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The Eclipse of the Christian Right? Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 31 December 2010

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We could do nothing but stand and weep. Bus after bus after busload of Christian conservative college students arrived from the South at the 1980 annual meeting of the National Students’ Association and in the course of a few days took the organization away from us left-wing students who had controlled it since its founding in the 1960s.           

As student leaders, my friends and I were among the small coterie that ran the premier student organization in the nation. So confident were we that, even after the Christian students arrived at the meeting in Boulder that year, we didn't actually believe they could hurt us. They were nothing more than a curiosity, an amusement. Rather than strategize and organize, we even took time out to hold a pot-tasting contest that was covered in High Times magazine; we even made the cover.

At the plenary business session, however, the intentions of the new arrivals became clear. They wanted our organization and, in the course of a few votes, they simply took it away from us. All we could do was watch, mouths agape. What we witnessed was the political potency of the Christian right that would sweep Ronald Reagan into office shortly afterward. It would not surprise me if master organizer and strategist Ralph Reed was behind what happened at that meeting thirty years ago.

I stand, of course, of the other side of things than I did those decades ago. But I fear we are watching something less dramatic but no less powerful right now: A partial eclipse of this same movement thirty years later, by a combination of extreme libertarians and homosexual activists.

Obituaries of the Christian Right have been running in the national media for decades, and have always proved false, mere wishful thinking. And on the abortion issue, the Christian Right is as powerful as it ever was. That the recent health care debate, our liberal president's top agenda item, was centered and stalled on the abortion issue, demonstrated that unequivocally. But on the question of the family and of homosexuality, it’s another story.

Homosexuals’ openly serving in the military was a profound defeat for the Christian Right. This shift has serious scholars of the family like Allan Carlson deeply worried. He believes the ramifications are immense, since the military is so obedient and so influential in the larger society. His immediate concern centers on the pastors serving in the military who may have no alternative but to leave. More than that, he fears the multiplier effect the military's implementation will have. How do you deny them marriage when they are willing to die for their country?

Other important events show the dwindling influence of the Christian Right on this question. The people at Apple Computers recently removed an already approved iPhone application developed to promote the Manhattan Declaration, a statement of Christian beliefs on life and marriage signed by nearly 500,000 Americans. Apple cancelled the app after only 7,000 people signed a petition of complaint. Efforts to get the app re-approved have so far been fruitless. Out of 200,000 Apple approved apps, dozens support the homosexual agenda. A single app in support of Christian moral values is rejected.


      Happy New Year?

In recent days, a number of mainstream Christian right groups were named “hate” groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They include such mainstream conservative groups as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council. Their “hate crime” was opposing homosexual marriage, the purported position of President Obama. Many of us understand that the Southern Poverty Law Center has for a long time consisted of little more than far-left hacks but they still have some currency with the mainstream media and others who may not know any better.

This fight also erupted within the conservative movement. Even though social conservatism is a part of the Tea Party rank and file, some in the Tea Party leadership let it be know that social issues are not welcome, particularly opposition to homosexuality. A few weeks ago the organizers of CPAC, the preeminent gathering of conservatives, voted to include a homosexual activist group as a primary sponsor, much to the chagrin of Christian Right groups who promptly withdrew from the conference.

Former Bush White Hose staffer Pete Wehner said their reaction showed a lack of confidence; they should have stayed and entered into the debate. I wonder if the Christian groups would have been better served by taking a page from their predecessors at the National Students’ Association thirty years ago.

Talk about confident. Those guys simply walked in the door with sufficient numbers and purpose and took over the meeting. What would happen if hundreds of Christians appeared in that meeting and let it be thunderingly known that the homosexual agenda has no place in the conservative movement. This is not an issue for debate. This is a non-negotiable demand. That would have been a strong way to begin 2011.

On a personal level, too, I have begun to worry. Charles Krauthammer has said homosexuals in the military were all but inevitable. Is the rest inevitable, too? Homosexual marriage? Adoption? The end of religious objection? Will we be known as haters? Will we be shut out of the public square? And what will my young daughters – now five and two – think of their old man and his hating ways?

Sobering and disturbing thoughts as we begin a new year; if we can’t act, and fast, the next two years may settle these matters in America for good. 

