"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." -- Susan B. Anthony
"Yes, religion and politics do mix. America is a nation based on biblical principles. Christian values dominate our government. The test of those values is the Bible. Politicians who do not use the bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office." -- Beverly LaHaye, Concerned Women for America
"There should be absolutely no 'Separation of Church and State' in America." -- David Barton, "Wallbuilders"
"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being." -- evangelist and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell
"The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country." -- Jerry Falwell
"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." -- George H.W. Bush
"Is it Christian to cut money for Head Start? Is it Christian to cut poor children off health care? Is it Christian to cut old people off Medicare? Is it Christian to write memos justifying torture? Is it Christian to cut after-school, nutrition and AIDS programs so multimillionaires can have bigger tax cuts?" -- Molly Ivins
"The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press -- in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of LIBERAL excess during the past [few] years." -- Adolf Hitler
It is always worth noting that America was not founded as a Christian nation. Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the US Constitution, was adamant about keeping any notion of a state religion out of the Constitution, and he was supported by a "great majority" of his colleagues. Where the Preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, some proposed that the phrase be altered to read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." Jefferson, along with a strong majority of his colleagues, rejected that alteration, so that, as Jefferson wrote, "they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan [the Muslim], the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination." In the Treaty of Tripoli of 1789, George Washington ensured that the following statement was included: "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." The concept of "freedom of religion" was bookended by the equally important concept of "freedom from religion." Predictably, while many thoughtful Christians rejoiced at the near-complete secularity of the nation's founding precepts as well as the champions of the Enlightenment, some balked at the failure of the founders to set in writing the concept that America would be a Protestant theocracy. A January 1798 article in the New York Daily Advertiser complained that, without such theocratic strictures, particularly religious tests for those seeking office, that "Quakers...would make the blacks saucy...[and] Mahometans [would] ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity...." Deists were dismissed as "abominable wretches, blacks were reviled as "the seed of Cain," and "Beggars, who when set on horseback will ride to the Devil."
Jefferson's presidential candidacy of 1800 was savaged by theocrats who told audiences that a vote for Jefferson was a vote for Satan, that he was an "anti-Christ," a "French infidel," and a "howling atheist." "Can serious and reflecting men look about them and doubt, that if Jefferson is elected, and the Jacobins get into authority," the editorial goes on, "that those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin -- which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence -- defend our property from plunder and devastation, and shield our religion from contempt and profanation, will not be trampled upon and exploded?" Note the similarities in rhetoric to today's theocrats, who warn that a vote for a Democrat is "against God's will." Jefferson, an intensely religious man, refused to answer such calumny, but privately wrote that nothing he could ever do would mollify the "irritable tribe of priests" arrayed against him. Like another president nearly 200 years later, though Jefferson would serve two terms, he would constantly be challenged on religious grounds, and would have his faith and his character constantly slandered and reviled. "To vote for Bill Clinton is to sin against God," anti-abortion activist Randall Terry thundered in 1992, among a chorus of religious-based outcries against the "anti-Christ" candidacy of the devout Southern Baptist from Arkansas. -- Mark Crispin Miller
"I have become so intensely concerned in the last five years about two major trends in our country and their merger that I decided finally to write this book," formre president Jimmy Carter, a devout evangelical Baptist, says. "I describe fundamentalism as one of the root causes of the problem, but also one of the results. As I define it in my book on just one page, fundamentalists have always been men, the leaders, they always consider themselves to be superior and they feel an overwhelming inclination to dominate other people, particularly women. They subjugate women to men, and make them subservient to their husbands. They consider themselves to be uniquely related to God and endowed with insight that other human beings of an inferior nature don't have. Therefore they have to be 100% right and anyone who disagrees with them has got to be wrong and by extension, inferior. It's impossible for them to ever admit that they have made a mistake. They consider it to be a violation of their principles to negotiate or mediate or compromise or even cooperate with people who differ from them. This is the case in both extreme Christianity and extreme Islam and other religions." -- Jimmy Carter
"I understand that freedom of speech is a founding principle of our nation, and I respect people with the courage to speak their minds. As a concerned person of faith, however, I have watched with increasing alarm as the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas. Over the years, Robertson and Falwell have gained considerable influence on local school boards, in the administration, and in Congress. They have shrewdly twisted the traditional healing role of religion into an intolerant, political platform. Using religion as a tool to push their personal political beliefs -- especially, in a time of national tragedy -- not only insults people of faith and good will, it also diminishes the positive healing role religion can and should play in public life." -- Walter Cronkite
In 1994, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shocked conservative audiences with the tale, recounted many times since, of a ten-year old boy in St. Louis who was given school detention for praying silently over his lunch. Unfortunately for Gingrich, the superintendent of the school system confirms that the boy was not punished at all, and in his school, as in all US public schools, individual prayer is perfectly acceptable. Organized, mandatory prayer is not allowed. Gingrich never recanted his story. -- Al Franken
"One of the virtues of a democratic system of government is that it offers a peaceful way of resolving disagreements between people with fundamentally different views. But within a broadly democratic system, there are varying models of how such a resolution should occur. One way is to regard democratic politics merely as a method of deciding who shall exercise power. On this model, those who win elections gain power and use it to impose their will on society as a whole. If religious fundamentalists gain power, they may send homosexuals to jail, or prohibit the sale of contraceptives and prevent stores and cinemas from opening on the sabbath. In defense of such laws, in this view of democracy, they need give no better reason than they believe it to be God's will, amd that they were elected by a majority who shares this belief. With this model there is no incompatibility between democracy and theocracy, as long as the theocrats allow free and fair elections, and the supporters of theocracy continue to win at the ballot box.
"A succession of elected theocracies, however, is not the model of democracy that the American founders envisaged. They wanted limits on the power of the majority. They enacted a constitution protecting freedom of expression and opinion, so that people can say what they want, and have the opportunity to persuade others to change their minds. ...They did not want adherents of one religion, no matter how large a majority they mght be, to impose their religious beliefs on the remainder.
