The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

The Many Targets of the Religious Right

One of the things many don’t understand about the Christian Right is bashing gays is not their only hobby. They are quite willing to bash others as well.

They bash gays because they can. But their ultimate list of targets is much, much wider.

These theocrats want to impose their religion on everyone. Sure they can’t force you get “borned again” but they can use the violence of the state to regulate your reading, drinking, smoking, etc. There is no limit of what they are willing to regulate because they think Jesus tells them to. Consider how they have led campaigns to ban vibrators as one example.

Down in Georgia, when they held hearings on SB 16, which would allow the individual counties to hold votes on whether or not to allow the sale of alcohol on Sunday, theocrats flooded the chambers with teens from their churches lobbying against this. Remember this doesn’t even legalize alcohol sales. It just allowed the people in each county to vote on the measure. But even that freedom is too much for them.

One Bible-besotted teen, Jacob Chambliss said: “I am opposing this bill because I think that alcohol is wrong. The Bible says that it’s wrong.” The child is not particularly bright as the Bible doesn’t actually say that at all. It does recommend that people not drink “strong drink” when they go into the temple, but outside the temple no such prohibition exists. Paul did say: “Be not drunk with wine.” However, that seems to be saying don’t get drunk, not “don’t drink”. Non drunken consumption is not forbidden. If Paul is the author of 1st Timothy he also said deacons must not be “given to much wine” not to “no wine.” It seems to mention over-consumption not consumption alone.

The problem is fundamentalists, as much as they are guilty of bibliolatry, are often woefull ignorant of the book itself. They believe what they believe and routinely claim the Bible endorses their position whether it does or not.

Sounding like a good socialist the Rev. Willis Moore, of the Council on Moral & Civic Concerns (read busybodies) said: “What matters to us, and what should matter to our leaders, is not selfish, not petulant, nor greedy interest. What matters to us is the common good. What is before us is a Pandora’s Box of enormous threat to the common good.” Actually what is before us is a buffoon deluded by the idea he speaks for the creator of the universe.

The gay bashing is just one small part of the authoritarian agenda of the Religious Right. And I note to our friends in “big tent libertarianism” that the morality agenda of the Right is not because they are worried about big government, they love big government. The fact of the matter is fundamentalists regularly lie about their agendas.

Consider Rev. Richard Angwin, who I believe is now gone from the scene as I can find nothing about him. Rev. Angwin led the anti gay campaign in St. Paul-Minneapolis. Angwin then went around the US giving lectures to other fundamentalists on how to engage in similar campaigns in their own state. One of the things Angwin urged them to do was to hide their full agenda. He said they should stick to the one issue and get people to support them and not alienate them with the rest of their agenda, which he said included banning “card playing,” “Hollywood movies,” and “dancing.” He suggested what is called “lying by omission.”

Others lied by commission. Some years ago I was sent to Indianapolis to write a story about a Moral Majority rally run by Rev. Greg Dixon. Dixon ran a huge fundamentalist church and that just had one of their ministers, Don Boys, elected to the state legislature as a Republican (of course). One of Boys’ first piece of legislation was the misnamed “Right to Decency” bill which would have made it a felony to be gay. And remember felonies mean jail time. Boys supported the bill telling his congregation “I don’t hate perverts; I just want them in jail away from decent, innocent people. That’s what my bill to reinstate sodomy as a crime would have done.”

At this rally the rotund loud-mouth Jerry Falwell appeared and urged Christians to support this legislation. A few weeks later Falwell was at a press conference in Chicago. He gave some line about how the Moral Majority is simply opposed to “special rights” for gay people and nothing more. He lied. I personally witnessed him endorse the imprisonment of gay people. For this press statement to be true Falwell would have had to believe that one “special right” for gays is not being incarcerated. But, Falwell has lied in public repeatedly. Of course, today he’s dead. I suggest if he weren’t he’d still be telling lies.

My point is fundamentalists will purposely try to deceive the public about what they want. The anti gay campaigns are merely fronts for them. They are not just about this issues, although they are particularly obsessed by it. They want far more. And as their actions in Georgia showed prohibitionism is one of them. They say all they want is morality. But what they consider morality is a very wide category.

When I attended one of their schools, and later one of their colleges, the morality rules were quite extensive. Moral issues for them included the following:

• dancing — strictly forbidden.
• attending any movie theater no matter what was shown
• having a hair cut that allowed hair to cover the ears for men
• rock and/or pop music
• having a television on campus (it was even suspect at home but allowed)
• any alcohol in any amount
• “mixed bathing” by which they meant swimming in a pool with both sexes present
• reading books with sex scenes or swear words
• playing any game of cards
• all forms of gambling, including the lottery
• women wearing any kind of pants
• women wearing dresses that were too short (they measured them to check)

Things haven’t changed that much in fundamentalist circles. Consider some of the rules for students at the fundy Bob Jones University:

• men must be shaven with short sideburns
• tattoos or piercings are not allowed
• necklaces, earrings and bracelets not allowed
• sweaters must show the shirt collar
• socks are required during recreation
• all dresses, skirts, pants and shirts must be loose-fitting
• shorts only inside residence halls and fitness center
• clothes showing the Abercrombie & Fitch logo “are not acceptable to be worn, carried or displayed (even if covered or masked in some way).”

