Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Economic Globalization, Religious Persecution and Global Social Conservatism and Its Inherent Tensions

The exciting conclusion of Mike Oldfield's article with bibliography for the whole of the paper:


A. Economic Globalization
Thus far, our account of the Christian right and institutions of international governance has focused upon the United Nations, the primary target of Christian right unilateralism. However, elements of the Christian right have also aimed their fire at institutions of international economic governance, such as the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although the Bush administration is willing to cast off multilateral constraints in some areas, neither the White House nor the business allies so crucial to its success are interested in a unilateralist rejection of the neoliberal economic order. Christian right resistance to neoliberal economic globalization could potentially pose a serious threat to the current corporate-friendly foreign policy coalition. That threat loomed large in the 1990s, when Christian right groups were found among the opponents of NAFTA, the extension of fast-track trade authority, and the granting of favored trade status to China. In these battles, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council found themselves at odds with GOP leadership and their normal allies such as the Heritage Foundation. Gary Bauer denounced “the giddy globalism of corporate Republicans,” and Christian right activists found themselves in uneasy alliances with labor unions, human rights advocates, and antiglobalization organizers.

The Bush administration's exploitation of September 11th, the “war” on terrorism, and the war in Iraq have effectively displaced controversies surrounding economic globalization. As E.E. Schattschneider, among others, has pointed out, determining the issue is among the most potent of political powers. The Bush administration, with its plans to tie in the 2004 Republican convention to the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, certainly has taken that lesson to heart. Progressives need to bring the issues of economic globalization back to the fore, not only to highlight their concerns, but also because a focus on this topic exposes serious contradictions within their opponents' foreign policy coalition.

B. Religious Persecution
The subject of religious persecution poses potential problems for the GOP-Christian right coalition, through the issue's link to the conflict between Christian right and business interests discussed above. Christian right opposition to favored trade status for China was closely tied to that country's treatment of its Christian citizens. Both the International Religious Freedom Act and appeals by Christians for sanctions against Sudan have further raised the specter of a clash between trade promotion and the right of religious expression. Even more serious are the problems that the issue of religious persecution poses for the Bush administration's conduct in its war on terrorism. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the White House has shown little inclination to raise human rights matters involving regimes willing to cooperate with its antiterrorist campaigns. Yet many key U.S. allies in the war on terror, such as Pakistan, are precisely the countries of most concern to religious persecution activists associated with the Christian right.

Although religious persecution issues spell tensions for the dominant foreign policy coalition, progressives must be cautious in exploiting those tensions. In the present climate, concern for the treatment of Christians in Islamic nations can easily slide into promotion of a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. At a February 2003 “Symposium on Islam” sponsored by the Christian Coalition, featured speakers declared that Muslims “want to kill Christians by any means,” and some compared Islam to Nazism (see Arab News). Franklin Graham, in a highly publicized statement, recently characterized Islam as an “evil” religion. Though such statements certainly complicate the diplomacy of the Bush administration, these are hardly the sort of complications that progressives want to promote. However, there are more positive ways to leverage the religious persecution issue. Progressives need to bring human rights concerns back to the front burner in a way that explicitly addresses cases of religious persecution and emphasizes multilateral norms and enforcement mechanisms. Raising these human rights concerns is the right thing to do, and such a move holds the potential to create serious divisions between the Christian right and the Bush administration.

C. Global Social Conservatism and Its Inherent Tensions
Serious tensions exist not only between the Christian right and alliance partners in the U.S. but also between the U.S.-based Christian right and potential overseas allies. In recent years, elements of the Christian right have attempted to build an international social conservative alliance, uniting evangelicals, the Vatican, and even some Islamic groups against gay rights, population control policies, and, above all, feminism. The most notable institutional embodiment of this alliance is the World Congress of Families, uniting groups of various faiths in defense of the “natural family.” As this social conservative alliance has made its voice heard at UN forums and resisted UN initiatives, it has often used a strangely progressive language, defending third world autonomy against the meddling of first world feminists and the international institutions that they allegedly control.

