Reagan and Religion

No. 079

John F. Welsh
Pittsburgh State University

and by

T. R. Young

  November, 1981

Distributed as part of the TRANSFORMING SOCIOLOGY SERIES of The Red Feather Institute, 8085 Essex, Weidman, Michigan, 48893.


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Demystifying Reaganism.  Recent political events in the U.S.A.
provide an opportunity to clarify the historically enigmatic
relationship between religion and politics from a radical
viewpoint.  specifically, the concern here is to the holy alliance
between the right-wing exercise of state power in the U.S.A. and
the born-again Christian movement.  Conservative and establishment
presentations and explanations of these recent political events
have asserted that the election of Reagan and the Republican
majority in the Senate constitute a fundamental shift to the
political right and that there is substantial support for this
shift from Christian charismatics and their organizations.  the
phrase "born-again politics" has come into vogue as signifying the
convergence and identity of right-wing politics and Christian
fundamentalist-personality religion.  Probably the Rev. Jerry
Falwell and his Moral Majority, Inc. have emerged as the major
public referents of born-again politics.  Unfortunately, and quite
prematurely, there are indications that many on the left have
accepted the analysis that the power of the right reflects a
fundamental change, for the worse, in the politics of this country. 
Assumed in this analysis is the idea that the right-wing, born-
again politics of Falwell and Reagan have a stable, broad-based and
growing support among the American people.
     In essence, this essay presents a critique of the dominant
definition of the situation for its uncritical assumption of a
consensus theory of social movements.  The paper maintains that the
political meaning of the rise of born-again politics which is
presented by the major media, the political pundits and the
movement's organizational elite is contradicted by the meaning of
it for the people who practice born-again Christianity in everyday
life.  The argument is extended further to show that while it may
appear to support the capitalist system at present, the born-again
Christianity in everyday life.  The argument is extended further to
show that while it may appear to support the capitalist system at
present, the born-again religion practiced by the common people is
a form of protest on the level of lived experiences, with
challenges to the stability of capitalism on the objective level as
well.  Given a change in certain objective social conditions, born-
again religion can turn into its opposite and become an overt
protest against capitalism.  In any event, born-again religion
creates problems of life-style, consumption and legitimation for
advanced monopoly capitalism.
     The basic point of divergence between consensus and conflict
theories of social organization concerns the extent to which force
and fraud play a part in establishing and maintaining social order
(Eitzen 1978).  Consensus theories have typically argued that
shared meanings and values play the dominant role in forming social
bonds, while the processes of force and fraud play either a non-
existent, minimal or aberrant role.  As a result, consensus
theories tend to be conservative and protectionist of social
formations since these have their origins and legitimacy in the
agreements made by those who comprise them.  Consensus theorists
tend to see a necessary harmony in the hierarchical relations
between those possessing wealth and power and those who lack these. 
Inspired by the dialectics of Marxism, conflict theorists, on the
other hand, do not assume that societal forms or processes are
inherently based upon voluntary agreement but instead attempt to
examine the ways in which processes of consensus and agreement are
distorted or obstructed.  Thus, conflict theorists suspect that
social organizations involve processes of force and fraud as
intrinsic characteristics, especially when inequality is present.
     It is certainly possible to view the phenomenon of the social
organization of born-again politics from either a consensus or a
conflict standpoint.  Undoubtedly, the phenomenon will appear
differently depending upon the social viewpoints one has.  If one
assumes the validity of the consensus viewpoint, then the political
meaning of the rise of born-again politics will appear to be
something similar to the way Reagan and Falwell view the situation: 
There is widespread, mass support for the political right, and the
religious resurgence has been a prime generator and legitimator of
this rightward shift.  For leftists who accept the consensus
understandings of the current situation, there can only be the
defeatist conservatism of resignation and capitulation.  The
conflict perspective provides an alternative which avoids
resignation, capitulation and despair, by enabling its possessor to
uncover those sources and tendencies making it possible for born-
again politics to be transformed into an effective opposition to
capitalism and the state.
     The conflict tradition instructs us that people are free to
make history, but that they do not make it entirely under
conditions of their own choosing nor are they equally free to do
so.  As a result, we can suspect that the born-again politics of
the average citizens is a social phenomenon which emerged within
and in response to particular socio-historical circumstances in
which the born-again religious and political movements find
themselves are (1) increasingly unable to organize adequately
processes of production and distribution, and (2) it is a system
which is increasingly unable to provide acceptable social,
political and religious legitimations for the continued
subordination of the mass of people whose everyday lives are
disrupted by the problematics of the system (O'Connor, 1974).
     Because of the hierarchical or class nature of this society,
those who benefit from the existing arrangements may define the
emergence of born-again politics differently from those who are
victimized by such a system.  For example, those who are in
positions of power may see the movement as an ally--either one that
is authentically so or one that can be co-opted and controlled--and
may seek to re-establish some measure of social equilibrium by
exploiting the potential legitimations and policing functions the
movement might offer.  On the other hand, those who are directly
experiencing the failures of the system may see the movement as a
means to express frustrations and/or as a means of recapturing an
identity and community no longer available to them in the
political, economic and cultural realms.  Thus, while there is no
argument that those in positions of state power are more
conservative than their predecessors, conflict theory rejects the
