Jeanne D’Arc of Body and Soul remembers Archbishop Romero, who was an outspoken advocate for El Salvador’s population. He risked (and lost) his life defending human dignity and justice at a time when thousands of liberal Salvadorans were being slaughtered by an anticommunist Salvadoran government receiving heavy military and financial support from the U.S. government under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Some key leaders of the U.S. religious right aggressively promoted the undemocratic Salvadoran government, that nation’s far-right Arena Party, the contra terrorists in Nicaragua, and the genocidal Rios Montt in Guatemala because of their "anticommunism" and "patriotism" — both of which, arguably, can become religions unto themselves when misused.

This advocacy occurred even as the Central American regimes raped Catholic nuns; assassinated liberal mayors, labor organizers, and teachers; and mowed down whole households and neighborhoods deemed "liberal."

Among the religious-right supporters of anticommunist terror in Central America were Jesse Helms, Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye and future "Left Behind" author Tim LaHaye. I was on CWFA’s mailing list in the early 1980s when I was trying to become active in pro-life activities at my college.

As I read CWFA propaganda, and listened to my pro-life classmates’ stubborn dismissals of human rights as a concern, it didn’t take long for me to become disenchanted with the religious right. Beyond its pro-life veneer, I began to see that leaders of the religious-right political movement formed arrogant proclamations and alliances with intentional and persistent ignorance of key facts. The movement then acted with callous disregard for the lethal consequences. (Do the movement’s tactics back then sound familiar today?)

Addendum: Body and Soul is receiving useful comments and links in response to the tribute to Romero, including this link to a 2001 Commonweal article. The article explores U.S. Ambassador Robert White’s encounter with murdered nuns, and his subsequent change of heart toward U.S. policy (especially toward Reagan and the far right), as the murder and mayhem escalated in 1980-81.

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