What the Christian Right’s Political Playbook Sounds Like

James Dobson insisted that Bill Clinton did not have the character to be POTUS, but he has no problem with Donald Trump.  I discuss Dobson and others in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Here is an interview he recently conducted with Jerry Newcombe, a Christian nationalist author who writes about the American past.  Newcombe interviewed me on his radio show in June 2012.  We had a good conversation.

There are several problems with Newcombe’s view of Thomas Jefferson, but he also gets some things right.  I am not going to go into the details here.  As many of you know, I wrote about Jefferson and religion in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

It is striking to listen to these culture warriors.  They continue to follow the political playbook of the Christian Right that they learned (and in some ways helped to create) in the 1980s.  In fact, much of this interview could have taken place in the 1980s.  Little has changed in their approach to political engagement.  They cling to the playbook.

If you get a chance to listen to this interview, you will hear two evangelical men (especially Dobson) who place their trust in the Supreme Court to save the moral decline of the country.  I am confident that Dobson and Newcombe believe that Jesus is their Savior, but when they talk about cultural change it is all about winning political battles.  Dobson gets nostalgic about Robert Bork.  Newcombe blames the Supreme Court for the cultural “mess” in America.  They say almost nothing about the role of the church and its place in the culture promoting life, peace, justice, love, compassion, and mercy.

 

4 thoughts on “What the Christian Right’s Political Playbook Sounds Like

  1. Some years ago, Internet Monk said this about James Dobson:
    “Remember James Dobson? Did some good things before fear of homosexuals drove him over a cliff with most of his constituency in the car.”

    Some points from my past regarding him:
    1) James Dobson and Focus on the Family was a staple on Christianese AM radio when I was listening in during the mid-Seventies through early Eighties. Looking back on his “Strong Willed Child” series, it seems even then he viewed even childrearing through the lens of Power Struggle.
    2) “Electing a CHRISTIAN President who will appoint Supreme Court Justices who WILL Overturn Roe v Wade” has been a Holy Grail of Christian Culture War activists since at least 1980; I remember that was the official policy of pro-life groups NRLC and (with all caps and exclamation points) American Life League. The GOP strung them along with this carrot for around 40 years before Trump threw over the tables and upset the apple cart by actually DOING it.
    3) Then there was that “I send this back to you from 2012 as a Warning” letter just before the 2008 elections, telling of a Homosexual Near Future Persecution Dystopia if the Dems were elected. As an SF litfan since the Seventies, this one was lame even for the “I send this back in time as a Warning” sub-genre of dystopian fiction.
    4) In the Seventies, FotF’s world headquarters was in Arcadia or Sierra Madre, CA (either on Colorado or Foothill Blvd; it was on or near my route home from work). Then they moved to a new bigger HQ next to Cal Poly Pomona (where I went to school some years before). Finally they moved to the Christian Redoubt in Colo Spgs with all the other Culture War HQs, finally reaching Echo Chamber Isolation.

    As Chesterton put it in one of his nonfiction books, partnering Christ with some temporal goal (like MAGA) results in a syncretism where the temporal goal dominates. (“They will tell you how much Buddhism is really like Christianity deep underneath, especially Buddhism.”) And fixes the Gospel from timelessness into the linear time of the temporal goal, resulting in it becoming old-fashioned as time goes on and the goal falls farther and farther behind in the past.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Headless Unicorn Guy (I can’t believe I just typed that! 🙂 ). I think Dobson helped a lot of evangelical families in the 1970s and early 1980s despite the controversial nature of some of his views on the family. I have taken some of his advice in my own parenting. It is a shame he turned into such a culture-warrior. I think he lost a lot of folks when he did that and really weakened his ministry.

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      • The reason most of my comments are short (and snarky) is because I have only little bits and pieces of time to comment. And I had to become fluent in Snark as a kid (and go to examples and analogies with the most IMPACT) just to get a word in edgewise.

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  2. After 9/11, at a time when Americans were suddenly very interested in Islam, I watched an interview on American TV with an American imam and the Anglo-American interviewer asked about the notions of virtue and morality in Islam, to which the imam gave a response. The interviewer then countered that it seemed hypocritical if Muslims were not so much taught about morality as policed into moral behavior by Muslim community leaders, to which the imam responded that the interviewer was looking at the situation through Western eyes, that in Muslim eyes the community was the core, base unit and not the individual. It was the imam’s job to ensure the community adhered to the law and holy practices.

    Superficially, it seems to me as if there is a segment of the American Evangelical community which operates on the same basis. This is despite the original Protestant tenets of Sola Gratia and Sola Christus, which put the onus for one’s salvation and relationship with God on the individual, that no church or priest or holy relic could intercede on a person’s behalf. Granted, individualism is a Western invention and a fairly recent one at that; the Bible — the Old Testament in particular — is naturally community focused. It’s the logic behind Pat Robertson condemning New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, claiming its suffering was God’s judgment for the city’s apparent tolerance of gays. It seems as if this Evangelical Playbook you’re mentioning is cut from the same cloth, a very top-down need to police the wayward Christian community (meaning, the United States) through law. And to be able to impose those laws, one needs power.

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