Time to follow up the first post on James Davison Hunter’s big book To Change the World: the irony, tragedy and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world.
This is a brief summary his critique of the American Christian Right in a number of key statements:
– Christians who are politically conservative want the world in which they live to reflect their own likeness.
– The culture in which they live poses profound legal and political challenges to most of their cherished values: such as marriage, heterosexuality, family, morality, the sanctity of human life and so on.
– A common theme of the right is to rediscover or recover America’s Christian origins. Some go all the way with the myth of America should be a Christian nation. Others like the late Richard John Neuhaus argue that America is ‘one nation under God’ and that religious activists today are rightful heirs of the nation’s Christian legacy.
– Much of the language of the Christian right is fearful of the future – stuff like ‘the soul of America is dying.’ Secular liberalism has hijacked the essence of what America was and should be. Think James Dobson and Pat Robertson. Dobson says ‘It’s either God’s way or the way of social disintegration’
– The response is a call to arms. Political arms that is. The future of America lies in the hands of those fighting to preserve Christian values. And this fighting is done in elections, in lobbying, in forging alliances, in the urgent task to get ‘our people’ in positions of power. Think Dobson and Focus on the Family among many others.
– The ‘turn to politics’ means a turn to the Republican Party – to partisan politics. The goal is political dominance in order to control the direction of American culture.
And so to Hunter’s critical observations: His big point:
‘The hope Christian conservatives place in politics is quite astonishing’
– Hopes that politics can preserve and defend America’s Christian heritage
– Hopes that politics can save marriage and the family and public virtue
– Hopes that politics can promote national righteousness
– Hopes that politics can claim the culture for Christ and even ‘heal the nation’
– Hopes that politics can deliver a moral revival and associated individual freedoms
– Hopes that politics can even protect the ‘future of our children’
Whoa those are some hopes. And all to be delivered via a successful culture war.
Now that, as Albus Dumbledore so wonderfully said to the Dursleys while hoping in vain for a drink, is being “optimistic to the point of foolishness”.