attempt to generalize this assertion to the entire populace. 
Indeed, a number of indicators exist demonstrating that the
rightist claim is invalid.  Moreover, even if it were true, there
would still exist the matter of interpreting the objective fact.
     The phenomenon of Reaganism, and its relation to born-again
politics, must be comprehended within the specific context of this
phase of advanced capitalism, one of the signal characteristics of
which is recurrent economic instability.  The election of any
president in this period is necessarily something of a comment by
the public on its perception of the economic instability of the
nation and the well-being, or lack of it, enjoyed by people in
everyday life.  Reagan came to power essentially as a protest
against the economic policies of past presidents.  Correctly, the
populace in the U.S.A. felt that Carterism did not work and since
something (perhaps anything) must be done to alleviate the crisis,
the election of Reagan was a mandate for something different. 
There is the possibility that it was nothing more.  It is very
significant that opinion polls showed that the 1980 electorate felt
that the economy was by far the major issue and that the reason
Reagan was preferred was because he was thought to be better able
to "deal with inflation" (Newsweek June 23, 1980; September 8,
1980; November 3, 1980).  The rise of Reaganism has been presented
as an endorsement of not only his economics but his personal moral
philosophy and lifestyle.  However, this may not be the case.  If
it were, then one would predict this rightward movement in terms of
how Americans generally feel about significant social issues.  But,
again, the general public does not go along with Mr. Reagan and the
well-known views of the born-again leaders on these issues.
     For example, if the conservative interpretation were accurate,
then one would find increased support for the positions of the
Moral Majority.  However, opinion polls do not show this to be the
case.  Washington Post-ABC News Polls have shown that attitudes
toward abortion have not changed because of Reagan's election and
Associated Press-NBC News Polls have shown that attitudes have not
significantly drifted toward the right on issues such as busing,
abortion, the ERA and gay rights (Kansas City Times June 8, 1981;
June 4, 1981).  Furthermore, born-again Christians are only
slightly more conservative, if at all, than others, and they are
frequently at odds with the positions of Reagan, Falwell and Jessie
Helms.  As Newsweek magazine pointed out, evangelical Christians
are as politically divided as most Americans, a majority (53%)
supported the ERA and less than a majority (41%) favored the
position of banning abortion entirely (September 15, 1980).  What
is especially interesting given this fact is that the born-again
Christians are bombarded with propaganda entailing threats of
eternal damnation for those who from the elevated attitudes of the
religious superstars.
     It is important to derive three points of interpretation from
these facts:  (1) Reaganism has its support essentially because it
offered an alternative economic policy in a time of crisis.  (2) It
is not given that the majority of citizens endorse Reaganism in its
totality.  (3) It is not clear that the population base of born-
again politics adheres to a clearly defined and monolithic
ideology.  These points and the data substantiating them indicates
that the conservative and establishment analysis is not the only
one.  It is important to remember that valid social knowledge has
sources beyond the voices of Reagan, Falwell and Helms, and their
minions in the state and media.
     The foregoing suggests that the millions of blue and white
collar workers who supported Reagan and who identify themselves as
born-again Christians may not be the nefarious neofascists people
might believe them to be.  Instead, they are people whose needs are
not being met by the system and who may have voted for Reagan out
of despair or might have been manipulated into doing so.  The
managers of the organizations of born-again politics probably can
be labeled as neofascists, but the applicability of this label to
the common people is dubious.  Reaganism represents an alternative
to Carterism and the vote may be more a protest against the
everyday consequences of a malfunctioning economy and a
deteriorating quality of life.  For those who do not wish to
relinquish the analysis to the conservatives, an alternative
interpretation of born-again politics must be advanced.  What
follows is precisely such an attempt by demonstrating that:
(1)  Born-again religion is a phenomenon arising from the objective
     crisis faced by capitalism.
(2)  Born-again religion, although it appears to be supportive of
     capitalism, actually has both objective and subjective
     dimensions with revolutionary potential.
(3)  Born-again politics exists in part as an attempt to defuse the
     revolutionary potential of born-again religion by segments of
     the capitalist class organized around Reagan and the
     Republican Party.
(4)  A contradiction thus exists between born-again politics and
     born-again religion.
(5)  Given certain changes in objective and subjective social
     conditions, born-again religion may be a source of
     revolutionary socialist opposition in the U.S.A.
A Radical Sociology of Born-Again Christianity.  The fundamental
principle of the sociology of religion is that religion both shapes
the values and normative structures of the social base and reflects
a particular social base.  To state that religion both shapes and
reflects a social base may, at first, appear to be a contradiction. 
However, both are valid depending upon the particular social
characteristics of the object of analysis.  Within capitalist
society the perspective that religion reflects society is one that
is particularly appropriate because of the predominant role of the
economy in the determination of all social relations.  Under
capitalism the major social relations are reduced to commodity
relations, since the social relations of persons are subjugated to
the production of profit for those who own and control the means of
production.  The singular characteristic of capitalist societies
such as the U.S.A. is that human labor is bought and sold on the
market just as any other commodity is bought and sold.  This
results in the fact that the value of much human activity is
reduced to essentially its economic value.  When one examines
religious phenomena under the social conditions of capitalism one
must take the organization and processes of the economy as a
starting point.1  As a result, religion must be related to the
sorts of relations which people construct in order to maintain
their existence under this form of commodity production.  This
principle, a political economy of religion, holds true when one