"...There is no reason or principle why claims about the existence of God, and what he or she wishes us to do, should not be part of public political debate. The problem arises only when religious belief is put into a realm that protects it from the usual rules of scrutiny. If someone tells us that embryo research should be prohibited because human life is a sacred gift from our Creator, then it is reasonable to ask how we know this. If the answer if that it is written in scripture, we need to know why these particular writings are to be believed. ...If all these questions can be given answers that are open to the usual rules of critical scrutiny, public justification is satisfied. But if, at some point, further inquiry is cut off with an appeal to faith, then the position is not one that other reasonable people have any grounds to accept, and the oroginal recommendation for the prohibition of embryo research has not been defended within the framework of public reason. It is not the content of the belief -- whether it is about God, or gods, or evil spirits, or curses -- that determines whether it is a matter of public reason, but the way in which the belief is held and defended. ...It is...those who scorn public reason who exclude themselves from the field of reasonable public debate." -- Peter Singer
"Most people worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls, when we all should be worried about our own souls, and other people's bellies." -- Rabbi Israel Salanter
"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" -- Jerry Falwell
"Part of the power and seduction of this Bush administration emerges from its diabolical manipulation of Christian rhetoric. I want to flesh out the ideology of the Christian Fascism that Mr. Bush articulates. It is a form of Christianity that is the mirror opposite of what Jesus embodied. It is, indeed, the materialization of the spirit of the antichrist: a perversion of Christian faith and practice. This country, like it or not, is overwhelmingly dominated by the ideology of the Christian story. It is not so much that our founders were all Christians. Rather, they lived in an atmosphere scented throughout by Christian thought and rhetoric. Just as most of us can't imagine how to keep things cold without refrigeration so too our founders couldn't help but think through the lens of the Christian story. And what they saw was that America had become the New Israel (the new Promised Land) of God. America has understood itself as a benevolent nation seeking only the good of all. We have understand our wealth as a blessing given to us as a sign that we are a 'chosen, special people' whose larger meaning is to help the world into an era of peace, prosperity and justice. Every politician draws on this 'civil religion story' which gives authority to the politicians ambition and agenda. Another way of saying this is: every nation needs sacred legitimation. It needs the authority of transcendence: of a story larger than itself. A story that connects past with present and future. An Empire needs an even broader story: one that connects with cosmic and/or historical redemption and new creation. Martin Luther King understood this sacred American civil religion and was able to wed it brilliantly with the prophetic religious teachings of the Bible. He drew upon Biblical narratives which limited the power and authority of the elite while calling for economic redistribution of wealth. He drew upon teachings rooted in the personal morality of nonviolence and compassion.
"George Bush, on the other hand, also understands this sacred American 'civic gospel' and has brilliantly merged it with Biblical Holiness and Holy War traditions. These traditions call for the emergence of the Righteous Warrior who will cleanse the land of its impurity. These traditions are rooted in the personal morality of righteous zeal and obedience. Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling they can solve their problems. In his September 20, 2001 speech to Congress on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability: 'Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight. Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.' (Subsequent terror alerts have maintained and expanded this fear of sinister enemies.)" -- United Methodist minister Rich Lang, Seattle, June 2004
"I trust God speaks through me." -- George W. Bush, quoted by Maureen Farrell
The authors of the 2003 book Strong Religion write, "'Fundamentalism' is one of the most significant political phenomena of our time. Since the Iranian revolution, purported fundamentalist movements have risen to the highest levels of power in five countries -- in Iran in 1979, in the Sudan in 1993, in Turkey, Afghanistan, and India in 1996, and again in India in 1999. There have been even more frequent penetrations by fundamentalist movements into the parliaments, assemblies, and political parties of such countries as Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and the United States." -- quoted by Kevin Phillips
"Think now what passion there was in primitive Christianity, without which it never would have come into the world; propose to one of those figures the question, 'Dare a Christian tranquillize himself in this way?' 'Abominable,' he would reply, 'that a Christian...should tranquilly keep silent in the face of the fact that God every day is mocked by people pretending by millions to be Christians...." -- SØren Kierkegaard
"I would execute gays only if we catch them indulging in sodomy." -- Gary DeMar, Christian evangelical minister and leader of Restore America, December 2005
What exactly is Christian fundamentalism? One lucid explanation comes from Glenn Scriven of the Unitarian Universalist ministry in San Jacinto, California. (See Glenn's page for a far more detailed explanation; what follows is summary.) In the early days of Christianity, there were two major schools of thought: Literalists and Gnostics. The Gnostics interpreted Biblical teachings and stories as valuable myths guiding one towards wisdom; they were harshly suppressed by the developing Catholic Church and were forced to go underground during the Middle Ages. Literalists believe in the literal, word-for-word meaning of the Bible's stories and assertions, and create dogmas to distinguish their beliefs from others. The literalists are all too often triumphalists, intolerant of dissent, claiming they are fulfilling God's will. It is Literalists who fight wars of religion and oppress the Gnostics and anyone else who disagrees with them. Essentially all of the current group of religious right sects are Literalists.
The least fanatical of the Literalist movement are called "evangelicals." Evangelism is a conservative aspect of Christianity who, at least in the US, usually means Christians who focus on the New Testament gospels and actively promote the worship of Jesus Christ. Millions of American Christians consider themselves evangelicals, but most do not go to the extremes of political, religious, and social excess.
A subset of evangelism is known as "fundamentalism." Fundamentalist Christians are Literalists who insist on their members maintaining a strict adherence to what they consider the founding principles of the Bible. This is a relatively new school of Christian thought which has attracted a large following, including political conservatives and lapsed Catholics. In the 1890s, the basic elements of Fundamentalism were formulated by several Christian philosophers at Princeton's Presbyterian seminary, and would be called "Princeton theology." It appealed to conservative Protestants who were worried with what they saw as the liberalizing trends of the Social Gospel movement. The first main phase of Fundamentalism gained public notice during the Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925; its latest phase took hold in the early 70s, and has grown steadily ever since.
"In many ways religious fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, characterized by a sense of embattled alienation in the midst of a rapidly changing culture, even in the United States where the culture may be nominally influenced by the adherents' religion. The term can also refer specifically to the belief that Biblical texts are infallible and historically accurate, despite contradiction of these claims by modern scholarship. ...The belief that is first and foremost the defining characteristic of Fundamentalists is their reliance on the Bible to the complete exclusion of any authority exercised by the Church. The second is their insistence on a faith in Christ as one's personal Lord and Savior. 'Do you accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?' they ask. 'Have you been saved?' This is unmodified Christian individualism, which holds that the individual is saved, without ever considering his relationship to a church, a congregation, or anyone else. It is a one-to-one relationship, with no community, no sacraments, just the individual Christian and his Lord. And the Christian knows when he has been saved, down to the hour and minute of his salvation, because his salvation came when he 'accepted' Christ. It came like a flash. In that instant, many Fundamentalists believe, their salvation is assured. There is now nothing that can undo it. Without that instant, that moment of acceptance, a person would be doomed to eternal hell. And that is why [another] characteristic of Fundamentalism is the emphasis on evangelism. If sinners do not undergo the same kind of salvation experience Fundamentalists have undergone, they will go to hell. Fundamentalists perceive a duty to spread their faith -- what can be more charitable than to give others a chance for escaping hell? -- and they often have been successful. Their success is partly due to their discipline. For all their talk about the Catholic Church being 'rule-laden,' there are perhaps no Christians who operate in a more regimented manner. Their rules-non-biblical rules, one might add -- extend not just to religion and religious practices proper, but to facets of everyday life. Most people are familiar with their strictures on drinking, gambling, dancing, and smoking."
Even further down into the strata we can find Reconstructionism. In short, Reconstructionists believe that they are God's chosen to hold dominion over the earth and, by implication, other, "lesser" belief systems and their adherents: "As the new chosen people of God, the Christians are commanded to do that which Adam in Eden, and Israel in Canaan, failed to do. One and the same covenant, under differing administrations, still prevails. Man is summoned to create the society God requires. The Reconstructionist idea that Christians are endlessly persecuted by other faiths and "secular humanists," and that the only defense against such persecution is complete and total political, social, and religious dominion, grows from two sources: Orthodox Presbyterianism and the John Birch Society. Reconstructionist guru R.J. Rushdoony approved of the far-right, overtly racist JBS as a modern adaptation of "the early church."
