Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Dangers To Democracy From The Religious Right

We return to the theme of religion with an article by Amanda Marcotte at, "Why the Christian Right Is Obsessed With the Collapse of Civilization," subtitled, "America's Religious Right is losing the fight," AND another piece by the same writer, "How the Christian Right Plays Victim While Imposing Its Ideology on America," with the subtitle, "Telling Grandma she's going to lose her church is a great way to get her to sign her Social Security check over to your organization."

Ms. Marcotte's first article:

"Most of us are so familiar with the cluster of issues that compel the religious right—opposition to gay marriage and abortion, hostility to the separation of church and state, hostility to modernity—that we don’t often think about the underlying theme holding these disparate obsessions together. It might even be tempting to believe there isn’t a unifying theme, except for the fact that conservatives themselves often allude to it:
'civilization collapse.'

"Over and over again, right-wingers warn that all the things they hate, from pro-gay Broadway shows to immigration to multiculturalism, are not just signs of an evolving American society, but portend the actual end of it. The Roman Empire is often darkly alluded to, and you get the impression many on the right think Rome burned up and descended into anarchy and darkness. (Not quite.) But really, what all these fantasies of cities burning down and impending war and destruction are expressing is a belief that the culture of white conservative Christians is the culture of America. So it follows that if they aren’t the dominant class in the United States, then America isn’t, in their opinion, really America anymore.

"Once you key into this, understanding why certain social changes alarm the religious right becomes simple to see. Hostility to abortion, contraception and gay rights stems directly from a belief that everyone should hold their rigid views on gender roles—women are supposed to be housewives and mothers from a young age and men are supposed to be the heads of their families. School prayer, creationism and claims of a 'war on Christmas' stem from a belief that government and society at large should issue constant reminders that their version of Christianity is the 'official' culture and religion of America.

"It’s hard to underestimate how much of a crisis moment the election of Barack Obama for president was for the religious right because of this. And his re-election, of course, which showed that his presidency was not a fluke. Even before Obama was elected, the possibility that a black man with a 'multicultural' background was such a massive confirmation of their worst fear—that they are not, actually, the dominant class in America–that the campaign against Obama became overwhelmed completely by this fear. The media frenzy over the minister in Obama’s church was about racial anxieties, but it was telling that it was his church that was the focal point of the attack. The stories were practically tailor-made to signal to conservative Christians that Obama was not one of them.

"Sarah Palin’s campaign as the running mate to John McCain made right-wing fears even more explicit. On the trail, she notoriously described conservative, white, Christian-heavy America with these words: 'We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.' McCain’s campaign tried lamely to spin it, but the subtext was text now. The Christian right believes their culture is the only legitimate American culture, and the election of Barack Obama was a major threat to it.

"Birtherism, a conspiracy theory movement that posits Obama faked his American citizenship, is easy enough to understand in this light. It’s an expression of the belief that Obama cannot be a legitimate president, because, in white Christian right eyes, they are the only legitimate Americans. So how can someone who isn’t one of them be president?

"That’s why the election of Obama has triggered an all-out response from the Christian right. If they seem more enraged and active in recent years, especially with regards to attacks on abortion rights, it’s because they really are afraid they’re losing their grip on American culture and are casting around wildly for a way to regain what they perceive as lost dominance."

Now on to the second essay:

"Religious freedom and separation of church and state have always been hated concepts to the religious right. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the religious right exists to fight any legal or cultural support for people who don’t want their narrow definition of Christianity foisted on them. From objecting to gay marriage to trying to wedge creationism in schools, the religious right exists as a political movement for the purpose of stripping away religious freedom and establishing their religious beliefs as the dominant organizing force in law, politics and culture.

"So why then are we hearing all these people who live their lives attacking religious freedom complaining all the time that 'religious freedom' is under attack from liberals? Why does every religious-right publication and event echo the claim that right-wing Christians are somehow being stripped of the very right to religious freedom the right has worked tirelessly to take from everyone else for decades?

"The simple answer is they’re lying. Claiming the mantle of victimhood is so politically potent that religious-right leaders are going to do it, no matter how untrue it is, because, to be blunt, they’re not held back by any moral interest in honesty. Getting Grandma to think she's going to lose her church is a great way to get her to sign her Social Security check over to your organization.

"The longer answer is that the religious right has concocted a new strategy to squelch religious freedom: By redefining 'religious freedom' to mean its opposite. The hope is that by repeatedly using the term 'religious freedom' when they mean 'giving the Christian right power to impose their faith on others,' they can eventually drain the phrase of all its meaning and finally, after decades of fighting secularism, make it easier for the religious right to strip away individual protections for religion. In other words, they hope by saying that up is down long enough, the public and the courts will finally believe it.

