Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trying to understand the U.S. political and religious right

     The killings a week ago in Norway were a rude reminder if we needed one of the impact--even if misguided and negative--that the "right" has in today's democratic societies.
     These killings were first attributed to Islamist groups by so-called terrorism expert Will McCants ( terrorism-expert-set-media-suspicion-muslims-after-oslo-horror). Many prominent news sources followed this lead.
     But soon we learned that a Norwegian, Anders Breivik, a self-identified Christian "who leans toward right-wing Christianity," was responsible for the killings. I say this cautiously, because I do not want to use such a label improperly after my recent post dealing with that topic.
     I am also cautious about connecting Breivik's right-wing views with the U.S. right, although that did not deter many news organizations. Yet there is an overlap.
     Although I am not unfamiliar with the U.S. right, I do not consider myself an expert. Thus when I stumbled across an article in Aljazeera, entitled "America's own Taliban," I was shocked both by the extent of this movement and by some of those who were named directly or were listed in the linked articles (
     I am not an American but merely a long-time observer of the U.S. scene. As a foreigner, it behooves me to be careful in my comments on what is happening in the U.S. today, especially in the area of politics, lest my comments be perceived as a critique of the U.S. At the same time, however, it gives me an international perspective that many Americans may lack.
    For this reason, I have consulted many sources in order to help me understand the political and religious right in the U.S., which are closely connected. Please consult the chart that I have appended.
    I have been a missionary for forty years, teaching at seminaries and universities in many countries, as you can see from my profile. That experience has provided me with a unique viewpoint.
    As a missionary, I am committed to evangelism, although I appreciate that there are different evangelistic methods. While in the Philippines, I already became aware of the church growth principles espoused by Donald McGavran at Fuller Seminary. C. Peter Wagner taught church growth at the same school, but he accented spiritual warfare. I also learned about "power evangelism" as developed by John Wimber.
.   Because of my long residence overseas, I am also convinced that there is a spirit world that--at least for nearly everyone in those countries--is just as real as the physical world that surrounds us. I have been involved with exorcisms and am thus somewhat familiar with spiritual warfare.
    Earlier this week I wrote a post about prophets. Prophets also play a leading role in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR),  which stresses the role of prophecy. The NAR was founded by C.Peter Wagner and he still heads it.
    Wagner has described his movement this way: "The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of God that began at the close of the twentieth century and continues on. It is, to a significant extent, changing the shape of the Protestant world."
    The NAR has many arms and related ministries, such as Global Harvest Ministries, International Coalition of Apostles (which in turn has hundreds of ministries under it), United States Global Apostolic Prayer Network, United States Prayer Reformation Network, while at the state level there are numerous Spiritual Warfare Networks.
    In addition, there are Market Apostles, which want to practice "dominion" over the "mountain" of business and finance, the International Society of Deliverance Ministries, the Apostolic Council for Educational Accountability, the Wagner Leadership Institute, the International Society of Reading Rooms (the head of which in Uganda was responsible for the anti-gay bill there), Seven Mountains Ministry (which involves taking control of seven key spheres of society), and many more ministries.
    This list indicates the many ministries associated with the NAR, but it does not imply their political influence, especially in the U.S. I would like to learn more about this influence from those who are knowledgeable about it.
    You may see already the connection that the NAR movement has with what is often called "dominionism."  The latter involves the desire of some politically active conservative Christians to influence or take control of all secular institutions, including governments. "Dominion Theology" is based on Genesis 1:28, a text which most Christians interpret as teaching stewardship. Note that the term "dominionism" is not used by dominionists themselves.
    One should be careful in reading all sorts of conspiracy theories into dominionism and related groups. As you can see from the chart, there are both "hard dominionists" and "soft dominionists." Christian Reconstructionism (CR) is a branch of the "hard" variety.
    Many Christians, myself included, want to put faith into action in all areas of life, but CR goes much further. It wants to apply Old and New Testament laws in the place of secular law everywhere. This is also called "Theonomism." Rousas Rushdoony is regarded as the intellectual father of CR.
    The origin of all these movements mentioned thus far has been traced back variously to Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, and post-millennialism. Such attributions are not entirely fair. While CR tends to be most-millennial and has many followers who come from the Reformed tradition, their views have departed far from that of John Calvin and Abraham Kuyper.
    My own roots are in the Calvinistic and Kuyperian traditions. In addition, my missionary experience has opened my eyes to some positions that are espoused by Wagner's NAR. Yet none of these associations makes me sympathetic with the Christian right in any form.
    I very much want Christians to be active in all areas of life, and I want Christians to speak out prophetically against the many injustices of our time, but I do not recognize myself anywhere on the chart below, which is good because I do consider myself part of the right.
   In fact, my votes have often been cast for political parties at the other end of the spectrum. I say this only to prevent being labeled unnecessarily by those who may be unhappy with my comments. Hence my initial caution.
   Anders Breivik may want to place himself in one of the categories below, but I will not hazard a guess, since I know too little yet about his views. I have little interest in plowing through his 1,500 page manuscript. Anyway, that would involve labeling.
   What concerns me, above all, and what has motivated this post, is how extreme some of these groups are. In spite of that extremism, there are many prominent names associated with it, in the political sphere especially. Such individuals and groups, unfortunately, give Christianity a bad name. That may not be their intention, yet it happens.
   While I concede their right to exist and to propound their views, I owe it to myself as well as to the readers of this blog to investigate this phenomenon. I am trying to understand it, as you are, no doubt.
   The political and religious right in the U.S. is a complex phenomenon. I do not claim to understand it fully. But there is too much happening in our world to disregard this phenomenon entirely. Norway and Washington are only two recent examples of how this phenomenon has manifested itself. 
    As I am writing this, the debt crisis debate has still not been resolved. The refusal of some members of the Republican party to consider raising taxes, by closing some loopholes that benefit the rich, for example, is one important manifestation of this.
   Thus I would appreciate a cordial discussion about it. Please note the word "cordial." I do not want to get involved in a heated shouting match with those who may disagree with my comments or my political stance. I merely want to increase my understanding.
    Maybe we can help each other.