examines the recent phenomena of born-again Christianity.2
     In the American experience, the catastrophe of monopoly
capitalism has been deferred for a number of reasons yet there are
numerous signs of a growing crisis.  Endemic to capitalism is an
instability indicated by the economic cycles of recession and
inflation.  During periods of recession, which are dangerous to
capitalism as they ensure the corrosion of the purchasing power of
the masses of people, the interventionist state attempts to pursue
policies which will increase purchasing power and, hence, reduce
unemployment, increase investments and increase the rate of growth. 
In times of inflation, the state pursues policies which will cut
the demand for workers, raw materials and credit, the purpose of
which is to try to put the rate of inflation in balance with the
rate of growth and, thereby, balance the system.  
Nevertheless, in recent years this strategy has not worked successfully as 
periods of rapid inflation began occurring with high rates of unemployment
and low rates of growth.  In addition, U.S.A. capitalism has been
beleaguered by other threats to its external and internal markets,
by the fiscal policy of the OPEC nations, by the aggressiveness of
Japanese and West German capitalism, by the defeat of the U.S.A. in
Vietnam, by the Iranian revolution, and by the nationalism in third
world countries.  These have collectively provided something of an
obstacle against the expansion of markets for American capitalism
in the world.  Furthermore, this period has seen the discrediting
of the system through the opposition movements of blacks, the New
Left, women and consumers, as well as through the political drama
of Watergate.  the discrediting of the dominant social institutions
and the creeping crisis associated with the economy have
constituted a milieu in which the born-again, Charismatic Christian
movement became a part of the mainstream of American religious life
and it constituted a powerful opposition to the indolence of the
American civil religion (Bellah 1967).
     Traditionally, the salvationist religions have been morally,
if not physically, retreatist to the degree that self-realization
was seen as possible only in heaven and through the Bible. 
Certainly, it was not sought in the social world.  In its earlier
expressions, born-again Christianity did not seek to save the
social world but its adherents sought personal salvation only in
the Bible.  However, the recent threats to the American way of life
served to change all of that.  By now, the ranks of born-again
Christians were not populated only by rural Pentecostals, but had
large numbers of the urban surplus population, the working class
and lower middle class devotees; these are the categories of people
most victimized by the recent problems of economy and legitimation. 
The phenomenon of born-again politics, to the extent that it
involves the activism of a population base and not simply the
technical activities of an organization, represents a redefinition
of the social meaning of salvationist religions.  Born-again
Christianity is an expression of protest not merely against the
alleged "moral degeneration" in certain social practices, but also
against the everyday social conditions of capitalism in a state of
crisis.  In order to further the argument that the rightist
conception of born-again politics is false, it must be demonstrated
that born-again Christianity exists as a form of subterranean
protest against capitalism but that it has been instrumentalized by
the right as a tool to generate support for conservative economic
policies and repressive political policies.
     A Marxist phenomenology of religion provides a basis for
understanding the responses of individuals, particularly with
regard to the meaning of religious forms of expression under
conditions of crisis and repression (Dallmayr 1973; Piccone 1971). 
A Marxist phenomenology of religion takes as its starting point the
famous passage from Marx's essay, "A Contribution to the Critique
of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right'" (1970:131-132).  This passage,
which contains the often quoted but little explored dictum,
religion "is the opium of the people," is commonly understood as an
economistic critique of legitimations of the class structure.  In
fact, the passage may include that, but it involves much more. 
Marx also clearly states that religion must be viewed as a protest
people make against the real world of social relations.  He says,
"The wretchedness of religion is at once an expression of and a
protest against real wretchedness.  Religion is the sigh of the
oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of
soulless conditions."  Further, religion "is the fantastic
realization of the human being because the human being has attained
no true reality."
     Instead of presenting only a crude economistic reduction of
religion to a legitimation of class inequality, Marx has shown from
a radical standpoint the meaning of religion for persons who are
forced to exist under the commodity relations of capitalist
society.  Persons exist in an inverted world, one in which various
social institutions and processes do not serve their needs and one
which, consequently, appears to be dehumanized.  The "fantastic"
reality of religion provides a realm in which one can be free of
the oppressive real social relations.  Because religion exists as
the "sigh" of the oppressed creature it involves a condemnation of
the oppressive social relations, although it does so mainly on a
"fantastic" level.  Marx concludes that religion is a form of
illusory happiness which must be converted into a demand for real
happiness.  Thus, the religious resurgence in its born-again
manifestation must be interpreted as an attempt on the part of
persons to escape, to defect from, the intolerable conditions of
the social relations of the current form of capitalist society.
     There are a number of possible responses persons can make to
threats to their material and social well-being.  Of these, two
seem to be most attractive from the standpoint of creating human
identity and community:  First, religion exists as a basis for the
transformation of personal and social identities.  Of course,
radicals typically make a number of criticisms of this option, but
it is equally important to reflect on why this choice is made.  In
the modern world, revolutionary socialism exists as an option which
has a number of problems as well but at least implies that personal
and social transformations will be attempted on the level of social
relations in everyday life.  Within the U.S.A., people have been
conditioned against socialist vocabularies and strategies of social
and political action.  Further, the adoption of socialist
vocabularies and strategies can be dangerous for individuals as
evidenced by the state's long history of repression.  As a result,
