In Response To ... The Current Affairs












  More Writings by Bruce Gourley 


Note: This essay first appeared in the October 2006 Baptist Studies Bulletin.

            As America was being rocked by a lurid Republican sex scandal just weeks before fall congressional elections, I visited the Current Affairs section of my local Barnes and Noble on a mission to determine just how many recent volumes have been written about the theocratic tendencies of the Religious Right, a theme that has become somewhat of a hot topic within the book world during the past two years.

            In recent months I have repeatedly been asked for recommendations of books that examine the growing Christian nationalistic movement in America.  Readers of this Bulletin are already aware of several important volumes which analyze the efforts the Religious Right to conform American government to their so-called “biblical worldview” on issues of morality.  These volumes include Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament, by Randall Balmer; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg; American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips; and Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter.  All of these are excellent volumes worthy of a close read.  What you may not be aware of, however, is just how many other books have been published in the past sixty days and are now readily available in the Current Affairs section of your local bookstore.  These newest volumes turn a critical eye to the ambitions of the Religious Right in relation to the Republican Party and the American government in general.

            Among important August releases that examine the theocratic impulses of the Religious Right is The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America, by National Public Radio’s Ray Suarez.  This volume examines the political and religious polarization created by the rise of the Religious Right.  Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power by the Washington Post’s Thomas Edsall details the manner in which the Bush administration has effectively played to Religious Right core issues such as abortion and gay rights.  Ryan Sager’s The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party demonstrates that in a battle between the South and the West, religious conservatives are going to the mat to wrest control of their Party from its non-sectarian wing.  Losing Our Democracy: How Bush, the Far Right and Big Business Are Betraying Americans for Power and Profit by Mark Green, president of the New Democracy Project, argues that the theocons are helping lead America into a era of “new authoritarianism” characterized by religious intolerance. 

In September the publishing industry produced even more volumes focusing on the Christian Nationalism.  Damon Linker’s The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege examines how evangelical Christians have partnered with Catholic intellectuals to shape the Republican Party into the Party of God.  Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris takes the Religious Right to task from a non-Christian perspective.  Mel White’s Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right offers an inside examination (White was a long-time ghost writer for Jerry Falwell) of James Dobson and Falwell’s efforts to force fundamentalist views of sexuality on American society through the government.  Barry Lynn’s Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom draws from the author’s civil liberties expertise and experience in analyzing the theocon attempt to curtail religious freedom in America.  Missouri Sen. John Danforth’s Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together offers a Christian politician’s insight (Danforth is an Episcopal minister) into why the Christian fundamentalist attempt to merge church and state is dangerous for the cause of Christ, the integrity of government and the world at large. 

Is the recent, torrid interest in the theocratic impulses of the Republican-allied Religious Right a result of the upcoming congressional elections?  Most likely.  The unprecedented attention given to the subject of Christian Nationalism is indicative of the concerns that at least some Americans have with an increasingly hostile and militant-sounding Religious Right which dismisses Bush administration lies, cover up and deception while claiming that the fiasco that is the Iraq War is a “noble cause”; is so embedded with the Republican Party as to dismiss the current homosexual child predator sex scandal as nothing more than a prank played by wayward teenagers; treats homosexuals as something other than full-fledged Americans; and looks to Puritan colonial America as a model for government.

And if further evidence is needed to demonstrate that Americans have finally been stirred from their lethargy to take a stand against the dangerous designs of the Religious Right’s alliance with the Republican Party, consider these tidbits:  of the approximately 500 volumes in the Current Affairs section of Barnes and Noble, only two are anti-Hillary Clinton volumes, while the most common book topic is opposition to the Iraq War.

            In short, the Party may be over for the Religious Right.  If the recent bookshelf expose of their theocratic impulses is not enough to motivate voters to opposition, the homosexual child predator scandal should be the nail in the coffin of the theocon ambitions for America, at least for the immediate future.  Nonetheless, I do hope that the literary world will continue to train a critical eye on the Christian nationalistic movement, as would our Baptist forefathers if they were alive today.