Weighing the Alt-Right and the Religious Right

The more I read the socio-religio-politico views of the Religious Right (think Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Eric Metaxas, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Jay Sekulow, Al Mohler, Michael Brown, Ted Cruz, Mike Pence, Ben Carson, Gary Bauer et al.), the better and more clearly I understand why the relationship to Donald Trump was deemed absolutely necessary, especially when considering aspects of overt racist, white supremacist, white nationalist, neo-Nazi Alt-Right leader, and Trumps' White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. (Recall, too, that Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka are Alt-Right.)

Bannon believes "the Western world," which should be an "enlightened capitalism," must conform to his version of a Judeo-Christian worldview. Forget freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, or the right to not possess religious values or convictions. In the world of Steve Bannon, and his ilk, in order for "God" to bless America, we must conform to his notion of a theocratic America. Bart Seemen, writing for Medium, explains:
If Western morality is guided by traditional Judeo-Christian values, free markets will account for the wealthy and working-class alike. Picture libertarianism, but all the actors have the fear of God guiding their decision-making. He envisions a Judeo-Christian utopia. He believes that the destruction of Judeo-Christian values has put the Western world in financial and moral crisis. The only way to restore prosperity in America is to wage war on the forces that threaten Judeo-Christian values. Bannon believes he is fighting a war on two fronts; Islam from the outside and Secularism from within. (link)
This, too, is the language of the Religious Right. Franklin Graham, for example, praises God for the presidential victory of Donald Trump, stating, "While the media scratches their heads and tries to understand how this happened, I believe that God's hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country." (link) How, exactly, did Franklin Graham's Republican god accomplish this task? Did this god manipulate and control the minds of voters, evangelical and otherwise?

Franklin Graham also remarks that the enemy is "not the British today, but godless secularism and people who call themselves progressives [and that includes progressive Christians whom he loathingly deems 'liberals'] who," in his view, "are undermining the morals and the God-given biblical foundation that our Founding Fathers gave this nation. These foundations are under attack, and the election coming up is so critical for America's future. (link) Jesus, and St Paul, only identify one enemy to the human race and that entity is referred to not as "godless secularists," liberals or progressives, but Satan and his deceptive cohorts. Not for Franklin, though, as he names LGBTQ people and "gay Christians" (as well as Muslims and "liberals" or Democrats) as the enemy.

This is why, mind you, Franklin Graham approves of Putin and Russia. (link) Putin considers America and Americans Enemy Number One. (link/link) Why, then, do evangelicals like Franklin Graham approve of Putin? Putin and Russia viciously attack and murder LGBTQ people, a notion with which the likes of Franklin Graham and his evangelical comrades affirm. If not, then they never condemn it, never call for the end of such killing.

Franklin and his ilk (e.g., Pat Robertson, Robert Jeffress, Jay Sekulow, Mike Pence, James Dobson, Michele Bachmann, Robert Morris, David Jeremiah among others) believe in a theocratic America, like the Alt-Right and Steve Bannon, an America in which liberals and liberal women whom they name "feminists," Muslims, and LGBTQ people are governed strictly by Old Testament laws that were intended for Israel during a particular era.

Recall the words of Franklin Graham above regarding secularists. Steve Bannon, too, believes that "the decline in the Western world is in direct correlation with the rise of Secularism." (link) Trump is alleged to render this "problem" moot (and he will fail all attempts). Such a notion is ludicrous at best and assumes America is a God-ordained Christian nation. I add that, the views of Trump, Bannon, and Franklin Graham are not Christian: neither of these individuals represents Christianity proper.

Former Religious Right advocates Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson reflect on the failure of the Moral Majority (and the Christian Coalition) to effect godly change: We had the power to
right every wrong and cure every ill and end every frustration that God-fearing people [and that includes unregenerate nationalists] had been forced to submit to by our "oppressors," whom we [mistakenly] labeled secular humanists, abortionists, homosexuals, pornographers, and "liberals." We opposed them with all the righteous indignation we thought came directly from God. We opposed them because we knew they were the reason America was in decline. And we had been raised up by God himself to reverse that decline.1
Cal Thomas notes that, with the win of Republican Ronald Reagan, that was "proof that God was on our side and that he was well-pleased."2 That is exactly what Franklin Graham &c. claim today; and Graham &c. are just as wrong as were Cal Thomas and the Moral Majority: "That was twenty years ago [now forty years ago], and today very little that we set out to do has gotten done. In fact, the moral landscape of America has become worse."3 But the Religious Right has not yet learned its lesson; they continue to repeat past errors.



