C Rulon: The Christian Right & the power of money

By | September 22, 2011

The Davids of science, rationality and humanistic compassion vs. the Goliaths of powerful Christian fundamentalist and evangelical organizations.

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College ([email protected])


The total financial budget of all those organizations in the United States in 2010 that educationally and politically campaign for humanistic societies, gay equality, death with dignity, abortion choice, separation of church and state, plus sex education, evolution education, and climate change education runs in the low tens of millions of dollars. For example, the Center for Inquiry which publishes Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer has a budget of around $3 million. NARAL, a leading pro-choice organization has an annual budget of under $5 million.
In stark contrast is America’s Christian Right. Campus Crusade for Christ in 2010 raised around $500 million!! Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network/Regent University raised over $350 million! Jerry Falwell’s ministries, Liberty Counsel and Liberty University raised over $400 million! The Southern Baptist Convention raised over $200 million! James Dobson’s Focus on the Family – $130 million!; Heritage Foundation – $70 million!…and on and on. [1] Don’t even ask about the financial resources of the Vatican or of huge sums of money pouring into Christian Right political candidates from giant corporations.

The explosive growth of the Christian Right

Money, of course, buys power. Throughout the 1980s there were reported to be some 4000 evangelical and fundamentalist television and radio broadcasters in the U.S. reaching an estimated 40,000,000 Americans. There were also some 80,000 evangelical pastors, plus 200+ Bible colleges across the United States.
By the early 1990s, fundamentalist and evangelical Christians were swinging major elections. In addition they claimed control of over 2000 school boards nationwide, elected nine state governors, took control of numer¬ous legislatures and dominated 20 state parties. [2]
By 2001 the Christian Right had taken control of the White House and much of Congress. By 2005 100 million Americans were claiming to be evangelical Christians, Christian radio and TV broadcasters were reaching over 140 million listeners and a number of religiously conservative law schools were training students for legal assaults on church-state separation.
In 2010, more that 600 measures were introduced in state legislatures in an attempt to force women with unwanted pregnancies to stay pregnant against their will—in essence, to be reproductively enslaved. Also, 29 Christian conservative governors were elected, all solidly anti-choice.
Consider just three of the many Christian Right organizations and leaders: Campus Crusade for Christ, Focus on the Family and Televangelist John Hagee.

Campus Crusade for Christ

Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru), with its $500 million budget, has operations in 190 countries, is on over 1000 college campuses in the United States and has extended its operation into high schools. The problem is that its beliefs (and the beliefs of over 10,000 other Christian clubs on campuses) can create serious obstacles to learning. After all, why learn about our biological evolution, or the critical importance of keeping abortions legal, or of insuring basic human rights for gays when Scripture is said to be against all of these? And why be too concerned about overpopulation, or equality for women, or global warming, or nuclear and biological weapons when all the truth one needs to know is in Scripture — particularly since the destruction of our world is inevitable as foretold in Revelation and the Second Coming of Christ is only around the corner.

Focus on the Family

A major player is James Dobson of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. By 2010, James Dobson’s colossal fundamentalist Christian media empire was taking in over $130 million/year. It was presenting news programs daily on 3,000 radio stations in North America, heard on radio broadcasts in 99 countries, mailing out four million pieces of mail each month, buying television time on 80 stations daily and maintaining an activist network of over 100,000 people. Dobson has backed political candidates who called for the execution of abortion providers and defined embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism.” He issued warnings to the Bush administration that his agenda must begin to be implemented in Washington and by the federal courts if the Republican Party wanted his continued support. [3]

John Hagee

Reverend John Hagee is an extremely influential American televangelist. He is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church with about 20,000 members. Hagee has received millions of dollars in compensation for his position as CEO of his non-profit corporation, Global Evangelism Television (GETV), which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in America on 160 TV stations and 50 radio stations to 100 million homes. His ministries can also be seen in Canada, Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and in most third world nations.
Hagee has asserted that Hurricane Katrina was an act of God, punishing New Orleans for “a level of sin that was offensive to God”. He specifically referred to a homosexual parade that, he said, was held on the date the hurricane struck as proof “of the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.” (Actually the gay parade was scheduled for the next week and those areas spared the destruction included most of the gay neighborhoods.)
Another reason for God sending Katrina, Hagee claimed, was the Bush administration’s pressure on Israel to abandon the land God gave them 2000 years ago (the Left Bank). Therefore, claimed Hagee, God took American land in a tit-for-tat exchange during Hurricane Katrina.
In 2008 Hagee came out in strong support for presidential candidate John McCain who initially sought and welcomed his endorsement. Later, McCain changed his mind when he learned that Hagee said that God had used Hitler and the Holocaust to send the Jews to Israel, the Promised Land.

Closing Thoughts

There is little doubt that the Christian Right has become a financially extremely powerful force in American politics. [4] Today, there is no comparable force in either our state or national governments that is willing to defend secularism, or to vigorously support women’s reproductive rights, or gay equality, or death with dignity, or evolution education, or ecological sanity. The Republican Party is currently dominated by conservative Christians who appear wedded to archaic biblical morality. The Democratic Party has also failed, as its politicians increasingly affirm their devotion to religious piety in public pronouncements. Indeed, to amplify Will Rogers quote, we have the best Congress and media that religious/corporate money can buy.

“Any person or group who holds beliefs contrary to those of the Religious Right is certain to be the target of hostility, recrimination and ridicule…I do not object to them expressing their views. That is their right. But I will not remain silent while these political operatives manipulate religion to condemn those who op¬pose their narrow agenda.”

—Walter Cronkite [5]

[1] Major organizations in the Christian Right include The Christian Broadcasting Network (www.cbn.org), Focus on the Family (www.focus onthefamily.com), the American Center for Law and Justice (www. aclj.org) working with the Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, The Alliance Defense Fund (www.alliancedefensefund.org), the American Family Association (www.afa.net), the Family Research Council (www.frc.org), Concerned Women for America (www.cwfa.org), Jerry Falwell Ministries (www.falwell.com).
Also included are the Christian Coalition, National Right to Life Committee, National Conservative Political Action Committee, Liberty Foundation, Coalition for America, Institute on Religion and Public Life, Heritage Foundation, Ava Maria Foundation, Christian Voice, Christian Action Council, American Coalition for Traditional Values, the Eagle Forum, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Citizens for Excellence in Education, Coral Ridge Ministries, National Legal Foundation, Traditional Values Coalition and many more.

[2] “Onward Christian Soldiers,” U.S. News & World Report, June 6, 1994, p. 43. Also see Creation/Evolution, Vol. 15, #1, p.47. (Published by the National Center for Science Education; www.natcenscied.org)

[3] “Dobson’s Choice: Religious Right Leader Becomes Political Power Broker” at www.pfaw.org.

[4] An excellent newsletter which monitors Christian Right activities is “Church & State” published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit educational corporation www.au.org.
For everything you might want to know about the Theopolitical Right: Their personalities, ideologies, agendas, goals, and methods of operation read Democracy under Assault: TheoPolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right, by Michele Swenson (Sol Ventures Press, 2005).
For a fascinating history of the Christian Right, along with an analysis of their arguments, see Robert Boston’s 1993 book, Why the Religious Right is Wrong, published by Prometheus Press at www.prometheus books.com. Also check out Boston’s book, Close Encounters with the Religious Right at www.robert boston.com.
See also Kimberly Blaker’s The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America and John Shelby Spong’s Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.

[5]Walter Cronkite, The Interfaith Alliance www.interfaithalliance.org

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