Texas, with its Republican governor Greg Abbott, is a prime example of how, in the face of declining religious belief in America, Republicans and other conservatives are trying hard to push their political ideology by dragging in evangelical Christianity. And they’re succeeding, at least as judged by Texas’s new anti-abortion law, implicitly based on Christianity.
The article below shows how eager the Christian camels of Texas are to stick their noses into the political tent, and how subtly they try to sneak religious language and values into governance. Oddly enough, the article comes from Texas Monthly. Yes, it’s Texas, Jake, but this kind of thing is happening all over America, especially in red states. Click to read:
I’ll give just a few quotes to show how religionists are getting away with this stuff, despite the secularization of America and the First Amendment:
After the Texas Supreme Court sided with cheerleaders in East Texas in August 2018 and allowed them to display a verse from the New Testament on their football team’s run-through banner, state attorney general Ken Paxton tweeted in support. “God bless these young cheerleaders for their faith in God and their fight to protect their religious liberties. Just like their banners said, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’” The verse, taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, references the apostle’s spiritual growth, which allows him to endure the unpredictability—including hunger and financial need—in his missionary work. The verse has become popular among athletes, politicians, and other competitors as a triumphalist blessing over their ambitions.
Note that what the Texas Supreme Court okayed was an explicit violation of the separation of church and state encoded in the First Amendment. (Of course, were this to be appealed to the Supreme Court, they’d almost surely uphold the Texas court.)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is particularly adept at using either direct or coded Christian language:
By using religious language, the more explicit the better, [Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow] said candidates can demonstrate their willingness to bring faith into the public sphere, an idea supported by many—including 89 percent of white evangelicals, who believe the Bible should have an influence on U.S. laws.
That repeated signal has muddied people’s understanding about what kind of religious liberty is actually guaranteed by the Constitution, said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, based in Washington, D.C. “I think there’s great confusion in the culture about what is meant by religious freedom or religious liberty, and that is because there has been a concerted effort to privilege Christianty and call it religious liberty.”
Indeed. Many religious Jews, for example, as well as gazillions of nonbelievers, don’t believe in “souls”— one basis for draconian abortion laws—and so banning or severely restricting abortion is usually based on the Christian faith (including Catholicism).
The effectiveness of Trump’s championing of white evangelicals’ priorities was striking: most forgave the notorious playboy for his coarse speech, cruelty toward the downtrodden, and flagrant immorality. Trump also eschewed the kind of civic unity that requires politicians to use broad language, and opened the door more widely for the public promotion of a single religion. A perusal of Texas’s statewide officeholders shows a number of tweets, stump speeches, and television appearances heavy with a specific expression of evangelical Christianity.
There are several examples.
One more quote, but do read the article, which is thoughtful and analytical:
“By God’s grace, we can give every child the chance to live a happy and fulfilling life,” said Governor Greg Abbott in a statement proclaiming January 22, 2018, to be “Sanctity of Human Life Day.” The use of “by God’s grace” in public addresses could refer to any number of verses in the Christian Bible, and in public speech it often occupies a middle ground between ceremonial deism such as “in God we trust” and something more personal. But in politics, the phrase is closely related to “By the Grace of God” or “Dei Gratia,” which is part of the way that European Christian monarchs have been ceremonially addressed. It was a phrase added to their names to imply that their authority was a gift from God. Not enough American voters likely know about the European uses of the phrase to receive that signal.
But now you know the signal. Though the data all show that America is losing its religion, the country is becoming more theocratic. That’s because Christians are fighting hard to bring faith into politics, while the average American either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that much.
13 thoughts on “Today’s reading: the infusion of evangelical Christianity into Texas politics”
Mandatory J&M: https://www.jesusandmo.net/comic/freedom/
I do believe that the New Right are clearly using dogwhistle terms; however, it’s also interesting to see when they accuse of doing the same thing.
Maybe not so odd when one considers that Texas Monthly was among the periodicals to which the great secularist and iconoclast Molly Ivins regularly contributed.
A good opportunity to wheel out the famed Open Letter to Laura (Schlessinger) again: https://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/joke/laura.htm
“I can do all things through Christ” Sadly there is a lot of truth in that. Once you believe yourself to know the word of God you can do all kinds of horrible things that no rational person would otherwise do. Many believers recognize this historically but fail to see the fundamental problem – blind faith. They just keep going down the same dangerous path.