The final, most extreme version of Literalism is Dominionism. A radical form of Reconstructionism, Dominionism is essentially the same as Reconstructionism with a focus on changing the US government. The Dominionist political movement in the United States arose in the 1970s as a movement that seeks to establish a theocratic government in the United States, replacing the governance and constitution of the United States with a political and judicial system based on the Old Testament, or Mosaic Law. The two work closely together, and the lines between them are blurred. Dominionist thinking and activity is very strong in the United States today, but has only recently become known as an American political force. Dominionists seek to convert the laws of the US so they match the ancient Hebrew scriptures. One method they use to attempt this change is by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order.
One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly Fundamentalist Christianity will be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions will no longer be allowed to exist. Society will revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home will, under their laws, be tried for idolatry and executed. Blasphemy, adultery and homosexual behavior will be criminalized; those found guilty would also be executed. It is virtually the only religious movement in North American which advocates genocide for followers of minority religions and non-conforming members of their own religion. Even Ralph Reed, the conservative evangelical Republican activists, has condemned Reconstructionism as "an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society."
Investigative journalist Katherine Yurica traces Dominionism back to the late ultra-right theologian R.J. Rushdoony, and says that current "cult" leaders include Rushdoony's son-in-law Gary North; CBN's Pat Robertson; the former dean of Robertson's Regent University School of Public Policy, Herb Titus; former Nixon aide and prison evangelist Charles Colson; Tim LaHaye, the best-selling co-author of the Left Behind Dominionist novels and Robertson's political strategist; anti-abortion leader Gary Bauer; Paul Crouch, the founder of TBN, the world's largest television network; and a "virtual army of likeminded television and radio evangelists and news talk show hosts." In 1982, Dominionist Francis Schaeffer called secular humanism the greatest threat to Christianity the world had ever seen; within days, evangelicals across the globe were calling out "humanists" everywhere, saying that a cabal of liberal humanists were forcing Christians to renounce their beliefs for the "faith" of humanism, which they characterized as pervasively atheistic.
Schaeffer told a 700 Club audience, "Today we live in a humanist society. They control the schools. They control public television. They control the media in general. And what we have to say is we live in a humanist society.... [Because] the courts are not subject to the will of the people through elections or re-election...all the great changes in the last forty years have come through the courts. And what we must get in our mind is the government as a whole, but especially the courts, has become the vehicle to force this view on the total population, even if the total population doesn't hold the view." The more "mainstream" evangelist Billy Graham told audiences in 1985, "[T]he time has come when evangelicals are going to have to think about getting organized corporately.... I'm for evangelicals running for public office and winning if possible and getting control of the Congress, getting control of the bureaucracy, getting control of the executive branch of government. I think if we leave it to the other side we're going to be lost. I would like to see every true believer involved in politics in some way shape or form."
Yurica writes that one of the most successful framings of the Dominionists was to portray both secular humanism and communism as religious faiths, allowing them to attack these political belief systems as false and even demonic, Satanic religions. Not only did such rhetoric inflame otherwise sensible Christians, but it allowed their leaders to counter any secularly-based attacks on their political agendas with outraged claims that they were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. "The result of the new religion was that by the year 2000, thirty-five million Americans would declare war on the remaining 245 million," Yurica writes. "Karl Rove, President Bush's political advisor, told the Family Research Council in 2002, 'We need to find ways to win the war.'"
Life would be very, very different under a Reconstructionist/Dominionist theocracy. Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life -- such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely "social" or "moral" issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionist have formulated a "Biblical world view" and "Biblical principles" by which to examine contemporary matters. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton describes this view: "The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law." Liberal investigative journalist Katherine Yurica is more blunt: "Although [Dominionism is] called 'Christianity' it can barely be recognized as Christian. It in fact was and is a wolf parading in sheep's clothing: It was and is a political scheme to take over the government of the United States and then turn that government into an aggressor nation that will forcibly establish the United States as the ruling empire of the twenty-first century. It is subversive, seditious, secretive, and dangerous. ...Its doctrines are shocking to ordinary Christian believers and to most Americans. Journalist Frederick Clarkson, who has written extensively on the subject, warned in 1994 that Dominionism 'seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of "Biblical Law."' He described the ulterior motive of Dominionism is to eliminate '...labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools.' Clarkson then describes the creation of new classes of citizens: 'Women would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment [to] blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality.'" -- Glenn Scriven, Katherine Yurica, Mark Crispin Miller
Guardian columnist George Monbiot adds to the story of the birth of modern American Christian fundamentalism, and its current hold on America's leadership: "In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its 'biblical lands' (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth. What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all 'true believers' (i.e. those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow. The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.
"...We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them. That their beliefs are bonkers does not mean they are marginal. American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide what is usually described as a 'fictionalized' account of the Rapture (this, apparently, distinguishes it from the other one), with plenty of dripping details about what will happen to the rest of us. The people who believe all this don't believe it just a little; for them it is a matter of life eternal and death. And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general [as of this writing -- April 2004], is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr. DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that 'there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking.' So here we have a major political constituency -- representing much of the current president's core vote -- in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels 'which are bound in the great river Euphrates' will be released 'to slay the third part of men.' They batter down the doors of the White House as soon as its support for Israel wavers: when Bush asked Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin in 2002, he received 100,000 angry emails from Christian fundamentalists, and never mentioned the matter again.
"The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85% of the US electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15% of the electorate, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter, it's a personal one: if the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don't get to sit at the right hand of God. Bush, in other words, stands to lose fewer votes by encouraging Israeli aggression than he stands to lose by restraining it. He would be mad to listen to these people. He would also be mad not to." -- George Monbiot
The Reconstructionist theocrat R.J. Rushdoony published his influential book The Institutes of Biblical Law towards the end of his life in 1973. Rushdoony, who had preached his version of the political Gospel since the 1950s and has publicly questioned the reality of the Holocaust, advocates the translation of the Biblical Ten Commandments into the overriding legal tenets of American secular law. Journalist Frederick Clarkson explains Rushdoony's political philosophy: "Reconstruction argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life -- such as government, education, and law -- not merely for 'social' or 'moral' issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionists have formulated a 'Biblical worldview' and 'Biblical principles' to govern and inform our lives and their politics." Of course, the intent is to govern our lives and our politics as well as their own. Like the Islamists who place the Koran and the hadith at the center of the great theocracy they envision, the Reconstructionists, and the Christian Dominionists who followed, intend to place the Bible, and particularly the Pentateuch and the laws of Leviticus, at the center of their own Christian theocracy. "The Christian goal for the world," says Reconstructionist David Chilton, "is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law." One can expect little more tolerance under such rule than from Afghanistan's Taliban or Iran's ayatollahs. Indeed, such Biblical law would be even harsher than traditional Islamic shari'a law -- providing death by stoning for such offenses as abortions, homosexuality, for premarital unchastity (in women, not for men), or anyone guilty of heresy or apostasy. Non-Christians would be disenfranchised at best, and at worst executed or enslaved. "The world and men must be brought into captivity to Christ," wrote Rushdoony, "under the dominion of the Kingdom of God and the law of the kingdom. ...[T]his requires that, like Paul, we court-martial or 'adminster justice upon all disobedience' in every area of life where we encounter it. To deny the cultural mandate is to deny Christ and surrender the world to Satan."
