US Christian Right Quiz
CAN YOU PASS THE US CHRISTIAN RIGHT QUIZ?
By Jeffrey Rudolph (February 2012; last update June 2018)
An understanding of the Christian Right, a loose coalition of politically conservative congregations and organizations, is critical to understanding the United States. While the Christian Right has largely been frustrated in its attempts to reverse the cultural direction of America—it has failed, for example, to limit women’s rights, censor the media, ban abortions and prevent gays from serving in the military—it has largely succeeded in influencing the national debate, the Supreme Court and the Republican Party.
The radical Christian Right is an enemy of the open society. Its attacks on the rights of gays, feminists, Muslims, secular humanists and others provide a vision of the type of society it desires. It is not mere coincidence that its vision mirrors that of radical Islamists who also seek to silence opposing views.
The following quiz seeks to explore the political influence of the Christian Right, and to highlight the threat its radical fundamentalists pose to the majority of Americans who value pluralism and tolerance. To paraphrase the philosopher Karl Popper, liberal tolerance should not be an excuse for passivity in the face of intolerant fundamentalists pursuing an illiberal America.
THE US CHRISTIAN RIGHT QUIZ
1. What percentage of white American adults is affiliated with the Evangelical Protestant tradition?
-In 2016, 17% of Americans is white evangelical Protestant. (In 2006, the percentage was 23%.) “No religious group is more closely tied to the Republican Party than white evangelical Protestants. Nearly half (49%) of white evangelical Protestants identify as Republican, about one-third (31%) are independent, and just 14% are Democratic.” (“[Thirty-five] percent of all Republicans identify as white evangelical Protestant, a proportion that has remained roughly stable over the past decade.”)
https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/ (September 2017)
-It is useful to distinguish between two broad groups of evangelicals:
(i) Moderate evangelicals concede that there is more than one legitimate way to worship and serve Christ.
(ii) Traditional evangelicals, which include those identified as fundamentalists, come closest to the “Christian Right” discussed in the media. Traditional evangelicals, who approximate 10 percent of the US population, are overwhelmingly Republican, openly hostile to democratic pluralism, and promoters of policies that deny the civil rights of others (such as gays and Muslims). While they insist on tolerance for their brand of Christianity, it is clear that they would not provide the same tolerance to others if they gained significant political power.
A radical subset of traditional evangelicals includes strict fundamentalists, called Dominionists, who make more than a few traditional evangelicals uncomfortable. It “is this core group of powerful Christian dominionists who have latched on to the despair, isolation, disconnectedness and fear that drives many people into…traditional evangelical churches….[The dominionists] can count on the passive support of huge numbers of Christians, even if many of these Christians may not fully share dominionism’s fierce utopian vision, fanaticism or ruthlessness.” (Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Free Press, New York: 2006, 20-21. Hereinafter, “Hedges.”)
-Since the mid-1970s, conservative Catholics, Jews and other non-evangelicals have been invited into traditional evangelical political organizations. (K. Williams, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right, Oxford University Press, New York: 2010, 160. Hereinafter, “Williams.”)
-The National Association of Evangelicals research method includes four statements to which respondents must strongly agree to be categorized as evangelical: (1) “The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.” (2) “It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.” (3) “Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.” (4) “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” https://www.nae.net/what-is-an-evangelical/
2. Why is the US a far more religious country than the UK, France, Germany and other economically advanced states?
-One of the great paradoxes of the eighteenth century is that some evangelicals allied themselves with Enlightenment types to press for religious disestablishment in the US. “This alliance of strange bedfellows produced the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads in part: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’…It ensured that Americans would never have to deal with the miserable effects of religious establishment, effects that many of the founders knew all too well from their experience of Great Britain and the Continent. While it is probably true that Thomas Jefferson wanted to maintain that ‘wall of separation’ in order to protect the fragile new government from religious factionalism, whereas…[many religious people] wanted the ‘wall of separation’ to preserve the integrity of the faith, the happy consequence…is that both sides benefited…”
Religious faith “has flourished in America as nowhere else precisely because the government has (for the most part, at least) stayed out of the religion business. At the same time, allowing religious groups to function freely in the marketplace of popular discourse has tended to dissipate voices of political dissent…[And] no group has functioned more effectively in this marketplace than evangelicals…[This reality] makes the persistent attempts on the part of the Religious Right to eviscerate the First Amendment utterly confounding.” (Randall Balmer, The Making Of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond, Baylor University Press, Texas: 2010, 17, 18. Hereinafter, “Balmer.”)
The First Amendment has been crucial to the Southern Baptist Convention. “Ever since the colonial era, when their denominational forebears had encountered persecution from established churches, most Baptists had placed a greater primacy on religious freedom than on public displays of faith.” (Williams, 66)
-“[I]n 2012, 60 percent of Americans called themselves religious, compared with 46 percent of Canadians, 37 percent of the French, and 29 percent of Swedes. Other Western democracies have two to six times the proportion of atheists found in the United States.”
But Americans “have not escaped the march of secularization from one generation to the next.” For example, in 2016, while just 13 percent of Americans born roughly between 1925 and 1955 chose “None” for their religion, 39 percent of Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) chose “None”.
There are two important reasons for increasing secularization. First, “as people’s lives become more secure thanks to affluence, medical care, and social insurance, they no longer pray to God to save them from ruin: countries with stronger safety nets are less religious…” Second, “when people become more intellectually curious and scientifically literate, they stop believing in miracles….[B]etter-educated countries have lower rates of belief…”
While the US “is more religious than its Western peers [it] underperforms them in happiness and well-being, with higher rates of homicide, incarceration, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, child mortality, obesity, educational mediocrity, and premature death. The same holds true among the fifty states: the more religious the state, the more dysfunctional its citizens’ lives. Cause and effect probably run in many directions. But it’s plausible that in democratic countries, secularism leads to humanism, turning people away from prayer, doctrine, and ecclesiastical authority and toward practical policies that make them and their fellows better off.” (Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Viking, New York: 2018, 437-9. Hereinafter, “Pinker 2018.”)
-If the US had no proscription against religious establishment, religion in America today could look like the Church of England in Great Britain. The Church of England, “the established religion, draws less than three percent of the population to its Sunday services.” (Balmer, 18)
However, the US has experienced growth in the category “religiously nonaffiliated,” estimated at 25 percent of the population, the same percentage that “put[s] religion at or near the center of their lives.” It seems that “institutional religion is experiencing a long-overdue winnowing effect. [As well, the US is] witnessing a generational slide as older and typically more religious Americans die off and are replaced by younger generations for whom religion has become progressively less relevant to their own self-identity.” (Kenneth L. Woodward, Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama, Convergent Books, New York: 2016, 403. Hereinafter, “Woodward 2016.”)
“Southern Baptist churches lost almost 80,000 members from 2016 to 2017 and they have hemorrhaged a whopping one million members since 2003. For years, Southern Baptists have criticized more liberal denominations for their declines, but their own trends are now running parallel. The next crop of leaders knows something must be done”; and this is why most younger leaders reject the blatant identification with the Republican party practiced by their elders. “Classic fundamentalist old-guard churches are either dead or dying, and the younger generation is realizing that the old way of articulating the gospel is turning away more people than it is attracting.”
