Why the left is wrong about the religious right
One of the most popular themes in the forum of political discussion, and usually the object of profuse castigation, is the perceived agenda of the "religious right." We hear scattered quotations from the likes of its chief commanders, such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson among others. The purpose of peppering us with these comments is to convince us that these men are leading a virtual movement of conquest. They are giving marching orders to their glazed-eyed automatons, telling them to reclaim America by every conceivable means just short of death squads...er well, depending who you talk to.You can't go very far today without being embroiled in the debate about whether or not America was founded as a "Christian Nation," as if this was the only relevant factor in determining where we ought to go from here. I believe is it a misguided assumption in the first place, to say that we can only go in a certain direction because we must realign ourselves with the past.Of course, those who would say America was founded on secular humanism will attempt to construct a patchwork quilt out of a few scattered historical citations that ultimately leave their blanket full of holes. They depend on eclectic phrases from memoirs of a few Founders Fathers and completely ignore the traditions and zeitgeist of the populace in stating what America's foundations actually were. But that is another discussion.The new buzzword used by the media to describe a cultural movement that desires to return to its religious roots is known as "dominionism." Many use this term to encompass both Fundamentalism and Christian Reconstruction. There are some common threads and dissimilarities between Fundamentalism and Christian Reconstruction, but a compare and contrast is well beyond the scope of this piece, and strays from the point I'm attempting to make. Suffice it to say that any movement led by Robertson, Falwell, and others seeks to incorporate moral conservatives who are beyond the pale of orthodox Protestantism.This movement decried by liberals attempts cultural renovation by promoting a social milieu based upon Judeo-Christian moral standards. Our second president, John Adams, observed that "...our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." The very propriety of self-government was contingent on the application of certain behavioral principles and foundational assumptions, and without the devotion to those restraints we would eventually plunge into rampant license and chaos that would undermine liberty itself. Liberals loath such restraints as an encumberment on their personal autonomy.When they make "separation of church and state" arguments, they tell us that the Declaration of Independence (with its four references to God) has no contemporary legal applicability. Yet when they want to convert what were once vices into civil rights, they appeal to the clause "the pursuit of happiness" found in the Declaration. Breathtakingly inconsistent, but effective if you can pull it off. If they only knew how Blackstone defined the term "pursuit of happiness" in his legal commentaries.Orthodox Christians and other moral conservatives share in common the concept of cultural stewardship. The reason why Christians are so interested in "converting" people is both a concern over their souls and because it is the appropriate method of changing culture--through changing people's hearts. Gentle persuasion is the means by which culture is shaped without any violent upheavals. And yet these people are continuously accused of foisting an agenda on others as they attempt to live out their cultural mandate.But how does any group affect their own understanding of positive change in a governmental system built on republican principles? By building coalitions, consensus, and trying to persuade others to embrace their thinking - just as they have the right to do, and as any other group with special interests are inclined to do. Why does lobbying to change a law, remonstration for a particular moral standard, or protesting and decrying a perceived injustice only become sinister and unacceptable when the practice is engaged in by moral conservatives? This is the very intolerance of the highest order constantly condemned by cultural liberals.Unfortunately, to gain the support of the uncommited majority entrenched in the fuzzy middle, it is necessary to create caricatures depicting "fundamentalists" as a mob of desperate Carpathian peasants seeking to find Dracula's coffin in the last few moments before dusk. We can almost see the throngs of wild-eyed vigilantes, stalking the countryside armed with their torches and pitchforks in preparation for a little "moral cleansing." This becomes a necessary depiction, because if people generally did what many liberals claim the religious right never does, "think for themselves," they would seldom come to the conclusions that are helped along by the gratuitous vilifications.Add to that the propensity to throw around labels like Gestapo, Taliban, and Fascist and you not only trivialize the people who actually suffered at the hands of these terrorist ideologues, but you desensitize people to the true travesty these organizations represent. This hyberbole only assures that those who spew it won't be taken seriously.Go back 50 years and you will see "Under God" added to the Pledge; the Bible, non-sectarian prayer, and the Ten Commandments still in schools; abstinence being taught with few pregnancies out of wedlock; sodomy banned in every state; and same-sex marriage unthinkable. It is hard for me to believe anyone would be so foolish to say we are on the cusp of a dangerous theocracy, or even a benevolent one at that, when we have migrated far in the opposite direction. The resurgence of religious values (if one actually exists) didn't happen in a vacuum, but is a response to a disintegrating culture.Yes, as a conservative Christian I have an agenda. So does every liberal and everyone on the ideological continuum in between. If you can't live with that reality, maybe you should change - maybe its you we ought to fear. Is anything so dangerous as unwarranted paranoia?
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