As I’ve repeated over and over again, I grew up in a conservative fundamentalist church. We were considered evangelicals, and never — not once — did the topic of abortion come up in my church — not in sermons (I went to three a week), not in Sunday school, not even in those embarrassing youth group discussions that made me squirm.
Evangelicals really only came to the party after they organized against Pres. Jimmy Carter’s attempts to deny tax exemption for segregated Christian schools. Then in stepped that bloviator Jerry Falwell, aided by opportunistic Republican party operatives.
This is long, but so worth it. Progressive evangelicalism. Remember that?
And thanks, DickG., for the link.
Maybe because they didn’t see Roe v. Wade coming? There was no need for churches to be preaching against abortion in the 50s, 60s, and most of the 70s, because it was illegal.
That might have been the case, but considering how my old church has waded in so gleefully on social issues, the silence was kind of deafening.
The quote Dudley attributes to Balmer is from his 2006 book Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America excerpted here at NPR. (The link to Ballmer in Dudley’s piece returned an error in my browser.)
A more recent Randall Balmer essay The Real Origins of the Religious Right from 2014 is available here.
I have a problem with the term “progressive evangelicals.” Isn’t it really another contradiction in terms? Progressive Christian? I can see that. There’s Communist Christians..so…why not. Populist Christians? Sure. Using the term “progressive,” (which…you know…usually indicates someone who regards progress, in its various forms, as beneficial), to describe “evangelicals,” a term most often applied to Christian zealots whose definition of progress is contingent upon a necessary adaptation, and imposition, of mythology, just doesn’t make sense to me.
What gets lost in Dudley’s focus on “the dubious origins” of the anti-abortion movement is some mention of the incredible successes realized by the marriage of Christian conservatives to the Republican Party. And not just in the anti-abortion arena, but in entitlement reform generally. Scratch the skin of any politician beating the drum against Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, or Social Security and you’ll find Bible verses cherry-picked for effect. And some don’t even require any scratching at all. Paul Ryan, who has his hands on the pursestrings of the nation, openly cites Christianity as inspiration for his disdain for the poor. Rick Santorum is his Catholic counterpart. Paul’s finger-wagging at the Thessalonians has even been entered into the Congressional record as justification for reducing SNAP benefits to poor households.
Another thing Dudley, and many others, seem anxious to ignore is the de-facto impotence of any opposition to the highly dubious intellectual foundations, the highly dubious interpretations of Christian scripture, or even the highly dubious mathematics of a Right-wing Christian Coalition that suppresses, according to Dudley, the not-so-dubious scholarship informing alternative viewpoints. How is it that, in a sophisticated Western society, such questionable and untrustworthy practices result in so much success…acceptance…power?
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