Book Review: The Nature of the Religious Right

The Nature of the Religious Right by Neall W. Pogue is a groundbreaking work. Pogue begins the book with a crash course on the rise of the politically active religious right, a strong voter base in the United States that is conservative, evangelical, and almost religiously Republican. The introduction provides a concise history of the movement. Prior to the late 1970s, evangelical Christians rarely took an active interest in national politics. The 1960s counterculture and civil rights movements changed the cultural dynamic of the Country. Suddenly, in the span of a decade, conservative Christian views lost their dominance as social reformers sought greater freedoms for lifestyles considered sinful by many Christians. The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion galvanized a few outspoken conservatives of a need for political action. Jerry Falwell started a political organization called the Moral Majority in 1979. Pat Robinson also joined this political movement and remains a major figurehead today. 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12014

The focus of this article almost completely on the issue of Evangelicals and he Environmental Movement is important, but confusing. A discussion of the Nature of the Religious Right , given that title was chosen, demands a much broader scope. The anti-abortion movement was mentioned in passing, and that was an important ingredient. But what about the Evangelical responses to the feminist movement? to the LGBTQ+ movement? to Trumpism and Christian nationalism?

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The 50’s Adventism has driven the non-academic SDA stand on a lot of issues - to this day. Along the way, politics has made huge inroads into the SDA church. It is assumed that progressives and liberals on church issues are also politically liberal, ignoring the initial warnings not to get involved in politics. The church has split along political lines. An un-nuance view is that if the politically right are backed by the evangelicals, we must stand in opposition to both.

We have fallen into the current political trap of relating to people according to what political party they favor, ignoring individuals. We speak in generalities, making assumptions based on either, their politics, or their religious affiliations. The last time I checked, the Bible says something like “anyone not against us, is for us”. The reason we are increasingly opposed to everything the evangelicals are about is because they lean RIGHT (for whatever reason). Add to that the 50’s scenario of the Catholics and the non-SDA Protestants chasing the remnant into the hills, we have a self-righteous reason to oppose the Republicans and Evangelicals. We have lost the Christian principle of relating to the indivual we meet on simply a human basis. Some of the vehemence is palpable.

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Is it really possible, do you think, for believers to stay out of politics completely? My following Jesus as a disciple does not allow me to ignore our legal landscape or our political one.

Individually, probably not; but SDA theology has already, right from the get-go, combine the two, interpreting the “end time” events as a combination of “state and religion”. This sets the denomination on the constant search of evidence of other Protestant churches combining with the state. As a result there is suspicion of other God-worshipping churches, and worse, other Christians.

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Our separation of church/state was based on other things as well, weren’t they? From the founding, religion was suspect as an arm of the state given the experiences in Europe with Germany and the UK. Granted, there was a legitimate concern that Roman Catholicism would–as it had in Latin America–happily join arms with the state to enforce its own agenda. Now, that is much less true, though the aggressive activity of some (not all by any means) bishops to enforce religious doctrine is disquieting.

Unless this book was almost solely about conservative Christian opposition to creation care and the environmental movement, which it doesn’t seem to be considering the mention of Roe vs. Wade, then this review is totally one sided and incomplete. I’m not sure what the book is about in toto.

Frank

Looking at the book cover - the word “Nature” is in green - so I assume that the book is specifically about the environmental movement…confirmed by reading the summary of the book on Amazon. Also…the whole title of the book is: The Nature of the Religious Right: The Struggle between Conservative Evangelicals and the Environmental Movement

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That clears things up!

Thanks…

Frank

There is not one shred of evidence in the NT that Jesus, or the “early adopters” of his good news, tried to achieve any of his goals (whatever those may have been) through overtly political means.

In fact, the closest one can come to any direct mention of politics, at all, leads one to the conclusion that his attitude toward government was laissez faire; pay your taxes then get back to the more important task of working for the kingdom of god.

(Some have claimed that this is due the fact that the gospel writers deliberately steered clear of divisive political issues in their manuscripts in an effort to avoid placing themselves and their master at odds with the overwhelming power of the Roman Empire at that time, although at this late date we can only speculate about such assertions.)

In any case, and due to this lack of scriptural support, Christian preachers and laity once avoided politics as much as possible as they found no reason to believe that Jesus would have advocated for one side or the other in any political issue, preferring instead to work with others on a personal and profoundly spiritual level.

At some point, however, this wisdom was abandoned for the current tactic of both conservative and progressive Christians who invoke Jesus’ name on any and every topic despite the fact that they do so by inference rather explicit instructions and utterly without scriptural or factual basis.

So while it is not difficult to imagine that Jesus would have personally consoled and counseled a young woman concerning an unplanned pregnancy, there is nothing other than the political fervor-as opposed to any clear statement on the matter-of one side or the other that allows both sides to insist that Jesus supports their didactic and would have led a rally advocating for their side of any issue, be it abortion, environmental, affordable housing, immigration, ad nauseum.

Similarly the dream that Jesus would have voted for Trump or Biden is merely that, while it is just as likely that he would have opted for neither.

If actions speak louder than words, then it seems that those who claim to have Jesus as their example would eschew politics and get back to dealing with one another on a spiritual, “we’re all children of god” level.

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Many scholars would agree with you, but one slim volume some decades ago (1994 or earlier) by John Yoder seemed to uncover the political “implications” of just preaching the gospel and securing large crowds for what he was saying. “The Politics of Jesus” became a best-seller and deserves a read. In an Empire which granted limited authority to local religious leaders to maintain the peace, when those leaders got agitated about his popularity and seemingly anti-Torah language, coupled with so many speculating he might be the promised “messiah,” it was treated as a political threat. That does not at all disagree with your point; just enlarges what we mean by “political.”

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Maybe politics and religion are so inexplicably intertwined in the human psyche that referring to them separately is a distinction without a difference?

It seems this can certainly be said of those who believe in the divine right of kings and Paul’s assertion that governments are ordained of god.

For them, at least, isn’t any decision to support or defy the powers that be a religious choice?

(And if the latter is the case, have I utterly refuted the premise of my previous comment? :wink::rofl::flushed:)

My guess about Paul is (and here I think most scholars would agree) that he was opposed to defying governmental authority in and of itself as a Christian duty. But if the government is irrepressibly evil (Nazi Germany) and hotel to the very preaching of the gospel, that may different. Even in the Roman Empire, there were periods of peace for Jews and Christians as well as persecutions that were unspeakable.

1 Corinthians 9:19: “ *For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

The way I read this, Paul wasn’t so much a Christian as he was a chameleon!

:wink:

Funny Bruce, but I had the same take on this and taught that point to my SSchool class, that is before I quit teaching. It simply makes Paul into a foney (may not be spelled right but the checker doesn’t have the word), and it doesn’t matter what the reason.

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Yeah.

It’s almost as funny as EGW saying she wasn’t a prophet…unless you’d been convinced she was one!?!?

:wink:

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