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What do you call a Right Wing Christian, ear-lie in the morning?

According to Peggy Noonan, there’s a large market for books aimed at Christians who want to have their faith debased and destroyed.

Noonan, you may have heard, is in a fluster---well, ok, she’s always in a fluster.  This time she’s flustering over The Da Vinci code.

She’s aghast that that nice Ron Howard and that nice Tom Hanks have collaborated to make a movie that’s so blasphemous, so subversive, and so...so...so insulting!

I do not understand the thinking of a studio that would make, for the amusement of a nation 85% to 90% of whose people identify themselves as Christian, a major movie aimed at attacking the central tenets of that faith, and insulting as poor fools its gulled adherents. Why would Tom Hanks lend his prestige to such a film? Why would Ron Howard?

Beats me, Peg.  As Scott Lemieux says, it’s a puzzle.

I’m guessing Noonan’s heard that the novel The Da Vinci Code’s something of a bestseller.

In fact, it’s an industry.

That she apparently can’t see any connection between its bestseller status and it’s being turned into a movie is just another sign that she needs to get out more and spend less time communing with angels in the form of dolphins.

But her assertion that 85 to 90 percent of Americans are Christians shows that A.) she doesn’t bother to look things up before throwing numbers around and B.) she has the same understanding of math and fractions as Bertie Wooster, who has observed that half the world doesn’t know how the other three-quarters lives.

Surely it should have occured to her that if 85 to 90 percent of Americans are Christians and The Da Vinci Code is selling like...well, like a book that everybody and his brother are buying, then some of those books must be being bought by Christians.

Unless she thinks that the 10 to 15 percent of Americans who are godless Liberals are buying up multiple copies and forcing them on their Christian friends in order to shake their faith in the divinity of Jesus, there must be a lot of Christians who want to be told that Jesus didn’t die on Golgotha that day 1973 years ago.

Because, you know, no one reads potboiler novels just for fun.

Now, there are folks of the Right Wing persuasion who believe that seeing movies about prepubescent children learning magic will inspire a generation of witches and warlocks, and others who believe that movies about gay cowboys will cause their sons to run off to go fishing with their best guy pals, and others who argue that movies about crusading journalists exposing lying demogogues as the liars and demogogues they are will teach us all that Communism is the cat’s meow and way cooler than democracy.

So, if Noonan believes that a movie about the murderous adventures of an albino monk and how Tom Hanks’ physical charms are irresistable to the likes of Audrey Tautou will lead to crises of faith all over God’s Country, she’s simply conforming to a type, and God bless her and save her.

Not much I can do to help her, except point out that generations of kids have grown up quite certain that real mice don’t talk or wear red shorts and white gloves.

The real danger in what she’s saying is in the continuation of two ideas:

A.  America is a Christian nation.

B.  Somehow the great Christian majority is being oppressed by a tiny minority of Liberal elitists.

The truth is that a minority of people who identify themselves as Christians feel themselves to be oppressed by the existence of a majority of people who don’t agree with their idea of what Christianity is or ought to be.

It is true that most Americans are, nominally, Christian.  Something like 5 out of 6. But most of them are not of the type of Evangelicals, Pentecostals, or the various non-denominationalists that make up what goes by the name of Christian in the Media these days.

Most of them are Catholics, Episcopalians---you know, those people with the gay bishop---and the other more established Protestant churches.  (Updated:  This is a bad sentence.  Patrick Nielsen Hayden rightfully takes issue with it in the comments.  I’ll be back later to clarify.  For now, here’s a site that has results from a Gallup survey of religious affiliations.  Most of the numbers seem to be from 1990 though.  If anyone has more up to date numbers, please leave them in the comments.)

In other words, most Christians are of the type of Christian that those who speak for “Christians” in the media these days think aren’t truly Christian or aren’t Christian enough or aren’t Christian in the right way---right as in correct in their religious beliefs and practices and right as in correct in their Right Wing politics.

