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The End of the Christian Right?
February 14, 2012 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Historian Michael Kazin says that we are witnessing the end of the Religious Right's influence in American politics. Peter Montgomery of Alternet says not to declare the Christian Right dead quite yet.
posted by reenum (128 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
think it is a car wreck and the beginning of their end.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:53 AM on February 14, 2012


oh please oh please
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:54 AM on February 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


Previously
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suppose turning over Roe vs. Wade could be described as their ultimate "cherished goal". And they didn't get anywhere with that during the Bush administration.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:00 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was published on Jan 17:

Almost half-a-century after Griswold v. Connecticut, not even Rick Santorum proposes outlawing birth control methods that nearly every heterosexual woman has used or will use at some point in her life. The news that the traditionalist Catholic ex-Senator from Pennsylvania had suggested that contraception “is counter to how things are supposed to be” was enough to bury under a heap of ridicule whatever slim chance he had to win the nomination.

...and since then, it's become very clear that opposition to contraception is, in fact, a valid position within the GOP, with plenty of support from Senators and Representatives and a surging Rick Santorum.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:01 AM on February 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


Google search input: "end of the religious right"
Result: About 9,700,600 results

posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:06 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


[singing] Ding dong, the w........... [ok, that's in poor taste I'm sorry so sue me]
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:07 AM on February 14, 2012


Rightist politics cannot sustain for long any connection to authentic Christianity. The contradictions are too self-evident. The only reason the Christian Right has been successful at all is because of the silence of the Christian Left.
posted by No Robots at 10:08 AM on February 14, 2012 [23 favorites]


it's become very clear that opposition to contraception is, in fact, a valid position within the GOP

Yeah, the Daily Show had footage of some sort of animatronic tortoise speaking in favor of Santorum's proposals.

Oh, wait...that was Mitch McConnell.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:08 AM on February 14, 2012 [32 favorites]


Dangerous animals are often at their most dangerous when in their death throes. President Santorum?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:09 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


As someone who has written a lot about the Religious Right: These guys are proclaimed dead every 10-15 years and then make comebacks.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:09 AM on February 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


I will not believe this movement is dead until it is staked, decapitated, its mouth stuffed with garlic, burned, and the ashes buried at six crossroads in separate countries.

And even then I suspect it will be back for the sequel. Conservative religious mania is part of the genetic code of the USA. It cannot be eradicated, only managed with a steady regimen of education and sunlight.

Similarly, the conflation of religion and politics has always led to bad religion and bad politics, and that is not just an American problem....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:10 AM on February 14, 2012 [25 favorites]


I suppose turning over Roe vs. Wade could be described as their ultimate "cherished goal". And they didn't get anywhere with that during the Bush administration.

Nor did they truly intend to. Not only does Big Abortion serve as a potent carrot on the end of the stick, driving hard-right voters to the polls time and again, but the far right knows very well that an incremental approach is far more likely to achieve results than a full-on push to ban.

The Religious Right will stop being a force in this country when they are no longer a reliable voting bloc. THAT will only happen if people of their ilk stop believing that "God wills it so" is adequate justification for civil law. And THAT will happen on the twelfth of never.
posted by delfin at 10:10 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


As long as we have religions, we will have theocracy movements. They may ebb and flow both in their power and the degree of violence which they are willing to employ, but they're always there.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:13 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I haven't noticed any shortages of gullible idiots yet, so color me skeptical on this one.
posted by Aquaman at 10:13 AM on February 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


t's become very clear that opposition to contraception is, in fact, a valid position within the GOP, with plenty of support from Senators and Representatives

Yeah, it's got a lot of support from a bunch of old men. Interestingly, the voting blocks that are going to matter in the coming election are not old men, but women and young people. I'm increasingly convinced that the GOP's position on contraception is the direct result of Washington insiders spending too much time inside the beltway.

Demographics are not on their side.
posted by ambrosia at 10:14 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


They somehow manage to resurrect themselves zombielike and lurch onward, not very much like their hero
posted by Renoroc at 10:14 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suppose turning over Roe vs. Wade could be described as their ultimate "cherished goal". And they didn't get anywhere with that during the Bush administration.

I think they've discovered that they can more effectively implement de-facto outlawing of abortion by influencing state legislatures to enact all manner of funding restrictions, licensing requirements and other measures intended to restrict abortion to the point where it's, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. Or, at the very least, impractical/expensive to provide.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


the direct result of Washington insiders spending too much time inside the beltway.

...if you know what I mean.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


...and since then, it's become very clear that opposition to contraception is, in fact, a valid position within the GOP, with plenty of support from Senators and Representatives and a surging Rick Santorum.

