Christian Democrats of America Say Republican Dominance of Christianity Ending

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We are hearing again that “the Republican Monopoly on Christianity is Nearing its End” – in other words, that the Religious Right is finally losing its grip. That is what Christian Democrats of America’s Executive Director, Christina Forrester is telling us. I hope so. It is past time Christians stood up to the bullies in their midst, the people who have hijacked their religion since the 1970s to the sound of crickets.

Yet far from surrendering, there are signs the Religious Right, like Fox News, is getting behind Donald Trump, who, like actor Christopher Walken, is a genre unto himself. The difference is, Walken amuses us by pretending to be scary people on film, while Trump would be more amusing if he wasn’t pretending.

Is Donald Trump as a sign of just how deeply the Religious Right has permeated Republican politics, or is he evidence of its demise? Is he a sign of the end of the Religious Right’s dominance, that they have had to settle on a candidate who openly pooh-pooh’s the doctrine of repentance, who reduces the Eucharist to a “little wine” and a “little cracker”?

Or is he a sign of the Religious Right’s resilience and its chameleon-like ability to endlessly reinvent itself? It’s no small thing, after all, to have openly promoted hypocrisy through word and deed for almost 50 years while still successfully maintaining the moral high ground.

The obituary of the Religious Right has been written many times over. To confront such claims in 2012, Ed Kilgore wrote in the New Republic in 2012 that “The Political fumbling by Christian conservatives has been even worse this presidential cycle than it was in 2008.”

Kilgore pointed to the selection of John McCain, their enemy, in 2008, and says of 2012, “The Christian Right’s fatal failure this time was its inability to form a consensus behind a single candidate.”

However, he concluded that,

But if it’s entirely fair to point out that the once-indomitable Christian Right has botched the contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, it’s another thing altogether to conclude…that the Christian Right’s days of national influence have finally expired.

He is right. On each occasion, the rumors of its death have been proven wrong. And this is exactly what Bill Berkowitz pointed out in Religious Dispatches in June of 2009 that “even after an Obama victory reports of the death of the Religious Right are greatly exaggerated.”

And Dan Gilgoff, writing in U.S. News & World Report, argued in April 2009 that “for a movement on the verge of collapse, the Christian right ain’t doing too bad so far as influencing policy goes,” and pointed to its “29-to-0 record in amending state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage” as evidence.

Kilgore, far from admitting defeat, claimed victory: “But if they haven’t been able to pull their muscle behind a single candidate, that’s not a sign that they are on the wane—it’s a sign that, as far as the Republican Party is concerned, they have already won.”

So yes, Americans would be justified to be skeptical of any such claims. But let’s look at the argument.

According to Forrester, there are “key indicators that Christian votes will begin to lean more democratic in the 2016 Presidential election and beyond.”

1. Wedge issues have gone awry. The Republican Party’s two “clinch” issues–gay marriage and abortion–are becoming less of a factor for voters. While many Christians, regardless of their political affiliation, may be pro-life and in favor of traditional marriage, the tone of the conversation has changed dramatically and is no longer becoming a singular or even primary influence in picking a candidate. And with the recent Supreme Court decision, one could argue the fight for “traditional marriage” is now truly a moot point. One recent high-profile report even underscored that “most Republican presidential candidates seem to want to avoid talking about the issue [all together]—as Mitt Romney largely did in 2012.” Another 2015 report underscoring “The Republican Party’s Abortion Bind” cites that, despite “a newly enormous majority in the House and a newly minted majority in the Senate, Republicans finally had a chance to get a bill to the president,” but to no avail as the GOP coalition fell apart on technicalities in its attempt to pass a new bill. The report further highlights part of the challenge for Republicans, citing that “everyone knows the GOP faces a demographic time bomb, since its voters are older and whiter and more pro-life than the general population, so it’s risky to do anything that might make it harder to win them over.” Further, polling has shown that “the majority of Americans, based on gender, do not let their views on abortion affect their choice in a presidential candidate.” That finding reportedly came shortly after Rep. Todd Akin, the then Republican Senate hopeful from Missouri, drew backlash from his own party for his comments regarding “legitimate rape” and abortion.

