A new religious right organization is emerging from the tattered remains of groups like the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority. This organization — calling itself the Freedom Federation — purports to have a kinder, gentler face than its predecessors, which all too often came across like the Blue Meanies. But the group’s agenda is anything but new. Indeed, it features all the familiar bugaboos: no abortion, no gay marriage, no porn or obscenity, no judicial activism (at least of the liberal variety), and no limits on religious expression “through our public institutions” (read: no prohibitions on Christian monuments in public buildings). All of that is fine, as far as it goes. If conservatives want to try their hand at reviving issues on which the old school religious righties failed to gain traction, bully for them.
What’s disturbing — to me, anyway — is that the Freedom Federation’s agenda actually goes further than those traditional yawners and includes additional items that come straight out of the Republican playbook. To wit: the group’s Declaration of American Values supports a strong military, a flat tax, the individual right to use firearms, free enterprise, and the management of private property “without arbitrary interference from government.” I have no idea where in Scripture these imperatives are supposed to come from. They are the mainstays of modern conservatism, not of biblical traditionalism. So even as the Freedom Federation claims it’s not as partisan as its predecessors, its philosophy hews even more closely to that of the Republican Party and strays more from ideas that could plausibly be associated with Christianity.
To be sure, the new organization’s agenda includes some rhetorical sops to the Matthew 25 vision of Christian responsibility — for instance, acknowledging the “duty of all individuals and communities of faith to extend the hand of loving compassion to care for those in poverty and distress.” But note that this call is made only to “individuals and communities of faith.” It is specifically not made to government. So the traditional conservative view that poverty is to be battled though voluntary charity rather than through social justice remains alive and well at the Freedom Federation.
It’s not surprising, then, that moderate evangelical voices such as Rick Warren and the National Association of Evangelicals — voices that are far from liberal but acknowledge some public role for fighting injustice and have tended to avoid strident partisanship in recent years — are not participating in the new initiative. Rather, we have the same old agenda, merged even more thoroughly with the Republican platform, accompanied by vague promises to transcend old partisan habits.
What’s that line about lipstick, again?
Jesse Lava also blogs at jesselava.com.