- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
In January of 1973, the US Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the United States. That decision by the Court radicalized conservative religious groups in the United States and served as a focal point for political action by those groups. It is ironic that many of the so-called “fundamentalists” were originally organized in the nineteenth century as a reaction to the “Social Gospel Movement” in American Protestantism.
The Social Gospel Movement sought to translate the teachings of Jesus into public policy. In the nineteenth century, that meant abolishing slavery. Ultimately, the abolitionist movement swept Abraham Lincoln into the White House and ended with the Civil War. In the US, it meant that Protestant churches were divided along social/political lines, for example the Northern Baptist Church and the Southern Baptist Church, etc. As a reaction to these acrimonious divisions, there was a sentiment among many American Protestants to return to the basics, essentially, to focus on the Bible and leave politics at the threshold of the church.
Roe v. Wade changed all of that. A political science professor I had as an undergraduate explained in a lecture that whenever the Supreme Court rules significantly “ahead” of the population on a social issue, there is a social backlash. In the case of Roe v. Wade, that backlash came in a galvanization of Protestant Fundamentalists and later, an increasing number of Catholics. Why later? Because in 1973 the Catholic Church was in the middle of its own internal reorganization and redefinition with Vatican II Catholic, leadership was “off balance” and the laity was disoriented. That began to change with the election of John Paul II and his call to a “Culture War.”
Roe v. Wade provided a focal point for religious conservatives in American society. The abolishment of legalized abortion became the crusade that united the religious right across denominational divides and granted them a common cause, a crusade.
At that time, Watergate was ravaging the Republican Party. The Elections of 1976 swept Jimmy Carter into the White House and the Democrats into Congress. In order to abolish abortion, the radical right knew they needed to regain the White House. The economic crisis and Carter’s embarrassment with a failed rescue attempt of embassy personnel in Iran provided that opportunity. Regan was elected in 1980 and he’d help end legalized abortion.
Regan did not do that, but he was a “good guy” in the eyes of the religious right and he did manage to pack the Supreme Court. That is how Roe v. Wade would be reversed, through the Court. That did not happen. If only the Republicans controlled Congress, then Roe v. Wade could be legislated away! Therefore, countless right to lifers staffed phone banks, wrote checks, became volunteers and voted Republican. Even though, for most of them, it was not in their economic self-interest to do so. Newt Gingrich and company were elected into office, the Republican Party controlled Congress. Gingrich published his “Contract with America.”
Consider what would have happened if the Republicans had actually delivered on their promises to the Religious Right. The Crusade against Roe v. Wade would have ended and with it would have ended the motivation for all those folks to volunteer for, donate to and vote for the Republican Party. As an aside, consider what would happen to the income and political influence of all the leadership of the religious right (if Roe v. Wade had been abolished) and some of our own LGBTQ organizations (if we obtained full equality).
Somehow, in all of these decades the Republican Party never managed to deliver and reverse Roe v. Wade. Why should they? After all those, “Right to Lifers” became an engine in the Republican political machine. They volunteered for political campaigns, they donated funds, and they voted Republican (even when Republican policies were contrary to their economic interests). Republican candidates courted the Religious Right with anti-abortion rhetoric and promises of ending abortion, but somehow they never delivered on those promises. There were plenty of enemies to blame, the Democrats, the Media, Hollywood, etc.
What the “Right to Lifers” are to the Republican Party, the LGBTQ folks are to the Democratic Party. Like them, we are a “Captured Constituency.” A line from the movie “Body Snatchers” comes to mind: “This is important, where are you going to run?” Right to Lifers know that the Republican Party is the only game in town, just as LGBTQ folks know that the Democratic Party is the only game in town. The RNC and the DNC also know this and so, they can continue to spout of all sorts of rhetoric that creates the illusion that they really will change things. However, they never quite manage that change, because if they did they would lose all those radicalized supporters.
We need to hold individual incumbents accountable for their actual voting record on our issues. Simply because “(D)” appears behind their name should not automatically translate into donations, volunteering our talents/time, or our vote. If an incumbent votes against equality legislation, or blocks that legislation from being voted on, we should reciprocate. When we do so, we should write a letter to that incumbent and to the DNC explaining what we did and clearly stating our motives. We should carefully monitor other incumbents and the Party’s actions (not merely their rhetoric).
At this point, some will be horrified and say, that will help our enemies! The fact is the greatest enemies are not found in the other side’s camp, they are those in your own camp who betray you. Only after we weed out those who betray us, can we have any real hope of winning. Only then, will those in leadership and strategic positions in the DNC take our issues seriously.