IFAS | Freedom Writer | March/April 1997 | review.html

Eternal Hostility

ETERNAL HOSTILITY: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy by Frederick Clarkson. Common Courage Press, 277 pages with index.

Reviewed by Johnathan Westminster

The radical religious right is a well-organized, well-funded political force in the United States. The movement has a clear ideology based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. The radical religious right also has a clear political agenda: the replace ment of traditional American secular constitutional democracy with some form of theocracy. And despite the fact that the movement consists of a minority of eligible voters around 15 percent by its own estimates the radical religious right presents a c lear and present danger to the future well-being of every American who does not subscribe to its views.

Although religious political extremists are still relatively small in number, one should not be deceived. In the German elections of 1930 the Nazi Party drew only about 15 percent of the vote. Yet Hitler took power in less than three years, even in the fa ce of two strong, well-organized parties, the communists and the socialists.

In order to provide tools to oppose religious political extremists, Frederick Clarkson's book provides well-researched, well-argued, and well-written information. Following in the footsteps of such scholars as Russ Bellant, Chip Berlet, Sara Diamond, Skip p Porteous, and Rob Boston, Clarkson lays out a detailed and frightening analysis of what we face in dealing with the radical religious right.

He devotes chapters to such subjects as the radical religious right's two centuries-old refusal to accept the firmly established constitutional principle of separation of church and state; what the true political status of their movement is, and the somet imes little recognized importance of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church in it; Christian Reconstructionism (which provides the underlying theocratic ideology to the movement); an analysis of its main political fronts, such as the Christian Coalition, the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, and umbrella groups such as the Coalition on Revival; as well as the new male-chauvinist front, Promise Keepers.

Clarkson also devotes a chapter to the growing role of violence in the promotion of the far right agenda (a matter of increasing importance since Richard Neuhaus, Chuck Colson, Robert Bork, Cal Thomas and others of their ilk now tell us that if they don't get their way through the ballot box, violence will become "unavoidable," and that's all right because its use will be pursuant to God's will.)

The proposals of what to do about this clear and present danger is surprisingly thin. In the last chapter, Clarkson writes about "Defending Democracy: Rethink the Strategy." He presents a number of important measures, from registering more voters, conduct ing more research on the radical right, and identifying and exposing the "Christian Right's contradictions and weaknesses." But a good defense will take you only so far; it is the offensive tactics that are so essential.

In the political game, having an offense good enough to win means having a strong ideological base, as does the radical religious right. To get more people to vote, and vote for democracy, we have to offer something positive to vote for, not simply someth ing negative to vote against. In my view, a political ideology built around the promotion of traditional American constitutional democracy is the key to victory.

Nonetheless, Clarkson has made a major contribution to the necessary work of analysis and exposure of the radical religious right and its agenda. We, the American people need to mobilize in defense of our traditional secular American constitutional democr acy before it is too late.

Johnathan Westminster is the author of The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism 2001-2022.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.