Friday, January 25, 2008

Is the Religious Right In Hibernation?

Many of us concerned about the over reach of the Religious Right have breathed a sigh of relief at its seeming demise. But perhaps we shouldn't relax too quickly. Philip Jenkins writes in an LA Times piece today entitled: "Apocalyptic politics: The religious right has splintered, but hard times could bring it back," that there are factors that could lead to its rebirth. We just don't know what form it might take. Jenkins points out that the Alliance with the Republican party has always been more one of convenience and therefore it's surprising it's lasted so long.
The GOP tacked on Moral Values to its platform of military strength and economic leadership to create a sort of three headed dog. As you look at the current candidates none of them quite fit the profile. They're all over the map -- so things look in disarray. Economics is currently taking the front seat, and people are disturbed and confused about what's been happening the past 8 years. But just as events of 1979-1980 led to change (yes Bill, Reagan transformed the conversation not you), things could happen again like that.

But before we hold a funeral for the Reagan coalition, we should note how easily the circumstances of the late 1970s could repeat themselves. Already, looking at inflation rates and oil prices, journalists are drawing comparisons with the events of 1979-1980 and projecting a recession at least as bad as those years.Now remember two things. First, there was no single issue or grievance that drove religious believers to the conservative banner. Rather, it was a generalized sense of threat to traditional ideals of community and family, and above all, the undermining of gender roles. Conservative rhetoric did a wonderful job of promising to restore traditional manliness by shoring up the family at home and reasserting American strength abroad.

Second, the real beneficiaries of Carter's 1976 victory turned out to be the Republicans, who managed to avoid blame for the problems of the late '70s.

If the Democrats manage to take the White House in November, something that doesn't look quite so certain now than it did a few months ago, we'll have 4 years to make things work or that coalition could rebound again. Whoever wins in November will be on a short leash. They will have to produce or be tossed out. People learned the lesson of 2004! Change may be in order, but the nation must be galvanized quickly.

And as in earlier eras of chaos and confusion, people would likely turn to those religious institutions that seem to offer hope and solidity. Quite possibly, we would be set for a new era of religious-based conservatism, in which the politics of military and moral reconstruction coincided neatly.

In 2008, the religious right may appear to be dying, but it could just be going into hibernation.

1 comment:

Real Live Preacher said...

The religious right always goes into hibernation and always returns, reborn like a dark phoenix.