Leo Ribuffo’s mild rebuke of the left’s typical response to American religiosity (“Religion, Politics, and the Latest Christian Right,” Dissent, Spring 1995)—a response of horrified incomprehension—gets most of it right. But Ribuffo doesn’t address in any depth the sources of conservative Protestantism’s resurgent grip on the loyalties of millions of our citizens. Ribuffo also doubts that the ascendancy of the “latest Christian right” is anything to be particularly exercised about, whereas I think it’s more dangerous than previous incarnations, simply because the cultural situation is more dangerous.
For progressive politics to succeed, we will need more than Ribuffo’s proposed truce in the war of rhetoric between progressives and leaders of the religious right. We will need to adopt an organizer’s perspective toward the movement’s rank and file: the folks who trundle off with the kids to the newly built “multifunctional” church with the big parking lot on the outskirts of town. We will need to focus on the social location at which conservative religion and politics are fused....
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