Hollywood conservatives offer something new every year at CPAC. This year’s hot new film stars Fred Thompson, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Davison, and Natalie Grant. According to Peter Montgomery of Right Wing Watch, who endured the film so that we do not have to, Persecuted is a “fascinating” and “disturbing” window on the paranoid mind of right wing evangelical politics.
Let’s review the symbolism in Persecuted. The enemies of religious liberty are those who use the language of fairness and equality and those who say America is not a Christian nation. Religious pluralism is portrayed not as a matter of respecting freedom for every faith tradition, but as a deceptive, coercive tool of government to erase religious difference and put all faiths under the politically correct thumb of government. Other religious leaders are either co-conspirators or complicit sheep. The only non-Christians I remember in the film were those sitting silently on the dais as Sen. Harrison launched his religious takeover project. Oh, and about that growing cohort of religions “nones” in America? Luther’s dad tells him at one point that those who believe in nothing must destroy him in order to achieve their goals. And with the exception of some FBI agents, government officials are as soulless and devoid of scruples as the characters on House of Cards.
Persecutory delusions are one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia. When the condition manifests as habitual or vexatious litigation, we call the mentally ill “querulants.” Querulants are characterized by a sense of aggrieved, indignant loss on the one hand, and a massive sense of entitlement on the other. The querulant will refuse compromise, remaining obsessively focused on a full vindication of their imagined grievances, and reacting very badly when they feel ignored.
Modern Christian conservatism is a querulant movement. With the culture leaving them behind on so many issues, right wing evangelicals feel ignored by a society they resent, becoming aggrieved and indignant as they are left behind. Their sense of lost privilege and esteem in a country that no longer recognizes the moral force of their agenda drives them to enforce that program on the rest of us by law and litigation, for our own good, to restore what they see as the natural order of American society.
In this way, the Christian right has become a “freedom movement” for bigots and busybodies who treat god as an excuse for authoritarian behavior. Just look at Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned corporation which has just argued before the Supreme Court that it should be exempt from health care mandates to cover birth control. While the company frames this as a matter of the owner’s freedom, in fact the case is about canceling the freedom of his employees. And it is just one part of a much broader campaign by the company to enshrine “freedom to discriminate” in law.
Hobby Lobby appears to be going much further than protecting freedom, providing funding for a group that backs a political network of activist groups deeply engaged in pushing a Christian agenda into American law. The document shows entities related to the company to be two of the largest donors to the organization funding a right-wing Christian agenda, investing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars into a vast network of organizations working in concert to advance an agenda that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians and deny their employees contraceptives under a maximalist interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution.
Every now and then, we come across another example of liberals who propose to burst this bubble in one way or another (click here for a recent example). But this is a fool’s errand. Just as schizophrenics respond better to medication than logical or fact-based argument, the Christian conservative is never moved by evidence that does not confirm their biases. Their faith does not permit compromise or modification of their god’s plan for us, which is perfect as it was received by them. Asking them to coexist peacefully with the rest of us in a diverse society where all beliefs are tolerated, but none is in charge of all others, is tantamount to demanding that they give up their god.