This international alliance has always been unstable. Much of the Christian right's base is hesitant to support cooperation with the Vatican , much less with Islamic groups. 19 Although groups from a variety of nations participate in the World Congress of Families, participation is heavily skewed toward the U.S. Christian right. Given the militant nationalism of the Christian right and its belief in the unique U.S. role as a “redeemer nation,” it is hardly surprising that such religious nationalists are ambivalent about crafting a truly international coalition. The 9/11 attack, the war on terrorism, and the war against Iraq have heightened this nationalism and further complicated the Christian right's efforts at international coalition building. In the current environment, cooperation with Islamic groups is especially problematic.

These difficulties notwithstanding, we should not underestimate the potential of a worldwide socially conservative alliance and its possible effectiveness in resisting the efforts of international governing bodies to defend women's rights or implement effective AIDS policies. Opposition to feminism and gay rights is widespread around the world. Even if evangelical-Islamic cooperation is unlikely in the present climate, U.S. religious conservatives can look to the explosive growth of conservative Christianity around the globe in their search for potential allies (see Jenkins). The current controversy over gay ordination in the Episcopalian church is illustrative. U.S. opponents of the church's recent decision to ordain a gay minister have forged an alliance with conservative members of the international Anglican community, particularly with members of its massive and rapidly growing African branch.

Progressive internationalism, i.e., utilizing international institutions to promote equitable economic development rather than neoliberalism, poses serious problems for the Christian right's attempts to construct a global alliance of social conservatives and undercuts the unilateral American nationalism of the Christian right. Few of the Christian right's potential allies in other parts of the world are fervent American nationalists, and they are generally more favorably inclined toward the UN (see Buss and Herman). Moreover, a progressive international economic agenda highlights real contradictions between the neoliberalism of the current administration, with which the Christian right is allied, and the economic interests of prospective third world allies that the Christian right is attempting to win over on social issues.

Shifting the global social conservatism debate to an agenda of progressive internationalism, translating concerns over religious persecution into commitment to a general defense of human rights, and countering economic globalization are obviously not easy tasks. However, if done correctly, pursuit of such goals can trigger a win/win scenario: it's the right thing to do, and it could create serious problems for the Christian right and the unilateralist alliance now dominating American foreign policy.


Elliott Abrams, ed., The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups & U.S. Foreign Policy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

Arab News, “Christian Coalition's Panelists Distort Islam” (2003) available online at .

Daniel Bell, ed., The New American Right (New York: Criterion Books, 1955).

Daniel Bell, ed., The Radical Right (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1963).

Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (New York: Guilford Press, 2000).

Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).

Paul Boyer, “When U.S. Foreign Policy Meets Biblical Prophecy” (2003) available online at .

Doris Buss and Didi Herman, Globalizing Family Values (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003).

Jennifer Butler, “New Sheriff in Town: The Christian Right Nears Major Victory at the United Nations” (2003) available online at .

Alan Crawford, Thunder on the Right (New York: Pantheon, 1980).

Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion (New York: Guilford Press, 1995).

Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Boston: South End Press, 1989).

David Frum, “The Real George Bush” (2003) at The Atlantic Online available online at .

John Green, “The Spirit Willing: Collective Identity and the Development of the Christian Right” in Jo Freeman and Victoria Johnson, eds., Waves of Protest (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).

Joshua Green, “God's Foreign Policy,” Washington Monthly, November 2001, pp. 26-30.

Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics (New York: E.J. Hill & Co., 1989).

Allen Hertzke, “The Political Sociology of the Crusade Against Religious Persecution” in Elliott Abrams, ed., The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups & U.S. Foreign Policy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

Interfaith Alliance (2003) home webpage at .

Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence, Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003).

Michael Lienesch, Redeeming America: Piety and Politics in the New Christian Right (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, The Politics of Unreason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978).

