Exporting Right-Wing Christianity
Progress in human welfare and peaceful relations is never assured. It is always a struggle, and human rights activists are at the forefront. To join the struggle most effectively, we need to know about the forces that oppose human rights: who they are, what they believe, how they mobilize, what strategies and tactics they employ, and who they intend to target and convert.
In this paper, we examine one anti-human rights sector; right-wing U.S.-based Christians, especially evangelicals and Pentecostals - known in the U.S. as the Christian Right. Newly empowered politically, it is increasingly becoming an international force working to oppose gay rights, women’s rights, and other symptoms of modernity. By promoting traditionalism in other countries, it is exporting “the culture wars.”
Conservative U.S. evangelical churches have broadened a long tradition of international missionary work, intended to convert and “save” individuals, to include political work related to a right-wing political agenda. The resulting assault on human rights is alarming
In thinking and writing about the Christian Right, we are careful not to conflate its work and agenda with that of religious bodies in general. Our brush must not be broad or simplistic. Only if we have accurate information and a thorough understanding of the best means of defending human rights will our liberal, reformist, and progressive work succeed.
A Profile of Right-wing Christianity in the United States.
Although Conservative evangelical Christianity has always been a presence within U.S. Christianity, it has, since the mid-1960s, increased its presence and influence in the political sphere, especially within the Republican Party. As conservative Christians have demanded a place at the political table, the lines between church and state have blurred. The strongest vehicle for this growing influence has been what are known as the “social issues” - including reproductive rights, gay rights, homeschooling, and marriage and divorce.
The U.S. Christian Right is actually a spectrum of ideological and spiritual profiles.1 But across all sectors there is a focus on the “culture wars,” officially acknowledged in U.S. national politics by right-wing Republican candidate Patrick J. Buchanan in his 1992 “Culture Wars” address to the Republican National Convention. In the transcript below we can see the rhetoric of right-wing populism in service to a claim that liberals are conspiring against God and country. In throwing his support behind the nomination of President George W. Bush for a second term, Buchanan said:
There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton is on the other side, and George Bush is on our side …. [W]e must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country. 2