By Carl Carter, APR
I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. And when I say “grew up,” you can take that pretty literally. We were at church Sunday morning and evening, not to mention Wednesday nights. But it was bigger than that.
We talked about what it meant to keep the Lord’s day holy, and whether that meant we couldn’t watch Tarzan on Sunday afternoons. There were long conversations about tithing (well, Dad was church treasurer), and telling the truth, and other matters of life.
I went off to college and, in time, wandered into the world of fundamentalist religion, where God seemed to be in control and life was good, right up to the point where things started to get weird. When I went to the pastor’s home each week for Saturday morning prayer breakfasts (followed by tennis on a member’s private court), I started seeing copies of Conservative Digest and other right-wing political books and magazines lying about.
Almost overnight, we seemed to be talking less and less about prayer and truth telling. The ministers were circulating lists of “big-spending” liberals in Congress. There were conferences on the need to keep prayer and Bible readings in public schools.
And there was the film series.
If you were around back then, you know the one I mean. A Presbyterian minister living in Switzerland teamed up with a baby surgeon named Everett Koop to produce a 10-film series called “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” I don’t know who paid for the prints, but suddenly the films were everywhere. They featured the doctor and the preacher (Francis Schaeffer) walking through 1,000 naked baby dolls that represented aborted babies, accompanied by scary music. Another scene showed a lengthy line of rabbits and mice in lab cages, followed by a crying, naked baby in the final cage.
Schaeffer and Koop (who later served as Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general) laid out the case that the Roe v. Wade decision and legalized abortion were a virtual replay of the Nazi Holocaust. They threw out stark parallels — 6 million babies aborted = 6 million Jews killed by Hitler. It was only a matter of time before the U.S. would begin executing the handicapped, mentally challenged and other unsuitable specimens.
Before that film series, you almost never heard a preacher give a sermon on abortion, because the Bible has nothing to say on the topic (unless you count a vague reference to John the Baptist kicking in his pregnant mother’s womb when she saw a pregnant Mary).
Ever since that film series (which is still available on YouTube), abortion has been the most reliable fuel for the Christian Right. When things are bogging down, you can get them re-started in a jiffy with a few words about abortion and baby killing.
When you have a tool that works that well, you use it and use it, and you keep on using it until it gives out. The party that beats the anti-abortion drum is the one on the side of God. Therefore, whatever they say goes. If they assert that tax cuts for rich people will jumpstart the economy and fix the deficit, they’re right — even if the notion has never worked before. If they say the deficit doesn’t matter any more, that’s fine. If people are poor, they just didn’t work hard enough. Or they had sin in their lives. Any government effort to take care of the poor smacks of socialism and puts us on the road to godless communism. And yet, if the good guys say that Putin is OK even though he was the chief spy for the godless communists, then by God he is.
Because, you know, abortion.
Abortion fever is the gateway drug to the whole package, provoking fear, disgust and anger — a trifecta of powerful emotion. Trying to talk logic to people driven by this mindset is like trying to teach math to someone on LSD.
Remember that evangelical and fundamentalist churches were rooted in the feelings of powerlessness. Now they have tasted power. It has long ceased to be about God or the Bible, but it is most assuredly about the churches.
So candidates line up and take the God pledge. Mo Brooks will read the King James Version on the floor of the house until we build a wall. Sen. Strange declares Trump’s win to be a miracle of God. And God help us (so to speak), Roy Moore hasn’t even gotten started yet. But we know what’s coming.
Just remember that it’s not about God. It’s not about faith. It’s about power.