They are opposed in theory but not in practice. I'm willing to bet that greater than 50% of the GOP's wives and daughters use some form of contraception.

Fucking hypocrites.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile i don't even know what the fuck is going on with the UK.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on February 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


I suppose turning over Roe vs. Wade could be described as their ultimate "cherished goal". And they didn't get anywhere with that during the Bush administration.

The allegedly-defunct religious right has managed to pass more than 60 anti-choice laws in the last year alone.

Pretending that access to abortion hasn't been crippled just because Roe v. Wade remains intact is the most naive and shortsighted belief the left could possibly take in the area of women's rights.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2012 [31 favorites]


The Religious Right will stop being a force in this country when they are no longer a reliable voting bloc. THAT will only happen if people of their ilk stop believing that "God wills it so" is adequate justification for civil law.

From the article:
Put simply, the Christian Right is getting old. According to the largest and most recent study we have of American religion and politics, by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, almost twice as many people 18 to 29 confess to no faith at all as adhere to evangelical Protestantism. Young people who have attended college, a growing percentage of the population, are more secular still. Catholicism has held its own only because the Church keeps gathering in newcomers from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, few of whom are likely to show up at a Santorum rally. To their surprise, Putnam and Campbell discovered that conservative preachers infrequently discuss polarizing issues from the pulpit. Sermons about hunger and poverty far outnumber those about homosexuality or abortion. On any given Sunday, just one group of Christians routinely grapples with divisive political issues: black Protestants, the most reliably Democratic constituency of them all.
In other words, the theory is that it's not so much a matter of whether or not people are saying "God wills it so," it's a matter of what it is they are saying God is willing to Make So. And the number of people who care what God thinks about gay marriage is decreasing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on February 14, 2012


contradictions are too self-evident. The only reason the Christian Right has been successful at all is because of the silence of the Christian Left.

The "Christian Left" could scream their lungs out, there aren't very many of them. The Christian Right has been successful because Christianity is pretty right wing when you get down to it. There's some lip service to noblesse oblige, but it's authoritarian in world view. Being religious and right-wing go hand in had.
posted by spaltavian at 10:21 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The "Christian Left" could scream their lungs out, there aren't very many of them.

It wasn't always so. And it only takes a few to make a big impact.
posted by No Robots at 10:22 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


They are opposed in theory but not in practice. I'm willing to bet that greater than 50% of the GOP's wives and daughters use some form of contraception.

Fucking hypocrites.


What, and you think this is news? Rick Fucking Santorum and his wife were prepared for her to have an abortion when she had a life-threatening pregnancy; they were spared by a miscarriage, but the deep hypocrisy of the religious right - "We're special, we know better, but you sluts need to be punished for having sex" - is well-established and well-documented.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:22 AM on February 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


The Christian Right will never die, it will change and evolve (despite their beliefs against such things). 10-15 years from now, they will no longer be the Religious Right they are today, just as they aren't the same as they were 10-15 years ago.

I remember growing up, the big grouse on the right concerning Christmas was it's commercialization. Too much emphasis on retail sales, not enough on Jesus. Now, they have changed, and are upset if a store has the hubris to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".

It's the same in politics. They no longer push for prayer in schools, or making abortion outright illegal (just doing things to make it incredibly difficult). It's on to new battles, the ever shifting battle lines of the culture war. The war will never have a winner or loser, only battles won or lost, and neither side will die or come to an end, both sides just evolve and change.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:22 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I grew up in the Bible Belt and was in elementary school in the 1980s. I clearly remember learning about evolution. There was one kid who challenged the teacher about it. But she was weird. Like her family didn't let her wear pants level of weird. Everybody kind of felt sorry for her that she was so backwards that she challenged something that was obviously scientific fact.

It shock and confounds be that only a few decades later, that class could not be taught. And those classmates of mine, who were so sad and a little ashamed of the religious girl are on Facebook preaching that their kids shouldn't be forced to learn a "theory" like evolution.

When it dawns on you that there was more tolerance during the Reagan years, it becomes apparent that Religious Right can't die too soon.
posted by teleri025 at 10:23 AM on February 14, 2012 [25 favorites]


From Michael Kazin's lips to God's... um nevermind

I don't think the number of Christians is going down, but I do think the number of people who will be told what to vote by their church is. (Or at least that the number of Christians who believe, you know, in the actual teachings of the guy the church is named after, is increasing.) I think this is because, after years of people saying "If all Christians aren't bad, why do we only hear from the assholes", social media is giving people more of a voice.