-“[E]vangelicalism has competed freely in the American religious marketplace. And it has done so with intelligence, vigor, and savvy.…[E]vangelicals have understood better than anyone else how to communicate to the masses. The message they propagate is simple…Come to Jesus. Make a decision for Christ. You control your own spiritual destiny.” (Balmer, 25)
To essentially sell Jesus, “All successful evangelists create their own business organizations that seek venues, sign television contracts, promote, advertise, sell (Bibles, books, audios, videos, T-shirts, and sometimes even healing cloths…), and in general see to it that the donations keep coming in. In this respect, the modern evangelist epitomizes the self-starting entrepreneur, and as such is apt to imagine that Jesus was one, too. The connection was established in 1925 in The Man Nobody Knows, the huge bestseller by advertising genius Bruce Barton. Barton marveled at the way a humble carpenter ‘picked up 12 men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.'” (Woodward 2016, 131)
“Even today, at schools like Liberty University…graduates who go into the ministry are expected to set out on their own and ‘plant’ new churches; they do not, as mainline Protestant clergy do, begin by taking a junior position in an established congregation. And it works. Independent churches–that is, those with no denominational ties or creedal identity–represented the fastest growing segment among Protestant congregations in the second half of the [twentieth] century.” (Woodward 2016, 132)
-“Southern California, along with Colorado Springs, is one of the epicenters of the radical [Christian Right] movement. Numerous television evangelists, including the disgraced Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker, got their start in these huge, soulless exurbs. These large developed tracts of housing are isolated, devoid of neighborhood gathering places, community rituals and routines, even of sidewalks. The isolation, coupled with the long, lonely commutes in a car; the cold, impersonal world of the corporate office; and the banal, incessant chatter of talk radio and television create numbness and disorientation. This destruction of community is one of the crucial factors that has led to the rise of the Christian Right. The megachurches, which have prospered in these environments, have become surrogate communities, places where people can find clubs to pursue common interests, friends, a sense of belonging, and moral direction. In these sprawling churches…believers are reassured, told that affluence is blessed by God—a sign of their righteousness and the righteousness of their nation—and that in the embrace of the church they have a place, a home.”
The abandonment of the working class by political leaders of all parties has been crucial to the success of the Christian Right. Only by reintegrating the working class into society through job creation, access to good education and health care can the Christian Right be effectively blunted. (Hedges, 130)
3. In 2000, what percentage of evangelicals voted for George W. Bush for president?
-In an extremely close 2000 presidential election in which Bush lost the popular vote and received a slim victory in the electoral college only after the Supreme Court’s intervention, “Bush won 74 percent of the evangelical vote, and 84% percent of the votes of white evangelicals who regularly attended church.” The lesson to Bush advisors was that “most of his core support came from white religious voters who were energized by the ‘wedge issues’ of abortion and gay rights….In 2004, Bush would run as the candidate of the Christian Right.” (Williams, 250-1)
-“At the time that George W. Bush took office, evangelicals accounted for one-third of the Republican vote in presidential elections, but that figure increased to nearly 40 percent by the end of his term. It became impossible for any Republican presidential candidate to ignore the Christian Right’s demands on abortion, gay rights, and other social issues.” However, because the majority of Americans did not want to revert to a time when abortions were illegal, gays closeted themselves and premarital sex was taboo, religious conservatives “found that they could win elections, but not change the culture.” (Williams, 8)
-In 2004, “78 percent of evangelicals…voted for Bush.” The evangelical vote was crucial to Bush’s win as “the outcome…depended on only 120,000 votes in Ohio” where evangelical support for Bush was strong.
Evangelicals were “well positioned for long-term influence over the nation’s culture. By 2005, there were nearly fourteen thousand Christian radio stations…and 16 percent of American adults said that they tuned in to these stations daily. The Left Behind series of end-times novels that Tim LaHaye coauthored—in which Christians fought the Antichrist…had sold 60 million copies….The Christian Right was also training a new generation of political activists” many of whom were working in the White House and Congress. (Williams, 261, 262)
-“In 2012 religiously unaffiliated Americans made up 20 percent of the populace but [only] 12 percent of voters…[while] white Evangelical Protestants also made up 20 percent of the adult population, but they made up 26 percent of the voters…Pundits are apt to mistake this electoral clout for a comeback of religion” when it really reflects effective efforts by evangelical churches to get their voters to vote (for particular candidates).” (Pinker 2018, 438)
4. What was the main reason John McCain selected (a clearly unqualified) Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008?
-“Recognizing that he had not yet won the loyalty of the Christian Right, McCain made a bid for their support by selecting Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a strongly pro-life evangelical Christian…He would have preferred to select Joe Lieberman for the role, but his campaign aides warned him that the choice of the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights senator from Connecticut would anger the Christian Right and doom his candidacy….Palin…supported the teaching of ‘intelligent design’ in public schools, opposed abortion…, and staunchly defended marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution….Palin’s place on the ticket won over most of the evangelicals who had been skeptical about McCain.” (Williams, 274)
(In 2016, for the same reason McCain selected Palin, Donald Trump chose Mike Pence, a devout Christian, as his vice-presidential running mate. Trump’s campaign aides easily understood that the votes of tens of millions of evangelicals would be secured by pandering to their prejudices.)
-In the 2008 presidential election, 23 percent of all voters were white evangelicals, and although McCain received only 46 percent of the popular vote, he “won the votes of 73 percent of white evangelicals and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals who attended church weekly….[E]vangelicals’ importance to the Republican coalition was increasing. Whereas 36 percent of Bush’s supporters in 2004 had been evangelicals, 38.5 percent of McCain’s were.” In short, evangelicals had become the core constituency of the Republican Party. (Williams, 275)
5. At the January 2012 Republican Iowa caucuses, what percentage of caucus-goers were evangelicals?
-In the 2012 elections, “White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate–3 percent more than in 2004…[E]vangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Romney–even matching the presidential vote of Mormons: 78 percent for Mr. Romney and 21 percent for Mr. Obama…” Nevertheless, the Christian Right lost ground on cultural issues such as same-sex marriage (four states approved it), anti-abortion rights (several Senate candidates lost mainly due to their hard-line anti-abortion stances), and drug legalization (two states legalized recreational marijuana use). “The evangelical share of the population is both declining and graying….Large churches like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God, which have provided an organizing base for the Christian right, are losing members.” “Americans who have no religious affiliation…are now about one-fifth of the population over all…” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/us/politics/christian-conservatives-failed-to-sway-voters.html?hp&pagewanted=print
6. Who was the first openly Born Again Christian president of the US?
-Jimmy Carter (1977-81) “is widely regarded as the first openly Born Again president, and perhaps the most Evangelical president in US history. He is an active Sunday School teacher and has written inspirational Christian books.”
