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    Democracy Under Assault
    Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right

    Michele Swenson

    Chapter Content and Summaries

    1. Battlegrounds of Religious Right Culture Wars
      1. Challenges to Democracy
      2. Exclusionary Theopolitics
      3. Extremes of the Extreme Right
      4. Christian Persecution
      5. Corrupted Language that Forecloses Debate and Undermines Liberty
      6. Survival-of-the-Fittest Capitalism: The Privileged vs. the "Undeserving Underclass"
      7. Overcoming the Independent Judiciary
      8. Conspiracy-Driven, Gun-Centered Ideology

    2. Women: Primary Target of the Right
      1. Reversion to Pre-Roe Policy
      2. Roots of the Culture of Abuse
      3. Establishing the Primacy of Fetal Life and Men's Choices
      Final Note

    Chapter 1    Challenges to Democracy

    Struggling against modernity for over a century, fundamentalists globally have appropriated their various religious texts, reading them as injunctions for the destruction of political enemies. Christian evangelicals who previously fought the cold war against atheistic Communists have turned their wrath on "godless" Democrats, feminists, humanists, mainstream Christians and other religions. Schisms between and within religious sects often center on issues of sexuality and gender roles.

    Exclusionary doctrine advanced by biblical literalists is at odds with pluralistic democracy. Illiberal democracy that challenges civil and religious liberties has gained a foothold in the U.S. at the very moment that conservatives profess the intent to sow global seeds of democracy. The George W. Bush presidency has been described as the culmination of the conservative agenda pursued for at least a generation: the elimination of all New Deal and Great Society social programs, the repudiation of the civil rights advancements of post-World War II liberalism, and the weakening of multilateral efforts at cooperation through institutions like the U.N. and NATO. Religious meaning imputed to the Iraq war by Muslim and Christian fundamentalists, alike, render it a defacto religious war, with implications for continued cycling of sectarian violence that undermines any movement toward democracy.

    Chapter 2    Exclusionary Theopolitics

    A melding of conservative corporatism and religious nationalism has characterized Republican strategy and colored domestic and foreign policy at least since the �60s, when George Wallace redefined the terms of cultural warfare. Both Wallace and Richard Nixon coopted God and patriotism as political litmus tests. In the equation of religion with patriotism, un-American becomes "anti-Christian." Contemporary litmus tests of patriotism and enforced allegiance to the "Christian nation" are embodied in laws requiring recital of the Pledge of Allegiance ("one nation under God") in every public school classroom, and the posting of "In God We Trust" in public buildings. Democracy is compromised, and public policy debate is increasingly foreclosed by theistic language in the service of "God's" capitalism, a "godly" gun culture, and the elimination of "un-Christian" social programs. Equality and freedom that underlie collective values have been abandoned in the name of narrowly defined "traditional values."

    Religious ultraconservatives date to the '60s a "countercultural war" against "traditional" family. Pat Robertson describes a battle for the soul of America between biblical and cultural Christians, who, he asserts, abandoned biblical literacy in the '60s in favor of good social causes. Judging multiculturalism an affront to western culture and true religion, ultrarightists perceive as challenges to the historical social order such issues as birth control, abortion, welfare, homosexuality, public education, and immigration policy that "penalize those of northern European descent," all consistently linked to crime, drugs, taxes and moral decline.

    Francis Schaeffer, the doctrinal father of modern religious fundamentalism, iterated the recurrent theme of two incompatible world views: biblical Christianity vs. secular humanism (judged by some the modern antichrist). The cultural clash that portends to some imminent religious warfare is deemed by Chuck Colson a call to reevaluate the acceptance of the nation's founding contract between "enlightenment rationalists and biblical traditionalists." Globalism, environmental action on behalf of the planet, or any perceived rejection of historic male/female roles are judged direct affronts by religious nationalists.

    Chapter 3     Extremes of the Extreme Right

    Extremes of religion and of politics increasingly define the center, pushing the mainstream to the right. Some of the most virulent doctrine originates with Christian Reconstructionists, among the key architects of the religious right rise to predominance within the Republican Party. Reconstructionist dogma demands rewriting civil law to align with Old Testament precepts that justify slavery and death by stoning for at least eighteen categories of misbehavior. Reconstructionist advocates of militias ("spiritual armies") are counted among the principal participants in secretive right-wing political groups like the Council for National Policy. CNP unites Republican legislators, corporate CEOs and evangelicals in common cause for the eradication of such professed abominations as public schools, abortion, aid to the poor, the IRS and the Federal Reserve. Extremists Pat Buchanan and David Duke serve as a bridge between white male supremacists and the mainstream.