Reconstructionists call anyone who believes differently than themselves "Jeffersonian...secular humanists" and glory in a global "Christian culture" that excludes everyone not like themselves. To that end, Reconstructionists and their fellow travelers have established thousands of private religious schools across America, not dissimilar to Islamic madrassahs, with the intent of educating an entire generation in their worldview. "All who are content with a humanistic law system and do not strive to replace it with Biblical law are guilty of idolatry," Rushdoony thundered. "They have forsaken the covenant of their God, and they are asking us to serve other gods. They are thus idolaters, and are, in our generation, when our world is idolatrous and our states also, to be objects of missionary action. They must be called out of their idolatry into the service of the living God."
Currently, the nation's Reconstructionists work through, among other organizations, the highly secretive and extremely influential Council for National Policy (CNP), detailed below in the section about Tim LaHaye. -- Mark Crispin Miller
As yet, Dominionists believe that the best way for them to achieve political power is through "stealth" means -- i.e. deception and distraction of voters as to their real identities and agendas. In the words of one observer, "They cut and run if I mention the word 'Dominionism.'" According to a 1986 memo written by Pat Robertson for Iowa evangelical candidates for office, his advice is, in part, to: "Give the impression that you are there to work for the party, not push an ideology. Hide your strength. Don't flaunt your Christianity. Christians need to take leadership positions. Party officers control political parties and so it is very important that mature Christians have a majority of leadership positions whenever possible, God willing." In many cases, far-right evangelical and Dominionist candidates have hidden their extremist beliefs, instead presenting themselves as traditional Christian conservatives without a hidden agenda. According to Yurica, "Dominionists have gained extensive control of the Republican Party and the apparatus of government throughout the United States; they continue to operate secretly. Their agenda to undermine all government social programs that assist the poor, the sick, and the elderly is ingeniously disguised under false labels that confuse voters. Nevertheless...Dominionism maintains the necessity of laissez-faire economics, requiring that people 'look to God and not to government for help.'"
Yurica maintains that millions of American Christians identify themselves with Dominionist beliefs, churches, or political strategies without accepting the label; in many cases, they themselves are ignorant of what they actually support. "Most of these people appear to be ignorant of the heretical nature of their beliefs and the seditious nature of their political goals," she writes. "so successfully have the televangelists and churches inculcated the idea of the existence of an outside 'enemy,' which is attacking Christianity, that millions of people have perceived themselves rightfully overthrowing an imaginary evil anti-Christian conspiratorial secular society." -- Katherine Yurica
"Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it." -- SØren Kierkegaard
The landslide defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential elections not only handed unprecedented power to the Democratic Party, it impelled a small group of conservatives to decide that to once again challenge the Democrats, they had to force the Republican Party to expand beyond their traditional anti-communist and fiscally conservative base. Calling themselves the "New Right" and headed by far-right conservative operative Paul Weyrich, direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie, Christian conservative Ed McAteer, and lobbyist Howard Phillips, the New Right decided to overtly reach out to Christian evangelical conservatives. By focusing on traditional family values, the New Right energized many formerly apolitical religious conservatives. In 1979, the group worked with televangelist Jerry Falwell to establish the Moral Majority, which claimed to have signed up 3 million new voters for the 1980 presidential elections. Over the next two decades the Religious Right carefully nurtured grassroots organizations with a decidedly outsider political mentality. The efforts of groups such as Christian Voice, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, the Freedom Council, American Coalition for Traditional Values, and the Christian Coalition were linked to make a strong impact on local political issues. The movement focused on political battles involving some of its key moral concerns: abortion, gay rights, school prayer, teaching creationism in public schools, and support for a regressive tax structure that they protested overtaxed the wealthy and "redistributed" wealth to the poor. Veteran Republican lawmakers like Senators Orrin Hatch and Jesse Helms lent their expertise in politicking to the group. While the mainstream media, along with most moderate and liberal politicians, derided the emerging religious conservatives as "radical extremists," the newly emergent "Religious Right" and the mainstream conservative political establishment began to connect. By dismissing the Religious Right, media and political opponents enabled it to make strong inroads in established political channels without close scrutiny of its intentions and capacity.
Journalists David Batstone and Mark Wexler write, "Early on, Republican centrists also detested the notion of power-sharing with the 'extreme Right.' The image of Falwell vilifying his political adversaries in colorful biblical language might play to a core audience, but it scared Republican operatives who did not want to alienate moderate voters. 'The moderates were not at all happy about the Christian Right's inclusion in party leadership,' notes Clyde Wilcox, a professor of government at Georgetown University. 'But I don't see that [conflict] any more, in part because the big figureheads like Robertson and Falwell are gone and the new ones are less controversial.'" Wilcox fails to note that, in large part because the Religious Right has taken control of the Republican Party and moved it hard to the right of the political spectrum, moderates have been all but excluded from the party leadership, and in some ways from the party itself. The term "liberal Republican" has been an oxymoron for the past twenty years. But the new generation of Religious Right leaders, such as Ralph Reed, a former Christian Coalition member and senior director of the Bush re-election campaign in the Southeast, have learned to tone down their own rhetoric (while leaving the incendiary verbal tactics to spokespersons such as Ann Counter, Rush Limbaugh, and a host of "non-political" religious leaders such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson), making compromises when necessary, and forming coalitions.
Rice University professor William Martin says, "Conservative Christians who are serious about their politics came to be more accommodating in their demands, a part of their maturing." The Religious Right exercised its muscle like never before during the 1998 Values Summit, a gathering of Religious Right leaders and sympathizers within the Republican Party, including Tom DeLay. Before the official meetings began, James Dobson of Focus on the Family said openly that his people may find it necessary to leave the Republican Party: "He argued it may be time for religious conservatives to leave the party because they aren't paying attention to our core moral issues," according to Napp Nazworth, a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida who follows the movement intimately. The summit took up that critique, focusing on the lack of coordination between the pro-life/pro-family groups and similar-minded members of Congress.
As Batson and Wexler report, "DeLay and his colleagues in the Republican Study Committee (RSC) -- described on its Web site as consisting of more than 85 House Republicans organized to advance 'a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives' -- were not about to permit an exodus of religious conservatives. Shortly after the summit, DeLay nominated Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) to organize the Values Action Team (VAT), a coalition of like-minded religious conservatives that might bridge the divide that separated Washington insiders from grassroots activists. The VAT's primary goal is to link Washington insiders with grassroots outsiders and coordinate their efforts on legislative reform. The VAT holds weekly luncheons in Washington, D.C., that offer Focus on the Family and 30 or so other Religious Right member organizations a direct lobbying line to the U.S. Congress. To join the VAT, a member of Congress must pledge to be 'strongly pro-life' and have a legislative staff member in attendance weekly. The gatherings of the VAT, the RSC, and other affiliated meetings, such as the Free Congress Foundation's biweekly breakfast, are creating a potent synergy in Washington. 'They influence Congress because they represent a united front,' says Nazworth, who has participated in these gatherings. 'That's the way things work in Congress; you need to have independent enclaves of power,' he explains. Of course, the meetings only take place because the Religious Right movement is busy gathering constituents in local churches who mail their members of congress and who support the 'right' candidates. Once those candidates get elected, then the movement has even more friends in Congress."
