What’s Wrong with the Religious Right?
In a broadcast last fall, the CBS program 60 Minutes leveled a withering assault at the “religious right.” The focus of the storm of protest that followed the segment was a statement by a prominent evangelical who said, in effect, that Muhammad, founder of the Muslim religion, was a terrorist. What went virtually unnoticed, however, were the implications that the present administration in Washington, including the president, is in the pocket of the so-called radical religious right and that these religious leaders orchestrate America’s political and military agendas.
The innuendo is that these are dangerous people who are leading the country down a slippery slope of hysterical extremism. In the final analysis, the implication is but an expression of the liberal, cultural, social, and political crusade to excise faith, traditional morality, and biblically based convictions from the American landscape.
Misinformation, Scare Tactics, and Bad Intentions
An accurate definition of religious right is hard to come by. For purposes cherished by radical liberals, deceptively called moderates by their own ilk, a member of the religious right is almost anyone holding religious or conservative views that oppose the leftist agenda. At the hub of this perceived consortium of malcontents and misfits are those depicted as noxious “fundamentalists” whose sole desire is to capture the country, then mandate every facet of life for hapless American citizens.
To assert that these are deliberate and deceitful scare tactics is putting it mildly. Yet such patently obvious, malicious, and unsubstantiated attacks are repeated often because they have worked so well in the past. The gullible are led to believe that there are some seventy million evangelical Christians and their fellow travelers out there who are bent on making everyone’s life, and the lives of all their offspring, intolerable. Such orchestrated hysteria is a modern version of the Salem witch hunts; and, one might add, no less dangerous.
We all understand the rough and tumble of politics. However, despite an embarrassing deterioration in civility and good taste in campaigns for public office, certain violations of truth and propriety still are clearly far out of bounds. These violations most notably appear in the rhetorical invectives against conservative Christians. To assert that conscientious, decent people who care about their country yet differ with liberal political agendas are the American equivalent of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida or the Taliban of Afghanistan is intolerable. And beyond the heat of such statements, often made after ego-fracturing electoral defeats, lurks an even more serious subtlety. Being wedged into unsuspecting minds is the insidious perception that evangelicals are an essentially evil element that must be repudiated, or they will take the country down.
It is already a well-known fact that the only group almost no one objects to ridiculing relentlessly in this country is evangelical Christians. We are fair game for anyone who cares to take a shot at us, no matter how untrue, unfair, or malicious the shot may be. Tolerating such unrebuked slander and hate-mongering is bad enough, but accepting and enshrining it harbingers serious consequences for the future.
Myths and Propaganda Ploys
Like revisionists who rewrite history to deny the Holocaust, liberals have constructed a mythological house of horrors around the religious right.
A dangerous voting juggernaut.If the number ascribed to this group (seventy million) is accurate, it is, indeed, a considerable slice of the American population. As registered participants in the political process, we evangelicals express ourselves, as is our right, by voting our consciences on candidates and issues that concern us.
So what’s the problem? That is precisely what groups of every political and social persuasion across the spectrum do, and no one is shocked or surprised. This is, after all, a democracy. Christians who take their Bibles seriously have a mandated standard of responsibility to civil government. Romans 13 clearly indicates that governments are established to maintain order, execute justice, and embody standards of conduct in the exercise of their duties that will promote respect for those placed in authority.
Thus we are to pray for those in high office, pay imposed taxes, and be subject to the higher powers. In other words, we are to act as honest, honorable, responsible citizens. To imply that this standard is somehow a sinister and malicious threat to the survival of national order and integrity (1) flies in the face of basic rules of Christian conduct; (2) defies the democratic freedom of expression; and (3) insults every aspect of the uncommon, common sense this nation prides itself in.
The monolith absurdity.In what is actually a supreme act of manipulation, liberal extremists take great stock in promoting the absurd notion that evangelicals are a manipulated, monolithic element. The idea is that one or two “religious right” leaders call the shots for millions of evangelical Christians and, for all practical purposes, dictate what levers we all pull in the voting booths. Consequently, religious rightists are depicted as automatons that move on orders from their self-appointed commanders-in-chief.
