In (Further) Defense of 'Religious Right'

Readers respond to the propriety of terms "Religious Right" and "Christian Right"


By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

There were lots of well-reasoned responses on my post arguing about the propriety of journalists using the terms "Christian Right" and "Religious Right." Some of you in the Christian right were fine with the term. Some of you on the left thought it was too kind to religious conservatives. One of the more provocative comments came from David Arndt of MI: 

The way a group is named is the first indicator of how the story will be framed. Why not allow groups to be called by the names they want to be called by? Does the reporter think that "media elite" or "drive-by-media" are accurate labels for his profession? I rather doubt it. 

It's fine to allow groups to be called by the names they prefer, except when those labels are misleading, obscuring a group's actual identity as a way to advance its mission. For instance, some religious left groups prefer to be identified as part of the religious middle, in order to appear to be above the political fray, even though their positions and priorities suggest otherwise. Honoring their wish impedes journalism, which is meant to inform, not to advance the agendas of the people and organizations we cover.

This reporter doesn't object to the term "media elite" because it's descriptive, even if it does have negative connotations for some. "Drive-by-media," by contrast, is heavily judgmental and is intended to insult, putting the media in league with violent criminals who do drive-by shootings.

Terms like "Christian Right" and "Religious Right" fall into the former category. What part of "Christian Right" is insulting? Christian? Right? Members of the movement are proudly Christian and proudly conservative.

Another commenter, Bob Holman of MO, writes: 

[I]f the press and others are going to use the term "Religious Right" we should then, to be correct, use the term "unreligious Left". 

I often use the term secular left when writing about unreligious liberals. But not everyone on the left is unreligious, just like not everyone on the right belongs to the Christian right.