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The Christian right is a term collectively referring to a spectrum of right-wing Christian political and social movements and organizations characterized by their strong support of social values they deem in line with traditional Christian values in western countries. Furthermore, many Christian Right organisations from the Anglosphere use discourse, tactics and strategies from the United States Christian Right in their own contexts, leading their feminist, gay and social liberal opponents to foster their own global networking in retaliation. The terms Christian Right and Religious Right are sometimes used interchangeably, although this is problematic.

Contents

[edit] Terminology

The term Christian Right has been criticized as pejorative by leaders of conservative Christian groups, along with phrases such as theocrat and religious extremist. Some writers characterize these terms as representing Christianophobia, while some writers such as American political commentator Kevin Phillips, feel the terms accurately describe the movement. The tendency of some critics of the Christian Right to use the terms Christian fundamentalist or evangelical as if these terms were equivalent is seen as problematic by a wide range of commentators. Others have suggested that "Christian right" may be preferable to "Christian Right," insofar as the latter implies a higher degree of unity than the movement actually displays.

At the same time, fundamentalists across several religions often share with the Christian Right certain positions on specific issues such as women's and gay rights, separation of religion and government, and opposition to changing moral standards. So while many leaders of the Christian Right are outspoken critics of radical Islam, organizations composed of conservative Christians, Muslim social conservatives, and Orthodox Jews sometimes cooperate in national and international projects, especially through the World Congress of Families and United Nations NGO gatherings.

The term is complicated by the appropriation of "Christian" by members of the evangelical-doctrine churches for their particular brand of Christianity.

Used in another sense, "Christian Right" may describe a more benign association of individuals from a wide variety of theological beliefs, ranging from moderately traditional movements within Lutheranism and Catholicism to theologically more conservative movements such as Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and Fundamentalist Christianity.

[edit] History

Main article: Christian right in United States politics

Jerome Himmelstein writes that:

"The term New Religious Right refers to a set of organizations that emerged in the late 1970s, the Moral Majority (later renamed the Liberty Federation), the Religious Roundtable, and the Christian Voice; their leaders, including Robert Grant, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Ed McAteer; and the movement that these leaders and organizations fostered. Though this movement made a broad, religiously based conservative appeal, its deepest roots and most lasting impact were among white evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians (p. 97)."

The beginnings of "The Christian Right" as a nascent political movement began when evangelicals began organizing against a series of Supreme Court decisions, notably Roe v. Wade and also engaged in local battles over pornography, obscenity, taxation of private Christian schools, school prayer, textbook contents (concerning evolution), homosexuality and abortion.

One significant effort to institutionalize the Christian Right as a politically-active social movement began in 1974 when Dr. Robert Grant, an early movement leader, founded American Christian Cause to advocate Christian moral teachings in Southern California. Concerned that Christians overwhelmingly voted in favor of President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Grant founded Christian Voice to mobilize Christian voters in favor of candidates who share their values. Grant involved national conservative leaders including Gary Jarmin, Howard Phillips, Terry Dolan, and Richard Viguerie in his movement and made national headlines when Christian Voice-backed candidates including Ronald Reagan, Steve Symms, Dan Quayle, and John Porter East defeated entrenched incumbents in the 1978 and 1980 elections.. After Grant ousted Phillips, Dolan, and Viguerie several years later, the trio went on to recruit Jerry Falwell to build a new Christian Right organization, the Moral Majority. Grant's movement was said to have played a significant role in the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and dozens of imitators were founded including Concerned Women for America, American Coalition for Traditional Values, and the Christian Coalition.[citation needed]

[edit] Christian Right movements: Outside the United States

Beyond the United States, other western nations have their own Christian Right movements. A brief summary and evaluation of those movements follow.

