The Paranoid-Allied Political Right and Religious Right

What the Political Right and the Religious Right share in common is a paranoid persecution complex that is imagined and in no sense connected to reality. Any challenge or opposition from any opposing worldview or party, no matter how insignificant, whether political or religious or social, is deemed a threat to "traditional family values," a persecution against Christians, the Bible, and a Judeo-Christian heritage upon which this country was founded. Every issue is deemed a primary and non-negotiable issue. The separation of Church and State is conceived philosophically as demanding the State abstain from meddling in affairs of the Church even though the Church, in the form of conservative evangelicals, is conveniently privileged with informing affairs of State.

The rallying cry of "persecution" from the Right appears rational at first glance, especially to those on the Right, religious or otherwise. The enemy is anyone who opposes the core tenets of the Right, religious or otherwise, and this perceived enemy is a threat to the very existence of true Americans, true Patriots, true (white conservative evangelical) Christians. How is such accomplished? Richard Hofstadter, author of The Paranoid Style in American Politics, explains:
The typical procedure of the higher paranoid scholarship is to start with such defensible assumptions and with a careful accumulation of facts, or at least what appear to be facts, and to marshal these facts toward an overwhelming "proof" of the particular conspiracy that is to be established. It is nothing if not coherent -- in fact, the paranoid mentality is far more coherent than the real world, since it leaves no room for mistakes, failures, or ambiguities. It is, if not wholly rational, at least intensely rationalistic; it believes that it is up against an enemy who is as infallibly rational as he is totally evil, and it seeks to match his imputed total competence with its own, leaving nothing unexplained and comprehending all of reality in one overreaching, consistent theory.1 (emphasis added)
For example, this past election season Donald J. Trump and his ilk were emphatic that Hillary Clinton maliciously set up a private email server in her home, and was personally responsible for the deaths of four U.S. citizens in Benghazi. At rallies, Trump's supporters chanted "Lock her up!" and this was encouraged by Trump, and he even insisted that he would, if he was elected, assign a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary's alleged crimes.

The fervor he and his ilk created about Hillary, including the devilry of conspiracy theories propagated as truths, spread like a mammoth firestorm, as lies and half-truths became the Gospel according to the Right, and evangelical Christians, as evinced on Facebook and Twitter, were among the most fierce in the spreading of this false Gospel. Never mind that Trump will not follow through on his campaign promises, especially regarding investigating Hillary and seeking to "lock her up," what mattered in the moment was the creation of a paranoia that would excite his base. Truth matters not to such people.

Another example prevailed: Donald J. Trump insisted and consistently preached another paranoid false Gospel, that the entire American electoral system was rigged, and his followers received this Kool-Aid like it was the last beverage they would ever consume. My own parents swallowed Trump's toxic blend of paranoia and suspicion, thinking that Trump's victory could in no sense imaginable take place, because the Democrats -- the real Enemy -- would rig the election in favor of Hillary. Truth does not matter to the imagined persecuted Right. What matters is party politic. What matters for the Religious Right is that Republicans win so that they can attempt to manipulate laws to fit their own views.

Never mind that the Religious Right has actually persecuted people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community for centuries. No matter that the Religious Right comprises mainly white evangelicals. Never mind that the Religious Right continues to lose culture wars, continually fails to overturn Roe v Wade during every Republican cycle, and continues to expose themselves not as pro-life but merely as pro-birth. No matter that the Religious Right are not actually and practically persecuted in this country. Never mind that Jesus (and Sts Peter and Paul) actually calls His people to endure actual persecution for the sake of His name and His kingdom without whining about it (cf. Matt. 5:11-12; John 15:20; 2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Thess. 3:4; 2 Tim. 2:3-5; 1 Pet. 4:12, 16). What matters to the Religious Right is power, authority, and manipulating controlling the masses.

That both the Political Right and the Religious Right imagines its constituents as a persecuted minority is nearly comical, were it not so utterly tragic and false, as Hofstadter notes: "What distinguishes the paranoid style is not, then, the absence of verifiable facts (though it is occasionally true that in [his or her] extravagant passion for facts the paranoid occasionally manufactures them), but rather the curious leap in imagination that is always made at some critical point in the recital of events."2 We witnessed this very reality during Trump's entire campaign. A "curious leap in imagination" is exactly how one might explain the concept of building a two-thousand-mile-long wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, from California to the southeast end of Texas at the Gulf of Mexico, that would cost $25 billion at the obligation of the Mexican government.

But another "curious leap in imagination" is how the Religious Right perceives of itself as actually being persecuted in this country. This is absolutely insulting to the millions of Christians throughout the globe who are actually being persecuted, as they experience poverty, starvation, loss of limbs or loss of life, merely for claiming Jesus as their Lord and Savior. These people actually live in fear for their very lives when they go to the marketplace or any other public venue. Yet American evangelicals feel threatened and persecuted when their wishes or theology is challenged by the political system. This is sickening. The Religious Right was far too privileged during the campaigns of the late Jerry Falwell. They lost those privileges by the very Republicans whom they elected.3

Now, desperate, they once again cling to Republicans -- this time to a man who defies "traditional family values," undermines the Religious Right by defending LGBTQ rights (for which I am grateful), but whose bark appears far louder than his actual bite: there will be no indictment for Hillary Clinton, no Wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, and no repeal of Obamacare -- the very war-cries of his campaign and those whom he played like fools to elect him into office. In order to accomplish that goal, he and his ilk were forced to create paranoia, as Trump manipulated people into a false narrative. Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson note of the Religious Right: "But one must constantly have enemies, conspiracies, and opponents as well as play the role of righteous victim in order to get people to send in money"4 to the cause of both the Religious and the Political Right.

The Religious Right is a fraudulent movement that no more represents the values, ethics, or theology of Jesus Christ than did the Pharisees of Jesus' era. The Pharisees wanted privilege and power. Evangelicals have historically accused the Roman See as desiring little more than privilege and power. Now evangelicals have exposed their political selves as wanting privilege and power. The double standards, hypocrisy, and irony are too much to bear. I will continue to sound the alarm in the ears of the Religious Right until they understand: 1) they are not being persecuted when they are being challenged or opposed; 2) even if they still insist that they are being persecuted, their own Lord and Savior commands them to bear it with joy; and 3) the kingdom of that Savior is not of this world. The mission of the true saint of Christ is not political but spiritual.


1 Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), 36-37.

2 Ibid., 37.

3 Jerry Falwell and the Religious Right fully trusted Ronald Reagan to choose a Supreme Court Justice member who would oppose abortion. He chose pro-choice advocate Sandra Day O'Connor and asked Falwell personally to trust him in this decision. Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded By Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 58-59. "Did the Moral Majority really make a difference? During the height of the Moral Majority, we were taking in millions of dollars a year. We published a magazine, organized state chapters, lobbied Congress, aired a radio program, and more. Did it work? Is the moral condition of America better because of our efforts? Even a casual observation of the current moral climate suggests that despite all the time, money, and energy -- despite the political power -- we failed. Things have not gotten better; they have gotten worse." Ibid., 42.

4 Ibid., 55.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.