“Carter attended First Baptist Church in Washington D.C. while he was President….Carter was long associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and was a Southern Baptist while in office. Although he remained a devout Baptist, he renounced his association with the Southern Baptist Convention in October 2000.” (A Christian, like Carter, can be Born Again and not be part of the Christian Right.) http://www.adherents.com/people/pc/Jimmy_Carter.html
-Evangelicals helped “sweep Carter to victory in the presidential election of 1976. His rhetoric about being a ‘born again Christian’ had energized evangelicals, many of whom had been resolutely apolitical until the mid-1970s….[H]is pledge that he would ‘never knowingly lie to the American people’…resonated…especially after…Nixon’s endless prevarications.” (Balmer, 67)
-Newsweek magazine declared 1976 “The Year of the Evangelical….In 1980, all three of the major candidates for president claimed to be born again Christians: Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan, the Republican nominee; and John B. Anderson, the Republican-turned-independent…” (Balmer, 56)
-“[R]eligion typically turns out to be a more powerful variable than gender, age, income, or class in predicting how a citizen will vote in a presidential election….[However,] It was only in the late Seventies that moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage began to rival…issues of domestic and foreign policy…”
Voters–whether Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, African American, Mormon or mainline Protestant–“who say they attend religious services once a week or more, or pray frequently and regard religion as important or very important in their lives, most often vote Republican.” Therefore, as approximately 25 percent of voters meet this intensity of religious commitment–namely that “moral and spiritual values are important factors in deciding how to vote”–Republicans need to win the ‘religious vote’ in order to win the presidency. (Woodward 2016, 395, 397)
7. Which religious group’s delegates passed the following resolution at their 1971 Convention, and reaffirmed the position in 1974 and 1976? “We call upon [the religious group] to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
-Evangelical delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, passed this liberal abortion resolution. And, after the 1973 US Supreme Court landmark Roe v. Wade decision—that established a woman’s right to abortion through the first two trimesters of pregnancy while asserting a very limited state interest in regulating abortion after the point at which a fetus could survive outside the womb, which occurs in the third trimester—“the overwhelming response on the part of evangelicals was silence, even approval; Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the line of division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior.” (Balmer, 61-2)
The conservative Baptist pastor, W. A. Criswall, “lauded the Court’s ruling in Roe. ‘I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from its mother, that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed,’ he said.” (Williams, 117)
The Roman Catholic Church, in contrast, had “longstanding arguments against abortion. As early as the Iowa precinct caucuses in 1972, the bishops were urging their communicants to support candidates opposed to abortion.” The Catholic Church even condemned abortion when the woman’s life was at stake. (While the Bible does not mention abortion, “American bishops could draw on a long line of papal teaching that condemned abortion as the deliberate taking of a human life–and therefore mortally sinful–but also on a secular tradition of social justice in which killing the unborn is seen as a violation of the very basis of all human rights–namely the right to life itself.”) (Balmer, 61) (Woodward 2016, 380-1)
It should be noted that a very small contingent of fundamentalists, who had condemned abortion before the Roe decision, made more concerted efforts on behalf of the pro-life cause after the decision. (Williams, 253)
-“Prior to the mid-1970s, no one would have associated the [Republican Party] with opposition to abortion. Republican politicians spearheaded some of the earliest efforts to liberalize abortion laws in California, Colorado, and New York….If Republicans were reluctant to restrict abortion in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so were most evangelicals. They greeted the first state abortion legalization laws with silence and apathy.” (Williams, 111)
-“The immediate effect of Roe v. Wade was to remove the abortion issue from the political process at a time when several states were moving toward more liberal abortion statutes. But the long-term effects [were] to stimulate the ‘right-to-life’ movement, divide the country, and pollute American politics. Henceforth,…abortion became a not-so-hidden litmus test for Supreme Court nominees…” (Woodward 2016, 378-9)
8. If, contrary to myth, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision was not the precipitating cause for the rise of the Christian Right—see question 7—what was?
-“In the early 1970s, the…US government was looking for ways to extend the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964….[T]he Internal Revenue Service opined that any organization that engaged in racial discrimination was not, by definition, a charitable organization and therefore should be denied tax-exempt status….[Accordingly,] On January 19, 1976, the IRS…revoked Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status…”
Bob Jones University, an evangelical institution with racially discriminatory policies, sued to retain its tax exemption. (It eventually lost at the Supreme Court in 1982.) “Conservative activist Paul Weyrich…sensed the electoral potential of enlisting evangelical voters in the conservative crusade”, something he had been working on since the early 1970s. “Evangelical leaders, prodded by Weyrich, chose to interpret the IRS ruling against segregationist schools as an assault on the…sanctity of the evangelical subculture. And that is what prompted them to action and to organize into a political movement.”
“[O]nce these evangelical leaders had mobilized in defense of Bob Jones University, they held a conference call to discuss the possibility of other political activities. Several people suggested potential issues, and finally a voice…said, ‘How about abortion?’ And that…was how abortion was cobbled into the agenda of the Religious Right—in the late 1970s, not as a direct response to the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.” (Balmer, 62-6)
-Paul Weyrich was a founder of the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank largely financed by beer mogul, Joseph Coors. “Weyrich…understood the abortion issue’s potential appeal to politically liberal pro-life activists who had shown little interest in the New Right’s other causes” such as tax cuts and business deregulation. (Williams, 169)
A typical conservative “hair-on-fire campaign-fund-raising” letter of the 1990s “warned that ‘babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood clinics.’ Recipients of these alarming missives sent checks to battle phony crises, and what they got in return was very real tax cuts for the rich.” (The New York Times Magazine, 16 April 2017, 41)
-It should be noted that Jimmy Carter was not yet president when Bob Jones University was informed by the IRS in 1975 that its tax exempt status would be revoked. “And yet, according to Weyrich, it was ‘Jimmy Carter’s intervention against Christian schools’ that precipitated the rise of the Religious Right….[W]eyrich succeeded in pinning this unpopular action on the Democratic president and using it to organize a movement to deny him reelection in 1980.” The result was that evangelicals, who had emerged to help elect Carter president in 1976, turned strongly against him just four years later. (Balmer, 62-3)
“According to pollster Louis Field, had it not been for the participation of politically conservative evangelicals in 1980, many of whom were voting for the first time, Carter would have beaten Reagan by one percent of the popular vote.” (Balmer, 57)
Once he was elected president in 1980, “Reagan backed away from his pledge to defend Bob Jones University against the IRS’s attempts to rescind the college’s tax [exempt status].” “[R]eagan recognized that whatever the importance of the born-again vote to the party’s success, the Religious Right was not endorsed by the vast majority of American citizens.” (Williams, 197) (Woodward 2016, 348)
-Falwell “had long opposed mixing religion and politics. But [Richard] Viguerie and [Paul] Weyrich, both Catholics, and [Howard] Phillips, a Jew, shared Falwell’s conviction that ‘secular humanists’ were taking over the country. Abortion, evolution, and sex education in public schools, gay rights, the Equal Rights Amendment–these and other issues, they argued, would persuade reluctant Fundamentalists and other conservative Evangelicals to become politically active. Weyrich even found the perfect name for the movement…: the ‘Moral Majority.'”
“Unlike mainline Protestants, born-again Christians in the 1970s did not hold places at either party’s leadership table. Unlike the Catholics, they had never exerted their influence through mediating institutions like labor unions and big-city political machines. The only organization they had to work with, really, was the church.” (Woodward 2016, 343, 345)
The fact that “the Moral Majority was created by three conservative political activists, two Roman Catholics and a Jew, shows that the religious right “has long been not a religion but an ideology.” As described above, the Moral Majority “was conceived as a way of weaning away from the Democrats the vote of the normally politically uninvolved fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christians whom Carter, as a self-declared ‘born again’ Christian, brought to political life…” (The New York Times Book Review, 10 June 2018, 6)