While Mormons and conservative Catholics like to make common cause with the fundamentalists they simply don’t know fundamentalists only tolerate their existence because they don’t have the power to shut them down. But, if you ask them, and press them on the matter, most fundamentalist leaders will confess they do not believe that Catholics are even Christians.

The more extreme fundamentalists, such as the very authoritarian Gary North, in the Reconstructionist movement believe Biblical morality is very bloody. They would execute people for homosexuality and adultery, for instance. They believe slavery would have to be reinstituted and the charging of interest would have to be banned.

Fundamentalist theologian Rousas Rushdoony said: “God’s government prevails, and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Gary North says that any woman who had an abortion should executed “along with those who advised them to abort their children.”

Leading Reconstructionist Joseph Morecraft argued government is not created to protect rights but to inflict punishment. He preaches the state’s function is to “terrorize evil doers” and “to bring down the wrath of God on all those who practice evil.” The way to do this is to “enforce Biblical law” which means to have government “protect the church of Jesus Christ” from any competition. In a Christian republic: “Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody’s psuedo-rights to worship an idol.” (Catholics take note: they mean you.)

Rev. James Jordan goes one step further. Not only doesn’t government protect the right to worship in the context of other religions but it is required to execute anyone who so worships. “I suggest that in a Christian society… the death penalty is still appropriate for the crime of worshiping another god on the Lord’s day.” Greg Bahnsen says the death penalty applies to “someone who comes and proselytizes for another god or any other final authority (and by the way, that god may be man).” This is one way to deal with those pesky Jehovah’s Witnesses and Moonies. Of course, since the Mormon church teaches all men may become gods and all gods were once men a few million Mormons would be on the list for execution. Advocates of reason teach a “final authority” other than Jehovah and could find themselves alongside the other capital offenders.

Rev. Greg Bahnsen worked out a list of 15 capital offenses including sodomy, apostasy, Sabbath breaking, and blasphemy. In some cases he even saw the necessity of executing parents of sinful children. Rev. W.O. Einwechter, vice moderator of the Association of Free Reformed Churches, wrote in one Reconstructionist journal that even a grown child who “for whatever reason, has rebelled against the authority of his parents and will not profit from any of their discipline nor obey their voice in anything…” should be stoned to death. The execution of “rebels” he says, is just, merciful and preventative. The “integrity” of the family, according to North, “must be maintained by the threat of death.” Mark Rusdoony has some interesting perspectives on the wholesale bloodletting under a Christian republic. He says in such a theocratic state: “Parents will be required to bring their incorrigible children before the judge and, if convicted, have them stoned to death.” Mr Rushdoony even claims a positive result to such executions as they will solve the divorce problem!! “The divorce problem will be solved in a society under God’s law because any spouse guilty of capital crimes [of which there are many] will be swiftly executed, thus freeing the other party to remarry.”

Reconstructionists seem to make anti Jewish remarks with ease. And it seems Jews may be exterminated under the rule of God as well. Since Jews do not worship Jesus they are teaching a false doctrine which implies the death penalty. Chilton in fact says: “The god of Judaism is the devil.” If Reconstructionists actually believe this Jews would have to be executed under a government of God.

And remember that these sort of theocrats may even call themselves libertarians. Some so-called “libertarian” groups, such as the Acton Institute, are pushing a morally driven form of statism. They are advocates of state control and big government — of course some would excuse this saying they are just “protecting the family.” Consider the person of E. Calvin Beisner, a professor at a seminary and an “Adjunct Scholar” at the Acton Institute. Beisner was presented to me as an example of a libertarian-oriented Biblicist. Oh, really?

While Beisner stays away from calling for executions he does say “government properly restricts or prohibits the sale of products that are inherently dangerous to life and health even in their proper use, and exacts retribution on and restitution from those who violate those restrictions.” What is inherently dangerous to life? Drugs, no doubt. How about tobacco or alcohol? What about firearms?

There is no sexual freedom in Beisner’s “libertarian” world. He grants everyone the right to have a heterosexual, monogamous, life long sexual relationship. Anything else is forbidden by law and the State is proper if it enforces those laws. “In enforcing the Seventh Commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ government properly prohibits rape, incest, and other sexual relations outside marriage and protects the sanctity of the family. In economic application, this means government may properly use its coercive power to prohibit and punish prostitution, the production and distribution of pornography… Laws restricting divorce also fall under this commandment.” Now please note he wants Old Testament laws enforced by the State. If the law is sanctioned there then presumably the penalty is as well. And this means execution even if he’d rather not say.

As for all those Old Testament laws that mandate executing sinners, Beisner of the Acton Institute says: “my use of Biblical Law presupposes simply that the same moral Law that was perfectly suited to mankind’s need for moral instruction four thousand years ago is perfectly suited to mankind’s need for moral instruction today. It imparts wise, important, and clear instruction for the economic activities of individuals, families, churches, societies, States, and the whole human race.”

One Reconstructionist, John Fielding, encapsulated their agenda in one sentence: “My God help us to shuck Thomas Jefferson for King Jesus.”

I ask you: Are these people truly the allies of freedom? Do you really think they’ll stop with just homosexuals?

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.