Why the “Religious Right” Is Wrong, Part 2



More On Christianity


Progressive and liberal Christian Americans, like all other progressive and liberal Americans, tend to understand the intent of the Founding Fathers and honor Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That is, they understand that there must be no religious test or requirement for office in government, that there must be no laws respecting an establishment of religion (or faith-based government institutions), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, "thus building a wall of separation between church and state," as Thomas Jefferson so clearly stated to explain the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution.

Unfortunately, some leaders of the “Religious Right” have been extremely politically and socially active in claiming that the Jeffersonian point of view is merely the view and opinion of “Godless Secular Humanists,” and some have merely misrepresented Jefferson and claimed he agreed with them. Consequently, they have succeeded in misleading many other Americans about this issue. They have led many to believe that the Founders wanted America to be a Christian nation, and that “godless liberals” have “taken God out” of our schools, our public institutions, and our government.

That is misleading deception, designed to further open the door for the Theocratic political actions of the “religious right” to gain even more power to rule. And it has proven to be utterly counterproductive and very damaging to our religious freedom and democracy.

During the last 30 years the Religious Right has succeeded in taking over many policy making and law making bodies, from local school boards to city councils to state legislatures to the U.S. Congress to the White House twice (under Reagan and G.W. Bush).

Furthermore, the theocratic “religious right” also violates an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code regarding tax-exempt churches, because  even though it allows them to indulge in a wide range of political activity, including speaking out on social issues and organizing congregants to vote, the code prevents churches and ministers and pastors from endorsing a candidate or engaging in partisan political advocacy in behalf of a candidate. That would also violate the spirit of Article 6 of the Constitution and the clear intent of the Founders. But, unfortunately, the IRS does not enforce the code, so the churches and ministers on the “religious right” violate not only the Constitution but also the IRS code, with impunity.

And, it’s not just right-wing evangelical Protestants. One Catholic Bishop wrote a letter to all priests in his diocese condemning Barack Obama. The letter was to be read to all congregations before the election, claiming that Obama and the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate had launched an "assault upon our religious freedom." Another Catholic priest who used the pulpit to attack Obama told his congregations that voting for Obama could put their "soul in jeopardy." And yet another priest said Obama was the anti-Christ and even claimed that "It will only be a matter of time before our nation is completely destroyed."

But, it is the evangelical Protestants who are more vehement in their religious bigotry and intolerance. Even Franklin Graham, the son of the famous Billy Graham, said President Obama was "waving his fist before God." The younger Graham even claimed that Obama was going to create "a new nation without God or perhaps under many gods." And Graham is considered mild compared to many of the more terrible preachers on the “religious right.”

Of course, not all Christian Evangelicals are right-wing, or even “conservative” as the term is used now. For example, “The Curse of Conservatism” is a book written by Coleman Luck, an evangelical Christian, and the book description essentially says that “Jesus Christ said that His Kingdom was not of this world, but His followers have been trying to prove Him wrong ever since. During the past 40 years, the evangelical Christian Church in America has undergone a transformation. In an attempt to reshape the country in order to restore a moral, Biblically-based foundation, conservative theology has been married to conservative political thought. For many people, to be a "social" conservative Republican and a conservative evangelical Christian mean the same thing.”

The book description goes on to say that the transformation has been a misguided and lethal tactic used to form a union between different and opposite principles. In other words, Mr. Luck recognizes how misguided the “religious right” is, and even though he himself is an evangelical Christian he understands it is wrong – both on a scriptural and constitutional basis – to use religion to try to rule politically. He also cites how the lust for wealth and power exemplified by politically conservatives is wrong, and he cites many reasons why since 1981 the collusion between the Reaganite Republican Party and right-wing Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians has been not only a failure, but a disaster.

He is right about that. Unfortunately, few Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians are like Mr. Luck. In fact, they are the opposite. That is why it is time for all Americans to realize what has happened during the last 30 years, and how and why America is so bitterly divided.

For example, true Christians recognize truth Muslims and understand that terrorists who claim to be Muslims are hypocrites who commit indiscriminate mass murder. But misguided, false Christians are hypocrites too, insisting that Islam is a “wicked religion.” So, let’s see what the real truth is.

