Onward Christian Soldier
There is a movement in America called the Religious Right. Make no mistake about it. They will deny it. They will tell you they are not "monolithic". According to them, there is no grand design or scheme to rise to power in America. While it is true that there are many different heads to this Hydra called the Religious Right, ultimately, they are working simultaneously, and with great fervor, to achieve several common objectives. They will not rest until America declares their "brand of Christianity" the national religion. Their appetite for the suppression of gay rights is insatiable. In their paradigm, humanity has evolved beyond the need for fallacious theories like Evolution, and it must be challenged in public schools. School prayer must return, and abortion must go, before these Christian soldiers will lay down their arms.
The leaders of this movement act with incredible cunning and guile. Sinclair Lewis' character, Elmer Gantry, would have been a rank amateur next to powerful propagandists like Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard, and Pat Robertson. Fire and brimstone does not rain down from their pulpits. These are the subtle, psychologically-savvy Evangelists. James Dobson, one of the principal leaders of this movement (through his Colorado Springs based group called Focus on the Family), dispenses grandfatherly advice via his radio show and website. Despite the new approach, the goals and underlying message have not changed. One of Dobson's favorite topics is homosexuality, and how gays can be "converted" to heterosexuality. Meanwhile, groups like the American Psychological Association, comprised of people who have actually studied the science of human behavior, soundly reject "conversion therapy" as a legitimate practice. What a quandary on who to believe!
Focus on the Family wields significant political influence, and is representative of the Religious Right movement as a whole. They represent a minority of voters, but their financial resources are vast, and they are able to mobilize their followers to vote according to the wishes of the "Shepard's of their flocks". One can make a convincing (and disturbing) argument that the Religious Right as a whole tipped the scales in the presidential elections in both 2000 and 2004 to propel a fellow Evangelist into the Oval Office. As demonstrated by the obscene national debt, the war crimes, a very low 46% approval rating for a "popular" second term president, an irrational push to privatize Social Security in the face of tremendous opposition, abuse of the public trust through paying journalists to spread propaganda as news, and wasting 1600 American lives and hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars on an illegal war, Bush will go down as one of the worst presidents in history. On the brighter side, he is an Evangelical Christian!
This Religious Right movement is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Draping itself in a cloak of tolerance, they proclaim that they "hate the sin and not the sinner". Homosexuals are the specific recipient of this "shower of love and acceptance". How convenient for the Religious Right that homosexual behavior is an emanation of who the person is, so they can justify acting in hateful ways toward gays because they are simply "hating the sin". Here in Kansas, as they have been in many other states, they were recently instrumental in the passage of a state constitutional amendment that prevents gay marriage. Pastors from churches like First Family Church of Overland Park aligned themselves with Jerry Falwell in stridently pushing for passage of the amendment, and openly celebrating the fact that Kansas had legalized discrimination when the amendment passed. How "Christian" of them. Kansas is also home to Fred Phelps, who is an internationally known fountain of hateful propaganda and actions against gays. Politically, the Religious Right leaders know it would be suicide to align themselves with "Reverend Phelps", but secretly, they probably pray thanks to their "Christian God" for Fred's "good works".
Kansas is a hotbed for the Religious Right and their agenda. Their majority membership on the Kansas State School Board grants them a ripe opportunity to attack Evolution, a scientific theory supported by bodies of evidence gathered since its origination by Charles Darwin in 1859, and accepted by a vast majority of scientists working in biology and related fields as being as near fact as a theory can be. Coming from a group that believes the Earth is only 10,000 years old (scientists who actually devote their lives to scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge using the tools of science actually place the age of the Earth at closer to 4.5 billion years), and who are supporting the construction of a museum in Kentucky that includes life-sized figures of dinosaurs wearing saddles (to assert their belief that humans and dinosaurs existed simultaneously), it is unsurprising that they are still trying to corrupt the minds of our youth with the notion of Creationism. However, compliments of a group called the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank with ties to the Religious Right, they can now package Creationism as a secular "scientific theory" that "rivals" Evolution. The problems with the "theory", called Intelligent Design, are that it offers no substance beyond the fact that one must conclude through observation of the complexity of the world around us that there was an "intelligent designer", and that only a handful of scientists validate it. In Kansas, no reputable people of science have been willing to "debate" the champions of Intelligent Design as the State School Board considers adding Intelligent Design to the science standards in Kansas public schools.