Like any movement patched together of such disparate elements and headed largely by extremists, this current coalition, though it has succeeded in capturing all three branches of government and a large segment of the mainstream media, is showing some cracks. The Religious Right, never amenable to compromise on moral issues, has declared itself intractable in its stance on abortion and marriage (i.e. denial of gay rights). Some more traditional conservatives prefer to take a less outspokenly hardline stance on those two issues, but if they want the support of the Religious Right, they don't dare. As years have passed without real "progress" on either issue, the fundamentalists have become frustrated and even more entrenched. According to Nazworth, the leadership has "sent the message that you [Republicans] need to be on top of our issues or we're not going to help you get re-elected." This demonstrates the importance of holding a piece of the electoral constituency. In defense of their issues, the Religious Right's outsider organizations can threaten to pull their support for Republican candidates, effectively putting a stranglehold on party politics as usual. "When George W. Bush talks politics in the White House, believe me, they talk about evangelicals," says Green. "They ask, 'How are the evangelicals going to react to this; what are they going to make of that?'" Some evangelicals even question the real commitment of George W. Bush to their cause. His "foot-dragging" on taking an active role in outlawing abortion, along with his tardiness in supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment, has caused some evangelicals to wonder if he is the leader they once supposed him to be.
Political strategist Karl Rove had the party work overtime to energize what he sees as the flagging support of evangelicals in the 2004 elections; their support cannot be taken for granted in 2006. Bush managed to ride out the 2004 elections (along with his ticket's reliance on voting machine machinations to ensure victory), but the coalition between the evangelicals and fanatics of the Religious Right, the more traditional conservatives now beginning to align themselves with "maverick" Republican John McCain, and the social moderates and libertarians making up a small but vital portion of the Republican base, is beginning to fray. "You could see a series of very critical culturally liberal decisions reversed in a short period of time, which would [mean] that for Christian conservatives backing Bush was a smart wager," says Wilcox. "Getting involved in politics, making it very partisan, putting all of its faith in one party -- it would have all paid off." -- David Batstone and Mark Wexler
An enlightening Rolling Stone profile of evangelist Tim LaHaye reminds us of just how powerful LaHaye's behind-the-scenes influence has been in the Religious Right. LaHaye is the co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series of books based on his extremist interpretations of the Book of Revelation, a series of adventures that takes place during the End Times -- Armageddon. LaHaye, a strict Literalist (see above), centers much of his books' concerns with Iraq, stating that the Antichrist will appear in ancient Babylon. Many believe that LaHaye's obsession with Iraq and his belief that Saddam Hussein is an agent of Satan had an outsized influence on the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. LaHaye has always had access to Bush, and first came to notice in a little-publicized meeting with the then-governor of Texas in 1999. Bush met with LaHaye during a meeting of the Committee to Restore American Values, at a time when Bush, still a fledgling presidential candidate, was a source of skepticism for the Religious Right because of his failure to pursue a more activist agenda while he was governor. LaHaye took Bush behind closed doors and grilled him, having him fill out a questionnaire that covered all the bases -- abortion, judicial appointments, education, religious freedom, gun control and the Middle East. "What the preacher thought of Bush's answers would largely determine whether the Christian right would throw its muscle behind the Texas governor," writes journalist Robert Dreyfuss. Bush's answers satisfied LaHaye, because thereafter Bush was the anointed candidate of the evangelical conservatives. "Bush went into the meeting not totally acceptable," recalls Paul Weyrich, the grandfather of the religious right, who has known LaHaye for thirty years. "He went out not only acceptable but enthusiastically supported."
LaHaye has had a powerful influence in the Religious Right community for years: "No one individual has played a more central organizing role in the religious right than Tim LaHaye," says Larry Eskridge of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, calling him "the most influential American evangelical of the last twenty-five years." LaHaye got his start at the extremist evangelical Bob Jones University, and after graduating in 1958, moved to San Diego, where he plunged himself into the simmering right-wing community of Southern California, then hopping with former McCarthyites, neo-Nazis, and Birchers. He joined the John Birch Society, and joined his fellows in accusing Dwight Eisenhower of Communist sympathies and obsessing about secret societies bent on world dominion and conspiracy theories centering around the "evil" United Nations. LaHaye founded a ministry in Southern California, and preached to, among others, the Republicans who would launch Ronald Reagan's political career. In the next dozen years, LaHaye built a veritable Christian empire: three churches, twelve elementary and secondary schools, a Christian college, an anti-evolution think tank called the Institute for Creation Research, the Pre-Trib Research Center to promote his views on how the world will end, and Family Life Seminars, a lecture program on sex, marriage and Christian living -- all while writing dozens of books. The Act of Marriage, a best seller published in 1976 and co-authored with wife Beverly, is an explicit Christian sex manual, condemning "petting," abortion and homosexuality.
Alarmed by court decisions affirming abortion and gay rights, LaHaye became more politically active. In 1979 he founded Californians for Biblical Morality, a church-based political group that lobbied in Sacramento. LaHaye's group was, in many ways, the precursor to the Religious Right. "I met Tim and Beverly about thirty years ago, while I was on a preaching tour of Southern California," says the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell. "I found out that he'd done something no conservative minister had ever done before: He'd organized hundreds of churches into a political bloc. At the time, I'd never heard of mixing religion and politics." LaHaye persuaded Falwell to get involved himself. "More than any other person, Tim LaHaye challenged me to begin thinking through my involvement [in politics]," recalls Falwell. Weyrich confirms Falwell's account: "He encouraged Falwell to get involved in the political process," says Weyrich. "But Falwell was reluctant to do so, because he thought it would ruin his ministry." Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979, with LaHaye as one of its three directors. The movement was almost immediately successful, energizing Christian conservatives by the millions and catapulting Ronald Reagan into the presidency. But while Falwell presented the public face of the organization, LaHaye stayed in the background. "He flew under the radar, very behind-the-scenes, and didn't seek publicity," says Falwell.
In 1981 LaHaye founded the Council for National Policy, a secretive group of wealthy donors that has funneled billions of dollars to right-wing Christian activists. (There is some controversy over who exactly founded the organization, with LaHaye named alongside mass-mail guru Richard Viguerie, Texas billionaires Nelson Hunt, Herbert Hunt, and T. Cullen Davis, and others. Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony was a founding member.) Dreyfus writes: "An elite group with only a few hundred members, the CNP meets three times a year, usually at posh hotels or resorts, going to extraordinary lengths to keep its agenda and membership secret. According to members willing to speak about it, however, the council unites right-wing billionaires with scores of conservative Christian activists and politicians, and these encounters have spawned countless campaigns and organizations. Its ranks have included prominent politicians such as Ed Meese and John Ashcroft, and among its members can be found an editor of the conservative National Review, leading televangelists such as Pat Robertson and Falwell, representatives of the Heritage Foundation and other key think tanks, and activists including Grover Norquist and Oliver North."
