Thursday, May 22, 2008

What does the religious right fear the most?

A poll that one of the giants on the right, Coral Ridge Ministries, sent to their members gives a revealing insight into their world view. They asked "How dangerous are the following to the spiritual health of America?" and provided the following list of possible threats:
  • The ACLU and similar groups
  • Pro-homosexual indoctrination
  • Abortion
  • Islamic terrorism
  • Hollywood
  • News Media
  • Darwinism/evolution
  • Cults and false religion
  • Atheism
  • Courts
  • Apathetic/uninformed Christians
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Public education (K-12)
  • Congress

They might as well have only given their flock four choices: education (evolution, college, and public schools), democracy (congress and the courts), sex (abortion and the homosexual agenda), and people who don't think exactly as they do (Hollywood, Islam, other Christians, Atheists, and the ACLU). The flock answered like a Pavlovian conditioned dog to the standard talking points of their culture warrior leaders; most of them chose all of the above. The order of the list is from most threatening (96 percent for the ACLU) to least threatening (63 percent for congress). Their fear of the modern world outside the close confines of their community is palpable. The outer world is all gays, free thinkers, and strangers who are out to get them.

The rest of the poll goes on to reinforce the standard culture warrior message. The "Family Values" section is all about abortion. The other questions are structured to evoke answers that are anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-separation of church and state, and distrustful of information sources not under the direct control of their insular community. Several of the questions are quite open in their fear-mongering, for example: "If Christians don’t take action, how likely is it that the federal government will pass a law making it a 'hate crime' for pastors and others to speak out against homosexuality and religions like Islam--as other countries have done?" Seventy-eight percent answered Very Likely and ten percent answered Somewhat Likely. Only four percent answered Not Very Likely.

While many will notice the fact that there is little that might be called traditional Christian values in their list of culture war gripes, that's not what struck me as most alarming. After all, the the sex and Hollywood bashing brand of Christianity should be pretty familiar to us. It is what has dominated the politically active, religious right for almost forty years now. What struck me was the hostility that they showed to the instruments of democracy; two thirds of the respondents see Congress and the courts as threats to the spiritual health of America. Ninety percent think something needs to be done to improve that spiritual health.

Why that hostility? Congress and the courts are the two branches of government that give voice to a multiplicity of opinions and that should aim at creating compromises that protect the interests of all Americans, not just the demographic majority or the self-proclaimed "real Americans." The executive, which was not offered as a threat, is the only branch that can act dictatorially as a stern father. The executive can only be one voice. Naturally, they like that branch because it reflects their authoritarian and hierarchical impulses. Even if they might not like a particular inhabitant of threat office, they like the arrangement and hope to someday take control of it and use the powers of the stern father to bring all of the other voices in America into line.

That's your modern conservative movement: fearful, authoritarian, and insular. And in their own words.

(Discovered via Thoughts from Kansas.)

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