Defend democracy in the South.

John Sugg has an interesting piece in the current Mother Jones, about the aims of the conservative Christian Reconstruction movement.

I think progressives often over-estimate the power of individual groups or causes in the broad alliance known as the "religious right" -- look at the Christian Coalition, once feared as an omnipotent right-wing political force, and now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

The religious right is made up of dozens of forces and movements, and Sugg is right in seeing Christian Reconstruction as a key part of it. As he reports, they certainly have a charismatic spokesperson in deposed Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore:

Moore has gained a rock-star following on the Christian right-a Moses to lead the chosen from a godless society. The judge has a stunning memory for long literary passages and judicial opinions, and he chants them in the singsongy, down-home style of Southern demagogues from Theo Bilbo to George Wallace-"God" is "Gawud," with an upward lilt. When he proclaimed that "God is still sovereign, no matter what federal judges say," the crowd tittered and applauded. When he intoned that "there is no right to sodomy in the Constitution," they cheered. When he roared that unless judges "acknowledge God," they "should be impeached," the righteous noise shook the rafters.

It could have been nothing more than a half-hour rebel yell-except that Moore is more than the latest prophet of the religious right. He stands a good chance of being the next governor of Alabama; he's also arguably the single most significant politician to owe his ascendancy to Christian Reconstruction-an obscure but increasingly potent theology whose top exponents hold that Christian crusaders must conquer and convert the world, by the sword if necessary, before Jesus will return.

Chris Kromm

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Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.

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