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Old South and the Religious Right

Michael Lind, writing in the June 19, 1995 issue of "The New Republic" makes a well documented point about the link between the new Republican Party resurgence and the old Antebellum South.

Lind notes some definite links with the Southern Politics of the H.L. Hunt family, Jesse Helms, and George Wallace followers.

The writer concludes his argument by quoting George Wallace who said, "Alabama has not joined the nation, the nation has joined Alabama." Lind says that several Old South segregationists or Dixiecrats are now prominent Republican figures.

To Lind, William Buckley and Barry Goldwater's conservatism has been replaced with a Southern version that has a different agenda. Lind claims the euphemism "School Choice" or what is actually tax support for religious academies, is an Old South concept. He quotes Virginia Governor, William Buckley who in 1671 thanked God for no public education.

Segregated Southern Christian schools are a vital link in the modern move to get tax support for private education.

At the national Christian Coalition Rally I attended, I noted a rather cold reception to the idea of support for private education if tax support opened up the school to any who wanted to attend.

A younger Jesse Helms, who is a contemporary leader in the changing nature of the Southern Baptist National Convention, is a prime example.

Helms used to advise the public in political ads that voting for the wrong candidate meant Negroes working beside you and using your toilet facilities.

An older and more politically correct Helms joins the Christian Coalition in saying that good Christians don't support Affirmative Action since it is unbiblical. Helms has claimed that Christianity and liberalism are completely incompatible.

To Texan, Michael Lind "The South has finally conquered Washington". It is no longer Rockefeller's conservatism, it is Newt Gingrich's who is from Georgia.

    When Gingrich says that Lyndon Johnson's Great Society is a "great detour", he is appealing to a Southern bitterness over the social changes that took place in the region.

A bitterness that will not quickly go away. Racial attitudes have changed but, the conflict is not easily settled.

There is a sprinkling of black members in Southern right wing metro churches. Ultra-conservative blacks have found an audience with Religious Right subscribers. However you will never see racism mentioned as an issue in voter guides handed out by the Religious Right.`

    It is noteworthy that the father of modern day Protestant Fundamentalism is J. Gresham Machen who was an Old South segregationists who taught at Princeton. Machen's student, Carl McIntire, would eventually join forces with men like Billy Hargis and claim that integration was a Communist plot.

It is interesting that many Southern Blacks liked the idea of a separate but so-called equal existence.

Marcus Garvey, a black man, was an earlier forerunner of Louis Farrakhan's idea of a separate nation. Garvey often spoke at Klan rallies.

One of the forefathers of the Religious Right was Fort Worth's own J. Frank Norris. Norris once had the Klan into his First Baptist Church identifying himself with the movement.

The Old Antebellum South was not totally segregated. Blacks often attended church with whites and shared membership. Servants worked in white homes and raised the children of the household like they were their own. As the years passed, churches, schools, and communities were divided along racial lines.

    Southern culture has traditionally favored state's rights over Yankee intervention. When Jerry Falwell demands the federal government get out of the people-helping-business and allow local churches to handle it, he is striking a familiar note in the South.

The Falwell-Dole connection in a bill that would transfer welfare money to local churches for distribution is a fallback to Old South attitudes.

Falwell has spoken at segregationist' rallies and, as recently as the past decade, supported South African regimes. In the Old South, the Anglican Church was the dominant version of Christianity. This state supported English church passed on its roots to many religious thinkers.

    Contemporary anti-public education leaders like Tim LaHaye and Pat Robertson promote private academies claiming public education is part of an international conspiracy against Christians. William Bennett says that public education is gone in this country.

LaHay and Robertson feast on the anti-U.N. sentiment found among the Fat Right. (The Texas soldier who refused to serve under the U.N. command is a Texas cult hero among many in the Religious Right.) LaHay quotes statesmen who claim that state-controlled education is always a failure.

Alarmists in the South who distrust any higher authority above the Mason-Dixon line are hearing the message.
Religious Right groups are more prominent in the South and have given rise to The Republican Party's rekindled presence. The neighboring county to me has for the first time voted Republican The list is growing.

