed's stealth strategy of two decades ago. The main difference, Wilson said, is in the level of "sophistication of the stealth tactics now employed."

"Now, the movement has even begun running stealth candidates in the Democratic Party. And, such stealth Democratic Party candidates don't necessarily have to come dragging the whole religious right agenda. They can be liberal on many counts but also be supporters, say, of key movement issues such as school privatization. A few well placed such Democrats carry the potential to twist the party in knots if necessary.

"Then, there's the nonprofit sector. In 2012, I was looking into a nonprofit called 'Invisible Children' that burst onto the scene with a breakthrough video that became the most-watched Internet video in history, called "Kony 2012". The IC was billing itself as being primarily about stopping Lord's Reformation Army leader Joseph Kony.

"IC was selling evangelical Christianity to secular kids in high schools and colleges, by playing on their idealism, getting them involved in stopping Kony and helping out poor Africans in Uganda and neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. But Kony's Lord's Reformation Army was by then a ghost of its former self and had been gone from Uganda since 2005. And the orphan care and schools IC was touting as part of its charitable work? Well, when I looked into that I found that IC's schools were under supervision of a Ugandan who also headed instruction in schools run by the US-based evangelical Christian operation called 'The Family' (or Fellowship).

"Invisible Children figured out how to harness the idealism of young liberals to support the project of rebuilding Uganda and Africa along "biblical" lines. The orphanages and schools IC supported appeared to be indoctrinating their children with the right "biblical" ideology to produce a dedicated cadre of trained leadership elites who would move into all sectors of Ugandan society - business, government, and so on."

Stealth tactics "has been so successful in some settings that progressive donors have helped raise funds for rightwing religio-political leaders," Rachel Tabachnick told me in an email exchange. "In one case, for example, a prominent gay rights supporter was unknowingly helping to elevate the status and raise funds for one of New York City's most aggressive activists against gay marriage."

They will evangelize. They need more on their side so that it could become a real People's Crusade to make our budding empire even more religious based than it already is. Step-by-step.

by Nightgaunt on Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 08:32:38 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (326 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (171 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (97 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (92 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (102 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (123 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (101 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (73 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (223 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (53 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (149 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (50 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (52 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (208 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (230 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (84 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (168 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (139 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (130 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (141 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (122 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (181 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (137 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (79 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (186 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (76 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (104 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (102 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.