They have been told -- by the liberals and the progressives they so very much despise and demean publicly -- that change in morals derives from the inwardly-working Spirit of God and not by means of political might. "We failed," notes Cal Thomas, "because we were unable to redirect a nation from the top down. Real change must come from the bottom up or, better yet, from the inside out."4 Yet the likes of Robert Jeffress and Franklin Graham forge ignorantly into the same failed attempts of the Religious Right from forty years ago.

Steve Bannon's socio-religio views reflect not just the language of Republican Religious Right advocates like Franklin Graham but also of fanatic apostates like Pat Robertson. Again, Bart Seemen notes, "I believe Bannon uses the term Secularism as a stand-in for Liberalism," as does Graham. "He [Bannon] believes that Liberals have destroyed the Judeo-Christian social traditions," again, as does Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and the Alt-Right. "For him, the acceptance of any non-traditional lifestyle is a direct cause of the destruction of the West," which echoes the socio-religio views of Pat Robertson (and the late Jerry Falwell and too many other evangelicals to mention), who blames natural and unnatural disasters on the "liberal" or LGBTQ agenda. (link/link/link/link/link)

Think also about Bannon's views of "the Church," which is any other reality than the Church described by Jesus when He walked the earth: And we're at the very beginning stages
of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that's starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we've been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years. (link) (emphases added)
We find similar concepts among the Religious Right. Take, for example, the view of Gary DeMar, of American Vision, who insists homosexuality should be criminalized. (link) He argues that our government should apply a strict adherence to Mosaic Law regarding homosexuals and the act of homosexuality -- supported, of course, by "the Church militant." Or perhaps Clive Sanguis, of Faith and Heritage, represents well this God-and-Country, Alt-Right-Republican, "Church militant" agenda that is both overtly racist and homophobic. (link) Even better, perhaps, is Peter LaBarbera, of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH), who demonizes LGBTQ folk, searching for the worst representations (in his mind) of LGBTQ people and forcing them into an over-generalized narrative for all-things-LGBTQ. He even promotes ChurchMilitant.TV.

But Jesus never mandated the so-called Church militant to be militant in any culture. Yet such so-called Christians are merely following in the tragic footsteps of their Puritan fathers who, under false pretenses of "persecution," fled to America in search of "religious freedom." That was a lie. The Puritans could not win their religious war with the Church of England and, blinded by might, fled to the New World "to forge a truly Christian nation."5 This vision of the Puritans for America was deemed "God's new Israel."6 Yet, God had not called the Puritans to such a theocratic utopia, because the Kingdom of God resides not geographically but in the hearts of people who, by God's grace, trust in Jesus (Lk 17:21).

Calvin Colton, in the early nineteenth century, states that the reality of the Church "meddling with politics . . . has for centuries been most injurious to Christian churches -- injurious and destructive to their appropriate character and spiritual influence."7 That statement has proven true in our day; at least, such has proven injurious to evangelical churches, whereas mainline or liberal churches experienced an increase subsequent to Trump's election. (link/link/link/link) Cal Thomas writes that, "where politics is about power, the Christian faith is about truth. Whenever you try to mix the two, power usually wins, at least for the short haul."8 This is why the Religious Right is blinded by might. They want to win the cultural war they and their Puritan forefathers began.

We are to make disciples of Jesus (Matt. 28:19); not wage religious culture wars such as propagated by Steve Bannon, some among the Alt-Right, and many in the Religious Right. We are never called to wage holy wars in the name of Christ. That cultural wars are even alluded to by the Religious Right and the likes of Steve Bannon et al. should utterly disturb the regenerate believer in Jesus Christ. That it does not informs me of a suspicion I have held for the last few years: the religion of many among the Religious Right is not Christianity but a theocratic Republicanism. I renounce this false religion and their god.

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1 Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 22. Ed Dobson confesses: "I am not sure that we did much about racial injustice or world hunger or speaking in favor of the civil rights of homosexuals. We should have done so. On the other hand, we worked hard to defeat gay rights issues and pressed for action on the issue of abortion." (40)

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 23.

4 Ibid.

5 Robert Bruce Mullin, Episcopal Vision/American Reality: High Church Theology and Social Thought in Evangelical America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 85. These Puritan hypocrites imagined themselves persecuted but then "harshly persecuted all who would not hold their creed," such as Anglicans, Quakers, and Baptists. (137)

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., 120.

8 Thomas and Dobson, 49.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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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.