Americans are typically left with only the tragic concepts of
primitive Christianity with which to interpret their personal
anguish.  It is undoubtedly true that the phenomenon of religious
reifications, which, in part, is the inability to see the world as
socially, humanly centered and created, also plays an important
role in providing an obstacle to persons adopting the revolutionary
strategy (Lukacs 1971).  Thus, religion seems to be a more
efficacious response from the standpoint of millions of Americans
than does socialism.  It is made even more appealing by the
continual publicity given to the alienation and repression in the
so-called socialist societies in the capitalist-owned media, while
the accomplishments of these societies are dismissed.
     Born-again religion offers a particularly good measure of the
extent to which Americans are protesting the commodity relations of
late capitalism.  Without a doubt, the born-again emphasis on
spiritual rebirth signifies that the old identity and old community
were false and that salvation consists in the shedding of these and
the demand for the creation of a new identity and community.  In a
socio-economic totality which is certainly not working for most
people, it should come as little surprise that some 50 million
Americans have joined the born-again movement in the past ten
years.  It is significant that many of these are lower middle
class, working class and those in the surplus population who are
the most victimized by the instability of capitalist society. 
These people, for the most part, are excluded from the means to
socially construct an authentic human identity and community under
the present conditions of capitalism (Young 1978; 1980).  In the
various Pentecostal and born-again churches one is guaranteed a
social identity beyond one's exchange value, a well-grounded role-
set permitting an authentic praxis and the means for fully
participating in the construction of community.  From the Marxist
standpoint, the primary fault of born-again Christianity lies in
the fact that this form of protest leaves the structures of
capitalism more or less unchanged.  Nevertheless, given the demand
for human regeneration, praxis, identity and community, this is a
vision of social life remarkable similar to that demanded by Marx
and other socialists.
     Radicals who are serious about social change, those who do not
fetishize party-building and taking state power, have traditionally
made a distinction between social revolution and political
revolution.  The former refers to a qualitative change in social
relations at the level of everyday life.  Social revolution is a
far more radical and thoroughgoing form of social change as it
requires not the mere circulation of class elites but that the
entire populace transform its way of doing things.  It requires
that people, not a vanguard party nor the state, take direct action
in the process of instituting society and creating social reality. 
Processes of social revolution are often more difficult to detect
than political revolutions as the former originate with subjective
factors such as changes in how people intersubjectively define
reality.  Hence, a critically oriented phenomenology becomes
indispensable in the analysis of processes of opposition and
change.  Given the validity of this distinction, it is possible
that the phenomenon of born-again Christianity points to a
revolutionary process that is more radical and fundamental than any
of the coup d'etates in the third world or the disfigured socialism
in Eastern Europe.  When interpreted from the standpoint of a
Marxist phenomenology, born-again religion clearly involves a
profound transformation of self and society which is opposed to
capitalist and statist modes of the self-other system.  In fact,
there are many points at which the characteristics of born-again
religion diverges with capitalist and statist values and many at
which it converges with the values of a decentralized socialism.
     To be sure, born-again Christian attempts at social and
personal rejuvenation are ultimately doomed because of their
failure to base these upon the democratic and collective control of
the means of material production in society.  Although it tends to
dismiss such questions of material production, born-again
Christianity does entail demands for the collective and democratic
control over the means of the production of ideological culture, a
form of social activity which must be (but has not been) central to
socialist revolutionary movements.3  In essence, born-again
Christianity entails the active participation of all in the process
by which the collective religious and spiritual representations are
constituted.  Thus, at the level of the production of ideological
culture, the process of reality construction is completely and
authentically social and human.  This is a marked contrast to the
rigid division of labor in the formal churches patterned after the
bureaucratic state and the corporations.  From the standpoint of a
Marxist phenomenology, the production of ideological culture is
central to the self-constitution of humans as species-being. 
Consequently, any organization for the production of ideological
culture, the ideas by which people live and act, that ensures that
the masses of people remain in a condition of passivity is
dehumanizing and alienating (Young 1978).
The Contradictions of Born-Again Christianity and Born-Again
Politics.  The rise of born again politics, as opposed to born-
again religion, points to the intrusion of capitalist and statist
relationships into the born-again movement.  Further, it
demonstrates that what was the negativity of born-again religion
has now been incorporated into the political and symbolic universe
of capitalist society.  It will seem strange to some that there is
an opposition between born-again religion and born-again politics,
and it will certainly infuriate those who stand to gain or maintain
power and privilege by collapsing the two.  However, it is the crux
of the Marxist phenomenological critique to maintain that the two
must not be collapsed.  Based upon what has been said previously
about born-again religion and born-again politics, Table 1 presents
some of the contrasting social characteristics of the two.  The
recent support given to Reaganism by born-again Christian groups is
best explained by arguing that born-again Christianity has been
transformed into born-again politics.  This transformation, again,
serves certain privatized interests and has a base in the current
dynamics of capitalist society.
     Each category in Table 1, below, demonstrates that born-again
religion has been transformed from a largely subterranean form of
social protest into a phenomenon that is thoroughly pro-capitalist
and pro-statist.  Further, it aims toward the reconciliation of the
tendential revolutionary