The group gets key funding from billionaires such as the Hunt family, Amway founder Richard DeVos, Pierre DuPont, and beer baron Joseph Coors, along with businessman and one-time murder suspect Davis and wealthy John Bircher William Cies and even the anti-Christian Sun Myung Moon. Other members include Falwell, Robertson, Ralph Reed, Paul Weyrich, Donald Wildmon, Howard Phillips, Edwin Meese, and Richard Wirthlin, along with current and former Republican lawmakers such as Tom DeLay, Dan Burton, Ernest Istook, Trent Lott, Lauch Faircloth, Jesse Helms, Dick Armey, and Don Nickles. Members of the group funded Oliver North's secret campaign to aid the Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s, and contributed millions to the effort to unseat Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Some reports have the impeachment effort conceived at a June 1997 CNP meeting in Montreal. The Paula Jones lawsuit was conceived and organized at the Rutherford Institute, a legal arm of the Chalcedon Foundation, which was run by Rushdoony until his death and funded by Howard Ahmanson, mentor of Bush's own political-religious mentor Marvin Olansky, famous for noting that the Bible does not specifically prohibit slavery. (Ahmanson and his brother Robert also bankrolled American Information Systems, which provides paperless and easily subverted voting machines to a number of communities.)
Rutherford, which provided lawyers and legal strategies for Jones (including the notorious "perjury trap" that impelled the impeachment of Clinton), considers its mission as fighting the legal battles necessary to defend and expand Reconstructionism. The group funds countless numbers of Christian organizers. Falwell credits the CNP with raising hundreds of millions of dollars for his ventures, including the establishment of Falwell's Liberty University. Besides Bush's appearance at a 1999 meeting to win support from the Christian right (a meeting which has never been publicized), Bush officials have attended meetings, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attending the April 2003 gathering. "Without [LaHaye], what we call the religious right would not have developed the way it did, and as quickly as it did," says Weyrich.
LaHaye and his wife Beverly founded Concerned Women for America, which has worked in concert with Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, and has worked tirelessly against gay rights, abortion rights, and sex education in schools. While Schlafly organized the women in Republican clubs around the country, Bev LaHaye reached out to the women in churches, "the ones who were never involved in politics, who'd go to Bible-study groups," says Schlafly. "she reached a lot of people, particularly in the Christian churches, that I might not have been able to reach." Many of these women stayed involved, becoming key members of the Religious Right. In 1984, Tim LaHaye's American Coalition for Traditional Values registered Christian conservative voters through "pastor-representatives" in every Congressional district in the nation.
Unfortunately for LaHaye, his connection with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church nearly spelled LaHaye's political doom. When LaHaye vocally defended Moon during legal controversies in the mid-1980s, it wasn't long before it was revealed that LaHaye had received heavy funding from Moon, and LaHaye found himself on the outs with many of the Christian Right leaders he had worked with for so long. His American Coalition for Traditional Values folded. In 1988, he was bounced from Jack Kemp's presidential campaign when his anti-Catholic views became a media issue. By the early 1990s, LaHaye was in retreat, presiding over a small church in Maryland and off the political stage.
Sometime in 1994, he got the idea for the Left Behind series. Leaving most of the actual writing to co-author Jerry Jenkins, LaHaye ensured that the books, which features a post-Rapture "Tribulation Force" defending the faith during the days of the Antichrist against the minions of Satan, stayed close to his idea of Christianity. The books defied the critics, who almost universally dismissed the series as "almost laughably tedious" and "unrelievedly vomitous," as well as many Christian leaders, who condemned their extremist views as "unscholarly" and a "perversion" of Biblical teachings. They became best-sellers, first in Christian bookstores and then, benefiting from a campaign focusing on Wal-Mart, national best-sellers. The intent of the books is frankly evangelical. "Our hope is that some people will be persuaded," says Jenkins. The series has spawned a set of companion books for young readers and a direct-to-video movie series starring former teen idol Kirk Cameron. The books returned LaHaye to grace. "At meetings of the Council for National Policy now, Tim and Bev are treated like rock stars," says conservative activist Grover Norquist. In the fall of 2003, LaHaye released the first book of a new series called Babylon Rising, which takes his apocalyptic notions even further. Striking while the brimstone is hot, LaHaye has already received a reported $42 million advance deal from Bantam Books for the Babylon books, built around a swashbuckling, Indiana Jones-style biblical archeologist in the Holy Land.
LaHaye, 77 and somewhat irascible, is clearly readying himself and his followers for the end of days. "We have more reason to believe that ours may be the terminal generation than any generation since Jesus founded His church 2,000 years ago," he says, citing not only biblical prophecy but weapons of mass destruction, incurable diseases, pollution and overpopulation. Despite Bush's election, Republican control of Congress and the success of his own organizations, LaHaye says that things are getting worse, and that "liberal, anti-Christian secularists still control government, media, education and other important agencies of influence." In his books and in his sermons, the villains are the same as they always were: the UN, the Europeans, the Russians, Iraq, Muslims, the American media, liberals, "freethinkers," and, of course, the international banking conspiracy. In his books, all of these rush to team up with the Antichrist to bring death and destruction to the world. The heroes? Christian believers, Israel (including 144,000 Jews who convert to Christianity), and the right-wing American militia movement. According to LaHaye, civilization is threatened by a worldwide conspiracy of secret societies and liberal groups intent on destroying "every vestige of Christianity." Among the participants in this conspiracy are the Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, "the major TV networks, high-profile newspapers and newsmagazines," the US State Department, major foundations such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford, the United Nations, "the left wing of the Democratic Party," Harvard, Yale "and 2,000 other colleges and universities." All of this is assembled to "turn America into an amoral, humanist country, ripe for merger into a one-world socialist state" and, presumably, fruit for the Antichrist to pluck.
LaHaye pretends no knowledge of whether Bush agrees with his views, but it is plain that Bush and LaHaye are on the same religious wavelength. Falwell says of Bush's apparent agreement with LaHaye's apocalyptic vision of the near future, "My guess is that his views would differ very little, but that's conjecture." Jenkins adds, "Every Christian ought to be happy that we have someone in the White House who says he believes what we do." -- Robert Dreyfuss, ABC, Mark Crispin Miller
While Ronald Reagan generally steered clear of overt references to Armageddon in his public pronouncements, some of his terminology excited end-times believers. Reagan referred to the Soviet Union by the biblical name of "Gog," the evil power to the north that would invade Israel. The current crop of end-times evangelicals harp on the fact that Baghdad is the closest thing in the modern world to Babylon, "the seat of idolatry and persecution" as characterized in the Bible. The Bible further says that Israel's safety shall be secured by "the destruction of Babylon." That is justification enough for many evangelicals to invade Iraq, weapons of mass destruction notwithstanding. Certainly an overwhelming majority of US voters who believe in the reality of Armageddon voted for Bush in 2000. It is interesting to note the mirrored view in some Muslims' faith of their own version of Armageddon, featuring a Jewish Antichrist who will be defeated by Jesus Christ, perhaps with the assistance of a redeeming figure called the Mahdi. Beginning in the 1980s, a spate of books promoting this line of thought -- particularly of Jewish and American Christian-led aggression in the Holy Land, and the threat to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque heralding the Last Days -- became best-sellers throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world in general. -- Kevin Phillips
Between 1960 and 2000, the hardline evangelical Southern Baptist Convention saw its membership nearly double from 10 to 17 million, while the number of even more fundamentalist Pentecostal Christians jumped from 2 million to 12 million. Mainline Episcopalians shrank in number by nearly half, to a meager 2 million, and the United Methodists dropped in number by nearly 2 million, to 8 million. In general, strict fundamentalist churches' memberships soared, while doctrinally more moderate churches, the pillar of the Coolidge and Eisenhower-era Republicans, dwindled. While there is no reason to doubt George W. Bush's sincerity about his religious faith, his conversion to hardline evangelicism coincided perfectly with the rise of fundamentalists among Republican voters and party activists. Abortion, pornography, and gay rights dominated the political agendas of Pentecostals; these issues subsequently found themselves taking center stage in Republican political discussions, eventually working their way to the forefront beginning with the 1980 campaign of Ronald Reagan.