"This attitude—that their 'religious freedom' can only be protected if they get to foist their faith on everyone else—is nakedly obvious every year when the whining about the mythical 'war on Christmas' begins. Needless to say, there is no war on Christmas. There is no effort whatsoever to prevent anyone from celebrating Christmas, buying Christmas presents, going to mass on Christmas, or playing that Manheim Steamroller record until you want to claw your ears out. Without fail, every example the right comes up with to prove there’s a war on Christmas is, in fact, something else: An attempt to recognize that not everyone is a Christian and respect that there are multiple holidays people may be celebrating in lieu of, or in addition to, Christmas.

"This belief that Christians, particularly right-wing Christians, are entitled to be acknowledged at the exclusion of everyone else and entitled to have their holidays held out as more important than everyone else’s cropped up immediately after Thankgiving, right on schedule this year. The National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted out a picture of a T-shirt they’re selling that says, 'Happy Holidays is what liberals say,' in Comic Sans font, of course. On the back it reads, 'Merry Christmas.' The 'joke' doesn’t make sense unless the viewer agrees with the premise that conservative Christians are better than everyone else, and in order to honor how much more important they are, all other holidays and faith traditions need to be hidden away, as if they’re shameful.

"Now the belief that 'religious freedom' actually means the religious right gets to impose its beliefs on you is going to be tested by the Supreme Court. While many think the case of Hobby Lobby suing to avoid having to offer insurance benefits that cover contraception is primarily about reproductive rights, the real question at the center of the case is how much is your boss allowed to impose his religion on you, just because you work for him?

"The employee/employer relationship should be simple: You work for a company, and they pay you with a combination of cash and benefits in compensation. Since you earned it, your cash and benefits belong to you to use as you see fit. But Hobby Lobby—and many other companies run by Christian conservatives—isn’t happy with that way of doing things. They want to claim that your compensation package still belongs to them after you’ve earned it and should be tailored to fit their religious beliefs, even if you, the rightful owner of the compensation package, do not share their beliefs. In their lawsuit, they claim that they should be able to determine how you use your insurance plan, and that they should be exempt from the federal government’s mandatory minimums in how they compensate you because they claim to have religious objections.

"If Hobby Lobby wins its case, the precedent will create a massive incentive for corporations to sue to have all sorts of rights to use the fact that you work there as an excuse to force their religious beliefs on you. If your boss can force you to use your earned benefits according to his religious dictates, why not the rest of your compensation? Since he signs your paycheck, will he be able to sue and say that you shouldn’t be able to spend it in ways he believes violate his religion? Being able to claim that their 'religious freedom' exempts them from all sorts of labor laws will be a massive boon to the religious right, and they will certainly start looking for ways to expand the ways they can force you to live by their religious rules, beyond how you use your insurance.

"Unsurprisingly, Hobby Lobby’s owner is a big fan of ignoring the First Amendment and demanding that the government endorse religion, as well. Not just any religion, but specifically the conservative interpretation of Christianity. The owner of Hobby Lobby has spent a fortune trying to get Bible study into public classrooms. He thinks by making it an 'elective' course, that creates enough cover, but the Constitution is clear that the government cannot endorse any religion. Having a Bible study course is a clear endorsement of religion, something conservatives would immediately grasp if a school tried to start a Koran study course. But part of the religious right’s new definition of 'religious freedom' is the belief that conservative Christianity is special and that its followers are entitled to foist their religion on people in ways no other religious believers get to do.

"That’s what the religious right means by religious freedom: The removal of your right to have your own beliefs, free from interference by people who have power over you. The right dearly wants religious freedom to mean the right of conservative Christians and only conservative Christians to foist their beliefs on you through your job and through the government and squelch any cultural attempts to be inclusive of all the diverse belief systems in America. The only way to fight back is for liberals to reclaim the term 'religious freedom' for what it really means: The right to choose for yourself what you believe without having the law or your boss trying to tip the scales."

(Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.)


It seems strange to reflect that in France Voltaire shot down the innerancy of the Bible around 250 years ago, around the same time that Jefferson and Madison argued for the separation of Church and State in America.

It takes a heaping amount of stupidity to dredge the "Christian Nation" argument, but we're talking about the Conservative leadership's favorite and most gullible of disciples: the Ecumenicals.

Strike down the separation between Church and State, and you have the beginnings of the New American Age of Feudalism, complete with their bishops and bosses to control your life.  Strike down criticism of their "Holey Bobble," and you have the destruction of truth and reason.

Let's strike down Conservatism instead; criminalizing Conservatism is the best remedy for the ills that contaminate our democracy, the best medicine for curing the economic mess that they've put us in, the best cure for...well, Conservatism.


“I believe that there should be a very much heavier progressive tax on very large
incomes, a tax which should increase in a very marked fashion for the gigantic

Theodore Roosevelt.


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