An Effective Progressive Response
The Christian Right, although significant, is not a monolithic force and has its own internal issues. The leaders of the Christian Right sometimes argue for policy positions that make their own followers uncomfortable. This is especially true in terms of the quest for dominionism. While some Christian Right leaders envision a theocratic Christian nation, few rank and pew evangelicals allied with the Christian Right want a theocracy, much less a fascistic one.
Although they would love us to believe they represent all Christians, in reality the Christian Right does not speak for all Christians or even all evangelicals. The idea of God is too big to shackle to narrow minds.
The Christian Right is a primarily a White subset of evangelicals who embrace fundamentalist or dominionist beliefs and are currently being mobilized around certain issues framed as “values.” Many evangelicals, however, do not hold identical values to the ones touted at the Values Voters Summit or at Liberty Sunday. They may see God on their side, but sometimes they can be persuaded to vote in favor of issues important to progressives.
Certain groups of White evangelicals can be seen as potential swing voters, depending on the issues and how they are framed. For instance, the Summit called for support for Bush’s War on Terror based on patriotism and Christian principles; but the growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq across all segments of the population can become a wedge, which could be framed in effective ways to counter the arguments of the Christian Right.
The Christian Right has already attempted to lure Black and Latino evangelical Protestants with their campaign against same sex marriage and abortion. But these groups also share similar concerns as progressives on a variety of issues. Progressives of all races, and holding various beliefs, can and must reach out to all these groups.
Using phrases such as “religious political extremist,” “radical religious right,” or “Christofascists,” therefore, is counterproductive, because many evangelicals, not to mention Christians or religious people in general, find these terms offensive.
A shared respect for the Constitution could be one unifying principle. If progressives want to defend the Constitution, we must learn the religious beliefs of those evangelicals who dominate the Christian Right, treat them respectfully, and yet engage them in a critical public conversation over the appropriate boundaries for civic political debate set by the founders and framers of our nation.~70
Demonizing rhetoric from the Left not only pushes evangelicals away from the Democratic Party, but also pushes them out of potential partnerships around progressive issues. And from a progressive standpoint, the issue is not electing Democrats, but holding all politicians accountable for advancing social and economic justice. ■
Additional resources on the Christian Right:
Dualistic apocalyptic millennialism
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