 
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.

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Comments (15)Add Comment
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written by Sandra Jones, December 31, 2010
The misunderstanding of "judge not" has been so drilled into everyone that no one, not even active homosexuals, can be described as sinners. Try to tell parents their sons and daughters are going to hell if they don't repent. The reason Monica is a saint is because she faced and fought the sinfulness of her son, Augustine.
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written by Other Joe, December 31, 2010
Ease up on the "for good". Review the last century for help in re-establishing perspective. How many earthly great powers came to naught? It often appears that all is lost until the unforseen brings about an entirely new set of challenges. Lest we forget, He has his own agenda.

Respectfully -
Now about the money...anyone?
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written by Mark, December 31, 2010
"Homosexuals openly serving in the military was a profound defeat for the Christian Right."

There are no homosexual persons openly serving in the military. DADT remains in force despite the recent actions of Congress and the President. There are a number of steps to be completed before DADT is truly gone.
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written by Bill, December 31, 2010
Thank you for your very thought-provoking piece, Mr. Ruse.
You continually mention the recent "Christian" history of our nation in which I assume you include Evangelicals. Let me describe the Catholic view. After Griswald v. CT (contraception), Roe v. Wade (abortion), Lawrence v. Texas (legalizing homosexual behavior), rest assured that America is facing Divine Retribution on a horrific scale. WWI and WWII were Divine Punishments as The Virgin stated at Fatima. This nation has aborted over 15% of what would have been its population. The most important "teaching???" to come from Vat. II was to ignore the existence of Hell and eternal punishment. When this Retribution has ended, people will once again believe in Hell. THEN the survivors will reform their lives
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written by Other Joe, December 31, 2010
Looking back over the last century, one might be inclined toward Bill's point. Sadly, it seems to take catastrophe to evaporate the intellectual mists of self imagined "reality". Pride is the first sin. We are living in a moral catastrophe, matter is sure to follow, one suspects.
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written by Grump, December 31, 2010
Too late, professor, to stop the descent into total depravity. Obama is tottering now that his No. 2, Joe Biden (a cafeteria Catholic) has declared homosexual marriage "inevitable." The pols, the polls, the Congress, the media, have conflated in the name of "civil rights". Thankfully, my children are grown, have happy nuclear families. But if I had a couple of young kids like you, I'd be worried, too.
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written by JOHN McCarthy, December 31, 2010
With all due respect, I dislike jeremiads such as this. We Catholics today need confident, encouraging leaders who are, while not being pollyannish, robustly confident. As the great Father Peyton was fond of saying: "Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
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written by Dan Deeny, December 31, 2010
Sandra Jones,
An interesting comment. Do you have any information on what happened to Augustine's concubine? She seems to have disappeared from history. I hope she is in heaven praying for our souls. I believe the child she had with Augustine died in early youth? She seems to have been gravely wronged by Monica and Augustine.
What do you think?
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written by Ray Hunkins, December 31, 2010
1 John 2:18 "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour." Those words were written two thousand years ago. Between then and now there have been many defeats, many victories and many conversions. Courage and tenacity have been required to achieve the victories and conversions. Courage and tenacity are still required. We are free. We can still make a difference and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to do so. On this New Year's eve let us resolve to act on their behalf to defeat the misuse of freedom.
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written by Jack T., January 01, 2011
Mr. Ruse: I am a pro-life, conservative, Catholic who is not in favor of gay marriage, but I cannot understand why openly gay women and men should be barred from serving their country in active military service. The most common answer given is that it would harm unit cohesion. But other countries have allowed for gay soldiers and have not seen an affect on unit cohesion. Furthermore, why should our military ranks be determined by majority vote of soldiers? What if a mixed-race military was shown to be detrimental to unit cohesion? What about religions or areas of the country?

Isn't part of democracy learning how to work with others with whom we may disagree? In terms of the moral argument, which I suspect is your real concern, is it the responsibility of the military to adjudicate on matters of sexual morality? If a serviceman has sex outside of marriage, should he be banned? And what other offices would you like gay persons to be barred from? Should they be ineligible for public office? teaching at schools? serving in government-sector jobs?
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written by Martin Snigg, January 01, 2011
Could the title simply be 'The Eclipse of Biblical Christianity'? in the spirit of calling things by their right name.

