For some reason, the Logan Daily News in Logan, Ohio, has seen fit to reprint a column by a local pastor named Doug Stull that originally ran in August 2017. I remember this column because Stull attacked Americans United in it. The column wasn’t very good last year, and it hasn’t improved with age.
Actually, it’s not fair to call it Stull’s column. Most of it is just a reprint of an article by another fundamentalist pastor named David Miller.
Stull and Miller don’t like the way things are playing out in America these days. Their objections will sound familiar to anyone who reads the laments of right-wing fundamentalists: A sinister cabal of secular humanists, liberals, gay people, strident feminists, Hollywood actors, people who believe in evolution, public school teachers, etc. have teamed up to drive Christianity out of American life.
“Every effort is being made to expunge references to God and Christianity from public life,” assert Stull and Miller. “Revisionist historians, liberal politicians, secularist educators, morally bankrupt entertainers, and activist judges, prodded by socialistic organizations like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), AUSCS (Americans United for Separation of Church and State), and the NEA (National Educational Association), are feverishly reshaping our history, laws, and traditional way of life. … These sinister forces have mounted a massive, full-scale assault on traditional moral values. They are endeavoring to sanitize our society, cleansing it of its Christian connections.”
Now, you could have fooled me, as I continue to see plenty of evidence of “Christian connections” in public life. Just yesterday, I was driving through Washington, D.C., and you know what I saw? Several churches holding actual services!
This passage is also telling: “Prior to the 1960s, when the Christian worldview thoroughly permeated American civilization, the anti-Christian forces demanded equal time and clamored for freedom to express dissenting, alternative views.”
Wait, people demanded equal time to air their views? How dare they? It’s almost as if the Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression or something! It’s like we created a marketplace of ideas where people were free to challenge prevailing opinion and present another option.
But more to the point, Stull and Miller make it clear here that they’re pining for the 1950s. This is a common affliction among the Religious Right. How they love that Golden Era of families, faith and freedom!
There’s just one problem: It wasn’t so golden for lots of people. I don’t want to sound like Andy Rooney, but did you ever notice that the people who speak fondly of the 1950s were the ones who were in total control then?
I don’t hear Africans-Americans talking fondly about how much they want to get back to the days of Jim Crow. Most women don’t wax nostalgic about a period when their legal rights were curbed, their professional options were severely limited and they had practically no access to effective birth control. Very few LGBTQ people are itching to return to the days when gays had to live deep in the closet and feared arrest and losing their jobs if they were unmasked. Jews aren’t interested in returning to the days when anti-Semitism was common. Non-believers aren’t particularly keen to go back to a time when they were considered on the level with communists, and their children were often compelled to pray and read the Bible in public schools.
So who does idealize the 1950s? Conservative white Christian men, usually – men like Stull and Miller who are angry that the power structure that kept them on the top and allowed them to run the lives of others has been dismantled.
They speak of a “Christian worldview,” but their model society would exclude the millions of American Christians who disagree with them. What these people really want is a government steeped in their narrow, fundamentalist and far-right interpretation of faith, a government where those who think like them call the shots and lord it over the rest of us.
Like Stull and Miller, lots of right-wing, fundamentalist Christian men (and plenty of women) idolize an America marked by stifling conformity, bland homogeny, lack of rights, social pressure, racism, sexism, homophobia, limited options for those outside the prevailing power structure and a lack of respect for religious pluralism.
The Religious Right dreams of this society, and, unfortunately, the current administration with its bogus “religious freedom task force” seems intent on giving it a boost. But many other Americans have no problem recognizing it for the nightmare it really is.