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Old 04-13-2009, 12:09 PM   #1
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the Religious Right surrenders

no, really.


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US religious Right concedes defeat
America's religious Right has conceded that the election of US President Barack Obama has sealed its defeat in the cultural war with permissiveness and secularism.

By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 4:18PM BST 10 Apr 2009


Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.

James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family - one of the largest Christian groups in the country - and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.

“We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action,” he said.

“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”

Despite changing the political agenda for a generation, and helping push the Republicans to the Right, evangelicals have won only minor victories in limiting the availability of abortion. Meanwhile the number of states permitting civil partnerships between homosexuals is rising, and the campaign to restore prayer to schools after 40 years - a decision that helped create the Moral Majority - has got nowhere.

Though the struggle will go on, the confession of Mr Dobson, who started his ministry from scratch in 1977, came amid growing concern that church attendance in the United States is heading the way of Britain, where no more than ten per cent worship every week.

Unease is rising that a nation founded - in the view of evangelicals - purely as a Christian country will soon, like northern Europe, become “post-Christian”.

Recent surveys have suggested that the American religious landscape has shifted significantly. A study by Trinity College in Connecticut found that 11 per cent fewer Americans identify themselves as Christian than 20 years ago. Those stating no religious affiliation or declaring themselves agnostic has risen from 8.2 per cent in 1990 to 15 per cent in 2008.

Despite a common distaste among evangelicals for the new Democratic president, who is regarded as at best a die-hard, pro-abortion liberal and at worst a Marxist, a serious rift is emerging among social conservatives in the wake of his election victory.

A growing legion of disenchanted grassroots believers does not blame liberal opponents for the decline in faith or the failures of the religious Right. Rather, they hold responsible Republicans - particularly Mr Bush - and groups like Focus on the Family that have worked with the party, for courting Christian voters only to betray promises of pursuing the conservative agenda once in office.

“Conservatives became so obsessed with the political process we have forgotten the gospel,” said Steve Deace, an evangelical radio talk show host in Iowa who broadcast a recording of Mr Dobson’s address, which he said had appeared on Focus on the Family’s website before disappearing.

Mr Deace added: “All that time spent trying to sit at the top table is not time well spent. Republicans say one thing and do another.”

In the southern Bible belt, many like the Rev Joe Morecraft, head of a small Presbyterian church near Atlanta, judge that the Christian movement failed not because its views were unpalatable for moderates and liberals, but because “it was not Christian enough”.

A deserter from the Republican Party, he said Christians had been corrupted by politics and needed to return to the basics of local social work and preaching the gospel, rather than devoting their “energies to getting a few people elected”.

He is not alone in questioning how evangelical leaders such as Mr Dobson could spend a career campaigning against abortion and then eventually support a candidate like Senator John McCain, who has dubious “pro-life” credentials.

Ray Moore, president of Exodus Mandate, a South Carolina-based group which organises home-schooling for Christian children, said: “Political involvement by Christians is not wrong, but that’s all the big groups did for 25 years. They were more concerned with fund-raising and political power than they were with our children’s welfare.”

“It’s a failed movement,” he said. “We will end up like England, where the church has utterly lost its way.”

Michael Spencer, a writer who lives in a Christian community in Kentucky, said the religious Right had suffered from its identification with Mr Bush, the most unpopular president in living memory, and the extremist rhetoric of some on the religious Right.

One of the more notorious outbursts was the Rev John Hagee’s assertion that the deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was God’s judgment on New Orleans for hosting a gay parade.

In an online article in the Christian Science Monitor that has became a touchstone for disaffected conservatives, Mr Spencer forecast a major collapse in evangelical Christianity within ten years.

“Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake,” he wrote.


it's just such a sea change from the peak of the Bush years (2002-2005) where Dobson had veto power over SCOTUS nominees and could help along the invasion of Muslim countries (over a billion conversion opportunities!). could it be that his power was illusory? was the political power of the evangelicals always overestimated? but if so, how do we explain two Bush victories?

also, is Dobson right? is our culture worse off today than it was in, say, 1980, which is more-or-less the birth of the political power of the modern Religious Right with the Reagan administration?

i wonder ... how do divorce rates today compare with 1980? how about abortions? how about drug use? how about teenage pregnancy? how about the black family? are the gays as promiscuous?

can anyone answer? and will the answer actually tell Dobson that he's actually won, if his actual goal was to bring about changes in the above topics rather than convert all Americans to his brand of conquering, global Christianity?

also, i wonder how Dobson would feel if he saw the correlation between rates of drug use, abuse, abortion, teenage pregnancy, illegitimacy, and the so-called Red States.
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:17 PM   #2
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:24 PM   #3
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So now that they think politics doesn't work, what next? These are not the type of people to just "give up". Statements like "the Christian movement failed not because its views were unpalatable for moderates and liberals, but because “it was not Christian enough”," or “We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action. We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles,” are way scarier than "VOTE FOR W" if you ask me. You've gone from kinda stupid to damn near crazy right there....
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:40 PM   #4
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or maybe the 72-year old Dobson is realizing that time does march on. the under 40's don't share the same concerns of his generation of evangelicals.

and much of the rest of America appears to be approaching something like a consensus on many of these social issues. such as:

abortion: safe, legal, rare, possible restrictions outside of the first trimester
gays: nothing wrong with 'em; legal recognition of partnerships
women: free to choose motherhood and career, one or the other, or one and not the other
sex: fine for adults, use protection, up to the individual to decide if it's for marriage-only

am i wrong? it seems to me that the under-40s aren't comfortable declaring how others must live in order to be saved from an eternity of Hellfire. an under-40 might make a persuasive case as to why sex is best left to the bonds of matrimony, but it doesn't seem to me as if he'd turn to someone having sex and declare them as sinful. an under-40 might worry about any abortion anywhere, but he would probably agree that outlawing abortion wouldn't actually reduce the number of abortions anywhere. an under-40 might prefer for his wife to stay at home with their children, but he knows that that lifestyle isn't best for all women, everywhere.

perhaps these are not the red hot CULTURE WAR buttons they once were, and perhaps 2004 was the last gasp of that. perhaps now, the issues will be the economy, the environment, Israel/Palestine, global AIDS, education, etc.

maybe we have reached a tipping point. i've noticed that the political debate since the election of Obama has been shockingly substantive. there are growing voices on the right -- emphatically not the McCarthy-ite fool Glen Beck or the K-Lo idiots over at the NRO and these silly Tea Party folks -- who want nothing to do with the Religious Right beyond guard religious freedoms, who want nothing to do with Bush's know-nothing attitude towards blood and treasure, and who are actually offering conservative but thoughtful critiques to Obama on issues like energy, health care, and foreign policy.

sure, the markets are still in the shitter, but the country is striking me as a healthier place than it was just a year ago.
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:52 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
no, really.






it's just such a sea change from the peak of the Bush years (2002-2005) where Dobson had veto power over SCOTUS nominees and could help along the invasion of Muslim countries (over a billion conversion opportunities!). could it be that his power was illusory? was the political power of the evangelicals always overestimated? but if so, how do we explain two Bush victories?

also, is Dobson right? is our culture worse off today than it was in, say, 1980, which is more-or-less the birth of the political power of the modern Religious Right with the Reagan administration?

i wonder ... how do divorce rates today compare with 1980? how about abortions? how about drug use? how about teenage pregnancy? how about the black family? are the gays as promiscuous?

can anyone answer? and will the answer actually tell Dobson that he's actually won, if his actual goal was to bring about changes in the above topics rather than convert all Americans to his brand of conquering, global Christianity?

also, i wonder how Dobson would feel if he saw the correlation between rates of drug use, abuse, abortion, teenage pregnancy, illegitimacy, and the so-called Red States.

