Posted on | August 17, 2011 | 48 Comments
Da Tech Guy yesterday made passing reference to something I had previously noticed but chosen to ignore: Michelle Goldberg’s article at the Daily Beast warning that both Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry are in league with “some of America’s most radical theocrats.”
Can we just call this what it is, namely fear-mongering and bigotry against devout Christians? Because I’m frankly sick and tired of this little game, which has been going on for decades but is seldom called out for what it really is.
If a conservative were to accuse liberal Jews of conspiring for political dominance, he would be automatically condemned as an anti-Semite and purged from polite society. And yet no liberal is ever condemned for accusing conservative Christians of conspiring for political dominance.
This goes back at least as far as Norman Lear and People for the American Way, and the same agitprop methods have been pursued quite lucratively by the disgraced and disgraceful Southern Poverty Law Center.
Fear of a Christian theocracy, the alleged objective of schemes purportedly hatched and incubated by secretive cabals of fundamentalists, has been a persistent theme of liberal journalism and advocacy for at least three decades now. But where is this theocracy they’ve warned us about?
To hear them tell it, we are always but one election cycle away from the dawn of a Margaret Atwood dystopia — If Republicans win, the Bible-thumping fascists will impose their morals on us all! — yet we recently passed through several years of GOP dominance and I don’t recall any headlines about the National Morality Police shutting down gay discos or strip joints during the Nightmare Era of Bushdom.
Goldberg works her Chicken Little act quite successfully, making the bestseller lists and collecting prestigious literary awards for her scary stories about the Fundamentalist Menace. Why? Because they’re an easy target to demonize in the eyes of the secular urban elites who comprise the intellectual leadership of modern liberalism.
Modern liberals are predisposed to hate Christians, and Goldberg is a world-class expert at feeding their hatred. She is to anti-Chrisitan propaganda what Julius Streicher was to anti-Semitic propaganda, yet it seems no one dares to call her out for her despicable fostering of fear and bigotry.
And perhaps some conservatives have not noticed what is quite obvious to me: Goldberg targets her venom almost exclusively at Protestant evangelicals — not at Catholics. This is a convenient trick, you see, and I long ago remarked how, whenever someone goes off on a rant against pro-lifers and the “Religious Right,” it’s always presented in the context of Protestant fundamentalism, even though anyone actually involved with pro-lifers knows that the hard-core shock troops of the movement are the Catholics.
Attacks on the “Religious Right” are thus exposed as a not-so-subtle appeal to the basic anti-redneck prejudice of the urban elite. It behooves anti-Christian propagandists like Goldberg to portray the “Religious Right” as a stereotypical bunch of ignorant hillbilly holy-rollers, because these are the people whom the urban elite know the least about, and whom they therefore fear the most.
If you tried to tell the urban elite that the great danger to American civil liberties was posed by conservative Catholics, you would be impugning their own friends, neighbors and relatives of the urban elite, and they would laugh off your fear-mongering as a transparent fraud. But choose as your scapegoats a collection of Baptists, Pentacostals and other fundamentalist Protestants, and the urban elite will devour your scary stories and ask for second helpings.
Insofar as the “Religious Right” has influence in American political life, how is it that the conservatives on the Supreme Court are justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito — all Catholic — and yet Goldberg and her ilk continue scaring liberals with the frightening specter of right-wing Protestantism?
Goldberg is making an appeal to a specific prejudice, and it is unfortunate that fundamentalist Protestants are particularly vulnerable to such tactics. Why? Because there is no Protestant pope, no recognized hierarchy, no established collection of official documents outlining the beliefs of these diverse demoninations. Therefore, any Protestant theologian, pastor or layman may write a book or organize a conference to advance his own particular beliefs, and this results in a proliferation of literature from which the likes of Goldberg may cherry-pick examples that fit her theme of a theocratic conspiracy.
For example, we are told by Goldberg that Rick Perry is associated with “the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago,” and I guarantee you that 90% of Goldberg readers have never set foot inside a Pentacostal church, so that all they know about it is what she tells them. She quotes this author and that minister, and portrays them all as proteges of R.J. Rushdoony, then depicts Perry as a sort of theocratic Trojan Horse by which all these “Dominionists” are going to seize power and . . .
Wait a minute: Didn’t our current president spend a couple of decades in the pews of a church whose pastor had a lot of dangerously kooky beliefs? Why is Goldberg warning us about these Dominionists, when she evidently finds nothing to fear in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s “black liberation theology”? Because to warn against Wright’s kooky beliefs would expose her to accusations of racism, whereas smearing a bunch of Pentacostals in Texas is risk-free. But I digress . . .
My point is that the non-hierachical nature of evangelical Protestantism lends itself quite readily to the kind of Ransom Note Method by which Goldberg creates her scary picture of Perry and Bachmann as puppets of a theocratic conspiracy.
Did Bachmann quote a certain fundmentalist author? Well, that same author also said A, B and C, you see, and was a known associate of various other Dominionist types who wrote X, Y and Z. And thus Bachmann is presented as an adherent of beliefs she has never personally espoused. (Bachmann’s personal religious beliefs are not exactly a secret.)
Smearing evangelicals is easy for liberals, whereas smearing Catholics is a greater challenge, since they’d pretty much have to take on the whole organized church. And speaking of Catholics, Lisa Graas quoted one of them yesterday:
Take away God, and all respect for civil laws, all regard for even the most necessary institutions disappears; justice is scouted; the very liberty that belongs to the law of nature is trodden underfoot; and men go so far as to destroy the very structure of the family, which is the first and firmest foundation of the social structure. The result is that in these days hostile to Christ, it has become more difficult to apply the powerful remedies which the Redeemer has put into the hands of the Church in order to keep the peoples within the lines of duty.
That’s Pope Pius X, from 1904.