Defeating the Christian Right Requires Better Organization and Strategy

Army on horseback
Image by ha11ok from Pixabay

Two large armies have set up encampments on opposite ends of a large battlefield. They are similar in size, but that is about all they have in common. I'll summarize the key characteristics of each army. Afterward, you can venture a guess about who will prevail.

Army A: Well-Organized, Strategic, and Formidable

Army A is so well-funded that they can get anything they want. No piece of equipment is too extravagant for their donors. Weapons, ammunition, and other supplies will not be a problem for them. They have the sort of determination only religious fervor can bring. They believe they will prevail against all opponents.

Army A's greatest assets are its organization and persistence. They have what some might call a "hive mind." The leaders issue orders and the troops do not question them. They all share a common purpose, and they have been training for some time. Watching them in action, one sees a well-oiled machine.

Army A is patient, calculating, deliberate, and in it for the long haul. They have been preparing for this fight for several decades, and it shows. They've lost some small battles along the way, but this has not deterred them one bit.

Army A has few weaknesses, but overconfidence could be one. They believe their gods will see to their ultimate victory. But given all they've accomplished, it is not easy to argue with this.

Army B: Opposed to Organization, Reactive, and Distracted

Army B, by contrast, is desperate for funds. They have few donors, making little effort at fundraising. It is almost as if they have preferred to keep their existence a secret. Obtaining supplies will be a challenge. And while it would be a mistake to describe them as apathetic, they lack the determination of Army A. They have difficulty sustaining a focus on anything for long.

As for Army B's greatest assets, it is tough to find any. They are not overconfident, so that's something. If anything, they are already demoralized from repeated losses. They do not rely on gods, so this helps them avoid some distractions.

Army B's greatest weaknesses are their lack of organization and persistence. It is one thing to struggle with organization, but Army B seems to reject any efforts at organization. Their leaders issue orders and the troops often disregard them. It often looks like they don't know what they're doing. They cannot even agree on their goals.

Instead of being persistent and focused, Army B seems distracted much of the time. They give up too soon when faced with adversity. They are too quick to move from battle to battle without learning anything in the process. Some of their troops have little idea what they're fighting for.

What's Your Assessment, and Who's Who?

Who's going to win? Who has been winning?

The battlefield is the United States. Army A is the Christian right. Army B includes atheists, agnostics, humanists, and assorted "nones" who value secularism.

It is easy to understand why the Christian right keeps winning. The secular side refuses to organize or plan ahead. We are too proud of our independence and don't come together until it is almost too late to matter. We react to some direct threats but are not proactive. We never go on offense to expand our rights. We do not have a strategy.

The Christian right is both organized and willing to engage in long-term planning. They are nothing if not patient. They see a collection of small battles as shaping the world in the direction they want. They rarely need to play defense because they are always on the attack. These characteristics make them formidable.

We secularists have counted on the courts and the rule of law. This worked for a while, but the Christian right has been packing the courts. Our preferred strategy is becoming less effective by the day. If we can no longer count on the courts to be friendly, what else have we got? It isn't like most politicians want to be in the same room with us.

How We Do Better

All is not lost for the secular side, but we are going to have to make big changes if we want to hold on to what we've got. We must organize. We need grassroots organizations in every community. Our school boards are under coordinated attack. We can grow local efforts into state-level organizations. We need secular activism at the local level. We can build a lobbying arm to influence state-level politics. Without such steps, politicians have no reason to pay attention to us.

I'm not a fan of victim-blaming, but I don't see how we survive if we aren't willing to confront our responsibility. We can sometimes mobilize and fight back, but this reactive approach can only take us so far. Within our ranks, many have not prioritized the separation of church and state. This needs to change. We can't assume that non-religious people understand why secularism matters. Many do not see how it is relevant to them.

The Christian right is so good at stealth operations that few realize what they've been up to until it is too late. That tells me that we need to do a better job of raising awareness. We need to make sure people know what is happening and how it will affect their loved ones.

And what might be most important of all, we need to help people figure out what they can do to help. How can they channel their outrage into action that will make a difference? This is not a call for activism but a call for effective activism. We cannot afford to waste resources or energy. We need to maximize the impact of our efforts. We need a strategy.

I'm tired of losing. More than that, I'm tired of feeling like any progress we make is fragile. Things as basic as human rights, freedom, or democracy do not feel as secure as they should. Aren't you tired of this too?