Who are these people?! Where do they come from?! Ordinary Americans might wonder why anyone would stoop so low as to follow Glenn Beck, Fox News and Dick Armey (and their corporate sponsors masquerading as "FreedomWorks") as they organize their "9/12 March On Washington" to cynically exploit the 9/11 attack.
Patriotic Americans might question the organizer's aim to provide a media forum for dimwitted right wingers to scream "Liar!" "Socialist!" "Antichrist!" "Muslim!" "Death Panels!" "He's not an American!" and so on and on and on about the commander in chief charged with defending us from further attacks. And some people might even cry "shame on you!" to the more mainstream Republicans participating that include Dick Armey of FreedomWorks, as well as GOP Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Pence of Indiana, Tom Price of Georgia, and South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint.
Ordinary folks from Planet Earth may ask why the Republican Party, right-wing activists and members of the Religious Right seem so unreachable with mere facts let alone decency and decorum. (As the proud father of a US Marine who fought in Afghanistan, I'm particularly outraged that these people would exploit the 9/11 attacks after my son and others were prepared to give their lives in response to our enemies.)
As a former Religious Right leader, who was raised (and home-schooled by my Evangelical-leader parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer) in the movement, let me explain just why the ordinary rules of decency don't apply to the right these days.
Let me also answer this question: Who are these people?
Protecting Your Children From Satan
A big part of the answer to understanding the heightened climate of outright hate and fear of the "other" is the home school and Christian school movement. It is a modern incarnation of the anti-federal government ideology of earlier firebrands such as John Calhoun who was the 7th Vice President and a Southern politician in the 19th century. Calhoun embraced slavery, states' rights, limited government, and said that Americans should secede from the union if it went against their wishes. (See: "Calhoun Conservatism Raises Its Ugly Head" by Mike Lux in the Huffington Post Sept 11/09.)
In the early 1970s the evangelicals like my late father and James Dobson decided that the our society had fallen so far "away from God" and so far from "America's Christian history" that it was time to metaphorically decamp to not just another country but to another planet:. In other words virtually unnoticed by the media and mainstream political operatives, a big chunk of American society seceded from the union in all but name.
What they did is turn the white race-based in "Christian school" movement of the 1950s into a countercultural phenomena. As tens of thousands of new Christian schools opened, it was no longer just about "protecting" white kids from minorities and African-Americans. It was about protecting your children from Satan in other words the United States government's long reach through the public school system.
To protect your children from Satan -- in other words mainstream, open patriotic and pluralistic America -- you either kept them at home where mom and dad could teach the children right from wrong or sent them to a cloistered private evangelical/fundamentalist school. At home or in school you used curriculum prepared by the likes of James--beat-your-child-and-dare-to-discipline-Dobson, RJ-slavery-was-a-good-thing-Rushdoony, or many and other right-wing anti-American activists. That curriculum presented "secular America" as downright evil. Hating the USA became next to godliness.
The Anti-American Home Schoolers Come Of Age
We are now several generations into this experiment of holier-than-thou withdrawal from our American mainstream culture. If you wonder who it is that's both running and underwriting organizations such as the Family Research Council, Focus On The Family, Freedom Works and other organizers of the 9/12 March and who are the most faithful followers the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh or viewers of Fox News your answer is: it's the home school/Christian school generation of men and women now hitting their thirties and even forties who might as well have been raised on a different planet.
What are these home school and Christian school children taught? Here's a quote from one of the far right's leading home school curricula creators:
"The political question is this: By what biblical standard is the pagan to be granted the right to bring political sanctions against God's people? We recognize that unbelievers are not to vote in Church elections. Why should they be allowed to vote in civil elections in a covenanted Christian nation? Which judicial standards will they impose? By what other standard than the Bible?"