‘With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.
Okay, but the crucial question is whether God saw to it that their team covered the point spread.
It all probably started with “In God We Trust” on our currency.
A characteristic of evangelical Protestantism in the United States has been the drive to impose its conception of morality on others. A prime example of this was the emergence of abolitionism in the 1830s. Abolitionists were very religiously motivated, and although viewed today as heroes, in their own time they faced harsh criticism, sometimes accompanied by violence, by those, including many living in the North, for attempting to impose its values on the slave South. Later, evangelicals supported temperance and prohibition. They were in the vanguard of the fight against communism, here as well as abroad. And, of course, their zeal to restore school prayer and ban abortion are recent manifestations of their agenda.
Regarding evangelicalism in the twentieth century, historian John Fea says this:
“For much of the twentieth century, evangelicals leaned Republican. For example, during the 1950s, as Princeton historian Kevin Kruse has shown, white evangelicals gravitated toward the civil religion of Dwight Eisenhower and the postwar religious revival. During the 1960s, Richard Nixon used Billy Graham to help him win over white evangelicals. But it was not until the late 1970s and 1980s that white conservative evangelicalism became fused with the GOP. The result of this merger is what we call the “Christian” or “Religious” Right today. This political movement was born out of fear that the removal of prayer and Bible reading in schools, the growing diversity following the Immigration Act of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act), the intrusion of government (“big government”) into segregated Christian academies in the South, and the legalization of abortion were undermining America’s uniquely Christian identity. The leaders of the Christian Right believed the best way to “reclaim” or “restore” this identity was by gaining control of all three branches of government. Jimmy Carter, a self-proclaimed “born-again Christian,” was not championing these issues to the degree that many evangelical conservatives wished. As a result, white evangelicals gravitated to Ronald Reagan, a man who seemed to understand evangelical concerns, or was, at the very least, willing to placate evangelicals.”
The above quote is from an article on the website of the Organization of American History in which several historians discuss the history and current status of the evangelical movement. It is a long article, but well worth reading.
All this means is that evangelicals have been relentless throughout American history in working towards their goals, as is the right-wing in general. Their actions are national, not just limited to Texas. They are nearing success despite their dwindling numbers. With the Supreme Court in its grasp, five individuals can destroy the separation of Church and State. Due to the structure of the American political system and the proportionately large evangelical voter turnout (along with conservative Catholics), it is not unreasonable to fear that a minority imposed theocratic system may be just around the corner. Since most Americans will oppose such a system, social tensions will grow even greater, if that can be imagined. We know what the great fissures of the 1850s led to. Today, great armies will not confront each other. But, mutual hatred and contempt will rival the 1850s, if we have not already reached that point.
> A characteristic of evangelical Protestantism in the United States has been the drive to impose its conception of morality on others.
That’s part of why it’s evangelical: they evangelize. A religious family member of mine recently met a Zoroastrian, any my family member’s takeaway was that Zoroastrianism is dying because it doesn’t evangelize, promote, or protect itself. My immediate response was that all religions still die in the long run, which he didn’t want to hear. I could have also made the case that Islam does a better job of evangelizing, promoting, and protecting itself, and they have a terrible human rights record. More importantly, the fact that a religion evangelizes does not make it true – only popular.
The Wayback Machine flings me back to the matchbox guy: “If you gave Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.” – Christopher Hitchens.
Worrying. I’m just glad that we’re pretty free of this religious nonsense (excluding the new gender ideology belief system, sadly) here in the UK.
I call people who hold religious thoughts believers, and the difference between me and all believers, and I don’t care if you are The Pope, an Ayatollah, or even a Scientologist, is that believers think that holding certain thoughts in their heads while their cells are dividing will cause a material difference in the Universe when their cells stop dividing (e.g., They will go to heaven instead of Hell.). This is the same power they give to their gods, to make changes in the Universe, and that’s just delusional.
“Texas Senator Ted Cruz is particularly adept at using either direct or coded Christian language.”
A few weeks ago I saw on video a British reporter confronting Cruz on this business of “American Exceptionalism.” Of course, Cruz couldn’t trouble himself to give a clear, straight-forward response and defense of this self-absorbed and entitled mindset. He had to attack the supposed bias or agenda or motive of the reporter for asking the question. Politician and Prevaricator (and in Cruz’s case, Popinjay) start with the same letter.