    Chapter 4     Christian Persecution

    Pat Robertson's vow to make homosexuality "the abortion issue of the '90s" appeals to the "us against them" mind-set of his fundamentalist constituency. Mirroring his indictment of abortion, Robertson ascribes cultural decline to a two-decades-old acceptance of homosexuality among cultural Christians and elites who reject literalist biblical doctrine. Right-wing Christians portray themselves a persecuted minority, victims of American liberalism ("like Nazi Germany did to the Jews," said Robertson). Gay rights ordinances are among heretical laws termed an "infringement of the freedom of religion," prompting Chuck Colson's description of "religious patriots" as political outcasts, and John Whitehead's book, Religious Apartheid, depicting Christian alienation.

    Wide-ranging allegations of Christian persecution encompass AIDS research, abortion, public education and environmentalism. Ironically, Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2 was co-written by an associate of Rev. Billy James Hargis in the aftermath of his sexual molestation of boys and girls at his Colorado Christian academy in the '70s. Hargis' holy crusade against Communism proved the harbinger of modern fundamentalist spiritual wars. Promulgating revisionist views of the Holocaust that implicate homosexuals, Pat Robertson and others have engaged in an aggressive war of words, much of it shaped at a 1994 closed-door meeting of religious right groups in Colorado Springs.

    Chapter 5    Corrupted Language That Forecloses Debate and Undermines Liberty

    Theistic language has been placed in the service of a reactionary agenda, and manipulated in the interest of the quickest path to power. A myriad of tax-exempt think tanks are central to bankrolling the political right and to re-framing the social and economic agenda. One of the oldest, Paul Weyrich's Heritage Foundation agitates for the termination of any program labeled social welfare, and for bypass of church-state separation. Dredging up discredited nineteenth century "science" of biologically determined gender and race-based "inferiority," right-wing think tanks advance the politics of class, evident in such works as Richard Hernstein's and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1996). The book posits the futility of environmental intervention and social programs in the face of genetic determination.

    Political operatives like Newt Gingrich, William Bennett, Bob Dole, Trent Lott and Tom DeLay have been quick to adopt the vernacular of theopolitics toward maintenance of a Christian right power base. Waging battles against such basic principles of democracy as equality and religious freedom, ultraconservatives promote the climate of divisiveness and incivility they so often decry. An endless array of issues are perceived as demographic challenges to white Christian male hegemony. Sometimes cast as secular humanist conspiracy, sexual licentiousness and moral poverty are imputed to females and minorities. Secular humanism is short-hand for all that is perceived as antithetical to "God's plan" and at odds with notions of traditional values equated with northern European, Christian patriarchal principles. Advancement of multiculturalism, self-esteem and environmentalism are construed as anti-American propaganda contributing to a jaundiced view of white Christian history. "Global education" or environmental awareness that instill respect for differing cultures are likewise reviled by religious nationalists. State, federal and local control are selectively invoked by the right, based on the most strategic means to their ends.

    Public schools represent a prime "battleground" on which to confront the world and its "abominable sins of homosexuality and lesbianism, witchcraft, necromancy, abortion, radical sex education and atheistic socialism," charged Dr. Robert Simonds, president of Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE), and author of the handbook of stealth campaign tactics. The Department of Education is "unconstitutional" and "public education is destroying our country," assert rightists who previously set 2000 as the target date for the elimination of public schools. "Godless" evolution "facilitates abortion, homosexuality, racism, pornography and lawlessness," argue leaders of the Institute for Creation Research.