9. What explains traditional evangelicals’ comfort with conservative economics since the 1980s?
-As evangelicals have experienced political success they have had to make important compromises. Thus it has been commonplace to hear evangelical preachers peddle Republican myths of trickle-down prosperity. While evangelicals over 50 years of age grew up hearing a lot of sermons about the perils of wealth—as Jesus did clearly identify with the poor—such is rare today. It is much more common to hear leaders of the Religious Right speak on the miracle of supply side economics. Is it mere coincidence “that the so-called ‘prosperity theology,’ a kind of spiritualized Reaganism, flourished among evangelicals during the 1980s?” According to the prosperity gospel, wealth, fame and power are manifestations of God’s work, proof that God has a plan and design for believers. (Balmer, 83)
“Fundamentalist leader Jerry Falwell “was just as conservative as the most fervent New Right ideologue” when it came to tax policy. As Falwell said, “I don’t think a guy who makes a lot of money should pay more taxes than a guy who makes a little…” (Williams, 176)
-“The alliance between private wealth [i.e., wealthy donors] and big-time evangelists is an old and sturdy one. Dwight Moody had his John Wanamaker and J. P. Morgan; Billy Sunday had his John D. Rockefeller Jr. and S. S. Kresge; and [Billy] Graham had J. Howard Pew, W. Maxey Jarman, J. Willard Marriott, and many more. This alliance also helps to explain why big-time evangelism has also espoused conservatism in politics.” (Woodward 2016, 139-40)
“[T]he gospel of prosperity—which preaches that Jesus wants us all to be rich and powerful and the government to get out of the way—has formulated a belief system that delights corporate America. Corporations such as Tyson Foods—which has placed 128 part-time chaplains, nearly all evangelicals or fundamentalists, in 78 plants across the country—along with Purdue, Wal-Mart, and Sam’s Wholesale, to name a few, are huge financial backers of the movement.” (Hedges, 22)
-“[T]he Christian Right has engaged voters on nonmaterial grounds. Moral values issues like abortion and gay marriage are the focus. And this concentration on moral issues has had a paradoxical consequence: It has aligned a large bloc of evangelical voters whose incomes are generally modest with a political party highly attuned to the economic demands of the wealthy, that is, the Republican Party. It has done so, moreover, in an era in which, over the entire electorate, economic issues divide the parties more sharply along class lines than in the past, with Democrats favored by less affluent voters and Republicans by more affluent voters….All this makes it more consequential that evangelicals have become such loyal GOP supporters….[I]t means that Republicans attract far more support from lower- and middle-class voters than they would otherwise.” (Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York: 2010; 147-9.)
-The gospel of prosperity seems to be working for some people. The owners and founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the world’s largest televangelist organization, Paul and Jan Crouch, “collect nearly $1 million a year in salary from the network, also have use of 30 ministry-owned homes…They travel in a $7.2 million…Turbojet…[However, their] message…has a dark side. Those who do not support their ministry…will see God turn against them. Viewers who have struggled with deep despair, and who believe that the world of miracles and magic is the only thing holding them back from the abyss, often find the threat potent and frightening.” The Trinity Broadcasting Network “generates more than $170 million a year in revenue…” (Hedges, 171, 174)
For an entertaining (and accurate) video on the manipulations by some televangelists, go to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y1xJAVZxXg (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; 16 August 2015)
-“[T]he New Testament’s condemnations of personal wealth are fairly unremitting and remarkably stark: Matthew 6:19-20, for instance (‘Do not store up treasures for yourself on the earth’),…or James 5:1-6 (‘Come now, you who are rich, weep, howling out at the miseries that are coming for you’)….As late as the fourth and fifth centuries, bishops and theologians as eminent as Basil the Great [and] Augustine…felt free to denounce private wealth as a form of theft…[However, with the passage of time, as Christianity ceased] to be the apocalyptic annunciation of something unprecedented and becam[e] just the established devotional system of its culture, offering all the consolations and reassurances that one demands of religious institutions”, such condemnations were heard less and less. “That was unavoidable. No society as a whole will ever found itself upon the rejection of society’s chief mechanism: property. And all great religions achieve historical success by gradually moderating their most extreme demands.” (The New York Times, 5 November 2017, SR 5)
-“Confronted with an abundance of contradictory testimony, early Christians developed tests to probe their prophets.” For example, the Didache, “a text that may predate some of the now canonical gospels,” “provided a brief manual of instruction on how to distinguish apostle from fraud: ‘Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as the Lord. But he should not remain more than a day. If he must, he may stay one more….When an apostle leaves he should take nothing except bread…If he asks for money, he is a false prophet….Do not listen to anyone who says in the Spirit, Give me money (or something else). But if he tells you to give to others who are in need, let no one judge him.'” (David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, W. W. Norton & Company, New York: 2013, 89-90. Hereinafter, “Nirenberg 2013.”)
10. Who said the following in 1958? “The true negro does not want integration. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race. Who then is propagating this terrible thing?…We see the hand of Moscow in the background….[We see the] Devil himself.”
-Fundamentalist Baptist Pastor Jerry Falwell. Falwell was the best-known Christian Right leader in the 1980s, and the founder in 1979 of the influential political organization Moral Majority (which grew to several million members). Falwell, who also defended the white apartheid South African government, was assuring American “segregationists that God and the nation were on their side.” (Williams, 33)
To airbrush his past, Falwell, sometime after 1970, tried to recall “all copies of his earlier sermons warning against integration and the evils of the black race.” “In 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Falwell admitted the first African American family to his church.” (Hedges, 28, 87)
-“The ties by Christian Right leaders…with racist groups highlight the long ties between right-wing fundamentalists and American racist organizations, including the Klan, which had a chaplain assigned to each chapter….By the late 1950s these radical Christians had drifted to the fiercely anticommunist John Birch Society…Many of the ideas championed by today’s dominionists—the bizarre conspiracy theories, the calls for unrestrained capitalism, the war against ‘liberal’ organizations…, along with calls to dismantle federal agencies that deal with housing or education—are drawn from the ideology of this rabid anticommunist enclave. Timothy LaHaye [who died in 2016] used to run John Birch Society training seminars in California.” (Hedges, 137)
-“By 1845, both Baptists and Methodists had split along sectional lines. In the run-up to the separation, the Baptists fought over appointing a slaveholder as a missionary; the Methodists divided over whether it was acceptable for a bishop to own slaves. Ultimately, southern Baptists and Methodists formed their own independent denominations, freeing themselves from direct anti-slavery agitation and condemnation.” (“[M]oral suasion alone would never conquer slavery in America.”) (D. H. Dilbeck, Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet, The University of North Carolina Press, 2018, 67, 100.)
11. True or False: The Bible, not to mention Jesus himself, says a great deal about divorce—and none of it good; yet relatively little about homosexuality and arguably nothing about abortion.
-True. “Jesus himself said nothing whatsoever about sexuality, though he did talk a good bit about money. Still, the preponderance of the biblical witness, which the Religious Right claims as formative, is directed toward the believer’s responsibility to those Jesus calls ‘the least of these,’ toward an honoring of the meek and peacemakers, and, on social matters, against divorce. Yet the Religious Right made no attempt to outlaw divorce.” (Balmer, 69)
The Bible’s admonition on divorce is clear (Matthew 19:9): “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
-The lack of attention toward divorce by the Religious Right is probably due to the fact that “the divorce rate among evangelicals by the late 1970s…was roughly the same as that of the larger population.” As well, the “Religious Right’s designation of abortion and homosexuality as the central issues of their social agenda allowed them to divert attention from their embrace of Reagan” who had divorced and remarried. (Balmer, 69-70)
-“The so-called red states, which vote Republican and have large evangelical populations, have higher rates of murder, illegitimacy and teenage births than so-called blue states, which vote Democrat and have kept evangelicals at bay. The lowest divorce rates tend to be found in blue states as well as in the Northeast and upper Midwest. The state with the lowest divorce rate is Massachusetts, a state singled out by televangelists because of its liberal politicians and legalization of same-sex marriage.” (Hedges, 43)
-“[F]undamentalists are…not biblical literalists, as they claim, but ‘selective literalists,’ choosing the bits and pieces of the Bible that conform to their ideology and ignoring, distorting or inventing the rest. And the selective literalists cannot have it both ways. Either the Bible is literally true and all of its edicts must be obeyed, or it must be read in another way.” While the Bible (Leviticus 18:22) says that a man who has sex with another man is an abomination and should be killed, a “literal reading of the Bible [also] means: reinstitution of slavery[;] [c]hildren who strike or curse a parent are to be executed[;] [and,] men are free to sell their daughters into sexual bondage…” (Hedges, 4, 6)