[edit] Australia

In Australia, the Christian Right has had mixed fortunes. In the case of the anti-abortion movement, there has been considerable fragmentation between the Federation of Right to Life Associations and Right to Life Australia. The latter favours direct action tactics, and has tended to alienate public opinion. Two other organisations that both began in 1995 with a Christian Right focus and agenda were the Australian Christian Coalition, now known as the Australian Christian Lobby and Salt Shakers. The Australian Christian Lobby has its headquarter in Canberra with State Offices whilse Salt Shakers has kept is office in Melbourne. Overtime the Australian Christian Lobby has moved from the political right to a centre right position whilst Salt Shakers have not. Both have had their wins and losses over the 11 years that they have been operating. Both organisations form loose coalitions with other like minded organisations. These coalitions are issue focused and come and go as the issues come and go. More can be found in Wikipedia by searching for "Australian Christian Lobby".

In New South Wales, Reverend Fred Nile and his Christian Democratic Party have occupied two to three Member of the Legislative Council (upper house) seats in the New South Wales State Parliament. Nile has been conspicuously unsuccessful in his efforts against the popular Sydney Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras, and lesbian/gay rights legislation in general, as well as women's reproductive choice.

Similarly, his former vehicle, the South Australia-based Festival of Light has been ebbing in recent years. In that state, the Family First political party has been elected at the state and federal upper house levels. Victoria used to be the headquarters of the National Civic Council, a conservative Catholic organisation that still produces News Weekly, a conservative Catholic news publication that opposes free market capitalism as well as reproductive choice, voluntary euthanasia and lesbian/gay rights.

For a decade, this movement delayed the introduction of medical abortion in Australia (1996-2005). As time went on, all Australian states and territories either partially or fully decriminalised abortion access, although keeping abortion-on-demand illegal. Eventually, a unified multipartisan pro-choice movement insured passage of legislation that repealed obstacles within the federal Therapeutic Goods Act.

At present, the Australian federal government under the Howard administration has banned same-sex marriage and has threatened to legislate against proposed civil unions for lesbians and gay men at the federal level, as it had previously done against euthanasia law reform after the Northern Territory parliament carried it out in 1995. Euthanasia marks a particular point of conflict. In 2005, the Howard administration passed an anti-euthanasia Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Offences) Act, which made it illegal to "aid or abet the suicide or attempted suicide" or "incite or counsel another person to commit suicide"[1]. However, the Howard administration is now the only Coalition (Liberal Party of Australia/National Party of Australia)-governed jurisdiction anywhere in the country, as the Australian Labor Party federal opposition controls all the state and territory governments.

[edit] New Zealand

The situation in neighbouring New Zealand is different: Abortion in New Zealand has long ceased to be an issue of public debate, with widespread abortion access. It introduced medical abortion in 2001, four years before its neighbour. Gay rights in New Zealand are advancing steadily. In 2005, Parliament legislated for civil unions in New Zealand, which also meant substantive legal rights and responsibilities opened up for lesbians and gay men under the related Relationships (Statutory References) Act. Despite the pressure from opponents like Brian Tamaki, his Destiny Church and others, civil unions are now accepted as a fait accompli. While prostitution in New Zealand is less popular, and law reform was passed by a narrower margin, most forms of sex work in that country have been decriminalised since 2003. At present, the 48th New Zealand Parliament are about to debate a Green Party of New Zealand sponsored bill to ban parental corporal punishment of children.

[edit] Canada

Canada has had a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an open-ended written constitution, since it was repatriated in 1982. Resultantly, feminist and lesbian/gay law reform groups have been able to secure considerable advances such as the two R. v. Morgentaler cases (in 1988 and in 1993), which completely decriminalise abortion in that country, as well as a string of provincial supreme court same-sex marriage victories that led the federal Parliament to introduce federal legislation to enable it in 2005. Despite the recent victory of Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada at last year's federal election, the latter is currently a minority government. Canada has an antifeminist group (REAL Women of Canada) and anti-abortionists within Campaign Life Coalition, and political parties like the Christian Heritage Party of Canada and Family Coalition Party in Ontario, as well as Focus on the Family Canada, a satellite of the US-based multinational Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs. These political parties have never been elected to office in legislative bodies, however.

None of these organisations have been able to make any inroad against Canada's feminist or lesbian gay rights movement. Paradoxically, though, censorship policy has been a continued point of contention between Canada's lesbian, gay and arts communities and federal Customs.

