Is the Christian right the Republican Party's real political base or have conservative Christians taken over the GOP, forcing the party to meet their demands?
For former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, the answer became clear when the Republican-controlled Congress intervened in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died after her husband won the right to remove her feeding tube.
"The effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive artificially became a religious crusade and Republicans in Washington responded to a core constituency, even though it meant abandoning traditional Republican philosophy," Danforth writes in his new book, "Faith and Politics: How the 'Moral Values' Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together."
Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest and a lifelong Republican who represented Missouri for 18 years in the Senate, argues that the religious right has focused its agenda on divisive issues that polarize Americans and create a stalemate in government.
I've always thought that history will remember the government intrusion into the Schiavo family's end of life decisions as an extremely low point in kiss-ass politics. The way Terri Schiavo ended her life is something that goes on almost every day, but the Schiavos won the heartache lottery and the party opposed to big government muscled its way into their lives.
AP tells us that Danforth writes, "If Christianity is supposed to be a ministry of reconciliation, but has become, instead, a divisive force in American political life, something is terribly wrong and we should correct it." The problem with that is there's no political capital in it. Republicans will stop using the Robots for Christ only when it stops paying off.
Personally, I'd say that not only is the influence of the religious right harming the GOP, but that the GOP's exploitation is harming christianity. There are people who believe that everything the religious right says is the christian viewpoint.
When anyone is at all critical of some religious right moron, it becomes an 'attack on christians'. Allow me to refer back to my own writing; in Almost No One is Christian Enough I wrote about an article by Prison Fellowship leader Charles Colson.
What got Colson all bent out of shape was an ad by Campaign to Defend the Constitution in the New York Times. Below big caps reading, "Meet America's Most Influential Stem Cell Scientists" were photos of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. Colson's piece was titled, "Who Is Funding Attacks on Christians?" -- as if the three amigos' stands on stem cell research were written out in the Bible and every single christian agreed with them.
But literally millions of christians disagree with these guys. And you can go right down the list; same sex marriage, abortion, women's rights, school prayer, evolution, et. al. There is no christian consensus on any of these issues, just as there's no american consensus. Yet people will tell you that 'the christian viewpoint' is this or 'christians believe' that -- as if they were all on the same page.
There are far too many people who really think that christians all believe exactly the same things, despite logical evidence to the contrary. Seventy-some percent of americans are christian and this is a democracy -- if all christians were of the same opinion, there would be virtually no debate on any of these issues because almost everyone would vote the same way.
As things are, the religious right and the republican party are harming each other as much as they are their religion. By posing 'christian opinion' as monolithic, they shut people out of their church and their party.
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