Sunday, August 9, 2009

The dangerous mix of right wing politics and religion

Frank Schaeffer is the son of Francis Schaeffer, who was a prominent figure in the development of right-wing Evangelism as a political force.

Writing in the HuffPo, the younger Schaeffer says
in the light of the Obama presidency--and the rabid right-wing opposition to it -- it's worth noting that the majority of the lies being told about our president, his programs, and the Democratic Party are originating not just from the right wing but from the evangelical right wing in particular....

When I check who's sending me the most scurrilous email (Obama is the "next Hitler," he's the "Antichrist," etc.), I find a lot of it comes from the evangelical right, now the bedrock of the anti-Obama camp. I'm a religious person, so they are my enemies too; the far-right evangelicals are doing more to destroy the credibility of faith than Hitchens and Dawkins could in a lifetime.
On the political front, he notes,
... there are two kinds of far-right evangelicals: the ones who make a public show of their animosity toward the president, accusing him of not being an American citizen, for example. They even say Obama has a secret plan to kill old people within his health care reform proposals. The other kind of evangelicals are the sort of people who run outfits like The Fellowship Foundation and the National Prayer Breakfast, and run around speaking at Evangelical colleges, think tanks, law schools and so forth, working to influence government and world affairs directly while bypassing the democratic process.....

Above all, ordinary American s-- and especially religious people who seek faith rather than power -- need to understand that the evangelical right is basically unpatriotic and anti-American.
The ones I feel sorry for are the "average people", not the power brokers, who are being used in all this conflict.


Leonardo Ricardo said...

I don´t feel sorry for any of them, they have fed off of fear and hatred for far too long...they ought take responsibility for their own will come to that eventually and they will be held accountable (there are no guarantees this won´t get worse) because there is NO PLACE for them to hide from that IS scary.

IT said...

Leonardo! How many of them, do you think, are simply ignorant, or afraid, or confused? Or stupid or weak?

People ARE weak and do stupid things. Some are salvageable. Admittedly, some are not. And the worst are those who know better and cynically manipulate others for power, greed, or gain. If only there were a hell, there would be a place for them there.

Still, some are salvageable.

Leonardo, and you a Christian. Don't you believe in the possibility of redemption and forgiveness? I do, and I'm not even Christian.

Марко Фризия said...

Frank Schaeffer was excellent on Rachel Maddow's show.

Sometimes it seems as though (some if not many) evangelicals and fundamentalists have an unwritten "doctrine of infallibility" based on proof texts from their "inerrant" Bible and what they hear from their pastors. And they tend to be very submissive and obedient to their pastors (giving these clergy a lot of power over their lives). And they take in all of this distorted information (and act on it) without any sort of critical thinking, no sense of the larger Christian tradition and history, and without reason-based processes of evaluation. American evangelicals really need a Richard Hooker in their midst. I feel a sense of pity for people who are raised and trapped in this sort of oppression. Fear of eternal anguish, thirst, and damnation in a literal, burning hellfire is one of their motivators. And fear can keep people really in line. They do what theu are told, almost like mindless members of a cult. I imagine it is psychologically painful and stressful to break out of a fundamentalist mindset. It is difficult for people to abandon the faith communities of their family of origin. But as Mr. Schaeffer shows, it is not impossible. It's sad that the word "evangelical" has become synonymous with "right-wing extremism." In some ways this fusion of the GOP with some forms of American Christianity has tainted all Christians, made non-Christians (rightly) suspicious of us all. I think the word "christianist" is a better word. For some people, everything has to be spelled out in stark and precise terms. Some people cannot handle paradox and mystery in religion. But there are some who use, abuse, and exploit these folks, their followers, in a cynical way as they grasp for more power and profit. There is a story about the disciples who cannot cast out a demon. Jesus tells them, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29) I am not saying these people are demonically possessed. But their spiritual and psychological condition seems to be tragically intractable. This is something for us to pray (and even fast) about. Good topic! Good conversation! Thanks everyone!

Leonardo Ricardo said...

IT (the married lady),

I believe that until people are ready to be accountable and responsible for their own actions they are often living in a world of emotional sloth/pretend and/or denial (don´t confuse that with not being perfect), accepting oneself as one REALLY is (and not as one imagines one is) is a inside job...then, all the foolishness and self-deception falls away (and so does the fear)...that is, if one is willing to selfsearch...if not, well, no chance of unburdening onself from fear and hate or the layers of ¨protection¨ (things/people)...that´s what I think...vulnerable to ¨not knowing¨...TRUST. I also think that admitting of ones wrongs, the REAL and difficult ¨wrongs¨ to think/self-search about is a huge breakthrough. In my case it took screaming out to God for HELP because I was falling through the cracks of my own being at 35...I think many people are filled with shame and fear and have lives that become polluted because of lack of housekeeping...none of this has anything to do with IQ I don´t think (It´s vertical, and I see that repeatedly)...perhaps, some very misguided learning of ethics/morals and even bad genes (alcoholism tendency?). I don´t know...but I do know that my family has a history of alcoholism (bigshots, successful, functioning and not so much/selfdestructive) but that very alcoholism got me to a facing myself was either suicide or surrender and even very religious people can face those challenges when they are sick...I think many people are spiritually, emotionally and physically sick and it´s not just from drugs/alcoholism but also from poisoness ¨passions¨ such as greed, lust, well, you know, the greatest is PRIDE!