Right Wing Christians refer to themselves as just Christians, naturally, because in their minds they are the true Christians.  It turns out to be useful politically to refer to themselves this way because it blurs the distinctions between themselves and other types of Christians, helping to disguise the differences between themselves and those other Christians so that not just all those other Christians don’t realize what the Right Wingers really are and want, but also so that their non-Christian political enemies fall into the trap of using the term Christian as an insult and an accusation.

When Liberals speak or write dismissively of “Christians” and their reactionary politics and general assaults on reason, science, art, and a democratic, pluralistic culture, other Christians instinctively close ranks, joining their votes with people who are even more contemptuous of their faith than the godless Liberals.

Once upon a time the Media used to identify Right Wing Christians as Fundamentalists or Evangelicals or Born Agains or Right Wing Christians.  But because there are many Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Born Agains who are not Right Wingers, either because they are apolitical, liberals, or merely somewhat conservative, the terms have been generally abandoned and replaced with variations on Conservative Christians.

Since most Americans consider themselves Conservative, although surveys of their actual beliefs on most issues show that they aren’t anywheres near as conservative as they think they are, the term Conservative Christian might as well be read as simply Christian, and in fact that’s how it’s often read and abridged, allowing Right Wing Christians to pass themselves off as mainstream and portray opposition to their agenda as attacks on Christianity in general.

It would be nice then if we could come up with a term, and convince the Media to use it, that would strip away the Right Wing Christians’ camouflage.

Lately, Andrew Sullivan has suggested the word Christianist.

David Neiwert points out that he and Tristero sort of came up with the same idea a while ago, but while Tristero still uses it, Neiwert himself decided it’s a poor choice.

I had some reservations about the term, particularly because it seemed ripe for mau-mauing from right-wing pundits—say, Rush Limbaugh or Hugh Hewitt—who would almost certainly twist it into an attack on “ordinary Christians.” I didn’t necessarily think it was an inaccurate coinage, but it was one that lent itself to misinterpretation in the wrong hands.

Neiwert prefers another term, Dominionist.  David’s post is too long for me to summarize here, but as usual for him, it’s thorough and informative and well-worth reading.  In it he lays out the Dominionist agenda, which is, in a nutshell, to make America a Right Wing Christian quasi-theocracy.

I have two objections to the word Dominionist.

One, it’s not punchy.

Go ahead, say it out loud.  You’ll sound all mush-mouthed to yourself.

And two, it’s not going to catch on without lots and lots and lots of repetition and patient explanation.

I don’t think we’ve got the time.

I’ve always liked the phrase Right Wing Fundamentalist.  It’s punchy, it’s got a history, it distinguishes between Fundamentalists who are not Right Wingers and those who are, and it denies the Right Wingers the words conservative and Christian, which is not just useful but accurate, because they are neither.

Its weakness is that it wouldn’t seem to include Right Wing Catholics of the Scalia stripe.

The Media in its currently cowed state will be hard to bring round.  They seem wedded to the idea that the Republican Party is a conservative party.  Conservative is for them a synonym for Republican and Republican is a synonym for small town, Middle American, traditional, flag waving wholesomeness.

Right Wing Christians vote Republican, therefore they are conservative, wholesome, traditional, Middle American.

You know, the mainstream majority.

Cross-posted at my place.

I first heard of Dominionism from Shakespeare’s Sister.

Another way to take the word Christian away from the Right Wing Fundamentalists/Dominionists/What you will may be for Democratic, Liberal, and Progressive Christians to start inisting on their Christianity in the public square too.  Yellow Dog Sammy reports at the American Street that this is going on in Ohio these days, not to everybody’s comfort.

Neddie Jingo doesn’t like the novel The Da Vinci Code, not now, not ever, and probably doesn’t like anybody who does.

