For Thirty Pieces of Silver

Polls seem to indicate the religious right’s gone wrong

Rock on, James Dobson. Sorry for ever doubting you. It may be time for America to give the good Christian doctor’s parenting guide “Dare to Discipline” another chance. “It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a small child,” he tells us boldly. Lead the way, Jim.

When Dr. Dobson isn’t flogging something fragile and defenseless, evidently he’s one of about twelve American evangelical Christians who didn’t cast off their iron principles like a moth-eaten mattress the moment presidential politics began churning.

Dobson has announced that if former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani—cousin-divorcer, pro-choice authoritarian, and most devilish papist—were to win the Republican nomination, he and a contingent of influential evangelicals would consider encouraging a man (inevitably) of better faith and adherence to the Gospels to run under the auspices of a third party. In spite of this group’s crucifix-rattling, Mr. Giuliani remains the Republican party frontrunner even in the South and even among the most devout Protestant conservatives just months before the beginning primary voting.

With former Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-TN) officially in the race and painting himself as Reagan reheated, Giuliani’s lead has slipped but lingers still. The resilience of the former mayor’s candidacy in the evangelical community has revealed for certain something the rest of America only suspected: that even the Bible Belt would unbuckle and do drag to keep its foot in the White House door.

The problem isn’t that ministers and their mega-churches alike are engaging in realpolitik; it’s that they pretended they wouldn’t. For the past seven years, “values voters” have had access to the presidential ear whilst still seated at the heavenly table, free to scrutinize prospective justices, pick apart legislation and crown judges. Abstinence, aggression and alienation won out.

Now the number’s up on that temporal seat of power, and the moral majority seems content to cite a “changing global climate,” violate their entire value system and hope no one takes notice. And there appears to be no evident limit to how total this betrayal could potentially become. Every trend suggests that were the vacuous former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney to survive the Republican primary, he would win not a little support from the same people who four years ago were condemning entire homosexuals, pro-choice liberals, and the city of New Orleans to hell: all this in spite of the fact that his own Mormon faith renders him something akin to a wizard through the Christian right lens.

It might amaze many that the mere prospect of Hillary Clinton moving back in to the White House can inspire such a degree of mercenary desertion in our country’s chaste crusaders. Granted, she has long served as the anathema of the American right, but in substance she’s just as pro-choice, just as tough on guns, and perhaps less Orwellian a presence than Giuliani. Both of these frontrunners have shrunk away from adopting any novel idea in favor of the senseless and discouraging groupthink we euphemize as “electability,” and both have profited mightily. America shall not.

So good on Dr. Dobson for choosing a third way. It certainly won’t work, but there’s something inspiring about seeing a captain go down with his ship in this age of highest-bidder politics. And at the moment when he realizes that the evangelical lobby is doomed to return to relative obscurity, he can always take out his frustration on the kids.

James M. Larkin ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Quincy House.