How The GOP Launched A Religious War Using The Art Of Victimhood (And Sarah Palin)

hollyCourtesy of Salon and Frank Schaeffer:

As someone who participated in the rise of the religious right in the 1970s and 1980s, I can tell you that you can’t understand the modern Republican Party and its hatred of government unless you understand the evangelical home-school movement. Nor can the Democrats hope to defeat the GOP in 2016 unless they grasp what I’ll be explaining here: religious war carried on by other means.

The Christian home-school movement drove the Evangelical school movement to the ever-harsher world-rejecting far right. The movement saw itself as separating from evil “secular” America. Therein lies the heart of the Tea Party, GOP and religious right’s paranoid view of the rest of us. And since my late father and evangelist Francis Schaeffer and I were instrumental in starting the religious right — I have since left the movement and recently wrote a book titled “Why I Am an Atheist who Believes in God: How to Give Love, Create Beauty and Find Peace – believe me when I tell you that the evangelical schools and home school movement were, by design, founded to undermine a secular and free vision of America and replace it by stealth with a form of theocracy.

This happened because Evangelical home-schoolers were demanding ever-greater levels of “separation” from what they regarded as the Evil Secular World. It wasn’t enough just to reject the public schools. How could the Christian parent be sure that even the Evangelical schools were sufficiently pure? And so the Christian schools radicalized in order to not appear to be “compromising” with the world in the eyes of increasingly frightened and angry parents. (My account here of the rise of the home school movement is not aimed at home-schooling, per se, but at parents who want to indoctrinate, rather than educate.)

So they are hating public schools and gubmint already and heading even further to the right.

…The groups Kreeft, Colson and Neuhaus had in mind to “bring together” in an ecumenical jihad were alienated Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews and conservative Roman Catholics, to which Kreeft added Muslims (not that any actually signed on to his program as far as I know). These groups did not share each other’s theology, but had a deeper link: anger at the “victimhood” imposed on them by modernity.

Kreeft and Neuhaus were calling abortion murder. Thus, the logic of their argument was that of my father’s, too: The U.S. government was enabling murder and was thus disparaged as a “regime,” even a “counterfeit state,” that needed to be overthrown. George (best friend of Antonin Scalia) and Colson and the others who wrote and then signed the “Manhattan Declaration” (like Kreeft) also called for fundamentalists to unite if need be for civil disobedience to stop the U.S. government from doing its worst—in other words, to pass laws that did not comply with their religious “values.”

…The “Manhattan Declaration” called laws with which its signers disagreed “edicts,” thereby conjuring up images of dictators handing down oppressive rules, rather than legitimately elected democratic bodies passing legislation. In other words, when the right loses in the democratic process, “other means,” like civil disobedience, are encouraged. In fact, George, who authored the “declaration,” then headed up the group that successfully won on the Hobby Lobby case and also won the Evangelical Wheaton College suit to allow them to not cover contraception for women.

More about Robert P. George from The New York Times: 

He has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as “one of the biggest brains in America,” or, on one broadcast, “Superman of the Earth.” Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. Supreme Court JusticeAntonin Scalia told me he numbers George among the most-talked-about thinkers in conservative legal circles. And Newt Gingrich called him “an important and growing influence” on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage…

What sterling friends and admirers.

Last spring, George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops’ “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.

He sounds like a lovely fella. I know this is long, but hold on and you will see where I am going. Back to Frank Schaeffer now…

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In the first decade of the 21st century the Evangelical and conservative Roman Catholic (and Mormon) outsider victim “approach” to public policy was perfected on a heretofore-undreamed-of scale by Sarah Palin. She was the ultimate holier-than-thou Evangelical. What my mother had represented (in her unreconstructed fundamentalist heyday) to a chalet full of young gullible women and later to tens of thousands of readers, Palin became for tens of millions of alienated, angry, white lower-middle-class men and women convinced that an educated “elite” was out to get them.

Palin was first inflicted on the American public by Sen. John McCain, who chose her as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election for at least one big reason: He needed to shore up flagging support from the Evangelical Republican antiabortion base. McCain wanted to prove that he was fully in line with the “social issues” agenda that Dad, Koop and I had foisted on our country more than 30 years before. Palin lost the election for McCain but “won” her war for fame and fortune.

It’s not hard to see why Palin kept accusing Democrats  of wanting her to abort Trig. No one said any such thing but she wanted to make an issue of it. Palin knew she was a contender for VP long before she was nominated and she was getting all of her *puppies* in a row as soon as McCain won the nomination back in March, 2008.

She presented herself as called by God and thus cast in the Old Testament mold of Queen Esther, one chosen by God to save her people. Palin perfected the Jesus Victim “art” of Evangelical self-banishment and then took victimhood to new levels of “success” by cashing in on white lower-middle-class resentment of America’s elites.

Palin made a fortune by simultaneously proclaiming her Evangelical faith, denouncing liberals and claiming that she would help the good God-fearing folks out there “take back” their country. This “Esther” lacked seriousness. But born-again insiders knew that the “wisdom of men” wasn’t the point. Why should the new Queen Esther bother to actually finish her work governing Alaska? God had chosen her to confound the wise!

So she became a media star and quit as governor of Alaska. Then she battled “Them”—the “lamestream media” (as she labeled any media outlets outside of the Far Right subculture)—in the name of standing up for “Real Americans.” Palin used the alternative communication network that had its roots deeply embedded in those pioneering 1970s and 1980s Evangelical TV shows and radio shows that I used to be on just about every other day. She did this to avoid being questioned by people who didn’t agree with her. By not actually governing or doing the job she’d been elected by Alaskans to do, and by using the alternative media networks as an “outsider”—all the while reacting to and demanding attention from the actual (theoretically hated) media—Palin also made buckets of money.

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11 Responses to How The GOP Launched A Religious War Using The Art Of Victimhood (And Sarah Palin)

  1. ProfessorCanine says:

  2. titlewave says:

    “she was getting all of her *puppies* in a row”


  3. ProfessorCanine says:

  4. 40Watt says:

    We naturalized Americans had to take a citizenship test. You can see the 100 possible questions here –

    Note question 10: What is freedom of religion?

    The correct and only acceptable answer has two parts to it: You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.

    I say, let’s test everyone. 😉

  5. Socrates says:

    Sarah Palin is nothing but ignorant white trash. And that’s what she will always be because she doesn’t have the cognitive wherewithal to be anything but ignorant white trash.

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