The sea change in the US Republican Party was being mirrored in Israel and Islamic nations in the Middle East and Asia. Anger among Israeli hardliners over the territorial concessions following the 1973 Yom Kippur War resulted in the assassination of moderate Likud leader Yitzhak Rabin by a cabal of radical right-wing Jews and the subsequent ascension to power of hardline leaders like Netanyahu and Sharon. In Muslim countries, anger among fundamentalist Muslims grew not only over Israel, but with the increasing Westernization and secularization of countries like Egypt, Iran, and others. The Christian Right of the US focused on the perception that the society had gone fundamentally awry during the social upheaval of the Sixties. When the Dixiecrats of the southern US broke away from their former home among the Democratic Party over their opposition to civil rights legislation and their perception that their party was overly accepting of the anti-Vietnam peace movement and the women's rights movement, the Republican Party began moving in a much more fundamentalist direction. The 1972 nomination of secular liberal George McGovern by the Democrats crystallized the evangelical conservatives' opposition to all things Democrat, and the lines were firmly drawn. Had the Democrats been able to field a more moderate candidate like Edmund Muskie, who would not have alienated southern Dixiecrats and other conservatives in the way that McGovern did, it is likely that Muskie would have won the election, but more importantly, the evangelicals' alliance with the Republican Party would not have taken place so quickly or so strongly. (It is doubtful that the old-line Republicans of the Nixon campaign realized the broader effects of their successful sabotage of the Muskie candidacy.) Kevin Phillips writes, "The brief liberal reformation of the sixties had unleashed a counterreformation, and even Watergate in 1973-74 would only delay, not abort it." -- Kevin Phillips
The failed 1998 bid to impeach Clinton and their subsequent losses in the 1998 congressional elections was a setback to the forces of evangelical politicization. From the loss, they learned to, in Kevin Phillips' words, "[s]ecure the religious leaders and power centers privately, then convince them to keep a low profile." Nevertheless, Republicans, and conservative evangelicals, won key victories in 1998, posting the highest vote margin since 1946. As a result, evangelicals agreed to keep a lower public profile in Bush's 2000 campaign, and backed Bush instead of evangelical candidate Gary Bauer. Evangelicals only went publicn during the 2000 campaign in South Carolina, when maverick Republican John McCain posed a grave threat to the Bush candidacy. Bush shored up his evangelical base by visiting Bob Jones University, publicly embracing Jerry Falwell, and fighting with McCain over theocracy in the GOP. Evangelical conservatives helped mount an ugly anti-McCain campaign in South Carolina, accusing McCain of being driven insane during his time as a POW in Vietnam, insinuating that McCain had collaborated with his North Vietnamese captors, and alleging that McCain had fathered a black child. Although the tactics hurt Bush in the general election, they worked to give Bush a critical primary victory in South Carolina, derail the McCain candidacy, and galvanized evangelical support for Bush. (Possibly proving the dominance of GOP evangelicals, an insulted and wounded McCain would later publicly support Bush in the campaign and throughout his presidency.) John Green later observed, "I was absolutely amazed that their leaders actually worked quite hard for the Republican ticket and didn't make the type of headlines they have typically made that would disillusion other voters." The 2000 GOP convention was a model of moderation, with women and minority speakers dominating the podium and hard-right evangelicals restricted to the back rooms and strategy sessions. -- Kevin Phillips
George W. Bush is a born-again Christian who has told us his heart is commited to Jesus. He prays daily, and as the war with Iraq loomed, read the Bible every day. He believes in "a divine plan that supersedes all human plans." His faith carries over into many aspects of his political life, saying that liberty "is the plan of Heaven for humanity," and that a president should speak for "the power of faith." Former speechwriter David Frum says that in the Bush White House, "attendance at Bible study was, if not compulsory, not quite uncompulsory." Peter Singer, a noted philosopher and ethicist, connects Bush's outspoken assertions of Christian faith with the moral and ethical values that such a commitment should entail, and finds Bush's actions rarely match up with his words. He notes that in his actions and policies, Bush refuses to recognize the First Amendment requirement of a fundamental separation between church and state. Worse, in his rhetoric and actions, Bush tends to resemble all too closely the religious fanatics who make up the core of the Islamic fanatics whom he so publicly despises, telling Karl Rove after the 9/11 attacks that "I'm here for a reason" and agreeing with his description as "God's chosen man for this hour in our nation."