12. True or False: The Christian Right, respecting the sanctity of human life, opposes capital punishment.
-False. “The Religious Right’s opposition to abortion has been weakened…by its insistent refusal to be consistently ‘pro-life.’ Unlike the Roman Catholic Church…the leaders of the Religious Right have failed to condemn capital punishment or even the use of torture by the Bush administration….[In fact,] when the Republican-Religious Right coalition controlled [the Congress and presidency]…from February 1, 2006…until January 3, 2007…no attempt whatsoever [was made] to outlaw abortion….[Instead] the Military Commissions Act [was passed and signed into law]…which sought to legitimize the use of torture.” (Balmer, 70-1)
To President Bush’s credit, a bill banning ‘partial-birth abortion’–“a late-term procedure in which the live fetus is partially removed from the mother, exposing the head so that the skull can be pierced and crushed”–was passed in 2003, “with the support of a minority of Democrats in both houses.” (Woodward 2016, 390-1)
-There is a danger to religion by associating it with the state. When religious leaders pursue political power they lose their spiritual integrity. The failure of the Religious Right to condemn the Bush administration’s policies on torture provides perhaps the most egregious example. “The very people who purport to hear a fetal scream turned a deaf ear to the real screams of fully formed human beings who were being tortured in the name of our government.” (Evangelicals, like all moral people, need to align with a just cause when it most matters, in real time.) http://mainstreambaptist.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html
13. How many times does the word “God” appear in the US Constitution?
-Zero. The First Amendment to the Constitution does refer to religion but not in a manner that fundamentalist Christians desire. The First Amendment does not privilege Christianity; rather, it reads in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” As well, “Article 6, Section 3 states explicitly that federal officials ‘shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.’ The addition of the word ‘affirmation’ is significant because it meant that officeholders could not be compelled to take an oath on the Bible….[T]he founders, who did in fact live in an era when the states were peopled almost entirely by Christians, thought to include freethinkers and non-Christians…in their basic laws.”
-“In 1786, [Thomas] Jefferson triumphed in his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, by persuading the Legislature to overwhelmingly reject attempts to include Jesus Christ as the religious authority in the bill.” “[In the same year], when the United States needed protection from North African pirates who were stealing ships and enslaving crews, it signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that ‘the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Musselmen [Muslims].’” (The New York Times, Book Review, 15 Jan. 2017, 10.)
14. Who, in 1994, convinced 1 million Americans to call the congressional switchboard to stop legislation that would have tightened regulations on home schooling?
-James Dobson: One of the US’s most prominent Christian Right leaders. (Williams, 239)
-Dobson built a massive organization “based on his advice to families as a Christian therapist. He [was the founder of] Focus on the Family, a program broadcast on more than 3,000 radio stations”. The organization has “chapters in 36 states [and is managed] out of an 81-acre campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a campus that has its own zip code. [It] employs 1,300 people, sends out four million pieces of mail each month, and is heard in 116 countries. [Dobson’s radio show had an] estimated listening audience [of] more than 200 million worldwide, and in the United States he appear[ed] on 80 television stations each day. He is antichoice, supports abstinence-only sex education exclusively and is fiercely antigay.” With respect to the roles of the sexes he is clear: “Genesis tells us that the Creator made two sexes…He designed each gender for a specific purpose…[T]he man is the master and the woman must obey.” According to Dobson and many others in the movement, the principal role for women with children is to home-school the children.
It is fairly easy to see the allure of traditional evangelicalism if you are one of its leaders as they “assume a higher intelligence and understanding that gives them a divine right to rule. These men are…the powerful, all-knowing father. Those they direct become as powerless, credulous and submissive as children.” (Hedges, 82, 92)
However, “Jesus refused to treat women as inferiors despite living in a culture that treated them deplorably. He traveled with women, taught them and used them in parables. He performed miracles on their behalf. They were present at his crucifixion and were the first witnesses of his resurrection in a society where their accounts of events weren’t trusted. Women ministered to Jesus, and in many cases they are portrayed more positively than some of Jesus’ closest male followers…[Furthermore,] Women had prominent positions in the early church as prophets, deacons, teachers and ‘co-workers’ of the Apostle Paul.” (The New York Times, 13 May 2018, SR 3)
-Dobson’s effort to hold Republicans accountable for their legislative record has led to Republican leaders introducing bills to ban human cloning, prevent gay couples from adopting children, and cut off funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, President Bush, aiming to widen his appeal, said that America is not ready to ban abortions. The result was that he suffered a stern rebuke from Dobson which led Bush to backtrack and move sharply to the right on cultural issues. In the 1996 presidential election, Dobson supported the third-party Christian conservative Howard Phillips who supported Reconstructionist beliefs that called for the implementation of a biblical legal code and capital punishment for abortion doctors. (Williams, 241-3)
“Dobson’s attacks on gays are relentless and brutal. He likens the proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis….[He has written that] ‘The homosexual agenda is a beast. It wants our kids…How about marriage between a man and his donkey?’” In fact, many leaders of the Christian Right attack gays in dehumanizing language. (Hedges, 103)
-For insight into the sophistication of religious right (and other) political organizations consider “The Faith and Freedom Coalition” established by Ralph Reed. The organization “plans to unleash a…microtargeted get-out-the-evangelical-vote operation” for Mitt Romney in 2012. To identify “religious voters most likely to vote Republican, the group used 171 data points. It acquired megachurch membership lists. It mined public records for holders of hunting or boating licenses, and warranty surveys for people who answered yes to the question ‘Do you read the Bible?’ It determined who had downloaded conservative-themed books, like ‘Going Rogue’ by Sarah Palin, onto their e-readers, and whether those people also drove pickup trucks. It drilled down further, looking for married voters with children, preferably owners of homes worth more than $100,000. Finally, names that overlapped at least a dozen or so data points were overlaid with voting records to yield a database with the addresses and, in many cases, e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers of the more than 17 million faith-centric registered voters — not just evangelical Protestants but also Mass-attending Catholics. The group is also reaching out to nearly two million more people who have never registered to vote.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/us/politics/ralph-reed-hopes-to-nudge-mitt-romney-to-a-victory.html?_r=1&hp&pagewanted=all
