There are lots of things to be done.
One of the first things to do — is to learn more about it.
The Christian Right is one of the most successful political movements in American history. Yet people’s level of literacy about the subject is often, well, shockingly low. The Christian Right is the dominant faction in the GOP. There are reasons for that. But few seem to know what those reasons are. If we are going to have intelligent conversations about all this, let alone be able to have coherent discussions about what to do, we need to have more people who share a common base of knowledge and the language necessary to have meaningful conversations. After many years, I know that useful knowledge and conversation in this area can be hard to come by.
So here is my up-by-the-bootstraps, do-it-yourself program for coming up to speed: books, magazines, conferences, videos, blogging — and a radical idea.
Pick any three books: Among general interest books, I will certainly recommend my own. Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; but also Facing the Wrath by Sara Diamond; The Most Dangerous Man in America and Why the Religious Right is Wrong, both by Robert Boston. Current hot and excellent books are With God on Their Side by Esther Kaplan, Losing Moses on the Freeway: The Ten Commandments in America by Chris Hedges; and The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney. For the academically inclined: Rightwing Populism: Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons; Roads to Dominion, by Sara Diamond; and With God on Our Side, by William Martin.
Pick one or both magazines: Church & State; The Public Eye. (Yes, other publications cover the religious right periodically and well. Most recently Harpers has had some important coverage, and an upcoming issue of Mother Jones has good stuff. Max Blumenthal’s articles in the The Nation online are not to be missed, nor are Bill Berkowitz columns for Working Assets. But for regular coverage, its the monthly Church & State and the quarterly Public Eye.)
Read Blogs devoted to this subject: Talk to Action, DefCon blog; Dark Christianity, Religious Right Watch, Frederick Clarkson, Chip Berlet, and for more general discussions of politics and religion, Street Prophets.
Attend Conferences: These are, unfortunately, few and far between. The Texas Freedom Network has one going on this weekend. The National Cathedral in Washington, DC has a good looking conference October 13-15 that is mostly about progressive religious values, (which is not really to be confused with learning about the religious right, but there will be some of that). And finally, there is one focused on understanding the Christian Right, sponsored by the Graduate Program at the City Univeristy of New York and the New York Open Center.
Dominionism is an influential form of fundamentalist religion that believes that in order to fulfill biblical prophecy, “godly Christians” must take control of the levers of political and judicial power in America in the near future…. Just how has this religious ideology gained influence in Congress, American political culture, and in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East and on the environment? What can be done to alert concerned citizens to the theocratic impulse growing in their midst? The goal of this seminar is to examine the power and influence of a religious and political movement that questions the separation of church and state, and that aims to establish a biblical society governed by biblical laws.
Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates; co-author, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort; Frederick Clarkson, author, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; Michael Northcott, teaches Christian Ethics, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; author, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire; Esther Kaplan, author, With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House.
Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm & Saturday Oct. 22 10am-6pm $85; $50 students
Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm $15
Saturday October 22 10am-6pm $75
View and Discuss Videos & DVDs: A DVD of highlights from a previous CUNY conference from last April Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right is available for $19.95. It features Karen Armstrong, Joan Bokaer, Joseph Hough, Robert Edgar, Hugh Urban, Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson. (212) 219-2527 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Theocracy Watch has produced a very useful educational piece which is available on video or DVD. It can be downloaded for free or ordered by mail. Why not get a group of people together for a showing and discussion?
Consider a radical idea: Follow the above program and then do the same thing with religious right sources. Its a good thing to have some direct experiences of the people, books, periodicals and events of the religious right. In fact, I would argue that there is no substitute for it. One of these days, I will write up a beginner’s program for how to do this.
But in the meantime, try some or all of the above. Ideally, do them with others, perhaps as a reading and discussion group. I would add that when we launch the scoop-based version of Talk to Action, the above resources will be listed along with others, and whenever there are interesting events, we will announce them — and of course chew over whatever happens. Many of the people mentioned in this post will be frequent contributors at Talk to Action. You can think of it as a rolling conference on the religious right and what to do about it; how to talk about it; comparing notes on what works, what doesn’t, and why. We want to learn lessons from our mistakes and failures. And we will want to hear success stories — and to celebrate them. And it will be important to have many such celebrations, won’t it? As I often say, this is one of the central struggles of our time.
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