argument in my explanation of the origins of the Religious Right because it seemed to make sense. But I also suggested that the traditional view, that the Religious Right gained prominence in response to Roe v. Wade, was also correct. For me it was a combination of things that brought about the rise of the Religious Right. I was less concerned than Balmer about the exact event that got the movement started.
I started to write a comment on this piece, which I’ve seen floating around a lot recently, and decided just to share it on my own page:
evangelicals – started to break down, I think, a lot later than Balmer claims. He’s right to point to taxation – it’s just that the fears were driven by different things in different regions. In the Old South, yeah, it was the segregation academies. In the Southwest, it was, I think, part of the broader regional culture of John Birch conservatism, which overlapped quite a bit with conservative evangelicalism. In the North (and to a certain extent the Ozarks), though, I strongly suspect that anti-federal/anti-tax attitudes developed among evangelicals in a widespread way as they sought to opt out of late capitalism – they saw tax burdens as a way to obligate people to participate in regularized wage labor, which tore social institutions apart. This opting-out is particularly apparent in, for example, people’s explanations for their attraction to Amway and other kinds of multi-level marketing – they overwhelmingly talk about it as a way to achieve self-sufficiency and to reintegrate work and family life. (I suspect, also, that attraction to these kinds of business enterprises reinforced preexisting negative attitudes toward taxation; anyone who’s dealt with small-business or independent contractor taxes can tell you how much more onerous the administrative, and often financial, burden is compared to simple employment taxes).
SD Indy says
Thank you for your compelling book “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation…” I read it last year, and while admittedly I found your non-committal conclusion a little unsatisfying, it was nonetheless a brilliant work and a fascinating read.
In regards to Mr. Balmer's viewpoints, I am solidly against him. While the taxation issues of the early 70's no doubt provided a peg for the development of the New Right, Mr. Balmer exaggerates the role of these policies in order to pursue a very obvious agenda…that is, attempting to link the origins of the religious right to segregation and racism, and thereby discredit them. As an African American, I am certainly aware of the unflattering aspects of the christian right's past racial views. However, 1) Jerry Falwell, along with many of the other early CR leaders, expressed consistently, on the record, concern for a broad sweep of moral issues confronting America. 2) The backlash against abortion was, for the most part, swift and severe on the part of the vast majority of evangelical leaders at the time of Roe v. Wade (Mr. Balmer is extremely disingenuous when discussing this). And 3) regardless of what some small cabal of christian leaders discussed on a conference call in the early days of the movement, the success of the movement was driven by the millions who participated at the grass roots level and at the ballot box. These individuals were, and continue to be, motivated more by the abortion issue than by any other single issue (although issues such as federal encroachment and gay marriage also serve as catalysts, obviously).
Thank you again for your great work, I look forward to reading more from you.
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