The presence of religion in current day politics has become a distortion of what our society has always professed to be. What was once considered to be a political sphere of democrats and republicans has become a war between the “religious right” and American hating liberals. The United States, once formed on the foundation of the right to religious freedom, now quibbles over the rights of individuals, based on their religious expression. Power and the control of this country has been handed over to the religious right on the basis of their religious expression. Media is now described in terms of “right-wing” or “liberal.” The “moral majority” stakes claims of being the only individuals that deserve mention.
During this mid-year election, this separation has become abundantly clear. The debate between the parties is not based on our economy, or international policy, or the educational system within this country. The debate is based on who is morally superior. The debate is on whose belief system is more closely aligned with the majority of the voters. It is this polarization that is strengthening the level of intolerance in this country. How did this come to be?
The religious right wing found some of its strength in the words of Ronald Reagan and has been repeated ever since. “It is the claim that the United States was once a great nation with people who lived by a moral creed that emphasized piety, hard work, thrift, sexual restraint and self-reliance, but there came a time in the 1960s when we abandoned those values. We came instead to rely on big government to solve our problems, to imagine that abortion, homosexuality and the pursuit of sexual pleasure were OK, and to believe that God had died and that religion should play no role in our public life…..we need to renew our commitment to sexual restraint and traditional morality…..making it possible for us to recapture our greatness as a people.” This speech brought together the moral concerns of the Christian right and the capitalist concerns of economic conservatives. (Sullivan, 2004)
This led credibility to the religious right and offered to the American people a solution to the bad behavior that was taking over society. Over the past twenty-five years, leaders of the Christian Right have created one organization after another, with the admitted purpose of winning state power, and the power to dictate public policy. Working side by side with Ronald Reagan, leaders of the Christian Right worked to wage murderous wars on civilians in Central America and southern Africa. Since that time, the Christian Right has grown into the most “formidable mass movement on the political scene today. We will enter the new millennium with the Christian Right in positions of state power.” (Diamond, 1995)
Following the 1994 election, an exit poll indicated that approximately 25 percent of thepeople who voted were white evangelical Christians. Reportedly, about two-thirds votedRepublican. The agenda of the Christian Right in 1994 was to deliver the Senate and Congressto the Republicans. The ability of the Christian Right to get people to the polls has increased insubsequent elections. In the late 1970s, the Christian Right registered several million newvoters to vote for Ronald Reagan. In addition, exit poll data showed the “two constituencies consistently loyal to the Republican Party: people with incomes over $200,000 a year, who arefew in number, and the Christian Right.” (Diamond, 1995) One of the attractions to the Christian Right or moral majority is their cohesiveness,which leaves the American people feeling safe. “The concept of belief is crucial tounderstanding how belief, influenced by religion, holds that certain truths are immediate, naturaland God-given, inalienable in the sense that they cannot be articulated because they are so deeplyfelt as natural and primal. Unswerving and deeply-felt conviction is also tied to what makesfundamentalists fundamentalists: belief in the Bible’s literal correctness, its “inerrancy.”
(Block, 2002) This group sees that the social problems of the United States can be explained by a lack of sufficient religion. The emphasis becomes personal responsibility, moral absolutes and traditional values, viewing liberals as devoid of morality. They believe quite literally that every time a person makes a commitment to Christianity, they are creating a better world. They do not see the mix of policy and religion as incompatible.
It is this same Christian right that believes Hurricane Katrina was a response to immoral lifestyles of the residents of New Orleans. “New Orleans officials, the federal government, and even residents who did not evacuate in time were blamed for the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when it pummeled the Gulf Coast in August. The Christian right, however, picked a different target. In a nod to tradition, they blamed us. Gay men and lesbians, they said, were the culprits, and so were their henchmen–those who refused to condemn New Orleans’s hedonistic culture. Michael Marcavage, the director of Christian group Repent America, told his members it was no coincidence that the storm struck New Orleans just days before Southern Decadence, the city’s annual gay pride celebration. (Heil, 2006)
According to the American Enterprise, the right continually succeeds in tying each of its campaigns to this moral vision. They describe the battle against inheritance tax as an assault on the “death tax” that is unfairly taking wealth from those who have worked hard. George W. Bush refers to Al Qaeda as “the evildoers,” in order to frame the war on terrorism as our nations fathers protecting the country. These stories have been told so often that it has settled in as the common sense of our society. (The American Enterprise, 2006) It is this very fear based rhetoric that appears to have people coming back for more, in order to remain safe.
The Christian Right has become a social phenomenon. (Villarejo, 1999) Rush Limbaugh, a strong supporter and advocate of the religious right, can take scientific information and call it “hooey,” and his supporters believe him. Rush Limbaugh, in his comments on the recent torture of Iraqi prisoners, said the soldiers were just having a good time, and his supporters continue to listen. This religious right has moved so far to the right, that perhaps the “Christian” got lost in it somewhere. Yet those who support the movement, do so without question. The religious right is so sure of their position that they are willing to force other nations into living the very prophecy that they believe in. There is no question of action within this camp, whether right or wrong. Their conviction is reminiscent of other radical sects around the world.
The power of the religious right is deeply established in our society. Power, as held by the religious right, has a tremendous effect on almost every level. Social power is held by the certain media entities. Coercive power is maintained within the government both legitimately, as prescribed by law, and illegitimately, as through the illegal wiretapping of our citizens. Political power as our government regulates how power is used.