Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister’s Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future
By Robin Meyers
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006
Review by Carl McColman
This is one of those books where the titles says it all. Based on a speech that UCC minister Robin Meyers gave at a college rally that took on a life of its own thanks to the Internet, Why the Christian Right is Wrong throws down the gauntlet for anyone who is tired of the way that bad right-wing politics hides behind Christianity, thereby poisoning both politics and faith simultaneously. It’s interesting how the author has chosen to make this book extremely topical — to a great extent, it’s a screed against the many failings of our current president and his fundamentalist cronies both inside and outside the D.C. beltway — which gives it an urgency and a certain “current events” punch, even at the risk of it becoming very quickly dated and irrelevant. But hey, this is the blog generation: why would anyone want to read a book more than three years old anyway? With that little bit of irony in mind, Meyers’ book-length meditation on the evils of the 43rd president and his administration reads like an extended blog entry, filled with rather more passion than analysis (although this is certainly more than just a pugilistic rant).
The book’s message, simply put, is that the Christian right is a betrayal of the Gospel; that the leaders of the Christian right have been unfaithful to the message and teachings of Jesus in their zeal to promote their authoritarian, pugilistic, favor-the-rich and damn-the-environment political vision. Meyers plays out his central thesis in the context of just about every issue that matters to old-school liberals. From gay and lesbian issues to abortion, the war on terror and its corollary war on non-rich America; environmentalism, health care, the national debt, and family values — all are considered in turn. Through it all, Meyers’ liberal credentials remain impeccably above reproach. And this, ultimately, may be the book’s biggest weakness: after a while, it begins to feel, well, ideological. With the sole exception of the most recent Georgia primary where I wanted to have the satisfaction of voting against Ralph Reed, I have never voted for a Republican — and yet, reading this book made me just a wee bit restless. Oh, I agree with Meyers’ righteous anger; if there were any justice left on Capital Hill Bush would have been impeached (and removed from office) by now. But after a while, this book feels like little more than a diatribe writ large. I fear that it will have no effect on the right whatsoever, and will do little more than make the left feel self-righteous in its marginalized rage.
I suspect Meyers himself was aware of this problem, and so he wraps up the book with a “call to nonviolent resistance.” But even though I’m a comfortable, dockers-wearing, mortgage-paying, touch-of-grey liberal who hasn’t participated in direct action for almost a quarter of a century now, even this call left me feeling neither inspired nor challenged. And if it didn’t have an edge for me, something tells me it doesn’t have much of an edge for folks half my age, either. So I think Why the Christian Right is Wrong ends up being little more than an interesting failure: interesting because it attempts to be an in-your-face rallying cry for the infuriated millions who long ago figured out that Bush is bad news, while simultaneously also trying to explain what’s going on in the world of religion (where those who signed on with the Christian Right a decade ago are slowly beginning to see that they’ve been conned by politicians who share none of the core principles of their faith). I think the book fails because it doen’t manage to bridge the divide between entrenched non-conservatives and Christians whose natural political center of gravity should probably be termed “moderate” and who are reacting against the Christian right not because they hate the right, but because they love Christianity. The entrenched left and the newly-disenfranchised Christian moderate represent two different segments of society, with different concerns, values, and hot buttons. What is it going to take to finally dismantle the unholy alliance between conservative Christianity and far-right politics? A powerful and positive alliance between old-school liberals and moderate Christians. In terms of calling for such an alliance and challenging/inspiring both moderates and lefties to actually make it happen, I don’t think this book does the trick. Maybe Meyers could write such a book in the future; and maybe not. But somebody had better write it soon.