Table 1.  The Opposition between Born-Again Religion and Politics   

Characteristics of Born-Again

As Transformed
Born-Again Politics

1. Religious Vocabulary
	"God" as beyond  politics.  
	"God" as the appeal to a higher power
1. Religious Vocabulary

"God" as neofascist.
"God" as the legitimation of rightist policies.

2. Orientation to the Social World

Social world as fallen,
beyond redemption

2. Orientation to the Social World

Social world as threatened,
capitalism in crisis.

    3. Cultural Values

community,  sharing

3. Cultural Values

Pro-capitalist, privatism, acquisition,
consumption, display

  4. Basis of Self-Other System

Use-value, emphasis on  identity and community

4. Basis of Self-Other System

Exchange-value, emphasis on accumulation of money, power and votes

5. Social Organizational Characteristics

Decentralized, participatory,
low division of labor

5. Social Organizational Characteristics

Centralized, massification concomitant with TV and bureaucracy, high division of labor

6. Means of Collective Identity Formation

Labor intensive, low-tech Dramas of the Holy
involving interactively-rich and emotionally-bonding solidarity occasions.

6. Means of Collective Identity Formation

Capital intensive, high-tech mass spectacles; sports, warfare, invidious comparisons by race, class and power.

7. Social Characteristics of Significant Actors in Politics and Social Change:

Upper Class, Aristocracy, Feudal Elite
middle class,
working class,
surplus population

7. Social Characteristics of Significant Actors in Politics and Social Change:

Hollywood ministers,
marketing experts,
conservative politicians

8. Structure of Reality Definition Process

Sanctification is central via
Interactively rich symbolic Interaction/
collective reciprocity
Reality Checks via Performance
and by prophetic criticism

8. Structure of Reality Definition Process

Symbolic manipulation,
Sociology of Fraud
elitist planners/managers
Science as General Law and as
Functional Necessity

