By Steve Deace (BarbWire guest columnist)
The Republican Party is hanging by a thread.
As a long overdue, all-out civil war erupts, and the grassroots mounts an unprecedented effort to unseat many party establishment figures in the primaries, nobody in the GOP seems satisfied with the status quo. The ruling class is having a typical ruling class reaction to the insurgency—sneering condescension. Meanwhile, the grassroots wants the ruling class to go at all costs. Both sides are like a dysfunctional marriage that claims they’re nobly staying together for the kids, which usually means they’re only sticking around until a better deal comes along.
The establishment showed in last year’s Virginia governor’s race they’ll side with Democrats if they don’t get their way in the primary. At the same, as the grassroots watches GOP leadership betray them almost every day that ends in “y,” fewer and fewer of them are lamenting Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 election. Instead, they’re starting to think he would’ve just treated them the same shoddy way John Boehner and Ditch McConnell do, with scorn and contempt.
But while the party seems besieged on every side, there is one issue in particular that threatens to undo it once and for all. Because this issue is an existential threat to the base of the Republican Party its leadership seems to loathe every bit as much as the Left does.
That issue is the intersection of the sexual revolution and religious liberty.
Much of the Republican Party base remains God-fearing, salt-of-the-earth patriots who likely attend some form of an orthodox Judeo-Christian worship service on a regular basis. They represent the demographic that made the Reagan Revolution possible. Prior to the formation of what became known as the “Religious Right,” the GOP was largely a northeastern WASP minority party of country club Republicans. After Eisenhower left office the party wandered in the desert until Nixon upset Humphrey in 1968, but Nixon’s later fall from grace left the party circling the drain. It couldn’t even beat a peanut farmer for president.
Reagan arrived on the scene backed by national defense hawks and anti-tax/pro-growth conservatives. The national defense hawks brought the prestige, and the anti-tax/pro-growth conservatives brought the big checks, but it was the alliance of the Catholic Paul Weyrich and the evangelical Jerry Falwell into what became known as the “Moral Majority” that provided the numbers. Prior to this mobilization, evangelicals were hardly a political force. Most of them were waiting for Hal Lindsey’s prediction Jesus would return in 1988 to come true. On the other hand, Catholics rarely voted Republican. Many of them were working class immigrants. Plus, the first Catholic president had been a Democrat, and much of LBJ’s “Great Society” fell in line with other aspects of Catholic social teaching.
But then January 22nd, 1973 happened.
That was the day of the most wicked decree in the history of this constitutional republic. That was the day the U.S. Supreme Court imposed child sacrifice on America via Roe v. Wade. Confronted with the resurrected demonic spirit of Moloch, the church of Jesus Christ became politically mobilized. The Catholics first entered the fray, followed by the evangelicals. They soon became the most feared force in American politics, and the third and largest leg of Reagan’s famous “three-legged stool.” They provided the worker bees, the activists, and the sort of energy money can’t buy.
Despite the fact they were the demographic that made the Reagan Revolution possible, little by little this faction was pushed to the background by party bosses ashamed of their old school values. Nevertheless, regardless of every snub and every slight, as the years went by this was always the GOP’s most reliable vote.
Yet now that base is growing older and is being replaced by a more confrontational yet cynical generation. A generation that recoils at the mere mention of “the lesser of two evils.” A generation that wants a bigger fight than securing Republican majorities, who rarely deliver on their promises anyway. A generation that views fighting for the old alliances as akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. A generation that isn’t even sure political activism makes a difference.
Several of the most podcasted evangelical preachers in America today abstain from political activism. They believe the antidote to avoid being taken advantage of by the political system (like they believe the previous generation was) is to simply preach the Gospel and let the chips fall come what may.
This is my generation.
We have been uncertain whether to build on the legacy of our forefathers, or to hit control-alt-delete. My generation is producing leaders on both sides who make a compelling case. However, the argument is fast becoming moot, for the final latch on the sexual revolution’s Pandora’s Box has been opened.
The mainstreaming of homosexuality, and the use of government coercion to make it so, provides the American Christian Church with its most ominous threat since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. This is an issue that makes all other issues secondary, even the life issue. For if we are not free to speak truth to power in this culture we are effectively as powerless as many of our brethren meeting in secret to avoid persecution elsewhere in the world.
True, Christ promised even the gates of hell would not prevail against his church. Not even the full power and might of the U.S. government can stand in the way of God’s grace. Just look at statist China, which has the second-fastest growing Christian population in the world. Furthermore, five of the top 10 fastest growing Christian populations in the world are in Muslim countries.
While that’s obviously good news for people’s souls, and empirical evidence Christ is true to his word, government and cultural oppression of Christianity in these countries means the benefits we have enjoyed due to our Christian heritage are still nowhere to be found in these nations. Unless you actually connected with Christians in these countries, you would see very little of the fruit Christianity produces in the culture it’s truly planted in—justice, rule of law, morality, liberty, meritocracy, mercy, etc.
In Christianity the “church” is not just an institution or a building. The “church” is wherever believers are—work, home, school, public functions, etc. A Christian believes he brings God’s Holy Spirit (church) with him wherever he goes, thus he must always have a ready testimony for the hope he has in Christ. A Christian is taught he is not allowed to refuse a public proclamation of his faith in Christ, for Christ did not deny us when he publicly submitted to a brutal beating and execution on our behalf. A Christian is taught if he denies Christ in any setting – even politics or a NFL team locker room – then Christ will deny him in turn on the Day of Judgment.
A Christian is allowed to assimilate into a culture, but he cannot affirm it. He is in the culture, but not of the culture. If those pushing the sexual revolution to its most dangerous conclusions persist on their current collision course with history, they will force the Christian Church to give up all of its other various pursuits in order to defend the very integrity of its existence—even to the point of civil disobedience as we have seen previously in church history.
Similarly, if the Republican Party persists on abandoning its base of social conservatives immersed in this fight, it is essentially self-immolating for it cannot make up the numbers lost here elsewhere. The so-called “Facebook generation” of youthful nihilists Rand Paul frequently trumpets still pales in comparison to the number of Christian voters. For example, Rick Santorum got twice as many primary votes as Ron Paul did in 2012, and Newt Gingrich got almost 750,000 more. It’s going to take several decades of breeding for the church of “bread-alone” patriots to overcome their current demographic deficit, and in case you hadn’t noticed the home-schoolers are having more kids than the “legalize it” (marijuana) crowd is anyway.
If Christians cannot count on their political allies to defend their freedoms, then they will not waste their time with politics. They won’t have the luxury of doing so. There’s a reason Christians in China and the Middle East aren’t concerned with political activism. They can’t afford to be. They’re still fighting to exist.
When the government comes knocking on your door demanding you sin on its behalf or be silenced, at that moment you’re not thinking about whether you think marriage should be defined at the state level, or via a federal marriage amendment, or if government should get out of marriage altogether (a frequent and current debate among Republicans). You’re thinking about survival.
Speaking of which, the Republican Party cannot survive the loss of these voters, whether it be from a voluntary or a forced exodus. It’s no coincidence a party built on Christian ethics is strongest where the Christian church is also strongest (Republicans are twice as likely to go to church regularly as Democrats).
From the beginning the statists have used the sexual revolution as a means to first destabilize Christian moral influence in the culture, and then once that destabilization takes root to then marginalize the Christian Church from public life altogether. For the Christian Church has always been the only real threat statism has. If the Republican Party will not defend its Christian base against the statists, then it will be one of the first casualties of statism.
(Steve Deace is the author of the new book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.