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Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the…

Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (utgåvan 2021)

av Randall Balmer (Författare)

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"A history of the origins of the Religious Right that challenges the commonly held misconception that abortion was its original galvanizing issue"--
Titel:Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right
Författare:Randall Balmer (Författare)
Info:Eerdmans (2021), 141 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right av Randall Balmer


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You’ve probably heard the self-reinforcing story. Yes, in general, American Evangelicals were not a well-mobilized group for voting and influencing American politics throughout much of the twentieth century. But then the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Roe vs. Wade, and Evangelicals were mobilized to vote regarding abortion.

Well, as said by the Secretary of Defense in Independence Day, “that’s not entirely accurate.”

In Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right, Randall Balmer provides the far more unsettling story based on primary documents and conversations and interviews with some of the primary architects of the rise of the “Religious Right.”

Paul Weyrich is the name regarding which you rarely hear but was highly influential behind the scenes. For years he sought to find some way to catalyze conservative Evangelicals to vote, and specifically, to vote Republican. He sought issue after issue. Nothing was really “sticking.”

There was not, in fact, a polarization or political push in the immediate aftermath of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. The primary documents Balmer presents might surprise you: many Evangelical denominations were not against the decision, sought to find ways to value the lives of women and children, and emphasized how access to abortion was not the same as mandating or requiring abortion. Criswell is even quoted in his belief of a child’s life not being fully his or her own until birth and thus why he was not as concerned about abortion as many are today.

Those Evangelicals who were activated to vote in 1976 mostly did so…for the Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter, who was an Evangelical and spoke regarding how his Evangelical faith shaped many of his political commitments.

So what changed? If abortion was not the catalyzing political issue, what was?

As Balmer powerfully demonstrates, the catalyzing issue was the push by the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the religious non-profit status of the secondary and post-secondary “segregation academies” and colleges like Bob Jones University in the middle of the 1970s.

Southern segregationalists did not just fade away into the sunset after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was enforced in the South. They often developed their own private schools which maintained segregation. These were maintained in the 1960s and 1970s and became quite popular among a certain set of white Evangelicals in the South.

And they did not take kindly to the IRS considering them no longer religious non-profit organizations. Even though it was a matter of a tax benefit being removed, many Evangelicals organized and argued as if it were a significant violation of the separation of church and state and a form of persecution. And even though the matter was done and even adjudicated in the days of the Gerald Ford administration, it would be in the 1980 election in which the matter would come to a head.

This was the catalyst Weyrich was looking for and he took full advantage. Believe it or not, Ronald Reagan was not the most ideal conservative Christian candidate. He had been divorced and remarried. As Governor of California he signed pro-choice and gun control legislation. But he managed the dog whistles well and had been well coached about how to cultivate conservative Evangelical votes. And vote for him they did. And they got what they wanted: under the Reagan administration, IRS efforts against the “segregation academies” was pulled back.

During the late 1970s and into the 1980s was when abortion came to the fore and became more than just a “[Roman] Catholic issue.” Nuance was dropped and significant concern for the health and lives of women were marginalized in the attempt to emphasize the health and lives of babies and what it meant for a society to provide access to abortion. Within a few years even the Falwells and other such Evangelical authors of the Religious Right had told themselves often enough that abortion was the catalyzing issue that they believed it.

Does this mean every politically conservative Christian who is fervently against abortion is a closeted, secret racist? No, of course not. But the real history well explains why the moral character and dog whistle racism of DJT was not disqualifying in the eyes of most Evangelicals, and how it can be that conservative Christendom writ large remains quite comfortable with white supremacists in their midst. It was their energy which got the whole political machine up and moving. And it’s never been fully and decisively repudiated. ( )
  deusvitae | Nov 20, 2023 |
This is not a book review, it is the ramblings of a disgruntled, annoyed, and tired Christian who is a political liberal-moderate and happens to live in America. Also, I guess there are spoilers? Can you spoil a book like this? Either way, this book is good.

When did abortion become a top-tier issue for American Christianity and the Republican party? Roe v. Wade was ruled upon in 1973, but it was '78-'79 before abortion became a voter issue. This was on the heels of conservative Christians coming out in force to oppose the IRS's battle with the evangelical Bob Jones University over integration: BJU was proud it had no black students, so the IRS took away the school's tax exempted status. This was the first time conservative Christians came out in numbers as a voting bloc. This group had largely relegated itself as an isolationist group, uninterested in the politics of the world. The movement to vote came because Christians in conservative circles saw the IRS's threat of tax exemption over not integrating as a violation of their isolationism.

