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Obama as Mr. Rogers: What the Christian Right Really Fears

5 years ago
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Melinda, dear, I think you may be on to something. The partisanship you suspect in this insane railing against the President's speech to schoolchildren may come directly from a particular segment of the Right. One thing I love about Religious Right evangelicals is that they are so exquisitely attuned to how cultures change. Evangelicals peer deeply into the subconscious mind of society, see what's emerging from the depths and roar with voices loud enough to please even the Lord Almighty, "Halt, cease and desist immediately – if not sooner. Comply or we'll sue, we'll legislate, we'll agitate, we'll protest until the entire country wants to arise and stuff socks in our mouths."
Evangelicals snap to stirrings within society long before most of us realize anything's going on at all. Their behavior makes them look paranoid, ungentle and ridiculous.
All of which makes the Religious Right delicious fare for those of us with a taste for them.
What other group would wage political war against hate crimes? Who else would oppose child protective services? Recently I read of evangelicals condemning love as the basis for marriage. Even more recently one University of Texas researcher advised evangelical young people to marry earlier. Following the Apostle Paul's "better to marry than to burn" line of thinking, he said that asking evangelicals to remain celibate until their mid-20s or later was simply not workable. So when lust becomes ungovernable, marry.
All this sounds absurd. But it isn't. Each example is a bold strike in defense of what evangelicals consider holy matters. Categorizing some crimes as hate crime makes judgments about the abomination of homosexual sex hate speech, rather than adherence to God's law. Child protective services undermine the authority of the family especially in the important matter of corporal discipline. Love as a basis for marriage sets up lack of love as a basis for divorce.
And keeping young people celibate into their mid-20s or later is a lost cause. The choice between giving up important biblical teachings or pushing for younger marriages, even if they are more likely to end in divorce, is a no-brainer. Scripture must be supported or all is lost.
The uproar over President Obama's speech to schoolchildren is the latest example of Religious Right savvy. What therapists like to call the "presenting reason" is that Obama might sneak in some invidious socialistic ideas. Some liberals suspect that the real reason is evangelicals hate racial equality and don't want a black man speaking to their children.
Both those ideas are, well, let's get into the mood here and call them something safe and old fashioned. Poppycock. Or to be more quaintly southern, hogwash.
Religious right evangelicals do not like Obama. They don't like his ideas about health care or war. They don't like his ideas about affirmative action. They don't like his friends, they don't like his jokes, they might not even like his dog.
And they probably suspect that he's the greatest politician since Reagan, maybe since Roosevelt. Since Lincoln? Lord, save us from thinking such a thing.
What Obama says to those schoolchildren won't matter one whit.
What will matter is that our darlings, our very future will gather around as though that Democrat were Mao or the Lord himself. They'll be excited. Awed maybe. Laughing and happy. Obama, that calm, kind, fatherly Mr. Rogers of the White House, might even be sneaky enough to don a sweater for the occasion. He might convince those kids to study more and everyone will praise him for helping the country, which only shows how tricky the enemy can be. Something far more insidious is afoot.
Obama will aim to make those kids feel that the president himself is speaking right to each and every one of them. He'll make them feel that he's their friend and their leader, someone to follow and to trust. He could seem like the biggest, best daddy of them all. A true father to his people.
Oh no. That presidential talk, seemingly so innocent, must not be allowed to happen within the schoolhouses of America.
Because as any preacher will tell you, they'll forget what you say before they get out the door.
What they'll never forget is how you make them feel.
Christine Wicker is on Twitter and at
Filed Under: Woman Up
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