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Christian Right in the US.pdf

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Religious Studies
Peter Beyer

The American Colonies  Had varieties of religious establishment  These colonies "tolerated" Roman Catholicism  A place where religion was extremely important and where religion ruled some aspects of life A discourse about American religious history. At least 3 histories of great awakening  First: we get Congregationalists and Baptists (Baptists are not a single group); early 18th century  Second: Mormons (church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints); based in Utah (early 19th century); seventh-day Adventists  Third: end of 19th century: a bunch of groups arising not just in the US but other places: Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostal, Fundamentalists (a type of protestant Christianity) Nothing new about the importance of religion in American society; important part of social and political life. Religion constantly generates movements What forms does religion take in the US? They take form in organized denominations; religion from below (not elite movements trying to impose themselves on society). RELIGION AND THE POLITICAL SYSTEM Formal political relationship between religion and politics written into formal documents from the beginning. American constitution-people writing it had trouble deciding whether it was adequate and if they should change it. Came up with amendments-but what do these mean exactly? Should think about what people have decided they should mean. 1st amendment- religious rights 2nd amendment- right to bear arms There is a notion that we live in a secular society, but we don't Formation of the US- came forth by people who came here because they didn't want people telling them what they should do in terms of religion. Woven into the constitution: cultural concern of keeping the government under control; we don't the government regulating religion, in fact we want them to regulate as little as possible. FROM 1ST TO 2ND DISESTABLISHMENT No establishment in the US, but there is a Protestant dominance Out of all of the presidents in the US, not counting the "deists", only one president has not been Protestant. The form that religion tends to take in the US are denominational and congregational; this form comes as "churches" Religious pluralism is overwhelmingly Christian, mainly Protestant. Only exceptions are Jews and Mormons (if they are not considered Christian) Morals: not having any is seen as being the root of a lot of problems. Must find a way to instill greater morals into people's lives.  Consumption of alcohol was considered a very big problem; rudimentary. If that problem could be solved, thing could go in a better direction.  Sexual immorality: prostitution is considered to be a moral problem 2nd disestablishment Two Protestant Responses (I) Both elite responses  The new Christianity; Liberal response o Social gospel movement  The job of Christians to deal with the problems of society using their religious resources. IE, feed the hungry but attempted to reform people's religious morals  Women are responsible for the good morals of their family. This is what they're good at, so they need a vote in order to have that kind of moral input into Congress.  Strong connection between women's vote and the prohibition of alcohol o Ecumenical, cooperative Christianity  Tolerant Christianity; comparatively tolerant from Catholicism and Judaism, but largely Protestant. o The bible, higher criticism  Much time spent on looking at and re-analyzing the bible o Political implications  Gets involved in politics and wants Congress to pass certain laws  Prohibition of alcohol: a moral problem. If this moral problem is solved, then many of society's other problems will be solved.  Alcohol is also and social and economic issue  The more liberal party is the Republican party; this change happens at the beginning of the 20th century Protestant Response (II)  The Fundamentalists o Peculiar group; reaction against the "new Christianity" o Distinction between Christians who have pre-milleniarist characteristics and post- milleniarist characteristics  Pre-millenariasm: When Jesus comes, which will be before the millennium, the world will have ended. Things will get much, much worse then Jesus will come.  Accentuate the religious: get everything ready  Post-millenariasm: In order for Jesus to come, we have to try harder and Jesus will want to come when world is a better place.  Accentuate the political: we must work for a better place.  45% of Christians in the US believe that Jesus will come back in their lifetime  Fundamentalists will from time to time get involved in politics then retreat. There is a wave effect. o Idea: the way to make the world better is to change one part at a time o In a particular context, where is the religious and where is the political? o Takes the form of a revival movement; has recent political implications  The revival (later 20th century) from early on was looking for ways to evangelize and get the word out  Some of the earlier group of people to get involved in radio broadcasting  Published books: trying to convert everybody in print form; 12 little books with 90 articles which were called "The Fundamentals" (hence where the name of this wave of Christianity came from)  Literal interpretation of the bible: bible means exactly what it says and is easy to understand so read