This pitiful image spawns several observations. First, secularist liberals certainly don’t spend any appreciable time in conservative churches or moving among evangelicals. This fact, of course, is of no consequence to them because their objective is to create a straw man and incite their liberal minions to knock it down. Second, they have no appreciation or understanding of the fact that, while evangelicals may disagree among themselves on a host of social and even political issues, an observable norm characterizes our conduct. That norm is a commitment to the Judeo-Christian standards of morality and life values that have been inherent throughout the history of this republic.
Thus, electing people of faith to public office and appointing law-and-order officials and judges who apply the law rather than rewrite it to accommodate liberal morés, are not violations of the American way. Rather, such actions constitute a correction in the course imposed over a generation by some who would destroy America’s traditional underpinnings in favor of neopagan standards and practices. And, coming at a time when an ongoing war threatens the very existence of such democracies as ours, we should be thankful that decisive leaders rather than appeasement-driven wishful thinkers are at the helm.
The Religious Right and Christian Zionists
As was demonstrated by 60 Minutes, there are those who are working hard to sever the growing relationship between many evangelicals and members of the Jewish community. Often cited is the claim that, by associating with evangelicals, historically liberal Jewish people are automatically endorsing the social and political positions of the religious right in an association that constitutes an unacceptable union.
First, let it be said that attempts to make Israel just another element in a partisan political and social agenda is a mistake. Israel occupies a unique position. Of course, millions of Bible-believing Christians with definite convictions on social matters hold firmly to biblical concepts with respect to Israel and the Jewish people. But there are also distinguishing considerations when it comes to Israel and evangelicals in general.
It might come as a surprise to some that not all members of the evangelical flock are Christian Zionists. A considerable number of the seventy million hold to Replacement Theology—a position that makes the church “spiritual Israel” and the “true Israel of God.” In short, it contends that God’s promises to Abraham and his posterity are no longer viable. Spiritualized, they now reside in the coffers of the church. As a result, adherents of Replacement Theology who stand firmly with many other evangelicals on social and political issues and therefore are regarded as card-carrying members of the religious right, are not Christian Zionists. The situation is the flip side of the Jewish-evangelical union. Whereas that group agrees on Israel but agrees to disagree on social-political issues, the evangelical-evangelical union agrees on social-political issues but disagrees on Israel.
What makes an evangelical a Christian Zionist is the belief that God will yet keep the promises He made to Abraham and his heirs, the Jewish people. Christian Zionists (we number in the millions) believe the Bible teaches that these promises are irrevocable and will be fully implemented under the Messiah in the future. Thus we believe that the Jewish people have biblical, historical, moral, and legal rights to a homeland in EretzYisrael. And, if we understand and believe that the Jewish people have such rights sanctioned by international law, we are Christian Zionists because that is the essential definition of Zionism.
So, on the subject of Israel, likeminded Jewish people and Christian Zionists find common ground. Thus cooperative efforts and solidarity are normal attributes of the relationship. It is a commendable coming together that should be encouraged rather than stridently opposed.
Living in the mineshaft. We’ve all heard the threadbare admonition about standing together or hanging separately, which, to a large degree, has not been especially pertinent to our experience. It is pertinent now! Anti-Semitism, with a global, decapitating edge, is ominously on the rise. And, as the November 2002 slaughter of Israelis in Kenya illuminated once again, anti-Semitism is an undeniable fact of life.
Meanwhile, Christians are being killed, maimed, enslaved, and subjugated as never before in our history. It has been said, “Israel is the canary in the mineshaft.” This adage refers to the practice of miners who took caged canaries into the mines with them. If the canaries died, it meant the shafts were filling with lethal gases and they needed to get out, or they would die next.
Their lesson should not be lost on us. It is not solely the State of Israel we are watching; it is the Jewish people, who are increasingly being forced to live and work behind barriers or in buildings unmarked by symbols of Jewry. At the moment, most people choose to ignore the dimensions of the peril. But it is nevertheless real. And if Israel and the Jewish people are the canaries, the situation for evangelicals is not much better. We stand precariously close to the cage.
In 1968, Eric Hoffer, the long-shoreman-turned-philosopher said this:
I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.
What’s wrong with the religious right? Let’s put it another way: What’s wrong with the people of the unreligious left who presume to cast conscientious fellow citizens as potential terrorists and political outlaws? Yes. I think that question reads much better.