Alex Blaze

Culture Wars, good little soldiers, and deserting the party

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 23, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: culture wars, Don Wildmon, gay rights, homosexual agenda, James Dobson

Don Wildmon thinks that California could be the last battle of the so-called Culture Wars:

"If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I'm afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost," said Wildmon, "I've never said that publicly until now--but that's just the reality of the fact."

Wildmon pointed out that If the "homosexuals" were "able to defeat the marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then the culture war is over and we've lost--and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society."

He does have a point. If they lose in California, the end will be near in terms of discriminating based on sexuality when it comes to marriage. It'll be a huge win and sign that this issue simply isn't as divisive as it used to be and the GOP will slowly abandon it, and Wildmon, for other wedge issues.

What I disagree with is the framing of the issue as a "war," with the implication that there are two clearly defined sides trying to preserve themselves or destroy the other while trying to gain dominance. We know that's not the case, that the phrase was simply developed to exploit people's discomfort with change in order to get Republican votes.

The age of us being a wedge issue to that degree is over, although I don't buy that we were as divisive as the media made us out to be from the start. All that the current change is a sign of is that there were once more people who were homophobic than they are now, not that we made Kerry lose and will make Obama win, or whatever the going CW is.

Soldiers and war rhetoric doesn't work for the average person who voted for Bush these past couple of elections since, no matter what happens, will always put their interests as they see them above the needs of the party. But the party's higher ups keep on pushing the war rhetoric to keep people in line, and that might be how they actually view themselves. They aren't independent human beings who can learn and change their politics and are uncomfortable around some issues - they're loyal and they fight (for their inflated paychecks), so they want everyone else to be too.

Consider this from James Dobson this week:

"I never thought I would hear myself saying this," Dobson said in a pretaped broadcast of his show, Focus on the Family. "... While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."

Dobson, whose radio show reaches 1.5 million listeners daily, said Obama's "radical positions on life, marriage and national security," leave him with no other choice than to vote for McCain. Dobson earlier said he could not vote for McCain, because of the Arizona senator's views on embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage.

McCain supports stem cell research and opposes a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

However, McCain opposes abortion and "seems to understand" what Dobson referred to as "the Muslim threat."

"There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context," Dobson told The Associated Press in a statement. "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation."

Did anyone really expect James Dobson to support anyone besides the Republican nominee for president? The only reason he exists is to push conservative ideology and get people to vote GOP as the movement against abortion and gays picked up a lot of speed after racial segregation lost its power as a wedge issue:

In the 1980s, in order to solidify their shift from divorce to abortion, the Religious Right constructed an abortion myth, one accepted by most Americans as true. Simply put, the abortion myth is this: Leaders of the Religious Right would have us believe that their movement began in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Politically conservative evangelical leaders were so morally outraged by the ruling that they instantly shed their apolitical stupor in order to mobilize politically in defense of the sanctity of life. Most of these leaders did so reluctantly and at great personal sacrifice, risking the obloquy of their congregants and the contempt of liberals and "secular humanists," who were trying their best to ruin America. But these selfless, courageous leaders of the Religious Right, inspired by the opponents of slavery in the nineteenth century, trudged dutifully into battle in order to defend those innocent unborn children, newly endangered by the Supreme Court's misguided Roe decision.

It's a compelling story, no question about it. Except for one thing: It isn't true.

Although various Roman Catholic groups denounced the ruling, and Christianity Today complained that the Roe decision "runs counter to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people," the vast majority of evangelical leaders said virtually nothing about it; many of those who did comment actually applauded the decision. W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press wrote, "Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision." Indeed, even before the Roe decision, the messengers (delegates) to the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, adopted a resolution that stated, "we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother." W.A. Criswell, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, expressed his satisfaction with the Roe v. Wade ruling. "I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person," the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, "and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed."

The Religious Right's self-portrayal as mobilizing in response to the Roe decision was so pervasive among evangelicals that few questioned it. But my attendance at an unusual gathering in Washington, D.C., finally alerted me to the abortion myth.

In November 1990, for reasons that I still don't entirely understand, I was invited to attend a conference in Washington sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Religious Right organization (though I didn't realize it at the time). I soon found myself in a conference room with a couple of dozen people, including Ralph Reed, then head of the Christian Coalition; Carl F. H. Henry, an evangelical theologian; Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family; Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Association; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Edward G. Dobson, pastor of an evangelical church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and formerly one of Jerry Falwell's acolytes at Moral Majority. Paul M. Weyrich, a longtime conservative activist, head of what is now called the Free Congress Foundation, and one of the architects of the Religious Right in the late 1970s, was also there.

In the course of one of the sessions, Weyrich tried to make a point to his Religious Right brethren (no women attended the conference, as I recall). Let's remember, he said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.

There is definitely something going on that's more war-like, the battle between two political parties, but that'll continue long after everyone's stopped caring about same-sex marriage. In the meantime, good little soldiers like Dobson and Wildmon are losing their utility to the party, little by little, and no matter how much they swagger and pretend like their endorsements for McCain will do anything or mean anything, they know their days are numbered. The GOP is going to re-brand themselves over the next decade or two and find some other wedge issues to exploit.

The GOP's idea of good government starts and ends with getting the most money to the richest people in the country. Everything else, including us, is just being used cynically to get votes.

It was pretty evident in the letter that Kristen Luidhardt received from the RNC - no matter how much the GOP has done to betray her awful but deeply-held principles these past 8 years and with the nomination of John McCain, it's her who's deserting them. It was always about their needs, not the issues she got involved with the GOP for.

In the end, that's where conservatives will get their wind back, by finding the new issue of the day to distract us from their pillaging of the treasury. But we have a good window until then.

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Alex, while I can acknowledge that attitudes are changing about marriage equality, I doubt that I will see fedeal protections in my lifetime. I think that things will continue to be handled on a state-by-state basis.

As far as the next wedge issue, it's immigration.

As far as the next wedge issue, it's immigration.


The most Dobson can hope to accomplish w/ McCain is to put a few more feet on the polling booth. If he opposes the candidate, he can get people to stay home. If he endorses, he can drive some out. If he'd neutral?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 23, 2008 3:34 PM

Winning the Battle of California is the most important task facing our movement. Nothing else even comes close.

Serena is definitely right about immigration. The fight for the rights of immigrant and imported workers is primarily a fight that will center on trade union organizing - getting immigrant workers into unions with decent wages and working condidtions. The fight agaisnt anti-immigrant sentiment is also a fight against racism.

Bobs Friend | July 26, 2008 1:36 PM

In the 1980s, in order to solidify their shift from divorce to abortion, the Religious Right constructed an abortion myth, one accepted by most Americans as true. Simply put, the abortion myth is this: Leaders of the Religious Right would have us believe that their movement began in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

That was in the 1980s. Now they've got birth control in the cross-hairs.