Religious Right Trying to Balance Movement Orthodoxy with Politics

Article excerpt

Antiabortion and anti-homosexuality are the twin sociopolitical orthodoxies of the religious right. And that means the Christian Coalition has emerging heresies and schisms to contend with. The Republican antiabortion center is not holding.

The coalition is running smack into political reality as it looks for presidential candidates among politicians who are religious conservatives -- such as abortion-waffler Dan Quayle -- rather than among religious conservatives who would be politicians -- such as 1988 GOP presidential bidder and televangelist Pat Robertson.

An antiabortion stance is not an electable presidential commodity anymore, regardless of party. A constitutional amendment on abortion is yesterday's politics.

This phenomenon also explains much of Democratic politics -- why, for example, antiabortion Democrat Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania (to the Democrats' shame), was not permitted to address the 1992 Democratic convention.

Casey represents the question the Democrats duck. They, too, knew what he meant when he said to the Christian Coalition's recent annual gathering, "It is for me the bitterest of ironies that abortion on demand found a home in the national Democratic party -- my party, the party of the weak and the powerless."

Abortion issues notwithstanding, the Christian Coalition shows little sign of becoming the party of the weak and powerless. Whatever its disciples in small-town America may think to the contrary, the Christian Coalition is about power politics, not religion.

And strange, narrow and inevitably intolerant politics they always turn out to be. The Christian Coalition is a carefully orchestrated charade where numbers and linkages are concerned. It is a group of adept political operatives who inflate their advances, know how the game is played and alwyas play to win, often very skillfully. …