Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Religious Right, Civil Rights and Obama: Wisdom From 1998

Long before Barack Obama became a household name, in only the second year of his political career (at that time, the Illinois Senate), two respected historians writing for The Journal of Southern Religion in 1998 warned of the trajectory of the fundamentalist Religious Right as "a movement of white reaction" against Civil Rights that excluded African-Americans. Noting the spread of such fundamentalism nationwide, one of the two historians summarized ascendant, southern white reactionary culture as "General Lee's revenge," and noted the accompanying spread of states' rights and hatred of federal government ideologies, both the overriding themes of today's anti-Obama, white "tea parties."

One historian argued that modern fundamentalism has transformed the South to a larger degree than did Civil Rights. His thesis was: "At the deepest levels, the change in racial and biracial affairs brought about as a result of the Civil Rights Movement was less disruptive of historic Southern culture than the Baptist, Presbyterian, and "third force" fundamentalist uprisings have turned out to be."

Realizing that such an argument was counter-intuitive to many, he continued: "we are afforded more than a hint into the interpretation that the fundamentalist movement is more disruptive than was the Civil Rights Movement; or, it will have proven to be so if its effect is as comprehensive and enduring as was that of its predecessor. The Civil Rights Movement reconfigured all the existing parts of Southern society and culture by insisting that all be considered equal partners, by law and, desirably, in informal practice. Fundamentalism insists on establishing public policy for the entire public whether most, many, or only a few subscribe."

These two 1998 essays are well-worth a read today in the light of the current white, southern, reactionary conservatism that characterizes Fox News-driven Christian fundamentalism and the Republican Party.

See Fundamentalism in Recent Southern Culture: Has it Done What the Civil Rights Movement Couldn't Do? - by Sam Hill, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida (more information about Sam Hill)

And "Response to Sam Hill, 'Fundamentalism in Recent Southern Culture'" - by Betty A. DeBerg, University of Northern Iowa


troutbirder said...

With you permission I would like to put up a link to you blog. I have found it interesting and very well written. I have a nature blog (Troutbirder) and a more general one (Troutbirder II) which at this point is mostly book and movie reviews and trivia. I link would be on T.II where I intend to add a section of political comment

troutbirder said...

Yikes, I do know how to spell although its not obvious on my previous comment.

Bruce Gourley said...

Troutbirder, please feel free to place a link on your blog. And tell me, are you a YNetter (