 
Islam
 
The Prophet Muhammad’s Qur’an makes it very clear that Muslims should not be offensive and should refrain from retaliation because killing is always a great evil (Quran 2:190 and 2:217). And they should speak with great courtesy to Jews and Christians, because we "all believe in the same God." (Quran 29:46)
 
The problem is that many Muslims have been led to believe that Muhammad was “the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets.” But Muhammad did not claim he was a “Seal,” and while he was a messenger of God, he delivered the message needed by Arabs, so that Islam could be the third of the Abrahamic religions.
 
The Qur'an also makes it clear that Mohammed's mission was not to create a new world religion, but to bring the religion of Abraham and Jesus to the Arabs, because they had no prophet before Mohammed, and they had no scriptures in their own language. (For a more comprehensive discussion, see also the article About Islam.)

 
Other Religions (Besides Judaism, Christianity and Islam)
 
Most other religions are generally not so plagued with false doctrines, conflicts and divisions, and even though some other religions include members who make the same mistakes as members of the “religious right,” most adherents of religions understand their religions better.
 
A truly religious servant of God knows their religion should teach the Universal Divine Imperative: Treat all other people as you would want to be treated if you were them.
 
All great spiritual teachers taught it, in one way or another. That is why Jews are supposed to be taught that we should not do to others what is hurtful to our self, Christians are supposed to be taught to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and Muslims are supposed to be taught that no one is a true believer in Allah until he loves for all others what he loves for himself.
 
Similarly, Buddhists are taught that we should treat others as we treat our self. Hindus are taught that we should not do unto others anything that, which if it were done to us, would cause us pain. The Taoists are taught that we should regard our neighbor's gain as our own gain, and our neighbor's loss as our own loss.
 
The founders of all true religions taught similar wisdom. They also said that the search for the Divine and Holy should be not in the world, but within, and when found it brings forth love that is universal and knows no bounds.
 
These teachings and spiritual values are at the very core of all genuine religions, and they are all about unconditional love, peace, freedom, honesty, humility, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, and charity. And most even teach pacifism, understanding that it is better to die at the hands of the warlord beast than to stoop to his level and kill your fellow man.
 
Granted, a universal agreement is that all individuals, peoples and nations have a right to bear arms to defend themselves against robbery, harmful attack, intrusion, invasion and rule or occupation by armed forces that abuse their power. However, the New Covenant will modify that agreement.


 
More Specific Reasons Why the “Christian Right” In America Is Wrong
 
In his first book published in January 2002, the subtitle of which was “Why the Religious Right Is Wrong,” the son of man provided a critique of the “Christian Right” in America, and this article borrows an edited portion from that and expands and updates it with some of what he has written since then.

The names of their political action groups, like the original “Moral Majority,” the “Christian Coalition,” “The American Family Association” (formerly known as the National Federation for Decency), the “Christian Legal Society,” “Focus on the Family,” and numerous other right-wing political groups whose names are designed to sound patriotic and/or religious, clearly indicate that they claim, and perhaps even think, that they speak for all “true” Christians and all good Americans.
 
Their efforts to rule have included claiming that America’s Founding Fathers wanted the United States of America to be a Christian nation, and even a Christian Theocracy. That has most recently been demonstrated by David Barton, the favorite “historian” of the “religious right” and the so-called “Tea Party.” Barton gives “historic” tours of the major buildings in Washington D.C. telling half-truths and twisting facts to create a revisionist history and push ideas that are actually proven wrong by The Quotes of the Founding Fathers Regarding Religion.

Barton, like other right-wing fundamentalist Christian Domionists, makes a big show of being religious and patriotic. However, their sense of patriotism is warped by the notion that America should be a “Christian” Meritocracy and Theocracy in which only wealthy “Christians” are entitled to rule, and that other religions and even other Christian denominations that do not agree with them are “ungodly” and "anti-religion," and do not deserve a place at the table.

