Vocabulary lesson in the culture war

Sarah Pulliam at Christianity Today has an interesting piece about resistance to the ever-present catchphrase Religious Right. Some think it creates a negative impression.
Several politically conservative evangelicals said in interviews that they do not want to be identified with the “Religious Right,” “Christian Right,” “Moral Majority,” or other phrases thrown around in journalism and academia.

“There is an ongoing battle for the vocabulary of our debate,” said Gary Bauer, president of American Values. “It amazes me how often in public discourse really pejorative phrases are used, like the ‘American Taliban,’ ‘fundamentalists,’ ‘Christian fascists,’ and ‘extreme Religious Right.’ “

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One Response to Vocabulary lesson in the culture war

  1. Jason says:

    “Moral Majority” is a proper noun that refers to a specific organization. Members of the Moral Majority actually ARE members of that group. What else are you going to call them? Melissa Nann Burke, why did you toss that in with the other examples of generic terms to describe “politically conservative evangelicals”?
    I don’t see how “religious right” is a perjorative. No more so than “secular left”. The terms denote a specific demographic accurately and without value judgement. They are religious, and they are on the “right” end of the political spectrum. What is all the fuss about? Do they want to be secular or on the left? Is religious right in some way inaccurate?
    Pulliam’s piece even shows that Fallwell applied “religious right” to himself and his “side of the debate” on purpose. If the public sees that group as “associated with a hard-edge politics and intolerance,” it is because the people who step up to represent that group (Fallwell saying things like New Orleans deserved Katrina) are hard-edged with politics and intolerant.
    If you design your own self image, then ruin it, how can you put the blame on the public?
    Asking to replace “religious right” with “socially/politically conservative evangelical” doesn’t change anything. Terms are only functional if they convey a meaning. Religious right means the same thing as socially conservative evangelical. It means the same thing, so why would anybody think it will change anything?
    The problem trying to be avoided is that conservative evangelicals generally are intolerant to change, are hardlined when it comes to political ideas, are resistent to cultural diversity, are highly proprietary, etc. These idiosyncracies and principles are what any term for the group is trying to label. Right is a synonym for conservative. Religious is a stand-in for evangelical. A rose is a rose is a rose.
    The labels aren’t perjorative. The people in the group just don’t like the fact that the labels they choose always convey the full meaning of their group, instead of just the positive stuff.

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