I have already written a few posts this week trying to beat back the notion that the Religious Right is on the verge of collapse, pointing that that such declarations are made every few years and noting that right-wing leaders have repeatedly declared that they have no intention of giving up the fight.
So imagine my surprise when I saw this article in The Telegraph entitled “US religious Right concedes defeat“:
Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.
James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family – one of the largest Christian groups in the country – and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.
“We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action,” he said.
“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”
Steve Deace, an evangelical radio talk show host in Iowa who broadcast a recording of Mr Dobson’s address, which he said had appeared on Focus on the Family’s website before disappearing.
Deace was at the center of Kathleen Parker’s recent column in which she asked if “the Christian right [is] finished as a political entity” and seems to be the go-to person for any commentator or journalist looking for some right-wing voice to declare the Religious Right dead, which seems to be an awfully strange and rather counterproductive career move, if you ask me.
Regardless, the assertion that James Dobson’s farewell speech to the staff at Focus on the Family headquarters is no longer on the website is wrong – it can be found in the Focus radio archives entitled “A Momentous Occasion at FOF 2” which aired on 3/3/09, about a week after Dobson announced his resignation as chairman of the organization.
In listening to the audio of his address we find that, contrary to the Telegraph’s interpretation, Dobson was not so much conceding defeat as he was vowing not to give up:
The battles that we fought in the Eighties now, we were victorious in many of those conflicts with the culture, trying to defend righteousness, trying to defend the unborn child, trying to preserve the dignity of the family and the definition of marriage. We fought all those battles and really it was a holding action.
Dr. Mohler mentioned the pornography struggle; we made a lot of progress through the Eighties but then we turned into the Nineties and the internet came along and a new president came along and all of that went away and now we are absolutely awash in evil. And the battle is still to be waged. And we are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles, but God is in control and we are not going to give up now, right?
The world has turned colder for the family in recent years and there is such hostility to anyone who holds to a faith and we’re going to take the heat. But I have been assured by the board and by many of you that we’re not going to cow, we’re not going to be discouraged. We’re going to continue to express the love for the Scripture and the principles that we find there and if we are made fools for Christ, that’s okay too because our purpose is to serve him and that he be pleased.
That seems to be rather different than how the Telegraph portrayed it.
If people want to write articles claiming that the Religious Right is conceding defeat and on its way to irrelevance, they ought to try and do so without misquoting statements in which the movement’s leaders are vowing not to give up.