Evangelicals, Politics & Capitalism

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The Evangelical activists are a force to be reckoned with in the U.S. [1] They know exactly how to initiate and frame the issues of the day – and then sustain a virulent backlash against Liberals, or anyone else for that matter, who gets in their way. It is also impossible to talk about the Evangelicals, aka, Fundamentalist Christians and/or the Religious Right, and their huge success in the political and economic arenas, without mentioning Pastor James Dobson. [2] His best-selling tract “Dare to Discipline,” [3] when translated into the political terms, equals a powerful Right Wing “manifesto,” according to the distinguished linguist and author, George Lakoff. [4]

Dobson’s book focuses on the family, with a very strict-all-knowing-father-figure calling all the shots. When its teachings are taken as a metaphor, however, then Lakoff interprets them and translates them into Conservative politics, the Strict Father model can be seen as the Nation or the President. For example, a Strict Father never asks for permission! So, when President George W. Bush ordered the illegal and unjust invasion of Iraq, he “didn’t need a permission slip,” as he boasted in his 2004 Inauguration Address. The Conservatives there “got it right away,” Lakoff said.

But, there is more! Good and Evil are absolute terms, in this Strict Father model. Social programs are considered immoral and deserve to be “starved” out of existence, since they make people dependent. Meanwhile, the Fat Cats who get rich off the system, should be considered as good and be given (gasp) tax relief. Lakoff continues, “The Strict Father model links morality to prosperity…and Dobson is very clear about the connection between the Strict Father worldview and free market capitalism.” [4]

It’s obvious that the Evangelicals have mastered the politics of outrage, victimization and backlash. Just listen to the insane ravings of their mouthpieces, like: Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Savage and that whacky Coulter, if you don’t believe me. Meanwhile, they are always certain to exempt “laissez-faire capitalism from any culpability,” according to another author, Thomas Frank. In his book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas,?” Frank studied the Religious Right, with its strong links to politics and to Big Business, and how it pushes for the so-called “Free Trade” doctrine. [5]

As for the Evangelicals, they have a political and economic history that goes back in the modern era, at least, to Protestant-dominated England in the middle of the 19th century. Then, they believed if you did good in life, it proved you were virtuous; if you failed or were poor, you were sinful. They also saw an unregulated marketplace as a “perfectly designed instrument to reward good Christian behavior and to punish and humiliate the unrepentant.” [6] Sounds to me like they believed the marketplace was divinely inspired!

One of the most horrific examples of Evangelical fervor, and the mixing of politics with a free market ideology, occurred between 1845 and 1850, in Ireland. The Irish were then fully under the heel of Imperial Britain. The main crop that sustained the people was the potato and it had failed. At first, the British responded with a food program. Then, a Whig regime, under Lord John Russell, took over and it “quickly dismantled the relief program.” The prime architect of that policy of genocide was Charles Trevelyan, an arch-Evangelical! He stopped the supply of food. He felt the Irish were responsible for their own desperate dilemma by their “backwardness and self-indulgence.” As a result of this callous and murderous policy, millions of the Irish died and millions more boarded the “Coffin Ships” to escape to America, Canada and Australia. [7] Needless to say, after the human toll of this man-made disaster was calculated, Trevelyan’s “brand of political economy, grounded in evangelical doctrine, went into retreat and lost influence.” [6]

Now, unfortunately, for Americans, that “evangelical economic doctrine” is back! [8] It masks itself under the names of “The Market,” “Free Market,” “Free Trade,” and “Globalism.” It is an unfair and unjust economic policy. [9] It favors the grasping interests of the Plutocrats at the expense of working class people. It outsources our best factory jobs, closes our manufacturing plants and cuts needed social programs, while granting monstrous tax cuts to the parasitical elite, who need it the least. This egregious favor-the-greedy scheme must be reversed, now. Only the true spiritual heirs of Washington, Jefferson and Adams can cause that reversal and restore the Republic. They must fight back before it is too late. [10]

