Religious right splits: Hucksters say double down; true believers want to try something new

The religious right — with the support of a huge majority of white evangelicals across America — got hammered on Election Day.

It was, as Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler said, “an evangelical disaster.” In ballot measures in four states, the religious right vigorously opposed marriage equality. It lost all four. The president whose re-election the religious right opposed won a second term with a solid majority of the popular vote and an electoral landslide. Many of the most vocal supporters of the religious right’s agenda lost congressional elections. And across the country, polls and ballots both confirmed that the central issues for the religious right — criminalizing abortion and restricting LGBT rights — weren’t just on the losing side, but were important causes of that loss.

NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty summarizes the scope and scale of the religious right’s defeat:

Mohler says white evangelicals moved in lockstep: Seventy-nine percent voted for Republican Mitt Romney, the same percentage as voted for President George W. Bush in 2004. He says they boldly telegraphed their concerns about Obama, and “our message was rejected by millions of Americans who went to the polls and voted according to a contrary worldview.”

“I think the messaging was working,” said Frank Schubert of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, “we just didn’t have enough of it.” (AP file photo by Diane Bondareff)

Mohler says there’s a danger that evangelicals won’t see this larger lesson — that they will say Obama won because of his unique story and personality.

“No, it was far more than that,” he says. “Four states dealt with the issue of same-sex marriage and after 31 to 33 straight victories, we’ve been handed a rather comprehensive set of defeats on the issue of the integrity of marriage.”

That, and the legalization of marijuana in some states, are examples of what Mohler calls “a seismic moral shift in the culture.”

Others say 2012 revealed another shift.

“The understanding that the evangelical vote is a kingmaking vote, I think, is now dead,” says Shaun Casey, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary and a former Obama adviser. He says evangelicals pulled out all the stops to unseat the president.

“Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association bought full-page ads in newspapers; that made no difference,” he says. “Ralph Reed spent tens of millions of dollars getting out the vote in battleground states; that didn’t make the difference. And you add all of that up, and it was not enough because of the changing demographics of our country.”

How, then, should the religious right respond to this “comprehensive set of defeats” and the “seismic moral shift” it signifies?

Broadly speaking, the hucksters of the religious right are advocating one response while the true believers of the religious right are advocating another.

The hucksters are urging their followers, supporters and partisan patrons to double down on all the same things they’ve been doing all along. They want the same stances, same agenda, same strategies, same tone — but a different result. That different result, they say, will come from doing all the very same things even harder. There’s no evidence that would work, but the hucksters don’t measure success by political outcomes. They measure success by fundraising outcomes — and an Obama win was probably more potentially lucrative for them than a Romney win would have been.

The true believers, on the other hand, seem to realize that more of the same approach won’t produce the societal changes they had hoped for. They’ve begun re-evaluating their political tactics, agenda and tone, considering if there might not be a better, more effective way of advancing the values they care about.

Every response to the election that I’ve seen falls into one of those two categories: Double down vs. something new. We’ll look at more specific examples in future posts, and we’ll examine some of the options being discussed as the “something new” toward which some on the religious right are stumbling.

Here’s a hint of that direction from Jim Daly of Focus on the Family. Daly is an intriguing fellow — a true believer who has taken the helm of a huge operation created by a huckster. Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times reports that Daly has taken on a “conciliatory tone after election”:

Daly threw the considerable resources of his organization — which fiercely opposes abortion and same-sex marriage — behind the campaign to defeat President Obama, paying for millions of mailers that listed the presidential candidates’ positions on issues that were important to “values voters.”

In the aftermath of the election, however, Daly is willing to say things that few conservative evangelical leaders are likely to say. He believes, for instance, that the Christian right lost the fight against same-sex marriage in four states in part because it is on the losing side of a cultural paradigm. He says the evangelical community should have been considering immigration reform years ago, “but we were led more by political-think than church-think.”

And, along the same lines, he argues that evangelicals have made a mistake by marching in lock step with the Republican Party.

“If the Christian message has been too wrapped around the axle of the Republican Party, then a) that’s our fault, and b) we’ve got to rethink that.”

For a classic example of the “double down” approach preferred by the hucksters, see the conclusion of Erik Eckholm’s New York Times article, “Push Expands for Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage“:

Frank Schubert, a consultant to the National Organization for Marriage who managed all four state campaigns to block same-sex marriage, said, “I think the messaging was working; we just didn’t have enough of it.” He said he expected to continue running advertisements warning that “changing the definition of marriage” would have negative effects on society.