2. “Compassionate conservatism was a lie.” In 2000 when George W. Bush ran for President, he won based on the assurance of a softer, more holistic conservatism that promised to leave “no child left behind” and to be more inclusive of groups across varied economic backgrounds. Fast forward to today and only a few voices in the Republican party are discussing economic equality. Indeed, the Republican party is still not only perceived as the party of the wealthy, but duly anointed as outlined in a March 2015 report titled “The Fight for the Soul of the Republican Party Is Over: The Rich Won Again” that detailed the epic failure of “reform conservatives” striving to reconnect the party to middle-class and low-income voters. Terms such as “The War on the Poor” and trending Twitter hashtags like #GOPWaronthePoor #WaronthePoor show that more and more Americans, and Christians, are identifying the Republican party with the wealthy, the so-called 1%, and against policies to help the poor. The GOP has not helped itself in this regard by allowing members of Congress and outspoken Evangelical leaders to leverage the media with messages that insult or demean food stamp recipients and others in the low economic class. When every policy, from the subsidized “Obamaphone” program to budgets for food stamps, which assists our nation’s poor, is slammed by the GOP establishment, the people, including Christians, are finally starting to take notice. This is especially true in states where GOP governors have refused the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would help millions in their states be able to receive healthcare. The effect of the GOP general narrative on helping these millions of poor families is especially heard…and felt. This is especially noticed by Christians who identify Jesus’ teachings of helping the poor and what our attitudes should be towards the needy. More and more Christians are identifying as Democrat or Liberal simply because they can no longer justify supporting the Republican party, based on these issues. As a result, we are seeing a rise in “pro-life Democrats” who are for abortion restrictions, but also broaden their definition of “pro-life” to all people in all phases of life, as scripture indicates. In this case, anyone classed as “the least of these” is a pro-life concern.

3. Christian Millennials are progressive-minded. In 2012, 67% of those under 35 voted for Obama. Since 62% of Millennials under 35 also identify with some form of Christianity, it stands to reason that there are millions of Millennial Christians who are progressive minded (or hold progressive values). Even though Republicans saw victory in the midterm elections, progressive ballot items won by a landslide, and Millennials voted in line with those items. Millennial Christians are also more inclined to support the LGBT rights movement, gay marriage and civil rights issues. They largely identify with values of compassion and minority issues, which have become known as part of the Democratic platform. Millennials, including Christians, dislike the GOP rhetoric on religious freedom laws and gay rights, women’s rights and minority issues.

Forrester is not the first to make these claims. Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin suggested in 2012 (the claims to which New Republic’s Kilgore was responding) that the Religious Right was “on the wane” because it was “increasingly out of touch with public opinion, and on the wrong side of generational tends.” Kilgore was willing to concede on same-sex marriage but contested Kazin on abortion.

CJ Werleman said much the same on AlterNet in 2014, writing that “The Christian Right’s dirty little secret is they are acutely aware that changing demographics are running against them.” In Werelman’s view, far from being a rumor, even the Religious Right knows it has lost the culture war.

Over at Bloomberg, Francis Wilkinson of the editorial board looked to the Academy Awards, of all places, for evidence of the rout: the 2014 selection of openly lesbian Ellen DeGeneres as “the safe choice to host one of the most mainstream, popular television events of the year, watched by some 40 million Americans.”

Wilkinson opined that while the rest of us have come to grips with “gay equality” and that “Religious conservatives will take a little longer not because they are religious, but because they are conservatives.”

Kazin wrote in January 2012,

Every GOP candidate still in the race speaks of Planned Parenthood as if it were a band of terrorists and vows to stop the largest and oldest reproductive rights group in the country from winning even a dollar of federal funding—and all of them except Ron Paul has signed a firm pledge to support a constitutional amendment that would essentially ban same-sex marriage.

As we well know, because of some faked videos, the assault on Planned Parenthood, three years on, is far from over – or won. The simple fact is that if Republicans gained the Senate, they lost the White House – again. For conservatives it is a simple matter formula of “Planned Parenthood = abortion” but Obama has proven himself a strong champion of women’s rights – including reproductive rights. And Democrats in Congress, many of them women, have stood firm against conservative efforts to give men authority over their bodies.

