In 2007, Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society and founder of the World Congress of Families (WCF), published The Natural Family: A Manifesto alongside Paul Mero, head of the conservative, Mormon-backed Sutherland Institute. That same year Carlson was named one of the “Most Influential Christian Leaders of 2007” by InVictory Media, a Russian-speaking Christian media group affiliated with the WCF.
Jeremy Adam Smith contributed an article to the Winter 2007 edition of The Public Eye on Carlson and Mero’s work and the Christian Right family. In it, he observes, “People who make it their business to track and fight the Right tend, with good reason, to focus on public, political activity, but the Christian Right sees the private home as a major arena of political struggle and a showcase for the world they want to live in.”
Through the strategic monopolization of Christian discourse, Smith writes, “[C]onservative evangelicals have been largely responsible for developing and promoting the anti-gay, anti-feminist ‘family values’ agenda that has powerfully shaped the culture and platform of the Republican Party.”
Smith remained optimistic, however, that the gap between Carlson and Mero’s white-picket fence idealism contrasted with the reality of the average working-class evangelical household would ultimately push their constituency toward a more moderate approach to political and family life.
Six years later, it seems that Carlson might indeed be losing the fight here in the United States. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll revealed that 52% of Americans would vote to make same-sex marriages legal in the United States if given the opportunity, as compared to 1982 when only 32% of Americans were in support of “homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.” Important questions and debates on the marriage equality movement and queer justice aside, these trends suggest significant challenges at least to the narrowest definitions of family life and values.
Meanwhile, the battle for what Carlson calls the “natural family” rages on elsewhere. Representing the WCF at a panel discussion earlier this month in Kiev entitled “European Integration and the Legislation of Homosexuality in Ukraine,” Don Feder remarked, “America is standing on the edge of an abyss – please don’t join us there.”
Seeing the U.S. as a doomed cesspool of sinful ungodliness, it seems that our most famous family “experts” are taking their rhetoric elsewhere. Scott Lively of Watchmen on the Walls and Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage have both made recent visits to Russia, and Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute is scheduled to make a visit there next week at the invitation of the Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith.
Despite being cast out of both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association, Cameron’s pseudo-scientific studies continue to function as artillery for anti-gay crusaders who gladly grant him all the undeserved credibility he desires. (For example, Allan Carlson and Paul Mero cite Cameron in their 2008 publication, The Natural Family: Bulwark of Liberty.)
When he visited Moscow in 2008, Cameron spoke at a round table sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church, spreading his homophobic lies and urging Russians to support Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s Gay Pride ban. This time around his visit will coincide with the Russian Public Movement’s “Future without Homosexuality” conference, and he is expected to meet with members of the scientific community as well as with government representatives.
As we continue to track the role of the Christian Right in the political sphere, let’s not forget that the battleground extends far beyond the halls of government, and far beyond the borders of this country. Our families, our friends, and our neighbors (both here in the U.S. and all around the world) are under attack.