But Zach Silk, the campaign manager of Washington United for Marriage, an advocate for same-sex marriage rights, argued that what he called “scare tactics” had fallen flat this time, and he predicted they would probably fail again. “The fear and confusion they used to win in other places, it’s an old playbook and it doesn’t work any more.”

It’s fascinating to see people like Mohler and Daly essentially agreeing with Zach Silk that the “old playbook” the religious right has relied on for decades just “doesn’t work any more.”

But I’m also seeing far more people agreeing with NOM’s Schubert, insisting that the fear and confusion Silk describes — what Schubert calls “the messaging” — is still working for the religious right, but they just have to do more of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    Here’s another link you might as well check out: http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=38640

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Good heavens, I think that page (plus comments section) actually made me dumber. Fortunately, I spent a lot of time today reading a book that made me feel smarter (through ideas and new perspectives, not because it was beneath me), so I guess I’ve at least broken even.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Have you ever asked your mother how she drew a connection between smoking in public places and the right to marry? That baffles me. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    (This is the long version of the reason my mother once gave me. Namely, that “But then women would just all marry each other so they could have the socioeconomic benefits of marriage but not be required to ever have sex”)

    The “not required to ever have sex” thing baffles me.  Most of the women I have known well are easily equal to most men in lust, and often more open about their desires to boot.  The women I know who do not want sex tend to be the few asexual ones who have little interest in relationships anyway.  

    I would think that a woman who had a sex life that was so unsatisfactory that she treated it like some obligation would get out of her relationship, or find ways to spice it up to something she did enjoy.  

  • Kirala

     If she knew that was an option. I know Gilmore Girls is fictional, but it made me laugh so hard when I saw the episode where Rory’s best friend came to her and said, “It’s okay, you don’t have to keep lying to me. I know now how terrible sex is,” because previously-virgin best friend had decided to pop the cherry with her previously-virgin husband in the surf at the beach. The salty, sandy, pounding surf beach. I’m a fairly naive virgin, and I can see several problems with that. But if I were in a culture that were any more secretive about sex, I’d be even more naive, and I’d probably be too shy to ask anyone whether my experience were normal. It’d be so easy to generalize and attribute my bad experience to the nature of sex rather than the nature of my partner or practice.

    Perhaps someone who knows more about sex could figure out whether it might be easier for a man to enjoy sex within Victorian-style education and culture parameters. Or why it might be easier for a man to claim to enjoy sex. I dunno.

  • Kiba

    Yeesh, is my mother the only 70+ straight person who has no problem with SSM?

    Well, my 82 year old grandmother doesn’t have any problems with it. She didn’t have any problems with it even before I came out (all she said to me when I told her I was gay was, “That just means I get another grandson.”).

  • Dan Audy

    Perhaps someone who knows more about sex could figure out whether it might be easier for a man to enjoy sex within Victorian-style education and culture parameters. Or why it might be easier for a man to claim to enjoy sex. I dunno.

    I would say that it is extremely challenging for a man to fail to achieve ‘acceptably pleasant’ results regardless of education and culture.  Our bits being on the outside make identifying and understanding arousal much simpler as there is a big focus in males on the physical state of arousal and very little on the emotional.  Beyond that as long as you are familiar with the fundamental mechanics or are willing to fiddle around and experiment a bit (and have a partner also willing) instinct kicks in and rides things to conclusion.  Women on the other hand are much more vulnerable to pain and injury if things go poorly – getting poked somewhere painful (cervix or just generally), lack of lubrication is more painful to women, many positions (particularly in low knowledge individuals) involve the man’s weight on the women which can be uncomfortable if he doesn’t know to or how to support himself.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

     I must admit, I love the utter non sequitar-ness of “No-smoking in restaurants totally equals gay marriage. Help help, I’m being oppressed!”

  • Carstonio

    The answer is simple – it’s all about her.

  • Jim Roberts

    No, not really, but that’s the only legitimate way I can interpret, “Gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage.”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    just once I would like one of the people who sees the death of
    heterosexual marriage in the allowing of same-sex-marriage explain the
    mechanics.

    The way I usually interpret this sort of claim when I want to give the claimant benefit of doubt, is something like this:

    “Every coherent society, including ours, has a set of core principles. We can call them moral principles, or ethical, or social, or religious, or all of the above, but  whatever we call them they are the fundamental axioms on which everything else rests. We normally aren’t aware of them, any more than we are aware of electrons or quarks, and  we may not be able to articulate them or talk clearly about them, but nevertheless they underpin everything we do as a society.