Posted by on 05/19 at 09:51 AM
  1. Don’t dismiss the possibility that Noonan and others who argue in a similar vein know perfectly well that large numbers of Christians are buying such books - they simply don’t care what the truth is, they just want to make their hackocratic, publicistic points in order to press their political agenda. If you keep shrieking about how the poor overwhelming Christian majority is so oppressed, you may be able to gain initiative and keep anyone who wants to argue against you on the defensive. John Gibson probably doesn’t really believe the crap he spews, which is not a defense of him - in fact, it makes his lying worse than if he really did believe it - he just knows he’s onto a good thing. He never was this much of a schmuck on MSNBC; if he happened to be employed by The American Prospect, he’d probably sound quite reasonable. Noonan’s not truly puzzled; she’d rather score points than be honest.

    Posted by  on  05/19  at  11:33 AM
  2. I use the term “authoritarian Christian”.  Because...well, it seems accurate.

    Posted by Tom Hilton  on  05/19  at  12:11 PM
  3. Most of them are Catholics, Episcopaleans---you know, those people with the gay bishop---and the other more established Protestant churches.

    Actually, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopaleans combined make up only about 15% of the population.  Episcopaleans are about 1.7%.  By contrast, Southern Baptists plus various fundie groups approach and quite possibly surpass 20%.

    It’s true that if you add Catholics to the first group, the fundamentalist extremists are in the minority.  But it’s important to understand that the “more established Protestant churches” are in free fall, and have been for a while.

    Posted by Patrick Nielsen Hayden  on  05/19  at  12:24 PM
  4. So, Mary Magdalene was, according to Screepture, damaged goods, a floozie, a ho. The gnostic hushhush was that Jeee-suss shagged the byatch. Was the Mag still like turnin’ trix when He got into her pants? (I’m thinkin’ beaucoup brown fuzz). Or wuz it fur kix. Did the Big JC cough up some shekels, or wuz it like “messiahs ride phor phree, honey”. Inquiring minds want to know.

    Really Da Vinci Code, HanksCo, and Ho-wood’s endless attempts to “humanize” Xtianity are nearly as nauseating as dixie fundie-mentalism, or Catholic mysterioso.

    Posted by Pud Shank  on  05/19  at  12:59 PM
  5. I have tried using the phrases, “Old Testament Christians” or “Christians for Moses”.

    Posted by  on  05/19  at  02:31 PM
  6. Where I grew up, we had the term “Bible thumpers.” It has the advantage of tradition.

    Posted by James Killus  on  05/19  at  02:37 PM
  7. I can’t figure out how Noonan could be so gobsmacked about a novel portraying Jesus and Mary Magdalene in a relationship that was more Aristotelian than Platonic. That’s such an old meme-- The Last Temptation of Christ, Superstar, The Ballad of Mary Magdalene have all suggested variations on it. As the Gospels would have it, Christ hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes and all manner of socially unacceptable people, and if you behave like that, people are bound to talk.

    Just call me a liberal Christian who likes to throw numbers around. For instance, Peggy Noonan is 98% less amusing than Bertie Wooster.

    Posted by  on  05/19  at  02:59 PM
  8. How’s about Bible Humpers
    Alternately I like calling them heretics and followers of Satan and idolitors

    They make an image of the Bible and worship it instead of the message of the Lord sent to us though his son Jesus Chirst. I really wish the mainsteam protestant Churches would get Medieval on these idolitors’ asses. Their theology is sick and is inspired by Satan and his minions on Earth: the members of the Republican Party of Ameerica.

    Amen.

    Posted by  on  05/19  at  03:01 PM
  9. If we examine the “far-right” spectrum we discover that among those who seem to espouse their belief in a reconstructionist dominionism are not very numerous.  And they are for most part led to those views and credos by a small group of very wealthy and media powered individuals who recognize that there is a great deal of money for the taking.  The legislative agendas that are representative of the pandering and fawning over that roughly 20% electorate stimulate the flow of financial contributions into the hands and offshore banks of the few.  Meanwhile the impassioned minions rally around the key talking points they are force fed to reify, so that when actively and intelligently challenged about the theological inconsistencies of these view, they are often incapable of lasting much more than a few minutes before resorting to vile and vitriol. 

