Is the religious right going underground?
That question is making the rounds in political circles as leaders of the religious right themselves question whether American society has moved beyond the pale of reform after the failure to impeach President Bill Clinton. The Wall Street Journal (April 9) reports that much of this talk started when Paul Weyrich, a pioneer of the new right, wrote in his column that Christians and other religious conservatives ought to disengage from the culture and create their own “institutions and structures,” and abandon the public schools in favor of home schooling.
James Dobson and Cal Thomas weighed in with a similar view in their new book, “Blinded by Might.”.In the book they claim that all the years of religious right activism have achieved little; the “moral landscape of America has become worse.” Dobson and Thomas call for Christians to give up organized politics and concentrate on spiritual and church life.
On the Catholic right, one hears similar strains of alienation from American culture and society. In the conservative Catholic magazine Crisis (April), Ralph McInerny writes that after the “apparent popular response to Bill Clinton’s degradation of the presidency is difficult to go on thinking that there is any widespread resistance to the neo-pagan takeover.” While it is “not natural for Catholics to accept estrangement from their own country,” he looks to the same countercultural groups as Weyrich and other critics to help Christians resist the new dark ages.
Home schooling and the newly established conservative Catholic colleges (parochial schools are not mentioned) represent a new “monastic movement” where the last vestiges of culture are preserved. [The obituary that some of its leaders are writing for the religious right may be only part of a periodic bout of frustration with the current political order. The same sentiments about marginalization and loss of influence were expressed after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 — two years before the religious right comeback in Congress. The next article suggests that religious right activism is far from going underground.]
(Crisis, 1814 and 1/2 N St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036)