It's a slow process but it's one that has been ready to happen for a long time.

If you're interested in the history of the Religious Right and its binding to the Republican Party, I can't recommend The Right and the Righteous: The Christian Right Confronts the Republican Party enough. It's 17 years old now, so it doesn't necessarily speak to today's situation, but because it was written for academia, not to choose a side, it gives a fairly balanced (by the actual, not Fox News, definition) background.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:24 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rightist politics cannot sustain for long any connection to authentic Christianity.

No true Scotsman votes Conservative Party.
posted by Jahaza at 10:26 AM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


No true Scotsman votes Conservative Party.

One true Scotsman, and a Baptist socialist at that.
posted by No Robots at 10:28 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


In other words, the theory is that it's not so much a matter of whether or not people are saying "God wills it so," it's a matter of what it is they are saying God is willing to Make So. And the number of people who care what God thinks about gay marriage is decreasing.

Which is fine, if gay marriage is the only issue at stake. I don't think that it is.

Ironically, Santorum winning the nomination is about the only thing that I believe can help stabilize the Republican Party. Why? Because if he gets curbstomped in the general election, the non-faith-based wing of the GOP may get to say "okay, we tried it your way, now let's bring it back a few notches." If Romney wins the nomination and loses in November, it only emboldens the far right to claim they'd have won easily if a TRUE CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE was on the ballot.
posted by delfin at 10:32 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


No true Scotsman votes Conservative Party.

One true Scotsman, and a Baptist socialist at that.
posted by No Robots at 1:28 PM on February 14 [+] [!]


I can't believe Tommy Douglas ever voted for the Tories!

But yeah, he's an excellent example of those in the Christian left whose religion leads them to support social democratic policies.
posted by jb at 10:32 AM on February 14, 2012


That, or he'll win and usher in a new dark age.
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on February 14, 2012


As long as we have religions, we will have theocracy movements.

I take your point but in some ways that is like saying as long as we have government we wqill have totalitarian movements. Religion is not the problem, it is people who are fundamentally over authoratarian. They can use any social framework to impose their beliefs.


The "Christian Left" could scream their lungs out, there aren't very many of them. The Christian Right has been successful because Christianity is pretty right wing when you get down to it.


Well, some of Christianity is yeah, and the most vocal part of it in American is right now, but as with anything it is hard to point at a whole and say it is all such and such. And that is why there are so many denominations. There are a lot and I mean A LOT of Christian Leftists, but they also tend to (by and large) be more individualistic and harder to coral behind grandiose empty rhetoric. In the 1980's there was the Sanctuary Movement (hands up who has heard of that?) which is a great example of Christian Left action and I'd wager less than 1% of Americans know about it. Words vs actions.
posted by edgeways at 10:34 AM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


As someone who has written a lot about the Religious Right: These guys are proclaimed dead every 10-15 years and then make comebacks.

Agreed. Here's some of what various commentators had to say when Goldwater was trounced by LBJ in 1964: "The Republican Party has been overwhelmingly repudiated for its secession from contemporary American society." "The Republican Party has been suitably punished for its self-indulgence in the politics of nostalgia." "From the rightist intellectuals we have had almost nothing but insults to the intelligence."

Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan was speaking to the Santa Ana Young Republicans and declaring that the party would "rise from defeat" and start "the second round to defend the Republic." And the rest, as they say, is history.

I'm aware that this thread is about the Christian right, but since the Christian right and the GOP are virtually indistinguishable these days, it's a distinction without a difference.
posted by blucevalo at 10:34 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also,

...a surging Rick Santorum.

C'mon, man, some of us are EATING here.
posted by delfin at 10:34 AM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Which is fine, if gay marriage is the only issue at stake. I don't think that it is.

Well, yeah. That was just a for-instance.

My point was that, according to the article, Christians are starting to care more about progressive issues rather than conservative ones, so simply accusing them of "only caring what God wills to be so" is missing the point of the article.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on February 14, 2012


This is idiotic.

If anything they're more powerful now than at any time in the past 25 years. Republican front runners for President openly declare thier opposition to birth control. A geniune theocrat leads the national polls. They own and control an entire 24/7 cable TV propoganda network with outsized influence over the national debate, not to mention literally thousands of 24/7 hate radio stations. They own 4 reliable votes on the Supreme Court. A theocratic administration is in power in Virgina. They're making unprecedented adgenda progress in state legislatures across the nation.