subjectivity of the born-again Christians with those social
conditions originally producing the protest.  For example, note
that salvationist, Pentecostal and charismatic religions,
traditionally, have been oriented toward the "other world" and,
consequently, have been apolitical.  Born-again Christianity was no
exception to this until the late 1970's.  Certainly by the election
of 1980 the bracketing of the social world and the "other world"
had broken down.  Salvation was no longer sought through the Bible
only, but also through the ballot box and other concrete, this-
worldly forms of political expression.  
Two questions immediately arise as one contemplates this change:  
In the first place, how can we account for the transformation?  
Second, if born-again religion existed as a subterranean form of protest
against the capitalist state, how can we account for born-again politics' 
expression as thoroughly pro-capitalist and pro-statist?
     Interpretations of these outcomes will vary with one's
political and scientific orientation.  Conservative accounts ignore
processes of force and fraud and explain the outcomes as due to the
intentional definitions of the population base of the participants. 
A Marxist phenomenology inquires as to the material base of the
process, the division of labor involved and the differential power
to define the situation and control social action.  If one
addresses these questions and considers the opposition presented in
Table 1, several interrelated interpretations are possible.  
First, the transformation of born-again religion into born-again politics
effectively defused the movement of its anti-capitalist and anti-
statist potential.  This may be another indication of advanced
capitalism's ability to integrate oppositional movements, as so
skillfully analyzed by Marcuse (1964).  
Second, the transformation of born-again Christianity into born-again politics 
provided the right-wing of the capitalist class in the U.S.A. with an
organizational weapon to be used against its enemies at home and
     As Marcuse (1964) and Piccone (1978; Luke 1978) have noted,
advanced capitalist society possesses the peculiar ability to co-
opt and reconcile oppositionist movements making qualitative social
change difficult, at best, and impossible at worst.  Born-again
politics indicates that born-again Christianity has been
effectively divested of its explosive, negative content for the
present.  The material and social basis of born-again politics
provide some clues accounting for this transformation. 
 As Table 1, above suggests, born-again politics is based upon a 
technology that is highly centralized and capital intensive.  For example, 
television is a means of communication which will not permit the democratic
and reciprocal process of reality defining which is characteristics
of fully human and fully social life-worlds.  Television entails a
process of communication which divides the labor of reality
construction into those who produce the socially significant
symbols and those who passively consume them and ritualistically
act out the directives given by the producers of meaning. 
Television is thus a powerful technology through which elites may
define the political situation and direct social action. 
Certainly, it spells the death of the fully participatory process
of the production of ideological culture.  Certainly, it is an
instrument through which born-again religion was transformed into
born-again politics.
     In addition, with the heavy financial backing of right-wing
capitalists, born-again Christianity was rationalized into born-
again politics through the formation of complex, bureaucratic,
born-again organizations.  Moral Majority, Inc., Christian Voice
and Christians for Reagan are the best known of the so-called
Christian political organizations which have attempted and, so far,
have succeeded, largely through modern marketing strategies, in
subordinating the everyday experiencing of born-again Christians to
a rational plan for the rightist seizure and maintenance of state
power.  These bureaucracies, which are interested in the managerial
objectives of power and accumulation and not with meeting human
needs, have an elite which unreciprocally defines and enforces a
conception of reality upon its population base.  Given the
technological advantage of controlling the means of structuring
social action, why should there be the surprise that the millions
of oppressed, who are "sighing" through their religious expression,
have been taken captive by these captains of consciousness?  A
Marxist phenomenology appreciates the similarity in this phenomenon
with that of the continued acceptance by other groups of their
     It is often remarked that left-wing or liberal politically
organizations and strategies also exist which have attempted to
affect the course of events in the U.S.A.  The question is raised,
if born-again Christianity has similarities with the socialist
vision of praxis and community, why was the Left not successful in
amassing the political support that Moral Majority, Inc., for
instance, has achieved?  The answer must largely boil down to the
contrasts of the technological, organizational and ideological
bases of the two.  
Left-wing efforts possess neither the vast capital resources nor the 
hierarchical  means of communication.  Of course, these tend to be 
anathema to those attempting to create conditions of authentic praxis and 
community as well.   Left-wing efforts tend to reject sanctification and
situated dramas of the Holy as legacies from an era of false consciousness,
superstition and a vast ignorance of the way the world worked.
Thus, socialist philosophy itself precludes the use of these for the 
attainment of merely managerial ends.  The leftist efforts are not highly 
capital intensive, do not have a high division of labor, are not
centralized, do not emphasize accumulation and do not rely upon the
false dramaturgy of Hollywood to create a better society. 
Possession and use of these are seen to be obstacles to human
dignity and emancipation.  Leftist efforts, to the extent that they
are authentic, necessarily emphasize the labor intensive activity
of struggling with concrete problems and people in everyday life. 
Thus they resist the massification of persons achieved by born-
again politics.
Yet there is an affirmative postmodern religious sensibility which locates
sanctification processes within distinctly human/social interaction and
which holds that dramas of the Holy are just as 'real' and just as essential
to the human condition as are the compassion, justice and humanism
which grounds the original inspiration of socialist revolutionaries (Young, 1991).
Religion is not always the opiate of the human process; it can be an 
opiate of the masses in massified society but it can also be the 
highest form of socialist work and socialist politics.
     When one views the objective situation at present one has some
good reason to be pessimistic as the collaborationist dimensions of
born-again Christianity appear strong.  It seems, on this level,
when abstracted from the historical process, that the born-again
phenomenon is objectively conservative, authoritarian and pro-
capitalist.  However, prior to the transformation of born-again
religion into born-again politics there existed a number of
oppositionist dimensions on the objective level.  Significantly,
born-again religion rejects the capitalist ethics of accumulation
and consumption as the tests of the good life, thus providing an
objective challenge as it further restricts the markets available
to the capitalists and speeds the occurrence of more destructive
economic problems.  Secondly, to the extent that born-again groups
encourage communal religious solidarity they prevent social and
geographic mobility and thus make persons less useful to capitalism
as social capital.  Thirdly, born-again religion endorses the
fiscal attack on the state.  The state is essential to the
protection of monopoly capitalism and to the extent that it is
necessary, withdrawal of support to it also hurts capitalism
itself.  It is likely that the emergence of born-again politics of
Reaganism has negated or is in the process of negating these
     Subjectively, in the realms of consciousness, of verbal
statements and voiced opinion, one finds in born-again religion a
hostility to Mammon, to Caesar and, generally, to the privatized
individualism which forms a psychological milieu in which
capitalism thrives.  
Born-again religion also possesses subversive
potential because 
(1) its participatory mode of producing
ideological culture negates the division of labor in capitalist
society and
(2) its "other world" orientation indicates a
withdrawal of loyalty to the objective conditions of this world. 

