Since the founding of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, the Left has been obsessed with conservative Christians. This fixation is driven by fear, loathing, and old-fashioned opportunism.
Hatred of traditional Christians is as old as H.L. Mencken (who, by the way, didn’t have the warm fuzzies for blacks or Jews either). In recent decades, the Left has come to see evangelical Christians as the principal obstacle to the realization of its social agenda, hence the embodiment of evil. Correspondingly, attacks on "fundamentalists" have grown increasingly shrill.
Even so, the rhetoric of the past two weeks has taken the anti-religious right jihad to new depths.
Last week, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar (a Democrat, naturally) told a radio interviewer that Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family "are the Antichrist of the world" for urging citizens to demand their senators vote to end the filibuster of Bush judges. (Aside: Imagine the furor if Jerry Falwell had called Hillary Clinton "the Antichrist.")
Salazar later amended himself to say Focus and Dobson’s "approach was un-Christian, meaning self-serving and selfish." In effect, Salazar is saying that for a Christian group to attempt to get government to reflect Christian values is "un-Christian." If you say so, Senator....
Repeating a mantra of the secular Left, Salazar warned, "What has happened here (Christian political activism in behalf of Bush judicial nominees) is there has been a hijacking of the U.S. Senate by what I call the religious right-wing of the country."
When any other group (environmentalists, feminists, peace activists) organizes to effect political change through education, lobbying, and get-out-the-vote efforts, it’s called...democracy.
When Christians (as Christians) try to exercise their rights as citizens, it’s called sinister, an attempted hijacking of the political process – theocracy!
That was the message of a conference in New York City last weekend ("Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right"). Apparently, "Religious Right" no longer sounds scary enough, so the Left is upping the ad hominem ante with "Religious Far Right." Soon they’ll be warning us of the clear and present danger of the "Ultra-Religious, Reactionary Far Right," and so on.
The conference (co-sponsored by City University of New York and People For the American Way) had two themes: 1) Minions of the "Religious Far Right" are hateful, so we should hate them; and 2) Theocracy (replete with heretic-roasts) is just around the corner.
"Most Americans outside the Bible Belt" – where a barely literate populace wanders about shoeless – "have little idea of the beliefs held by millions of fundamentalist churchgoers," a conference brochure discloses in the hushed tones of revelation. "We have an almost total lack of awareness of the rise of Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism, forms of theology that advocate a biblical vision of God’s kingdom on earth."
Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism are obscure belief systems with slightly fewer followers than flat-earth theory. In many years of working with Christian conservatives, I have yet to encounter anyone who subscribes to either dogma. What The Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion meant to anti-Semitism, Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism are for the anti-Christian Left – an attempt to stir up hatred by seeking to convince the unwary of a dark plot to take over the world or nation.
Titles of presentations at this hate-fest are revealing: "Fundamentalism: the Fear and the Rage"; "Is Unholy Theocracy Here?"; and (my personal favorite) "On the Psychology and Theocracy of George W. Bush: Reflections in a Culture of Fear."
Conferees were regaled with hokum spouted by the likes of Joan Bokaer (who, as the founder of TheocracyWatch.org, is a self-styled expert on the wicked ways of Dobson and Co.).
Bokaer explained to the Manhattan yokels that the FCC’s threat to crack down on televised indecency is like Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime. "Indecency police are part of theocratic states," Bokaer warned. Ergo, attempts to rein-in smut on the public airwaves equal a regime that placed women under house arrest and executed homosexuals. Such over-the-top hyperbole is like comparing traffic fines to genocide.
Lest you think that such Chicken-Littleism here is confined to fringe elements on the Left, in an April 28 speech to MoveOn.org, former Vice President Al Gore sputtered over the "aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry" that has conquered the GOP and drives the move to end the minority veto over Bush judges.
Earlier in the month, speaking of the horror of religious-right attempts to save Terri Schiavo’s life, DNC Chairman Howard Dean (who the Democrats considered too nutty for their nomination last year) rhetorically asked, "Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do?" Democrats wouldn’t dream of telling us what to do – with our money, our businesses, our children or our lives. Not much.
