The Christian Right Enters its Epilogue

One of the major themes I see in this year's election result is the absolute destruction of the Conservative Christian agenda. Much of this overlaps with hard-line Catholics as well, but in general it is the domain of white evangelical churches that has been resoundingly crushed. What agenda is that? It's the one that died everywhere it was contested, all across the country, in the course of a single day. From Maine to Washington, voters soundly rejected the old-school Christian doctrine.

What issues were these? There are three.

First, gay marriage. Four states had measures that had the capability to grant or restrict gay marriage, and in four states, our LGBT citizens won. Maine, Maryland and Washington legalized gay marriage. Same-sex marriage is flat-out legal in those states. It was the first victory for same-sex marriage in any popular vote, and it won in three states on the same day. In Minnesota, the vote was reversed. A proposition aimed to amend the Minnesota Constitution to specifically restrict marriage to one man and one woman. In another first, voters rejected this amendment.

Second, abortion and the rape exception. For a long time, there has been tip-toeing around abortion in the form of opposing abortion except in the cases of rape and incest, as it seems particularly cruel to force abused women to go through further torment and agony. So it has seemed relatively safe to allow for these exceptions and appear to occupy something of a middle ground. And yet, as the Republican party has skewed incredibly, wildly to the right in order to appease the increasingly panicked Christian Ultra-Right, candidates who firmly avow that rape and incest exceptions are just as wrong - being against the Will of God - have come out of the woodwork. While two years ago this was safe territory amidst the explosion of the fanatic Tea Party, the relentless assault against women's rights finally saw the counter-stroke, as every major candidate who came within a mile of saying abortion shouldn't be allowed if a woman becomes pregnant from a rape was defeated. Every. One.

Third, the rise of the non-religious voting bloc. According to the Public Religion Research Institute's latest American Values survey, among President Obama's supporters, the single-largest religious category is "none." 23% of Obama's supporters self-identify as having no religion (which does not mean atheist or agnostic, simply not practicing an organized religion). That is a higher percentage than any other faith group, once further subdivided into the racial categories that often show up strongly in many congregations. But even if one wishes to quibble over whether Christian sects should be divided by race, more than 1 in 5 Americans who support Obama are unaffiliated with any religious group.

As an aside, while these issues have long been associated with the Republican Party, it should be noted that while the Christian Right lies within the Republican Party, there is more to the GOP than just these issues, no matter how hard it has had to pander to the Christian Right in recent years.

These results are a potent boot on the neck of social conservatism. Right-to-Life proponents are definitively losing ground if they remain hard-line on rape and incest exceptions. Gay marriage is still a very hard sell in some areas of the country, and there are many battles to be fought before all of the prior damage to the cause is removed from state constitutions around the country. Yet I think it is fair to say that the tide has definitively turned, and we will see more Same-Sex Marriage legalization in northern states, although it will likely be a while before the south comes around unless compelled by a national mandate.

Abortion hardliners lost. The gays won. The non-religious turned out in droves to support the winner of the election. Frankly, it should be an evangelical's nightmare. The Christian Right is in what I expect to be a permanent decline. With the ultra-conservative agenda unable to win nationally, more and more state and local areas will fall to the evils of liberal Christianity and irreligion as time goes on, eventually to sputter into irrelevance. Don't expect it to be quiet or quick, though. Just inevitable.

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