As The People for the American Way have concluded, “David Barton is in many ways emblematic of politics in Fox News - Tea Party America, in which facts are distorted in service of a right-wing ideological agenda, and in which political opponents are denigrated as enemies of faith and freedom. Barton’s work has repeatedly been debunked by historians and scholars, yet conservative political leaders and pundits continue to promote his manipulations in order to help Republicans get elected and in order to advance the Religious Right’s – and now the Tea Party’s – political agenda. It is urgently important for scholars, public officials, and responsible media outlets to vigorously challenge efforts by Barton, his supporters, and the movements they represent to mis-educate current and future generations of Americans on the Constitution and the abiding American values of religious liberty, equal opportunity, and equality under the law.


Of course, Barton merely follows the elder “statesman” of the “religious right,” Pat Robertson, made his theocratic bent and bigotry blatantly obvious when he said:

You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense, I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist." -- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, 1991

Robertson exalts himself as a true Christian, but his hypocritical, bigoted remarks and statements are indicative of the general bigotry and hypocrisy of the worst of the leaders of the "religious right." And they are conveniently oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of Christians do not believe as they do.

A good example of how deluded and self-righteous they are came in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

On September 13, on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” television show, the two most prominent leaders of the Christian Right, Robertson and late Jerry Falwell, chose the path of division rather than unity. Unlike most Americans who pulled together following the tragedy, Robertson and Falwell pointed a finger of blame at their fellow Americans — specifically they blamed the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, feminists, homosexuals, lesbians, and People For the American Way.

Why would they blame their fellow Americans? Because, according to Falwell and Robertson, all “those people helped this [terrorist attack] happen.

That is because they believe that God’s wrath has come down on America as punishment for “liberals trying to secularize America.” They are totally unaware that good Christians in America are humble, gentle, liberal and progressive, and understand why the Founding Fathers wrote Article 6 and the First Amendment of the Constitution not only to establish freedom of religion, but freedom from theocratic imposition by any particular religion of religious group. Otherwise, true freedom of religion would not be possible.

But, right-wing fundamentalist Christian leaders like Robertson spout mean-spirited nonsense, such as when he claimed that AIDS was God’s punishment of homosexuals. But in fact, they are absolutely wrong — just as wrong as the false “Muslim” terrorists who believe they are obeying the will of Allah when they commit mass murder of innocent people.

Right-wing fundamentalists on the “Christian Right” justify themselves in their misguided beliefs by claiming that the Christian Bible is the inerrant, infallible, literal “Word of God.” And they pick and choose certain words, sentences and phrases to justify themselves, even though in doing so they simply ignore the preponderance of scriptural truths that prove them wrong in their interpretation.

They ignore the fact that in modern times people have given up ancient ideas that the earth is the center of the universe around which the sun rotates; that slavery is legitimate as a social institution; that the status of women should be that of subservient, second-class persons that don’t have the same rights as men; and that diseases such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy are caused by demon possession.

All those ideas were once supported by scriptural quotations and viewed as the will and word of God, but have long since been recognized as antiquated nonsense by educated people. 


After all, who today would agree with Moses’ dictate that anyone who violates or does not observe the Sabbath should be put to death? And it’s the same thing with the condemnation of homosexuality, issued thousands of years ago. Furthermore, even though by the literalist fundamentalist’s  own logic regarding God’s power, it is entirely possible that God is creating more homosexuals in order to deal with the world’s population crisis. For when Moses forbid homosexuality between men, the Jewish people needed to be fruitful and multiply, but now there are quite enough people in the world.

Don't misunderstand. That is not an endorsement of homosexuality. It is merely a defense of homosexuals whose rights are being violated. And frankly, the son of man has written that he resents radical homosexual zealots who try to impose their homosexuality on society. In fact, he resents that just as he resents religious zealots who try to impose their particular brand of religion on society.

Nevertheless, we all must speak up to fight for the rights of the majority of decent, reasonable homosexuals. They are usually good, and many are very creative people. So it is very important to counteract the impact of the Bible-thumping hatemongers who have been waging war on all homosexuals. While they claim to “love the sinner but hate the sin,” their hypocrisy is very clear, and it is obvious that they do indeed hate homosexuals.

