December 15, 2004

Deconstructing Richard Viguerie

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 4:25 pm

Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air program“>program, interviewed Richard Viguerie, the inventor of much of the conservatives’ media and fund-raising tactics over the last forty years and the so-called “funding father” of the conservative movement. Mr. Viguerie is promoting his new book, “America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power.” Here are a few quotes (transcription is mine from the audio)”>audio) and my reactions.

Vigeurie: There’s a war going on against Christians. That there’s, that the secular community here, many of the institutions of this country are secular and there’s an open war on Christians and our beliefs, that we are relegated to churches on the weekend but that’s it and that we’re not supposed to participate in the political process. The Democrats have sent that message, almost that if you’re a practicing Catholic that you’re not going to serve on the courts, on the federal courts, so a lot of conservatives feel that the institutions of this country have declared war on them and whether it’s Christians or people that want to educate their children and inculcate in them certain views and values, they feel the educational establishment have declared war on them.

Viguerie says that Democrats oppose the nomination of practicing Catholics to the courts. Why do conservatives always assert that all Christians, or in this case, all Catholics, are conservative? And why do they want to turn this into a religious battle when it’s not? Democrats oppose the nomination of conservatives, Catholic, Protestant or otherwise, to the courts. How can the Democrats be anti-Catholic when they nominated a practicing Catholic, John Kerry, to run for President?

More striking, Viguerie’s war metaphor seems to be core to his beliefs. However, it is demonstrably false. There was a war against Christians in East Timor. There was a war against Christians in the Roman Empire during the 1st and 2nd centuries. There is no war against Christians in the US in the 21st century.

What there is, however, is a wide diversity of views both among Christians and among the population at large. Secular institutions must put practices into place that respect this diversity as mandated by the establishment clause of taudiohe First Amendment to the Constitution. Viguerie interprets this respect of diversity by secular institutions to be a declaration of war on his religion.

Eventually the conversation turned to gay rights.

Viguerie: They [gay activists] have an agenda and they’re coming forward to promote that agenda and it’s an anti-religious agenda. In many ways they’re mean spirited. They have some really just tough aggressive tactics, they try to demonize people that disagree with them and say they’re homophobic, that they’re bigoted. Homosexuals are not being honest that their agenda is not whatever it is that they’re talking about today, because every time that they’ve had a victory they have now gone on to push the envelope even more, and many of us feel that their goal is not to marry, they don’t really want that, very few homosexuals really want to marry. What they really want is the destruction of marriage, some of us feel, and that they would, really they feel that there is a moral equivalency between homosexuals and heterosexuals and we reject that. Americans are enormously tolerant. we just don’t feel that homosexuals should be out there trying to re-order society. We have lived a certain way for thousands of years and we don’t feel that we are mean-spirited and bigoted because we want to continue practicing our religion, our faith.

It’s striking how much this language mirrors that of the segregationists in the 1960s. Viguerie speaks of homosexuals as though they are a homogeneous group with a single, monolithic agenda. Just as Jews are talked about by anti-Semites as though they are all of one mind regarding their political objectives, or as all blacks were once talked about as conforming to a racial stereotype, Viguerie claims that homosexuals all have a single “agenda” and that they aren’t really interested in marrying. In reality, homosexuals can be conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, religious or atheist. There are as many gay “agendas” as there are gays. And just because gay marriage doesn’t fit the stereotype of the promiscuous predator gay male doesn’t mean that many gays aren’t determined to live a monogamous, boringly middle class life in the suburbs. The reason conservatives are accused of being bigoted towards gays is because they sound bigoted.

While using the language of bigotry, Viguerie claims that he and conservative Christians are the victims. They want to continue practicing their religion, a right that is given them by the Constitution. How does Viguerie believe gay marriage would prevent them from practicing their religion? Apparently because gays assert the moral equivalence of homosexuals and heterosexuals. But how would this prevent conservative Christians from practicing their religion? It wouldn’t. No one is asking conservative Christians to agree with gay marriage, or to recognize gay marriages in their churches, or to perform gay marriages. Viguerie seems to believe that the mere existence of married gay couples would prevent him from practicing his religion. It’s not enough for Viguerie to be free to assemble with like-minded Christians and follow their own moral precepts. For Viguerie, apparently the practice of his religion requires the imposition of his moral law on all others. One would think that, unlike violations of the Ten Commandments, gay marriage has no victims. However, Viguerie would have us believe that gay marriage makes victims of all Christians. Somehow, and I still can’t fathom how, the existence of gay married couples would destroy Viguerie’s marriage. I am grateful that my marriage would be able to withstand far more than the mere existence of gay couples.

Later in the show:

Gross: Now you make it sound like Evangelical Christians are the victims of a war and they’re under attack, but Evangelical Christians have been doing quite well politically right now and a lot of people feel it’s the other way and Evangelical Christians want their point of view to be the only point of view that prevails politically or in the courts and in congress, and I’m wondering if you’re aware of the fact that there are a lot of religious leaders in the Catholic church, in Protestant denominations, in Judaism who are very religious and very schooled in their religion and have different points of view on many cultural and religious issues, and that there isn’t one religion and there isn’t one way even within religions of thinking of things, that there is diversity. This is a diverse country with many different points of view and many different interpretations of scripture.

Viguerie: Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean because you make that point or make that case that therefore people who have a different view than the national media, different view from Hollywood…

Gross: I’m just talking about the country, I’m talking about priests and rabbis and nuns. I’m not talking about the media

Viguerie: I understand. I’m just saying that doesn’t mean that we should withdraw from the war declared on our moral values…

Showing why she’s the queen of the liberal radio interview, Terry makes two excellent points: that it’s hard to view conservative Christians as victims these days, and that conservatives don’t speak for all Christians. Despite his assertion to the contrary, Viguerie obviously doesn’t get either point.

To summarize this deconstruction, Richard Viguerie believes that respect of diversity is equivalent to a war on his religious beliefs. Victory in this war requires gays, liberals, the national media, Hollywood and secular institutions to abide by his conservative religious principles.

Viguerie’s book is sub-titled “How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power.” To take power. Not to save souls, save lives, feed the hungry or care for the sick, but to take power. Viguerie can’t win his war without power, and we’re not talking about spiritual power, but good old-fashioned state power, the power to impose conservative morals on the entire country. This is his objective, and the scariest part is that he believes he is the victim.

1 Comment

  1. Regarding the same-sex marriage issue, have you read the following books: “The Truth About Same-sex Marriage” by Erwin Lutzer, & “Marriage Under Fire” by James Dobson? If not, I’d recommend it. They are a quick read and very helpful in understanding the issue – and where they are coming from.

    Comment by Roger — January 4, 2005 @ 1:09 pm

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