The cover story in the May issue of Harper’s Magazine screams of “The Christian Right’s War On America.” Try to imagine a reputable publication doing a story about “The Jews' War On America” or “The Hispanic War On America.” Again, hatred of Christian conservatives is the last respectable form of bigotry.
Finally, in one of its typically unhinged editorials (this of April 26) The New York Times accused House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of threatening "the judiciary for not following the regressive social agenda he shares with the far-right fundamentalists controlling his party." That’s far-Right fundamentalists, as opposed to moderate or middle-of-the-road fundamentalists.
Do you begin to see a pattern emerging here? Desperate to avoid a debate? Claim it’s all a vast religious far-right conspiracy. Unable to stop a legislative initiative or ballot measure? Maintain its success would be a fateful step toward the establishment of a theocracy. Need an excuse for losing 7 of the last 10 presidential elections? Say you were done in by the legions of Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson/James Dobson, etc. breaching the church/state wall.
If support for school prayer and public display of the Ten Commandments, and opposition to homosexual marriage, constitute theocracy, then a majority of the American people are theocrats.
Opinion surveys show Americans overwhelmingly in favor of Ten Commandments displays and voluntary prayer in the public schools. On November 2, 2004, voters in 11 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman (by margins that averaged 70 percent), including in such Bible-belt bastions as Ohio and Oregon.
The left dreads religious involvement in the nation’s public life (except by the National Council of Churches, of course). The public welcomes it. In a 1996 poll by the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of Americans agreed that "churches should express views on social and political matters." Only 43 percent said "churches should keep out of political matters."
The left defines "fundamentalist" as a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Guess what? That definition fits 63 percent of Americans! According to a poll released by Rasmussen Reports on April 21, 63 percent of Americans believe the Bible is literally true and the word of God (24 percent disagree.) While 59 percent of whites share that view, 71 percent of Hispanics and 82 percent of blacks are Bible literalists – a rainbow coalition of fundamentalism.
But that won’t keep the left from getting bug-eyed and foaming at the mouth over the supposed threat of the "Religious Far Right" frog-marching the nation toward theocracy.
Why? Having little or no religion themselves, leftists are baffled by and fearful of those who take religion seriously – whether they’re evangelicals, traditional Catholics, Orthodox Jews, or Mormons.
Their campaign of historical revisionism has succeeded so well that they’ve managed to convince themselves that the Founding Fathers were secular humanists – rather than men of deep and abiding faith like Washington, Adams and Madison, who believed our nation could not survive without a moral foundation based on religious truth. Hence, they truly believe that a menorah in a public park or a non-denominational prayer before a high-school football game is not only an egregious violation of the First Amendment but a perilous step on the road to a religious state.
This paranoia and dogmatism is mixed with opportunism.
The Left is incapable of debating any issue (be it abortion, gay marriage or the proper role of the judiciary). When confronted with arguments, its reflex reaction is to scream that their opponents are hateful – or to rave about the religious far right "hijacking the Senate," undermining the Constitution, spreading intolerance and laying the groundwork for an American Taliban regime.
Leftists have been on a 40-year losing streak. They lost the House of Representatives over a decade ago. Republicans have controlled the Senate for most of the past 20 year – and regained control of that body in the last election. Since 1964, Democrats have won the White House only three times (on each occasion, by running candidates who were leftists disguised as moderates). If that weren’t enough, they are regularly pummeled on referenda questions – from same-sex marriage and taxes, to immigration, the use of the English language, and term limits.
The Religious Right has become the Left’s escape hatch from electoral reality – its scapegoat, boogeyman, and red herring rolled into one.
In the past presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee appointed a religion outreach advisor to help the clueless figure out a way to appeal to church-going America. For starters, Democrats and their allies could stop lying about, smearing, and inciting hatred against conservative Christians. Or is that too much to ask?