They're far from dead, if anything we're closer to the the moment when fascism comes to America wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross than ever before. Another attack on the mainland could easily get us there.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:39 AM on February 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


There will always be a religious right, and they will have cycles of better than usual organization and messaging, but this cycle is on the wane. The big problem is that the GOP pretty much openly betrayed them; they had the house, senate, and white house for six years and gave the RR bupkis. That's why the RR is now organizing to take over the GOP; they are tired of getting screwed over by "their" side. They don't care that the resulting GOP becomes unelectable in a general election; they either don't believe that, having read too much of their own propaganda, or they don't care.

The only two possible futures for the GOP are to be taken over by the RR, in which case they become a fringe party never to be elected on a national scale again, or the RR gets pushed out by the moderates after a disastrous trouncing this year, in which case the RR is gone from politics for at least a decade.

The RR has nothing close to a majority in a general election; hell, the personhood amendement even went down in Mississippi. A non-insane person would take that as a clue that the idea has no traction rather than trying to double down on it at a national scale.

The pro-abortion forces have known since roughly 1974 that their foes also hate contraception, and the anti-abortion forces have been loudly and sanctimoniously denying any such thing for just as long. But now the idiots have gone and made the association themselves, and when America is made aware of what they honestly want to do they can't get elected dog catcher.
posted by localroger at 10:43 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many Christians are starting to lean progressively. Not surprising, as many Christians have been progressives all along.

All that's required, however, is for ENOUGH right-wing Christians to stick to That Good Ol' Time Religion's values to continue holding disproportionate sway over the Republican Party. In some areas of the country, they're a fringe element. In many others, not so much. Losing some influence in the former won't make those in the latter rethink anything.
posted by delfin at 10:44 AM on February 14, 2012


The Christian Right has been successful because Christianity is pretty right wing when you get down to it. There's some lip service to noblesse oblige, but it's authoritarian in world view. Being religious and right-wing go hand in had.

Except for the abolitionists, the Confessing Church movement in Nazi Germany, the US Civil Rights Movement, the Latin American Social Justice Movement, the Catholics and Protestants and Quakers who work against the death penalty, the UCC and the MCC, Sojourners, Habitat for Humanity, dozens of homeless shelters in every major city in the US, and every single congregation out there that welcomes and loves all those who walk through their doors without regard for anything other than their humanity.

Honestly, and truly, whatever you think of the modern US Christian Right in the Republican party, you can't ignore that an awful lot of "left wing" stuff has been done in the name of Christianity.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:47 AM on February 14, 2012 [29 favorites]


Roe vs. Wade

Its not one VS the other. Both were decided as being good ways of getting out of New Orleans during the Bush administration.

Historian Michael Kazin says that we are witnessing the end of the Religious Right's influence in American politics.

The only way this would be true is if the actual situation of the control of the Corporations is embraced in its stead.

Because the 'power of faith' is a cheap tool to motivate people to do things AND they'll have conviction during that motivation.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:49 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dangerous animals are often at their most dangerous when in their death throes.

Ever shot a mamma grizzly with a bow and approached the motionless hulk only to discover she's not quite dead as she rears up and proceeds to claw your face off? Moral of the story: Use firearms dumbass, and also wait 1/2 hour for the animal to bleed out before approaching.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2012


"The "Christian Left" could scream their lungs out, there aren't very many of them. The Christian Right has been successful because Christianity is pretty right wing when you get down to it. There's some lip service to noblesse oblige, but it's authoritarian in world view. Being religious and right-wing go hand in had."

That's not really true. In order to make Christianity an authoritarian faith, you have to go through some pretty complex theological jiggery-pokery. More than anything, you have groups of people that have a xenophobic, individualist and rapacious context and you add a dash of magical thinking in the guise of Christianity, and you get reactionary fundamentalism and American fascism. Religion is another reinforcing input that is used to affirm already existent values.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or, as my old Episcopalian buddy used to say, "The reason why you don't hear the Christian Left on the news is that we're too busy working in soup kitchens."
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 AM on February 14, 2012 [26 favorites]


The Christian Right has been successful because Christianity is pretty right wing when you get down to it. There's some lip service to noblesse oblige, but it's authoritarian in world view. Being religious and right-wing go hand in had.

Really? Seriously? Because I'd describe Christianity - mind you, I'm not a Christian - as being a fundamentally left-wing, basically socialist world view, with an explicitly and arguably extremist set of anti-authoritarian, pacifist ethics.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:19 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


People have been waiting for old hardliner religious types to 'age themselves out' for a long, long time. Mysteriously, new ones tend to keep showing up.

