Propaganda Ministers Decipher False Gospel of Religious Right – Baptist News Global

Propaganda Ministers Decipher False Gospel of Religious Right – Baptist News Global

Well-known preachers, enterprising theologians, Parachurch leaders and conservative pundits have sold millions of Americans a false gospel that legitimizes discriminatory social programs, Scott Coley argues in his provocative book,Propaganda Ministers: Truth, Power, and the Ideology of the Religious Right.

Scott Coley

“Good evangelical Christians are Republican. It seems like it’s always been that way. That means the propaganda works,” he writes. “What interests me is the ability of ideology to shape the beliefs and practices of those under its influence without their knowledge, and perhaps even in opposition to their own stated desires.”

Coley, a philosophy professor at Mount St. Mary’s University, says the “scandal of the evangelical mind” that Mark Noll described 30 years ago has been amplified by the scandal of evangelical political involvement, which, rather than seeking justice, seeks to reinforce racial and gender hierarchies by claiming that whites deserve more wealth than blacks and that men should rule over women.

The Anti-Christian Ideology of the Religious Right is “facilitated by propaganda that manipulates political, intellectual or religious ideals to suppress dissent and silence those who disagree,” he claims.

“Much of what is described as evangelical deconstruction is essentially an attempt to decipher propaganda embedded in the ideology of the religious right.”

Coley says it is this powerful propaganda—not the gospel of Christ—that leads many to question or abandon their faith: “I argue that much of what is described as evangelical deconstruction is essentially an attempt to decipher propaganda embedded in the ideology of the religious right.”

Propaganda takes many forms and involves the selective use and presentation of information and disinformation to advance or harm an agenda, person, or institution. The form of propaganda that Coley emphasizes is “rhetoric that appropriates an ideal to sustain intellectual or social practices that contradict that ideal.”

Examples from race relations and creation science—two topics covered extensively in the book—reveal the deception and effectiveness of this ubiquitous form of propaganda.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

Coley says that politically conservative white evangelicals have appropriated King’s dream of equality and turned it on its head so that they can continue to profit from their economic advantages over blacks. Today, the religious right uses King’s dream as a weapon to oppose the changes King called for with their attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion and Critical Race Theory.

He writes: “The white evangelical appropriation of ‘colorblind’ rhetoric is a form of propaganda insofar as it invokes the ideal of racial equality in the service of a social and political agenda that perpetuates racial inequality. … According to the logic of colorblindness, race matters only to racists, and the way to avoid being a racist is to be blind to race, or ‘colorblind.’”

“The white evangelical appropriation of ‘colorblind’ rhetoric is a form of propaganda.”

Coley claims that the “creative science industry” deals out a double dose of propaganda: “Creation scientists make ostensibly Biblical and scientific claims while avoiding any substantive engagement with Biblical science or legitimate science.”

The deception is deliberate, Coley writes: “Creation science is an organized framework for casting doubt on scientific conclusions that threaten the supposedly biblical view of creation. … The creation science movement, which markets itself as a scientific enterprise, appeals to the intellectual ideals associated with scientific rigor—but does so only to advance an agenda that denies the reliability of research conducted according to those ideals, while promoting research that violates those ideals.

“Evangelicals conditioned in this way do not distrust all science. They visit their doctors and take their cholesterol medication. They use GPS navigation and travel in airplanes. They ask Siri. They trust science when it suits them. But when expert consensus threatens the interests of the religious right, evangelical theology provides an endless supply of ‘biblical’ stories that justify skepticism about ‘secular’ expertise.”

Coley also goes into great detail about to debunk one of the creation science movement’s propagandistic claims: that its young-earth views represent the historical consensus of Bible-believing Christians.

Ministers of Propaganda argues that the religious right is under the influence of an ideology he calls Christo-authoritarianism, which “employs the resources of Christian theology in the service of authoritarian social and political goals,” including efforts to suppress the voting rights of the wrong kind of people.

Coley concludes, however, that the true gospel of Christ offers a powerful antidote to propaganda in all its forms, as well as a better way to think about the political responsibilities of Christians, which he calls the “justice-oriented paradigm” of political engagement.

“Evangelicals can and must resist “These forces actively challenge the legitimacy of social hierarchies that put our interests above those of our neighbors,” he writes. “… When we engage in politics, our goal should be to align our laws and policies with the truth about what people deserve and what we owe to each other.”

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Politics, Faith, and Mission: A Conversation with Tim Alberta on His Book and Faith Journey | Opinion by Greg Garrett