    Chapter 6    Survival-of-the-fittest Capitalism: The Privileged v. the "Undeserving Underclass"

    Anticipating Republican goals, Howard Phillips broke from the Party in the early '90s to establish the U.S. Taxpayers Party (subsequently renamed The American Constitution Party), based on a strategy designed to rally "tax-payers against tax-users," toward elimination of federal "socialism" and "anti-biblical" policies. The issue of taxes feeds hostile beliefs about women, homosexuals and minorities among right-wing supremacists. Corporations have joined the religious right in the drive to subvert social programs as "outdated liberalism," while moving to privatize for a profit those same programs. So, too, has the marriage of fundamentalists and capitalists in opposition to reproductive choice and the Equal Rights Amendment, served corporate goals of increased population, consumerism and profits, as well as lower wages for women. Consistent with a 50-year trend of shifting the tax burden from corporations and the wealthy to the middle class and the working poor, tax policies benefitting the rich are tagged "tax relief," those benefitting the poor, "entitlements." The term "financial burden" is selectively applied to the poorest. Everything from job training programs and child care, to the Earned Income Tax Credit and public schools, have been tagged by the right "out-of-control welfare" programs.

    Ultraconservative abandonment of the poorest while capitulating to wealthy special interests has been termed "survival-of-the-fittest capitalism," a remnant of nineteenth century socioeconomic Darwinism that holds it the duty of the economically strong to drive the economically weak into extinction. Beneath the calls for balanced budgets and a restructured tax system, lie efforts to defund programs benefitting the "undeserving underclass," and to reroute public money to evangelical and corporate interests, many of which have been invited by congressional Republicans to rewrite legislation and regulations to their financial advantage. Budget cuts that slashed the $67 billion combined total of all social welfare programs, left untouched $167 billion in corporate welfare in the form of subsidies and tax breaks in 1995 alone.

    Casting poverty as moral defect, ultraconservatives reject such "leftist" ideas as progressive taxation and a liveable minimum wage, even as they disregard issues of public morality and the effects of a marketplace driven by materialism and greed. In the consequent climate of cynicism, alienation and decreased civic participation, the xenophobic nationalism, sexism and racism preached by a Patrick Buchanan carry increased appeal.

    Chapter 7    Overcoming the Independent Judiciary

    "Unbiblical" law demands disobedience, and a showdown between church and state is inevitable as long as Christians are not free to force their religious convictions on all, proclaimed Christian nation advocate, Chuck Colson. Failure to honor the founding fathers "original intent" of a "biblical ordering of social life" marks the U.S. a "post-Christian" nation, and court decisions regarding abortion, gay rights and prayer represent a judicial "pattern of hostility" toward religion. Failure to fully advance a theocratic agenda legislatively has prompted ultraconservative targeting of "leftist judicial activism," the named source of alleged moral decline and increased crime over the past 50 years.

    The religious right actively seeks to undermine the judicial mandate to protect the rights of the minority against the majority. Such proposals range from impeachment of judges (Paul Weyrich has called for the impeachment of 6 of the 9 Supreme Court justices, and Majority Whip, Rep. Tom DeLay, emphasized that articles of impeachment were being drawn up to "go after [activist judges] in a big way") to Robert Bork's promotion of constitutional amendments to permit legislative override of court decisions by a simple majority vote, and to rescind courts' power of constitutional review. Six of George Bush�s first 11 court nominees were Federalist Society members, a group thatseeks to roll back twentieth century law regarding the environment, civil rights gains, workplace health and safety, the minimum wage, telecommunications, welfare, social security, and more.

    In brief, the independent judiciary as the linchpin of balanced government for the protection of individual rights against short-term majorities, has come under fire as never before.

    Chapter 8    Conspiracy-driven Gun-Centered Ideology

    Jesus Christ and his disciples constituted a militia who waged guerrilla war against tyranny and ungodliness, lectured a militia member at a 1995 Preparedness Expo. Nothing less than the second coming of Christ is required to secure Second Amendment rights to unlimited weapons access, declared Gun Owners of America president, Larry Pratt. Charleton Heston delivered his call to arms to "God-fearing...evangelical Christian..heterosexual" gun owners before the Christian Coalition. Named the "gunocracy" by Professor Robert Jay Lifton, gun-centered ideology in America combines muscular theology, anti-government fervor and exclusionary end-times doctrine. Self-proclaimed "pro-life," "pro-family" advocates cite a biblical edict for Christians to bear arms and join militias ("spiritual armies"). The wedding of scripture and weaponry on the right reinforces an amoral "might-makes-right" ethos that elevates the gun to the status of final arbiter of disputes. Because rights emanate directly from God, theirs is a duty to break man-made laws. Advancing a fringe interpretation of the Second Amendment, ultrarightists advocate stockpiling arsenals for anticipated spiritual warfare, a hedge against "cultural genocide" in imminent end times battles between good and evil.

