Martin Luther King, Jr.: Extremist!

Monday, January 16, 2006

On the day the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, I received a phone call from a member of the Presbyterian youth group I was in, telling me that some of the members of our congregation planned to march in nearby Newark, New Jersey to commemorate the life and death of this man. We had read and been inspired by King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in our youth group, and some of us tentatively began to ease ourselves into a suburban (and very sanitized) version of the Civil Rights Movement.

When I blithely told my parents not to worry about my going to Newark, since the Black Panther Party had guaranteed the safety of all marchers Black or White, they hit the roof.

“If you go on that march,” I was warned, “don’t bother coming home.” They thought of King as an “extremist.”

In 1968 King was considered an “extremist” by many, at least in my mostly White bedroom community in northern New Jersey. The Black Panthers were considered “terrorists” who probably murdered White teenagers before serving breakfast. Newark was seen as a city of race riots, and thus apparently not an appropriate place for religious observance or commemoration.

My best friend Curt checked with his parents, and they offered me a place to stay until cooler heads in the congregation could intervene. We went on the march, and returned home. As in the story of old (although with a much shorter interval and after a few phone calls), my parents welcomed me home as the prodigal son. I tolerated them as the provincial parents. That’s what being a teenager is about.

My son is now older than I was that day in 1968, and attending the UC Davis Law School in California. “The law school’s building is named after Dr. King in recognition of his efforts to achieve social and political justice for the poor and disadvantaged,” explained Dean Rex Perschbacher, in a recent letter to students concerning the day on which most Americans celebrate King’s birthday.

Every day as the students arrive for classes at King Hall, they walk past a “life-size terra cotta sculpture” of King “mid-stride, wearing a clerical robe depicting carved illustrations of the civil rights movement,” according to the school’s website.Cite

In a letter to Dean Perschbacher, several student groups worry that in recent promotional materials and on the website, the law school has “hidden or downplayed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall School of Law name”. They are unhappy with this circumstance, especially since the name “reflects the spirit and community of the law school and the students who choose to enroll” there.

I find both irony and hope in the serendipitous turn of events that finds my son at a law school named for someone who so profoundly changed my life; a civil rights leader who had no hesitation to break the letter of the law through non-violent civil disobedience in pursuit of the spirit of social and economic justice.

These days, King is still called an “extremist” by some. Whole pages on the Internet are devoted to attacks and smears. King’s biographical entry on the free online publicly-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia has been repeatedly vandalized, as it was this morning, forcing editors to monitor the page constantly throughout this day of remembrance.

In his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” King at first bristled at being labeled an “extremist” by a group of fellow clergymen upset with his activism.

King wrote that he thought this over for a while, and then realized that in their respective days, the Biblical Amos, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson had all been thought of as extremists by mainstream society. King responded, “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice–or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”

Two issues are raised by King’s clever reversal of the attack on him as an “extremist”. First is that the term “extremist” has only relative meaning in terms of how far outside the “mainstream” norms of society a particular idea or act is located by some observer who claims a “centrist” position. Second, King suggests it is important to determine whether any non-normative idea or action defends or extends justice, equality, or democracy–or whether it defends or extends unfair power or privilege.

Ultimately, the concept of “extremism,” and the use of the term as a label, is of little value in studying or challenging prejudice and ethnoviolence. As professor Jerome Himmelstein argues, the term “extremism” is at best a characterization that “tells us nothing substantive about the people it labels”, and at worst the term “paints a false picture.”

Often, analysts use the term “extremism” in a way that implies that ideas and actions are always linked. This is not the case. We need to separate ideology from methodology. King’s ideas may have been outside the mainstream for his day, but he promoted non-violence; and while civil disobedience often involves a minor criminal act, it is not the same as an act of terrorism. Given the way the term “extremist” is sometimes used, it can serve as a justification for state action that is repressive and undermines Constitutional guarantees. Under the Patriot Act and other repressive federal laws passed since the attacks on 9/11, if King was alive today, he would probably be under surveillance as a potential “terrorist”, just as he was spied on during the 1960s.

Before my son returned to law school after winter break, I dug around and found the black cloth armband I wore that day in 1968 when I marched in Newark to commemorate the passing of King. We spoke of these matters, and I asked my son to think about the issues on this day when we remember the man, but all too often forget the full range of his message. That’s what being a parent is about–even when your children are now adults.

And the message of King deserves to be repeated and carried down through generations: if we are to have community rather than chaos, we all must challenge racism, economic injustice, and war.

That’s what this day is about.


Read the text of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.

Read the text of famous speeches by King, and listen to audio excerpts here.


Portions of this essay first appeared in 2004 in my article, “Hate, Oppression, Repression, and the Apocalyptic Style: Facing Complex Questions and Challenges,” Journal of Hate Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, Institute for Action against Hate, Gonzaga University Law School.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip’s Blog

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Justice Sunday III v. Harry Potter

On Sunday, January 8, 2006, I had a choice between Justice Sunday III and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Perhaps this was a choice faced by other parents seeking to find something educational for their children to experience. My son is grown up now, but I thought about the lessons to be learned from both events.

Let me tell you what I learned when my wife and I attended the Harry Potter film.

•   Certain actions are evil, but evil is not based on heredity or nationality.

•   Sometimes we are called on to do things that we do not want to do (and even makes us unpopular), but that we should shoulder these responsibilities with good grace.

•   Real heroes sometimes set aside their personal quest to help others in danger.

•   We should welcome people from different cultures and nations into our midst.

•   Friendship includes taking risks to support our friends and standing up for them in a crisis.

We also saw that young teenage boys are clueless about young teenage girls, but as parents, we already knew that was true.

Salient quotes:

Professor McGonagall: Is that a student?

Professor Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody: Technically, it’s a ferret.

Hermione: Everything’s going to change now isn’t it?

Harry: Yes.
Cites

I think these are important moral lessons for young adults to learn.

Some on the Christian Right have denounced the Harry Potter series–books and films–as anti-Christian and perhaps even Satanic due to the flagrant use of magic.

From news reports and a transcript of the Justice Sunday III event posted by the sponsoring Family Research Council, we can see the alternative lessons presented by some of the Christian Right.

•  The moral struggle is not between ideas that support goodness and ideas that spawn evil, but between “secular supremacists” and Godly Christians.

•   God is against gay men and lesbians signifying their commitment of love through marriage.

•   God is against abortion.

•   God wants us to put judge Samuel Alito on the Supreme court.

We also learn that liberals and non-Christians threaten America and that we should pray that “not secularism or unbelief or a hostile supreme court [should] prevail against” God’s word.

Salient quotes:

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania): [liberal judges are] ”destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code and prohibiting any dissent.” Cite

Rev. Herbert Hoover Lusk II: “Don’t fool with the church because the church has buried many a critic, and all the critics that we have not buried, we’re making funeral arrangements for them!” Cite 

As a parent, ask yourself to which event would you take your child for moral guidance?

As a citizen, ask yourself which set of principles seem best for moral guidance in running our country?

As a visitor, ask yourself which lessons would build a country that would welcome you as an immigrant or guest?

If you are a non-Christian or secularist or gay or support reproductive rights or are liberal or progressive, the choice should be even clearer.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Justice Everyday

There is tragic irony in the Christian Right’s Justice Sunday extravaganza occurring the week before the national celebration of the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Justice was a theme King returned to time and time again.

In April of 1968, the day before he was assassinated, King spoke at a rally in support of striking sanitation workers at a black evangelical church in Memphis, Tennessee that had been the center of civil rights activism in the 1950s and 1960s. The speech became known by King’s declaration that he had “Been to the Mountaintop“. King was delighted to see so many other preachers present at the rally. “It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and say, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’ “.

The cite to Amos is from the Bible’s Old Testament, Amos 5:24, a text sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims–the “people of the book”. Now Amos was a prophet, as was King, and we know from another reliable source in the New Testament that prophets are often honored except in their own country and community.

In the year before his assassination, King published a prophetic book: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? The theme was justice for all, but there was a warning that unless we all worked together to ensure justice for all, then we beckon chaos rather than building community. King often spoke of the beloved community. He sought to unite rather than to divide.

Division, discord, and demonization are the themes from the Christian Right, which has tried to drive a wedge between black people and gay people, and to stigmatize women who favor reproductive rights. A government role in crafting economic justice is decried by Christian Right ideologues as coddling the poor who they suggest just need a broom and a Bible. Peace and tolerance are denounced as giving succor to evil enemies. Justice primarily consists of handing out stiff jail terms.

King read the same Bible as the ideologues of the Christian right, but drew different lessons from the text. Another human rights advocate, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, wrote of this dilemma in his book Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love. Spong notes that there are many different ways to read sacred text. Peter J. Gomes, a preacher at Harvard University, agrees with Spong. Gomes wrote: The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart.

It was this theme of open-hearted forgiveness and genuine love of humanity that nourished the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. for a non-violent solution to the struggle for civil rights in the face of oppression and bigotry against black people.

King expanded his vision of justice to include working people, union members, and even striking sanitation workers. King saw economic justice and world peace as part of the same struggle. He spoke out in support of women rights and reproductive rights. In 1966 King won the Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Award, and he wrote that “there is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts.”

There is no record of King speaking publicly about gay rights — though homophobia and sexism are listed as “evils” by the King Center — but for many years he worked closely with an openly gay man, Bayard Rustin, a radical organizer who pulled together the 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. King considered Rustin a friend as well as a colleague, and when some urged King to distance himself from Rustin, King brushed aside the suggestion saying he was not going to conduct a witchhunt. At least one aide to the King family has said that in private conversations King spoke of supporting gay rights.

Chaos or community? Demonization or acceptance? Division or unity?

There are those who preach about their narrow definition of justice on Sunday; and those who teach about liberty and justice for all, not just on Sunday, but every day of the week.

Read the text of famous speeches by King, and listen to audio excerpts here.


Ported from Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DefConAmerica) 

The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy – Part Five

The day after Christmas, Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind Prophecy Club” sent out its daily e-mail message with a 2005 “Year in Review” summary The teaser stated: “Are we living in the End Times? Could events of today signify that the Rapture and Tribulation could occur during our generation? Five important Signs from 2005 say yes!”
What were the five signs?

•  1) Devastating natural disasters foreshadow the coming of Christ.
•  2) The Jewish population converges in Israel to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.
•  3) A union between Europe and Iraq could set the stage for the emergence of the Antichrist.
•  4) Islamic extremists lash out with London bombings and France riots.
•  5) Putin consolidates power in Russia, as the empire rebuilds.

In the text that follows, we learn that “events in Russia are exactly what we should expect to see if we are nearing the end times….the rule of the Antichrist may not be too far behind…[the] Bible prophesies that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt as headquarters for the antichrist. Babylon lies on the Euphrates River, just 50 miles south of Baghdad.”