It's amazing how many generations of people were Going To Be Different and Were Going To Change The World and Thought Differently and then twenty years later Couldn't Believe They Now Sounded Just Like Their Parents Did.
posted by delfin at 11:20 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


However it is hard to argue that we are socially the same as we where 40 years ago. Progress is made, it just isn't as fast as we'd like. When you have leaders of the Christian Right admitting that they are going to lose the 'gay rights issue', and there is an emerging feeling that gay rights may become a wedge issue in favor of the Democrats... well things do change. Things are not where they should be, by far, but we elected a black president and would have (I believe) elected a woman president if the primaries had been different. We talk openly about gender and sexuality and racial issues, and yes people get their bruised privileged feelings hurt but things have changed and are so much more diverse and wide than they use to be. The world is ALWAYS changing. We change the world, but it is rarely a cataclysmic event, mor eoften it is just the never-ending aftershocks
posted by edgeways at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


While I wouldn't sound the death knell just yet, the day we as a species stop talking to invisible people and start thinking for ourselves instead of letting a book do our thinking for us will be a great day.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:48 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


(What was the over/under on how long it would take before someone used some derivation of the phrase 'Invisible Sky Daddy'?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


In order to make Christianity an authoritarian faith, you have to go through some pretty complex theological jiggery-pokery.

Are we talking Christianity based on the: teachings of Christ; the stuff Paul said afterwards; some combination of Old and New Testaments scriptures; some other combination of Old and New Testament scriptures; the above as interpreted by the Catholic Church; the above as interpreted by the Eastern Orthodox Church; the above as interpreted by any other number of sects?

There's lots and lots of doctrine that is included in Christianity, much of it conflicting. So, maybe some Christianity is authoritarian, and some isn't. Some people are going to find an excuse to be authoritarian, and with as amorphous and conflicting body of beliefs and ideas as Christianity, some are going to find an excuse there.

The real question is, are there enough the people in America using it as an excuse to be a political force? Recently the answer is yes, but I suspect that population going to start waning soon.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:54 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suppose turning over Roe vs. Wade could be described as their ultimate "cherished goal". And they didn't get anywhere with that during the Bush administration.

Nor did they truly intend to. Not only does Big Abortion serve as a potent carrot on the end of the stick, driving hard-right voters to the polls time and again, but the far right knows very well that an incremental approach is far more likely to achieve results than a full-on push to ban.
Minor quibble: I don't think they'll ever intend to. You're right about the incremental approach being better, but I think the Republican elite is far happier to have their efforts on those fronts fail than succeed. It's not much of a war if you win every battle, and you're not planning to win if you don't want the war to ever end.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 11:54 AM on February 14, 2012


the phrase 'Invisible Sky Daddy

I rather like the "sky father/lightning child" names in cstross's merchant prince series.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:56 AM on February 14, 2012


There's lots and lots of doctrine that is included in Christianity, much of it conflicting.

Remember the days when you used to search for something and you'd find a webpage with a huge list of random key words at the bottom just to kajigger search listing? The bible is that the paleo-version of that. You can justify literally anything based on what you selectively choose to focus on.

Its not even internally self consistent about the events it depicts even when those events have no bearing on morality rules.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:01 PM on February 14, 2012


delfin: "People have been waiting for old hardliner religious types to 'age themselves out' for a long, long time. Mysteriously, new ones tend to keep showing up."

Our parish, which is attached to a state university, had meetings after every mass about the health care/contraception boondoggle last week. During the meeting, Father asked for a show of hands for who was for and who was against the administration's decision (this was pre-judo move).

The first two masses which consists mostly of the "permanent community" averaged out to about 60-40 in favor of contraception being included. The last mass which is mostly students was 80-20 against. Then they went up to their hand wavy, evangelical Catholic gathering.

I worry about the children.
posted by charred husk at 12:06 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first two masses which consists mostly of the "permanent community" averaged out to about 60-40 in favor of contraception being included. The last mass which is mostly students was 80-20 against. Then they went up to their hand wavy, evangelical Catholic gathering.

As a friend of mine said: "eh, college is when you tend to Make Stands About Things before you finally start getting over yourself."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2012


One true Scotsman, and a Baptist socialist at that.

So the way to reconcile Christianity with contemporary American politics involves a Canadian from 70 years ago? Makes sense to me.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:43 PM on February 14, 2012


@TheWhiteSkull:

Erm, I was kinda making a joke involving the accusation levelled at me of using the "No true Scotsman" fallacy. Don't worry, there have been and still are plenty of American Christian Leftists. Some of them may even be true Scotsmen!
posted by No Robots at 12:55 PM on February 14, 2012


No, I was being facetious- it is sad, though, that there is currently no-one on the mainstream American political landscape who represents a sort of Christian version of social justice in the manner of Tommy Douglas. Carter may have been the last, and he was still pretty socially conservative history's greatest monster.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:04 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


[The Bible is] not even internally self consistent about the events it depicts even when those events have no bearing on morality rules.