15. Are members of the Christian Right anti-Semitic?
-While dominionists regularly preach that Jews must rule the biblical land of Israel in order for Christ to return, they also believe but rarely state “that Jews who do not convert are damned and will be destroyed in the fiery, apocalyptic ending of the world.” Despite this blatant anti-Semitism, right-wing Jews embrace traditional evangelicals as such evangelicals lobby persistently for US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel. (Hedges, 142-3)
“Hatred of Jews and other non-Christians pervades the Gospel of John… Jews, he wrote, are children of the devil [John 8:44]…” (Hedges, 4)
-“The gospels…are full of stories in which Jews seek the lives of Christians, beginning with Jesus himself and continuing with Stephen, Paul, and other preachers of the good news. If early Christian authors wrote frequently of persecution at the hands of Jews, it must be because martyrdom at the hands of Jews was a paradigmatic experience for early Christians. [However,] aside from the gospels only a few early Christian texts speak of physical persecution at the hands of Jews. Moreover, the handful of martyrdom accounts that assign a role to Jews in their narrative generally treat them only as ‘spectators’: joyful witnesses of persecution, but not active participants in the killing.” (Nirenberg 2013, 92)
“[T]he logic of [promoting] Jewish enmity in the second, third, and fourth centuries–that is, the period of the ‘church fathers’–drew much of its nourishment not from Christian conflict with Jews, but from Christian conflict with other Christians.” To paint one’s competitors’ beliefs–on, say, the divinity of Christ–or practices–on, say, circumcision or dietary laws–as compatible to those of the Jews was to discredit those competitors. (Nirenberg 2013, 93)
-“Some have criticized Trump for having Robert Jeffress, a megachurch televangelist, give a prayer for the new US embassy in Jerusalem [on 14 May 2018]. Jeffress is on record for saying that ‘Jews are going to hell’ and that Hitler was part of ‘God’s plan’ to bring Jews back to the Holy Land. Let there be no mistake: this represents a continuity. Over the nineteenth century, Protestant missionary societies in Britain were active in Ottoman Palestine. They proselytized to Jews, sponsored ‘Biblical’ archaeology, and ultimately, hoped to bring European Jews back to the Holy Land.” (Joshua Schreier, Facebook post, 16 May 2018)
-Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s popular Left Behind series of Christian apocalyptic thrillers “provide the graphic details of raw mayhem and cruelty that God will unleash on all nonbelievers when Christ returns and raptures Christians into heaven. Astonishingly, the novels are among the best-selling books in America with more than 62 million in print….LaHaye [a Southern Baptist minister who died in 2016] helped found and lead numerous right-wing groups, including the Council for National Policy, and he” was an influential dominionist. (Hedges, 183-5)
-It is ironic that most US evangelicals have never demonstrated the slightest interest in the welfare of Palestinian Christians who live under Israel’s harsh and illegal occupation. In contrast, in 2012 “the United Church of Canada [the largest Protestant denomination in Canada]…voted to boycott products exported by Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The foray into Middle East politics was one of 13 resolutions the UCC adopted…The resolutions also single out Israeli settlements as a principal obstacle to peace in the region, call on Israel to suspend settlement expansion, and express regret for previously asking Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.”
In June 2014, “After passionate debate over how best to help break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted…at its general convention to divest from three companies that it says supply Israel with equipment used in the occupation of Palestinian territory….The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of a handful of historic mainline Protestant denominations and the church of many American presidents, is the largest yet to endorse divestment at a churchwide convention…The measure that was passed not only called for divestment but also reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist, endorsed a two-state solution…It also said the motion was ‘not to be construed’ as ‘alignment with or endorsement of the global B.D.S.’ movement by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)….The companies the church has targeted for divestment are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions….The church says it has tried for many years to convey its concerns that the companies are profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories by selling it bulldozers, surveillance technology and other equipment….[The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)] is not the first American church to use divestment to protest Israeli policies: The Mennonite Central Committee and the Quakers have sold stock in some companies that do business with Israel. [T]he pension board of the United Methodist Church announced that it had sold its stock in a company over concerns about its contracts with Israeli prisons.”
On 30 June 2015, The United Church of Christ (UCC), a mainline Protestant denomination with more than 5,100 churches and 1.1 million members in the United States, “overwhelmingly passed a resolution to support boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip….The resolution now requires the UCC pensions board and other church funds to divest their holdings in Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard, G4S and Veolia – companies which have all long been protested by Palestine solidarity activists for their complicity in Israel’s occupation. It also calls on church members and bodies to boycott all products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank….What sets this vote apart is the huge margin of victory, an indication that BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – is gaining momentum despite aggressive efforts by Israel and its lobby groups to fight it.”
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/us-church-votes-landslide-divest-israeli-occupation (30 June 2015)
In August 2016, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) overwhelmingly approved two resolutions. The first calls “on the US government to end all financial and military aid to Israel until Israel ‘compl[ies] with internationally recognized human rights standards’, freezes settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land”, ends its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enables an independent Palestinian state. “[The second resolution calls] for the church to adopt an investment screen to avoid profiting from Israel’s Occupation… ELCA is one of three Lutheran church bodies in the US.”
-“A  poll from Bloomberg Politics contains a finding that…is quite remarkable: Almost half of all Americans want to support Israel even if its interests diverge from the interests of their own country….Only Israel commands anything near that level of devoted, self-sacrificing fervor on the part of Americans. So it’s certainly worth asking what accounts for this bizarre aspect of American public opinion. The answer [is] religious fanaticism.”
“The US media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace. In reporting its poll findings, Bloomberg observed: Religion appears to play an important role in shaping the numbers. Born-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of US interests. Americans with no religious affiliation were the least likely to feel this way, at 26 percent.” (The reality is that “evangelical Christians are far more steadfast in their support for Israel than American Jews…”) https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/15/religious-fanaticism-huge-factor-americans-support-israel/
16. Who said the following at a major meeting of religious conservatives in 1980? “It is interesting at great political rallies how you have a Protestant to pray, a Catholic to pray, and then you have a Jew to pray. With all due respect to those dear people, my friends, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew….How in the world can God hear the prayer of a man who says that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah? It’s blasphemous.”
-Bailey Smith, President of the Southern Baptist Convention (1981-2), made the above statement. (“[Jerry] Falwell attempted to do damage control by arguing that God hears the prayers of all ‘redeemed’ Jews, which was what Smith had meant when he said that prayers must be offered in the name of Jesus to be acceptable.”) (Williams, 190)
-Contrast Bailey Smith’s words with those of a mature Billy Graham, considered America’s most influential evangelist of the 20th century. “I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost–were going to hell–if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God–through nature, for instance–and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ‘yes’ to God….God does the saving… I’m told to preach Christ as the only way to salvation. But it is God who is going to do the judging, not Billy Graham.” (Graham was immediately upbraided by evangelists “for undercutting the very purpose of evangelism.” Graham’s response to his detractors “managed to both affirm and deny what he had said…”) (Woodward 2016, 153-4)
However, a 1972 Oval Office tape recording revealed Graham and President Nixon “palavering about Jewish domination of the media and Graham invoking the ‘stranglehold’ Jews have on the media.” Further tarnishing Graham’s record, in 1989, a memo from him to “Nixon was made public. It took the form of a secret letter from Graham, dated April 15, 1969, drafted after Graham met in Bangkok with missionaries from Vietnam. These men of God said that if the peace talks in Paris were to fail, Nixon should step up the war and bomb the dikes. Such an act, Graham wrote excitedly, ‘could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam’….Thus the preacher was advocating a policy to the US Commander in Chief that on Nixon’s own estimate would have killed a million people. The German high commissioner in occupied Holland, Seyss-Inquart, was sentenced to death at Nuremberg for breaching dikes in Holland in World War Two.”
17. Was it an American general or a Taliban commander who said the following about leading troops into battle? “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his God was an idol.”