Only my opinion but I don´t think the God of my understanding would throw anyone under the bus (but they may run in front of the oncoming bus instead).

MarkBrunson said...


I think what Leonardo is pointing to is the old free will problem:

The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

IT said...

The question is whether they are redeemable, isn't it? Can any of them be shown how to unlock the gates in MarkB's image?

And in so far as their leadres have cynically misled them, I do feel sorry for them.

That doesn't excuse everything, and LEonardo is quite right at the need for responsibility...but I think, hope that some of them might be educable and rescued.

Arkansas Hillbilly said...


A factor you are missing is that most of these "ignorant" folk are the people barely able to eke out a living. I have found here in my own neck of the woods that the poorer you are, the less time you have to think about things beyond your next meal. That is what is fueling this as much as anything. It's not that it's easier to let a pastor make opinions for you, it's that you don't have the time or the energy after working your arse off to take care of your family.

Here in Arkansas, the majority of people have only a high school education, if that, live in rural areas with only dial-up internet and TBN. My own family, who are generally caring and compassionate folk that would give you the shirt off their back and ask if you needed shoes are the same people that voted for Act 1 here (that banned all unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children). Heck, my step-mother still believes that the hole in the ozone is because NASA has been poking holes in it with all the rockets and shuttles (no fooling).

The more conservative states are also the ones with the highest poverty levels and the lowest education. Fix that and you'll be on your way to changing attitudes.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

I think we´re all ¨redeemable¨...but, yes, we have to be aware there is a problem and I think REACH OUT FOR HELP...yes, some ¨self-awareness¨ becomes more clear when one trips/stumbles over it, or when friends/family won´t go for *it*...or when one is sitting in the hospital, jail, courtroom or simply cracks up because they can´t take the ¨pressure¨ (of facing reality, whether it´s betrayal, abuse, self loathing or other) anymore...some folks die from horrid accidents related to their own mischief (or somebody elses)...teenagers and young adults often die because they can´t take the shame (after being Biblethupped to death or ridiculted unmercifully)...whose responsible for outcomes all the out-of-control false/angry believing, fear and hate-mongering or everyday despair? Who is responsible for the instigating of fear and hate? Who is responsible for caring out actions of persecution, rape, hate crimes and death? Who is responsible when a person is so lost in grief, misery and their luck is way far down? How does one get out from under the brutality of self-deceit and chronic victimization?

Yes, Hillbilly, education and the kind help from others and later some self-searching/enlightenment that leads to saying NO to the criminals, the bullies, the initiators of difference and hate...being responsible.

Lord have mercy

Jim Pratt said...

Arkansas Hillbilly,

While poverty and lack of education go hand in hand with neanderthal attitudes, I think they are only indirect causes.

I ministered for 7 years in rural Newfoundland. Most people survived on seasonal employment and EI, or year-round welfare; educational levels were low (even the senior teachers had only a semester or two of university training before they were thrown into classrooms) and illiteracy was high.

Though I couldn't change the underlying social problems, I could change peoples' attitudes. I did it by not treating them like ignorant fools (as so many clergy had done in the past), but by encouraging them to think for themselves and refusing to give them simple (or simplistic) answers or to tell them what to think.

JCF said...

live in rural areas with only dial-up internet

Hey, I resemble that remark! ;-p


W/O my having to Google, can anyone tell me what Frank Schaeffer's religious affiliation is at this point?

I know that some years ago, he left the ConEvs to "Orth" (as in Eastern Orth!) . . . but many if not most EOs are barely any more (socially) progressive than are ConEvs or Popoids. Is he still an EO (and good for him if he is, as progressive as he seems to have become!), or has he moved onto something else? [Has he joined "We the Elect," Piskies? ;-)]

brian said...

To what extent is this a class/socio-economic issue?
Are the mainline and evangelicals drawn from different groups? Do they have, excuse the expression if it's crass, different 'market appeals'?

brian said...

I googled and he has been Greek Orthodox for about ten years.

IT said...

I expect there's a correlation with education and therefore with class. There are data from the Pew foundation, I will put something up on that.