William Martin, “The Christian Right and American Foreign Policy” Foreign Policy, vol. 114, Spring 1999, pp. 66-79.

Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

Matthew Moen, The Christian Right and Congress (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992).

Duane Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996).

Project for the New American Century, “Statement of Principles” (1997) available online at .

John Harold Redekop, The American Far Right: A Case Study of Billy James Hargis and Christian Crusade (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968).

Pat Robertson, The End of the Age (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995).

Pat Robertson, The New World Order (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991).

Michael Paul Rogin, The Intellectuals and McCarthy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1967).

United States Government, National Security Strategy of the United States (2002) available online at .

Clyde Wilcox, Onward Christian Soldiers (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996).


Many works on the Christian right have given scant attention to foreign policy issues. For examples, see Moen (1992), Wilcox (1996), Oldfield (1996), and Watson (1999). A major exception to this trend has been the work of Sara Diamond (1989, 1995). In the last few years the foreign policy activism of the Christian right has been the focus of more scholarly attention. See Martin (1999), Abrams (2001), and, most notably, Buss and Herman (2003).
Opposition to “Red” China, however, remains a significant item on the Christian right's foreign policy agenda, particularly for the Family Research Council.
The general trend toward greater involvement in international affairs masks some differences among Christian right groups. Phyllis Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum, has long been active in international issues. The Christian Coalition has generally avoided international matters, except for issues of religious persecution and support for Israel.
Christian right groups also object to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, seeing it as a potential threat to the authority of parents. Moving beyond a social issues agenda, Christian right groups have raised objections to the U.S. peacekeeping troops serving under UN command in Bosnia. The UN's Biosphere reserve program, seen as a threat to U.S. sovereignty over its parklands, has also come under Christian right fire.
Interview with author, July 30, 1998.
See Buss and Herman for a comprehensive account of the Christian right's alliances and activism at the UN.
Several novels in the Left Behind series have reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and overall sales for the series now top 50 million books. Lindsey's sales were less noticeable to those outside the evangelical community, because until recently the Times did not poll Christian bookstores in calculating its sales figures.
Beaulieu is eventually defeated through the leadership of a televangelist who bears a remarkable similarity to Robertson himself and a U.S. general who craftily withholds a segment of the American military from the control of the new world government.
Robertson's role as a televangelist, Christian right presidential candidate, and long-time president of the Christian Coalition is well-known. LaHaye has been somewhat less visible to outsiders, but he too has played an important role in the movement as an author, cofounder of the Moral Majority, and as the husband of Beverly LaHaye, founder and former president of Concerned Women for America.
Robertson (1991) and personal interview with Leigh Ann Metzger, who served as the elder Bush's outreach director for religious conservatives (August 21, 1994).
Doug Wead, personal interview with author, May 1989.
Baltimore Sun, November 25, 1987, as quoted in Campaign Hotline-American Political Network, Inc.
Quoted in Paul Boyer (2003). For more on prophecy and Christian right foreign policy, see Boyer (1992) and Halsell. Although end-time prophecies lead to strong support for Israel, a closer examination reveals that Jews, or at least those who do not convert to Christianity, do not fare well in end-time scenarios.
Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, personal interview with author, July 1998, and Green (2001). Shea's Puebla Institute was best known for its criticism of Nicaragua's Sandinista government and, allegedly, had ties to that government's contra opponents. See .
See Hertzke.
Bauer and the Family Research Council have been closer to neoconservatives than other elements of the Christian Right. Bauer is more supportive of free trade and an activist U.S. foreign policy than leaders at Concerned Women for America and, especially, Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly, whose isolationist tendencies slot her closer to the paleoconservatives.
The Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates is a notable exception.
See Oldfield as well as Berlet and Lyons for critiques of the extremism approach to interpreting the Christian right.
Darren Logan, Family Research Council, interview with author, July 1998. See also Buss and Herman.