Again, with the rise of born-again politics it is likely that these
demands for a better world are being manipulated for the nefarious
ends of the movement's managerial elite.  this manipulation is
likely to remain until such time that the population base no longer
continues to take its political directives from that elite.
     The transformation of born-again religion into born-again
politics occurred within the ideological field of advanced monopoly
capitalism.  It is within this intellectual map that most born-
again people came into their ideological maturity.  Objectively,
one cannot expect born-again politics to transcend monopoly
capitalism until the problematics of everyday life are clearly tied
to the fiscal and social crisis of monopoly capitalism.  This has
not happened yet in the U.S.A.  A clear catastrophe is yet to occur
as, thus far, the U.S.A. seems to be experiencing a number of
gradually building crises, such as inflation, unemployment and
crime.  However, there exist indications that a change in these
objective conditions toward a major social crisis might result in
the transformation of born-again politics into a revolutionary
First, given the high expectations that the born-again
Christians have for Reaganism, if it fails to resolve the current
contradictions of capitalism and forestall the impending crisis,
people might conclude that the everyday problematics are connected
to capitalism itself and demand the overthrow of the entire system. 
This is feasible since, at present, there is no readily
identifiable alternative or substitute.  Others, such as Carterism,
have been discredited.  If Reaganism fails, what will come next? 
What can come next?  Kennedyism?  Moynihanism?  the failure of
Reaganism and the lack of any credible reformist alternative do not
guarantee the emergence of a revolutionary movement but they will
make it objectively possible.
     Nevertheless, revolutionary transformations are not solely the
result of objective crises; they are also dependent upon the
efforts of persons to push the struggle and the historical process
along.  In this regard, the following is suggested:  It is
incumbent upon radicals, sociologists and journalists to discredit
the born-again political movement by demonstrating to people the
human implications of the opposition between born-again politics
and born-again religion.  The validity of the values expressed by
born-again Christians concerning praxis, identity and community
must be translated into a viable social vocabulary.  If this can be
accomplished successfully, its opposition with the capitalist,
bureaucratic values of born-again politics will become the new
social contradiction and an authentic, broad-based social movement
in the U.S.A. will emerge.  
Progressive Postmodern Theologians must take care to oppose 
non-theistic humanism of socialism with bourgeois, vulgar materialist 
atheism propounded in current  atheist literature.  
The bourgeois atheists "reject" religion as being superstition and
politically repressive.  One can agree with these criticisms and
still recognize them as inadequate critiques from the standpoint of
human emancipation.  For example, the bourgeois atheism of M. M.
O'Hara is thoroughly capitalistic as it accepts the privatized
individualism of capitalist civil society as the Eldorado of human
existence.  However, it is the commodity fetishism of capitalist
civil society that is the source of the present religious response. 
Nothing is gained by throwing persons back into the soulless
condition and heartless world of capitalist civil society. Much is gained
when human beings continue to seek to meet their human, social and spiritual
needs through every day dramas of the Holy in which solidarity is  affirmed;
in which social wealth is shared and in which social justice is given more
resources than criminal justice.  Too often, the Born-Again Movement
locate justice and redemption in the solace of inverted religious expression.
 The old materialist atheism of O'Hair (1980) must be replaced by a socialist
response that is adequate in the sense that it permits the full participation of
persons in processes of material production and in the production of ideological ideological culture which includes the sanctification of the totality
of human being; the totality of the environment and the totality of 