How difficult a project will it be to combat this soulless economic virus, that is funded by the wealthiest cliques in America? Well, consider this: In the 2000 presidential election, the poorest county in America, High Plains County, Kansas, voted for George W. Bush for president by “a majority of greater than 80 percent!” How did the Bush-Cheney Gang pull that off? Well, thanks to the “True Believers,” it got the residents to vote, not for their own genuine economic interest, but instead, to vote for a candidate, Bush, who identified, a least for campaign purposes, with their “family values.” [5]

There is apparently a massive con job going on here and the author, Thomas Frank explains it this way: “The leaders of the backlash may talk ‘Christ,’ but they walk ‘corporate.’ Values may ‘matter most’ to voters, but they always take a back seat to the needs of ‘money’ once the elections are won. This is a basic earmark of the phenomenon, absolutely consistent across its decades-long history. Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act. Even the greatest culture warrior of them all was a notorious cop-out once it came time to deliver. Reagan made himself the champion of traditional values, but there is no evidence he regarded the restoration as a high priority…What he really cared about was the revival of the unregulated capitalism of the twenties: THE REPEAL OF THE NEW DEAL.” [5]

Frank continues: “The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortions; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get Government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEO’s are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.” [5]

Many may recall that Pastor Dobson’s boss – Jesus – was also opposed to the accumulation of obscene wealth while others more unfortunate went without. Remember his parable about how hard it is for a rich man to go to Heaven? Jesus said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! [11] There are many Christians who feel that Jesus was at his militant best in responding to the excesses of the economic predators of his day. He courageously ran those money-changers (the Ivan Boesky types) out of the Temple. He turned over their tables and accused them of converting a house of prayer into a “den of thieves.” [12] Maybe, Pastor Dobson, a crony of Enron’s Ken Lay, should write another book! In it, he can explain how his pushing of an unregulated “Market” with all the human and social suffering that it has and will continue to inflict on Americans, squares with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth? I can’t wait to read that one!

Notes:

[1]. “Soldiers of Christ,” by Jeff Sharlet, Harper’s Magazine, May, 2005. The New Life Church founded by Pastor Ted Haggart “claims 45,000 churches as members and 30 million believers…Pastor Haggart talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday.”

[2]. “Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters,” by Chris Hedges, Harper’s, supra. “Pastor James Dobson is perhaps the most powerful figure in the Dominionist Movement.” It shares an “obsession with political power…A number of [its] influential figures advocate the death penalty for a host of ‘moral crimes,’ including… sodomy.” There are also “1,600 Christian radio and television broadcasters…The Dominionists believe that “Israel must rule the biblical land in order for Christ to return…” This kind of thinking probably accounted for the fact that Avraham Hirschsohn, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, was one of the featured speakers at the NRB’s Anaheim, CA convention. The Evangelicals boast that “130 members of the House of Representatives are now born-again Christians…The movement is a curious hybrid of fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, conservative Catholics, Charismatic, and other evangelicals…[who] share a belief that America is destined to become a Christian nation, led by Christian men, who are in turn led by God.” One Israeli woman at the convention, told the author, “These people are anti-Semitic.” She added, “The demonization of Muslims and Palestinians by the speakers made her especially uneasy.”

[3]. “Dare to Discipline,” Pastor James Dobson.

[4]. “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” by George Lakoff.

[5]. “What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” by Thomas Frank.

[6]. “Let There be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics,” by Gordon Bigelow, Harper’s, supra.

[7]. http://www.nde.state.ne.us/SS/irish_famine.html.

[8]. http://www.aflcio.org/aboutaflcio/magazine/0404_manufacturing.cfm.

[9]. http://www.socialistworker.org/2005- 1/527/527_08_RiseOfRight.shtml#Top.

[10]. http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/.

[11]. Mark 10: 25.

[12]. Mark 11: 15-17.

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