I append the following chart from Political Research Associates that provides a useful map of the U.S. right--notice where the chart places the tea party movement:

Sectors of the U.S. Right Active in the Year 2011

There is much overlap and sectors are not mutually exclusive. 
Methodologies range from cautious moderation, to militant activism, to insurgency, to violence.
Right-wing populist, apocalyptic, and conspiracist styles can be found in several sectors.
Forms of oppression—racism, xenophobia, sexism, heterosexismantisemitism, 

Islamophobia, Arabophobia, nativism, ableism, etc.—vary in each sector.

Secular Right
Secular Conservatism (Generic) — Share to some degree basic conservative, “Free Market,”& “Judeo-Christian traditional values,” but not categorized here as part of another sector.
Corporate Internationalism (Neoliberals) —Nations should control the flow of people across borders, but not the flow of goods, capital, and profit. Called the “Rockefeller Republicans” in the 1960s. Supports globalization on behalf of transnational corporate interests.
Business Nationalism—Multinational corporations erode national sovereignty; nations should enforce borders for people, but also for goods, capital, and profit through trade restrictions. Enlists grassroots allies from Patriot Movement. Anti-Globalists. Generally protectionist and isolationist.
Economic Libertarianism—The state disrupts the perfect harmony of the free market system. Modern democracy is essentially congruent with capitalism. Small government.
National Security Militarism—Support US military supremacy and unilateral use of force to protect perceived US national security interests around the world. A major component of Cold War anti-communism, now updated and in shaky alliance with Neoconservatives.
Neoconservatism—The egalitarian social liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s undermined the national consensus. Intellectual oligarchies and political institutions preserve democracy from mob rule. The United States has the right to intervene with military force to protect its perceived interests anywhere in the world. Suspicious of Islam, sometimes Islamophobic.
Religious Right
Religious Conservatism— Play by the rules of a pluralist civil society. Mostly Christians, with handful of conservative Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other people of faith. Moral traditionalists. Cultural and social conservatives. Sometimes critical of Christian Right.
The sectors above this line tend to accept the rules of pluralist civil society and PRA calls them part of the “Conservative Right.”
The sectors below this line tend to reject the rules of pluralist civil society and PRA calls them part of the “Hard Right”
Christian Nationalism (Christian Right: Soft Dominionists)—Biblically‑defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. America’s greatness as God’s chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals. Purists want litmus tests for issues of abortion, tolerance of gays and lesbians, and prayer in schools. Often a form of Right-Wing Populism.
Christian Theocracy (Christian Right: Hard Dominionists)—Christian men are ordained by God to run society. Eurocentric version of Christianity based on early Calvinism. Intrinsically Christian ethnocentric, treating non-Christians as second-class citizens, and therefore implicitly antisemitic. Includes Christian Reconstructionism and other theocratic theologies. Elitist.
Xenophobic Right
Patriot Movement (Forms of Right-Wing Populism: Tea Parties, Town Hall Protests, Armed Citizens Militias)Parasitic liberal elites control the government, media, and banks. Blames societal problems on scapegoats below them on the socio-economic ladder who are portrayed as lazy, sinful, or subversive. Fears government plans tyranny to enforce collectivism and globalism, perhaps as part of a One World Government or New World Order. Americanist. Often supports Business Nationalism due to its isolationist emphasis. Anti-Globalist, yet supports unilateralist national security militarism.
Paleoconservatism—Ultra-conservatives and reactionaries. Natural financial oligarchies preserve the republic against democratic mob rule. Usually nativist (White Nationalism), sometimes antisemitic or Christian nationalist. Elitist emphasis similar to the intellectual conservative revolution wing of European New Right. Often libertarian.
White Nationalism (White Racial Nationalists)—Alien cultures make democracy impossible. Cultural Supremacists argue different races can adopt the dominant (White) culture; Biological Racists argue the immutable integrity of culture, race, and nation. Segregationists want distinct enclaves, Separatists want distinct nations. Americanist. “tribalist” emphasis echoes racial-nationalist wing of the European New Right. Often a form of Right-Wing Populism.
Ultra Right (Sometimes called Far Right or Extreme Right)Militant forms of insurgent revolutionary right ideology and separatist ethnocentric nationalism. Reject pluralist democracy for an organic oligarchy that unites the homogeneous Volkish nation. Conspiracist views of power are overwhelmingly antisemitic. Home to overt neofascists and neonazis. Ku Klux Klan, Christian Identity, Creativity Movement, National Socialist Movement, National Alliance. Often uses Right-Wing Populist rhetoric.







Copyright 1981—2011, Political Research Associates –

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