The religious right wants a new name

THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT WANTS A NEW NAME…. Prominent fundamentalist Christian leaders with deep ties to the Republican Party have, over the years, generally rejected the notion of being “politically correct.” It’s ironic, then, that they’ve decided “religious right” doesn’t sound good, and they’d prefer we stop using it.

Gary Bauer said this week, “There is an ongoing battle for the vocabulary of our debate. It amazes me how often in public discourse really pejorative phrases are used, like the ‘American Taliban,’ ‘fundamentalists,’ ‘Christian fascists,’ and ‘extreme Religious Right.'”

A Focus on the Family official added that the “religious right” label might generate negative impressions: “Terms like ‘Religious Right’ have been traditionally used in a pejorative way to suggest extremism. The phrase ‘socially conservative evangelicals’ is not very exciting, but that’s certainly the way to do it.”

This is pretty silly. The religious right is an established political movement, and the phrase has been common for decades. I can appreciate the fact that people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and their followers would blanch at labels like “American Taliban,” but “religious right” is clearly (and deliberately) bland.

If the movement’s leaders believe “religious right” has become synonymous with extremism and hatred, perhaps the movement should be less extreme and hateful. As my friend Kyle explained yesterday:

If the phrase “Religious Right” has negative connotations, it probably stems primarily from the fact that the people who have traditionally represented the Religious Right have caused it to, you know, have negative connotations.

When people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson go on television and blame the 9/11 attacks on “pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, [and] all of them who have tried to secularize America,” that is the sort of thing that tends to create negative impressions about the Religious Right.

And even if they were called “socially conservative evangelicals,” this type of rhetoric would still create negative impressions about the term “socially conservative evangelicals” … and then “socially conservative evangelicals” would be telling everyone to stop calling them “socially conservative evangelicals.”

Exactly. We’re not talking about a branding problem here. These clowns have become publicly reviled because they embrace a radical worldview, starkly at odd with American traditions, laws, and culture.

The innocuous label isn’t the problem. The dangerous and divisive agenda is.