it. (it's in english)  Disagree with Darwin as what he says contradicts what the bible says; Darwinism is part of the problem  Claim to take a pre-millenarian stance  A real christian had no real need for government because people will do the right thing morally  There are people who do need government, but that government should not be imposed on christians, who will do the right thing without government  As a christian, moral behavior will come forth on its own as you're personal moral life is disciplined. Politicized Fundamentalism in the Early 20th century  The First World War Context o The US did not get involved in the war until 1918; fairly influental in the outcome  Their philosophy at this point was not to get involved in other people's business o Liberals and fundamentalists had different attitudes before the US entered the war  After, both sides were pro going into WWI.  The Fundamentalist Analysis of the War o The enemy (Germany) is depraved  2 sysmptoms: tendency to start war and a country where criticism of the bible started  Modernism leads to militarism and cultural decline, which is why the germans are these bad people who started the war.  The US is the new chosen land and Americans are the new chosen people  Have a providential (will of God) mission to fix all the problems of the world  A popular analysis o The war puts the fundamentalists into a mainstream position as opposed to being marginalized by society Prohibition and Darwinism  Prohibition occurs at the same time that the Americans get into the world war  Fundamentalists at the centre of this o Congress prohibits everything but the consumption of alcohol  Volstead act: required an amendenment: 18th amendment (adoption), 21st amendement (abrogation)  1933: the context had changed and alcohol is no longer prohibited  Darwinism o The other premier fundamentalist issue o 1921-1929: 33 laws passed in 20 states that prohibit teaching Darwinism in any schools, especially elementary schools o 1925: scopes hired specifically to teach evolution and get arrested to challenge the law  Gets tried in Tennessee  Prosecution: William Jennings Bryan  Defense: Clarence Darrow  Fundamentalists win the trail, but it was a disaster for public relations  Mass media called the fundamentalists all kinds of nasty names o Prohibition and Darwinism are symbolic issues; are about how the world and politics ought to work. From Great Depression to Cold War Period  Great Reversal o Seat change where conservative dimension of Protestantism goes from a high point into a period where they retreat into a sectarian world  The 1940s and the "new evangelicals" o Conservative protestants who are not fundamentalists o Form the national association of evangelicals o Billy Graham: an important evangelical leader who was not a politician  Not a direct political influence but the kind of guy who gets invited to the president's house  The paradigmatic poistion of communism o Begins from the middle of 19th century o Communism becomes reality with the Bolshevik Revolution  A lot of people outside of Russia: becomes the representation of everything that is bad and evil in the world. o Anti-communism becomes a part of the menu of America since the first world war o Socialism: milder form of communism  Quite popular  Fascist positions are also quite popular o Becomes especially important during the Cold War Era  American hegemony and superpower status o McCarthyism: non-elite protest movement. Country is being taken over by commies and we must stop this  Was this a fundamentalist movement? From some views, yes, from other views not so much. o Syllogism in the fundamentalist sector  Liberalism is roughly equal to socialism=the new deal= communism. The Rise of the New Christian Right  Jerry Falwell: self-identified fundamentalist  "The enemy": people against enterprise systems, ie the communists. The American Context of the post 1960s period  The post war period from 1945-1963 o After the 2nd world war, we get regularly scheduled air travel around the world  The "growing tide": social movements of the 1960s and 1970s o Movements of the new generation. Has certain kinds of characteristics, and this is where morality comes in. o 1960s a key period because it is the height of the rise of the civil rights movement: African Americans asserting their rights. There's an amount of success during this time and it is very much present. o Symbolic issues  Roe vs Wade, 1973: Decision by the Supreme Court that permitted abortion  The equal rights amendment, 1972+: left wing against it because of what that would mean for the imposition of affirmative action, which would make the amendment unconstitutional  Became an issue to the new Christian right  The oil crisis of 1973 o Major oil producing countries, particularly in the middle east got together and formed OPEC. o They created an embargo o Embargo didn't last long but it set off a chain of events that caused an economic recession o Stagflation: when there is no stagnation nor inflation  Vietnam: The first "lost" war (1975) o Problematic experience for a lot of Americans; defeat o What happened, whose fault is it?  1979 as a paradigmatic year o Nicaragua: communist revolution  Communist revolutionaries have a bunch of catholic priests involved and they become members of the cabinet o Afghanistan is invaded by the soviet union  Still living with the effects o Poland: movement against the comm
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