(Gary North of Institute For Christian Economics)
The generation raised on the belief that the US government is illegitimate because it is trying to "impose" non-biblical laws on people has hit the streets. These are the people who grew up indoctrinated into an alternative reality. Today they are out there waving signs of Obama dressed as Hitler. They are buying weapons and ammunition. Some are in the growing and revived militia movement. They are Dick Armey's foot soldiers. People like Armey and Beck can count on the ignorance of their dupes. It's against their religion to read a real newspaper, watch anything but Fox or go to a real school.
Evangelical Red Guards
Over the last 30 years Evangelical fundamentalists have managed to do what Chairman Mao failed to do with his Red Guards: indoctrinate a whole generation of evangelical people to see their own society as the enemy and act like subversives from within the culture. These people are as anti-American as Al-Qaeda. The "Christian Reconstruction" movement is working for theocracy. Reconstructionism (of which Gary North is one leader) says that the law given for the political and legal ordering of ancient Israel is intended for all people at all times.
Reconstructionist leader David Barton gives a definition:
"The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law."
Who are Glenn Beck's foot soldiers? In effect what we have is a group of indoctrinated people who have never actually lived in America because they were brought up deliberately cloistered from it by their parents and churches. Because they are legally "Americans" they can move freely around our democracy trying to destroy it working within the United States. Today they are acting like a fifth column, no, they are a fifth column. Some of them have not just seceded metaphorically, there is even a growing movement for states to secede literally.
Today the right wing America haters actually are doing to America what no "illegal" immigrants ever do: work to overthrow our democracy and replace it with a theocracy. The home-schooled, privately educated brainwashed horde are an antidemocratic, fundamentally anti-American political movement. For a start they do not accept the results of the last election.
Liberal/Progressive Wishful Thinking and Blindness
Meanwhile those ordinary Americans including many Democrats, progressives and liberals who work within the system can hardly imagine that there are people so far outside the lines of what they regard as ordinary decent behavior that the progressives seem psychologically unequipped to deal with this reality.
President Obama is one such person. His talk of bipartisanship is a pipe dream. Why?
Bipartisan Pipe Dream
Because you can't be bipartisan with people who don't play by the same rules -- say accepting the will of the people -- as you do. Obama is not alone in his gentlemanly wishful thinking. For instance consider New York Times book review editor Sam Tanenhaus saying in his book (The Death of Conservatism) that the the conservative movement is over.
Tanenhaus rightly points out that the extremism of the right has driven away traditional Republicans. I ought to know! I, as a life-long Republican and former Religious Right activist helped create this situation. But Tanenhaus and others like him just don't get the fact that the far right is resurgent, in fact more dangerous than ever as a wounded animal is dangerous. They don't get it because kindly liberals also live in a bubble.
The kindly liberal reasonable bubble of an open free culture in which reason, argument in fact prevails is far removed from the other America, one of militia training camps, fundamentalist churches, parents who follow Dobson's "parenting" advice by "breaking" their children and whipping them (as Dobson tells them to do in his books) and thus raising the damaged and dangerous automatons of biblical vengeance and sadism.
The Last Chess Game You'll Ever Play
What reasonable people don't understand is this: if one person is playing chess abiding by the rules and their opponent is losing at the chess game it may appear that they have lost the match. But what if one person is willing to change the rules? For instance, if you're playing chess against someone who -- if they start losing -- takes a lead pipe out of their back pocket and smashes you over the head with it the "rules" change.
The real story of the Religious Right and their power to destroy is told by Max Blumenthal in Republican Gomorrah, and Jeff Sharlet in The Family and by me in Crazy For God. What our books have in common is the understanding that you can lose in the political system but still "win" -- according to your destructive agenda -- if your agenda is non-political but rather religious and apocalyptic in nature.
To understand the Religious Right today and how dangerous they are don't think politics -- think serial killers who "win" by "getting even" with the society they perceive as having disrespected them. It isn't about facts. It isn't about election results. It isn't about truth. It's about victimhood and revenge on the "elite" in other words on everyone not like you. It is about the weird combination of sadism and masochism Blumenthal describes in his book.
