Thursday, March 3, 2011

Surprise, surprise ...

Last week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published an op-ed by publisher Richard Mellon Scaife defending the efforts of Planned Parenthood and denouncing its attempted defunding by Republican members of Congress. As a result a few of its readers were, to put it mildly, disappointed that someone who touted himself as "conservative" could support such an organization (which he does, financially).

Last month, more than a few notable conservatives skipped the Conservative Political Action Conference due to the presence of GOProud, a gay group which many felt had no business being there.

Those evangelicals and "fundamentalists" who are shocked by the identification of such people as "conservative" need to understand one thing: The modern conservative movement began in the mid-1950s as totally secular, with Christians being recruited only in the late 1970s and only because it resulted in votes for its intentional divisiveness. That is to say, fighting legal abortion and gay rights became part of the political right only later and only when it could sell a pro-business, anti-government agenda that attempted to roll back social and political progress for a number of groups that made gains in the 1960s.

In other words, most secular conservatives really didn't care about "moral" issues, only about political power.

We see that today. Did you notice that secular conservative media, especially the Fox News Channel, never address the culture war at any length? And during the last general election campaign, even the "tea-party" movement, despite its lack of central leadership, did its best to keep its distance from an overtly anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights stance, perhaps because it believed that they would dilute its message.

And it appears that's the case. While conservatism is flourishing at least on the surface, the religious right is now irrelevant -- with Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy both dead, James Dobson retired, Pat Robertson being gaffe-prone and Randall Terry's pronouncements having no positive effect, people of faith are today being increasingly co-opted by secular interests -- which, frankly, is dangerous because they have no reason to adopt consistent Biblical principles.

It's time for us to concede that conservatives of the secular variety are not, and indeed never really were, our friends; in fact, they have always played us for fools because they knew we had no real alternative. Back in the 1990s Dobson announced that he was considering a run for President because he was convinced that "values voters" would leave the GOP and follow him. They might have done so, but Dobson likely learned that he simply didn't have the clout he thought he did. (The 2006 election, during which he convened a number of ineffective "Stand for the Family" rallies in battleground states, cemented that reality.)

More to the point, we need to understand that our "culture war" doesn't sell anymore, if it ever did. Moral of the story: Prophets do not make good politicians.

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