[edit] United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has also had an active Christian Right movement, whose fortunes peaked during the eighties, under the Conservative Party administration of Margaret Thatcher, a social conservative. However, Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers and Listeners Association (now Mediawatch-uk) were the only political beneficiaries of tighter censorship legislation and policy during the eighties. Temporarily, the Thatcher administration passed Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which made it theoretically illegal to provide inclusive educational services or social services to lesbians and gay men.

During the nineties, John Major pursued a softer stance, and Edwina Currie, a libertarian Conservative MP, produced a private members bill to reduce the gay male age of consent from twenty-one to sixteen. However, the British Parliament accepted eighteen as a compromise age of consent. In 2001, full age of consent equality prevailed. Since 1997, Tony Blair has been Prime Minister, and fully supportive of lesbian/gay rights. Under his Labour Party government, Clause 28 was repealed, the gay male age of consent was equalised at sixteen (2001), civil partnership legislation (civil unions) were introduced, and gay adoption reform passed after several libertarian Conservative MPs crossed the floor to support the measure.

Despite occasional attempts to reduce time limits for abortion access, British anti-abortion groups have been unsuccessful at limiting women's abortion access, due to that country's long-established and vigilant pro-choice movement.

Britain, Canada and New Zealand have all faced repeated attempts to introduce voluntary euthanasia legislation, or decriminalise voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide through the courts, in the case of Canada. However, to date, none of these reform efforts have passed the select committee stage in any national, federal or provincial parliament. For example, a euthanasia law reform bill has just been postponed in the United Kingdom's House of Lords, after a massive anti-euthanasia/pro-care rally in London.

[edit] Issues

Positions labeled "Christian Right" (although sometimes held by only a minority of those commonly considered "Christian Right") include:

  • Issues of sexuality and reproduction:
    • Opposition both to same-sex marriage laws and to other measures to extend benefits patterned on civil rights to homosexuals
    • An emphasis on the value of the nuclear family in raising children
    • Opposition to sexual practices diverging from heterosexual relations within the context of monogamous marriage
    • Opposition to divorce (more widely as social disapproval rather than calls for legal restrictions)
    • Neutral to opposing attitudes towards social policies designed to facilitate women working outside the home.
    • The Pro-Life movement, which generally advocates:
      • Stronger regulation or prohibition of abortion
      • Opposition to euthanasia
      • Regulation and restriction of certain applications of biotechnology; in particular, both therapeutic and reproductive human cloning and stem cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos. See also bioethics.
      • Opposition to the death penalty (although not all of the Pro-Life movement shares this emphasis)
    • Regulation and restriction of the publication and public exhibition of media with sexual content, both pornography and erotica.
    • Opposition to sex education classes in public schools. A spectrum of views exist, from advocation of no sex education in public schools to advocation of abstinence only to strong advocation of abstinence in concert with other sex-related information.
  • Issues of the nature and degree of separation of church and state:
    • Support for the presence of religion in the public sphere and the official activities thereof, often supported by the claim that the United States was "founded by Christians as a Christian Nation"
    • Promotion of conservative to literalist interpretations of the Bible as the basis for moral values, and enforcing such values by legislation
    • Reducing restrictions on government funding for religious charities and schools. However, some politically conservative churches refuse government funding because of their restrictions regarding acceptance of homosexuality and other issues; others endorse President Bush's "faith-based initiatives" and accept funds.
    • Educational issues:
      • Support for prayer in school
      • Support for homeschooling, and private schooling, generally as an alternative to secular education rather than for Libertarian reasons. This manifests itself as support for school vouchers.
      • Opposition to teaching aspects science subverting religious or political doctrine, including:
      • In New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, Christian Right organisations have opposed banning parental corporal punishment of children, although all three countries have banned the use of corporal punishment within schools.
    • Active private and religious involvement in charitable works (parachurch organization) such as disaster relief, medical care, adoption, help for women with problem pregnancies, development in Third World countries, etc., with accompanying opposition to building government programs and bureaucracies to accomplish the same objectives.
    • Opposition to Wicca and other Neopagan faiths receiving equal recognition and freedom of religious expression
  • Opposition to "judicial activism" by federal judges giving decisions perceived as liberal in cases affecting the above issues.
  • Strong support for President George W. Bush. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, their respective Christian Right movements support Stephen Harper, John Howard and Don Brash, although the latter was arguably prevented from winning the last New Zealand General Election in 2005 due to badly-timed Exclusive Brethren interference which may have cost urban votes. However, in the early part of his second term some have withdrawn their support for the President over concerns of the growth of the federal government and proposed amnesty for illegal aliens. In the United Kingdom, David Cameron and his Conservative Party Opposition seem to be similarly distancing themselves from their fundamentalist and evangelical voting electoral interest constituencies.
  • Middle-eastern foreign policy positions (attributable to beliefs about biblical prophesy or to inter-religious conflict)

