Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Media Just Doesn't Get Today's Religious Right

By Frederick Clarkson 

In case we were wondering why the Religious Right often seems to get such uncritical, or at least misguided coverage from so much of the mainstream media -- we need look no further a recent segment from CNN's Situation Room.  It is the single most startlingly frank admission of ignorance on the part of major figures in journalism I have ever seen.

Blitzer and Cafferty et al have had plenty of opportunities to learn about dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism.  They could have read Michelle Goldberg's New York Times best-selling book Kingdom Coming:  The Rise of Christian Nationalism. in 2006.  They could have read my 1997 book, Eternal Hostility:  The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, or Sara Diamond's 1989 classic, Spiritual Warfare:  The Politics of the Christian Right. -- to name but a few that deal specifically with dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism. 

We were all widely in the media, including national broadcasts talking about this stuff.  They could also read material from such well established and well known organizations that study and counter the American right, as Americans United for Separation of Church & State and People for the American Way, and Political Research Associates. (PRA published my studyof Christian Reconstructionism in 1994.)  Religion Dispatches reports on these things all the time as well.  They have been discussed in wider context in books by such scholarly best selling authors as Gary Wills, Harvey Cox, Jeff Sharlet and Kevin Phillips, to also name but a few, and in major articles in magazines as diverse as Reason and Mother Jones.   

You could probably hear my dropping jaw hitting the floor when I heard Jack Cafferty and Wolf Blitzer say they had never heard of dominionism until they read Michelle Goldberg's article onThe Daily Beast.  They apparently had never heard of Christian Reconstructionism or the New Apostolic Reformation either.  Goldberg's article on Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann's relationship to all of this was certainly well done. But it is amazing that no other journalist of any prominence had looked into it before these Goldberg's revelations.  There are many, and ever-more prominent pols with similar ties.  And the failure of our national media and political culture to come to grips with this has been astounding.  At least to me.  As someone who has written about the Religious Right in its various dimensions for about 30 years, I've watched with horror as too many (but not all) mainstream media missed or misreported the stories of one of the most significant political movements of our time.

You really cannot have been awake in American public life for the past few decades and not have encountered dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism.  Blizter and Cafferty are far from alone in snoozing comfortably through this part of our national life. They are just more startlingly honest that this is no dream.

At the group blog Talk to Action my journalist, scholarly, and activist colleagues and I have been writing in a sustained and focused manner on these things since 2005.  If Blitzer and Cafferty -- or anyone else -- is interested in the New Apostolic Reformation, Bruce Wilson and Rachel Tabachnick have been doing ground-breaking research and analysis for several years.Here is a recent compilation of their reporting so far.

These things said, I am grateful for Blitzer and Cafferty's frankness.  I think the acknowledgement of their ignorance draws a bright line in our recent history.  I don't know that the bright line will lead us to an era of knowledge and enlightenment, but at least we have a chance of knowing what the darkness of ignorance looks like.

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