Religion and politics

overview of the relationship between religion and politics

The is an article covering all quotations which pertain to the intersection of religion and politics.

QuotesEdit

 
The Religious Right arose as a political movement for the purpose, effectively, of defending racial discrimination at Bob Jones University and at other segregated schools. Whereas evangelical abolitionists of the nineteenth century sought freedom for African Americans, the Religious Right of the late twentieth century organized to perpetuate racial discrimination. Sadly, the Religious Right has no legitimate claim to the mantle of the abolitionist crusaders of the nineteenth century. ~ Randall Balmer
 
White evangelicals were conspicuous by their absence in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Where were Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington or on Sunday, March 7, 1965, when Martin Luther King Jr. and religious leaders from other traditions linked arms on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to stare down the ugly face of racism? ~ Randall Balmer
 
In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism. ~ Randall Balmer
 
The Green v. Connally ruling provided a necessary first step: It captured the attention of evangelical leaders, especially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related “segregation academies,” including Falwell’s own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.” ~ Randall Balmer
 
Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale. ~ Randall Balmer
  • "I don't find much that I recognize as Christian" in the religious right, says Balmer, a professor of religion at Barnard College, Columbia University and contributing editor to Christianity Today.
    He says blind allegiance to the Republican Party has distorted the faith of politically active evangelicals, leading them to misguided positions on issues such as abortion and homosexuality.
    "They have taken something that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly and retributive," Balmer says.
    He argues that modern evangelicals have abandoned the spirit of their movement, which was founded in 19th-century activism on issues that helped those on the fringes of society: abolition, women's suffrage and universal education.
    "I don't find any correlation in the agenda of the religious right today," Balmer says.
  • Ed Dobson, Falwell's erstwhile associate, corroborated Weyrich's account during the ensuing discussion. "The Religious New Right did not start because of a concern about abortion," Dobson said. "I sat in the non-smoke-filled back room with the Moral Majority, and I frankly do not remember abortion ever being mentioned as a reason why we ought to do something."
    During the following break in the conference proceedings, I cornered Weyrich to make sure I had heard him correctly. He was adamant that, yes, the 1975 action by the IRS against Bob Jones University was responsible for the genesis of the Religious Right in the late 1970s. What about abortion? After mobilizing to defend Bob Jones University and its racially discriminatory policies, Weyrich said, these evangelical leaders held a conference call to discuss strategy. He recalled that someone suggested that they had the makings of a broader political movement—something that Weyrich had been pushing for all along—and asked what other issues they might address. Several callers made suggestions, and then, according to Weyrich, a voice on the end of one of the lines said, "How about abortion?" And that is how abortion was cobbled into the political agenda of the Religious Right.
  • The abortion myth serves as a convenient fiction because it suggests noble and altruistic motives behind the formation of the Religious Right. But it is highly disingenuous and renders absurd the argument of the leaders of Religious Right that, in defending the rights of the unborn, they are the "new abolitionists." The Religious Right arose as a political movement for the purpose, effectively, of defending racial discrimination at Bob Jones University and at other segregated schools. Whereas evangelical abolitionists of the nineteenth century sought freedom for African Americans, the Religious Right of the late twentieth century organized to perpetuate racial discrimination. Sadly, the Religious Right has no legitimate claim to the mantle of the abolitionist crusaders of the nineteenth century. White evangelicals were conspicuous by their absence in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Where were Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington or on Sunday, March 7, 1965, when Martin Luther King Jr. and religious leaders from other traditions linked arms on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to stare down the ugly face of racism?
    Falwell and others who eventually became leaders of the Religious Right, in fact, explicitly condemned the civil rights movement. "Believing the Bible as I do," Falwell proclaimed in 1965, "I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and begin doing anything else—including fighting Communism, or participating in civil-rights reforms." This makes all the more outrageous the occasional attempts by leaders of the Religious Right to portray themselves as the "new abolitionists" in an effort to link their campaign against abortion to the nineteenth century crusade against slavery.
  • One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.
    This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.
    Some of these anti-Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.
    But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.
  • In the decades following World War II, evangelicals, especially white evangelicals in the North, had drifted toward the Republican Party—inclined in that direction by general Cold War anxieties, vestigial suspicions of Catholicism and well-known evangelist Billy Graham’s very public friendship with Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Despite these predilections, though, evangelicals had largely stayed out of the political arena, at least in any organized way. If he could change that, Weyrich reasoned, their large numbers would constitute a formidable voting bloc—one that he could easily marshal behind conservative causes.
    “The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.”
    But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. “I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990.
    The Green v. Connally ruling provided a necessary first step: It captured the attention of evangelical leaders, especially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related “segregation academies,” including Falwell’s own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.”
  • Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.
    But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale.
  • Christian Nationalism is literally the highest form of civilization ever known to Man.
  • There is one ill that faith-based programs are proven to ameliorate — unemployment among Christian evangelicals. The Christianization of the safety net has created a kind of affirmative action for the born again.
  • At the height of the 1984 presidential campaign, which was frequently charged with religious and moral affronts on both sides, vice-presidential candidate Representative Geraldine Ferraro, a practicing Roman Catholic, defended her pro-choice stance as not inconsistent with her Catholic faith: “Although I am personally opposed to abortion, I have no right to impose my belief on others.” Her remarks and sentiments, emphatically supported by New York Governor Mario Cuomo, also a practicing catholic, quickly came under attack from the Roman Catholic Church, stirring perhaps the most sensitive and emotionally charged debate of the 1984 campaign.
    Bishop James W. Malone, president of the United States Catholic Conference, promptly issued a statement in which he denounced the position of Catholic politicians such as Ferraro and Cuomo as “simply not logically tenable.” To the contrary, Malone urged, politicians have a civic duty “to take practical steps to translate these personal viewpoints into policies and practical programs.” In a more pointed move, New York’s Archbishop John J. O’Connor expressed his disapproval of Ferraro’s stance in a televised press conference, stating that, although he would not tell Catholics how to vote, he could not justify “how a Catholic in good conscience can vote for a candidate who supports abortion,” given the Church’s unequivocal teachings opposing abortion.
  • "The religious landscape in terms of voting has been remarkably stable," says Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. "Since Reagan, we have essentially seen this: white Christian voters have tended to support Republican candidates, and Christians of color and everyone else, including the religiously unaffiliated, have tended to support Democratic candidates."
  • Under the Constitution, the public has a right to know that, in the end, the votes I cast are driven by my own independent judgment and conscience, not by a set of marching orders given by any church hierarchy, prelate, or associated lobby group.
    • David Obey, as quoted on Gene Edward Veith, “Lawmakers Lawbreakers”, From World Magazine, January 17, 2004 Volume 19, Number 2, p.3
  • The leaders of a faith have their responsibility and authority in the sphere of their faith, but in the sphere of public, of the public domain, they have no authority.

