Monday, August 30, 2010

Ginning Up the Elijah Generation: Fred Clarkson on Religious Right's Outreach to Younger Generation

Fred Clarkson has an incisive (and highly insightful) piece at Talk to Action right now, putting into historical context the perfervid attempts of folks like Glen Beck and Lou Engle right now to “gin up an Elijah generation” of new religious right activists.  As Fred notes, whenever social and political developments contravene the Christian right’s theocratic reading of the nation’s destiny, this movement repeatedly warns us that only its armies can stay the hand of a God angry with America for straying into the darkness—for straying from God’s course for the nation.

As he also points out, the beneficiaries of this rhetoric merging Christian affiliation and Americanism have been, predictably, Republican political leaders.  But there’s something new going on, Fred thinks (and I concur), with the attempt to gin up an Elijah generation of younger evangelical and right-wing Catholic political activists—something more ominous than we’ve seen in the recurrent calls of the past to keep our nation on its righteous course (of control by white heterosexual and mostly Protestant males).  Something that transgresses traditional political boundary lines and bears watching, if we want to salvage democracy in the United States.

There’s, first of all, the concerted effort of neocon Catholic activists like Newt Gingrich and Robert P. George to build bridges between Catholics of the right and what has long been a Protestant political coalition actively hostile to Catholics at points in the past when the call to bring the nation to its knees and to God has been issued by religio-political activists.  Fred Clarkson notes that, wherever this call is being issued nowadays—and it’s being issued most notably now in response to Judge Walker’s prop 8 ruling—Newt is behind the scenes pulling the strings.  Maintaining that the future of American Christian civilization hinges on keeping marriage from the gays.  Despite his own extremely checkered marital history . . . . 

And Robert P. George is also there as the ideological eminence grise of the theocratic political movement into which neoconservatism has morphed in the age of Obama.  As Fred points out, George was the primary author of the Manhattan Declaration, which keeps powerful American Catholic bishops at the table, despite the long historic roots of revival calls like Glenn Beck’s in movements to sustain Protestant hegemony in American culture.  To restore the nation and its honor by keeping it Protestant.  And white.  And under the control of heterosexual males.  Who all happen to be Protestant and white.

And, finally, there’s the new cyber-consciousness of those issuing this call to revival today.  It transcends anything we’ve seen in the past when groups like the Promise Keepers and Engle’s the Call have rallied and marched to make their theocratic demands known to the nation at large.  The cyber organizing in which the religious right is now engaged has the potential to transform this politico-religious movement and make it palatable for a new computer-savvy generation whose affiliation with the movement is necessary for its continued influence in American politics.

The religious right is far from defunct.  And those who care about the future of American democracy are well-advised to keep tabs on it through articles like this fine analysis by Fred Clarkson at Talk to Action.

No comments: