The Mormon-Christian right alliance
Michelle Goldberg has an interesting piece up at The Daily Beast about how Glenn Beck is using his haterade to create unity between Mormons and the traditional Christian right, which is mostly populated by evangelical Christians. If you really step back and look at what he’s done, it’s pretty amazing. Beck is Mormon, but you honestly wouldn’t know it from the general way he carries on, which is to imitate the tropes of right wing evangelical Christianity, with the weeping and the ranting and confessions. I don’t know a lot about Mormons, but I think they’re generally a little more buttoned-up than that. I’m sure much of his audience would agree. They probably think Beck is like them for weeks or even months of watching him before they find out that he’s a Mormon, and by then, they’ve decided he’s in the tribe. So they’re probably warmed up to Mormons by default.
I’ve always thought it was strange that right wing evangelicals and Mormons couldn’t set aside their differences when it came to whose made-up bullshit was the right made-up bullshit. After all, their actual real world beliefs that the made-up bullshit was made up to rationalize are identical: that men are superior to women, that white people are superior to non-white people, that patriarchy is good, that gay people should cease existing, at least out in the open. Also, they share a hostility to science and rationality that threatens the authority of their made-up bullshit, and a general suspicion of government policies that might undermine their core beliefs about the hierarchy of humans. But I suppose people that subscribe to different flavors of made-up bullshit are wary of each other. The existence of other religious beliefs is pretty much de facto proof that it’s all made-up bullshit. After all, most religious people believe that other religions are a bunch of made-up bullshit. If they ponder that too hard, they may be forced to conclude that their own made-up bullshit is also made-up bullshit. I’ve long suspected American evangelicals dislike Mormons because Mormons hold a mirror up to their face and they don’t like what they see. Evangelicals like to pretend their various theological beliefs are ancient and go back to Jesus, but in reality much of what they believe is recent and made up by Americans spinning bullshit. For instance, the belief in the Rapture is quite American, as is the general assumption that it’s Americans that are so important in their theology that the end of the world must be related to our empire’s peak.
Still, all along there’s been a strong potential for an alliance, because while the made-up bullshit part of the program causes animosity, the actual real world beliefs are there. It takes someone like Glenn Beck, who is such a charlatan that even he probably doesn’t realize that he’s a charlatan, to conclude that there’s no reason for fairy tales to get in the way of a political alliance.
In a way, this all was inevitable. It’s hard to say if the erroneous initial reports that the teabaggers were a secular movement were just mainstream media wishful thinking or a snow job being played by the teabaggers themselves. I think it was a little of both, honestly. Far from all teabaggers are religious, much less the religious right, and so the teabaggers were happy to play along with the “secular” narrative to reflect their bona fide secular members. However, the religious right will always be the backbone of these kinds of movements, because without the organizing power of the churches, you mostly have a bunch of individuals sitting in their houses stewing. Beck gets this, and I think he specifically set out to make the Jesus talk more explicit to pay tribute to the leaders of the religious right. Now that they’re fattened up with flattery, they’re ready to do his bidding and start moving their people where he wants them to go.
Coddling the religious right is really important, because I don’t think the workaday believers are necessarily a sure thing when it comes to political movements. They need constant care and feeding to give a shit. Evangelical churches recruit from two major populations, which are people who already have right wing beliefs they want to justify and organize around, and people who are emotionally needy and are attracted to the self-help and sob-heavy emphasis of the evangelical church. The latter group are your loose cannons. They’re reliable followers, which is good for the right, but they aren’t necessarily hateful and ready to respond to naked racist/sexist appeals, like you get with someone secular like Rush Limbaugh. If tomorrow their pastors started to go old school with talk about how they don’t need to be involved in politics, because that’s of the world, these are the folks that would probably not only burn their voter registration cards but be a little relieved to be out of it, so they can dedicate 100% of their time to loving Jesus and chasing kids around. So, these folks need constant flattery and feeding. The Tea Crackers can’t keep the momentum going at the ballot box without them.