    Sometimes characterized as a "field and stream membership with a soldier of fortune leadership," the NRA gun lobby confuses gun issues by invoking the right to own hunting and sports guns, while endorsing 50-caliber military-style sniper rifle "funshoots." Capable of taking down aircraft, such guns have a range of over four miles. Though these sniper weapons pose a national security threat (terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda have purchased large quantities in the U.S.), due to the political influence of the gun lobby oversight legislation has languished in Congress throughout the �90s.

    Chapter 9    Reversion to Pre-Roe Policy

    Stopping short of forced child relinquishment, the right has reverted to pre-Roe punishments for single pregnancy, including denial of welfare, contraception and abortion. Though teen pregnancy rates peaked in 1957, language surrounding issues of single pregnancy and illegitimacy serves to scapegoat and impute blame for crime, drugs and social pathology to the poorest, youngest and most vulnerable, while disregarding the frequent history of sexual abuse among pregnant teens. Since reproductive control decisions were returned to women post-Roe, the previously extensive U.S. adoption black market has moved south of the border and overseas to such locales as Paraguay, Guatemala and Russia.

    Promoting work-fare without serious commitment to job training, Republican-proposed welfare reform reduced the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care funding, even as it initially rejected child support collection. Reform was seized upon as opportunity to eliminate many programs arbitrarily lumped under welfare, including legal services and a 20-year-old mandate for birth control access for the poor, and to cut by half domestic violence spending. Punitive language imputes all social problems to "unacceptable behavior" of the "privileged poor welfare class," and deems indigence a function of women's failure to marry. Denial of the effects of domestic abuse diverts blame for family disintegration to such "evils" as welfare programs, the feminist movement, no-fault divorce laws, gay rights, abortion and the public school system. Ironically, the most vocal opponents of divorce and birth control, fundamentalist Protestants and Catholics, experience the highest rates of both divorce and abortion in America.

    Chapter 10    Roots of the Culture of Abuse

    The historic imperative to control female reproduction traces to the emergence of violent, hierarchal cultures that marked the move from the matrilineal (partnership) to patrilineal (dominator) societies, as described by Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade. The notion of male ownership of women and children was reinforced by the belief, promulgated well into the nineteenth century by such western scientists as Herbert Spencer, that women were not related to their offspring, but merely incubators for the male sperm.

    Contemporary offensives against contraception, abortion and welfare represent the reassertion of patriarchal control over female reproduction. The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan, delineated post-World War II regression to patriarchal tradition that promoted images of women's "natural role" to reproduce, be submissive to men and support the expanding consumer society. Fundamentalists regard the patriarchal family unit to best serve the "divinely ordained" Capitalism, proclaimed in the Bible and bestowed upon the U.S. at its inception.

    Formerly deemed "communistic," failure of strict adherence to the traditional female role is branded "anti-family" and "immoral" by ultrarightists. A group like Promise Keepers, blending politics, economics and religion, serves as a vehicle for reestablishment of male supremacy that is expressed by some as the ideal of "one-family-one-vote." Denial of women's full humanity as autonomous, moral agents created in God's image, renders ultraright women at the mercy of men whom they consider their sole recourse for support in a misogynist culture. The trade-off for the male promise of conditional security is women's relinquishment of personal rights and responsibility of decision-making.

    Chapter 11    Establishing the Primacy of Fetal Life and Men's Choices

    Male legislators who have acted as protectors of heterosexual male prerogatives of behavior without accountability, have treated pregnancy as punishment of women, often expressed as opposition to birth control, sex education, and abortion. Biased language results in the application of terms like "sanctity of life" and "culture of death" in opposition to contraception and abortion, but not to war. In the same sense that rape has sometimes been defined as a crime against a man's property, exceptions to abortion restrictions have been sanctioned where they are viewed to protect male's right to decision-making and sexual possession of women.

    Part of a seamless garment of blame of women for sexual sin, abortion serves as a lightening-rod issue to mobilize ultraconservatives. Distorted language of family values elevates the fetal claim to life and men's choices above women's. Fear of the ascendance of other ethnic groups and ideologies motivates many advocates of a strict pronatalist policy.

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