There are striking parallels in how power politics get played to seize organizational reigns and to advance an agenda of wider dominance disguised as “pro-life.” Both are centered on unquestioned control, and the broader methodologies are the same.

Simply look at how fundamentalists wrested control of the Southern Baptist Convention and how many of the same people and others with similar motives use anti-abortion allegiance as a trump card to excuse all sorts of unethical and immoral behavior.

Those of us who’ve been around for a while know when the Bible — and the Christian faith for that matter — get co-opted for purposes other than the stated ones.

Weak biblical scholarship aligns with false information and defamation to carry out self-serving goals in the name of orthodoxy, conservatism or some other claim of rightness.

The takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by authoritarians was fueled by a manufactured effort to “save the Bible.” Superb and faithful biblical scholars teaching in SBC-related colleges and seminaries were demeaned and dismissed.

Busloads of pew-sitting Baptists were persuaded to attend convention meetings for many years to help self-appointed autocrats drive out anyone opposed to their forceful tactics and gross misrepresentations. No counter movement could succeed against a passionate mob convinced they were “saving the Bible” rather than simply advancing someone’s authoritarian control.

The politics of abortion is handled in the same way. It was first adopted as a political wedge issue — resulting from the marriage of religious and political extremists whose initial flirting over shared support for racial discrimination wasn’t as publicly acceptable.

In the same way that Baptist political operatives framed their raw politics as “saving the Bible,” the anti-abortion movement — with no limit to imposing its freedom-restricting agenda on the nation at large — rallies around claims of “saving the babies.”

This latter effort is religious authoritarianism’s Plan B.

Once adherents to such causes buy into these singular and emotive issues — whether “saving” the Bible or babies — anything else done under those banners gets excused.

Even those quite sincere about these causes can be played like puppets on a string, even when the resulting behaviors of their religious and political saviors are clearly at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus and cause much carnage to vulnerable people.

This is how authoritarianism works: A so-called “good cause” — rooted in fear and urgency — is fabricated, with those who created the alarming situation presenting themselves as the only saviors.

Scared people give up their freedom and other rights in exchange for promises of comfort and protection. And basic human values like honesty, compassion and justice are tossed to the wind.

Those who seized denominational power in the SBC (in the 1980s and surrounding years) by claiming to be “saving the Bible” were quick to demean faithful fellow Christians, lie about the scriptures and reject the historic principles on which the whole Baptist movement is rooted: soul freedom, priesthood of believers, congregational autonomy and religious liberty.

Now the bad fruit produced by that injected authoritarianism is available for the whole world to see, despite strong efforts by other authoritarian men to keep it concealed.

In the same way, we are witnessing the continuing embrace and empowerment of significantly inept and immoral political leaders by white Americanized Christians who focus solely on a promise of “saving the babies.”

As with other control-seeking efforts, anyone who disagrees, points out the harsh realities of such political dominance or becomes an obstacle in any way is deemed the enemy and demeaned as a heretic, “baby killer” or whatever works to tarnish their reputations.

Despite any stated goal at the outset, the real purpose of an authoritarian effort is always full control.

Early on, fundamentalist Southern Baptists claimed to want a fairer representation of more-conservative faculty members. But give fundamentalists 50% of the vote plus one and they will kick everyone else to the curb.

Even after decades of full control, Southern Baptist leadership still seeks out those to discredit and dismiss.

Anti-abortion advocates quickly turned from a stated desire for each state to determine its own abortion policies to legislative efforts to create a national ban on abortion with no regard for medical complexities or the wellbeing of very vulnerable people.

These efforts have reached the point that women of child-bearing age must protect the privacy of their own menstrual cycles because there is no area that Christian nationalists and other religious-political authoritarians consider off limits.

Tragically, those who often claim to be so faithfully Christian are most likely to continually give allegiances to abusive and discredited leaders who keep promising to “save” them from something.

We know how such unmerited devotion plays out. We see what these power-consuming leaders are proven to be again and again.

Tragically, however, little seems to be learned.

Those who disguise their power-seeking as a noble cause keep telling their minions, “We’re doing this for you. Trust us.”

And, sadly, they often do.

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