And the pledge against same sex marriage…well, we saw how that turned out, didn’t we? Kilgore was right to concede in 2012. The Supreme Court has spoken. If corporations are people, so are gays and lesbians, and as such, they have the same rights to marriage as “heterosexuals.”

Kazin said liberals had won another culture war issue too: contraception, pointing out that “The news that the traditionalist Catholic ex-Senator from Pennsylvania [Rick Santorum] had suggested that contraception ‘is counter to how things are supposed to be’ was enough to bury under a heap of ridicule whatever slim chance he had to win the nomination.”

Kilgore’s conclusion is my longstanding conclusion: “The Christian Right has been buried many times by secular observers since its advent as a powerful political movement in the late 1970s. It’s far too early to write yet another obituary.”

That isn’t to say that it isn’t on a wane. Take heart. Forrester makes some valid points. Mainline Christians have begun to organize and to speak up, for example, with regards the Iran nuclear deal, and against war. We even have a Pope standing up to the Religious Right.

However, demographics or not, Christians have not seized the mantle from the Religious Right. It may be coming, but it’s not here: The struggle is about more than the White House, despite the Religious Right’s victory in 2000, putting George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

It has always been so: it is about communities; towns and cities, and fifty states and their state legislatures, their governors, and their representatives in Congress.

These are the areas where the Religious Right still dominates. In “Jesus welcomes you to” signs at the edge of small-town America, and Ten Commandments displays in courthouses; in charter schools that teach religion, and public school textbooks that teach creationism rather than science to our children.

Evidence of the end of Republican dominance of Christianity will be in the form not of a Democratic presidential victory, which is almost assured, but success in these local elections, and the advent of true religious freedom for all Americans over the Religious Right’s imposition of religious tyranny.

I’ll believe the Religious Right is dead when I see it lying in the road.

38 Replies to “Christian Democrats of America Say Republican Dominance of Christianity Ending”

  1. The Republican Chamber of Commerce Religion Right Party is to be distinguished from the Democratic Party which routinely promotes (1) “separation between Religion and Government,” James Madison, William Mary Quarterly 3:555 and (2) organized labor (unions). How much more clearly can it be said? The national Democratic Party needs a leader able to promote those two principles without hesitation!

  2. My mother, who grew up in the Florida Redlands in the 1920s, used to say that if you saw a diamondback rattler lying run over in the road, don’t believe it’s dead, because they’ll be able to bite till sundown, no matter what happens to them. I don’t know how true this bit of Cracker lore is about snakes, but I’d surely apply it to right-wing Christianity.

  3. It blows my mind how the Christian Right has made Trump their golden boy. This is a man who has made it loud and clear that money and power is his God (Again I tell you, it is easier a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. “Matthew 19:24). He’s anti-immigrant (The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34). It also amuses me that the same people that bark about morals and decency have absolutely no problem with his wife posing nude (For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16).

    Granted, I’m an atheist, but anyone whose ever read the gospel of Christ knows that many of his so called followers mimic the very Pharisees that he despised.

  4. I’ll believe it when I see the left leaning Christians rise up and kick the crap out of their fundie brethren. Until then, no way. The nuts on the right fringe have taken over the whole party and it is going to take a total cleansing of the lot to recover any sanity in the GOP.

  5. The Christian Left have about 30 years of catching up to do. And if the GOP know demographics are again them, why not reach out to the changing demographic? It’s less time consuming, makes sense politically and economically.

  6. “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross and ar15.”

    live on fox, and fiends.

    its too bad, that jesus is fiction. if he was to come back, the first to be cast out, are the very same who fetishsize and distort what christ is really supposed to be about…

  7. Jesus, Son 9f God, would most certainly be a Democrat if here today. Lets see, Obama/Pope Francis ~vs~ Trump/Kochs/gopbags….
    A president for peace and equality and a revered Pope up against a man who married 4 times that parades women around half naked on a stage for a prize. The religious gop has shifted their faith to guns and hate and violence.

  8. I’ve posted this several times, but perhaps it bears repeating. It is the young in this country that is rejecting religious extremism. It isn’t just the 20’s-something, it is the kids in middle school. Kids aren’t stupid. They see the hatred of “otherness” and the vast majority of them reject it. It is when these “kids” become tomorrow’s leaders in all of the local and state offices that we’ll see religious dominance disappear. Not yet, but definitely in the next two decades.

