Can we admit that "Christianity" is just code for "patriarchy" yet?
This editorial from Maureen Dowd today is a reallly good one, and well worth reading. She does what a lot of us on the left have been doing repeatedly for a long, long time now--call to task the Christian right for their perplexing inability to do a thing that Jesus Christ asked of his followers--but with a bit more wit than usual. But I think that we're going to be running in circles on the left if we keep insisting that "Christian" to the Christian right means "followers of the teachings of Jesus". The Christian right is far more interested in using the Old Testament to remake American society into an old-fashioned patriarchy. James Dobson, who Dowd singles out, can be understood not as a follower of Christ so much as someone who imagines himself to be a modern day King Solomon, presiding over modern day family disputes much like Solomon decided which of the peasant women was really the mother of the disputed baby.
There's three things I think that the Christian right gets out of the Bible that they want to implement on modern American society, all extremely radical. First, there's making the father-dominated family the basic building block of society, which is radical simply because most people in this country don't live that way--if you add up the single women who don't live with their parents, divorced people, gays and lesbians, unmarried couples who live together, etc. you'll find pretty quickly that we're nowhere near living in old-fashioned patriarchal family units. Instead, the basic building block of our society is individual citizens who enjoy the freedom to live how they wish. I think a lot of the "family values" voters really haven't considered the full implications of a true patriarchy might be like, but certainly the leadership of the Christian right has, and they love the idea.
The second radical change they have in mind is restoring authority as our major source of "truth", replacing debate, reason, and science, which are our primary sources now. It's not necessary to really get into all the various fronts that this battle is being fought on, but suffice it to say, it's deeply un-American to submit unquestioningly to authority. It goes against all our basic values. I don't know why this is such an important goal for the Christian right, except maybe because they want simplicity. It is true that it's easier to believe what you're told rather than think and ask questions, but I am still really puzzled as to why they are so willing to give up all the benefits we enjoy from a few hundred years of rapid progress due to things like democracy and science. I imagine even the most hardcore anti-evolution, anti-science Christian right wingers avail themselves of life-saving medical techniques that would have never come about in an authority-centered world, meaning the get to live on to fight against the right of future generations to have access to the benefits of scientific progress. If only they had the courage of their convictions and refused en masse to go to doctors anymore......
Of course, the third thing they want is to redefine Americans, specifically white Christian Americans, as the new version of the Chosen People. There are few that would come out and actually declare that they read a mythological history of the Jewish people and conclude that modern day Americans are god's new favorites, but their rhetoric definitely points in that direction. In the Bible, Yahweh is always giving and revoking protection to the tribes of Israel according to how well they behave, and the Christian right clearly sees America in the same push-pull struggle with a god who doesn't seem to have much else to do other than dither with Americans. That was the impetus behind Falwell's comment that gays and lesbians, feminists, etc. brought on 9/11--he's invoking the belief that Americans are the new Hebrews and that god punishes us for impurity in our ranks by allowing our enemies to gain on us.
Again, this is purely un-American radicalism, against everything this country stands for. It is distinctly dangerous for our continuing right to religious freedom to have half this country view us as all members of the same tribe under the same god like the ancient Israelites viewed themselves. And I'm beginning to suspect that many in the Christian right see the Shrub as a modern-day version of David, flawed for sure but a great king appointed by god. Though it would be fun if Bush celebrated the taking of Fallujah by stripping down and dancing naked while Laura looks on disapprovingly.
I think more than anything, the Christian right's willingness to employ rheotric that implies that America is a New Israel clues us into why they seem like they don't care so much for Jesus Christ. Their rhetoric is strictly Old Testament, tribal identity stuff. And the New Testament is night and day from that.