We also are told that “…continued tensions may make Israel ripe for a covenant with the Antichrist,” and that the “ancient Sanhedrin, the official legal tribunal in Israel…issued an official call to rebuild the temple [of Solomon in Jerusalem], an act that God’s Word predicts must occur before the return of the Messiah.”

Meanwhile, natural disasters may be “a foreshadowing of the overwhelming chaos that is to transpire during the tribulation, prompting many to repent before it’s too late.”

That last piece of advice is what the Left Behind series is all about.  It is future narrative devoted to encouraging current salvation through a particular premillennial reading of the Bible. It’s not enough to be a Christian, you must embrace a narrow and specific version of Christianity. Otherwise, you are not just going to Hell, but you will be persecuted and maybe tortured and murdered as well.

That’s the basic theme of the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The 13 volumes have sold some 70 million copies, regularly hitting best seller lists. As pop theology, the messages of the series and the Left Behind Prophecy Club are troubling, but as popular political ideology, they are dangerous.

As part of its sales pitch for a subscription service, we are told that “The Left Behind Prophecy Club has the news you need to know” about:

Islamic Terrorism
Middle East Peace Process
The War in Iraq
Europe’s Power Struggle
Natural Disasters

The way these current events are woven into a discussion of Biblical prophecy creates frames of reference that help move people toward specific political viewpoints, not just concerning U.S. policies in the Middle East, but also about domestic issues.

Central to this process is a particular way of reading the Bible’s book of Revelation that establishes a timetable and sequence of events for the End Times and the Tribulations that are related to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

According to polling by Barna research, “nearly nine out of ten evangelicals who believe in the end times (88%) maintain that is it very likely that Jesus will return during the last days, and 77% of born agains who believe in the end times indicated the same.”

Tim LaHaye has spent decades melding his conspiracy theory of history into the End Times beliefs of evangelicals. In his 1980 non-fiction book The Battle for the Mind, LaHaye added a conspiracist theme to the critique of secular humanism put forward by popular theologian Francis A. Schaeffer, a conservative Christian evangelical. LaHaye dedicated the book to Schaeffer.

In a chapter entitled “Is a Humanist Tribulation Necessary?” LaHaye writes that the “seven-year tribulation period will be a time that features the rule of the anti-Christ over the world.” LaHaye explains that this “tribulation is predestined and will surely come to pass.” LaHaye, however, describes another period of tribulations that he calls the “pre-tribulation tribulation.”

LaHaye, explains that the  “pre-tribulation tribulation is:

“…the tribulation that will engulf this country if liberal secular humanists are permitted to take control of our government–it is neither predestined nor necessary. But it will deluge the entire land in the next few years, unless Christians are willing to become much more assertive in defense of morality and decency than they have been during the past three decades.”

According to LaHaye, adultery, pornography, and homosexuality “are rampant” and this is evidence of the warning by Schaeffer’s “that humanism always leads to chaos.” In the Left Behind series, LaHaye and Jenkins write about the spread of humanist moral relativism in the forms of the feminist movement, abortion, and homosexuality. The Left Behind series takes the conspiracist themes of LaHaye’s non-fiction books and spreads them through a huge audience.

The apocalyptic frames and conspiracist narratives in the Left Behind series are a form of “fiction explicitly intended to teach,” according to author Gershom Gorenberg, who warns:

“Inspiration is part of the appeal. Subliminally, so is the all-encompassing paradigm the books offer for understanding the world. Here’s how the global economy (which may have cost me my job or halved my retirement savings) works. Here’s what lies behind debate over abortion or foreign policy. Some people serve God, and some serve falsehood. Here’s why a believing Christian can feel left out: Today’s society is controlled by evil. And here’s why cataclysmic war between the forces of good and the axis of evil is inevitable.

The LaHaye conspiracy theory about secular humanism provides a powerful theological justification for Christians to establish “dominion” over sinful secular society.

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part One: Coalitions

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Today, many ideas, concepts, and frames of reference in modern American society are legacies of the history of Protestantism as it divided and morphed through Calvinism, revivalist evangelicalism, and fundamentalism.

Even people who see themselves as secular and not religious often unconsciously adopt many of these historic cultural legacies while thinking of their ideas as simply “common sense.”

What is “common sense” for one group, however, is foolish belief for another. According to author George Lakoff, a linguist who studies the linkage between rhetoric and ideas, there is a tremendous gulf between what conservatives and liberals think of as common sense, especially when it comes to issues of moral values.

In his book Moral Politics, which has gained attention in both media and public debates, Lakoff argues that conservatives base their moral views of social policy on a “Strict Father” model, while liberals base their views on a “Nurturant Parent” model.

According to Axel R. Schaefer, there are three main ideological tendencies in U.S. social reform:

•  Liberal/Progressive: based on changing systems and institutions to change individual behavior on a collective basis over time.

•  Calvinist/Free Market: based on changing individual social behavior through punishment.

•  Evangelical/Revivalist: based on born again conversion to change individual behavior, but still linked to some Calvinist ideas of punishment.

Republicans have forged a broad coalition of two of the three tendencies that involves moderately conservative Protestants who nonetheless hold some traditional Calvinist ideas:

Calvinist/Free Market advocates ranging from multinational executives to economic conservatives to libertarian ideologues; and

Evangelical/Revivalist conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists with a core mission of converting people to their particular brand of Christianity.

This is a coalition with many fracture points and disagreements.

The Calvinist/Free Market sector is already a coalition based on shared ideas about individual responsibility and successes in Free Market or Laissez Faire capitalism- sometimes called neoliberalism to trace it back to an earlier use of the term “liberal” by philosophers who opposed stringent government regulation of the economy. This is where the neoconservatives fit into the picture as sort of secular Calvinists.

Libertarians are against government economic regulations and believe in a Free Market, but libertarians generally also oppose government regulation of social matters such as gay marriage and abortion. These and other social issues, however, are central to the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists in the Republican coalition.

This can get complicated. For example the evangelical idea that it is personal conversion and salvation that will make for a more perfect society, not government programs and policies, sometimes ends up supporting (in a complementary and parallel way) the goal of libertarians and economic conservatives to reduce the size of government.

As the Bush Administration has shifted government social welfare toward “Faith-Based” programs, it has diverted government funding into privatized religious organizations (which raises serious separation of Church and State issues), but the amount of funding applied to “Faith Based” projects is small compared to the large budget cuts in previously government-funded government-run social welfare programs.

Libertarians approve of the overall budget cuts, but would prefer cutting out the government funding of “Faith Based” projects.

It’s all about compromise. Coalitions unite around shared agendas, while temporarily setting aside disagreements. So if several groups share a particular worldview, that helps bind the coalition together.

Although the Christian Right is coming from a very specific religious perspective, its theology and political ideas are rooted in a common cultural context with other components of the coalition being held together by the Bush administration. To appreciate how this has happened, we need to look at the version of Calvinism brought to our shores by early settlers.


Sources:
Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford.

Frank, Thomas. 2004. What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Lakoff, George. [1996] 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Schaefer, Axel R. 1999. “Evangelicalism, Social Reform and the US Welfare State, 1970-1996,” pp. 249-273, in David K. Adams and Cornelius A. van Minnem, eds., Religious and Secular Reform in America: Ideas, Beliefs, and Social Change. New York: New York University Press. (I have used slightly different language to describe the sectors identified by Schaefer).


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”
Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates
The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bush & the Apocalyptic Coalition

Tens of millions of Americans have been reading the Left Behind fiction series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The stories are set in the turmoil after “real” Christians have been Raptured by God who pulls them away from earth in the End Times while those who have been “left behind” face the Tribulations. This includes those Christians who didn’t make the A team who ascended.

Hugh Urban explains there is a symbiosis between the worldview of the neoconservatives who have engineered the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, and the plotline of the Left Behind series.

In an online essay titled “Bush, the Neocons and Evangelical Christian Fiction: America, `Left Behind,'” Urban observes that:

“…the Neocon’s aggressive foreign policy, centered around the Middle East, and the Christian evangelical story of the immanent return of Christ in the Holy Land– struck me as weirdly similar and disturbingly parallel. The former openly advocates a “New American Century” and a “benevolent hegemony” of the globe by U.S. power, inaugurated by the invasion of Iraq, while the latter predicts a New Millennium of divine rule ushered in by apocalyptic war, first in Babylon and then in Jerusalem.”

The Christian Right is composed of many different conservative tendencies and theological viewpoints, but a significant number have adopted this particular version of the apocalyptic End Times script, which is called premillennial dispensationalism. Some of them even belong to Protestant denominations that are not premillennial, and don’t believe in the Rapture. Pop culture trumps theology.

The focus on the Middle East has led some premillennialist Christians to become Christian Zionists. They uncritically support every policy and action by the Israeli government so that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem remains in the control of Jews who the Christian premillennialists believe will displace Islamic shrines and rebuild Solomon’s Temple–which they see as a prerequisite for the return of Jesus Christ. This has also resulted in increasing antipathy towards Muslims and Islam, who some weave into the biblical script as agents of Satan who assist the Antichrist in the End Times.

Neoconservatives have a secular approach to the Middle East that lines up along similar lines, with some advocating the idea of Samuel Huntington that there is a “clash of civilizations” pitting the good Judeo-Christian West against the evil Islamic East. In this worldview, the American brand of “Free Market” capitalism is a prerequisite for democracy; and the United States has an obligation to export both–using tanks and missiles if necessary.In his book An Angel Directs the Storm, Michael Northcott argues that the neoconservative:

“conception of political economy is as apocalyptic as more openly religious forms of millennialism precisely because it sets up an ideology of human redemption which its advocates believe they are charged to follow regardless of the destruction and violence it may entail.”

Apocalyptic violence is justified from a religious perspective by the Christian Right and from a secular perspective by the neoconservatives. Both want to “take dominion” over the earth.

This is the apocalyptic coalition crafted by the Bush Administration.

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Thursday, April 06, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

While most mainline Protestant denominations and evangelical churches have jettisoned some of the core tenets of Calvinism, ideas about punishment and retribution brought to our shores by early Calvinist settlers are so rooted in the American cultural experience and social traditions that many people ranging from religious to secular view them as simply “common sense.” What Lakoff calls the “Strict Father” model gains it power among conservatives because it dovetails with their ideas of what is a common sense approach to morality, public policy, and crime.

To understand where this “common sense” comes from, and why it is tied to the Strict Father model, requires that we trace the influence of Protestant Calvinism.

Martin Luther founded Protestantism in a schism with the Catholic Church in 1517, but it was John Calvin who literally put it on the map in the city of Geneva, which is now in Switzerland. In the mid 1500s, Calvin forged a theocracy–a society where only the leaders of a specific religion can be the leaders of the secular government.

