For the Christian Right, there is no hiding from the drubbing it received on November 6. Unable to spin it away, movement leaders have taken to gnashing their teeth in recent days. Mike Huckabee described the election as a “humiliating defeat,” while Janet Porter (formerly Janet Folger) of Faith 2 Action called it a “pro-family election disaster.” Other leaders have used similar words. The re-election of Barack Obama and the repudiation of their loose-lipped favorites, notably Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, realized their worst fears. But surely the biggest blow to the movement was the popular endorsement of gay marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Washington and the defeat of a restrictive amendment on marriage in Minnesota. In no previous state balloting has gay marriage received a majority mandate from the voters. Now the electorate in four blue states has changed the dynamic.
Its humiliating defeat on gay marriage should not come as a total surprise to the Christian Right. It has clearly been playing defense on the issue, at least in the more moderate states, obviously aware that simply inciting antagonism against gays no longer works. This explains its carefully crafted ads suggesting that one can be “tolerant” towards gays while still voting against gay marriage. Such ads are dishonest in the sense that they downplay the elemental hostility that religious rightists continue to have for gay people. To this day they have not made peace with any aspect of the gay movement, consistently opposing legislation dealing with discrimination, bullying, and hate crimes and showing little toleration for gay adoptions or civil unions.
To its shame, the Christian Right has always viewed opponents not simply as political protagonists, but as existential enemies condemned in the eyes of God and branded as such for eternity. God’s “enemies” have comprised a rather large swath of Americans over the years, including secular humanists, evolutionists, New Agers, feminists, liberals, climatologists, and Planned Parenthood. Gays have always been part of this group, but rose to special prominence in the mid-1990’s, when Christian rightists decided that the gay movement was a major threat to their biblical agenda.
Sadly enough, culture war against enemies is essential to the Religious Right’s reason for being. The movement’s textual rallying cry is the provocative passage from Romans 1, which declares that neutrality is impossible in this world. Since God has made his presence “manifest” to all mankind, those who do not accept His sovereignty must be regarded as idol worshippers. Labeled as rebels and enemies of God, they are given over to sins of the flesh (sodomy being prominent among them) and deemed “worthy of death.” All of this is red meat for the faithful, who are often seen with placards quoting Romans 1 at demonstrations. The same viewpoint is echoed in activist Matt Staver’s post-election declaration that the Democrats have led the country to destruction on a “Romans 1 platform.”
Such odious statements underline how crucial it was to win on the social issues in this election. American voters repudiated an ideology of hatred and reaffirmed equal treatment and pluralism. The LGBT community, which has born the brunt of the Religious Right’s wrath for years, can celebrate the hope of a better future. Their victory is a victory for America’s best traditions, one that all well-meaning people can be thankful for.