I wish I had a better understanding of the Christian Right than I do. Since I grew up in an evangelical mega-church, I should, but although it was pretty clear that most people in the church are conservative on social issues, politics was never something discussed a lot in our church. Also, since my church is very urban and multi-cultural, I highly doubt that most of it's attendees actually vote Republican. My parents and grandparents always have voted Democratic despite their beliefs on abortion and homosexuality, etc. I think in order to really grasp the Dobson/Robertson (although, he's almost become an Obama fanboy, which is shocking)/Hagee, etc mindset, you have to either be in a church like that or a huge follower of said leaders. From what I've seen from extended family members and family friends who have always been strong supporters of the Christian Right, there is a sense of defeat. I think that this election and strong show of support across the board for President Obama has made them realize that their "power" was an illusion, as you put it, Irvine. The best way I can explain the current popular evangelical mindset in all things, including the political, is similar to the 'Manifest Destiny' mindset back in the 1800s. Just as political leaders at the time believed the U.S. was divinely expired to expand and spread freedom across North America, many Christians believe that God has destined them to take control of the government in order to put "Him" back into it and bring our country back to morality. The fact that someone like President Obama won such a sound victory when they were so sure that God would never "let" him win was something hard for them to swallow. It probably has made them question everything they're doing in terms of their political fight.
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Old 04-13-2009, 03:31 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post

it's just such a sea change from the peak of the Bush years (2002-2005) where Dobson had veto power over SCOTUS nominees and could help along the invasion of Muslim countries (over a billion conversion opportunities!). could it be that his power was illusory? was the political power of the evangelicals always overestimated?
Clearly, the idea that Dobson or anyone in the "religious right" had that much political power was a fiction created by the left.

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but if so, how do we explain two Bush victories?
The same way anyone wins the Presidency, by having policies that appeal to a majority or a plurality of the voters.

Quote:
also, is Dobson right? is our culture worse off today than it was in, say, 1980, which is more-or-less the birth of the political power of the modern Religious Right with the Reagan administration?
I would say there are things that are better and worse, although perhaps not in the way that culture is being defined by Dobson or others.

Quote:
i wonder ... how do divorce rates today compare with 1980?
Don't know the actual stat, but I'd say they are higher today.

Quote:
how about abortions?
lower.

Quote:
how about drug use?
lower.

Quote:
how about teenage pregnancy?
lower, but on the rise currently.

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how about the black family?
Unfortunately, I think rates of imprisonment and children born out of wedlock are as high as they have ever been.

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are the gays as promiscuous?
No

Quote:
can anyone answer? and will the answer actually tell Dobson that he's actually won, if his actual goal was to bring about changes in the above topics rather than convert all Americans to his brand of conquering, global Christianity?
Its a mixed bag, and he and others could probably claim victory in some area's although that does not appear to be what he is doing in the article.

Quote:
also, i wonder how Dobson would feel if he saw the correlation between rates of drug use, abuse, abortion, teenage pregnancy, illegitimacy, and the so-called Red States.
Any such correlation would probably have more to do with poverty among certain segments of the population in those red states.
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Old 04-13-2009, 03:34 PM   #7
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Dobson and these others really should be ashamed of themselves.

They made Bush.

Now, to lay all the blame at his feet is so dishonest.

Could it be that their agenda just does not appeal to enough people in 2009?
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Old 04-13-2009, 03:51 PM   #8
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Dobson and these others really should be ashamed of themselves.

They made Bush.

Now, to lay all the blame at his feet is so dishonest.

Could it be that their agenda just does not appeal to enough people in 2009?
Or could it be that they did not "make" Bush nor did they ever have the influence or strength that so many claimed they did.
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Old 04-13-2009, 03:57 PM   #9
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Dobson and these others really should be ashamed of themselves.

They made Bush.