  9. Granted, I’m an atheist, but anyone whose ever read the gospel of Christ knows that many of his so called followers mimic the very Sadducees that he despised.
    Fixed
    —————————————
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    Jesus would be so proud

  10. Q: Did Sinclair Lewis say, “When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”? A: This quote sounds like something Sinclair Lewis might have said or written, but we’ve never been able to find this exact quote.

  11. Euro-christianity (White Jesus) is a tool for conformity. One book to rule them all.

    The drive for hegemony and hierarchy in European culture has been a cancer that spread with their explosive influence on the global stage in the past 300 years.

    White phallus worship relies on a system of gatekeeper/priests, who dispense the ‘word of gawd’ and enforce conformity with violence. The focus of violence differs, but the goals of the Inquisition are always the same – comply or die.

    Advances in mass communication challenge hegemony, which is why education is rabidly suppressed.

    Unlike one-way messages of TV, print and radio, the web demands interaction and commentary. You can no longer control your own message. It will take time for backwater America to join civilization in not demanding conformity, but social control using a translated text bastardized by 1000 years of European politics will not stand.

  12. The quote below provides reason on how cognitive dissonance has been successfully used by the radical christian religious cults, and, why they are still alive:

    “If we once start making sacrifices for anything-a family, a religion, or a nation-we find that we cannot admit to ourselves that the sacrifices have been in vain without a threat to our personal identity. Our identity is in part created by identifying ourselves with the organization or the community for which the sacrifices have been made. In these circumstances, the object of sacrifice becomes “sacred” and it is in a position to demand further sacrifices.” (Boulding, 1969).[economist who applied Festinger’s cognitive dissonance to a financial experiment with students].

    Radical cults eventually run out of followers willing to sacrifice, be persuaded by further demands, however, as long as we fail to contain snakes like “Pastor Cruz” who groom their sons to be charismatics leaders, they will live to “bite” us again.

  13. If the RW fundamentalist’s feel that they are losing their hate filled congregation, they will try to discourage: TV, Internet, any news outlet to keep people in the dark and fearful. They will also encourage them to avoid certain ungodly people whom they define! It’s all about control of the masses so the GREEDY can be elected!

  14. I’ve been correctly calling the “Religious Right” (and all Right-Wingers) Fascist Christian Plutartheocrats for more than two years. But, just like the Conservatives of the GOP, the FCPers have control despite being a superminority (Pew polling and studies over the past few years has indicated that only 12% of the US voting population are “Staunch Conservatives”).
    So, just like GOP Progressives and Moderates, the VOTING majority of the GOP, need to stand up to the insane superminority, so to do the Christian Leftists need to stand up to the FCPer superminority.

  15. 4000 churches close every year and the church has lost half its members in the past 100 years.
    People are tired of the hypocrisy and bigotry and more are becoming solitary practitioners.
    When will the zealot extremists comprehend that throwing money in a collection plate and judging others is not going to save their soul?
    If organized religion continues to force their political agenda and they want such a big say in how the rest of us live and jam their desire for ultimate control over choices we have the right to, then I say Tax the Church! They are currently getting representation without taxation and that is not separation of church and state.
    Otherwise, religion is a personal belief and should remain that way. Keep it to yourself!

  16. A wee bit OT:

    http://candst.tripod.com/boston3.htm

    The link above explanation of the American “Bible Riots” or “Wars” of the 1800’s. The insane things people did and said around that time sound too much like today.

    Also, read the piece at Talk2Action.org on why Raphael Cruz is wrong about pray in schools. It gives a wonderful history of when and why we started public schools and how prayer got to be “thrown out” of public places, like schools.

  17. I’ll be happy when people like you rise up and HELP progressive Christians kick ass. National Council of Churches, United Methodist Women, and various others have been fighting for LGBT rights, civil rights, end to poverty, etc. etc. all in defiance of the religious right – and in spite of the powerful reign of terror against us. Institute for Religion and Democracy has waged war on NCC and its various denominations spreading lies and distortions to shut progressives down.

