Christian right

From Academic Kids

Christian Right is a term collectively referring to a spectrum of conservative Christian political and social movements and organizations characterized by their strong support of traditional social views in the United States. The term can be used in either a descriptive or a derogatory sense.

Politically, these groups are strongly associated with the Republican Party in the United States, which usually represents its political interests. Members generally support sodomy laws, creationism, abstinence programs and school prayer while opposing euthanasia, same-sex marriage, abortion, feminism, sex education, secularism and the exclusive teaching of evolution without religious based alternatives.

Persons active in the Christian Right are drawn from a wide variety of theological beliefs, ranging from moderately traditional movements within Lutheranism and Catholicism to theologically more conservative movements such as Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and Fundamentalist Christianity. Christian Right groups are often interdenominational, incorporating a number of denominations and independent churches and addressing their shared objectives. The Christian right shares some theological beliefs with the Christian left, although its political and social opinions are different in many areas. Members of the Christian right sometimes use the term The New Ecumenism, to refer to the cooperative working on public issues of concern, without seeking structural union or theological compromise. The terms Christian Right and Religious right are sometimes used interchangeably, although this is problematic (see discussion at Religious right).

The term Christian Right is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, to describe people and movements associated with conservatism. Some critics use phrases such as theocrat, religious extremist or Christian fundamentalist (derived from The Fundamentals, a collection of arguments defending traditional Protestant Christianity from the early 19th Century) to refer to the Christian right. Some assert that these terms represent Christianophobia, while others feel they are accurate.

Theological conservatism does not necessarily equate to political conservatism and the Christian Right. Some Evangelicals are politically liberal (e.g. Tony Campolo). Likewise in many theologically conservative African-American churches, congregants were encouraged (and sometimes ordered) by their church leaders to vote for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election

Contents

History

Jerome Himmelstein writes that:

"The term New Religious Right refers to a set of organizations that emerged in the late 1970s, the Moral Majority (later renamed the Liberty Federation), the Religious Roundtable, and the Christian Voice; their leaders, including Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Ed. McAteer; and the movement that these leaders and organizations fostered. Though this movement made a broad, religiously based conservative appeal, its deepest roots and most lasting impact were among white evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians (p. 97)."

The Christian Right emerged after evangelicals began organizing against a series of Supreme Court decisions and also engaged in local battles over pornography, obscenity, taxation of private Christian schools, prayer in schools, textbook contents, and abortion.

As a political force, the Christian Right played a significant role in the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Issues

Issues generally supported by the Christian Right include:

  • The Pro-Life movement, which advocates stronger regulation or prohibition of abortion, in the belief that abortion constitutes murder;
  • Opposition to euthanasia, in the belief that it is murder;
  • Opposition to gay rights and support of sodomy laws by groups such as the Christian Coalition, Traditional Values Coalition and notable members such as John Ashcroft, Alan Keyes and Rick Santorum in the belief that homosexual behavior is a violation of Christian doctrine and should be criminalized. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have attributed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to God's wrath against "abortionists, pagans, feminists, gays and lesbians". [1] (http://www.statenews.com/op_article.phtml?pk=18196) (These simplistic remarks were quickly contested by other members of the Christian Right, and both had to backpedal on the assertions.)
  • Regulation and restriction of some applications of biotechnology, particularly human cloning and stem cell research with human embryos, in the belief that it is immoral. See bioethics.
  • Support for the presence of religion in the public sphere, such as with voluntary prayer in school, and varying degrees of opposition to the separation of church and state principle, in the belief that the Establishment Clause was intended only to prevent the establishment of an official state religion, and not to prevent religious discourse in the public sphere;
  • Reducing restrictions on government funding for religious charities and schools, in the belief that funding secular charities to the exclusion of religious charities constitutes discrimination;
  • Promotion of conservative Christian moral values, including an emphasis on the value of the nuclear family in raising children, and opposition to extramarital sex, in the belief that such values are beneficial both for the individual and society generally;
  • Regulation and restriction of the publication and public exhibition of explicitly sexual content and pornography, in the belief that it degrades women and encourages immorality;
  • Opposition to sex education classes in public schools in the belief that sex education should be conducted at home in accord with the family's value system, and public school courses that fail to advocate abstinence inadvertantly encourage sexual activity in teenagers. A spectrum of views exist, from advocation of no sex education in public schools to advocation of abstinence only to strong advocation of abstinence in concert with other sex-related information.
  • Support for homeschooling, and private schooling, generally as an alternative to secular education rather than for Libertarian reasons, in the belief that religious education is important for children. This manifests itself as support for school vouchers.
  • Promotion of the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in public schools as alternatives to the theory of evolution, in the belief that teaching evolution to the exclusion of creation unconstitutionally inhibits religion;
  • Restricting or prohibiting non-religious activity on days of religious importance (maintaining/reinstating blue laws) although usually only at local levels.
  • Support for blasphemy laws;
  • Support for the impeachment of federal judges, in the belief that rulings against their views constitute judicial activism and is a threat to democracy insofar as it is thought to allow judges to make law without sufficient political accountability;

Historically, some conservative Christians were influential in the abolitionism movement to end slavery, the advocation of civil rights, and prohibition, though at the time period they were classified as liberal.