    Noonan sees the dollars available quite clearly.  She sells books to and for these people.  If she failed to materialize her shock and horror about the movie, she would be cast as a traitor to the cause, and run the risk of financial loss.  This is all about the money, getting the dollars flowing into the campaign treasuries of those who rule so that those who really rule can exact more profit and less product from this nation.  Dobson and Falwell are afraid that they might experience a downturn in their profit margins if some of their dumbed down faithful began to ask more questions.

    Posted by  on  05/19  at  03:18 PM
  10. I hear the term, “Christopath,” pretty regularly, and I kind of like it. And it’s mad punchy.

    VFW, for my part, I’m not crazy about “Old Testament Christians,” because I don’t buy the dichotomy of “OT:Law::NT:Grace.” The OT is chock full o’ grace, and the NT has more than its share of judgment and retribution and whatnot.

    In my view, the OT is too good for these folks that we’re talking about here. It avoids them at parties and rolls its eyes when they talk their talk.

    Posted by Baruch Grazer  on  05/19  at  05:07 PM
  11. "Theocrats” does nicely, if you ask me.

    Posted by  on  05/19  at  05:51 PM
  12. Alternately I like calling them heretics and followers of Satan and idolitors

    Or, more to the point, bibliolators.  The biblical literalists (which includes pretty much all of the theocratic whackos) worship a graven image that that they call ‘The Bible’.

    Posted by Tom Hilton  on  05/19  at  07:22 PM
  13. This country will eat itself alive.

    Posted by Brandon  on  05/19  at  08:55 PM
  14. Puritan gibes with this cohort’s obsession with sex, especially their neighbors’. Waterboarding as a form of ministering to the unconvinced is so 17th century Salem. The work ethic thing seems to have (d)evolved into a present-day landlord ethic: devout renters bending to the will of the seigneur.

    captcha: works. By which ye shall know them.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  05/19  at  09:32 PM
  15. Great post.  But the wingnuts aren’t the first to try to corner the identity of “Christian” in their bid for political capital--it’s been going on for a long time in American culture, and not only on the right. In the middle decades of the 20th century, from the 30s to the 60s, say, we saw a bunch of left-leaning Christians reject this one-to-one equivalence between American values and Christian values, but that just allowed the right to resecure that time-honored connection and put their stamp on it.  I loved reading Yellow Dog Sammy’s post, but you can bet that everything the lefty Christians in Ohio are doing to beat the wingnuts will be taken up by the wingnuts and used either to smear them (politicizing religion! that’s like using Mary Cheney’s sexuality for political gain!) or to make “common cause"with all Ohioans on the issues that matter--as my racist neighbors in the South liked to say, We’re all Christians here. Neither rehabilitating Christianity on the left nor making “Christian” a term of contempt (as Lance points out) is going to make the right any less likely to play the Christian card; “Christianity” only becomes an even bigger tent, in the first instance, or a cherished value under liberal attack, in the second.  I think maybe the thing to do, instead of looking for a label that will put the far-right’s “Christianity” in perspective, is just not to let them have it as a marker of their identity. They use it, they exploit it, like they do homophobia and 9/11, and the fact that some of them might even themselves go to church or fear gay people or think terrorists are nasty doesn’t make their appeals any less calculating. Just as often as this group claims to speak for Christians or to know what Christians stand for do they claim to speak for Americans and to know what Americans stand for, but on the latter score we’re not (quite) at the point of letting them get away with it.

    Posted by Tracy  on  05/20  at  02:34 AM
  16. I think “right wing christians” works pretty well, but I’ve also taken to calling them “christian theocrats,” which I think captures the problem they pose.  It’s not that they’re christian, or that their religious beliefs play a guiding function in their moral and political actions.  It’s that they think their religious beliefs are the only legitimate foundation for government and social organization.

    Ha- my “captcha” word is “force.” How apropos.

