Speaking as a former member of the Christian Right, I can say that there is conservative American Christianity, and then there is the GOP. Both of these large labels are diverse and have many movements within them. They encapsulate a variety of thoughts and practices, and you can find the most thoughtful, compassionate, and sweet people in either group. But mix them together – as Republican strategists got together with famous Christian culture warriors like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Francis Schaeffer, Phyllis Schafly, and of course Pat Robertson in the late 70’s to welcome the so-called Reagan Revolution — and you have a very toxic combination, far more dangerous than the sum of its parts. The formation of the Christian Right served a type of looper ideological bias confirmation synced with a ready-made distribution and mobilization corps, and fueled by fire-branding and fear-as-motivation rhetoric. All of a sudden, being a conservative Christian (and, because the conservative Christian tag was the most ardent and media-friendly one, any type of devout Christian was lumped in with the Religious Right in the popular imagination) meant not just cultural dominionism like opposing abortion rights, supporting prayer at school, and teaching about the Jesus Dinosaurs — it also came to mean more obviously anti-Jesus efforts, like fiscal conservatism and supporting holy war. This unholy marriage also introduced a whole new level of lying as a means of survival, including lying about others and themselves in ways that would give the Devil a hard-on.
The following are a few doozies, in no particular order, from the Religious Right:
- That taking care of the poor should be left to churches:
This point is a double-blind: First, destroy chances for a just society by attacking the poor while simultaneously denying them government aid, then claim that your church can and should be the ones taking care of the poor. This feeds into politicians like Congressman Stephen Fincher who argue that Jesus wants the government to get out of the way of taking care of the poor — by starving them. Similar arguments are made about health care — that it’s the job of the Christian church to take care of the poor. This is either misanthropy or just plain ol’ delusionism. It surely doesn’t have an understanding of what Jesus had to say about the poor, or the fact that the earliest Christians helped to take care of the poor where they found them, in light of the fact that the Roman Empire wouldn’t. Not because they were cocky and delusional enough to believe they could handle all the poor and sick on their own — they couldn’t, and we can’t right now. If the Christian Right truly wants to take care of the poor, it could start right now.
- That Muslims are supposed to lie:
If there’s one area where the Christian Right and New Atheism may converge, it’s in Islamophobia. Islamophobia in the US and Europe is a pretty big and horrible legacy of a supposedly multicultural and tolerant West that is not willing to quite yet look at all people as being simultaneously different and yet as human as them. The circular logic loop of Taqqiya — as it’s misunderstood by conservatives — is probably one of the myths most responsible for a breakdown in communication between the East and the West (which is convenient for those who want to picture Muslims as a scary Other in order to convert and/or bomb a group of over one billion people into submission). According to Christian Right apologists, Taqqiya allows Muslims to lie about anything doing with Islam in order for them to spread Islam. It is a Protocols of Zion-level of nutty conspiracy, but you’ll hear it propagated by all types of Evangelicals. But the very fact that Taqqiya would be used in such a way (rather than how it is actually practiced — as a means of protecting life under duress of death for deconversion) is itself a lie. It’s not the only time that conservative Christians actually spread falsehoods about non-conservative Christians lying as a matter-of-fact. Take, for instance, the insistence that relativism basically means lying. It’s a centrally demonizing tactic that conservatism forces on its adherents.
Of course, the Taqqiya myth isn’t the only anti-Muslim lie from the Christian Right. The idea that “the Muslim World” (another myth — that there is a uniform way of being Muslim, that all Muslims are alike, that all majority-Muslim countries are alike, etc) is unified in an unprovoked attack against “Christian” countries in the West is another huge lie in itself. All such lies should not have a place with a people that claim to follow The Truth. If that is how Christians communicate truthfully and honestly, why would anyone want to convert?
Unless they are forced… Oh, but the Religious Right would never coerce anyone to accept their beliefs, would they? (Oh, nevermind…)
- That Christian Right policies are not racist:
It would be a bit naive to claim that conservative Christianity in the US is — taken as a whole or in many of its parts — particularly racist. Sure, the majority of congregations are composed mostly of one race, but so are most neighborhoods and areas in the US. In some ways, many congregations are actually less racist and more race-conscious than much of mainstream America. Additionally, conservative Christianity isn’t just the domain of White Americans — many Black and Latino congregations are theologically conservative and the most ethnically-diverse churches I went to were Evangelical. On the other hand, in not quite a few churches of the evangelical and fundamentalist variety, there is an open demonization of black bodies and people (quite literally. Ever hear the one about how rock and roll music is evil because some missionaries went to Africa and heard the same beats being used to summon demons? Yeah) and an open Other-ization and Orientalism of other non-White peoples.