Think Republicans who have no plan of their own for health care reform other than stopping Obama. Think "Deathers" and "Birthers" who are all about de-legitimizing our system as "evil" because it includes rights for gays.
New Rules: Anarchy and Scorched Earth
What those who think that the power of the Religious Right and/or the Republicans is ended don't understand is that it's only ended if you believe in the rules. When I say the rules I mean, for instance, that if you lose an election the other side gets to legislate. However if your opponent is not interested in the rules and is, A) waiting for Jesus to return and consume all the "infidels" or, B) you are just waiting to take that "lead pipe" out of your back pocket -- say go to public meetings and intimidate people by carrying loaded weapons to those meetings -- or worse, maybe even use them to shoot down someone -- all polite bets are off!
The fact of the matter is we now know what the experiment in raising children outside of the American mainstream means. It means that there's a whole subculture within American culture that mistrusts facts precisely because they are facts. They glory an alternative view of not just politics but of reality.
They frequent the creationist museum and look at dioramas of dinosaurs cavorting with humans. They believe that gay people choose to be gay just stick it to the rest of us and could change if they invite Jesus into their hearts. They believe that before you run for governor of Alaska, for instance, you should get a preacher specializing in "casting out the spirit of witchcraft" to anoint you so you can win against the demonic forces of secularism -- as was the case with Sarah Palin when she first ran for governor. They believe that the NRA was telling the truth when they claimed that Obama would "take away your guns" and so have loaded up with more guns and ammunition. They think the time has come to rise up and overthrow the government. And yes, most of them also believe that black people are inferior to whites, so to have a black man in the White House is itself "proof" of American's fall from grace.
There's no arguing with such people and no winning against them using mere elections. They are not playing by American rules. Their idea of winning is not fair elections but Armageddon.
Religious Right Growing Again
Those who say that the Religious Right and the far right have lost their power are looking through the lens of rule-obeying democratic liberalism. They don't understand that their opponents will always carry the proverbial lead pipe in his or her back pocket. To the progressives who think that the Religious Right and the right wing has lost its power I say this: You're correct when it comes to political facts (for the moment) of the last election, but you're dead wrong when it comes to the way revolutions work.
Second American "Tea Party" Revolution
Revolutionaries never have played by the rules. They don't have to win by the rules. They hate the rules. They don't live in a rule based or fact based universe.
They believe they are serving a "higher cause" so it makes the "mere human" rules unimportant. They're ready to shout down opponents, call out "liar" about someone telling the truth, undermine public meetings and/or commit physical violence. They are also willing to become the tools of cynical corporate lobbyists using them for ulterior purposes, say stalling health care reform.
In order to "win" -- in other words destroy our country as we know it -- the far right merely needs to be true to its own rule which is, to put it very mildly, that coloring outside the lines is not only perfectly okay but required.
Not only do the Religious Right distrust facts to them facts are evil. You are "satanic" if you believe in evolution. You're also satanic if you believe health-care reform is about anything but death panels and abortions. You're satanic if you don't believe that gay people are evil or if you think sex education is sensible. You're satanic if you don't believe in Satan!
The tactics that progressives develop for actually winning against the right have to involve far more than politics. They have to also involve ceaseless vigilance against an enemy that has now -- literally -- raised up an armed, paranoid and deluded alternative nation within our borders and created a fifth column to undermine the United States and our democracy. They need to be called out by the rest of us in no uncertain terms.
Long term the Religious Right subculture has to be understood, then exposed for what it is: an anti-democracy movement built on willful lies with potentially violent underpinnings in the thrall of an apocalyptic cult of revenge on everyone not like "us." It is also the useful tool of corporate lobbyists. Who use these shock troops of the proudly ignorant for non-ideological reasons.
The Religious Right may have lost a round politically but they've still got a "lead pipe" in their back pocket. They can still "win" by making the rest of us lose our democracy by increments. They will even spit in the rest of our faces by exploiting the national tragedy of 9/11 in their 9/12 "Tea Party" march.
Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism)