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EXPOSING THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT WING
by Virginia McCullough


Newspaper headlines today laud the religious beliefs of President George W. Bush and his neocon administration. Television commentators repeatedly compare the morals of Bush and former president Bill Clinton stating outright that this president has "Christian family values" that Clinton is obviously lacking.

What are the "family values" of the Christian far right and do they really benefit society as a whole or does belief in these values degenerate society, divide Americans and undermine the fiber that holds this nation together? How did we get to a point where there is no longer any separation between church and state?

As a very important presidential election looms this fall a close examination of the politics of religion is warranted. The monthly Los Angeles magazine Torch published an excellent article by Lois Aarons in its August 15-September 14, 1980 issue. Aarons exposes the hypocrisy behind the "New Right" movement and a close reading of this historical piece shows us the true intent of this president and his administration.


ELECTRONIC PREACHERS: ORGANIZERS FOR THE NEW RIGHT MOVEMENT
By Lois Aarons

Readers of the Torch/La Antorcha should be well familiar with the increasing activity and influence of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis. But these groups are only the most extreme, conscious and consistent elements - the vanguard - of a much larger right-wing movement.

In fact, there are millions of people - the potential base for the Nazis and the Klan - who do not necessarily look to the fascists for leadership, but who support right-wing solutions to the problems caused by decaying capitalism.

Millions of people across the U.S. are being mobilized around sexist, racist and pro-imperialist issues, and more and more "respectable" politicians are openly taking right-wing positions.

This growing mass movement has become known as the "New Right," and some of the most effective organizers for it are a spate of white, evangelical preachers. Through the "electronic church" - radio and television gospel shows such as Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour, Pat Robertson's 700 Club, James Robison's Wake Up America, Jim Bakker's PTL (Praise the Lord
) club and others - the preachers reach an estimated 128 million people and receive upwards of $500 million a year for their New Right crusades. There are more than 1,300 radio and 36 television stations in the U.S. that devote most or all of their time to so-called religious programming, as well as many religious shows that buy time on the commercial networks.

THE NEW RIGHT'S PROGRAM

Known as evangelical, fundamentalist or born-again Christians, the electronic preachers - indeed the entire New Right - use "morality" issues (those relating to sexuality and sex roles) as the cutting edge of their right-wing program. They oppose homosexuality, abortion, pornography, sex education and the Equal Right Amendment. Their strict, repressive, old-fashioned morality is then tied in with the work ethic, anti-communism, American Chauvinism, racism and the gamut of the New Right program. This program includes:

At the same time the New Right argues for a strong national "defense," a balanced budget, anti-labor "right to work" laws, and prayer in the schools.

To get more of a feel for what these preachers are saying, I joined an estimated 25 million people one Sunday in watching the Old Time Gospel Hour. I heard the Reverend Jerry Falwell and his guest discuss the family and how the survival of America depends on repairing the damage to the home. No nation could remain free with a divorce rate as high as that in the U.S., they said. According to them, the major enemies of the family are:

1) "the cult of the playboy" - immorality and irresponsibility on the part of husbands;
2) the "feminist revolution (since they see women as "naturally submissive," they believe the struggle for women's rights is simply women's misguided reaction to the cult of the playboy;
3) the "homosexual revolution";
4) "questionable medical advances" such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, etc.;
5) "government intervention" - examples given of this include the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in 1973 and consideration of gay rights bills.

Falwell went on at some length about how abortion is "murder" and encourages immorality and irresponsibility. Then, demagogically utilizing the cuteness of children and implying that people who believe in women's right to abortion never have children, he had all the parents in the congregation bright their little ones up front. Cooing over these "bundles of joy," Falwell said, "I'm glad these parents did not believe in abortion....I'm glad they are not anti-life, but rather pro-life."

Falwell also mentioned the CBS special on homosexuality in San Francisco and how sickening it was that they would devote prime time television to that subject. He joked about Adam and Eve, "not Adam and Steve" and emphasized many times the importance of basing families exclusively on the biblical model - one man who's the head, one woman who submits to him, together and faithful for their whole lives, and lots of children.

