Welcome to RelPol, a student peer reviewed online magazine. This magazine is part of the assessment for the module "In God We Trust" @ the University of Hull.
What first springs to mind when you think about religion and politics in the United States of America? The multitude of religions practiced in one Country? The Founding Fathers and their vision for the American people enshrined within the Constitution? Or even just the ‘Average Joe’ citizen who only practices their religion on public and religious holidays? No? Personally, I think of Conservative Christians. This is a group which has gained notoriety in recent years, mostly for the wrong reasons, yet the movement continues to have a solid base of supporters. A collection of exit polls from the last four elections have shown that Christians, specifically White Protestants, consistently vote for Republican Presidential candidates. Additionally, many who identify as a Conservative Christian are patriotic. However, is what makes them proud to be American becoming a hindrance to the evolution of American society?
Their views on abortion, healthcare, taxes, immigration, homosexuality, gun rights (the list could go on forever), is fascinating to view from this side of the pond. Special mentions go out to certain members of the Republican Party; Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Todd Akin, who have all become the go to figures when discussing the views of the more right winged members of the party. Whilst researching Conservative Christians, through strange parts of YouTube and weirdly named websites such as ‘www.i-will-be-back.org’, which is not about the Terminator, but instead is about the Rapture. I stumbled upon a gold mine, a Conservative Christian Americans wet dream; patriotdepot.com. An online store which surprisingly boasts more than 65,000 likes on Facebook. Their slogan reads as ‘Supplies for the Conservative revolution’. Amongst their selection of novelties, bumper stickers, books & DVDs, and Miscellaneous, is the Apparel section. Here are a selection of designs that particularly captured my attention but be rest assured there are plenty more, which are also not surprisingly on sale at the moment for a meagre $19.95, so you too can buy yourself one.
‘BIBLE. BEER. BULLETS. PROUD TO-B-AN AMERICAN.’, is self-explanatory and comparatively non-offensive. If I were to see somebody walking down the sidewalk wearing it, in a particularly Republican and Christian state in the area known as the ‘Bible Belt’ region (see dark green, South East). It wouldn’t be overly shocking. However, it does begin to highlight the intertwined nature of Religion and Conservatism in everyday life and the headstrong views of particular individuals who might decide to wear a T-shirt like this.
The second shirt is a lot more controversial. It shows a gun and Bible surrounded by the statement, ‘TWO THINGS EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW HOW TO USE… NEITHER OF WHICH ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOL.’ Gun control is a fervent issue, with many millions calling for harder gun controls, after numerous mass shootings. However, powerful Republican affiliated groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobbyists have done their best to halt any progression of the movement. Take the Obama Administrations attempt to revamp gun control laws in 2013, which was defeated in the Senate in April that year, in which Obama called it a ‘A pretty shameful day for Washington’. One of their main arguments for anti-gun control is that the Second Amendment states, ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed’. It could be argued that many Conservatives interpret the Constitution just as a Fundamentalist reads the Bible, with no interpretation at all. In this age, guns are not as necessary as they were when the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. When guns were needed for protection from foreign attack, and from the unknown dangers involved with expanding Westward. When you have groups calling it their ‘God given right’ to own a gun, it is wholly detrimental to American society. True, that not every gun owner is a mass murderer, but gun violence in America is so prevalent, that an estimated 11,419 US Citizens were killed with a gun in 2013. Through groups such as Conservative Christians recklessly promoting guns and helping to block attempts to rectify this problem, they are holding America back.
The final t-shirt pays homage to Republican President Ronald Reagan, written on it is a quote by the man himself; “IF WE EVER FORGET THAT WE ARE ONE NATION UNDER GOD, THEN WE WILL BE A NATION GONE UNDER”. President from 1981 to 1989, this shirt is a throwback to a golden era for Conservative Christians, who voted in Reagan after feeling ‘betrayed by the Federal government and courts and other forces of ‘Secular humanism’. Suggesting that they felt the primary role of family life was under threat by an attempt to make America a more liberal and equal society. The Reagan quote stipulates that if Americans forget their religious roots, then the nation will be theoretically sunk. By consistently looking retrospectively, the Conservative Christian rational will be seen as obstinate and not applicable in American Society anymore.
In conclusion, clearly not every Conservative Christian is looking at, buying or even wearing these T-shirts. It goes without saying that the T-shirts are bias and don’t represent the lives and views of many average Americans. But there must be a demand in order for a site like ‘patriotdepot’ to supply. The messages these t-shirts are sending out are strong, as they combine religion and politics, arguably two of the most important aspects of American society. I believe every group should be allowed to voice their opinion, but it could be argued that groups such as the Conservative Christians are hampering progression within American Society. The Christian Right have been operating for several decades, and I’m sure for decades to come, but they are sending out the wrong message. Personally I believe that they have the assertion of being ‘Proud to-B–an American’ but the picture they paint of being an American, is tarnished with intolerance, ignorance and hatred.
Credit for the visual sources: www.patriotdepot.com, http://www.citylab.com/politics/2012/03/real-boundaries-bible-belt/1617/