    Posted by  on  05/20  at  11:11 AM
  17. The Ballad of Mary Magdalene

    More like a poem, or indeed symphonic theme: La Magdalena.  But neither the Christopaths nor the HanksCo apparatchiks perceive the poetic possibilities; Golgotha is nothing if not sublime. You think dixie is full of philistines and Christopaths? Ho-wood has plenty of philistines, and product-o-paths; er, so do Ivy League LIT. Inc. departments. Jee-sus just happens to be one of their favored whores du jour; now the Pimpsteins have thrown Magdalena up there with Him on stage. Dance, meshugginahs, dance.

    Posted by Malevolencio  on  05/20  at  11:46 AM
  18. I don’t know about Dominionism,
    but I know a local shop called Dominia.
    It sells women’s clotling, including lots of black leather....
    Do they still wear all black for church?

    Posted by  on  05/20  at  01:40 PM
  19. At the end of the day, this “controversy” about the Da Vinci Code seems ridiculous.

    Peggy Noonan is bothered by the film’s potential to agitate the values of a dominant religious group. Why doesn’t she get her head out of her butt and spend some time reflecting on the sectarian war raging in Iraq, and how the government whom she loves to boot-lick has created a *real* war of religions.

    The Da Vinci Code can kiss my ass.

    Captcha word: Justice. How ironic.

    Posted by  on  05/20  at  03:42 PM
  20. Perhaps a good way to accurately identify Christians of a different ilk is to rate them, like the movies:

    G rated through X rated, I will leave the rest to your able imaginations. lol

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  05/21  at  12:27 AM
  21. However, there is always something that has puzzled me among certain Christian apologists - how can they support the empire/imperialistic activity that is plainly confessed by many today? I ask this, because it was imperialism/empire, the Roman to be exact, that was instrumental in the crucifixion of the one that they call Lord.

    You would think that they would see the inconsistency in this view (supporting similiar activity of their nation, that “shiny city on the hill” as they call it), but alas, their mental apparatus seems somewhat slim. Just a thought.

    Posted by Virgil Johnson  on  05/21  at  12:42 AM
  22. Yeah liberal statist pigs--roman Centurions--with help from their Toryish bosses--jewish judges--offed JC, AKA Kid Galilee (and who rilly cares if he got a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ with that broad Miss Mag). But then the Kid’s code sort of took off with the centurions. But get this: if the Kid’s code like means anything, He planned it that way, Mastermind-like.

    Really tho’ man for phun blood sport the romans ain’t got nuthin’ on those wacky mooslims. Or mongols: Can we say Tamerlane? Now there was a g-ster.

    Posted by Phred  on  05/21  at  12:05 PM
  23. I’ve always like Christocrat, myself.  A nice variant on theocrat or dixiecrat for that matter.

    Posted by  on  05/22  at  05:05 PM
  24. You may find this site of interest:
    http://www.valpo.edu/geomet/geo/courses/geo200/religion.html

    It maps out the distribution of major religions in the US.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  10:03 AM
  25. I have no problem with Sullivan’s “Christianist” neologism (disagree with him on definition, but that’s a quibble).

    Terms I do not like, because they are very confusing.

    1) Theocrat.  The US in 1960 was not a theocracy.  If you imply that, you look like a kook.

    2) Evangelical.  It’s a theological term; in its proper theological use, it excludes both Pentecostals and Catholics.

    3) Fundamentalist.  Again, a theological term.  It’s accurate for Jack Chick, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Falwell, but not for Catholics and most conservative Protestants.

    4) Dominionist/Reconstructionist.  Theological terms, again.  Actual Reconstructionists (who think the OT law, in it’s entirity, should be the law of the land today) are rare, and so far off the reservation that Jerry Falwell thinks they are crazy.

    Posted by  on  05/25  at  03:37 PM
  26. Like we always do at this time! Great blog material around your whole site, good job.

    Posted by Jason  on  01/14  at  02:52 PM

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