The Left has been warning about the threat of the Religious Right for years, and assuming repeatedly that the threat was past, only to see it arise again. In state after state we have seen violations of the First Amendment as religion is established through one piece of legislation or another.
We have seen laws against abortion, against contraception, marriage equality, against religious diversity in schools, against education, evolution, and even global warming on religious grounds – not to mention against religions other than Christianity (like anti-Sharia laws or not letting atheists run for office).
Theocracy has not come to pass, but not for want of effort by the Religious Right. In “The Christian-Fascist Fantasy,” Kevin D. Williamson writes at The National Review that the feared theocracy “did not come to pass, and that therefore the threat never existed.
Williamson mocks Sirius XM host Thom Hartmann for claiming earlier this year “that a ‘Christian Taliban’ had taken over the Republican party,” but this is no new news. Evangelicals long ago proclaimed their intention to take over the GOP and then proceeded to do just that. I suppose, however, it is a lot easier to debunk history if you simply ignore it, a time-honored tactic of the Religious Right and its “historian,” David Barton (though he’s hardly alone).
He attacks Chris Hedges, author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” for issuing a warning against he dismisses as a conspiracy theory, a rich accusation coming from any conservative after almost eight years of tinfoil-hat attacks on President Obama, and now Hillary Clinton, including numerous invented scandals.
“She surely was not so ignorant as to be unaware that she was glancingly making an argument for censorship, the violation of religious liberties, and the suspension of civil rights in response to an anti-American conspiracy that, viewed from a decade down the road, kinda sorta seems to not quite exist, much less to present a ‘clear and present danger to our precious and fragile republic.’”
What is remarkable is that Hedges is accused of supposedly wanting to do precisely what the Religious Right has been trying to do since Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. Studiously ignored are the so-called “Religious Freedom” laws (Indiana’s spectacular crash and burn, for example) which sprang up all over the country, arguing that limiting the religious freedom of non-Christians was somehow religious freedom.
Failure doesn’t mean no effort went into the push for theocracy. It was just this year that Ted Cruz, the Religious Right’s candidate of choice, said he’d block access to contraception on religious grounds.
He said he called on the clergy to “Awaken and energize Christ’s body into the White House.”
In 2013, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the Republican Party is a religion.
In 2014, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer wanted an Evangelical conclave to choose candidates for president. Tough luck, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and others.
Somehow, for Williamson, things like this aren’t threats to the rest of us.
The Evangelicals thought they had done it when George W. Bush, an evangelical, won the 2000 election. They thought they were going to do it again in 2008 with McCain/Palin, when the former Alaska governor promised God “would do the right thing.” Namely, put her and McCain in the White House. Their hopes were disappointed in 2012 but though their candidates fell one by one to Trump, many of them have now placed their hope in the former reality star.
Trump has promised to violate the First Amendment at the federal level for Christianity, saying,
“You’ll have great power to do good things and religion will start going instead of this way [downward motion of his hand]. Christianity, when you think of what’s happening, when you look at the numbers. I talk about Sunday School, people don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. When you look instead of going this way [downward motion].”
“You’re gonna go this way,” he said, now raising his hand upward.
Obviously, the First Amendment bans laws establishing religion, but this is exactly what Trump has promised to do, as have other Religious Right candidates in the past. Williamson can mock Trump as a not-real Christian, and as evidence that the threat of the Religious Right is not real.
Ignored is what the Religious Right has done to itself, selling a program of hate and intolerance Americans increasingly reject. Each time it is rejected, rather than re-evaluate and moderate their tone, they double-down. The Republican platform in 2012 was the most theocratic we had seen until this year’s, which the Religious Right brags about having crafted.
The evidence is all around us. The threat was real then and it is real now. The Religious Right has publicly and repeatedly endorsed their goal of imposing a Christian theocracy on America and Trump has at least paid lip-service to that goal. If Williamson wants to ignore the mountains of evidence all around him in favor furthering the Christian myth of persecution, he is welcome; it is a free country after all.
At least until Williamson and his crowd take over.