We’re taking a chapter by chapter stroll through James Davison Hunter’s To Change The World. It’s a book with a relevant message for today. It’s also far from an easy read. That’s why we’re taking it slow.
Here’s the abstract of the second essay chapter 3 “The Christian Right” from Hunter’s website:
Politically conservative Christians are animate by a mythic ideal concerned with the “right-ordering” of society. They want the world in which they live to reflect their own likeness. A legacy of a Christian origin is understood as providing a sense of ownership over America and “radical secularists” have taken this away. The effect is harming to America, and people of faith, marginalizing them in public life. Their response has been one of political engagement, often conflating Christian faith and national identity in the political imagination.
There are changes occurring among the Religious Right. However, though the tactics have expanded to include worldview and culture, the logic at work—that America has been taken over by secularists, that it is time to “take back the culture” for Christ—is identical to the longstanding approach of the Christian Right. This is because the underlying myth that defines their goals and strategy of action has not changed.
This chapter is full of an amazing number of quotes (130 footnotes in this chapter alone!), quotes from Focus on the Family, American Values, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, etc. As Hunter says, “the tone is as important as the content” (p. 112), so the large number of quotes is important.
In the quotes we can clearly see the two elements mentioned in the last chapter, the quest for power and the sense of ressentiment. He outlines the Christian Right’s interpretation of history, their fear and anger at “what they’ve done to us,” and how these feelings motivate them to action. There is a two-pronged call: prayer and action, and action invariably refers to political activity.
The Conservative Right places a great amount of hope in politics, expressing a clear desire for dominance, a controlling influence over the government. The logic is simple: America has been taken over by secularists and the main duty of Christians is to acquire and use political power to revert the situation.