Demonization & Apocalyptic Demagoguery
No matter their role in elections, the use of demonization and demagoguery by the Christian Right needs to be confronted. The use of demonizing rhetoric is easy to locate simply by reading magazines or browsing websites of major Christian Right groups.
For example, Family Research Council Vice President for Government Affairs Tom McClusky posted: “Brad Pitt Apparently Endorses Bigamy, Pedophilia and Bestiality.” McClusky was commenting on interview in Esquire magazine where actor Brad Pitt said his partner “Angie [Angelina Jolie] and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”
This sensitivity to the issue of gay marriage is ridiculed by McClusky on his FRC blog where he wrote: “So until people and animals can marry or one man can marry multiple women or a forty year old man can marry a twelve year old girl—Brangelina will stand strong.”~84
In the September 2006 edition of the Focus on the Family magazine, Citizen, the cover story, “See No Evil: 9/11 and the American Left, Five Years Later,” by Dennis Prager, accuses liberals of hating those who confront evil. According to Praeger: “A defining characteristic—not merely an unfortunate aspect—of the Left is its inability to recognize evil and its simultaneous hatred of those who do fight evil.”~ 85
At the Values Voter Summit, there were several times when it was apparent that Dobson was passing the torch of leadership to Perkins. In both cases these are Christian Right leaders with more than a little baggage of bigotry. Max Blumenthal sketches some of the more troubling facts:
Dobson’s Focus on the Family, for example, published an article in its Citizen magazine last February attacking the parents of federal judge Stephen Reinhardt (whose step-grandfather was a Holocaust survivor) for telling their son “tales of horrific violence” about the Holocaust “that lacked the redemptive power of Christ’s atonement.”
Perkins, for his part, paid $82,500 to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke for his phone-bank list and then spoke at a 2001 fundraiser for the Council of Conservative Citizens, America’s largest white supremacist organization. (When I asked Perkins about his links to Duke and the CCC, he replied tersely, “There are no links.”). ~86
Perkin’s denial of such well-documented criticisms is troubling.
Other leaders of groups sponsoring the Values Voter Summit have a history of bigoted statements. Blumenthal notes, “The Anti-Defamation League has repeatedly condemned [the Rev. Donald] Wildmon for his conspiratorial diatribes against ‘secular Jews.’” ~87
Think this is a partisan interpretation? Even some Republicans have condemned the nasty rhetoric coming from leaders of the Christian Right. Dick Armey, the former majority leader of the House of Representatives (from Texas), was asked by an interviewer why the Christian Right seemed to be gaining more power. Armey responded:
“To a large extent, because Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies,” Armey said. “I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb . . . These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic.”~88
Focus on the family complained that Armey, “once a stalwart ally in the culture wars, appears to be turning his back on Christian conservatives and their leaders.”~89 In fact, Armey was turning his back on demonization and demagoguery.
Demonizing rhetoric can lead to hate and provoke aggression and violence.~90 The human rights group Faith in America warns against the possible outcome of religiously-based bigotry toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons:
Religious groups in some parts of the world are teaching young men and women that we are an abomination before God. Unfortunately that leads to hate and even violence against us. By saturating minds with misinformation, these young people may eventually come to believe the world would be better off if we were all dead. We could be talking about Jihad camps in the Middle East. Sadly, it’s happening in America.”~91
“We have already seen too much violence, often justified in the name of God, aimed at blocking gay rights and reproductive rights,” says Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, executive director of Political Research Associates. Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest with a parish in Massachusetts was troubled by the level of hateful rhetoric at the Values Voter Summit which she attended.
Demonization is especially powerful when combined with a dualistic worldview and apocalyptic and millennial expectations.~92