The Christian right, which was hardly even a thing yet, was fine to leave alone and be left alone. Until they were told by the state that their organizations could not exclude blacks, anyway.

It is telling that early in the 1970s, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution acknowledging that abortion was necessary:

under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother

This resolution was reaffirmed two more times before the end of the 1970s, both after Roe v. Wade was ruled upon by the Supreme Court.

After the fruitless battle over integration, however, those who saw their chance to overturn American politics needed a new topic: the battle against homosexuality and the disintegration of the American family was chosen. This proved less able to move people to vote than expected. There were, of course, quiet minorities within conservative Christianity who were upset about abortion, but they were just that: a minority within the group. Then, in 1979, a man named Frank Schaeffer and his father, Francis Shaeffer, traveled the country showing a film entitled "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?". After a showing in March of that year, the younger Schaeffer gave a speech, he later recounted by saying:

We were calling for civil disobedience, the takeover of the Republican Party, and even hinting at overthrowing our 'unjust pro-abortion government.'

So the agenda was set: abortion would be the issue used to upend American politics and turn one of its two parties into the public-policy wing of conservative Christianity. And despite Jimmy Carter, who had worked to reduce the number of abortions both during his time as governor of Georgia and President, being an "evangelical" himself, he was made a villain when he refused to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion. Ronald Reagan, who was allied with the religious right, became President despite having signed into law "the most liberal abortion bill in the country" in 1967. He was also divorced (Carter was not), which should have been a big no-no for Christians. A Harris poll indicated that Carter would have won the election...if the religious right hadn't voted.

It may have helped that Reagan at least partially campaigned on "unconstitutional regulatory agendas....against independent schools." Race-baiting at its finest, if you ask me. Also, Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Listen: Ronald Reagan was a racist. Period the end.

But don't just take my word for it. Look up the Reagan-Nixon tape on YouTube and listen to how Reagan describes black people. Go do it right now. It's horrible.

Thus a group which had been largely apolitical (as an overall, unified voting bloc), having retreated in a staunch isolationism in order to distance themselves from the culture, were now being radicalized into action because of the threat of racial equality and moved on to the fight against gay marriage and abortion: not because they were terribly passionate about those issues, mind you, but because they were the necessary tools for the, as quoted above, takeover of the Republican party.

Unfortunately, it was not the religious right itself which motivated the change, nor the Republican party, but a group of a few individuals who wanted to see the two groups coalesce into a political force to be reckoned with. This small group of individuals wanted political power, knew they needed control of the Republican party to achieve it, and knew they needed the religious right to get there.

Forgive me for, at least somewhat, recounting the content of this book. But it's important to know what this book is and isn't. It's not an argument that abortion should be legal or illegal. It is, however, an argument that abortion was a fringe issue, later raised on the tail-end of the losing battle for segregation, by a few bad actors who wanted to seize control of a political party. This is a takeover which is largely complete today. Christians who identify as liberal, or (worse yet) as the D-word (Democrats) are view with skepticism within conservative Christianity. To be a Christian in modern America, it seems as though a person must almost have a Republican Party membership card in their wallet, donate to conservative politicians, own shotguns, hate gay people, wear MAGA caps (and "Make American Great Again," by the way, was used as a Reagan slogan), and hold on...*checks notes*...oh! try to overthrow the government by the impeding of a largely ceremonial Congressional process. Don't forget what Schaefer said after his movie:

We were calling for civil disobedience, the takeover of the Republican Party, and even hinting at overthrowing our 'unjust pro-abortion government.'

It's all according to plan. ( )
  AKBWrites | Jul 19, 2022 |
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I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.

---Billy Graham
Parade Magazine, 1981
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For my contemporaries in Sunday school at Highland Park Evangelical Free Church, Des Moines, Iowa
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[Preface] In 1990, I was invited to a closed-door conference in Washington, DC, marking the tenth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's election to the presidency.
[Chapter 1] The alliance between white evangelicals and the far-right precincts of the Republican Party over the past forty-plus years has been so unwavering that most Americans would be forgiven for believing that evangelicalism has always listed to the right of the political spectrum.
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"A history of the origins of the Religious Right that challenges the commonly held misconception that abortion was its original galvanizing issue"--

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