Calvinists believed that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and tasted the apple from the tree of knowledge at the urging of an evil demon. As a result of this “original sin,” the betrayal of God’s command, all humans are born in sin. God must punish us for our sins; we must be ashamed of our wrongdoing; and we require the harsh yet loving discipline of our heavenly father to correct our failures.

Calvinists also believe that “God’s divine providence [has] selected, elected, and predestined certain people to restore humanity and reconcile it with its Creator” (Zakai, 1992). These “Elect” were originally thought to be the only people going to Heaven. To the Calvinists, material success and wealth was a sign that you were one of the Elect, and thus were favored by God. Who better to shepherd a society populated by God’s wayward children? The poor, the weak, the infirm? God was punishing them for their sins.

This theology was spreading at a time when the rise of industrial capitalism tore the fabric of European society, shifting the nature of work and the patterns family life of large numbers of people. There were manyof angry, alienated people who the new elites needed to keep in line to avoid labor unrest and to protect production and profits.

Max Weber, an early sociologist who saw culture as a powerful force that shaped both individuals and society, argued that Calvinism grew in a symbiotic relationship with the rise of industrial capitalism.

As Sara Diamond explains:

Calvinism arose in Europe centuries ago in part as a reaction to Roman Catholicism’s heavy emphasis on priestly authority and on salvation through acts of penance. One of the classic works of sociology, Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, links the rise of Calvinism to the needs of budding capitalists to judge their own economic success as a sign of their preordained salvation.

The rising popularity of Calvinism coincided with the consolidation of the capitalist economic system. Calvinists justified their accumulation of wealth, even at the expense of others, on the grounds that they were somehow destined to prosper. It is no surprise that such notions still find resonance within the Christian Right which champions capitalism and all its attendant inequalities.

What Calvinism accomplished was to fulfill the psychic needs of both upwardly mobile middle class entrepreneurs and alienated workers. Middle class businessmen (and they were men) could ascribe their economic success to their spiritual superiority. These businessmen and others who were predestined to be the Elect of God could turn to alienated workers, and explain to them that their impoverished economic condition was the result of a spiritual failure ordained by God. Their place in the spiritual (and economic) system was predestined.

This refocused anger away from material demands in the here and now. Because of their evil and weak nature, those that sinned or committed crimes had to be taught how to change their behavior through punishment, shame, and discipline.

Sound familiar? The Republican “Contract with America” and other legislative “reform” measures involving social welfare are implicitly built around early Calvinist ideas.


Sources

Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991).

Diamond, Sara.”Dominion Theology,” Z Magazine, February 1995, online archive.
Marsden, George M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans.

Moore, R. Laurence. 1986. Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

Weber, Max. [1905] 2000. The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism and Other Writings.Edited, translated, introduction, and notes by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells. New York: Penguin Books/Putnam.

Zakai, Avihu. 1992. Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.
God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Monday, May 22, 2006

It’s hard for many Americans to understand how theological disagreements and beliefs about the Second Coming of Christ and the apocalyptic End Times can play a significant role in how people vote for public policies and political candidates. For many influenced by the Christian Right, however, theological and apocalyptic beliefs shape their political participation in profound ways.

The word apocalypse refers to the idea that there is an approaching confrontation between good and evil that will reveal hidden truths and forever transform society.

For Christians the Apocalypse involves the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is tied to a Biblical prophecy of a vast Battle of Armageddon where God triumphs over Satan and then decides which Christian souls are saved and rewarded with everlasting life.

In England, the Calvinist Puritans developed an “apocalyptic tradition [that] envisioned the ultimate sacralization of England as God’s chosen nation” (Zakai, 7). This “chosen” nation would play a special role in the End Times, and was seen as fulfilling in some important way the Biblical prophecies in the book of Revelation.

Puritan settlers from England transferred this notion of a chosen nation to the New World colonies, where apocalyptic fervor and millennial expectation was common. If you think that time is running out, salvation–the saving of souls–takes on a central importance. After the United States was founded, these ideas were transformed into an aggressive variety of evangelizing to save souls for Christ before the final apocalyptic judgment that would send the unsaved to a fiery sulfurous lake called Hell.

From the pre-Revolutionary colonial period and up through the Civil War in the 1860s, most Protestants in the United States understood the timetable of the apocalyptic End Times prophesied in the Bible in a specific way called “postmillennialism.” This meant that they believed that Jesus Christ would return only after Christians had converted enough people to establish a Godly Christian society purified and prepared for his triumphant arrival. This period was generally thought to last one thousand years or a lengthy period of time, and the word millennium refers to a thousand year span of time. Since Jesus was expected to return at the end of the millennium, the belief is known as postmillennialism.

According to Michael Northcott, the postmillennial apocalyptic view in America “involves the claim that the American Republic, and in particular the free market combined with a form of marketised democracy, is the first appearance in history of a redeemed human society, a truly godly Kingdom” (Northcott, 42).

This could be interpreted in different ways. Social progress, especially in the framework of the Quakers and Unitarians, could be linked to the idea of preparing the kingdom on earth for the coming kingdom of God. In this progressive version of social welfare the focus is on changing social institutions. Another religious phenomenon, however, shifted the focus of social policies toward individual solutions as part of a theological split in Protestantism.

The Second Great Awakening, ran from the 1790s to the 1840s. Theologically, this involved “a vigorous emphasis on `sanctification,’ often called `perfectionism'” (Martin, 4). Sin was seen as tied to selfishness. Good Christians should strive to behave in a way that benefited the public good. This in turn would transform and purify the society as a whole in anticipation of the coming Apocalypse. America was seen as a Christian Nation that would fulfill Biblical prophecy, but it was individuals–not society–that needed to seek perfection in the eyes of God.

According to Martin, the evangelical Protestants involved in the Second Great Awakening:

…were so convinced their efforts could ring in the millennium, a literal thousand years of peace and prosperity that would culminate in the glorious second advent of Christ, that they threw themselves into fervent campaigns to eradicate war, drunkenness, slavery, subjugation of women, poverty, prostitution, Sabbath-breaking, dueling, profanity, card-playing, and other impediments to a perfect society (Martin, 4).

These theological beliefs were widespread, and they influenced public policy. In the mid 1800s, Protestants seeking the abolition of slavery sang “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” and that line in the Battle Hymn of the Republic was a direct reference to the apocalyptic End Times. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/b/h/bhymnotr.htm
Some of the aspects of this second evangelical revival were institutionalized into existing Protestant churches such as the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists; and these denominations grew even as they remained separate from the evangelical movement. Meanwhile, the Anglicans, Quakers, and Congregationalists who directly opposed the evangelicals began to fade in importance (Hutson).

By the late 1800s, most of the major Protestant denominations (called “Mainline” denominations) had found some accommodation with the discoveries of science and secular civic arrangements such as the separation of church and state favored by Enlightenment values (Ammerman). In addition, by the beginning of the 20th century there was “a growing interest by churches in social service, often called the Social Gospel, [which] undercut evangelicalism’s traditional emphasis on personal salvation” (Martin, 6). So there was a growing split between Christian evangelicals and Christians in the mainline Protestant denominations.

This split took several forms, including a disagreement over the timetable of the apocalyptic End Times. Most mainline Protestants remained tied in some way to postmillennialism, with its emphasis on social and political activism and a script that pushes the expected return of Christ into the future, or otherwise de-emphasizes actual date-setting. Many evangelicals, however, had embraced a form of apocalyptic belief called “premillennial dispensationalism.” In this view of the End Times, Jesus returns before the millennium of the perfect utopian society under the rule of God.

The “dispensations” are epochs believed to be prophesied in the Bible, and most premillennial dispensationalists think we are approaching the last epoch or “dispensation” and therefore the End Times are at hand. Evangelical premillennialists look at worldly events and then scan the Bible’s book of Revelation for “signs of the times,” by which they mean signs of what they think are the approaching End Times. This means the Bible has to be read as a literal script of past, present, and future events; and it increases the urge to convert people to a “born again” form of Christianity and thus save souls before time literally runs out (Martin, 7-8.). These ideas became central to several groups of Protestants, today represented by denominations such as the Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God (Oldfield 1996, 14)

One way to read the book of Revelation is as a conspiracy theory in which Satan’s agents attempt to build a collective one-world government and global religion in order to trick true Christians and prepare for the showdown between good and evil. Many evangelical and fundamentalist premillennialists concerned with the End Times looked at the burgeoning U.S. government apparatus under Roosevelt, the spread of Soviet and Chinese communism, and the United Nations as all part of the prophetic End Times Antichrist system (Oldfield 2004). In the same way, domestic social welfare policies that were built around collective institutional solutions rather than personal salvation not only promoted sin and sloth, but could also be framed as tied to Satan’s End Times strategy.


Sources:
Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 1-65. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Hutson, James. 1998. “Faith of Our Forefathers: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic,” Information Bulletin, The Library of Congress, Vol. 57, No. 5, May. Online at http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9805/religion.html.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Northcott, Michael. 2004. An Angel Directs The Storm. Apocalyptic Religion & American Empire.London: I.B. Tauris.

Oldfield, Duane Murray. 1996. The Right and the Righteous: The Christian Right Confronts the Republican Party. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
___. 2004. “The Evangelical Roots of American Unilateralism: The Christian Right’s Influence and How to Counter It,” Foreign Policy in Focus, Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, March, http://www.fpif.org/papers/2004evangelical.html

Zakai, Avihu. 1992. Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate
Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”
Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates
The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Saturday, May 13, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

The debates over social welfare and other domestic social policies in America today are shaped by three religious currents within Protestantism.  These theological views are seldom discussed openly, yet they play a powerful role in determining federal and state public policies toward the impoverished, the ill and disabled, and those unable to find work at a living wage.

Liberal and Progressive policies for social reform and public welfare are legacies of ideas pioneered by the Quakers, the Unitarians, and other dissident religious reformers who rejected the notions of the early Calvinists and evangelicals.
From the 1730s through the 1770s there was a Protestant revival movement in the colonies dubbed the First Great Awakening. A line of Protestant preachers including Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley shaped the theology of the First Great Awakening.

Edwards was a fiery preacher who still held to Calvinst orthodoxy: man was born bad, and God had predestined the Elect for Heaven. Alas, poor Edwards, he was a man mostly misunderstood. Those who heard and read his sermons (printing sermons in pamphlet form was a common practice) thought Edwards was saying people could change their fate by becoming more ardent Christians. Sometimes the theological fine points get lost in the oratory.

As the revival swept the colonies, many reported a highly emotional experience of conversion after hearing sermons at large public meetings. Unlike Edwards, Whitefield and other preachers broke with Calvinist orthodoxy and challenged the idea of predestination. They suggested that sinners who embraced Jesus in the conversion experience could find a place in Heaven.