The issue of race is complicated. In the past, southern U.S. Christian Right groups generally advocated and practiced racial segregation, but this is not advocated today by the Christian Right. Most Christian denominations and churches in the U.S. continue to be largely segregated by race, however this reflects larger cultural trends and not advocacy by the Christian Right. Groups such as the Promise Keepers, which are allied with the Christian Right, encourage participation by men of all races in their activities, and have encouraged discussions of race and racism.

U.S. foreign policy and Christian Zionism

Many in the Christian Right refer to apocalyptic and other Biblical prophecy in their support of Israel, and support of Israel is often seen as a matter of biblical doctrine. The school of interpretation of Biblical prophecy in which Israel figures most prominently is called premillennial dispensationalism. This has created a movement called Christian Zionism.

According to Ribuffo, the Old Christian Right was generally isolationist, while Diamond notes the Christian Right since the 1950s has tended to support U.S. military intervention and covert action(see references below). After the September 11, 2001 attacks, many leaders in the Christian Right joined with neoconservatives in strongly supporting the War on Terror in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Expressing profound sympathy for Israel, some have gone so far as to advocate the "transfer" of the Palestinian population from the West Bank to another Arab nation (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt or Saudi Arabia) as the only viable long-term solution to the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. The Reverend Franklin Graham, in particular, has been noted for his strident views, drawing secular criticism for his harsh remarks directed at Islam and for his traveling to Baghdad to conduct an open-air Good Friday service primarily for persecuted Assyrian Christians (http://uscis.gov/graphics/services/asylum/ric/documentation/IRQ00001.htm) and Chaldean Christians (http://www.chaldeansonline.net/chaldeanews/attack.html) on April 18, 2003, nine days after the city had fallen to American troops. Citing these and other statements and actions, some critics have taken to characterizing the post-9/11 foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration and its most visible supporters as the Tenth Crusade.

Dominionism

Some critics claim that the Christian Right's political agendas are a form of Dominionism, and have been influenced by intellectual challenges posed by Dominion Theology and Christian Reconstructionism; the latter two are related philosophies that advocate a dissolution of democracy and personal freedoms and a push toward a theocratic or theonomic form of government that regards the Bible as the only valid reference for civics, government, scientific theory or any scholarly pursuit. Opposition groups with this point of view include the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

For example, Chip Berlet, in an American Civil Liberties Union website interview, said in 1996 that, "Reconstructionism is a theology that argues that only Christian men should rule civil society. It has a softer related theology called dominionism. ... Dominionism in general threatens the Church/State separation so vital to our democracy as a pluralist society. Groups such as the Christian Coalition really have adopted many of the tenets of Dominionism, and some key Christian right leaders are close to Reconstructionism, which thinks that the U.S. Constitution is a sub-document overruled by Old Testament Biblical Laws."

No major Christian Right leader has gone on record as advocating these philosophies by name. It is critical groups and individuals that classify the policies and commentaries of Christian Right leaders as being similar to those of Dominionism.

Pro-Republican political activism

National organizations (including the Christian Coalition) and local churches have engaged in voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts, targeting people likely to vote for Republican candidates and using materials that portray Republicans more favorably than Democrats. [2] (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2003/06/02/national1603EDT0649.DTL)

The Christian Right has also worked to promote expressly partisan Republican campaigning. For example, during the 2004 campaign, the Traditional Values Coalition website highlighted a voter registration drive by the Republican National Committee, with a link to the RNC website, and added, "The Democratic National Committee is also engaged in an aggressive campaign to register homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered individuals to defeat President [George W.] Bush in the November election." [3] (http://www.traditionalvalues.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1433) Individual ministers also made political comments from the pulpit. The pastor of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina "told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry [the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004] should either leave the church or repent". [4] (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-05-07-church-politics_x.htm) The church later expelled nine members who had voted for Kerry and refused to repent. [5] (http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20050507%2FNEWS01%2F50506036%2F1001)

Notable persons and organizations said to be members of the Christian Right

It should be noted that more militant figures such as Fred Phelps have never had a significant following, and others, such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who once had built coalitions, made overzealous statements that lost a previously broader base of support.

USA

Organizations & submovements

See also

Contrast: Christian left

External links

References

  • Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford. ISBN 0898628644.
  • Green, John C., James L. Guth and Kevin Hill. 1993. “Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978–1988.” The Journal of Politics 55(1), (February): 80–91.
  • Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1990. To The Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark. 1993. The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State. University of California. ISBN 0520086511.
  • Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-553-06794-4.
  • Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 0877225982.


See: Christian politics (index) for articles related to this subject.
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