[edit] Racism, multiculturalism, Apartheid and Indigenous rights

It is difficult to pinpoint the issue of race among the Christian Right. There are a sizable amount of non-white members of this faction.[citation needed] However, they tend to have universal opposition to Affirmative Action, in belief that it is reverse discrimination. Additionally, many midwestern Holiness and Pentecostal churches were founded by abolitionists and largely opposed segregation. Groups such as the Promise Keepers, which are allied with the Christian Right, encourage participation by men of all races in their activities, and have encouraged discussions of race and racism.

In Australia, Fred Nile has supported Aboriginal Land Rights and reconciliation. He has also strongly opposed Pauline Hanson and her racist, anti-immigration One Nation movement. In New Zealand, Brian Tamaki has been the only Māori Christian Right activist of note, perhaps because of New Zealand Pākehā Christian Right support for the League of Rights and other far right opponents of redress measures for alienated Māori land under the Treaty of Waitangi and its associated land reclamation and monetary settlement processes. Tamaki is not supported by many Pākehā fundamentalists and evangelicals for this reason, as well as perceived egocentrism. In the case of New Zealand, there was also marked opposition to the liberal anti-apartheid movements of the seventies and eighties, which sought to end sporting and diplomatic relationships with South Africa until apartheid ceased to exist in the early nineties.

[edit] Dominionism

Main article: Dominionism

Sara Diamond, Frederick Clarkson, and some other critics of the Christian Right claim that the Christian Right's political agendas are a form of Dominionism influenced by Dominion Theology and Christian Reconstructionism; the latter two are related philosophies that regard the Bible as the only strictly true reference for civics, government, scientific theory or any scholarly pursuit. Many in the Christian Right oppose this point of view, and no major Christian Right leader has gone on record as advocating Reconstructionism, although some admit being influenced by Reconstructionist philosophical writings.

[edit] Center-right electoral activism

On rare occasion, small churches ascribing themselves to the views of the Christian Right have taken overtly partisan actions, although such overtly political activities are generally considered inappropriate in most conservative Protestant churches. For example, the pastor of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina "told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry [the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004] should either leave the church or repent". [3] The church later expelled nine members who had voted for Kerry and refused to repent. [4]

Elsewhere, other western Protestant fundamentalist movements have supported conservative state or provincial or national governments. In the case of Australia's Fred Nile, he has strongly supported current Australian federal Prime Minister John Howard and his (Liberal Party of Australia/National Party of Australia)Coalition federal government, as has South Australia's Family First party, represented at the state and federal levels.

Similarly, in Canada, REAL Women of Canada and Campaign Life Coalition vociferously supported Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party of Canada at the recent Canadian general election in late 2005. Unfortunately for Harper, his party and the aforementioned social conservatives, social liberal pressure groups were monitoring their websites and those of particular social conservative constituency candidates. In the Canadian federal election of 2006 for a variety of reasons, Harper and the Canadian Tories only succeeded in achieving a minority government, and seem to have backed away from divisive tactics like repeal of federal same-sex marriage legislation.