Predestination of the Elect was too elitist and static a brand of Christianity for a new society that claimed to be a classless society and valued individuality and initiative in the quest to conquer the frontier. The ideas of spiritual growth, and equality before God, started a public discussion about the need for the government to provide for public schools. It also planted the seeds for the anti-slavery movement.

At the same time, this view could be adapted to tell alienated workers that by accepting Jesus as their savior, they could learn to live with their earthly stress and subjugated status by looking forward to the future day of salvation.

The new evangelists tended to be zealous, judgmental, and authoritarian. Not everyone was happy with the results of the First Great Awakening, and some rejected the trend and remained on the traditional orthodox Calvinist path. Others rejected both and developed what became Unitarianism as a response.

The three tendencies in colonial Protestantism during the early 1800s were:

1). Orthodoxy in the form of northern Calvinist Congregationalists and southern Anglicans;

2). Revivalist rationalism and evangelism that drew not only from the Congregationalists and Anglicans (later called Episcopalians), but also swept through the smaller Protestant denominations such as the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians;

3.) Unitarianism, still relatively small but influential in the northeast.

(Unitarianism emerged as a theological tendency before the name itself was formalized).

Recall that Axel R. Schaefer identifies these religious traditions with three different ways that the proper policies for social reform and public welfare are viewed today:

*  Calvinist/Free Market: based on changing individual social behavior through punishment.

*  Evangelical/Revivalist: based on born again conversion to change individual behavior, but still linked to some Calvinist ideas of punishment.

*  Liberal/Progressive: based on changing systems and institutions to change individual behavior on a collective basis over time.

Many ideas on social reform that are now supported by mainline Protestant denominations were initially promoted by religious dissidents such as the Quakers and later the Unitarians.

Quakers had been concerned with prison conditions since the late 1600s in both England and in colonial Pennsylvania, and they introduced the idea of prison as a means for reform rather than punishment.  They also promoted the “conception of the criminal as at least partially a victim of conditions created by society” which implied that society had some obligation to reforming the criminal (Jorns, p. 170). In the early 1800s Quaker activist Elizabeth Gurney Fry launched a major prison reform movement in England, and these ideas were carried to the United States.

The Unitarians rejected the Calvinist idea that man was born in sin and argued that sometimes people did bad things because they were trapped in poverty or lacked the education required to move up in society. In the early 1800s the dissident Unitarians split Calvinist Congregationalism and succeeded in taking over many religious institutions in New England such as churches and schools. Harvard (founded as a religious college in 1636 by the Puritans), came under control of the Unitarians in 1805 as the orthodox Calvinist Congregationalists lost religious and political power.

The Unitarians took the idea of transforming society and changing personal behavior popularized by the First Great Awakening and shifted it into a plan for weaving a social safety net under the auspices of the secular government.

This idea of a social safety net was expanded in federal public policy during the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. While criticisms of New Deal social welfare policies are often packaged in political or economic language, the underlying theological basis for some of these arguments is seldom examined.


Sources:

Adams, David K. and Cornelis A. van Minnen, eds. 1999. Religious and Secular Reform in America: Ideas, Beliefs, and Social Change. New York: New York University Press.

Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991).

Hatch, Nathan O. 1989. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press

Jorns, Auguste. 1931. The Quakers as Pioneers in Social Work. Trans. Thomas Kite Brown. New York: MacMillan, pp. 162-171.

Marsden, George M. 1982. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans.

Moore, R. Laurence. 1986. Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schaefer, Axel R. 1999. “Evangelicalism, Social Reform and the US Welfare State, 1970-1996,” pp. 249-273, in David K. Adams and Cornelius A. van Minnem, eds., Religious and Secular Reform in America: Ideas, Beliefs, and Social Change. New York: New York University Press. (I have used slightly different language to describe the sectors identified by Schaefer).

Wallace, Anthony F. C. 1956 “Revitalization Movements,” American Anthropologist, 58, no. 2 (April): 264-281.

Whitney, Janet. 1936. Elizabeth Fry: Quaker Heroine. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism

Thursday, June 29, 2006

In the 1950s and 1960s conservatives in evangelical and fundamentalist churches, and conservatives in mainline Protestant denominations, felt themselves under assault by the growth of secular and humanist ideas in the society. Religious belief in general seemed to be waning. Godless communism seemed to be advancing while the Godly in America seemed to be retreating.
Conservative Christians were particularly horrified by a series of U.S. Supreme Court and other federal court rulings on pornography, prayer in schools, the tax status of segregated Christian academies, and abortion.

The country seethed with demands for justice and equality by the Civil Rights movement which spawned the student rights movement, and then the antiwar movement, the women’s rights movement, the ecology movement, and the gay rights movement. Conservative religious forces responded with campaigns to clean up the movies and stop smut, restore prayer in public schools, and end abortion.

A critical moment came when a group of parents in Kanawha county West Virginia launched a campaign in 1974 against new textbooks introduced into the public school system. Frank discussions about sexuality and race relations were seen as part of a coordinated attack on the moral values of traditional families. Several national conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation rallied to the side of the parents. In many ways the conservative framing of social issues in terms of “family values” traces back to this campaign against the influence of progressive secular and humanistic ideas. (Berlet and Lyons).

The idea that a coordinated campaign by “secular humanists” was aimed at displacing Christianity as the moral bedrock of America actually traces back to a group of Catholic ideologues in the 1960s (Mason). It was Protestant evangelicals, especially fundamentalists, who brought this concept into the public political arena and developed a plan to mobilize grassroots activists as foot soldiers in what became known as the Culture Wars of the 1980s.

A popular theologian named Francis A. Schaeffer caught the attention of many Protestants in a series of books and essays calling on Christians to directly confront sinful and decadent secular culture with its humanist values. Several other authors picked up this attack on “secular humanism” and extended it (Diamond, Martin, Berlet and Lyons).

George Marsden argues that this new focus on secular humanism “revitalized fundamentalist conspiracy theory.” The threats of “Communism and socialism could, of course, be fit right into the humanist picture,” Marsden notes, “but so could all the moral and legal changes at home without implausible scenarios of Russian agents infiltrating American schools, government, reform movements, and mainline churches” (Marsden: 109).

Two leading activists of the Christian right, Gary Bauer and James Dobson, called the battle pitting secular humanists against Christians over the moral foundation of America a “great Civil War of Values” (Martin:344).

The idea of a conscious and coordinated conspiracy of secular humanists has been propounded in various ways by a variety of national conservative organizations, including the Christian Coalition (Pat Robertson), the Eagle Forum (Phyllis Schlafly), Concerned Women for America (Beverly LaHaye), American Coalition for Traditional Values (Tim LaHaye), Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (Fred Schwarz), and the John Birch Society (Robert Welch).

By framing this set of claims as a conspiracy to provoke a “Culture War,” conservative Christians transform political disagreements into a battle between the Godly and the Godless, between good and evil, and ultimately between those that side with God and those that wittingly or unwittingly side with Satan. This has important implications when merged with neo-Calvinist ideas about the relationship between human nature and proper public social policies; and premillennial expectations about the proper role of Christians in the apocalyptic End Times.


Sources
Berlet, Chip, and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America. New York: Guilford.

Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Marsden, George M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books

Mason, Carol. 2002. Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions

Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies

Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Friday, June 16, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies

The mainline Protestant denominations had learned to live with the secular civic arrangements of the American republic at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. Mainline Protestants supported separation of church and state. They saw the scientific method as revealing the wonder of God, and accepted scientific discoveries as complementary to religion rather than competition for hearts, minds, and souls.
This all was heresy to a group of conservative ministers who condemned church leaders and urged the rank and pew laity to return to what they saw as the fundamentals of orthodox Protestant belief.

From 1910 to 1915 these reactionary theologians published articles on what they saw as the fundamentals of Christianity. Thus they became known as the fundamentalists. Among their beliefs was the idea that the Bible was never in error and was to be read literally, not as metaphor.

While rejecting Calvinist ideas of predestination and the Elect, fundamentalists sought to restore many orthodox Calvinist tenets–thus they embraced the idea that man was born in sin and thus needed punishment, shame, and discipline to correct sinful tendencies. Some who opposed what they saw as the liberal and progressive ideas of the mainstream and mainline Protestant churches decided not to go as far as the Fundamentalists, and so they retained the identification of being evangelicals (Ammerman; Marsden 1982, 1991; Martin). Fundamentalists, therefore, are evangelicals with a more doctrinaire and aggressive approach to battling secularists and religious liberals. As Marsden quips, “A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is mad about something,” and yet both evangelicals and fundamentalists are “strikingly diverse” (1991: 1-2).

Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists have historically connected apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible’s book of Revelation to current political and social events (Boyer; Fuller). Robert C. Fuller notes that trying to match real life political figures with the evil Antichrist (prophesied as the sidekick of Satan in Revelation) became something of an “American obsession” in certain circles. This is especially true among those who embrace premillennial dispensationalism as their view of the End Times timetable. The rise of communism and anarchism during the post WWI period were easily viewed through the lens of a conspiratorial version of apocalyptic belief and was woven into the developing beliefs of premillennial fundamentalists. Liberalism and radicalism were not just heresies–they were part of a conspiracy against God.
According to Frank Donner:

“Bolshevism came to be identified over wide areas of the country by God-fearing Americans as the Antichrist come to do eschatological battle with the children of light,” as prophesied in Revelation. Although based in Christianity, this apocalyptic anticommunist worldview developed a “slightly secularized version,” explains Donner, and it was “widely-shared in rural and small-town America, postulated a doomsday conflict between decent upright folk and radicalism–alien, satanic, immorality incarnate (Donner: 47-48)

One skirmish against this cosmic battle against alien and secular ideas was aimed against science–especially Darwin’s theory of evolution–with “creationism” becoming a major cause for fundamentalists in the 1920s
(read more).
Evangelicals and fundamentalists, however, received such bad press during and after the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” that many of them withdrew from direct political and social involvement, building a separate subculture that lasted until the Cold War.
Michael Cromartie explains:

“For several decades, from roughly 1925 until the end of World War Two, a large sector of conservative Protestant social thought was influenced by a pessimistic form of eschatology and a pietistic individualism that looked with disdain on efforts to improve social conditions and political structures. These conservative Protestants had originally believed that the process of secularization was simply irreversible; this pessimism was reinforced by their pre-millennial theology. Some simply suffered from over-heated eschatological [End Times] expectations (Cromartie).