Abel shot first!!
 
posted by Herodios at 1:21 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


[The Bible is] not even internally self consistent about the events it depicts...

The Bible is not a unitary text in the way that most books are (even, say, the Koran). It's a canon, not a book strictly speaking; its 66+ texts (different denominations have slightly different canons, for instance the Roman Catholic Church and some Anglicans recognize the canonicity of several texts that were rejected by most Protestants at the Reformation and the LDS has several canonical texts written in the late 19th century which are rejected by the other Christian traditions).

These texts are widely divergent in genre, authorship and cultural location. They are Ancient Near East creation myths, ancient Hebrew hymn-books, first-century CE pastoral circular letters, religious fiction, national mythologies, historical discourses, biographical works and philosophical treatises. Some have been redacted, chopped-up, recombined, and tacked-onto by later editors. We have a pretty good idea about who wrote a few of them; the authors of many of them are lost to the mists of time.

The above, I think, is relatively uncontroversial in the academic community, insofar as any statement about religion can be seen to be settled. On to my own opinions based on this perspective:

(1) This is why Christian fundamentalism is not sustainable. To impose top-down order on the Bible requires the establishment of a rigid doctrinal and ethical system that will inevitably do violence to some portion of the text. Ironically, the conservatives who continuously crow about their High Regard For Scripture have done more damage to it than the liberals who at their best are at least willing to try to interact with the texts in an empathetic, respectful way, bringing the resources of the academy to bear on the difficult questions of textual criticism.


(2) I agree that the Bible can (and often has been) used for authoritarian ends, and I concur with posters above that this is not a problem with the Bible, nor with religion. This is a problem with humans.

(3) Myself, I see the biblical texts not as prescriptive but as descriptive. They offer insight into the religious experience of people who were dealing with all kinds of different situations and working out and sharing how they had encountered God in the midst of their individual and communal lives. They are true, in the sense that we are offered an encounter with God as we explore and listen to the text in the context of a Christian community; and they are true in the sense that (especially in the Gospels) we are offered several (four) accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and are asked based on this testimony to decide if we are willing to call him Lord.

Wow, that got really religious. As an Episcopalian, I feel compelled to apologize now. :)

To get back on-topic, my take on the much-heralded collapse of the Religious Right is similar to localroger's above; basically, "The religious lunatics you will always have with you."

Fundamentalists in this country went underground in the '20s and '30s after it became clear that the country as a whole was not on board with their anti-evolution, anti-Catholic and anti-religious-neutrality platform. They left the big-tent mainline denominations to found their own conservative denominations (e.g., the Missouri Synod Lutherans, the conservative Presbyterian groups), seminaries and parachurch institutions.

Those parachurch groups are especially interesting because they allowed for the creation of single-issue advocacy or working groups that could unite conservatives around moral issues or missions work on an ad-hoc basis, sidestepping fears of ecumenical mushiness while building a decentralized but powerful counter-culture. For example, MeFites primarily know Focus on the Family as an immensely powerful lobbying group, but much of its work has been to promote a conservative Protestant model of the family and society to its evangelical audience, and it has done this entirely outside the leadership structure of a traditional denomination.

The mobilization of that dense network of institutions and the universe of voters that it speaks to and for has been a big and underreported part of what enabled the Republican Party to capture the white working-class vote in the '70s and '80s. Sure, the civil-rights backlash was a huge part of it. But the reaction to Roe (and the underlying fear of the erosion of traditional morals) really galvanized evangelicals and fundamentalists -- without that, I don't think Republicans would've been able to cobble together a working majority. That's the tension that is breaking down the party, as evangelicals realize that their secular conservative bedfellows (whether the New England Romney types or the Southern Gingrich types) just don't care that much about the moral issues that mean everything to them; and now that those issues are becoming a wedge on the Right rather than the Left, the Republican establishment would like to drop them like a hot brick.

I am particularly interested in the fact that three of the four Republican nominees left standing are members of extremely top-down, hierarchical denominations (the Roman Catholic Church and the LDS). I'm actually not surprised that evangelicals are okay with a Roman Catholic nominee, as the Church has been quite open to cross-denominational partnerships on issues of mutual concern (read: ABORTION). The being-okay-with-Mormons thing is more surprising, although I suspect that if Mitt had Rick Santorum's record, evangelicals would be more pragmatic about falling in line.

