The Christian Right is a broad label applied to a number of political and religious movements with particularly conservative and right wing views. While such elements are found in many nations, this term is most commonly applied to groups within the United States. Sometimes the term Christian Right is used interchangeably with the term "Religious Right," although some argue for a distinction. (See the discussion on the Religious Right page).
Christian Right groups consist of conservative Christians who join in coalitions around issues of shared concern. While the Christian Right is often perceived as fundamentalist by outsiders, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics also are involved.
Most elements of the Christian Right sympathize with, support, and sometimes influence the United States Republican Party. For example, such support provided considerable backing for the campaigns of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Issues which the Christian Right is (or is thought to be) primarily concerned with include:
- Banning or heavily restricting euthanasia.
- Opposed to teaching evolution, or support teaching religiously-based "intelligent design"/creationism in schools
- Banning some applications of biotechnology, particularly human cloning and stem cell research with human embryos in spite of the potential to cure a wide variety of serious illnesses: bioethics.
- Opposition to the gay rights movement and the upholding of family values as defined by a literalist interpretation of the Christian Bible.
- Support for the presence of religions in the public sphere, such as with prayer in school.
- Ending government funding restrictions against religious charities and schools, and similar matters.
- Opposition to U.S. court decisions widening the separation of church and state.
- Homeschooling, and private schooling, although a wide range of parents across the political spectrum engage in these practices, and Catholics have long maintained parochial schools in larger towns. The Christian Right generally supports vouchers. In their opinion, using tax moneys to teach children beliefs that are contrary to the parents' belief is wrong, and vouchers are seen as a way to correct this.
- Promoting "Traditional Moral Values," emphasizing the nuclear family as the only healthy environment to raise children, opposing sexual conduct outside of a traditional monogamous marriage, restricting divorces and the importance of religion in the daily lives of the populace.
- Restricting access to indecent and obscene materials, especially empowering parents to protect children from books, music, television programs, films, etc. that they view as indecent. Most also advocate banning pornography and stronger enforcement of current state and federal obscenity laws. Some support banning or censoring books and other media that they view as inappropriate or harmful even when they not generally considered pornographic.
- Restricting or banning the sale of contraceptives and restricting information on birth control methods. The Christian Right is known for promoting abstinence as the only valid way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
- Banning or severely restricting abortion and opposing Roe vs. Wade in the United States. There is some debate in the Christian Right community whether all abortions should be banned, or whether abortions should be allowed to protect the health of the mother, or in cases of rape and incest.
- Opposing sex education classes in schools that include information on safe sex outside of abstinence. Many members of the Christian Right accuse sex education of increasing adolescent interest in sexual activity.
- Restricting or prohibiting non-religious activity on days of religious importance (maintaining/reinstating blue laws) although usually done only at local levels.
- Some believe in banning or heavily restricting the rights of wiccans and others who do not follow the teachings of Christianity.
Historically, the Christian Right supported teaching creationism and has participated in broader campaigns for Prohibition, abolitionism, and civil rights. In the 19th century United States, conservative Christian groups advocated isolationism, xenophobia, and Manifest Destiny. Southern U.S. Christian Right groups generally advocated and practiced racial segregation in the past. This is not advocated by the Christian right in general, but is the de facto practice in many areas.
Some critics claim that the Christian Right's political policies lead toward Dominionism, while some even adhere to the tenets of Dominion Theology and Christian Reconstructionism; the latter two are related philosophies that advocate a dissolution of democracy and personal freedoms and a push toward a theocratic or theonomic form of government that regards the Bible as the only valid reference for civics, government, scientific theory or any scholarly pursuit. Opposition groups with this point of view include the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Critical groups identify the policies and commentaries of Christian Right leaders as being similar to those of Dominionism.
For example, Chip Berlet, in an American Civil Liberties Union website interview, said in 1996 that, "Reconstructionism is a theology that argues that only Christian men should rule civil society. It has a softer related theology called dominionism. ... Dominionism in general threatens the Church/State separation so vital to our democracy as a pluralist society. Groups such as the Christian Coalition really have adopted many of the tenets of Dominionism, and some key Christian right leaders are close to Reconstructionism, which thinks that the U.S. Constitution is a sub-document overruled by Old Testament Biblical Laws."
U.S. Foreign Policy and Christian Zionism
Many in the Christian Right refer to apocalyptic and other Biblical prophecy in their support of Israel, and support of Israel is often seen as a matter of biblical doctrine. The school of interpretation of Biblical prophecy in which Israel figures most prominently is called premillennial dispensationalism. This has created a movement called Christian Zionism.
According to Ribuffo, the Old Christian Right was generally isolationist, while Diamond notes the Christian Right since the 1950s has tended to support U.S. military intervention and covert action(see references below). After the September 11, 2001 attacks, many leaders in the Christian Right joined with neoconservatives in strongly supporting the War on Terror in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Expressing profound sympathy for Israel, some have gone so far as to advocate the "transfer" of the Palestinian population from the West Bank to another Arabnation (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt or Saudi Arabia) as the only viable long-term solution to the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. The Reverend Franklin Graham, in particular, has been noted for his strident views, drawing secular criticism for his harsh remarks directed at Islam and for his travelling to Baghdad to conduct an open-air Good Friday service primarily for persecuted Assyrian Christians and Chaldean Christians on April 18, 2003, nine days after the city had fallen to American troops. Citing these and other statements and actions, some critics have taken to characterizing the post-9/11 foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration and its most visible supporters as the Tenth Crusade.
Notable members of the Christian Right in the U.S.
It should be noted that more militant figures such as Fred Phelps have never had a significant following, and others, such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who once had built coalitions, made overzealous statements that lossed a previously broader base of support.
Contrast: Christian left
- Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford. ISBN 0898628644.
- Juergensmeyer, Mark. 1993. The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State. University of California. ISBN 0520086511.
- Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-553-06794-4.
- Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 0877225982.