Lift High the Cross, by Ann Burlein

Ann Burlein opens her book by quoting Virgil Griffin, Wizard of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Griffin exhorts others to embrace a racist politics not for the sake of power, but for the sake of the powerless: "I'm not in this organization for Virgil Griffin. I don't fight the courts in Washington, D.C. and other states to win my rights; I want to win rights for that little boy right there. If you don't stand up and demand your rights, and get in the streets and fight for them, they will have no rights. Your children, your grandchildren, nor mine will have no rights!"

Burlein's sharp insight is that the insidious politics of the racist right employs the very ideals and political rhetoric that most Americans readily embrace. An assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Meredith College, Burlein makes her case by comparing two groups: Scriptures for America, a white supremacist organization run by Pete Peters, and Focus on the Family, the well-known conservative evangelical ministry headed by James Dobson. She examines the ways in which both groups deploy a politics of nostalgia and of the body to motivate their adherents.

This politics of the body encompasses both the individual body envisioned as a temple of the Holy Spirit and the national body politic envisioned as God's temple in need of cleansing. Thus, both Peters and Dobson invoke the same biblical image to call Christians to articulate their concern for their children by embracing the romance of male protectionism. In this dangerous and deceitful age, the story goes, men must protect the innocence of their families by taking the country back from the secular humanists who, since the 1960s, have been using pop culture to surreptitiously reprogram the sexual and gender mores of young people. This reprogramming is part of a conspiracy to annihilate all memory of Christianity from the national body politic.