But I think it means something that the huge, passionate and politically-savvy bloc of evangelical Americans have not been able to produce from their number even one person who was anywhere near viabile to run for President against the reviled, radical, thoroughly-other, possibly heretical Democratic President.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:24 PM on February 14, 2012 [45 favorites]


Yes. We know.
posted by Herodios at 1:26 PM on February 14, 2012


Yes. We know.

Indeed. Next time I'm tempted to write a thousand-word comment, I will take a walk first.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2012


Next time I'm tempted to write a thousand-word comment, I will take a walk first.

You will write it like the gospel-laying bad-ass you are. More of those, please.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:40 PM on February 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Fantasy is evergreen.
posted by aramaic at 1:41 PM on February 14, 2012


(well crap, now that looks like a dig at Slap*Happy and or tivalasvegas, and it was intended to be neither. Damn my attempts at pith!)
posted by aramaic at 1:41 PM on February 14, 2012


The real question is, are there enough the people in America using it as an excuse to be a political force?

If it's not Christianity, it would be Judaism, or Mormonism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto. Some people are authoritarian, militaristic busybodies and they'll use any excuse to justify it.
posted by empath at 1:42 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look, America. I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Just because the symptoms are in remission doesn't mean that the disease is dead.

I don't care how good you feel right now, America. Remember the last time you thought you were in the clear and dropped your guard? *BAM* Tea Party.

Now continue your fucking antibiotic regimen, America.
posted by PsychoKick at 1:56 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


In order to make Christianity an authoritarian faith, you have to go through some pretty complex theological jiggery-pokery.

Bwuh? Like, including the Old Testament as divinely-inspired Scripture? Or the doctrine of salvation by faith in a sacrifice to appease a displeased God? Or the doctrine of Hell and Final Judgment by the Creator of the universe?

I get that some Christians can downplay these aspects in their day-to-day living out their faith. But the idea that most interpretations of Christianity doesn't inherently, explicitly involve submission to the greatest authority-figure in the universe, and the importance of living according to His dicta/wishes? That just doesn't seem tenable at all to me.
posted by darkstar at 1:58 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


opposition to contraception is, in fact, a valid position within the GOP

This is their own petard upon which they are being hoisted. Because the whole Religious Right attitude towards politics is based on identity and image, not any kind of reality, not even Christian reality, it's very common for them to get their feathers ruffled over stuff that they don't actually care about at all because they think it's an attack on them.

I read a thing recently about "blasphemy" and how Christians until recently regarded heretical or blasphemic remarks (God Damn it) as an occasion for sadness, as the blasphemer would be regarded as harming his own chances for a happy afterlife; but nowadays, it's pure identity politics: "you're attacking me, you son of a bitch, it's like Hitler".

Right now, you've got the entire right wing falling all over themselves over the issue of contraception, which is hilarious, because huge majorities of Catholics in the US (I've heard 98%) use or approve of contraception, as well as huge majorities of evangelicals -- pretty much everybody, in fact, except for a handful of unhinged loons like Santorum and the bishops.

This is going to hurt them badly in November.

Which is a shame, because with a nice flaccid robot like Romney losing, the far right will be able to convince themselves once again that they lost because they were TOO MODERATE, and the crazy will be even more invigorated to self-immolate in 2016 and 2020.
posted by Fnarf at 2:27 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Indeed. Next time I'm tempted to write a thousand-word comment, I will take a walk first.

Please don't. That was great stuff. More denominational history, please!
posted by Fnarf at 2:32 PM on February 14, 2012


If it's not Christianity, it would be Judaism, or Mormonism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto. Some people are authoritarian, militaristic busybodies and they'll use any excuse to justify it.

I think some ideologies are inherently more authoritarian than others, and that this is a difference worth talking about. It's difficult for me to look at any system of thought which makes a claim to universal, eternal moral Truth and claim that it's not authoritarian -- this line of thinking practically requires some form of ultimate authority, whether personified or not. And it's really hard to look at Christianity and miss the fact that its largest, oldest, and most powerful branch is based on an authoritarian hierarchy which answers to an explicitly authoritarian God.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's probably not just an "excuse" to act like a duck.
posted by vorfeed at 2:35 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it's not Christianity, it would be Judaism, or Mormonism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto. Some people are authoritarian, militaristic busybodies and they'll use any excuse to justify it.

