Former religious right leaders recant

Rob Boston has a post at AlterNet, “Theocracy Rejected,” reporting on how and why Frank Schaeffer, John Whitehead, and Cal Thomas have publicly repudiated their involvement with the religious right. All three now challenge the idea that Christians should seek political power in order to impose their ideas on American culture.

A few quotes from each give the flavor:

Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer, from his book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lives to Take All (or Almost All) Of It Back:

  • “Long before Ralph Reed and his ilk came on the scene, Dad got sick of ‘these idiots’ as he often called people like Dobson in private. They were ‘plastic,’ Dad said, and ‘power-hungry.’”
  • “There were three kinds of evangelical leaders: The dumb or idealistic ones who really believed. The out-and-out charlatans. And the smart ones who still believed — sort of — but knew that the evangelical world was sh*t, but who couldn’t figure out any way to earn as good a living anywhere else.”

John Whitehead, founder of the Council for National Policy with the support of Jerry Falwell, and of the Rutherford Institute, in his book, God Is A Four-Letter Word:

“Although it is a valued and necessary part of the process in a democracy, the ballot box is not the answer to mankind’s ills … And Christians who place their hope in a political answer to the world’s ills often become nothing more than another tool in the politician’s toolbox. Indeed, Jesus refused any type of involvement with political figures.”

Cal Thomas, former vice president of the Moral Majority, author of Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America, in a recent column:

The flaw in the movement was the perception that the church had become an appendage to the Republican Party and one more special interest group to be pampered. If one examines the results of the Moral Majority’s agenda, little was accomplished in the political arena and much was lost in the spiritual realm, as many came to believe that to be a Christian meant you also must be ‘converted’ to the Republican Party and adopt the GOP agenda and its tactics.

My favorite part of the article is this section quoting Schaeffer’s recognition of the importance of doubt:

“My basic beef with the Reconstructionists is that they could never end a sentence with ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure.’ They always ended with ‘This is how it is.’ That level of hubris runs counter to Christianity,” Schaeffer remarked.
“To me, faith and doubt are interchangeable,” he added. “You live with that. When you reject pluralism and embrace the philosophy of the Reconstructionists, you’ve said, ‘Freedom scares me. I have to be right, and even though logically my life is too short to say I know anything, I’ll say I do. When I don’t have an answer for someone, I’ll shout them down.’ The writer and artist in me rebels against that.”

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

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