PREACHERS BUILDING AN ACTIVIST MOVEMENT

But big-name, right-wing evangelical preachers like Oral Roberts, Billy Graham and Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong have been peddling this nonsense for years. What is new is that the preachers are now doing a lot more than just preaching. They are trying to convert their largely passive TV and radio following into an activist political movement. In the last few years, the preachers have teamed up with other right-wing forces to lobby, campaign and organize for "Christian morality" and the New Right line, with frightening success.

Falwell, for example, tours the country, taking the "I Love America Singers" - a chorus from the Liberty Baptist College - onto the steps of the 50 state capitols. He is currently appealing for funds to purchase prime time television in every major market in the U.S. for a special entitled America, You're Too Young to Die, in which he will talk about the "issues that will determine if the U.S. survives the 1980s as a free nation. In return for a contribution, you get a "survival kit," including a booklet entitled Here's How You Can Help Save America, an American flag decal, and an "Old Glory" flag pin. All of this is "religious," not political, you understand - and all contributions are tax deductible.

On April 28 and 29, One Nation Under God, an 18-month-old coalition of evangelicals and broadcast preachers of different fundamentalist denomination held "Washington for Jesus" - a massive lobbying and rally in Washington, D.C. The event was co-sponsored by Pat Robertson and Bill Bright, founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ International. On Monday they sent delegations to every member of Congress to urge them to make policy "in keeping with biblical standards of right and wrong." On Tuesday, some 200,000 people attended the rally/prayer meeting. They heard 60 odd speakers address the breakdown of the family and public morality, the need to bring religion into government and education, and the deteriorating moral, economic and military might of the USA. This too, the organizers insisted, was purely religious, not political.

POLITICAL NETWORKS EXTEND INFLUENCE

But some activity cannot be disguised as religious, and so a number of openly political organizations have been formed to organize for "Christian morality." These groups are what tie, organizationally, the electronic preachers to the rest of the New Right. They generally function through networks of preachers, who push the agreed on conservative message from the pulpit and mobilize their congregations as needed, while top-notch New Right administrators, organizers and fund-raisers do the behind-the-scenes work. The most important of these organizations are:

Christian Voice: The founders of this organization, Revs. Richard Zone and Robert Grant, got their start in the American Christian Cause, a California Group formed to mobilize support for the Briggs Initiative, a 1978 ballot initiative that would have barred gay people from working in California schools. Following their failure on that question, they decided to go national and take on a wider range of issues, including opposition to school busing, the Panama Canal Treaty and abortion funding, and support for school prayer, Taiwan security and prosecuting welfare "deadbeats." According to Newsweek:

"The prime goal of Christian Voice is to fuse the single-issue zeal of the nation's religious activists - one such issues as abortion and school prayer - into broad-gauge support for conservative policies on such general issues as the economy, diplomacy in Africa and SALT II." (Newsweek, July 16, 1979)

Christian Voice's legislative director, Gary Jarmin, got his religious start in Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and his political experience in the American Conservative Union. David Troxler, a member of Christian Voice's policy committee, used to be an assistant director of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC - a political action committee whose director is the influential right-wing political tactician, Paul Weyrich). Robert Billings, a former member of the Christian Voice's policy committee, meanwhile, is now vice-chairman of the CSFC's board of directors.

Christian Voice has an advisory committee made up of four U.S. senators (Orrin Hatch of Utah, James McClure of Idaho, Roger Jepson of Iowa and Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire) and 11 congressmen, including John Birch Society member Larry McDonald of Georgia - all New Right politicians.

Christian Voice claims to have 187,000 members and supporters, including 37,000 pastors from 45 denominations including and Roman Catholics.

It recently issued "morality" ratings on senators and congressmen based on their votes on 14 New Right issues. It also has given its supporters a "hit list" of undesirable incumbents, with the request that these people be preached against on the air and in the churches.