Afterall no one needs to claim the Bible is authoritative if they believe homosexual acts are not intrinsically wrong. Why call oneself a Christian then if only to ease your way into apostasy slowly? (all the while being a stumbling block to the faithful while nominally Christian). They are no longer salt and so good for nothing, Our Lord told us what to do with them or what would happen to us if we fit that description as a church.

Tolerance for these people is not charitable to young people or for society - which does not rise if we don't leaven it. They have to be called out. We have no time left.
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written by Disgusted in DC, January 01, 2011
Given the fact that ultra-Catholic Malta doesn't ban gays from the military, and it seems neither does Poland, it seems to have been a fool's errand for Catholic social conservatives to fight so hard for a losing battle that (a) wasn't at all necessary and (b) is more of a concern for those who combine evangelical/fundamentalism with old school American non-dogmatic muscular Christianity than those who do not necessarily share such assumptions. Some issues are indeed worth fighting to the death over (so to speak), but not this particular one. Sometimes, I think Catholic social conservatives have gotten captured by Roundheadish far-right types, in the same way that many of our friends on the Catholic left have been effectively co-opted by the dominant ideologues of Berkeley, Chapel Hill, and Wellseley. Gays in the military would seem to be Exhibit A of social conservative hubris.

As a practical matter, pro-family Catholic activists should be less concerned about Marines queening about in a campy fashion- - which, by the way, is NOT an entirely unknown phenomenon amongst heterosexual Marines - - but the real-life stresses upon military families as the result of deployments, which too often result in divorces, domestic violence, and dysfunction in the home. The divorce rate in military families is truly appalling, and the number of military families in crisis should truly shock the conscience of Christian social conservatives. Alas, I'm afraid, it does not shock the conscience enough.
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written by A voice, January 01, 2011
I hear those posting speaking about conversion as if it were an event. Conversion is an ongoing and perpetual process. I appreciate the strong feelings that all of you share about the sins of others in our society. With that said, in an attempt to avoid hypocrisy, perhaps those posting should refrain from posting until visiting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Calling down a judgment for one sin is likely to call down a judgment on oneself for a different one. I don't trust any man, myself included, who expresses strong opinions on sinfullness but lacks the humility to visit the Confessional on a regular basis.
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written by Grump, January 01, 2011
Those who have no problem with homosexuals serving openly in the military typically are people who never served. Sexual perversion, as are other criteria -- age/height/weight/criminal record, inability to pass a written test -- is an automatic disqualifier for military service.
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written by Graham Combs, January 02, 2011
Several months ago on NPR's "On The Media" program, Daniel Levitas of the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that there was a "well-funded, highly organized network of pro-life terrorists" throughout the country. The host didn't even bother to ask where he got his information or what that "information" was. Nor did she comment-- as she could have -- that in the past several decades since Roe v. Wade the number of incidents of actual violence could be counted on one hand with fingers left over. There will always be extremists. The culture of life will always oppose them. The same cannot be said for NARAL, NOW, ACLU, SPLC, HRC, and sadly, civil rights groups who once held the high ground in American politics. I attended law school in the 1990s and worked in New York publishing in the 1980s -- you have no idea how ferocious the left is and how determined it is to get every single item on their agenda. And they are doing it. The "smokeof Satan," the "filth in the Church," -- no papal condemnation captures the true ugliness of the big lies Catholics endure everyday in the workplace, in the classroom, the media, even at the dinner table with people claiming to be Catholic. Are the number of abortions below one million a year? Probably. But we cannot afford to be complacent. They aren't.

As for the Human Rights Campaign, William McGowan, who wrote COLORING THE NEWS and recently GRAY LADY DOWN (about the New York Times), acknowledged what we already know -- that "homosexuality was at the heart of the priest abuse scandal." And McGowan is more liberal than conservative. His COLORING THE NEWS is required reading by the way. I have yet to met a gay man did not deny that there these priests were, in fact, homosexual. That's their story, the media's story, and academia's story. How do you counter that?

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