Leo P. Ribuffo has studied “The Old Christian Right” that flourished between WWI and WWII. He pays special attention to the influence of apocalyptic Biblical prophecy on the leaders of the Protestant “Far Right” such as William Dudley Pelley, Gerald B. Winrod, and Gerald L. K. Smith (Ribuffo: 2-24, 58-72, 83-116, 175-177). While these men all ended up on the political fringe, some of their ideas gained a wide following. In the 1930s and 1940s, a significant number of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists saw President Roosevelt and other “modernists” not only as moving inexorably toward collectivism, but also sliding down “a slippery slope from liberalism to atheism, nudism, and Communism” (Ribuffo: 110).
A large number of evangelicals and fundamentalists were highly critical and suspicious of the social reforms implemented during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. Liberals were widely seen as paving the road to communism as part of a vast conspiracy. Government welfare programs could be pictured as similar to the collectivism of Godless and perhaps Satanic Soviet communism.

Although fundamentalists and evangelicals tended to withdraw from the political fray, devoting most of their energy to inwardly-directed religious observance, they challenged modern ideas using such modern tools as radio and later television to communicate their message. Fundamentalists and evangelicals never went away. They lived within their own subcultures, saving souls, and watching for the signs of the times by matching current events to Biblical prophecies. To them, the social safety net and the welfare state were just more evidence that America was going to Hell.


Sources
Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 1-65. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Cromartie, Michael. 2000. “Religious Conservatives in American Politics 1980-2000: An Assessment.”

Donner, Frank J. (1980). The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Fuller, Robert C. (1995). Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M. (1982). Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M. (1991). Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions

Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Decoding The Da Vinci Code:
Causa Merdae Flabellum Incursandae

Last Supper
01100010-01111001-00100000-01000011
-01101000-01101001-01110000-00100000-
01000010-01100101-01110010-0
1101100-01100101-01110100

God help me, The Da Vinci Code movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The book by Dan Brown was a moderately fun thriller, but I had heard so many negative reviews, I went to the screening with my Tripe Belch sense of dread.

I had been talking with my friend Denise Griebler, a minister with the United Church of Christ (UCC) about The Da Vinci Code, and how it combines longstanding debates about Christian theology (based in part on the Gnostic Gospels) with conspiracy theories old and new.

The UCC is the media-savvy Protestant denomination that has been producing television advertisements about welcoming people from all walks of life to their church. All the major networks have refused to run them. These are the same TV networks that helicopter in film crews to cover marginal self-appointed Christian Right demagogues while ignoring statements by mainstream church leaders such as Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

That got me to thinking about how we can use the massive publicity around The Da Vinci Codemovie, and the early attendance rush to the theaters, to talk with our neighbors, friends, and others about the real struggles within Christianity. We need to decode The Da Vinci Code. Codes are fun. We should always be ready to seize an opportunity ubi merda flabellum incursat.

There are several themes we can decode, and in doing so separate the facts in The Da Vinci Code from the fiction. I started doing this on the “Uprising” radio show hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar at KPFK-FM, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles. There were a number of callers to this talk show, and we had a lively conversation. What follows are just sketches of ideas for starting conversations.

01000001-01110011-01110011-01100101-01101101
-01100010-01101100-01101001-01101110-01100111-
00100000-01110100-01101000-01100101-00100000-01000010-
01101001-01100010-01101100-01100101

As many others have pointed out, Jesus of Nazareth was not followed around be someone with a tape recorder–not even a stenographer lugging around parchment and ink. The Bible is based on an oral tradition converted into text after the fact.

The Bible was pieced together from a collection of materials, and some written texts were excluded. We can discuss the process of assembling the Bible. What was included? What was excluded? Why? How does Biblical literalism function with a text that was assembled by a committee?

01010010-01101111-01101100-01100101-00100000-
01101111-01100110-00100000-01010111-01101111-
01101101-01100001-01101110

There was a struggle among the early followers of Jesus over the role of women. This grain of truth in the Da Vinci Code can be used to ask about how Peter and Paul introduced hierarchy and patriarchy into the Jesus movement.

Try exploring the very real writings on the sacred feminine especially in Gnosticism. Look for articles and books by Rosemary Radford Reuther, or for a really challenging set of texts: Mary Daly. Peter J. Gomes is the author of The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart. Gomes, a minister at Harvard, reminds us to read the Bible with an awareness that some passages represent contemporary prejudices and systems of oppression introduced into the text by the human authors.

01000111-01101110-01101111-01110011-01110100-
01101001-01100011-00100000-01000111-01101111-
01110011-01110000-01100101-01101100-01110011

The Gnostic Gospels are some of the texts excluded (and denounced as heresy) by those that assembled the Bible. Elaine Pagels explains the Gnostic Gospels and sets the table for a great dinner conversation about what was really going on at the Last Supper. If Mary Magdalene wasn’t in the picture–why not?

01001100-01101001-01110100-01101101-01110101-
01110011-00100000-01010100-01100101-01110011-
01110100-01110011

The recitation of creeds has been used as litmus tests to “out” heretics in Christianity. Creeds play different roles in different churches. For example: “The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of faith” according to the website at Denise Griebler’s church in Illinois. Is there only one exact way to practice Christianity? Who says? Do people who pray to God pray to the same God? Do humans get to decide what prayers are heard?

01001111-01110000-01110101-01110011-00100000-
01000100-01100101-01101001

Some members of the Catholic group Opus Dei serve as the enforcers of the most dogmatic, repressive, and authoritarian aspects of the Catholic Church. OK, the group probably never hired an masochistic albino hit man to track down and murder those who get in their way. But as author Penny Lernoux and others have pointed out, Opus Dei played a role in crushing Liberation Theology and siding with wealthy elites and right-wing dictators against poor peoples movements in Central and South America.

At Talk2Action Frank Cocozzelli provides details about Opus Dei in “The Catholic Right: A Series:Parts Two & Three.

01000011-01100001-01110100-01101000-01101111-
01101100-01101001-01100011-00100000-01000011
-01101000-01110101-01110010-01100011-01101000

The current Pope is intelligent and witty–but very reactionary and patriarchal–as Cardinal Ratzinger he encouraged the most right-wing elements within the church hierarchy and laity. We can criticize the Catholic Church for sexism and homophobia and authoritarian impulses. See the first part of Frank Cocozzelli’s series on “The Catholic Right.

01000011-01101111-01101110-01110011-01110000-
01101001-01110010-01100001-01100011-01111001-
00100000-01010100-01101000-01100101-01101111-
01110010-01101001-01100101-01110011

I enjoy conspiracy theories as entertainment: the X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m currently reading a novel about a contemporary investigation of historical events woven around conspiracy theories, lost statues, hidden passages in a castle, the Catholic Church. The novel by Elizabeth Peters is Borrower of the Night, and before the novel begins, Peters lays out what parts of the novel are based on historic facts, and which are not. Dan Brown wrote a similar statement in the beginning of The Da Vinci Code, but he fudged the facts. Much of The Da Vinci Code is borrowed from longstanding conspiracy theories about the Freemasons and their interaction with the secret Illuminati group. Promoting conspiracy theories as fact is playing with fire. Why are conspiracy theories so popular right now?

01010000-01110010-01101001-01101111-01110010-
01111001-00100000-01101111-01100110-00100000-
01010011-01101001-01101111-01101110-00100000

The Priory of Sion as the protectors of the Holy Grail are the good guys in the film. As such, the group does not exist. It appears to have been invented recently, and the hucksters even created faked papers they stashed in a library so they could be “found.” For more details, see this, andthis, and this. Was it appropriate for Dan Brown to imply that the Priory of Sion actually exists?

01001100-01100101-01110100-00100111-01110011-
00100000-01010100-01100001-01101100-01101011

The movie the Da Vinci Code gives us a golden opportunity, so let’s talk about some of these issues. Our cup runneth over–even if there is no chalice in the Last Supper painting by Da Vinci. There is a struggle over faith, religion, and God going on in our society right now.

The NCC’s Bob Edgar puts it this way:

I think there are two Christian Churches. I think one Christian Church was fascinated with the Old Testament Messiah, who was going to come and lead a mighty army. They see that Old Testament Messiah through the eyes of the Armageddon theology. You hear them talking a lot about the second coming. I think there’s another Christian Church who was surprised that God sent the Messiah in a humble birth and a person who was a conscientious objector talking about peace and cared about the poor. And this other Church think the second coming already happened. We call it Easter. God is in fact inviting us to help change the world in which we live. read more

Ruby Sales of Spirit House also puts matters in a clear perspective in her essay Empire v. Liberation Christianity:

The Empire religion espoused by George Bush and his white Christian conservative allies is headed by a God who appears to be white supremacist, patriarchal, and upper class, one who stood on the side of enslavement and the genocide of native peoples throughout the globe, including the Americas.

This is the message of conservative right wing Christians. They misuse scripture to justify their beliefs, and they hide their intentions behind self-centered and pious God talk that undergirds and propels exclusion and domination–whether it’s about the inferiority of women, black people, or lesbians and gays.

Liberation Christianity begins with the assertion that God is on the side of the oppressed rather than the side of the Empire. This is the good news of the radical Jew Jesus who challenged the Roman Empire.

Right wing Protestant evangelicals and Catholics have raised a rucus about the movie The Da Vinci Code. We can join the fray. What are some other questions we can ask in public based on what we see in the book and movie? And after this, we can look around and see if anything is Left Behind.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism

After World War Two, many American evangelicals and fundamentalists thought that it was the external threat of Soviet military power and the internal threat of communist subversion that was likely to send Americans hurtling into Hell. Global nuclear annihilation, in this context, might be preferable to a Godless secular collectivist society. The strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction earned its ironic acronym.

Meanwhile, social welfare was being framed as a communist plot.

Evangelist Billy Graham began a series of revivalist crusades during this period, originally through rallies scheduled by Youth for Christ. Graham struck off on his own and in 1949 a hugely successful Los Angeles crusade boosted him into public prominence, in part because anticommunist tycoon William Randolph Hearst instructed the newspapers he owned to “puff Graham.”

Graham started a national radio program in late 1950, The Hour of Decision, which in turn led to sporadic and rather dull television specials beginning in 1951. Graham in person and on the radio was a more charismatic and persuasive figure. In 1957 Graham went to Madison Square Garden in New York City to lead a crusade; and J. Howard Pew, who funded a variety of anticommunist groups, offered a financial guarantee to bring the crusade to network television.
Both Hearst and Pew viewed the New Deal social welfare programs as a form of collectivism that would lead to socialism and communism, and further saw that a particular brand of Christian evangelicalism rooted in libertarian Calvinist themes could provide a bulwark against further slippage down the slope from social welfare to communist totalitarianism, in their view.

Hearst and Pew had backed a winner with their support of Graham. According to William Martin:

“The first broadcast, on 1 June, [drew] approximately 6.4 million viewers, more than enough to convince the evangelist of television’s great promise as a vehicle for the gospel. A Gallup poll taken that summer revealed that 85% of Americans could correctly identify Billy Graham, and three-quarters of that number regarded him positively” (Martin, n.d.).