-General William Boykin stated the above in a 2003 speech about leading American troops into a 1993 battle against a Muslim Somalian warlord. “General Boykin belongs to a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier, whose members apply military principles to evangelism… Boykin, rather than being reprimanded for his inflammatory rhetoric, was promoted [in June 2003] to the position of deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. He believes America is engaged in a holy war as a ‘Christian nation’ battling Satan and that America’s Muslim adversaries will be defeated ‘only if we come against them in the name of Jesus.’” (Hedges, 29)
-Many evangelical “leaders portrayed the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as a sign of Islam’s allegedly violent or ‘evil’ nature….‘We will rid the world of the evil-doers,’ Bush promised America…Evangelicals’ view of politics as a spiritual battle between good and evil led them to support not only the military’s actions in Afghanistan but also President Bush’s war in Iraq….[T]he evangelical population…was more supportive of the war than any other demographic group….Evangelical support for the war increased to 79 percent in May 2003, and it remained high long after other Americans had given up hope for success in Iraq.” (Williams, 255-6)
-“A US Air Force chaplain who ministers to thousands of men and women at an Ohio base is asserting that Christians in the US Armed Forces ‘serve Satan’ and are ‘grossly in error’ if they support service members’ right to practice other faiths….[Military Religious Freedom Foundation] founder Michael Weinstein, a retired Air Force officer, says the [Ohio chaplain] is evidence of the trickle-down effect of President Donald Trump’s relationship with the far fringes of the Christian right. ‘America’s military members look to the president for direction and inspiration,’ Weinstein said. ‘Trump’s statements and actions have fully endorsed and validated this unbridled tidal wave of fundamentalist Christian persecution, which is now more inextricably intertwined into the very fabric of our Department of Defense than ever before.'”
http://www.newsweek.com/chaplain-urges-service-members-reject-religious-tolerance-665614 (15 Sept. 2017)
18. Why did the Christian Right begin to use the term “intelligent design” in place of “creationism”?
-Intelligent design has been the code word of the Christian Right “since the Supreme Court ruled in the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard case that creationism cannot be taught in public schools. Intelligent design argues that the slow process of evolution could not have produced something as complex as the living cell. Rather, life was created by an ‘intelligent agent,’ one the proponents of intelligent design are careful to specify is unknown, in order to skirt the judicial ban on creationism.”
The theory of “Evolution…shattered the comfortable worldview of many Christians, who saw themselves created in the image of God….It dethroned Christians from their self-constructed platform of moral and ethical superiority. It challenged the belief that God intervenes in human affairs to protect and guide believers.” (Hedges, 116-7)
“Evangelical traditionalists played a key role in the backlash against Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859), whose theory of evolution exacerbated evangelicals’ skepticism of education and led them to further defy objective evidence and rational thought.” https://newrepublic.com/article/133488/evangelicals-like-trump (13 May 2016)
-In the conservative evangelical community, deep distrust of mainstream media and scientific consensus are prevalent. For example, at many evangelical schools students are “taught to distrust information coming from the scientific or media elite because these sources did not hold a biblical worldview [which is] ‘a cohesive worldview that you could maintain if you studied the Bible…Part of [this worldview is] that climate change isn’t real, that evolution is a myth made up by scientists who hate God, and capitalism is God’s ideal for society.’”
“Conservative evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying. But they believe that their own authority—the inerrant Bible—is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power.”
“This religious tradition of fact denial long predates the rise of the culture wars,…but it has provoked deep conflict among evangelicals themselves….Many evangelical colleges allow faculty and students to question inerrancy, creationism and the presumption that Jesus would have voted Republican.” However, evangelicals who publish works focused on such conflicts are frowned upon by their community and can suffer career impediments.
“The conservative Christian worldview is not just a posture of mistrust toward the secular world’s ‘fake news.’ It is a network of institutions and experts versed in shadow versions of climate change, science, biology and other fields…” (The New York Times, 16 April 2017, SR 8)
-In response to a “2004 Gallup poll…38 percent [of Americans] believed God guided evolution, and 45 percent said the Genesis account of creation was a true story. Courses on intelligent design have been taught at the universities of Minnesota, Georgia, New Mexico and Iowa State, along with Wake Forest and Carnegie Mellon, not to mention Christian universities that teach all science through the prism of the Bible.” (Hedges, 116-7)
-The highly respected Union of Concerned Scientists, distressed by the number of pseudoscientists peddling falsehoods inside the government (such as the claim that condoms are not safe), included the following in its March 2004 report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: “There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression, and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration are unprecedented.” (Hedges, 123)
-“[E]vangelicals have been notoriously uninterested in environmental preservation. If Jesus is going to return soon to rescue the true believers and to unleash judgment on those left behind, why should we devote any attention whatsoever to care of the earth, which will soon be destroyed in the apocalypse predicted in the book of Revelation?” President Reagan’s evangelical secretary of the interior echoed this belief when he “remarked to stunned members of the House Interior Committee, ‘I don’t know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.’” (Balmer, 40-1)
-Georgia Republican Representative, Paul “Broun, who [served] on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee,” made the following “comments in a videotaped Sept. 27″ 2012 speech: “God’s word is true….All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior….” The sad reality is that Rep. Broun’s views are not “radically out of whack with other Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.” http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-paul-broun-evolution-hell-20121007,0,4628858.story
-One of Newt Gingrich’s “first acts as Speaker [of the House of Representatives] was to get rid of the highly professional, nonpartisan Office of Technology Assessment [in 1995], Congress’s scientists who could use their expertise to inform lawmakers and adjudicate differences based on scientific fact and data. The elimination of OTA was the death knell for nonpartisan respect for science in the political arena, both changing the debate and discourse on issues like climate change, and also helping show in the contemporary era of ‘truthiness,’ in which repeated assertion trumps facts.” http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/the-eight-causes-of-trumpism/422427/
-“What predicts the denial of human-made climate change is not scientific illiteracy but political ideology. In 2015, 10 percent of conservative Republicans agreed that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity…, compared with 36 percent of moderate Republicans, 53 percent of Independents, 63 percent of moderate Democrats, and 78 percent of liberal Democrats.”
(A 2015 “survey found that exactly four out of 69,406 authors of peer-reviewed articles in the scientific literature rejected the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming, and that ‘the peer-reviewed literature contains no convincing evidence against [the hypothesis].’ Nonetheless, a movement within the American political right, heavily underwritten by fossil fuel interests, has prosecuted a fanatical and mendacious campaign to deny that greenhouse gases are warming the planet.”)
It’s clear “that certain beliefs become symbols of cultural allegiance. People affirm or deny these beliefs to express not what they know but who they are. We all identify with particular tribes or subcultures, each of which embraces a creed on what makes for a good life and how society should run its affairs. These creeds tend to vary along two dimensions. One contrasts a right-wing comfort with natural hierarchy with a left-wing preference for forced egalitarianism…The other is a libertarian affinity to individualism versus a communitarian or authoritarian affinity to solidarity…A given belief, depending on how it is framed and who endorses it, can become a…sacred value [or] oath of allegiance to one of these tribes.” (“The values that divide people are also defined by which demons are blamed for society’s misfortunes: greedy corporations, out-of-touch elites, meddling bureaucrats, lying politicians, ignorant rednecks, or, all too often, ethnic minorities.”)
“[P]eople’s tendency to treat their beliefs as oaths of allegiance rather than disinterested appraisals is, in one sense, rational. With the exception of a tiny number of movers, shakers, and deciders, a person’s opinions on climate change or evolution are astronomically unlikely to make a difference…But they make an enormous difference to the respect [or votes] the person commands in his or her social circle.”
Furthermore, intelligence does not guarantee that a thinker will approach the truth. “Psychologists have long known that the human brain is infected with motivated reasoning (directing an argument toward a favored conclusion, rather than following it where it leads), biased evaluation (finding fault with evidence that disconfirms a favored position and giving a pass to evidence that supports it), and a My-Side bias…” (For example, “Conservatives are indeed more biased toward allowing Christian prayers in schools, but liberals are more biased toward allowing Muslim prayers in schools.” And, “[W]hen people hear about a new policy, such as welfare reform, they will like it if it is proposed by their own party and hate it if it is proposed by the other — all the while convinced that they are reacting to it on its objective merits.”)