    One of the more peculiar groups among the Religious Right are the Reconstructionists. Sympathetic followers are on every major Religious Right board.

The group preaches Theocracy which believes the idea of separation of church and state is a sin. They believe that a nation is only blessed that allows Biblical teaching to be the law of the land.

To these people, Christianity is the official religion of America Religious Freedom is a social wrong. The founder of Reconstructionism is R. J Rushdoony, a one time John Birch Society member. (The John Birch Society is highly active in the South. The Mississippi State Fair used to have a Society booth on the campground ) Rushdoony's followers have promoted slavery as a Biblical idea worth repeating In a recent issue of Rushdoony's "Chalcedon Report", the Old South was glorified.

Rev. Rushdoony believed the Old South was basically Christian and was fighting a Unitarian North. He fringes upon making the Southern cause a type of Holy War

He concedes the South lost the war for not following God's law more accurately. Rushdoony is from California but glamorizes a fictional Southern Culture.

In contrast to what many considered an outdated feudal system, one author in the magazine calls attention to the fact that to some it "seems the golden era in American history was the Antebellum South instead of the once revered era of the Pilgrims and the Puritans. The magazine reads like a journal published by the Confederates just before the war.

    Rushdoony points out how the South was as he called it, "Calvinist". This is a Fundamentalist view about predestination and conversion. Once shunned by Southern Baptist, now many Fundamentalists Southern Baptists want to make five point Calvinism a test of faith.

Southern Baptist's oldest seminary has now been taken over by a president who is a Calvinist The story keeps unfolding.

    Many political observers among the Religious Right claim the problems in the black community were brought on by the Federal government. It is a vision common to southern folklore that blacks were all right until the interventionist came South with their social programs.

    Atlanta's Leo Frank lynching was an ugly reminder of the not so subtle forms of anti Semitism. This action led to the founding of the Anti- Defamation League, an organization which Religious Right writer, Texe Marrs, blames for the tragedy at the Waco compound.

A more subtle form of anti Semitism is found in Pat Robertson's Illuminate theories about European bankers controlling the world. Or, there is Rushdoony's denial of the accounts of the Holocaust to add fuel to the fire. Southern Klansmen often had Jews on their "hit lists".

    The fact, that Southern politicians like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton committed the unforgivable sin of forming alliances with Eastern liberals, makes a point. Perhaps, as much as anything, this helps to explain their popularity around the world and the virtual hatred by the Religious Right.

    As Religious Right links with Republican resurgence continue, there are now attempts at rewriting history. It is the Reconstructionists' view that the Abolition movement was basically a pagan effort that was unchristian.

Current Religious Right concepts are falling on friendly ears in the South. Issues like public education, the U.N., and state rights have caused some to perhaps think the South has risen again. Lind loves his own Southern culture, but, deplores its politics.

He says Southern political concepts are the worst thing the South has to offer. Religious Right leaders' attempt to canonize Southern politics will do the Southern church little good.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. David Chilton, PRODUCTIVE CHRISTIANS IN AN AGE OF GUILT
MANIPULATORS, Inst. for Christian Economics, Tyler, Texas, 1981.

2. Tim LaHaye, THE BATTLE FOR THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Fleming Revell Co.,
Old Tapan, N.J., 1983.

3. George Marsden, UNDERSTANDING FUNDAMENTALISM & EVANGELICALISM,
Grand Rapids, 1991, pg. 195.

4. William Pitts, Ed. TEXAS BAPTIST HISTORY Vol, VII, Texas Baptist Historical Society, 1987, pg. 5.

5. Pat Robertson, THE NEW WORLD ORDER, Word, Dallas, 1991.

6. Alan Schwartz, Ed., THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT, Anti-Defamation League,
New York, N.Y., 1994.

7. Willaim Snyder, HELMS & HUNT, Univ. of N.C., Press, Chapel Hill,
N.C., pgs. 26, 104.

8. Jerry Falwell pub., "National Liberty Journal", Nov. 1995, pg. 2.

9. Michael Llnd, "The Southern Coup", "The New Republic", June 19,
1995, pgs. 20-29.

10. Dr. R.J. Rushdoony, "Chalcedon Report", April, 1996.

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