For example, former president of the Family Research Council and former Christian Coalition and Republican presidential candidate, Gary Bauer, has said:  “(The National Endowment for the Arts) has allowed itself to be used by a small cadre of cultural revolutionaries, militant homosexuals and anti-religious bigots who are intent on attacking the average American’s most deeply held beliefs.”  

That is typical language, which is why the son of man turns the tables on them and exposes them as Anti-Christian bigots and hypocrites. But Gary Bauer’s language in that quote is mild compared to what some other leaders of the Christian Right say, especially when they claim that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is “God’s way of dealing with the evil of homosexuality.” That’s why it is time to confront and deal with their hate, prejudice and bigotry, and make every effort to stop their discrimination and persecution against homosexuals.


 
Persecutors Claim To Be Persecuted

It should be emphasized that the so-called “religious,” scriptural-based condemnation of something like homosexuality really amounts to spiteful, arrogant, malicious hatemongering and persecution. It is misusing scriptural language as “ammunition” and justification to foster hate and wreak havoc, division, and destruction, and it is simply wrong. And homosexuality is certainly not the Christian Right’s only target for malicious, unfair and erroneous condemnation based on so-called “biblical proof.”

Planned Parenthood is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism — everything that the Bible condemns.” – Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, 1991

Of course, when hypocrites like Robertson are criticized for their hypocrisy and bigotry, they claim they are being persecuted by "ungodly" people who are "anti-religion."

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they kept their beliefs to themselves, because we are free to believe whatever we choose. But their goal is to impose their beliefs on all of us, and their immense political activism and efforts put a lot of right-wing Republicans in control of Congress in 1994. And once in power, one of the things they did was get so-called “religious protection” legislation introduced, which would actually take away our religious freedom, endanger other religions, and erode fair housing laws.

For example, what they proposed would have allowed landlords to show preference for or against a person who practices a particular religion, such as allowing a landlord to refuse to rent to anyone negatively judged according to the landlord’s religious beliefs. It would also allow all kinds of other discrimination based on religious beliefs, such as allowing “Christian” white supremacists to exclude people of color from a new housing development.

All these issues are important, because if these spiritually blind hypocrites were to succeed completely and have their way, our precious religious freedom would be virtually destroyed, and our political freedom would be in serious jeopardy.

Perhaps one of the worst things they’ve done is give religion, Jesus and Christianity a bad name. After all, just consider how many times you have seen militant zealots in mobs spouting intolerance and hate, not at all ashamed but rather proudly and even arrogantly claiming they are “Christians.”

Consider all the times you have seen and heard the name of Jesus and/or the name of Christianity used in a way or in a situation that was not about peace and love, but about conflict and hate. And consider (if you are old enough) how much all this has changed since the days when it was considered impolite to discuss politics or religion in polite company — when most people respected the fact that we all have our own beliefs and views and realized the fruitlessness of arguing about them — when people did not presume that everyone else thinks, or should think, as they do.

One of the results of all the Bible-thumping religious bigotry, proselytizing, hypocrisy, and hatemongering that has been imposed on society by these hypocrites for so many years is that many good people have simply become turned off by religion altogether. Many people, especially young people, no longer trust any religion or any religious activity whatsoever.

As a result of the imposing hypocrisy and bigotry of the “religious right,” many people see religion as a total sham. And it’s no wonder.  The status of religion has been so damaged and so degraded that many people simply avoid anything religious. Some even shun their own (or their family’s) religion. Some have begun to lose their faith and their hope, and even their moral compass and conscience, and that may very well be a big reason why we have seen such an increase in greed, hate, dishonesty, fraud, crime, and violence.

As such consequences began to become painfully evident a number of years ago, a very prominent Unitarian Christian minister was quoted in a Life magazine issue devoted to the current status of Christianity as saying, “Today, Jesus’ name is being used to divide us, to make us intolerant, bigoted, hateful. Jesus is being betrayed by people who claim to believe in him.”  In saying that, he expressed very well what most mainstream Christians have been feeling for quite awhile.


Now, since so many right-wing partisan Conservatives make a show of being Christians, it is helpful to observe how Liberals and Conservative interpret Christianity differently.