Moral Majority, Inc. Jerry Falwell's openly political group, which tries to mobilize voters around New Right issues. Its executive director is none other than CSFC leader Robert Billings. Falwell claims that churches sympathetic to Moral Majority have registered 1.5 to 2 million voters, and that there are 70,000 clergy working with him of this drive. It "educates" voters through a newsletter (they have a mailing list of 235,000) and seminars.

Several months ago Moral Majority, Inc. ran a campaign involving large ads in major newspapers asking people to write in to express their desire to outlaw pornography on television and "militant homosexuals" (openly gay people). In return for writing in, you'd get an "Old Glory" flag pin. This campaign was in cooperation with the Anita Bryant Ministries, Inc., which was running a questionnaire along similar lines at the same time.

Moral Majority also has a campaign fund-raising arm, the Moral Majority Political Action Committee.

The Religious Roundtable Founded by Edward A. McAteer, former national director of the Conservative Caucus and former sales director for Colgate-Palmolive, this group focuses on bringing together and training leaders from different denominations to get involved in "pro-God, pro-family, pro-America causes." As the Los Angeles Times said: "[McAteer] believes that 50 million evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Mormons, even though their religious doctrines differ, have a commonality of principles as far as public policy is concerned."

"That really was the basis for the Roundtable," he said. "What we're doing is putting a bridge between denominations." (May 19, 1980)

The National Christian Action Coalition A behind -the-scenes brain trust which researches the issues for the other groups. Robert Billings - of Moral Majority, CSFC, and formerly Christian Voice - is the founder and president. His son, William, formerly executive director of the Conservative Leadership Youth Foundation and a consultant for the National Conservative Leadership Youth Foundation and a consultant for the National Conservative Political Action Committee, is the coalition's executive director, newsletter editor, and political action committee chairman. The coalition publishes a monthly newsletter, Alert. Its political action committee, the Christian Voters Victory Fund, does its own rating of senators and congressmen called the Family Issues Voting Index, based on their votes on 10 New Right issues.

CRUSADE FOR AUTHORITARIAN MORALITY

The Christian right-wing movement is large, strong and growing. It has a potentially huge constituency - 30 to 80 million people in this country consider themselves born-again Christians. Of course, not all of them are right-wingers. But the preachers have tremendous moral authority with them, a ready-made platform - the churches and religious broadcasts - from which to reach them and, as we have shown, an efficient network to organize them.

The real power of this movement, however, lies neither in its size as such nor its apparatus. Rather, the driving force of the Christian right-wing movement is its moral fervor.

With capitalist society in a crisis - the economy near collapse; the crushing weight of a nameless, faceless bureaucracy; deepening international tensions and moves toward war; inadequate and deteriorating social services; the destruction of the environment; increasing violence on the streets - it's not surprising that many people are looking for a better, more moral world.

But most of the people who make up the current and potential base of the New Right don't correctly understand why things are so bad in the first place. They don't see that the system itself is the cause of the crisis, that it is immoral and corrupt.

Instead, they believe that the root of the problem is the breakdown of traditional values, particularly traditional morality. Their starting point is that the capitalist system would work fine if everyone followed the traditional values and rules they believe are "natural." Thus the zealots of the New Right think the answer is to force everybody to act in accordance with their own version of Christian morality - a totalitarian morality. They think that by attacking gay rights and abortion rights, welfare recipients and foreign workers, unions and oppressed people who fight back, they are doing God's will, saving lives and souls, and purifying the nation.

It is this combination of desperation, fervor and faith that gives the New Right's "morality crusade" such potency - and makes it so potentially attractive to so many other desperate people.

This then is the historical foundation that created the Christian far right neo cons that President George W. Bush has surrounded himself with during his last four years in the White House. It is the belief of these people who create their own morals and pretend they are God's morals that has produced the United States government of self serving, self righteous thugs that rule the most powerful country in the world today. Those now in power truly believe that they are not anointed by God - they believe that they are above God and the world is reaping the destruction that their beliefs have sown.

Virginia McCullough © 8/9/04