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How the Religious Right Destroys Christianity and Promotes Prejudice and Hate.
Dan Wakefield
Book Review with commentary

This book might also carry the title "WAKE UP AMERICA" as it reveals the hidden-in-plain-sight right-wing strategy to dominate the world. This is entirely consistent with their Authoritarian Personalities, a product of Evolution.

"For anyone who wants to trace the points by which Christianity became a political strategy, this is both a guide and an indictment by a meticulous reporter." - Joan Didion.

Wakefield ends his book on a hopeful note, that mainstream religion is rising to the challenge. Indeed, so did our court system responsible for Dover PA in ruling against the Intelligent Design people who wanted to teach their religious belief as a science. The judge, a Republican appointee, ruled that the ID people had lied about their motives among other legal issues that also went against them. The school board was promptly ousted. And wonderfully, the new board approved the teaching of ID with two important changes: it would be an elective and it would be taught within the purview of Comparative Religion, where it belongs.

Wakefield completes his book with the Sermon on the Mount, "...a message that many on the Religious Right have declared is no longer a part of their belief."

The essence of Wakefield's book is captured on the flyleaf:

"Christianity in America has become almost synonymous with right-wing fanaticism, conservative politics, and -- courtesy of Mel Gibson -- a brutally sadistic version of the religious experience. Millions of devout Christians, like Dan Wakefield, are appalled by this distortion of their faith, which only three decades ago stood for peace, equality, healing, and compassion for society's outcasts -- the issues that made up the ministry of Jesus."

The converse is also true: Republican politics is now defined by the wedge issues of religious extremists. That came about via the very title of this book; the Repubicans have indeed co-opted Jesus. In the process, they have distorted his system of ethics beyond recognition.

Wakefield provides numerous examples. He uses an uncommon amount of quotes, mostly Protestant theologians concerned with the future of Christianity. A Martian visting earth the first time and reading the Christian history would conclude: The Catholics had their Reformation; the Protestants (American extreme religious right) have not yet had theirs. The immediate danger is that the religious right will prevail in conquering their "benefactors," the Republican Party and all three branches of government. Reform would not occur until after total disaster struck at some future time, probably from rot within. On the evidence to date, the religious right would start a religious crusade (as Bush in fact announced) like others in history and with no better long-term prospects.

Wakefield, however, has brighter prospects to offer. He concludes the main-line churches have begun turning the tide and that they are up to the task. We hope he is right.

For the Democrats, he offers simple advice: "Make room for faith in your platform." Give moderates, who comprise about 75% of all Americans, a feeling of comfort, that traditional religious values, such as those expressed in the Sermon on the Mount that most people adhere to or accept, are part of the platform. These values foster love and peace, not hatred and war. They also foster separation of church and state.

Republicans reading Wakefield's book can find a message as well: Change your tune. Abortion and homosexuality are wedge issues, not a general or traditional morality. The life of Jesus, upon which Christianity is founded, did not promote hatred. His morality included the New Deal, but the Bush presidency is trying to replace that expression of classical religious values with those of bigotry.

Independent thinkers can find solace in this book as well. They too are admitted to the bar in Wakefield's dynamic of the future. We would hope so for it is better to celebrate our differences than to fight over them.

The extreme right may even gloat at all their success at permeating American culture and governance, as they work to make it permanent. But Wakefield's message to them is: You have already overdone it; back off.

For the moderates, the majority of Americans who accept the teachings of Jesus as their basic morality, Wakefield's book is a wake up call of the first order. It is high time moderates began expressing themselves instead of rubber-stamping an extreme, whether left or right.

The election booth is our tool.
If we do not use it, we may lose it.


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