 
The Difference Between "Conservative Christians" and Liberal Progressive Christians

Conservative Christians focus on the patriarchal aspects and quote Jesus as saying "I am the Way, and the Truth," and "I and the Father are one," even though they don't understand what Jesus meant by that. Instead, they sum up Jesus’ message as "Believe I am God Himself and obey me or you're going to suffer in hell for eternity." It's an authoritarian, patriarchal approach.

Liberal progressive Christians, on the other hand, focus on a more balanced approach including the matriarchal aspects that are around the Golden Rule, and around peace, love, freedom, compassion, charity, forgiveness, and pacifism, acknowledging the idea that it will be the humble, gentle, peaceful and meek who shall inherit the earth.

Those two approaches inevitably produce the situation we have now, with proud and militant Conservative Christians trying to impose and enforce their beliefs, while Liberal Christians usually do not retaliate but instead tend to turn the other cheek.

The difference between the two has produced conflict since not long after the death of Jesus of Nazareth (as is discussed in the article About Christianity), and it is the basic cause of the dilemma we face. It produces conflict and dilemma because while conservative "fundamentalist" Christians insist they are the right and true Christians and therefore tend to be theocratic and dominant, liberal progressive Christians understand the error in that. That's why the conflict has existed since it began between Paul and James and others, and it has been a problem sporadically throughout the history of Christendom.

As you will see, it was even a problem in the late 1700s in America. That's why so many of the Founding Fathers were highly critical of theocratic "Christian" clergy who wanted to rule from their pulpits, or at least have dominant influence over government.

Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the American Declaration of Independence, wrote: “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect (or religion) over another.

Jefferson wrote that the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution was to “build a wall of separation between church and state.” And in his autobiography he even wrote that the name Jesus Christ should not be added to any legal government document, because we must protect “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Muslim, the Hindu and Infidel of every denomination.”

In 1981, when the “religious right” was on the rise in America, even the conservative Republican elder, Barry Goldwater, said:  “The great decisions of government cannot be dictated by the concerns of religious factions. We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of state separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups, and we mustn’t stop now. To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic.”

Senator Warren Rudman, a moderate Republican,  has said:  “The millions of Christians in this country reflect just about every conceivable political point of view. For one highly conservative group to proclaim itself ‘the Christian Coalition’ strikes me as decidedly un-Christian arrogance. We reflect countless races, religions and lifestyles, and we often differ on questions of morality and behavior. The only way so diverse a nation can survive is by all of us practicing a high degree of tolerance. But tolerance is not the way of the Christian Right. Its leaders want to impose their one-size-fits-all morality on everyone. It won’t work. When any group tries to impose its values on everyone else, the result will inevitably be resentment, hatred, and violence.”

Senator Mark Hatfield, another moderate Republican, said: “As a Christian, there is no other part of the New Right ideology that concerns me more than its self-serving misuse of religious faith. What is at stake here is the very integrity of biblical truth. The New Right, in many cases, is doing nothing less than placing a heretical claim on Christian faith that distorts, confuses, and destroys the opportunity for a biblical understanding of Jesus Christ and of his gospel for millions of people.”

Rev. John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop, said:  “When the dust settles and the pages of history are written, it will not be the angry defenders of intolerance who have made the difference. The reward will go to those who dared to step outside the safety of their privacy in order to expose and rout the prevailing prejudices.”

Walter Cronkite said:  “I consider myself a person of faith. I work very hard at being a Christian. And certainly, the Christian Coalition does not speak for me. What’s more, I am absolutely sure that the Christian Coalition does not speak for the great majority of men and women of faith in this country. And I, for one, am not prepared to stand by and permit Mr. (Pat) Robertson and his friends to get away with wrapping their harsh right wing views in the banner of religious faith.”


Of course, today you have to be very brave to say such things, because the leaders of the “religious right” are quick to accuse critics of being “anti-religion” and of “persecuting Christians.” And even though that is not true, most real Christians are simply too polite and politically correct to voice their criticism any more.

(Continued at Why the "Religious Right" Is Wrong, Part 3.)