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March 09, 2006


Amy Sullivan recently did an article on the same subject and how Dems tried to introduce a history of the bible type class and repubs stopped it.the right was so afraid that the Dems were taking away their cane they came out against what they've said they've been for. between power and the history of the bible they choose power. I think the article was at washinton monthly.

To be fair, I don't think they're all about power. Some people are genuinely wingnut preachers.

But Dobson? He doesn't believe in that God stuff as far as he can spit.

[Disclosure - I am an active follower of the Way, a believer in Jesus the Messiah, and chair of the Deacons at my local church]

I think it is difficult for outsiders to fully understand the dynamics of the so-called "Christian Right". It is fundamentally a cultural rather than religious phenomenon. Formed in reaction to the tumult of the '60s, it is an amalgam of cultural conservatism, psychosocial "strong father" authoritarianism in religion and politics, and traditional American rugged individualism. This is most obvious in the adulation they give to Ronald Reagan, an almost completely irreligious man.

I think emptywheel's analysis is mistaken, in that she thinks that Dobson, the political opportunist, differs substantially from other "Christian Right" leaders. The movement has always been about political power to achieve cultural dominance, not theological dominance. To that end, the movement has papered over significant theological differences (many Baptists don't even think Catholics are real Christians, and, to a certain extent, the feeling is mutual). All the movement leaders are to some extent political opportunists, but don't think that they are less religious because of that. I'm not saying that there are no hypocritical con men (Ralph Reed certainly fits that bill), but it is a waste of time to use that as wedge against "Christian Right" voters.

What we need to do is break the power of the mass propaganda machine that supports the authoritarian right. One way to accomplish that is to drive a wedge between religious cultural conservatives and the irreligious right (Limbaugh, Hannity, Rove, the corporatists, and the neo-cons). I don't want to drive down the participation of religious conservatives in the political process. I want them to think for themselves, instead of blindly following the lead of the Rove & Co. The "Christian Right" has provided the shock troops for a cabal of rich white men who want to undermine our democracy. As long as we let the Mighty Wurlitzer determine the political agenda in this country, we let them manipulate people of faith. I think we are better served by exposing how the irreligious right has used and abused people of faith while demonstrating that our goals, while requiring no religious test, are completely compatible with Christian faith. We won't persuade all, or even most, religious conservatives, but we will destroy the false unity of the movement.

Interesting take William. Roman Catholic canon law has always recognized the legitimacy of Xtian baptism in the Baptist Churches. When that changes you will know because when a Baptist wants to marry a Catholic the RC hierarchy will require the same number of dispensations from the "nonbaptized," Baptist, as they currently require from a semitic, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist,.... that wants to marry a Catholic. With that said, as someone raised Roman Catholic, I don't see any persuasive evidence that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the male only, "priestly class," is "practicing" Xtianity.
"What we need to do is break the power of the mass propaganda machine that supports the authoritarian right." I agree.
What we also need is for the Xtian right to really read the canonical scriptures they claim to hold so dear. IMO "fundamentalists" who actually read the New Testament pretty quickly run into all the problems Bultmann did and discover that what they thought was "fundamentally," true was nothing more than a very selective form of "literalism." The Pauline call to a "personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," was echoed by Luther, because he understood the "idol worship," so transparently practiced by the Catholic Church he sought to "reform." It seems to me you accurately described the "idol worship" of Dobson and others.


I don't dispute what you're saying about religion as power as culture. (And as someone whose Irish bro-in-law married into hard right southern baptist culture, I'm well aware of how some preachers treat Irish Catholics and their northern, intellectual Irish-American lapsed Catholic wives as heathen. Oh boy do I know that!)

I'm saying there are a few--Dobson and Robertson--for whom the religion is even more of a charade. They're playing an important role in the Conservative Movement FIRST as a way to tap into the religion/power/culture of the Christian right. And that because those people reveal their role as the lynchpin tapping into the Christian right, they are a weak point.

I guess another way to put it--when the conservative right flock sees the emails from Scanlon, Reed, Dobson calling them idiots BECAUSE of their Christian belief, it may get them to stop believing in propaganda.

There are promising alliances to be made with many evangelicals and other generally right religious on environmental (take care of God's creation and creatures) and poverty-related issues. The mega-television preachers are the opportunistic charlatans, more than the individual clergy. Support a la carte cable TV pricing as a way to cut off support for telepreachers.

I think that the organized Christian right wants to make the world safe for their religion--reduce temptations by reducing available choices in many spheres but subsidize religious choices wherever possible. Many are just out for power. But understanding the roots of the Christian Right as the anti-'60s suggests the importance of treating its adherents with the respect due any potential coalition partners.

John Casper,

I take your point (I did use the qualifier "to a certain extent"; there is definitely an asymmetry).


While I would never defend Dobson, I think his involvement with Abramoff is substantially different from Reed's. More importantly, I think it's a losing battle to attack him as a charlatan. Tactically, I think it's much better to paint him as dupe than fraud. Attacking him as a fraud will only strengthen his position of control over his followers by playing into their very strong "us vs. them" mentality. If you stipulate his sincerity and point out the very obvious fact that he was duped by Reed and Abramoff into supporting gambling, you will undermine his authority much more effectively. To maintain his "strong father" authoritarian control over the "family", he has to display wisdom and discernment. Get his followers to question his judgement and you've defanged him.

William, I found the point you made about attacking Dobson as a dupe, rather than a fraud, very compelling.

If this thread is not the most cogent analysis of what is generally called the "culture war," I have not seen a better one. William, I especially appreciate your understanding that Dobson's followers are basically sincere in their beliefs, both theological AND sociological. They must be convinced that their sociological views are wrong because they have been misled--any other path won't allow for whatever internal face-saving mechanism is needed to allow for change to happen.

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