Friday, February 27, 2009
The Dying Roars of a Wounded Beast
Lots of apparently contradictory news this week from the extreme right, but all actually pointing to a similar conclusion. The culture wars are over, the ideological purists are outraged that people accept gay lifestyles and religions other than Christianity, and the wounded beasts are roaring in their death throes, certain the world is going to hell.
The news that James Dobson would step down as head of Focus on the Family crossed the wires around noon on Feb. 26. It had been half-expected for quite a while, as the public's growing annoyance with the Mad Doctor was one factor that led to reduced Focus contributions. The obvious question is, can a Dobsonless Focus, like a New Life Church without Ted Haggard, retain any sense of identity? In the case of New Life, the answer was a qualified "yes," and the church was less hostile to others, even as it retained its sense of evangelism. With Focus, the board will likely aim for a kinder, gentler family-values institution, but I'm not so sure the PR shtick will work.
Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature saw two types of craziness at the end of February. Sen. Scott Renfroe of Greeley, during debate on a domestic partners act, equated the sin of homosexuality with murder. Just as the Colorado Republican Party was trying to recover from the horror, the always-irrepressible Sen. Dave Schultheis from Colorado Springs became the sole member of the state legislature to vote against a bill to mandate AIDS testing for pregnant women. Schultheis, normally a virulent anti-abortion activist, actually said he wanted babies to get AIDS to teach their moms responsibility. Thankfully, ProgressNow Colorado has started an online petition drive to get him censured. I'd prefer to see him run out of the state or run over by a truck.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says we should expect this kind of revitalization of the extreme right, as wacko groups have to cope with an African-American president and a society that has largely accepted new cultural norms. There's always a danger that one or two such groups would attempt an Oklahoma City re-run. But most will just scream louder and louder in their irrelevance. Be sure to turn off the lights and shut the doors on your way out, gang.