Newsweek's Howard Fineman writes admiringly of Bush's faith helping "Bush pick a course and not look[ing] back," a quality of which Singer writes, "We don't have to look far to see where such an attitude toward belief can lead. Those who planned and brought about the deaths of 3000 innocent Americans on September 11, 2001, were people of deep religious faith who prayed frequently and, before they died, commended their souls to God's care. ...The Islamic militant who believes he is doing the will of God when he flies a plane full of passengers into the World Trade Center is just as much a person of faith as the Christian who believes she is doing the will of God when she spends her days picketing a clinic that offers abortions. Faith cannot tell us who is right and who is wrong, because each will simply assert that his or her faith is the true one. In the absence of a willingness to offer reasons, evidence, or arguments for why it is better to do one thing rather than another, there is no progress to be made. If we try to dissuade people from becoming radical Islamic terrorists, not by persuading them to be more thoughtful and reflective about their religious beliefs, but by encouraging them to switch from one unquestioned religious belief faith to another, we are fighting with our hands tied behind our backs. Much better, therefore, to insist that there is an ethical obligation to base one's views about life on evidence and sound reasoning. Bush, unfortunately, is in no position to insist on such an ethical obligation, for his own religious beliefs are no more based on critically examined evidence than are the religious beliefs of Osama bin Laden." -- Peter Singer
George W. Bush used the same kind of evangelical support system to vault him to political power as those used by Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon in Israel, and that fueled the rise to power of various Islamic parties in Pakistan, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries. While wide differences between the various religious fundamental sects exist, they share, according to the Fundamentalism Project, "a discernible pattern of religious militance by which self-styled 'true believers' attempt to arrest the erosion of religious identity, fortify the borders of the religious community, and create viable alternatives to secular institutions and behaviors." The Project recognizes a number of groups, including militant white Protestants in the southern United States; radical minorities of Jews in Israel; a number of radical Islamic groups throughout the Middle East; extremist groups of Hindus and Sikhs in India, Buddhists in Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka; Confucians in East Asia; and Pentecostals in Latin America. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, these groups were well established and on their way to influencing the governments and societies of their nations. -- Kevin Phillips
As of July 2004, the top seven Senate Republicans -- majority leader Bill Frist, Bob Bennett, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Mitch McConnell, Rick Santorum, Jon Kyl, and George Allen -- have each earned a 100% rating on the Christian Coalition's scorecard, voting in line with that organization's positions on key legislation. A similar pattern exists in the House, where majority leader Tom DeLay, who in part controls whether an issue will be even debated on the House floor, also receives a 100% on the Christian Coalition scorecard. -- David Batstone and Mark Wexler
Texas writer Michael Lind notes the approval of Israeli ultra-rightists for George W. Bush's simplistic macho posings: "The gun-toting, Bible-thumping Anglo-Celtic Texan in former Mexican and Indian territories, with his admiration for the Hebrew patriarchs and professed devotion to the Ten Commandments, is remarkably similar to the gun-toting, Torah-thumping Israeli settler in the occupied Arab territories. The 'sabra' ideal of a certain strain of Zionism -- macho, militaristic, pious -- is a cousin of the Southern/Western 'redneck' or 'cowboy,' down to the contempt for the disposable 'Canaanites' -- blacks and Mexican-Americans in Texas and Arabs in Israel." -- Kevin Phillips
After 9/11, the evangelical basis for Bush's foreign and domestic policies came even farther to the forefront. Religious extremists in the Islamic world would find themselves opposed by their counterparts in the United States. Author Ian Lustick wrote, "In recent years, Americans had become accustomed to the idea that Muslim fundamentalism can impel masses of believers to employ war, revolution, and terrorism to meet their religious and political obligations. What still seems strange to most Americans is that the same fundamentalism phenomenon -- defined here as political action to radically transform society according to cosmically ordained imperatives -- exists among Jews and is a key element on the Israeli side of the Middle Eastern equation." Lustick wrote about the resurgence of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel and the US, but his conclusions can be equally applied to evangelical Christians in America. The connections between the two are strong; evangelical Christians have funded a third of the illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. -- Kevin Phillips
Not only has Bush established an "Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives" within the White House, but has established a "Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives" within many governmental departments -- Labor, Commerce, HHS, etc. The move not only shreds the divide between church and state, but promotes the idea that social services should not be performed by government agencies, but by church-based groups whose charity should take the place of federal aid. The underlying reason is to "abet the proselytizing efforts of the Christian right, whose 'armies of compassion' can now save souls under the auspices of Uncle Sam." -- Mark Crispin Miller
George W. Bush has relied on Christian theologians from the hard right, particularly from those espousing "Dominionism," a sect actively promoting a war in the Middle East that will presumably bring about Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ, for advice on his policies in the Middle East. These Dominionists have mingled with followers of Sun Myung Moon, the self-professed Christian messiah, to win Bush's ear. Bush is a ready listener, especially in light of his confession that he believes God told him to run for president. "He feels God is talking to him," says conservative Biblical scholar Anthony Evans. If Bush is sincere in his acceptance of Dominionist theology, he may well feel that he is God's agent on Earth to bring about Armageddon, and will conduct himself accordingly. Bob Woodward confirms this thinking to a degree in his book Bush at War, when he quotes Bush's assumption of mission against Islamic terrorism: "Our responsibility to history is already clear: To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." Woodward writes that Bush believes he is conducting his administration's attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq as part of "God's master plan." Baptist minister Welton Gaddy says that Bush believes "he is, in fact, a divinely chosen leader in this moment of history. It's as if he discovered the power of religion late in life and thinks the nation needs to [do the same.]" -- Kevin Phillips
The "theocratic movement will remain the gravest threat to our democracy, for that self-hating drive is evidently inexhaustible. As we have seen, their stated program is to dominate the nation, and eventually the world, and yet, of course, they see themselves as dominated. 'Like it or not, the Christians of America are in bondage,' Pat Robertson lamented in 2000. 'We're in bondage to nine old men in black robes of the Supreme Court. We're in bondage to the ACLU. We're in bondage to Planned Parenthood, we're in bondage to a bunch of homosexuals.... How did they get this power? We are under bondage, and it's time the Christian church stood up and said, 'No more!' ....We vastly outnumber the atheists.... Why should we put up with abortion? Why should we put up with all of these laws that are being put on us? Why should we submit to unrighteous laws and unrighteous government and take it lying down? We shouldn't, we shouldn't!' Such is the Christian Right's defining plaint. Subtract that cry, and there is nothing left of most such righteous sermonizing, which is all about the dangers posed to them because of us. Christians are oppressed by hateful liberals.
"Thus David Limbaugh vehemently argues in his Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christians (whose cover shows a hungry lioness about to pounce). ...Notwithstanding...all of Limbaugh's anecdotes, the claim that Christians suffer daily persecution is preposterous on its face. Christians in this country worship openly and freely; the 'conservatives,' moreover, build and fill gigantic churches, speak out loud and clear on every issue of the day, and organize politically without constraint; furthermore, the best-known rightist Christians have more access to the media than any of their leftist counterparts. What they take as 'persecution' -- now, as in the days of Jefferson -- is any question raised about, or criticism of, their role in party politics and in the government. They see themselves as persecuted by defenders of the Constitution and by any effort at a rational response to their fanaticism. What they take as 'persecution' is, in short, whatever steps are sometimes taken to prevent the imposition of their faith on everybody else -- which is to say, their would-be persecution of all other un-like-minded worshippers, all unbelievers and agnostics."
Fanatics like Limbaugh say that they merely want the freedom "to think and express our views in the public arena or anywhere we want to. We want to be free to practice our religion with impunity because that was central to our founding in this country. We will accord you the exact same rights, whoever you are. You have the right to freedom of worship, but we just want a level playing field. We don't want to be singled out, discriminated against, or treated without tolerance by those for whom tolerance is the highest virtue." Limbaugh and his fellows already have all of those rights and privileges. What they do not have is the right to hatemonger and the right to persecute. Limbaugh insists that it is part of his right as a Christian to persecute homosexuals, for example; he is dead wrong. However, he will characterize such restraint as "having homosexual views being [forced] on us." The evidence is clear that what persecution going on in this country is of conservatives persecuting liberals, and Christians persecuting others, not the reverse, as Limbaugh, Robertson, and others so piously complain. Liberals are "terrorists," and as such, are as much targets of Bush's war on terror as any Islamic radical. "Lying Demoncrats," "feminazis," "the black activists," "the homosexual lobbyists," "environmentalist wackos," and so forth, are not just portrayed as wrong, but actually demonic and Satanic. As Miller writes, these citizens are "not to be redeemed and then assimilated, but to be driven from among us, and exterminated." -- Mark Crispin Miller
"Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power: US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy." -- The Guardian, April 20, 2004, quoted by Maureen Farrell
"The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant -- baptism and holy communion -- must be denied citizenship." -- Gary North, Institute for Christian Economics
"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh's charioteers.... AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." -- Jerry Falwell