By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Critics of the religious right have been voicing skepticism about Family Research Council President Tony Perkins's Republican bashing and Obama praising in my recent interview with him. Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics sums up the reasons for doubt:
I wouldn't rush to take this at face value. It's pretty much SOP for religious right leaders to rattle the Republican cage whenever they're feeling a bit unloved, and with the election of Michael Steele as head of the RNC, that's just how they're feeling. I'll believe there's something going on when I see signs of it on the relevant websites. And if you take a look at the FRC's, all you'll find is anti-Obamaism, not a peep of anti-Republicanism.
Fair point. And with Christian-right leaders like Focus on the Family's James Dobson vowing to oppose John McCain for president and then flip-flopping to support him—and with McCain managing to collect more evangelical votes than George W. Bush—the movement's anti-GOP threats can be easy to dismiss.
On the other hand, isn't this standard operating procedure for groups on the left, too? Should we take MoveOn seriously when it threatens to abandon the Democrats unless the party's congressional representatives cut funding for the Iraq war? In American politics, both parties get beat up by their bases even though those bases have really have no place else to go, short of staying home on Election Day.
The current criticism of Perkins raises an important question: How will the new slate of progressive religious organizations like Faith in Public Life and Catholics United respond when the Democrats let them down or when the Republicans are back in control in Washington?
These groups allege that conservative Christian organizations like Family Research Council are fronts for the Republican Party, and they've vowed to resist being co-opted by either party. So, will they call Obama out when he disappoints them? Will they work with Republicans when they inevitably return to power? It's too early to tell. But it will be a difficult tightrope to walk.