Nevertheless, “While some studies have indicated that people cling even more strongly to their deepest beliefs when challenged by contradictory evidence, [as predicted by the theories of identity-protective cognition, motivated reasoning, and cognitive dissonance reduction,] it is also true that human beings frequently do change their minds–about everything from sexual behavior to marijuana to gun laws–if they are treated respectfully by those presenting the evidence.” Even “entire populations can shift [their opinions] when a critical nucleus of persuadable influencers changes its mind and everyone else follows along, or when one generation is replaced by another that doesn’t cling to the same dogmas…” (Pinker 2018, 137-8, 357-9, 362, 377, 382) (The New York Times, 18 March 2018, SR 9)
19. Who distributed the following memo—titled, How to Participate in a Political Party—to his supporters at the Iowa Republican County Caucus? “Rule the world for God. Give the impression that you are there to work for the party, not push an ideology. Hide your strength. Don’t flaunt your Christianity. Christians need to take leadership positions. Party officers control political parties and so it is very important that mature Christians have a majority of leadership whenever possible, God willing.”
-Joan Bokaer, the Director of Theocracy Watch, a project of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy at Cornell University, was on a 1986 speaking tour in Iowa when she “obtained a copy of a memo Pat Robertson [a leading televangelist and Republican presidential candidate] handed out to followers at the Iowa Republican County Caucus.” (In September 1986, Robertson announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President. Robertson’s campaign got off to a strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucus.) http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/1/post/2011/10/the-christian-right-and-the-rise-of-american-fascism.html
-“The Reconstructionist movement, founded in 1973 by Rousas Rushdooney, is the intellectual foundation for the most politically active element within the Christian Right. Rushdooney’s…three-volume work, Institutes of Biblical Law, argued that American society should be governed according to the Biblical precepts in the Ten Commandments. He wrote that the elect, like Adam and Noah, were given dominion over the earth by God and must subdue the earth, along with all non-believers, so the Messiah could return….The religious utterances from political leaders such as George Bush, Tom Delay, Pat Robertson and Zell Miller are only understandable in light of Rushdooney and Dominionism. These leaders believe that God has selected them to battle the forces of evil, embodied in ‘secular humanism,’ to create a Christian nation….Pat Robertson…says he is training…students [at his Regent’s University] to rule when the Christian regents take power, part of the reign leading to the return of Christ.” http://www.theocracywatch.org/chris_hedges_nov24_04.htm
-“Dominionists now control at least six national television networks, each reaching tens of millions of homes…” (Hedges, 10)
-When some Christian Right activists became disillusioned with their lack of success in achieving substantive legislative gains they joined Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructions movement. Rushdoony called for a replacement of American constitutional government with the revival of Old Testament law. “The Chalcedon Foundation, which he founded in 1965, advocated the reinstitution of slavelike indentured servitude and a restoration of the death penalty for homosexuals, adulterers, and ‘Sabbath-breakers.’…[Rushdoony] did influence a few prominent individuals in the Christian Right.” (Williams, 226)
-The Bush administration “diverted billions of dollars…from secular and governmental social-service organizations to faith-based organizations, bankrolling churches and organizations that seek to dismantle American democracy and create a theocratic state….These groups can and usually do discriminate by refusing to hire gays and lesbians, people of other faiths and those who do not embrace their strict version of Christianity….In fiscal year 2004, faith-based organizations received $2.005 billion in funding—10.3 percent of federal competitive service grants.” President Obama renamed the office, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He also established an advisory council that is composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds. (Hedges, 23)
20. Why did Donald Trump receive significant support from evangelicals, despite his past support for abortion rights, multiple marriages, vulgar language, and limited knowledge of scripture?
-“[T]rump garnered 40 percent of the evangelical vote in the  Republican primaries compared to 34 percent for [Ted] Cruz…” “One common explanation for [such support] is that numerous evangelicals embrace Trump’s agenda, from eviscerating Obamacare to cracking down on undocumented immigrants and barring Muslims from entering America. But Trump and his evangelical supporters think alike in more ways than people realize. Fundamentalist approaches to evangelicalism have long fostered anti-intellectual, anti-rational, black-and-white, and authoritarian mindsets—the very traits that define Trump.”
“Trump’s authoritarianism—the best predictor of his support, by some measures—has found a receptive audience among white evangelicals, who are significantly more authoritarian than mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and non-believers…The social scientist James Davidson Hunter has also argued that evangelicals emphasize deference to ‘transcendent authority’ based on inflexible conceptions of religion or tradition….This authoritarian form of faith translates to other aspects of life, such as the patriarchal authority of the man as the head of the household.” https://newrepublic.com/article/133488/evangelicals-like-trump (13 May 2016)
-In the 2016 presidential election, “exit polls showed that Mr. Trump won 81 percent of white evangelicals, more than the born-again George W. Bush garnered in either of his [presidential] races.” (The New York Times, 29 Jan. 2017, SR 1)
“[T]he 2016 election exposed the collision between basic Christian values and Republican Party loyalty. By any conceivable definition, [President Trump] is the utter antithesis of Christian values — a misogynist who disdains refugees, persecutes immigrants, condones torture and is energetically working to dismantle the safety net that protects our most vulnerable neighbors….[However,] abortion has become the ultimate [issue] for Southern believers…But reasonable people can disagree on the moment when human life begins…[And] No matter how you define it, protecting human life should never stop at the zygote.” (The New York Times, 9 April 2017, SR 9)
For a committed Christian, it should be intolerable “to ignore a candidate’s brazen moral offenses because you like his stands on public policy. Such ends-justify-the-means arguments are [venal]. ‘Moral precepts are real; they are not like warm candle wax, easily shaped to fit the ends of this or that president, or this or that cause.’ When Trump backers downplay their candidate’s scandalous conduct on the grounds that Supreme Court appointments matter more, they are as bad as [Bill] Clinton backers who downplayed the president’s Oval Office debauchery because they liked his position on abortion rights.”
Trumped earned evangelical votes in part “by promising to repeal a law which prohibits tax-exempt charities (including churches) from engaging in political activism. Christian virtue was trumped by political muscle.” (Pinker 2018, 433)
-According to David Brody, the host of “Faith Nation” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, evangelicals support Trump because he “is in line with most of their agenda [and he] has delivered…The victories are numerous: the courts, pro-life policies, the [decision to move] the Embassy in Jerusalem and religious liberty issues, just to name a few. He easily wins the unofficial label of ‘most evangelical-friendly United States president ever.'”
While Trump has moral failings, “the goal of evangelicals has always been winning the larger battle over control of the culture, not to get mired in the moral failings of each and every candidate. For evangelicals, voting in the macro is the moral thing to do…Evangelicals have tried the ‘moral’ candidate before.”
“Jimmy Carter was once the evangelical candidate. How did that work out in the macro? George W. Bush was the evangelical candidate in 2000: He pushed traditional conservative policies, but he doesn’t come close to Mr. Trump’s courageous blunt strokes in defense of evangelicals.” (The New York Times, 25 Feb. 2018, SR 3)
Jeffrey Rudolph was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely-distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, and China. These quizzes are available at: https://detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com/
Comments can be sent to: Israel-Palestine-Quiz@live.com
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