     1The degree to which that the economy plays the predominant
role in the determination of all social relations under
capitalist conditions is variable.  At the time of this writing,
the religious institution in Iran is more determinative of the
social base than in the U.S.A.  It is also true that among
various oppositional religious groups, such as the Amish, the
Mormons and the Hutterites, the religious institution tends to
play a determinative role.  These apparent exceptions to the
Marxist hypothesis must be understood within the totality of
socio-political processes of the capitalist world.  for example,
the importance of religion in Iran can be attributed to that
nation's opposition to continued imperialist domination by the
     2Historically, in the U.S.A. there have been modifications
of the system of production which resulted also in modifications
of religious ideas and practices.  A convenient dichotomy for
conceptualizing the variants of capitalism in the U.S.A. is one
that distinguishes between the laissez-faire, competitive phase,
which was the dominant form until the early twentieth century,
and the monopolistic phase, which characterizes the U.S.A. today. 
It was with the beginnings of the competitive phase that religion
ceased to be the regulator and unifier of social relations as
these were made subordinate to the fetishisms of commodity
relations (Howe 1981:114-121).  What resulted was a process of
religious fragmentation in which religion became privatized, and
rather than structuring and controlling society, religion came to
reflect the conflicts and contradictions with it.  Further,
religion was restricted to the marginal fragments of social life. 
The historic fusion of production and religion was gradually
severed with the onset of capitalism as a system of commodity
production while religion was replaced by science.  However,
capitalism in the U.S.A. underwent radical transformation toward
the beginning of the twentieth century which essentially entailed
the replacement of small, decentralized and independent units of
production by the consolidation of gigantic industrial
corporations and financial holding companies.  In addition,
beginning in the 1930's, the contradictions of capitalism
necessitated the profound intervention of the state into the
economy for the protection of profit and the preservation of the
system itself.  Thus, an ideological definition of social
relations as being cooperative and oriented toward common ends
was elevated in order to stabilize the contradictions and protect
the system.  At the same time, while there was no apparent
diminishment of religious pluralism, the prolific number of
churches and religions did not see each other as antagonistic. 
In the American civil religion (Bellah 1967), they instead
appeared as mere variants of a common belief which transcended
minor differences in beliefs, rituals and practices.  Up through
the 1950's and 1960's, "God" became a symbol which represented a
concern for everyday problems, for a nation united against
communism and for the momentarily solidified social system.
     3Again, these are variable.  Separatist and oppositional
religious movements occasionally allow for the reorganization of
factors of production and demands for social justice.  In certain
Central American countries even the Roman Catholic Church has
taken a revolutionary role in the opposition to repressive
military regimes (Riding 1981).

                           SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bellah, Robert N.   1967      "Civil Religion in America." 
     Daedalus 96:1-21.
Dallmayr, Fred 1973 "Marxism and Phenomenology:  A Salute to Enzo
     Paci."  Pp. 305-356 in George Psathas, ed. Phenomenological
     Sociology:  Issues and Applications.  New York:  John Wiley
     and Sons.
Eitzen, D. Stanley  1978 In Conflict and Order:  Understanding
     Society.  Boston:  Allyn and Bacon
Habermas, Jurgen    1973 Legitimation Crisis.  Boston:  Beacon
Howe, Gary Nigel    1981 "The Political Economy of American
     Religion:  An Essay in Cultural History."  Pp. 110-137 in
     Scott McNall, ed. Political Economy:  A Critique of American
     Society.  Glenview, Illinois:  Scott Foresman and Co.
Kansas City Times:
     1981 June 4:  A6.
     1981 June 8:  A5.
     1981 June 20:  D9.
Lukacs, George 1971 History and Class Consciousness:  Studies in
     Marxist Dialectics.  Cambridge, Mass.:  MIT Press.
Luke, Tim 1978 "Culture and Politics in the Age of Artificial
     Negativity."  Telos 35:55-72.
Marcuse, Herbert    1970 "A Contribution to the Critique of
     Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right'."  Pp. 129-142 in Karl Marx,
     Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right."  Cambridge: 
     Cambridge University Press.
     1981 June 23:  24-25
     1980 September 8:  18-21
     1980 September 15:  28-36.
     1980 November 3:  29-30.
O'Connor, James F.  1974 The Fiscal Crisis of the State.  St.
     Martin's Press.
O'Hair, M. Murray   1980 "Aims and Purposes."  American Atheist
     22:  41.
Piccone, Paul  1971 "Phenomenological Marxism."  Telos 9:  3-31.
     1978 "The Crisis of One-Dimensionality."  Telos 35:  43-54.
Riding, Alan   1981 "The Sword and Cross."  New York Review of
     Books May 28:  3-7.
Syzmanski, Albert   1978 The Capitalist State and the Politics of
     Class.  Cambridge, Mass.:  Winthrop Publishers.
Young, T. R.   1978 "Self and Social Organization:  New
     Directions in Marxian Social Psychology."  Transforming
     Sociology Series, Red Feather Institute.
Young, T. R.   1980 "The Structure of Self in Mass Society: 
     Against Zurcher."   Transforming Sociology Series, Red
     Feather Institute.

FACT:     Religious broadcasters now own over 1400 radio and TV
     stations outright.  In addition, hundreds of hours are
     purchased weekly by electronic ministries on independent
     secular stations.  The evangelical superstars of the New
     Right dominate this situation, reaching over 130,000,000
     Americans weekly.
FACT:     The Religious New Right raised over $150 million last
     year alone.
FACT:     They're spending millions not on preaching, but on
     politics--just one group reports spending $3 million on its
     political efforts this year.
FACT:     Another group related to the Religious New Right
     reports registering 3 to 5 million new voters this year.
FACT:     In state after state, they have taken over state and
     local political party organizations.
FACT:     They have organized lobbies in Washington, in State
     Capitols, and in City Halls.
FACT:     They budgeted millions to defeat Senators, Congressmen
     and local legislators...and succeeded.

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