An Obituary for Right-Wing Evangelicalism?

On December 16, 2012, US evangelicalism uttered its last breath. 

On this day Fox News pundit Mike Huckabee (a.k.a. Mr. “More Conversation, Less Confrontation”) joined forces with Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer to proclaim that the school massacre in Newtown, CT should be blamed on the gays. 

Following this news, Jesus of Nazareth left the building.

Just last month, as the movement struggled for breath, other far-right pastors blamed the gays for Hurricane Sandy. And just recently evangelicals kicked sand in the Supreme Court’s face after these sissies dared to question their biblical understanding of family. (Justice Scalia and Rick Warren joined in this sandstorm by equating “gay marriage” with sodomy and getting punched in the face.) 

But it took the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to deliver the fatal blow to this once-hardy American monolith. The Newtown tragedy gave evangelical pastors the opportunity to attribute a brutal mass murder to the “homosexual” lifestyle, along with other key religious right talking points—abortion, lack of prayer in schools, and feminists.

In a mid-month op-ed in the NY Times, pastor John S. Dickerson raised up his voice in lamentation, crying out that evangelical America’s decline could be halted if only pastors and pundits would put on their man pants. And he boldly offered a vision of Americana that only exists in TV-Land reruns.  

Many biographies have already been written of right-wing evangelicalism, as prior to its demise this mighty movement loomed large in the US religious landscape.

In recent years, even after decades of ebb and flow, US evangelicals managed to throw a well-funded tea party sponsored by Citizens United. Even Billy Graham rose out of retirement to hum an anti-gay Nixon era tune as they prayed away the gay, vetoed vaginas, and kicked science to the curb. The ghost of Joe McCarthy rose up from the dead, turning progressive prophets into fair-trade-coffee-drinking toothless zombies.

When evangelicals did the Mormon Mash and began droning “rape is a gift from God,” voters dealt them a hard blow. But those still espousing a Victorian-era muscular Christianity found purpose in their driven life. They stood firm against the rising tide of secular humanism, calling out the US Supreme Court for being too queer for words. Even the thrice-married Newt Gingrich could not revise history and steer the party back on course.

Having left Jesus at a bus stop, waiting to catch a ride with some voyaging nuns, right-wing evangelicalism leaves only a few weary survivors.

bgthedoor@aol.com'

Becky Garrison contributes to a range of outlets including The Washington Post's On Faith section, The Guardian, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, Killing the Buddha, Believe Out Loud, and American Atheist. Her seven books include Roger Williams' Little Book of Virtues (2013), and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (Jossey-Bass, 2006).