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The religious right has failed to capture the American government because it has failed to capture the American mind. The choices of the American people reflect their thinking: If the religious right wants to change the beliefs of the American people, they need to concentrate on converting Americans to Christianity rather than to the Grand Old Party.
Ideologically, the Democratic Party and Republican Party have become European-style political factions. The Democrats seem to be more comfortable with the mantle of the social-democratic movement and its moderate socialism. The GOP, however, is uncomfortable with the Christian-democrat tradition that has served postwar Germany so well. The Republicans are in a battle between the narrow interests of the Wall Street-and-war faction of the Bushes, the Paulite-libertarians and the religious right.
While CPAC served to air the grievances of the libertarians and the religious right against the neocons who have failed to win the Senate and the presidency since 2006, it was not the platform to address the core intellectual failing of the religious conservatives: Political activism cannot replace evangelism.
They have wasted time trying to win voters among the churchgoing, black American community with little success. They have been able to form bonds with the black churches over various state referendums, but those bonds of community rarely last past November. If they want to win long-term political converts, they have to take a permanent interest in their coreligionists.
The failure of the religious right has been its substitution of political activism – protests, marches and petitions – for religious achievement. They have retreated from intellectualism, popular culture, arts, sciences and social works, the fabric of American society. This ground has been occupied by other Americans. Members of the religious right lose their children by attrition to the “world” because the “counterculture” they have created has little to offer the curious human mind. Americans crave expression and creativity. If the religious right wants a “Christian” society, it needs to re-enter society.
The apostles did not turn the world upside down by living as hermits in the caves of Judea. America cannot be saved by carrying water for the GOP establishment’s corrupt ideology. But Americans are open to a fully thought-out theology. The slogans of the prosperity gospel and other religious fads must be discarded and thrown away. Orthodox theology that incorporates a concern for the poor, education and just war theology must return to the mainline denominations and the evangelicals alike.
There must be change in priority. Don’t try to make new Republicans; go out and make new Christians.