In New Zealand, Destiny New Zealand and Christian Heritage New Zealand have been effusive in their support for the National Party of New Zealand, currently the largest Opposition party. As New Zealand is a unitary state, and has a single parliamentary chamber, there was little opportunity for social conservative niche parties to influence politics until the electorate voted for Mixed Member Proportional electoral reform at a referendum held in 1993.

Thus far, United Future New Zealand has been the only fundamentalist party able to take advantage of this, but has not conspicuously succeeded in preventing sex work decriminalisation or civil union laws, and suffered decimation at the New Zealand general election 2005. At that election, the Exclusive Brethren may have alienated urban voters from Don Brash and his National Party. Social conservatism does not appear to be electorally viable in modern New Zealand.

In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher actively courted the conservative Christian vote throughout her tenure as Prime Minister (1979-1990). However, despite Clause 28 and stricter censorship law and policy, the Conservative Family Campaign proved to be divisive, and the Conservative Party has always had a more active socially liberal libertarian contingent than its Republican counterpart in the United States. The Conservative Family Campaign was closed down in the late nineties under John Major, and replaced with a less strident Conservative Christian Fellowship. To complicate matters, there are also left-wing evangelicals in British Protestant circles, who strongly disagree with the US Christian Right over issues like social and environmental policies, and major evangelical and anti-abortion lobby groups like CARE,SPUC and LIFE have always been careful to appear multipartisan, and not alienate social conservatives within the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats.

Under new Tory leader David Cameron, it appears that the British Conservatives have decided that there is no benefit in seeking social conservative constituencies if they alienate younger, gay, urban professional or female voters.

From the above, one can conclude that while other western Christian Right movements model themselves on the US Christian Right and seek closer ties with their dominant national centre-right parties, that backfired in New Zealand and perhaps Canada, and has only succeeded in Australia, and only at the federal level, at that. In Britain, the Conservative Party has backed away from actively courting evangelical and fundamentalist voters out of fear of alienating other significant electoral interest constituencies.

[edit] Contrasting viewpoints

The Christian Right, while being a fairly large movement, does not represent all evangelicals. Some who are theologically conservative are politically liberal, such as Tony Campolo and Stanley Hauerwas. The Christian Left includes some theological conservatives. Many evangelicals in both the United States and abroad are more or less politically neutral.

[edit] Notable persons and organizations said to be members of the Christian Right

[edit] Australia

People:

In Australia, the Liberal Party is considered to be the main politically Conservative party. It and minor parties that include the National Party, Family First and the Christian Democratic Party make up the highly influential politically conservative voice in Australia. These parties have been successful in banning both gay marriage and euthanasia in Australia as well as blocking moves by opposing groups such as the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens who wanted to setup heroin injecting rooms and legislate for same-sex civil unions. They also have a history of financially assisting faith-based schools and Christian movements such as the booming Hillsong Church of the Assemblies of God.

Organisations:

[edit] Canada

[edit] New Zealand

[edit] People

[edit] Organisations

[edit] UK

[edit] People

[edit] Organizations

[edit] USA

[edit] People

[edit] Organizations & submovements

[edit] See also

Contrast: Christian left, Atheist right, Atheist left

[edit] References

<references />

  • Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford. ISBN 0-89862-864-4.
  • Green, John C., James L. Guth and Kevin Hill. 1993. “Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978–1988.” The Journal of Politics 55(1), (February): 80–91.
  • Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1990. To The Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Marsden, George. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.
  • Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-553-06794-4.
  • Noll, Mark. 1989. Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the 1980s.
  • Noll, Mark and Rawlyk, George: Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Canada, Britain, Canada and the United States: Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press: 1994: ISBN 0-7735-1214-4
  • Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 0-87722-598-2.
  • Wald, Kenneth. 2003. Religion and Politics in the United States.
  • Wilcox, Clyde. Onward Christian Soldiers: The Religious Right in American Politics.
  • Wills, Garry. Under God: Religion and American Politics.

[edit] External links

[edit] Critical

[edit] Supportive

See: Christian politics (index) for articles related to this subject.
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Christian right

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