Graham’s homey view of the ideal individual in the idealized America fit neatly into plans by ultraconservatives to roll back the collectivist social welfare policies of the New Deal. Writers such as Ludwig von Mises wrote about the natural affinity between Christianity and Capitalism. There were also extensive mass media efforts to “teach” Americans of the benefits of a particular form of “Free Market” capitalism over communism, with material from the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Foundation for Economic Education with its magazine Freeman. Part of this plan included strengthening America against the external and internal threats of communism by increasing public participation in civic life.

Liberty Bell front

In 1956 the presidential election featured a “Get out the Vote” campaign built around the theme of “Let Freedom Ring.” Thousands of Boy Scouts hooked cardboard Liberty Bells onto doorknobs in an effort to attract new voters to the polls.
Some evangelicals were convinced to re-enter the political arena; which many had avoided since the embarrassment of the Scopes trial in 1925. Still, the evangelical voting patterns that emerged were not politicized. An evangelical’s preference for Republicans or Democrats was primarily determined by demographic factors other than theological belief or religious affiliation. This would change.

A series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1950s and early 1960s worried many conservative Christians, and some began to get involved in public policy debates and organizing over issues such as obscenity and pornography, and then other social issues. Groups such as Fred Schwarz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, the Church League of America, and the Freedoms Foundation joined other ultraconservative organizations in education and training against communist subversion by liberals in mainline Protestant denominations and even the Catholic Church. In 1959 the John Birch Society (JBS) was born. These and other institutions would form the foundation of what later emerged as the New Christian Right in the late 1970s (Diamond 1989, 1995, Hardisty; Berlet & Lyons; Goldberg)

Eckard V. Toy, Jr. explains that:

“The genesis of the JBS can be traced to a number of sources, but a meeting in New York City in early 1958 was a primary cause. Welch and several men who would later join him in the Birch Society attended a meeting held by conservative polemicist Merwin K. Hart at the University Club on February 14, 1958, to discuss ways to reverse what Hart described as the national trend toward collectivism” (Toy).

From the beginning, Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the social safety net were targets of intense criticism from the JBS and similar groups, and much of what was dismissed in the 1960s as dubious Birch Society ideological fantasy is now part of the Republican Party platform or enacted into law.


Sources
Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.

Burch, Philip H., Jr. 1973. “The NAM as an Interest Group.” Politics and Society, vol. 4, no. 1.

Diamond, Sara. 1989. Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Goldberg, Michelle. 2006. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. New York: W.W. Norton

Hardisty, Jean V. 1999. Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon Press.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1990. To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism.Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lyons, Matthew N. 1998. “Business Conflict and Right-Wing Movements.” In Amy E. Ansell, ed. Unraveling the Right: The New Conservatism in American Thought and Politics (pp. 80-102). Boulder, CO: Westview.

Martin, William C. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Saloma, John S. III, 1984. Ominous Politics: The New Conservative Labyrinth. Hill and Wang.

Toy, Eckard V. Jr. 2004. “The Right Side of the 1960s: The Origins of the John Birch Society in the Pacific Northwest.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 105, No. 2 (Summer); http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ohq/105.2/toy.html.

• For Billy Graham, see:

Martin, William C. “Billy Graham Crusades: U.S. Religious Program.” The Museum of Broadcast Communications, http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/billygraham/billygraham.htm.

Martin, William C. 1991. A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story. New York: William Morrow.

http://www.billygraham.org/mediaRelations/bios.asp?p=1

http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bio.html

http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/191.htm

• Pew continued to worry about liberalism in the church: http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/192.htm#2

• On von Mises networking economic libertarians and 1940s-1960s Christian evangelical right-wing groups, see:

1945-1949.
1950-1954.
1955-1959.
1960-1964.
1965-1969.

See specifically:

Ludwig von Mises, 1950, “The Alleged Injustice of Capitalism,” Faith and Freedom. 1:7(June), pp. 5-8. Included as Part 3, Chapter 4, in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. Reprinted in 1952, Reflections on Faith and Freedom, Los Angeles: Spiritual Mobilization, pp. 39-45.

Ludwig von Mises, 1960, “The Economic Foundations of Freedom,” Christian Economics,12:2(January 26, 1960)1-2; online here.

Ludwig von Mises, 1960, “The Economic Foundations of Freedom,” The Freeman, (Irvington, N.Y.) 10:4(April), pp. 44-52; von Mises, “The Economic Foundations of Freedom,” in Essays On Liberty, VII.

• There is a longstanding relationship between the Freedoms Foundation and the anti-union National Right to Work Committee and its Foundation. See: here and here

• For a list of various “public service” campaigns in this period, see

http://web.library.uiuc.edu/ahx/uasfa/1302207.pdf


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions

Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies

Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism

Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

New Front in the Culture War: Gay Rights Sacrificed on the Altar of the Mid-Term Elections

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Christian Right has regrouped and launched a new offensive in the ongoing Christian Right Culture War. Gay marriage and the “homosexual agenda” are the primary tactical scapegoats. These culture warriors are on a mission from God, and like a band of blue state brothers (and now sisters), they seek to mobilize “values voters” to go to the polls in November and vote for Godly candidates. They are encouraged by new evidence that this type of Christian Right voter mobilization plan did indeed help elect the Godly candidate, George W. Bush, President in 2004.

After attending two days of speeches at the “Washington Briefing: 2006 Values Voters Summit,” it was evident to me that the terms “Godly candidates” and “Republican candidates” are seen as pretty much identical by the Christian Right. The event was held from September 21-24 in Washington, D.C., with the main conference on Friday and Saturday, the 22nd and 23rd. The event was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council. Co-Sponsors included other political action arms of major Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon).

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins suggested the nation was under attack from without and within, which was a theme throughout the conference. The domestic forces of Satan–secularists, liberals, homosexuals, feminists, abortionists, pornographers–are the subversives within; while the barbaric terrorist Islamic fascists are the external enemy. Godly “values voters” should remember how they felt on 9/11, and then go into the voting booth and vote to prevent the Democrats from having the opportunity to appoint more activist judges who are wittingly or unwittingly in league with the evil forces of darkness.
Some speakers tried to make a distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorists, but others crossed the line into broad attacks. Perkins, for example, suggested the Pope was on target to have linked Islam and violence. Given the Crusades, the Inquisition, and witch hunts, one might have prayed that Perkins been more self-reflective. The Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has not been cited as a religious authority during much of the history of Protestant Christian evangelicalism in the United States, but there were Catholic speakers and participants at the event, although they remained a small minority.

This new Christian Right project seeks to replace the work of the Christian Coalition, a group that hosted similar “Road to Victory” meetings well-attended in the 1990s, but which recently has fallen on hard times. There were about 1,000 people at the opening sessions, with total participation reaching over 1,700 by the close of the event. Not as big as the biggest Christian Coalition meetings, but not shabby, either. The exhibit hall was much smaller, however.

According to Perkins, radical homosexuals and activist judges are a threat to religious freedom; and the nation is facing a clear and present danger. A clear theme was that it is all for the children–whether it is pro-life issues, opposition to gay marriage, restoring morality to America, or terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union was routinely denounced, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State was slammed, with its executive director, Barry W. Lynn, denounced by name several times. Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, apparently has a Godliness deficit. Other favorite targets were Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and Rosie O’Donnell. Pelosi (D-CA) is the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives.

The goal of the Godless liberal secular humanist horde, according to conference speakers, is nothing less than the suppression of religious expression in public. Not just eliminating prayer in schools, but banning any mention of God or religion across America. While some speakers chose their words more carefully than others, it was obvious that the Christian Right goal in the upcoming election is to elect Republicans and foil attempts by Democrats to seat “activist” judges.

Gary Bauer urged the audience not to be afraid of the ACLU, Ted Kennedy, or Nancy Pelosi, and told the attendees they should put Christian citizenship at the top of their list of priorities. We are close to winning these battles, Bauer said, and then we can give our children a shining city on a hill. This is a reference to the idea of early Christian settlers that they could create in the Puritan and Pilgrim colonies a New Jerusalem to build the kingdom of God, and light a beacon of hope for the world from Boston–the city on the hill. This idea was based on the belief that America should be a Christian theocracy.

Christian Right Moral Values Voters Helped Elect Bush in 2004

The Christian Right urges its core supporters to run for every political post “from dog-catcher on up.” as one speaker at the FRC Action conference this past weekend told the audience. It was obvious that the leaders of the Christian Right believe that Christian Right “Moral Values” voters helped elect Bush in 2004, and now there is scholarly evidence to back up that claim.
After the election in 2000, there was a brief flurry of media reports that voters who were concerned about “moral values” played a significant role in electing George Bush. Then there was an avalanche of reports claiming that since the question in the exit poll interviews was ambiguous, that values was not a factor. It turns out the initial reports were essentially correct, although at the time there was no proper evidence to back up the claim.

A study by John C. Green and Mark Silk, “Why Moral Values Did Count,” appeared in  Religion in the News, in Spring 2005.

http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol8No1/WhyMoral%20ValuesDidCount.htm

According to Green and Silk (who used highly sophisticated statistical tools), regional variations in how voters ranked their issue concerns demonstrate that “moral-values voters were more important to the president’s victory than the national totals imply.” And in Ohio especially, Christian evangelicals and “regular worship attenders and less regular attenders were both more likely to be Bush moral values voters.” Green and Silk conclude that as “Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell hoped, the coalition of the moral has expanded beyond evangelicals, but for the most part more in the evangelical heartland than elsewhere.” This group of “religious folks were more likely to choose moral values in the Bush regions than in the Kerry regions.”

This indicates that the Christian Right mobilization of voters in key states such as Ohio did make a difference in the 2000 election, and the FRC Action conference openly embraced that notion. It was clear from conversations with attendees that many felt the statewide initiatives to block gay marriage had drawn many evangelical voters to the polls, and that the vote for Bush came along for the ride.

Judge Pickering made this same point at the FRC Action summit when he said the Bush might not have won Ohio if the Marriage Amendment had not been on the ballot. Pickering said there was a culture war with the battle over the confirmation of judges a central front.

Gay Marriage as Scapegoat

Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) quoted scholar David Landes on the centrality of culture. According to Romney, every child has a right to have a mother and father.  Liberals, he said, support democracy only when they think that the outcome is a foregone conclusion that favors their views. Romney urged support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.
I think the warm reception for Romney is significant. The man next to me leaned over and said: “That’s our next President.”

Time and again speakers at the conference made it clear that gay marriage was the key battle in the campaign to protect religion, (and thwart the plans of the Devil). Gay marriage, we were told, will spread like a disease across America from the source of the infection–Massachusetts and its cabal of activist judges. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears in an FRC promotional video built around this attack on gay marriage. The video advertises “Liberty Sunday,” a nationally simulcast rally to be held October 15, 2006 at a Boston church.