    And the media report NONE of it nor do secular progressives give a damn. By voluntarily rejecting any kind of concern for the survival of progressive faith people (those who do NOT believe in a ‘sky fairy’ but in justice) you – not we – let this happen, grow, fester. Many of us are under physical siege – where are YOU? We live in great uncertainty w death threats, stalking, spying by the religious right who are met with a huge wall of indifference from you.

    So stop saying it’s on us. It’s on YOU, too.

  18. Christina Forrester is apparently delusional. If she thinks the republicans are losing their grip on christianity in this country, she ought to spend a little time down in the bible belt and see for herself just what’s going on. She might be in for a rude awakening, because the good ol’ boys down there are a long way from becoming churchgoing Democrats.

  19. It’s not exactly a picnic being an atheist, either. When Christians are executed, there is sympathy all around. When atheists are executed, people seem to think we had it coming.
    http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2015/03/25/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-under-fire-for-graphic-anti-atheist-speech-at-prayer-breakfast/

    That being said, I am not indifferent to your plight. My husband and his family are Catholic. They live in dirt floor houses in rural Mexico, tend goats, and their local priest ACTUALLY helps the poor. The last church I went to here in the states spent $800,000 on sanctuary lighting despite the town being full of needy people.

  20. …not much o’ a stretch…both Trump and the Reich-Wing are Fascists. capitalism for trump, pseudoreligious asshattery for the Teahadists…

  21. Americans identify by a large majority as Christian but that does not necessarily mean they are aligning with the right wing freaks of hatred. The appearance of Pope Francis is offering a viable alternative to the ugly fundamentalist Christian with their blooming biases and prejudices. All fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim, or Jew, are a canker. Living in human decency with respect for all people is should be what we expect of all religious people.

  22. I have had to stop calling prominent Republicans “Christian” because they do not follow the Jesus I’ve read about in the Bible. These people and their followers have made the term “Christian” a hated word to many in our country. I’ve started calling myself a “follower of Jesus” or “a follower of the Way” to differentiate myself from these hypocrites.

  23. Actually it was the Pharisees that Jesus openly chastised about the way they taught the laws of Man, as the laws of God. The Pharisees were the ones that were teaching Leviticus and Deuteronomy as laws of God, when they were actually established by Moses and Aaron, to be the civil laws of the Children of Israel.

    The Sadducee’s taught only by the Torah, which didn’t include those books. Jesus brought a new group of commands, a new covenant to live by, that the religious “right” {more accurately religious wrong}, pretty much ignores, and go by the letters written by Saul of Tarsus {AKA Paul} Who was actually one of the Pharisees, who hunted down and exposed many of the early Christians, so that they would be killed.

    It was the Pharisees, along with the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, that pressured the Romans to Crucify Jesus. It’s also the Pharisees that the Religious right and particularly the televangelists, most closely resemble…

  24. But if he existed wasn’t Jesus a Jew and if he was against the rich wouldn’t he have been talking about the Sadducee since they were the money men who wanted to maintain their power?

  25. So I know quite a bit about a few of the names you put here.

    First, regarding Bishop Eddie Long. You are dead on from my estimate. If you are ever around him you kind of feel your skin crawl.

    Second, Osteen; no issue with you should know that they give millions of dollars to local nonprofits every year. I am pretty sure he doesn’t take a salary and he gives hope to millions. He doesn’t ask them to do anything strange. His message is one of optimism. He makes all his money from his books. The market determined he should do well. People buy his books. The same goes for Jakes and also with Jakes he has dived into doing some really great inspirational projects in the entertainment industry and he mentors numerous people.

    The church isn’t suppose to be stuck to the four walls. Good for Osteen and good for Jakes that people support their message and if they were not getting the money than the publisher would be making more. So what is the issue?

  26. Fundamentalist Christianity and the GOP aren’t going anywhere soon.
    Why?
    Because we seem to have an inexhaustible supply of stupid people…

  27. Well said. Yours is one of the best and most insightful comments to this article. I had never heard of the Institute for Religion and Democracy till today. The are the Mullahs of Christianity. Your comment ties some of the ugly pieces together and helps make sense of a lot of the facts in the article.
    Thanks.

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