    “When we violate the superficial rules of our society, we also weaken the core principles underlying those rules, which in turn erodes the underpinnings of a thousand other things. For example, when I cheat on my taxes, I weaken the principles that underlie fair dealing, living up to obligations, etc… which in turn weakens every agreement, every contract, every obligation. There’s more at stake than just my desire to save a few bucks.

    “And, no, I can’t point to the exact causal path whereby my cheating on my taxes leads to a .03% reduction in the reliability of my employment contract, or whatever, but there’s a causal link there just the same. Ecologies are often like this. We’re talking about social climate change, and that’s always systemic, and has to be thought about systemically.

    “Some of those superficial rules are more significant than others. If we allow someone to get away with murder, for example, we do more damage to the underpinnings of our culture than if we allow someone to get away with shoplifting. That’s because our underlying principles are more tightly linked to laws against murder than to laws against shoplifting.

    “The rules in our society governing marriage are significant in that way. Sure, it may seem like they are easy to change, just
    like it’s easy to cheat on my taxes or shoplift, but the consequences are more significant than they seem on the surface. And one of those consequences is that the entire institution of marriage is weakened. Asking me for a causal path is missing the point… it’s a systemic, ecological effect.”

    For what it’s worth, I agree with 99% of the above.
    I just don’t believe that letting mutually committed adults marry weakens any underlying social principles I endorse.

  • AnonymousSam

    Judging by the Right’s association with Fox News, and Fox News’s creation of certain legal precedents, it looks like the next logical step is to go mainstream with blatant lies. How much you want to bet that Fox will be airing a segment in the near future about how homosexuality has been linked to child molestation?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I believe it boils down to “I’m angry that I’m not allowed to smoke in restaurants so I see no reason why anyone else should get to be happy.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    How much you want to bet that Fox will be airing a segment in the near future about how homosexuality has been linked to child molestation?

    No bet. They give airtime to plenty of people who like to claim that already. They’re doing everything just shy of having a segment or show explicitly making that (spurious) case.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Look, the interest I have in knowing about my parents’ sex life is about the least amount of interest that anyone has ever had in anything, but my parents are of a generation that was raised to believe that sex was something men needed and wanted, but something women could at best enjoy passively: a woman might well enjoy having sex when it happens to come up, but would never be interested in seeking out sex. THis was necessarily part of the complimentarian social contract: since men “needed” sex, and women “didn’t”, women were expected to force men to behave correctly by the granting and withholding of sex.
    The net result of this is that even if a woman in this mindset does enjoy sex, ultimately, it’s just an enjoyable chore.

  • Tricksterson

    “A monumental struggle with the horned man-goat”

    What’s their beef with Pan?  Oh sure, every now and then I have to bang on the ceiling to get him to turn the music down but he’s mostly cool and always willing to give me a hit off his bong.

    “But then women would all just marry each other so the could have the socioeconomic benefits of marriage but not be required to ever have sex”

    A:  This says something really unfortunate about your parents marriage

    B:  Your mother really doesn’t understand lesbians does she?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Maybe that is just a generational thing then.  Heck, even women half a generation older than me (one of whom I am currently in a relationship with) do not have that view (though her view is somewhat transitional, she said she is used to men who are a bit more sexually selfish.)  

    But almost every woman of my own generation I have met (and several older) seems to at least have a rich sense of sexual fantasy, even if they are not particularly sexually active.  It kind of belays the “women have no desire” meme.  

    They must pity their own mothers… 

  • arrow2010

    The evangelicals should leave the GOP and form a Evangelical Party. They will never win on the national level, but they can win some local races in Alabama.

  • spinetingler

     “I suspect in the same manner that the Antichrist will dissolve all nations, replace all currencies, and unite all religions.”

    So, by speaking wedding vows in all languages simultaneously?

  • banancat

    I know it’s silly of me but just once I would like one of the people who
    sees the death of heterosexual marriage in the allowing of
    same-sex-marriage explain the mechanics.  And, if they themselves are
    mmarried how it will endanger their marriage.

    This is actually pretty easy to explain once you factor in sexism.  Most of these people are complementarians to some degree, whether they identify with that specific word or not.  They don’t believe that marriage is an equal partnership between one man and one woman.  They believe in the traditional view that marriage is an arrangement with men and women filling their specific roles as husband and wife.  The actual roles vary with time, but they still believe that there are things only husbands do and things only wives do.  So for example, most of these men will change a diaper for their own kids, but they still believe that ultimately it’s the responsibility of the wife.  Even if she delegates it to him some of the time, it’s still her responsibility to make sure it gets done.  Same with plenty of other “women’s work”.  Likewise, they’re generally ok with wives working, but it’s known within their marriage that the wife’s career is the expendable one if the need arises.