Kathy Martin, a Kansas State School Board Member, has publicly revealed her lack of objectivity and her disrespect for the separation of church and state, despite the fact that she serves in public office. She openly said, "Our nation is a Christian nation. We are based on Christian principles." Openly supporting prayer in public schools and intelligent design, Ms. Martin is a prime example of one of the Religious Rights "good Christian soldiers".
One of the key fallacies in the message of the Religious Right is that America is a nation founded on Christian principles. Recently, the Right has made much noise about the display of the Ten Commandments in public areas. Only two of the Ten Commandments actually apply to America's legal system. Adultery, idolatry, honoring one's father and mother, not taking the Lord's name in vain, respecting the Sabbath, refraining from coveting, and not bearing false witness against one's neighbor do not receive much focus in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or in federal, state, or local laws. Only the commandments prohibiting murder and stealing are specified as criminal acts in our society. As a society, while most Americans, probably agree that not bearing false witness, honoring one's mother and father, and remaining faithful to one's partner are worthwhile values to uphold, they were not issues that our founding fathers deliberated as they forged our country, America does not have the market cornered on these values (other nations practice them too), and these principles are not unique to Christianity.
While the Religious Right often argues that we are a Christian nation because Congress prays, the Bible is used in courtrooms, and our money is stamped, "In God We Trust", these conventions arose by default because Christianity was the predominant paradigm in Western civilization at the time of the founding of our nation. Despite the fact that some of our founding fathers were abolitionists, they wrote the legalization of slavery into the Constitution because slavery was deeply entrenched in America's economy and culture, like Christianity. This did not indicate that every American believed in slavery, as evidenced by the Thirteenth Amendment and the Civil War. Arguing in a similar vein, several of the founding fathers were Deists and Freemasons. America was not founded solely by Christians, or by men who believed in the exclusivity of Christianity. Continuing in this same line of reasoning, one can also conclude that, like school prayer and the Ten Commandments, the remaining Christian practices and symbols practiced and used in our secular institutions and government are quaint anachronisms whose existence oppresses the right of the non-Christian members of American society to practice their faith without the oppression of government endorsement of a specific religion. There is plenty of room for the practice of Christianity in American society, but the Religious Right is Wrong in its relentless push to "convert America" into a "Christian nation". The First Amendment to the Constitution expressly prohibits the establishment of a national religion. The United States was not, and is not, a Christian nation.
The Religious Right displays its deep intolerance for those who deviate from their beliefs most strongly through its lack of tolerance for fellow Christians. A few days ago, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., a board member with James Dobson's Focus on the Family, re-asserted his statement which he made on Larry King Live in March of 2000:
"I believe that the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel," Mohler said to Larry King in 2000. "And indeed, I believe that the Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office."
Since the Religious Right believes that one must adhere to the "true gospel" and "accept Jesus Christ as a personal savior" in order to get to heaven, Mohler has condemned over one billion Catholics in our world population to eternal damnation for their choice in how they practice the Christian faith. If one takes this belief to its logical conclusion, that means that Mother Teresa and the recently fallen Pope John Paul II are both experiencing the hellfire of eternal damnation, while Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Baker can look forward to the sweet rewards of heaven. The intellectual disconnect is too much to bear!
They are organized, yet they are scattered enough to claim they are not. They are united in purpose and in resolve, yet their churches are diverse enough that they can make a convincing argument that they are not. They are well-funded and utilize their money to sell their message through subtle forms of propaganda and to advance their cause through the political arena. They funnel their money to advance their perverse agenda quietly and through various channels so that it does not draw significant attention.
I am not suggesting that the Religious Right is an alleged conspiracy group like the Trilateral Commission or the Rothschild family, who secretly pull the strings that determine what happens in the world. However, it is obvious when one connects the dots that they are a dangerous movement in America. When they deny their own existence as a unified body whose parts act in concert, they are probably speaking the truth. Despite this, there are a large number of well-funded churches, organizations, and think tanks, coupled with a large block of like-minded voters, which share common beliefs and goals. It may be a loose coalition of somewhat diverse churches, but there is undeniable evidence of the existence of the Religious Right, which is threatening to become a major blight on intellectual freedom and civil liberties. They advance their cause like relentless soldiers, and are slowly but surely gaining ground in their fight for the minds, checkbooks, votes, and souls of Americans. If moderate Americans remain apathetic, and if more progressive groups of Americans fail to find a unifying set of goals and beliefs around which to rally, we may wake up one day to find real soldiers insisting that we pledge allegiance to Christ , and to President Brownback.
I am a 38 year old activist writer who also works as an account representative for a finance company. I am married and have three sons under the age of 14. I am a member of the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I welcome responses to my article at [email protected].
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