Roots of Right-Wing Populist Rage -- Reds to Beds

Yesterday Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa said Gay Marriage was part of socialist plan. Why does this make sense in a Christian Right worldview?

How did the post WWII Christian Right shift from a focus on the military defeat of godless global communism to a policing of our bedrooms—straight or gay? What happened? Why care? How do they justify vilifying President Obama?

Here is the report that broke the story: Congressman: Same sex marriage part of push for socialism By Michael O'Brien, The Hill.

Grassroots activists in the Christian Right are part of the tea bag & town hall right-wing populist revolt. This post will expose the roots of some of the right-wing slogans and poster signs that seem so far-fetched.

It is based on the premise that we need to out-organize the Political Right, not outshout them or simply dismiss them as cranks.

Teabaggers and Townhallers come from several pre-existing constituencies:

  • Economic Libertarians
  • Christian Right activists
  • Nebulous Anti-Elite Conspiracists
  • White Nationalists (xenophobic & anti-immigrant)
  • Organized White Supremacists

Sometimes there is overlap, sometimes there is feuding, some groups denounce other groups—but they all can push the same public agenda in the form of parallel projects. Hobbling the Obama Administraion is their shared goal, but it is based on different worldviews with different storylines that motivate action

At last weekend’s Values Voter Summit in the nation’s seat of power, the closing banquet keynote speaker Phyllis Schlafly praised the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC) and its founder, Dr. Fred Schwarz. CACC came to life in 1953 at the height of anti-communism during the Cold War and its witch hunts. Recent Christian Right crusades, however, have largely been based on rolling back gay marriage and undermining gay rights, outlawing abortion, replacing comprehensive sexuality education in schools with abstinence-only curricula, and other gender-related issues.

One of the core ideas of the US right in the 1960s was that that modern liberalism was an ally of freedom-strangling collectivism and a handmaiden for totalitarian “Godless Communism.” Yet even before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a shift in the Christian Right to a broader more encompassing conspiracy theory based on the looming threat of secular humanism, a Godless “theology” in their minds. Understanding how the shift took place helps us understand the militancy and framing of the Christian Right contingent in the current right-wing populist revolt.

Among the most influential leaders of the countersubversion movement against the global communist conspiracy following the McCarthy period was Dr. Fred Schwarz and his California-based Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC). A tireless lecturer, Schwarz in 1960 authored You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists) which sold over one million copies. The incessant assault on America by forces of godless communism were central themes in several other widely distributed books used to mobilize support for Goldwater’s Presidential campaign in 1964.

Schwarz signaled the shift toward a secular humanist boogeyman (constructed as a scapegoat) in an essay written in 1981 where he explained to his audience the sinister plan to corrupt America’s youth through abortion, sex education, and homosexuality. When populated by fully depraved, decadent, and disarmed Americans, the country would fall like a rotting plum into the patiently–waiting outstretched hands of communist agents at home and abroad. A collectivist totalitarian state would follow.

Thus the current focus on gender issues is rooted in an anti-communist conspiracy theory, but also serves to defend traditional patriarchal and heterosexual societal norms. This defense of traditional heteropatriarchy is often a subtext masked by pseudoscientific claims, alarmist conclusions, and the invocation of God’s name in defense of “traditional family values.”

Schwarz explained how America would be brought to its knees in an essay in his CACC Newsletter entitled: "Morality, Communism, and Politics." According to Schwarz, the liberal news media didn't understand the landslie victory of Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Preidential election because:

Having long discarded what they often refer to sneeringly as the Puritan Ethic, they feel little or no moral outrage themselves and are incapable of understanding the intensity of the sense of moral outrage many Americans have felt as they have observed a liberal elite dominating the political process and destroying traditional moral values.

Schwarz then listed some of the "sources of outrage." Here are some excerpts with Schwarz's original subtitles:

Legal Slaughter of the Unborn

Many resent bitterly being compelled to participate in the insane system in which it is legal to maim, mutilate, and destroy any beautiful and healthy baby while it is in the body of its mother...

This framing of reproductive choice as murder continues relatively unchanged today in the Christian Right. Other issues have required some tweaking.

Promotion of Venereal Disease and Illegitimacy Disguised as Sex Education

Venereal disease and illegitimate births are being fostered in tax-supported public schools and also in some private schools by programs of sex education, sometimes misnamed "Family Life" education…. The paradox is that these programs are often sold to the parents by the claim that they will diminish venereal disease and illegitimacy.

The typical "family life" educational program instructs adolescents on techniques of sexual intercourse and contraception in a co-educational and morally neutral environment. It break down the personal and social barriers to promiscuity which have been erected with such difficulty by civilized mankind on the arduous journey from savagery to civilization, and human nature does the rest….

Schwarts claims that sex education "leads to a weakening of the family and to decay of the nation while the liberal theoreticians 'gloat because they have forced their advanced ideas upon the untutored and backward masses."

Homosexuality Disease and Mass Murder

The perverse has become "Gay". Liberal tolerance demands that the homosexual lifestyle be regarded as an acceptable alternative to the traditional family of husband, wife, and children. Homosexuals must be allowed to teach in schools, to organize, agitate and proselytize. Liberal chic demands it….

According to Schwarz: "The antagonism to life, which is inherent in homosexuality, reveals itself in periodic discoveries of mass murders associated with homosexual activities."

There is also a racial subtext to Schwarz's view of immorality, contained in another of his laundry list of liberal secular humanist outrages:

Compulsory Busing for Racial Integration

Parents have become secondary citizens and have lost control over major areas in the lives of their children. A liberal elite has decided that all children are disadvantaged unless they attend schools in which a substantial number of the students are members of other races. This has led to children being bused forcibly to schools outside their own neighborhood ….

The children of the elite who force this policy on lesser mortals are usually spared the ordeal of busing for racial integration because their parents can afford to send them to private schools and do so.

The resentment and anger at liberal elites for pushing folks at the grassroots is quite clear, and is reflected in contemporary tea bag and town hall protests.

Schwarz explained that the "relationship of the declining morality within the U.S.A. to increasing Soviet military strength is revealed by the communist formula for the conquest of the U.S.A. It is: 'External encirclement, plus internal demoralization, plus thermonuclear blackmail, lead to progressive surrender.'" So, said Schwartz, the "communists do not need to convert large numbers of U.S. citizens to communism in order to conquer this country. Demoralization, not conversion to communism, is the essential element. Anticommunists must be concerned with the moral issues.

Schwarz continued:

The communists remain immensely powerful in the military, economic and propaganda realms. Their agents of influence remain entrenched in American institutions. The liberal elite continue to dominate in educational and judicial realms. The love of pleasure has sapped the patriotic fervor of the young.

The battle for freedom, morality, and national security is just beginning. A new ray of hope has appeared, but it must be enlarged into a glorious dawn. The achievement of this demands the best we have and are.

President Ronald Reagan, seen as forcing the collapse of communism in Europe was a hero to the Christian Right, which was largely responsible for his election in the first place. They expected Reagan to end the moral outrages of elite liberalism as well. He did not. The stuggle for God and Country continued. It continues today in the form of Christian Right activism against abortion, gay rights, and comprehensive sex education..

So an elite liberal secular humanist conspiracy of collectivists put Barack Obama in the Oval Office. From there, Obama can coordinate the encircling of America for the final assault on freedom. This includes the seizure of all firearms in private possession; the roundup of Patriots into “FEMA Concentration Camps;” and the establishment of a New World Order totalitarian state.

For apocalyptic Christians, this is all part of the grand evil plan of Satan in the End Times. For older Christian Right activists, this all is just another stage in the fight against global communism.

Evangelicals who came of age after the Cold War, however, need more than anti-communism as motivation. So the Christian Right reaches them through invoking God's name filtered through an idiosyncatic interpretation of sacred text in the Bible, while supplying them with copius pseudo-scientific "studies" proving abortion, homosexuality, and other liberal secular humanist moral outrages are dangerous to society, especially children.

There are tens of millions of conservative Christian evangelicals who read, watch, or hear these messages on a weekly basis. Stop laughing and start organizing.

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More to come.

Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates, is co-author with Matthew N. Lyons of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. He has studied and written about the Political Right for close to 40 years.