The Republicans are faulting President Obama for not taking a "strong enough stand" in support of the freedom marchers in Iran. Yet if the Republican/Religious Right/Neoconservative agenda had come to full fruition over the last 35 years the Republicans would have plunged America into our own version of the misbegotten theocracy destroying Iran today. I know. As a former Religious Right leader I worked to make America "safe" for "Christian values" and dangerous to everyone else. Thankfully I, and those like me, failed.
Had we succeeded America would be another version of Iran. Instead of people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson having become marginalized they'd be sitting in Washington advising whomever was the next Republican president. Instead of environmental protection and new mileage standards for cars there would be new anti-gay laws on the books.
What are the real lessons of Iran for the USA?
1) Don't mix religion and politics.
2) Thank God for the separation of church and state.
3) The Republicans are utter hypocrites.
Until I got out of the religious right (in the mid-1980s) I was both a leader of the so-called pro-life movement and a part of a Republican Party hate machine masquerading as the moral conscience of America.
If the far right of the Republican Party and we of the Religious Right had had our way by now there would be a constitutional amendment and/or laws forcing prayer in schools, disenfranchising gay men and women, banning all abortions under penalty of death, banning gay men and women from serving in the military, launching a neoconservative led and religious right backed holy war against Islam, fixing Israel's borders permanently to incorporate all the land taken in 1967 forever into a "Greater Israel" based on the "fact" that "God gave the Jews" the land "forever," capital punishment would be used routinely to punish a variety of crimes including being gay, civil rights for blacks, women, gays, unions would be in retreat, and -- other than enforcing "morality" - George W. Bush's style of "free market" non-governance would be permanent.
Think this is all far fetched? Then you never sat in secret meetings with Pat Robertson or the late Dr. Kennedy -- as I did when I was a religious right leader -- fomenting plans to "bring America back to God." If we'd won America would be a slicker more dangerous version of Iran.
Picture America if Sarah Palin was president, both houses of Congress had a deep Republican majority, and the last 30 years of appointments to the Supreme Court had all been far right choices. Picture Fox News as the only TV news with access to the government, and the editors of the New York Times in jail for "treason."
The Religious Right has been awash in anti-democratic (even anti-American) religious ideologues for the better part of 40 years. For instance I knew the founders of the so-called dominionist or "reconstruction" wing of our movement personally, people like the late Reverend Rousas John Rushdoony the father of "Christian Reconstructionism" and the modern Christian home school movement.
Rushdoony (who I met and talked with many times) believed that interracial marriage, which he referred to as "unequal yoking", should be made illegal. He also opposed "enforced integration", referred to Southern slavery as "benevolent", and said that "some people are by nature slaves". Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier. And yet his home school materials are a mainstay of the evangelical home school movement to this day!
Rushdoony's 1973 opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law, says that fundamentalist Christians must "take control of governments and impose strict biblical law" on America and the world. That would mean the death penalty for "practicing homosexuals."
Many evangelical leaders deny holding Reconstructionist beliefs but Beverly and Tim LaHaye (of Concerned Women for Americaand the "Left Behind" novels that glorify religious violence), Donald Wildmon (American Family Association) and the late D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries) -- served alongside Rushdoony on the secretive Coalition for Revival, a group formed in 1981 to "reclaim America for Christ." I went to the early meetings. I first met Tim LaHaye at one such meeting. And what Dobson, Falwell et al were pushing, and what the "tea parties" and Fox News are all about today, is one or another version of the Rushdoony/theocracy version of the Iranian mullahs American-style.
When there are tens of thousands of Americans sitting in evangelical churches every Sunday wherein President Obama is vilified as an "abortionist," a "Communist," a "secret Muslim," and even as "the Antichrist," when the former vice president accuses our President of what amounts to treason, all because President Obama won't allow the torture of prisoners in an American version of holy war, all because he has decided it is wise to build bridges of respect to Muslim countries, we've left recognizable political territory and entered the realm of violence-inciting hate and delusion of the kind Iran's "supreme leader" indulges in.
Picture the harshest Old Testament laws applied at home and the harshest neoconservative military policy abroad and that would be America if the Republicans had everything they wanted. We'd be in three wars now instead of two - Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. It would be open season on domestic surveillance. Torture would be legal. Habeas Corpus would be a thing of the past. Women would be in prison for having had abortions. Gay men and women would be hounded and if they were murdered there would be leaders saying they had it coming. The CIA and FBI would be operating inside the USA to crush dissent. Blackwater (and other companies like it) would be taking over more and more military duties and operating internationally as a mercenary death squad.
Look at Iran and give thanks that the Republican Party -- the tool of America's mullahs married to the Neocon war mongers -- is in decline and has been rejected by the American people. Work to keep America secular, free and democratic.
Stay vigilant. Having failed at the ballot box the Republicans and their far right hate-filled supporters are beginning to foment violence with their crazy anti-Obama talk and hysteria. As Bob Herbert said in his NY Times (June 20) column; "I hope I'm wrong, but I can't help feeling as if the murder at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the assassination of the abortion doctor in Wichita, Kan., and the slaying of three police officers in Pittsburgh -- all of them right-wing, hate-driven attacks -- were just the beginning and that worse is to come."
The battle between oppressive religion and freedom is not over yet-- not in Iran, nor here in America.
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)