Special Background Report the New Christian Right

There are additional concerns that require careful analysis and scrutiny by political leaders and the American people.

The campaign by some members of the “New Christian Right” to elect “born-again Christians” only to public office is anathema to everything American democracy stands for. It violates Article 8 of the United States Constitution which forbids the exercise of “a religious test” for any citizen running for public office. The American people must repudiate that anti-democratic practice. Candidates must continue to be judged on the basis of their competence, their integrity, and their commitment to the common welfare. That is the American way.

The most effective critique of “single politics” campaigns and candidates is provided by the leading Evangelical journal, “Christianity Today” (Sept. 19, 1980):

“Moral Majority and Christian Voice appear to emphasize the first three principles of Evangelicals for Social Action more than the others (that is, the family; every human life is sacred abortion); religious and political freedom are God-given inalienable rights). The Bible deals with all of them. In fact, probably more space in the Bible is devoted to calls for justice and the care for the poor than to the fact that human life is sacred, though none can decide that both are Biblical mandates.

“The concerns of the religious rabbies will appeal to a broader range of Christians to the extent that they emphasize these other equally Biblical principles of justice, peace, stewardship of our resources, and care for the poor, as well as pro family and pro life issues. it is a case of these ye ought to do but not to leave the others undone.’ Too narrow a front in battling for a moral crusade, or for a truly Biblical involvement in politics, could be disastrous. It could lead to the election of a moron who holds the right view on abortion.”

AN ANTIQUATED MENTALITY

Many of us are concerned about the militant apocalyptic style of some “New Christian Right” spokesmen. This mentality dates back to antiquity when in every century where there was vast social disarray and disorientation, there emerged a widespread yearning among the masses, especially the poor and disinherited, for a Messianic savior joined by an Emperor of the Last Days who would relieve society of its oppression and moral decay and usher in the Millennium “in which the world would be inhabited by a humanity at once perfectly good and perfectly happy” (Norman Cohn, “The Pursuit of the Millennium”).

This revolutionary apocalypse was dominated by eschatological phantosies of a new Paradise on earth, a world purged of suffering and sin, a Kingdom of Saints. A prodigious final struggle would take place between the hosts of Christ and the hosts of the Antichrist through which history would attain its fulfillment and justification.

Before the Millennium could down, however, misbelief had to be eliminated as a prelude to realizing the ideal of a wholly Christian world. In the eyes of the crusading Messianic hordes (which began to form in the Middle Ages), the smiting of the Moslems and the Jews was to be the first act in that final drama which was to culminate in the smiting of the Prince of Evil (Satan, the Devil).

TOO MUCH DEMONOLOGY

Much of the present “New Right” public discussion of issues seems to be characterized by that traditional scenario of political conflict between “the children of light” and the “children of darkness.” There is too much demonology in the current discussion which appears to consign political candidates to being demolished as “satanic” — the moral his lists with “zero ratings,” “secular humanists standing at the side of satan.” Reasoned, civil debate in an open democracy requires another higher order of discourse.

One has a sense that some “New Right” advocates perceive America as if it were a vast camp revival meeting whose characteristic method was to plunge into anguish the sinner over the state of his soul, then bring about a confession of faith by oversimplifying the decision as a choice between a clear good and an obvious evil. The Civil War was rendered all the more intransigent and destructive by each side claiming that God was on their side, and by portraying the other side as “infidel” and “atheist.”

A mature America deserves a far more balanced and thoughtful method to analyze its problems and to formulate its responses; anything less than that is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

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