    So generally women get the short end of the stick in this traditional arrangement.  But they convince women to tolerate it both by making some concessions (allowing them to work, contributing a small amount to domestic work), but also by convincing women that it needs to be this way and that it’s best this way because of inherent, God-given differences between the sexes.  They insist that if a man does too much housework or if a woman has to much financial power Bad Things(TM) will happen, whether that’s divorce, unhappy kids, or just general unhappiness and stress.

    So if two men get married and especially if they have kids, at least one of them is doing things that fall into the role of wife.  If two women get married, at least one of them makes more money.  But if these marriages and families turn out just like traditional ones (or even better on some metrics), that disproves the homophobe’s main line of reasoning for why women need to be confined to their role.  And women will see this.  Suddenly these women will realize that the sky won’t fall if they do things differently and they’ll start demanding that they get more power within their relationship or they’ll start demanding that their husbands do more housework.  In this way, it will negatively affect their traditional marriages because it will be harder for them to suppress women.

    I’ve seen plenty of evidence that this is how homophobes think, at least some of them.  Years ago on a different blog, someone stopped by to inform all of us heathen liberals on why same sex marriage is wrong.  His entire argument was a list of questions such as: Who will be the breadwinner?  Who will stay at home with the kids? Who will mow the lawn?  He truly expected this argument to be effective at convincing us because we’re supposed to be horrified by the idea of a man in a woman’s role.

    And I have read a blog of a super fundie who actually claimed that all egalitarian marriages are same sex marriages even if they’re between a man and a woman.

  • banancat

     And this is the basis of rape culture right here.  If a woman can’t really enjoy sex, then rape is only different from normal sex in the sense that the man didn’t sign a legally-binding contract first.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think we’ve managed to convince most folks that marital rape can happen and so can consensual sex between unmarried folks, either of which would break the it’s-sex-if-married-but-rape-otherwise binary. There’s more to it. I don’t doubt that’s part of it, but there’s more to it.

  • banancat

     The basis of rape culture is the idea that sex is a win for a man and a loss for a woman, which makes every interaction adversarial by nature.  I don’t think the acceptance of the existence of marital rape nulls that.  Essentially rape culture has decided that certain amounts of coercion are necessary or else men will always be celibate, but even most rape apologists will draw a line at how much coercion is acceptable, most commonly drawing the line at physical violence or threats of violence.  I don’t think drawing that line implies that they understand the concept of consent.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Years ago on a different blog, someone stopped by to inform all of us heathen liberals on why same sex marriage is wrong.  His entire argument was a list of questions such as: Who will be the breadwinner?  Who will stay at home with the kids? Who will mow the lawn?  He truly expected this argument to be effective at convincing us because we’re supposed to be horrified by the idea of a man in a woman’s role.

    Man, that is some culture-clash right there.  I am actually more turned-on to see a woman who is unafraid to step outside of “traditional” gender roles.  I find the idea that she is not shackled by antiquated notions of gender roles to be very appealing.  Heck, I like doing housework and cooking if only because I find a lot of women I have known seem to have a similar turn on about men who do not tie their identity up so much in their gender roles either, and it fulfills me to please them so.  

  • Tricksterson

    Good

  • Tricksterson

    She like her head scritched.  She’s rather odd in a lot of ways.

  • Tricksterson

    I think they would win a lot of races on the state level in the south.  probably some, though not as much in the mid-west.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    They don’t have to make the claim. It’s a lot easier to do that thing cable shows always do, when they have two pundits come on and fight over an issue to create the impression that the two sides are evenly matched and equally believable. So you would have a guy with a doctorate from Bob Jones University present an 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    “So if two men get married and especially if they have kids,” … yes I understand the context, but somehow the line “if they have kids” still makes me think that THAT would make every headline in the country.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Trans men exist, y’know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    That’s cheating.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Define.

  • banancat

    There is more than one way to have a kid. Plenty of same sex couples already have them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    Like I said, I understand the context of two men having a child. I guess I was just musing about the other way, as when I let my unneutered cat out, OF COURSE she’s going to have kittens.
    On Trans-gendered men: the majority of people are stuck with the same body all their days, so it’s still women who carry and birth children for now.
     A trans-gen female to male may feel like a man, may be able to change “his” body to basically become a man, but he still has the blueprints of a female body inside him. So if a trans-gen man does want to bear a child, in effect he still has the equipment to do so, with some medical help. All the same he already has the parts for it, he doesn’t have to go get them. Even the famous case of Thomas Beatie has him starting out with a female body. 
    I was thinking of along the lines of a man who was born with an XY body from day one having a child, carrying it and birthing it in a body that wasn’t originally designed for that. You have to admit THAT would get notice, the equivalent of my cat having puppies.