“Thy Kingdom Come” (June 26, 2006)Edit

Randall Herbert Balmer, “Thy Kingdom Come”, (June 26, 2006)

 
The elaborate construction and propagation of the abortion myth, together with the ruse of selective literalism, which diverted evangelicals from their birthright of fidelity to the Bible suggests the perils of pandering for power. What should we read into the fact that evangelical conservatives dropped their longstanding denunciations of divorce about the same time they embraced Ronald Reagan, a divorced and remarried man, as their political savior in 1980?
 
The abortion myth and the ritual castigation of homosexuals have paid off handsomely for the Religious Right by providing them a political platform. But at what price? The political calculus behind choosing the issues of abortion and homosexuality while ignoring other issues, such as care for the poor and opposition to war, to name only two, exposes the evangelical ruse of selective literalism, which leads both to a distortion of the gospel and to a kind of mechanistic reading of the scriptures that takes no account of historical contingency.
  • Why, then, is the Religious Right, which claims allegiance to the scriptures, not working to outlaw divorce?
    The answer, I suspect, is that the issue of abortion has served the Religious Right very effectively for more than two decades. Although the Religious Right was slow to pick up on abortion as a political issue, it proved to be a potent one for them during the 1980s, in part because Reagan championed the pro-life cause-despite the fact that as governor of California, he had signed into law a bill legalizing abortion. Reagan kept the antiabortion rhetoric alive throughout his presidency, repeatedly promising an amendment to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion. He never delivered on that promise: nor did his vice president and successor as president, George H.W. Bush, who in 1980 has campaigned against Reagan for his party’s presidential nomination as a pro-choice Republican. Although both men coveted the support of the Religious Right, neither made good on his promise to outlaw abortion.
    • Chapter One: Strange Bedfellows, p.11
  • Weyrich, whose conservative activism dates at least as far back as the Barry Goldwater Campaign in 1964, had been trying for years to energize evangelical voters over school prayer, abortion, or the proposed equal rights amendment to the Constitution. “I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” he recalled in an interview in the early 1990s.” What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation.”
    During the meeting in Washington, D.C., Weyrich went on to characterize the leaders of the Religious right as reluctant to take up the abortion cause even close to a decade after the Roe ruling. “I had discussions with all the leading lights of the movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, post-Roe v. Wade,” he said, “and they were all arguing that that decision was one more reason why Christians had to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.”
    • p.15
  • Initially, I found Weyrich’s admission jarring. He declared, in effect, that the origins of the Religious Right lay in Green v. Connally rather than Roe v. Wade. I quickly concluded, however, that his story made a great deal of sense. When I was growing up within the evangelical subculture, there was an unmistakably defensive cast to evangelicalism. I recall many presidents of colleges or Bible institutes coming through our churches to recruit students and to raise money. One of their recurrent themes was, We don’t accept federal money, so the government can’t tell us how to run our shop-whom to hire or fire or what kind of rules to live by. The IRS attempt to deny tax-exempt status to segregated private schools, then, represented an assault on the evangelical subculture, something that raised an alarm among many evangelical leaders, who mobilized against it.
    For his part, Weyrich saw the evangelical discontent over the Bob Jones case as the opening he was looking for to start a new conservative movement using evangelicals as foot soldiers. Although both the Green decision of 1971 and the IRS action against Bob Jones University in 1975 predated Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Weyrich succeeded in blaming Carter for efforts to revoke the tax exempt status of segregated Christian schools. He recruited James Dobson and Jerry Falwell to the cause, the latter of whom complained, “In some states it’s easier open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school.”
    • p.15
  • The elaborate construction and propagation of the abortion myth, together with the ruse of selective literalism, which diverted evangelicals from their birthright of fidelity to the Bible suggests the perils of pandering for power. What should we read into the fact that evangelical conservatives dropped their longstanding denunciations of divorce about the same time they embraced Ronald Reagan, a divorced and remarried man, as their political savior in 1980?
    • pp.31-32
  • The abortion myth and the ritual castigation of homosexuals have paid off handsomely for the Religious Right by providing them a political platform. But at what price? The political calculus behind choosing the issues of abortion and homosexuality while ignoring other issues, such as care for the poor and opposition to war, to name only two, exposes the evangelical ruse of selective literalism, which leads both to a distortion of the gospel and to a kind of mechanistic reading of the scriptures that takes no account of historical contingency.
    • pp.33-34

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