However, merge conservative American Christianity with conservative American politics and you have a recipe for unmitigated racial disaster. We see this propagated in how the Religious Right frames abortion as “the New Slavery,” where the pre-born are rhetorically linked to full-grown enslaved human beings, furthering rather than challenging myths of racial inferiority and Black infantilism – while depicting women making incredibly hard choices as evil slave holders. We see it also in the myths that abortion doctors are specifically targeting African Americans in a continuing effort to commit genocide of inner city African Americans — rather than the fact that the poor disproportionately seek abortions because they do not have access to birth control and have limited financial options due to engrossing racist economic policies often embraced by the Religious Right. It is easier to demonize black women and men as careless, highly sexualized and irresponsible than it is to take initiative in alleviating racial and economic circumstances that disproportionately draw African American women to abortion. We see it in the anti-crime, anti-poor people, and pro-jail stances they connect with. We see it in the demonization of Trayvon Martin by Southern Baptist honcho Richard Land. And we see it in the politicians they end up sleeping with. The last presidential election, and their support for the birther candidates and pseudo-candidates (whether Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, or Newt Gingrich), was particularly hurtful. Gingrich, the serial adulterer, was making racist comments every turn and yet Christian Right support for him never waned.
- That non-Christians (and specifically Atheists) don’t have morals:
Odd, that charge. Especially in light of some of the other charges. But this idea derives from the piss-poor apologetic reasoning that all morals come from God and the Bible. Yet the definition of morals here is warped — the individual morals understood through a codified context is considered (through the magic of a Bible and a God that are thought to be unchanging) to be completely and eternally static — and to be the only true morals. All others are suspect, erroneous, perversions. Hence the idea that the Religious Right knows what True Marriage is, and same sex marriage threatens to destroy that. The idea that atheists are ethically-challenged leads to the charge that science is a lie — especially in areas that converge with Christian Dominionism (Obviously, secular scientists made evolution up and are perverting our children with that lie.) and ways that dovetail with conservative fiscal politics (Obviously, they are lying about climate change. We’re just flying closer to hell!).
Try to deny it and you’re obviously lying.
- That the Christian Right isn’t categorically sexist:
Much of the Christian Right antagonism towards Women’s Rights (and LGBTi Rights as well) is based on and/or supported by the patriarchal doctrine of the conservative Christian church. This teaching says that there is a standard way to be a man and there is a standard role (read: place) for a woman. Though it is common in all but the most fundamentalist and patriarchal circles to find women working outside the home, even that is discouraged by Christian He-Man preachers like Mark Driscoll (who shames stay-at-home dads) and Christian Right Washington lobbyists like Beverly LaHaye (who spent her fancy budgets and room overlooking the Washington Monument trying to persuade legislators that a woman’s place was in the home — and thus sought out to destroy the Equal Rights Amendment). This insistence on natural gender roles fuels much of the anti-abortion movement. Even as it prefers to call itself “pro-life,” much of the movement is as pro-war as your card-carrying Neo-Con (and CR standard-bearers like WORLD Magazine and Southern Baptist Convention leaders are both fervently anti-abortion rights and yet have never seen a war against brown people they couldn’t get stimulated about).
Conservative Christianity usually limits women from entering the priesthood, arguing that their vaginas disqualify them from that service (you know, it makes them weaker. amirite?). And their more political brothers tend to argue that women should be barred from the military for similar reasons. If there are rapes, they argue, it is largely because women are in the wrong place — which isn’t too different an argument than what conservative Christianity says about women and their bodies. From Christian dating books to anti-abortion arguments to purity culture (much of which is reminiscent of the purity myth of the Southern, White, Christian woman whose “purity” needed to be protected from the ravages of work and the Black Savage before the Civil War), the Christian Right is very much about controlling women’s bodies in an effort to enforce strict gender roles even as it claims there is no “War on Women.” After all, the Christian Right believes that it is liberating women from their sexuality and into a better sexuality — one where women are free to be docile recipients of masculine agency and virility.
Yeah, it’s warped sexual fantasy as policy…
- That you can’t follow Jesus and be a liberal/progressive/communist/socialist/radical:
Ok. There really isn’t much to be said with this No True Scotsman fallacy. Jesus supported an inclusive, radical, anti-war policy that would make most Democrats furious. And as much as I’d love to say that one can’t be a Christian and support war or oppress women and People of Color, I recognize that Christianity has many, many strains — not just the Kingdom-living Francis of Assissi, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr, but also the Christendom-building Emperor Constantine, Richard Land, and Michele Bachmann (for more on the Kingdom V Christendom divide, please read here). But Christianity has never been solely about my interpretation or your interpretation of the Bible. That is the realm of Holy Wars.
I would prefer Christians look to Jesus and ask: What Would Jesus Do? That is, after all, one of the legacies of the Christian Socialist movement.
Or, at the very least, we should stop lying while hurting others.
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