Monday, September 14, 2009

Onward Christian Soldiers: The Religious Right Rides Again

By Sikivu Hutchinson

On a visceral level the scene couldn’t have been more terrifying: a sea of angry virtually all white protestors wielding an array of anti-government, anti-socialist, Obama as marauding terrorist signs raining fundamentalist wrath on the Capitol. “Thank God 4 Fox,” one woman’s sign proclaimed, rising like an incendiary beacon from a motley crew of “insurgents” dressed in revolutionary war garb and other assorted costumes. Despite Republican claims that this weekend’s protest represented a broad cross-section of constituents, the performance on the Capitol was yet another demonstration of the racist provincial fearmongering that characterized the 2008 presidential campaign. The oft-cited vision of the U.S. magically transforming into a post-racial society as a result of Obama’s election has been belied by the precipitous decline of his approval ratings among whites, casualty of the GOP’s thinly-veiled racialized appeals to the white conservative base of Sarah Palin and far right reactionary special interests. Enflamed by the Fox News Network and talk radio, the intersection of far right tax revolt protestors, reactionary health insurance industry shills, “birthers,” and fundamentalist Christian foot soldiers has succeeded in infusing every major policy initiative that the decidedly centrist Obama administration pursues with Orwellian overtones.

What is the connection between this climate of 24/7 Fox engorged right wing propaganda and the religious extremism that has so dominated American politics for nearly two decades? Contrary to earlier predictions, the election of Barack Obama has not dimmed the zealotry of the Religious Right, rather it has invigorated it and propelled it to new heights of pious hysteria. Over the past several months, health care reform has transmogrified into death panels and a government conspiracy to provide federal funding for abortion on demand. Fundamentalist coalitions like the newly-formed Freedom Federation—a group of far right wing organizations like Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council and Gary Bauer’s Campaign for Working Families—claim that health care reform is in their line of fire because of the prospect of further government incursions into so-called Christian charity. In its response to the Obama administration the Freedom Federation has proposed that the government allow churches and faith-based organizations (Satanist, Wiccans ready your applications) to provide care for the uninsured. Speaking for the Federation on MSNBC Perkins declared a government “takeover” of health care fundamentally anti-God and anti-Christian because “Trying to give it off to the government is an abdication of personal responsibility.” Rather, the government should redirect its misguided efforts to expand health care to the 47 million uninsured and simply ratchet up its multi-million dollar faith-based handouts to megachurches. This would enable the faith community to serve all of the Bristol Palin abstinence-only sex ed graduates seeking abortions and HIV/AIDS afflicted LGBT patients courting hellfire and damnation due to their promiscuous gay lifestyles. Despite bending over backward to assure religious groups that federal funding would not go to abortion, organizations like the Federation continue to unleash anti-government propaganda to foment uprising. After a discussion with President Obama and other religious conservatives in which Obama quoted Scripture, Perkins denounced Obama’s hoodwink, blustering that using “Scripture like silly putty to wrap around radical ideas is not going to be sold to the Christian community.”

The idea that expanding access to the millions of uninsured constitutes radicalism is one of the more egregious examples of moral corruption within the conservative Christian community. Rather than defend a universe in which even poor Cubans in Havana and Chinese in Communist China have better health care than unemployed middle class people in the U.S., the Religious Right should challenge the amoral corporate hierarchies that restrict access to citizens of the wealthiest nation on the planet. Yet this would not serve the Fox brigade’s Orwellian agenda. According to the platform of Perkins and company is indistinguishable from a States Rights free market manifesto of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. Further privatizing health care to subsidize religious special interests already deep in the back pocket of government threatens the fading prospect of equalitarian care for all regardless of life circumstance or sexual orientation. For example, it would reinforce the Bush era policy (the so-called “conscience clause” which the Obama administration recommended rescinding) of allowing doctors to opt out of medical procedures like abortion or fertility treatments due to their religious beliefs.

The resurgence of the Religious Right—bolstered by Obama’s own continued investment in George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative policy—is fertile ground for a full-blown palace revolt of powder keg conspiracy theorists, anti-government extremists and other disaffected nut jobs that gained sway during the Oklahoma City era. The debate over health care reform may unfortunately be a mild first salvo.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the editor of and the author of the forthcoming book Scarlet Letters essays on race/gender politics, atheism and secular belief in America

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sikivu, I do fear you are right.
European history after WW I shows the very same features - and the Europeans did not manage their chances well.
They understimated the hardships of this fight (or should I call the process of secularisation a kind of internal war?)
I am old and cannot give you (and president Obama) more than my best wishes.