By John Steppling
Watch all eight episodes of this interview.
And then watch at least this…..
And then read Frank Rich’s rather perceptive, if not obvious, article from the NYTimes….
Now, let’s reflect on all this.
The Christian Right began to organize about forty years ago. I can remember these guys, at parties, at leftist gatherings; The Peace and Freedom Party, or AIM, or whatever. Weird dorky Jesus freaks….and everyone sort of laughed at them and dismissed the cranks as just that, cranks.
Fast forward a bit and I can remember later the unsettling feeling I had when I first realized, maybe around 1975, that the Jesus freaks had organized…..had SERIOUSLY organized. Suddenly these previously fringe god squaders had been transformed into several branches of the fundamentalist tree and become something of a force. Televangelism had taken root and was raking in jillions of dollars. And the rightward lurch of the country was clear.
How did this occur and why? I will only make a few rather basic observations about this, because it’s a very complex subject — but part of it had to do with the westward movement of the population and white flight from inner cities. The new ‘burbs were without community—havens for strip mall consciousness and franchise life. Often the franchise eateries or outlet stores were there before the people. “Planned Communities.”
So for many white *middle* class families, these new churches provided a sense of default community and a sense of empowerment……however illusory.
The movement found its voice in the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Phyllis Schlafly — and one of the basic tenets of this new charismatic Christianity was an absolute faith in the Bible, necessitating Bible studies as a means to guide people through the minefields of sexual relativism ushered in by the 60s and in a less obvious way, to suggest white supremacy (especially white male supremacy) in the light of the civil rights movement.
It is a teaching of moral absolutes, and a reinforcement of not just racial ideology, but also Capitalist ideology. Hard work, self improvement, and a fixed sexual identity that are described as the bedrock of western family and hence western values. They also, from the start, believed in government as an enforcer of these moral absolutes. Government was to stay out of the marketplace, but should, must, invade the home.
Last week I wrote again about white America’s feeling of being under siege. If it’s not communists, then its Muslims, or immigrants or homosexuals. There must be some explanation for the disastrous state of US society. There is a wealth of source material out there regarding this, and a good place to start is here….
The Bush presidency owes a lot to the Pentecostal right…..and his appointment of John Ashcroft was a first dividend for them.
In a speech at Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina, Ashcroft said; “Unique among nations, America recognized the source of our character as being godly and eternal, not being civic and temporal… We have no king but Jesus.”
And then there is the takeover of the US Air Force Academy (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/apr2005/acad-a30.shtml)……
And there is Jerry Boykin (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1016-01.htm).
The Bush nominations to high courts were always pay back gifts to the Christian Right…… (and it’s useful to recall Joe Biden was the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee during most of this). The rightward lurch of the US government was entwined with this organized Christian extremism.
The choice of Sarah Palin is only the most advanced and most recent example…..and most frightening. Again, listen to Steven Spoonamore’s interviews. The rise of fascism isn’t going to come cloaked in black shirts and swastikas…. today it comes in the form of Dominionist nut cases like Palin, and under cover of creeps like James Dobson.
The ruling class power structure is perfectly happy to subcontract a lot of the enforcing of order to the Religious far-right. As bourgeois-democracy breaks down (global financial crises are upon us and environmental meltdown is already in full swing), the iron fist of militarism will come into play. Two billion dollars a day (plus) for the military ……reflect on that, too. And Homeland Security training firms like Blackwater to patrol US streets. If Obama does lose, and if people begin to seriously protest, as they well might, what will the McCain/Palin response be?
Senior Editor of Arts and Culture with Cyrano’s Journal Online, playwright, director, screenwriter and teacher, John Steppling was an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival and has had his plays produced in London, LA, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Poland. Steppling lives in Lodz with Norwegian director Gunnhild Skrodal, and teaches at the Polish National Film School. He co-edits with Guy Zimmerman Cyrano’s celebrated VOXPOP blog on theater, cinema & politics.