The flyer for the event proclaims:

“For over 200 years the light of the church has illuminated the true meaning of freedom. Now a radical agenda seeks to extinguish that flame.”

The true meaning of “freedom,” based on many statements made at the FRC Action conference, is that real Freedom comes from God (and through his son Jesus Christ), and that the First Amendment was written to protect churches from government interferences. This is half a loaf, Constitutionally speaking. The flip side is that there should not be any state-sponsored religion–a concept brushed aside by comments suggesting that a specific mention of the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. This is like suggesting that when the Rolling Stones sang “Let’s spend the night together,” they were not thinking about sex.

As for gay sex, if we allow it to be sanctioned, then freedom is lost and God offended. Following this line of argument? Me neither….

Patriotism is Apparently Republican

Gary Bauer told the story of the passengers on United Flight 93 on 9/11 who met at the back of the plane to discuss forcing their way into the cockpit to prevent the aircraft from being used as a missile. Bauer observed the group of passengers voted, since they were Americans after all, and then they stood for family, faith, and freedom by running up the aisle to the front of the plane, forcing the hijackers to react, which sent the plane hurtling into the ground and prevented an even greater catastrophe.
Bauer looked at the audience and told them that they were just being asked to run to the voting booth. The connection between the Islamic terrorist attack on America on 9/11, and the threat posed to American society by homosexuals, liberal secularists, activist judges and Democrats was repeated a number of times throughout the conference.

Alliance Defense Fund

Beyond the mid-term election in November, there are plans to extend the Culture War.
Day two of the meeting dawned with the Alliance Defense Fund breakfast, where there was much food, little tolerance for gay marriage, and no room to get in. An overflow crowd of 250 sat through what was essentially an extended advertisement for the Alliance Defense Fund, which seeks to position itself as the major adversary to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Another topic was the alleged “War on Christmas,” which refers to disputes over the boundaries of bringing the religious aspects of the holiday into the classroom and shopping mall.

ADF speakers also described how they had launched the “Day of Truth” to follow the Day of Silence during which young supporters of gay rights attend classes but otherwise do not speak in a silent protest of oppression. The “truth” involves invoking Biblical interpretations that are claimed to denounce homosexuality as an affront to God–a matter disputed within Christianity.

This was a crowd that booed the ACLU, groaned at the mere mention of the city of San Francisco, and snickered at a crude jibe at Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which, along with the ACLU, has become a favorite target for speakers throughout the event.

Connie Marshner

There was only one short time period on Saturday for break-out workshops during the event, and I attended the one on “Voter Identification and Turnout: A Church Plan,” run by Connie Marshner. Not a name known to most on the political left, but Connie Marshner was one of the earliest key architects of the “pro-family” movement that helped mobilize the Christian Right, which became a key sector of the New Right coalition.
Marshner announced at the start of the workshop that she had used the set of techniques in her 17-page handout to help re-elect Rick Santorum (R-PA), one of the staunchest allies of the Christian Right in Congress.
She began to outline her very practical nuts-and-bolts techniques, which she plainly stated was based on first obtaining the list of members of a church, parish, temple, or Mosque if there are any pro-life Muslims, she added with a smile. She explained that if your pastor does not want to have the church involved in politics, then this is a people-to-people campaign that does not expose the church to IRS sanctions regarding tax exempt status. Oh really?
The process starts with anonymous cold calls to members of the church to determine their voting leanings. Marshner suggested the caller be someone not in the congregation who could pose as being from a polling company.  Hmmmm.
Someone in the audience wanted to know what to say if someone wanted to know where the caller got their name and phone number.
Say you got it from the list of registered voters, advised Marshner, it is a public record.
What if the number is unlisted?
Here is where I understood Marshner’s response to suggest that the good Christian folks in the room just tell a fib. And not surprisingly, there were some grumbles from the crowd. This advice seemed, shall we say, deceptive.

Sensing discontent, Marshner said individuals should leave it up to their conscience on how to answer the question.
I turned to the man next to me and asked if this all seemed questionable ethically.
“Yes,” he answered.
Read more about this at the AUSCS website:

“Speaker At ‘Values Voter Summit’ Recommends Church-Based Organizing Plan Based On Deception”

http://www.au.org/site/News2?JServSessionIdr006=wqm1z42sg6.app13a&abbr=pr&page=NewsArticle&id=8563&security=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241

Katherine Harris and Spiritual Warfare

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (an elected U.S. Representative now running for the Senate), recently announced she had studied in Switzerland with the godfather of the Christian Right, Francis A. Schaeffer.
http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/6298.article
She told the audience at the FRC Action meeting of the importance of winning in November, and then suggested it was a battle against “principalities and powers,” which many in the audience would hear as a Biblical reference to a struggle with the demonic agents of Satan.
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=0813365&p=1004924
Schaeffer, the pop theologian who pioneered the concept of dominionism and helped spark the Christian Right, urged Christian to engage in civil disobedience against immoral civil authority.
A few websites reporting this story have confused generic dominionism (Schaeffer) with Christian Reconstructionism (Rushdoony). The two are not identical. See these articles that place Dominionism, Schaeffer, and Rushdoony in context:
http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm
http://www.publiceye.org/diamond/sd_domin.html
http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html

The Perfect Ending

A highlight of the closing “Family, Faith & Freedom Gala” banquet was a lecture by Newt Gingrich on Morality and Politics. Who says the Christian Right doesn’t appreciate the surreal?
At what could be more surreal than the emcee at the very end reminding the audience that we were engaged in “Spiritual Warfare”

One of the many subtexts here is the view of many premillennial dispensationalists that we are in the End Times and thus true Christians must struggle with the literal forces of Satan. Elite political and religious leaders are expected to betray true Christians during this period, according to certain readings of the book of Revelation. No mention of the End Times was needed, it simply could be read into the rhetoric by those so inclined. Thus the event sidestepped a specific theological mention of the End Times while hitting the hot buttons of many who hold those views–and thus the leadership of the event is avoiding potential criticism of pandering to apocalyptic beliefs.

On the way out, we were all handed a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich.


More about the conference at:
People for the American Way’s Right Watch

“US Senator Inhofe Claims Global Warming is a UN Conspiracy” by Bruce Wilson


“Bill Bennett, God-Man : ‘When 4 Americans Are Hung…. You Level The City'” by Bruce Wilson


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Chip’s Blog

Liberty Sunday: Gay Bashing for Republican Victor

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Liberty Sunday rally on October 15, 2006 continued the orchestrated campaign of gay bashing for Republican victory in the midterm elections.
Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council which staged the event, told the audience, especially the viewers in other states, to vote their values, especially in states where gay marriage is on the ballot. And if they live in one of those states…they should call ten people on election day. Perkins said that for gay rights activists, tolerance is a one way street, and that the protestors want to silence the voice of the church, even to the point of intimidating voters.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney strode onstage live accompanied by his wife Ann. He had been scheduled to appear by video.

There were several pre-taped video segments opened with an audio of hoof beats, tied at the beginning to Paul Revere, warning of the impending attack by the British. Perkins noted that Revere was riding toward a church.

Bishop Wellington Boone once again stated that the “Sodomites” were engaged in the “rape of the civil rights movement.”

Dr. Roberto Miranda spoke of the “powerful  aggressive instinct,” of homosexual organizers, and described the struggle for gay rights, saying: “like a rogue foreign cell inside an organism, it will continue to replicate itself.”

The Rev. Donald Wildmon warned evangelicals that the day could come when government agents  could come into their church and arrest them for a hate crime just for speaking their mind as a Christian about homosexuality.

Dr. James Dobson observed that the two political parties have different perspectives about gay marriage, and with the election coming up, folks needed to know that one or two Supreme Court Justices are just hanging on, and that the confirmation of the next justice could be pivotal.

Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute warned that homosexual money is flooding into this state to deny evangelicals their right to vote and their right to free speech. And therefore everyone needed to vote their values on November 7.

Alan Chambers, Exec. Dir. of Exodus International, opened by saying that there but for the grace of God, I might have been outside protesting this event.  “There is an agenda to silence the truth.”  Freedom from homosexuality is possible, he claimed, and that is through an intimate relationship “with our savior Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Harry Jackson denounced the “attempt to hijack the civil rights movement.”

For background, visit:

my earlier story

The People for the American Way href=”http://www.rightwingwatch.org/religious_right/liberty_sunday/index.html”>rightwingwatch website.

The Americans United for Separation of Church and Statehref=”http://www.au.org/site/News2?abbr=pr&page=NewsArticle&id=8617&security=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241″> website.

Official List of Speakers

    • Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
    • Dr. Roberto Miranda, Pastor, Lion of Judah Congregation
    • Bishop Gilbert Thompson, Senior Pastor, Jubilee Christian Church
    • Bishop Wellington Boone, Wellington Boone Ministries
    • Alan Chambers, President, Exodus International
    • Ann Romney, First Lady of Massachusetts
    • Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts
    • Ray Flynn, Former Mayor of Boston
    • Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family
    • Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship
    • Gary Bauer, American Values
    • Professor Robert George, Princeton University
    • Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado (R)
    • Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana (R)
    • Judge Charles Pickering
    • Alan Sears, Alliance Defense Fund
    • Rev. Don Wildmon, American Family Association
    • Maggie Gallagher, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy
    • William Donohue, Catholic League

Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments at www.Talk2Action.org.

Monday, October 09, 2006

October 15: Liberty Sunday – Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering

The event is billed as “Liberty Sunday: Defending Our First Freedom,” with the slogan, “Preserving the light of the Church.” Sunday, October 15, 2006 at 7pm eastern time, in Boston at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, “in response to the legal battles over marriage taking place in Massachusetts.”

One notice from FRC is titled “First Amendment Under Attack,” and reads: “Family Research Council will tackle one of the most divisive debates in the culture wars during a nationwide simulcast.” The program simulcast will be hosted on the Sky Angel satellite broadcast service.

These battles are destined to have an impact not only on marriage, but also on the free speech and freedom of religion rights of all citizens. Liberty Sunday will broadcast live in churches across the country via Sky Angel satellite system, and will also broadcast on Daystar Television, Bott Radio Network, American Family Radio and web-cast on http://www.libertysunday.com(Cite:)

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romey will appear by video, but he is sending his wife to the event to introduce his cyber appearance. Here is the announcement from FRC:

Mrs. Romney Joins Liberty Sunday

I am pleased to announce that Ann Romney, the First Lady of Massachusetts, will join us for Liberty Sunday, a nationwide FRC simulcast that will air from Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts. She will introduce her husband, Gov. Mitt Romney, who will join by video to discuss the legal battles over marriage taking place in Massachusetts. Governor Romney has seen the impact that these battles have had not only on marriage but also on parental rights, the well-being of children, and the free speech rights of citizens in his state. (FRC Email, October 9, 2006)

“Send us your Stories” urges the blurb on the front page of the FRC website.

