Despite Reports to the Contrary, the Christian Right Is Not Dying

(PHOTO: REUTERS/JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN) Kentucky's Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, makes remarks after receiving the "Cost of Discipleship" award at a Family Research Council conference in Washington, September 25, 2015.
Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, makes remarks after receiving the “Cost of Discipleship” award at a Family Research Council conference in Washington, September 25, 2015.

The smug reporting on the imminent demise of the Christian Right was prevalent during President Barack Obama’s second term, with most mainstream media missing all the telling signs that suggest the Christian Right was not only alive, but a force to be reckoned with.  

These reports were especially pronounced last month, when it was assumed the Christian Right backed the wrong proverbial horse, Donald Trump, in the race to be president. Hillary Clinton would be the last nail in the Christian Right’s coffin, many had assumed and hoped.

Instead, the Christian Right played a significant role in helping Trump win. One of four voters were self-identified white evangelicals, and of them, 81 percent voted for Trump. As Sean Trende pointed out for Real Clear Politics, Trump got more votes from white evangelicals than Clinton got from blacks and Latinos combined.

This number even underestimates the strength of the Christian Right because it excludes conservative Catholics and non-white Christian Right supporters. (The exit polls only asked whites if they consider themselves “born again or evangelical.”)

But there were signs of Christian Right strength even before Trump’s victory.

For many progressives, Kim Davis perfectly symbolized the death of the Christian Right. They celebrated when the Kentucky county clerk was thrown in jail for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. They mocked her faith. They accused her of hypocrisy because she was divorced (before she was a Christian). They even made fun of her and her husband’s clothing preferences, particularly the sweater she wore to the 2016 State of the Union.

Amid all this ridicule, progressives missed the big picture: Kim Davis won.

What Kim Davis wanted was an accommodation, so that she personally would not have to certify marriage licenses for same-sex couples due to her religious convictions. Same-sex couples would still be able to obtain a marriage license out of her office with this accommodation.

This fix was simple. All Kentucky had to do was replace county clerk certification with some other official stamp, such as the governor’s signature. It would be a win-win solution. Davis would get what she wanted and same-sex couples could still be able to get a marriage license.

Progressives, however, were not in an accommodating mood; only win-lose would satisfy. Many followed the advice of Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet, who, in May, compared conservative Christians to Nazis, and advised that progressives need not fear a backlash.

“When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won,” he wrote.

Similarly, an April 2015 New York Times op-ed by Frank Bruni argued that Christians “must be made” to change their views about homosexuality. That same month, Hillary Clinton told a Manhattan audience, “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” about abortion. And an August 2016 op-ed by liberal evangelical David Gushee predicted conservatives would continue to lose the culture war, claiming that efforts to protect their freedom to live according to their beliefs regarding homosexuality are done “under the guise of religious liberty.” The thought was echoed in September when the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wrote a report arguing that “religious freedom” is a code word for bigotry.

These examples illustrate progressive’s head-in-the-sand-ism over the culture wars. As these words were being said and written, progressives were already losing due to the backlash that Tushnet said they need not fear.

Kentucky had a gubernatorial election in 2015. The Republican, Matt Bevin, strongly supported Davis and used her story to mobilize supporters. The Democrat, Jack Conway, supported gay marriage as the state’s attorney general. The week of the election, media reports said Conway would win, with one poll showing him leading by five points. Bevin won by eight points and Davis got her accomodation.

Rather than symbolizing the death of the Christian Right, Davis illustrates one reason Republicans have been winning — she went into jail a Democrat and came out a Republican.

There were already signs of a backlash in other places as well.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Napp Nazworth