The Religious Right’s ideal world would be something akin to ‘The Handmaid’s’ Tale meets 1950s America. Having grown up in the modern American church during the 1980s and 1990s, I can tell you it’s the dream they seek. The conservative American religious establishment wants to impose its views on the world. They view a world where Christianity is the only religion and they are able to install their own version of sharia-esque law.
The Rise of The Silent Majority
During the rise of progressivism during the late 1950s through the 1980s, the religious right became their own movement and viewed themselves as a silent majority. A handy bit of marketing on their part, as they’ve never been silent. They became more politically active as they saw the direction the nation was headed in, but it did not fit their worldview. If you look at the bulk of what makes up the Religious right, you’ll find that they are mostly white, upper class, and male. The Rise of the Silent Majority began in the late 1960s and continued into the 1970s and 80s.
The Romanticism Of The 1950s
They have romanticized an era of American history that wasn‘t near as idyllic as they tend to make it out to be. The religious conservative right adopted some progressive ideas unwillingly when they saw that they were losing. For example, the way they view and treat women, having women in the workplace, rather than just at home. They accepted that the June Cleaver ideal was dead, and moved on. However, that hasn’t stopped them from bemoaning the way it use to be. The far right has this notion that the ‘leave it to Beaver’, ‘father knows best’ ideal of the 1950s is the best version of America.
This is despite the notion that this time was the height of Jim Crow, the red scare, and women barely being able to walk out of the house without a male’s permission. Domestic abuse was ignored and poverty was treated as if it were invisible. Also, don’t forget to duck and cover. It’s this dark side that many far-right religious conservatives choose to ignore. It’s also the side they want more of.
The Horror Of Progressivism.
Some in the religious sects of conservatives view progressive agenda as a threat to their beliefs and to their way of life. They hold on to it so tightly that anything new or different sets off a cascade of reactionary bluster. Just look at what happened with the introduction of Rock ‘n’ Roll; They railed against it. They called it “the devil’s music.” However, if you look at the roots of Rock music, you’ll see there is a racial undertone to the response the church had to the music. Rock music is an outgrowth of blues, jazz, and country music. It came from the deep south and has a lot of influence from black musicians.
You’ll also find that there is a racial undertone to the response to the agenda that the far-right Christians have now. They continue to try to control a woman’s body. They vilify the LGBTQ community and view immigrants as interlopers and invaders. Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham both are sons of evangelists who have continued the family business of religion. Let’s not confuse this, modern day mainstream religion is about money and making a profit. It’s why they are so politically active. It’s why they continue to try to steer the narrative of our nation.
Separation Of Church And State
Repeatedly, they state that America is a Christian nation. The religious establishment repeats it at every opportunity. Even when the evidence doesn’t support that statement. Our forefathers were very clear about the fact the nation they were building was going to be a secular nation. They remembered the damage that England had done with imposing a state religion. It’s why there is an establishment clause in the Bill Of Rights as part of the first amendment. They wanted people to be free to worship the way they wanted, but they didn’t want it to influence the running of the government that they were building.
Although the 1802 letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association is often quoted, it is the best example of what our forefathers wanted in relation to how religion and religious belief should be kept out of affairs of government. Thomas Jefferson believed that an individual’s religious beliefs should be kept private. As a result, he believed there should be a separation of church and state.
However, the modern church believes that we should have an official religion and that religion should be Christianity. That our laws should be based on biblical views. However, that isn‘t how the real world works nor should it. The push of the religious right to impose their ideas and world view on everyone has become a breaking point for a majority of people.
According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, over 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. However, less than 20 percent are actually in church. For an industry that relies on donations and tax-free status, this means a dramatic decrease in the amount of money that is being funneled into churches nationwide.
They need an issue they can rally behind and energize their base. So at one point, it was the so-called evils of living a life outside of the church. Premarital sex, drugs, and not living in a biblical way. Since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage in 2015, some churchgoers talk about how the end times are upon us.
It’s the same song and dance that the far-right of the religious establishment does anytime there is a change in social attitudes. Any time there is a change in how society views one of what the church considers a sin. What they don‘t understand is that the world changes and those changes aren‘t always going to align themselves with Judeo-Christian beliefs. Same-sex marriage happens. Women have abortions. They have to accept that they aren‘t the only religion in the world and must realize there are people who don‘t believe in any kind of deity.
So why would they be so resistant to change? Why do they always fight against societal progress? These are questions that don’t have concrete answers because it would require a deconstruction of the modern church. It would require an examination of why the church would want to have rights for some but not others. They want the freedom to give their opinions and preach their messages. Yet, they don’t want to hear what the other side has to say.
They want the freedom to live the way they want, but then they don’t want other people living the lives that make them happy. The contradictions create an environment for the kind of extreme view that has given rise to the regressivism that the church embodies. During the Inquisition, it was all about bending to the will of the church. During the ‘Salem Witch Trials,’ it was about women knowing their place and doing things in the same way the had always been done.
So what really has to happen now is what the modern church is going to have to ask itself. What’s more important? Holding on to views that are rapidly becoming outdated and putting them on the fringes of society? Or do they accept that they need to move into the 21st century?