Have you been forced to attend pro-homosexual “diversity” training at work? Have your children subjected to pro-homosexual rhetoric in school? If your religious liberties have been affected in these and other ways, we want to hear from you. Send us your stories. Then, join us as we address these issues. (Cite:)

Here is the full invitation:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

So begins the Bill of Rights with the first amendment to our Constitution–one that guarantees a God-given freedom. For over 200 years the light of the church has illuminated this freedom, but now a radical agenda seeks to extinguish that flame.

The expansion of non-discrimination laws to include homosexuality inevitably constricts our right to express and act on our religious beliefs. Recently, there has been a string of incidents involving government intolerance against those who live out their faith in the public square.

To respond to this growing threat, I’m pleased to announce that on October 15, 2006, FRC will host a nationwide simulcast from Boston, Massachusetts called “Liberty Sunday: Defending Our First Freedom.” I invite you to join us as we examine the cultural and legal influences that threaten to erode religious liberties and muzzle free speech.

Tony Perkins, President Family Research Council

Cite

Typical of FRC? Yes. Family Research Council Vice President for Government Affairs Tom McClusky recently posted: “Brad Pitt Apparently Endorses Bigamy, Pedophilia and Bestiality.” McClusky was commenting on interview in Esquire magazine where actor Brad Pitt said his partner “Angie [Angelina Jolie] and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”

This sensitivity to the issue of gay marriage is ridiculed by McClusky on his FRC blog where he wrote: “So until people and animals can marry or one man can marry multiple women or a forty year old man can marry a twelve year old girl – Brangelina will stand strong.” (Cite:)

Sky Angel, which will be broadcasting the live feed of Liberty Sunday, features a full color online feature about gay marriage, Liberty Sunday, and two antigay specials being aired later in the month.

Author Nancy Christopher notes of Liberty Sunday:

it’s certainly no coincidence that the event is being held less than one month before mid-term elections, being that there are eight constitutional amendments related to marriage on the ballot across the country.

No kidding! Christopher interview with Perkins is also illuminating:

[According to Perkins:] “What we’ve seen in the last two years since Massachusetts (approved) same-sex marriage is the evidence of what we were projecting would happen, that there was a coming conflict between the homosexual agenda and Christianity that was vibrant and active in the public square,” he says.

A “hate crimes bill” making it a crime to speak out against homosexuality is imminent if Christians don’t continue to be engaged in this issue, according to Perkins.

“The ability to preach the Gospel is at risk because the Gospel fully preached is offensive,” says Perkins. “Same-sex marriage is the vanguard of the homosexual agenda. If it becomes the law that you cannot speak anything that offends, it’s just a matter of time before the Gospel itself will be unwelcome public speech.

(Cite:)

Sky Angel is also broadcasting two specials on gay marriage after Liberty Sunday and before the midterm elections: “Veil of Deception: The Impact of Same Sex Marriage on American Youth”; and “No Tolerance for Truth.”
Here are the blurbs:

Veil of Deception investigates the impact of same-sex marriage on today’s youth. It aims to show concerned citizens how critically important it is to stand up and oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage for the sake of the children. The special also reveals homosexual activism in schools and communities across America, how experimentation is encouraged to children, and how parents, community leaders and teachers are speaking out.

No Tolerance for Truth examines what our children are learning about homosexuality in schools, clubs and even church groups and shows how there’s an intense propaganda campaign to normalize homosexuality and gender confusion to our children. Viewers will hear from parents, teachers and school board members who have fought the homosexual agenda in their communities, as well as from experts who have been studying the issue.

(Cite:)

According to Romney, speaking at the Christian Right’s “Values Voter Summit” in Washington , DC, the “culture of America is under attack”

Now my state’s Supreme Judicial Court, about a year ago, struck a blow against that family unit, in my view.  It said that our Constitution, written long ago by John Adams, requires people of the same gender to marry.

But the Court focused on adult rights…The mistake was they should have focused on the rights of children.  Because marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children. The development of a child in the history of civilization has been enhanced by the opportunity to learn from the gender characteristics of a mother and a father.  Every child has a right to have a mother and a father….the impact on children will be felt not just in a day or two or a year or two but over generations as we think about the development and nurturing of children.

And what does Romney have to say about the ballot initiative in Massachusetts?:

those that are in control of the legislature may employ various tactical procedural moves to keep a vote from every occurring.  Now how is it that the liberals would be so active at assuring that democracy can’t have its way?  I’m afraid that in some cases liberals love democracy only so long as the outcome is guaranteed in their favor.

And on the federal level:

We desperately need to have a federal marriage amendment.

(Cite: Democracy in Action, Eric Appleman,  transcript of the Romney speech).

The “Values Voter Summit” was coordinated by the Family Research Council’s action arm. Liberty Sunday is the next move in their campaign.
Liberty Sunday: Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering. The quotes in this post tell the whole story.

Christmas 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

This is a special day for those of us who are Christians, yet there are a myriad of meanings in the hearts and minds of the people who gather around the world professing this religion.
When I took communion last night I did not do so thinking it made me better than people of another religious or spiritual tradition; or better than those who reject religion or spirituality altogether.  I am saddened by those who insist that to be a “real” Christian I must reject gay marriage, or the right of women to control their own reproductive system.

The hymns I sang last night did not speak of the need to wage war or cut taxes. None of the prayers were about vengeance or retribution. The sermon was not about the necessity to end affirmative action or welfare. I find no emphasis in our sacred text on voting for conservative Republicans who support a specific platform.

As a congregation we did pray for those who were sick or in pain or distress. We remembered those who had died. We requested protection for the homeless and those who live in poverty. We asked that there be comfort for those “who suffer in the sadness of our world.” We called for the strengthening of “those who work for justice and peace.”

What I recall most clearly, though, was the choir singing of the need to love one another; of a law based on love and a gospel calling for peace. How chains must be broken, because all slaves are our brothers and sisters. How we are called to demand that “all oppression shall cease.”

To me it does not matter how one comes to stand for peace and justice. It can be a theology, a secular philosophy, or just an inexplicable yearning to set things right. It can be based on logic, a spiritual sense, or the mysteries of a religious faith.

Here on Talk2Action we have a community that embraces many ideas on how to move forward in the defense of separation of church and state; the struggle for civil and human rights, and the demand for full equality–nothing more yet nothing less. We all have different ways of rededicating ourselves to these goals.

What matters most is that we move forward together.

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 2

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part two of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part two.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-02.mp3

Monday, January 22, 2007

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 1

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part one of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part one.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-01.mp3

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The New Christian Right Leadership Network

Who will be setting the agenda for the Christian Right in 2007? Several groups would like to assume that role, although they will have to figure out exactly what happened in the 2006 midterm elections and how to ensure that White Christian evangelicals vote the Christian Right party line in 2008. For many years the Christian Right pre-election voter mobilization conference was hosted by the Christian Coalition, with the title “Road to Victory.” The Christian Coalition, however, has unraveled as a national group. In late September 2006 a coalition of Christian Right groups stepped into the void and staged a national pre-election conference, the Values Voters Washington Briefing.According to a report published by Political Research Associates, “The conference was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, with Tony Perkins at the helm. Cosponsors included the political action arms of three other Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon). Most of these groups have close historical ties. Dobson’s Focus on the Family created the FRC to lobby Congress before it was spun off as a separate entity. Gary Bauer ran the FRC from 1988 to 1999. The wild card in this coalition is Wildmon, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric and occasional detours into veiled anti-Semitism. His American Family Association pulls this coalition further to the right.”

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund has partnered with the Family Research Council, and is likely to get more media attention in the coming months as court cases are filed. What follows are some capsule descriptions from the PRA report, by Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain, Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006:


Family Research Council Action

Focus on the Family was originally located in Southern California, far from the Washington public policy debates during the 1970s. Founder James Dobson created a Washington presence for his organization by starting a think tank/lobbying arm and calling it the Family Research Council. Incorporated in 1983, the FRC was at first a closely aligned with Focus on the Family, becoming more influential under the leadership of Gary Bauer from 1988 to 1990 when Bauer then left to become a candidate for President. Issues around tax-exempt status resulted in a separation between Focus and the FRC, and now both organizations have 501 c (4) spinoffs, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action, to allow them greater permission to lobby.The organization has maintained its focus on its definition of family issues: opposition to reproductive rights, homosexuality, and support for strictly traditional gender roles. The current President is Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator.

Perkins maintains a strong connection to FRC members through his daily web messages from Washington and a print distribution center in Holland, MI, the home of the FRC’s original benefactor, Edgar Prince. In the twenty years since its founding, the FRC has become the premier lobbying arm of the Christian Right in Washington, well positioned to sponsor its recent summit.

Focus on the Family Action

From an Arcadia, CA radio show that began in 1977, Focus on the Family has grown to become the largest Christian Right organization in the country, with a campus of buildings on 50 acres of land in Colorado Springs, CO, an annual budget of $130 million, and its own zip code. James Dobson is its founder, a Christian conservative trained as a child psychologist. While Dobson has always emphasized the evangelical nature of the group, its mission, according to its own 2000 strategy statement, was to motivate “the people of God to practical action in their communities and our nation in defense of righteousness.”At two points in Focus’ history, it became clear that Dobson would need a separate organization to representing the group when it wished to lobby. First came the Family Research Council in 1983, but as that group developed its own identity, Dobson founded Focus on the Family Action in 2004 to represent his own advocacy interests and once again to protect the 501 c (3) status of his parent organization.

Focus on the Family Action takes a hard line on homosexuality, whether it be same sex marriage, the ex-gay movement, or normalizing homosexuality in schools. It holds positions against gambling, pornography, and activist judges, and in October 2006 it joined forces with FRC Action to produce a voter scorecard.

Americans United to Preserve Marriage

Gary Bauer, this group’s President, has been associated with a number of Christian Right organizations since he served in the Reagan administration. Assuming the post of President of the FRC in 1988, Bauer led the group through a major growth stage, leaving to run for President in 2000. Less successful in attracting popular support as a candidate than as a voice of Christian social conservatism, Bauer withdrew after faring poorly in the early primaries.In 1996 he founded the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), a political action committee, directing individual campaign contributions to the group’s endorsed candidates. The organization claimed credit for helping many conservative victories in 2002. Positioning itself as “Pro-life, Pro-family and Pro-growth,” the CWF reassured contributors that, “Supporting CWF takes the guesswork out of identifying the true conservatives from the pretenders.”
http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/values-voters/vv-toc.html