    There’s a terrible joke to that effect:
    When Mary had a little lamb,
    The doctors were surprised.
    When Old MacDonald had a farm,
    They couldn’t believe their eyes.

  • banancat

    I know you think you’re being helpful, but your boner is not relevant here. Making the argument that women shouldn’t be stuck in one role because some men will like them better outside of that role is kinda missing the point.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Maybe that is just a generational thing then.

    Largely but not entirely. I’ve metioned before that I have a friend, the same age as me, who takes it for granted that, while sure, she enjoys sex with her husband, it would be no skin off her teeth if they never had sex again. And that this is in fact *essential* to their relationship, because her power in the relationship derives from the fact that she has exclusive control over his ability to have orgasms, and could deny them to him for as long as she liked — if she *were* to “give in” to her physical desires and give him “unearned” sex, it would be, to her mind, a grave moral failing on her part.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     One could, at least in theory, imagine a society that took the notion of sex being a contractual obligation between husband and wife so seriously that a wife could claim marital rape against a husband who didn’t hold up his end of the contract. 

    I sort of wonder if that’s something in the imagination of rape apologists: that they could be accused of rape for not mowing the lawn.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Can the cissexism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    Not sure how else to refer to people in transit, none of the pronouns sound right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    Not sure how else to refer to people in transit, none of the pronouns sound right.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Use the pronouns that the person in question indicates a desire for. It is generally safe to assume that a trans man prefers ‘he’.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Forgive me then.  

    As a man, I often find myself ashamed that I have any sexual desire at all.  Any desire I have is irrelevant, and I feel bad for voicing it.  

    Thank you for reminding me of this.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your sexual desire is not irrelevant. It is irrelevant to this situation. To most situations, actually; everyone’s sexual desire is irrelevant to most situations. But not to all.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Perhaps I should narrow it down a bit.  

    As a male, my perspective is irrelevant  and I am incapable of any amount of understanding, sympathy, or identification with women, and any attempts on my part to imagine myself and attempt an empathetic projection are doomed to failure and will upset others for being voiced at all.  

    At least, that is how I rationalize it when I am clearly missing something and my lack of understanding betrays me.  

    Thank you for keeping me humble.  I need to talk less, and listen more.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Years ago on a different blog, someone stopped by to inform all of us heathen liberals on why same sex marriage is wrong.  His entire argument was a list of questions such as: Who will be the breadwinner?  Who will stay at home with the kids? Who will mow the lawn?  He truly expected this argument to be effective at convincing us because we’re supposed to be horrified by the idea of a man in a woman’s role.

    There’s an Australian politician making similar arguments now.

    (Welcome to Australia! Where the majority of the population are in favour of marriage equality, but the majority of our politicians aren’t.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.davis.9256 Karen Davis

    I read somewhere earlier this week (maybe at Krugman’s blog?) that possibly the reason the younger voters are “okay with socialism” is that the GOP has been redefining socialism to be things like SS and Medicare and EITC and WIC … and gosh darn it, if that’s socialism, the kids think, well, it’s not that bad!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There’s an Australian politician making similar arguments now.

    ?

    Who’s that. Apart from a couple of dickheads like Corey Bernadi, I haven’t found a politician with a more detailed argument against same sex marriage than, essentially, “marriage should be for opposite sex couples only because it’s for opposite sex couples only”.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

     Heh. It would be nice if the Republican total batshit-wrong characterizations of “socialism” become the very thing to defeat them, but I fear they will do a lot more damage to the notion of the welfare state on the way down. :(

  • banancat

     Either you have missed my point entirely, or you are setting up a straw man of my argument.  Either way, I see no reason to explain it to you further.  Some people just don’t want to get it.

  • Lori

     

    And that this is in fact *essential* to their relationship, because her
    power in the relationship derives from the fact that she has exclusive
    control over his ability to have orgasms   

    1. Holly shit

    2. I’m not sure which idea horrifies me more, that a grown woman thinks that she can, absent some very specific hardware, have exclusive control over her husband’s ability to have orgasms or that, sans said hardware, she actually does have exclusive control over her husband’s ability to have orgasms. I hope both those people are happy because that is one f’ed up relationship (pun intended) and to me it sounds like unhealthy hell on earth.


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