"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Political Religion: Conservative Protestants and CAtholics Ally with GOP

Scholars have known that fundamentalism possesses a strong political dimension. These people react strongly against society as it is and seek political power in order to enforce their ideas about acceptable behavior and how society should be configured. To a substantial degree, this is also true of Evangelicals. Conservative Protestants are often dispensationalists, which is a political ideology with a carefully laid out schema about how God will work his will in the world. In the 1920s, conservative Protestants suffered serious political defeats and withdrew from politics for a time, building their own institutions, networks, and sub-culture. When the born-again reentered politics in the 1970s, they were a powerful, well-organized force with an agenda little different from that of the New Right. However, it is still not clear how successful the clergy have been in selling New Right economics to their congregations.

Falwell realized that a fundamental political realignment had occurred. He explained: “There were no longer enough militant union bosses, poor folk and minorities, urban ethnic and ‘yellow dog’ Southern Democrats to negate the growing influence of suburbanites, independents, white-collar workers or middle-class Catholics who were now prosperous and secure enough to vent their dissatisfaction with the [Democratic] party’s leftish stands on abortion, civil rights, crime and taxes.”

By the elections of 2000 and 2004, it was clear that not only conservative Protestant clergy, but also Catholic bishops had decided to abandon the historic tendency of churchmen to keep politics at arms length. What was emerging was what Emilio Gentile called “political religion,” defined by Bill Moyers as “religion as an instrument of political combat.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. has estimated that the alliance of the Christian Right and right wing Catholics has the potential of influencing as much as 40% of the electorate. A substantial number of Roman Catholics found common cause with the Evangelicals on the New Right in battling “hypermodern individualism,” relativism, abortion, and deteriorating moral standards. By the1990s, the priests who had defended the rights of working people and had marched in civil rights demonstrations were retiring, and they were being replaced by far more conservative men. By then, John Paul II had appointed the great majority of American bishops and many of them were inclined to ally with political conservatives. Tim Unsworth, a knowledgeable observer, reported that at least 40 bishops somewhat clandestinely worked for the reelection of George W. Bush.

Although Evangelicals had long detested Catholics, relations began to warm between them as they found common cause. They were of one mind on many cultural issues and in supporting vouchers for private schools. In 1994 Protestant New Right activist Charles Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus founded a discussion process that resulted in a document called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” In 2000, Colson and Dr. James Dobson went to the Vatican to address the bishops on how the family has broken down. The two religious groups still disagreed on a great deal, and many Evangelicals still hated Catholics but cooperation was growing. By 2004, Pope John Paul II had a higher favorability rating among Evangelicals (59%) than Reverend Pat Robertson (54%) and Reverend Jerry Falwell (44%). By then some of the most conservative Catholic bishops were suggesting that good Catholics could not vote for pro-choice candidates and that pro-choice Catholic politicians should not present themselves for communion.

The shift of some Catholic voters was due to the fact that the New Deal policies had succeeded all too well in making Catholic people prosperous enough to consider Republican arguments. The increasing number of poor and working poor voters might be expected to counterbalance this religious political alliance, but many voters in the bottom rungs of the economic ladder were too discouraged to bother voting.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!