Now, to lay all the blame at his feet is so dishonest.

Could it be that their agenda just does not appeal to enough people in 2009?
Well said. There's a reason church and state should be separate. When they get in bed together they have a relationship more dysfunctional than Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. The Republican party used the church as it's poster child to gain more and more power knowing that pastors and other clergy can have a lot of influence over their congregations and the way they vote. This can have a huge impact on elections as we saw more clearly than ever in 2000, but especially in 2004. The church in turn, who were feeling marginalized after the cultural revolution of the 60s were desperate to gain some semblance of belonging and control where they felt they'd lost it. Not surprisingly, the early Christian right leaders such as Falwell, Robertson, and Swaggart were all southern white men who were upset that their white, male-dominated patriarchy was being destroyed. Under the guise of "morality", they saw latching onto the far-right wing of the GOP as a way of gaining influence in government which might lead back to that never-was paradise that they believe God ordained for them. There was nothing that was ever "right" about either side. Like all co-dependent relationships it crashed and burned, and I believe that right now it's too fractured to be repaired in the near future (and hopefully, forever).
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Old 04-13-2009, 05:32 PM   #10
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The Republican party used the church as it's poster child to gain more and more power knowing that pastors and other clergy can have a lot of influence over their congregations and the way they vote. This can have a huge impact on elections as we saw more clearly than ever in 2000, but especially in 2004.
Is this how you would explain large Republican Presidential victories in 1980, 1984, and 1988, or the Republican take over of both houses of congress in 1994 for the first time since the 1950s?
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Old 04-13-2009, 06:33 PM   #11
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Yes because every election is the same, the parties and voters have never changed since the 80's.
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Old 04-13-2009, 07:42 PM   #12
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Clearly, the idea that Dobson or anyone in the "religious right" had that much political power was a fiction created by the left.
You know, if by "the Left," you're referring to "the media," I'm actually inclined to say that this statement has credence. How many of these "religious nuts" would we ever hear about, if the media did not parade them around? That's the joy of Canada; they keep their nuts out of the limelight.
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:34 PM   #13
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^ They've also got a lot fewer of them, though, no? Dobson, Robertson, and Falwell genuinely were all well-connected and influential in Washington (and several state capitals too) at one time or another, in which case it would've been irresponsible to just ignore them. Hagee and perhaps even Swaggart, maybe not so much.
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i wonder ... how do divorce rates today compare with 1980?
I don't know about 1980, but based on CDC data, the national crude divorce rate (i.e. per 1000 people) has dropped during the 2000s: from 8.2 in 2000 to 7.3 in 2007. Also, again based on CDC data, the crude divorce rate dropped in every state from 1990-2004, with the exception of Maine and New Jersey where it held flat (and California's data wasn't provided for some reason). Only problem with drawing conclusions based on crude divorce rates is that it doesn't take into account decreasing marriage rates, increasing cohabitation rates, etc.
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Old 04-13-2009, 10:29 PM   #14
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^ They've also got a lot fewer of them, though, no?
Fewer influential ones for sure.

But for example, in the past, our Conservative party has actually muzzled any right-leaning social conservatives running for office during national elections and literally had a list of topics they were forbidden from discussing in the media (abortion, etc) because that's how much they feared backlash from the general public.

Imagine such a thing in the GOP.
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Old 04-14-2009, 12:03 AM   #15
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i have always thought that the Republican Party was run by the oil-and-defense oligarchs who used buzz words like "abortion" to con people into voting for them. thus, they won power and re-organized government to earn them more money while cutting their tax rates.

i don't think it's unfair to say that the Religious Right had power and influence, especially in the Bush White House, and especially concerning the Harriet Miers SCOTUS pick, but my sense is that their influence extended only as far as Rove's political calculations, which is to say enough to get him to 50.5% (all else above that would be gravy).

the Christians/Evanglicals were simply a means by which a small few could advance their power and agenda and increase their wealth.
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