Oh absolutely, which was a good chunk of my point. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

As an aside, Mormon's consider themselves Christian, and "they aren't really TRUE Christians" has been used to excuse some pretty hateful words and actions. I don't think that this is the case here. I've noticed people on Metafilter try to be careful with their language, and it is just one more thing to consider that might fly below most radars.

Like, including the Old Testament as divinely-inspired Scripture? Or the doctrine of salvation by faith in a sacrifice to appease a displeased God? Or the doctrine of Hell and Final Judgment by the Creator of the universe?

Er, not all sects of Christianity have these tenets. The really nice thing about having a holy text that contradicts itself is that if forces you to pick and choose what you obey, and some people actually choose the good stuff.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:37 PM on February 14, 2012


But the idea that most interpretations of Christianity doesn't inherently, explicitly involve submission to the greatest authority-figure in the universe, and the importance of living according to His dicta/wishes?

But that's a heavenly power, not a temporal power, and Christians have absolutely no problem disobeying the orders of secular governments. Plenty of them have been willing to die rather than obey.

Honestly, the revolution in Egypt has made me take a second look at the value of religion as an anti-authoritarian force. The scenes of Egyptians praying in the street while being sprayed down with firehoses were pretty powerful.
posted by empath at 2:38 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


As an aside, Mormon's consider themselves Christian, and "they aren't really TRUE Christians" has been used to excuse some pretty hateful words and actions. I don't think that this is the case here

They're about as Christian as Christians are Jews, but that's not really a knock on them, imo.
posted by empath at 2:41 PM on February 14, 2012


To whom it may concern:

Please leave specific coordinates (in Cross-Multiversal Standard notation) and directions for accessing this beautiful parallel universe you inhabit in which the United States is moving away from authoritarianism.

Sincerely,
Everyone Not Yet a Zombie in Universe B

P.S. Disregard this request when accompanied by a secondary request for brains.
posted by byanyothername at 2:47 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile i don't even know what the fuck is going on with the UK.

Prisons of the mind make for strange bedfellows.
posted by srboisvert at 2:48 PM on February 14, 2012


" In the 1980's there was the Sanctuary Movement (hands up who has heard of that?)

*raises hand* We used to drive past the Southside Presbyterian Church nearly every day, and I still live near it. We knew what was going on there and we approved. The church that my father dragged us to, however, took a dim view of what they were doing. Things haven't changed; Fife is still active in many things, we have some Christian Left activity out here (Humane Borders, No More Deaths) and yet the people I know who are members of evangelical churches tend to disapprove of their activity. Sigh.

I do think the religous right as we know it is going through its violent last throes right now. They're promoting a brand of crazy that people are getting fed up with. When they can't reliably help win elections, they won't be valuable anymore. They will be back, and they will be savvier. These things always go in cycles.
posted by azpenguin at 2:50 PM on February 14, 2012


Less facetiously, I think the first article has some good points (the decline of public religiosity with younger people in some parts of the US is probably a real thing) but I can't agree that authoritarian tendencies are on the decline in the US. To tack a few specifics on, the article sort of implies that, because it's currently commonplace, birth control is sacrosanct and the triumph of gay rights is inevitable. I think both of these things are right and decent and fundamentally pro-human, because they're things that broaden people's options and improve real actual human lives but I can no longer really put much faith into the idea that positive social change just happens. I think it's something that's often enormously painful and exhausting and there are a few areas in human rights movements that will just get paved over and forgotten.

I don't think people are inherently stupid or gullible or mean spirited, but I think people have the inherent potential to be and fighting against that is a never ending battle. Even if we really can say that the "Religious Right" (sort of a Thing, sort of a moving target, IMO) is over, something else is going to come along and tap into that inherent potential for meanness anyway.
posted by byanyothername at 2:56 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]



They're about as Christian as Christians are Jews, but that's not really a knock on them, imo.

I don't really have a theological stake in this, but I like the Merriam-Webster definition, of Christianity which Mormons fit. They have some unique cannon, but so what? A large chunk of the Christian world claims divine inspiration for some intertestamental books,while others don't. Are you going to claim that members of the Eastern Orthodox Church aren't Christian?

Like I said, I just wanted to bring it to light that people use it as an excuse for religious bigotry than I am with.

Anyway, would you really exclude Mormons from the Religious Right?
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:07 PM on February 14, 2012


But yeah, agreed that the Christian Right isn't dead. Wishful thinking for some of us, but right-wing religious demagoguery has been around for a long time in one form or another and likely will continue to be for millennia to come.

Religion, among human institutions, seems to lend itself really well to that kind of abuse. And, since human nature isn't likely to change drastically in the next few thousand years, it's something the rest of us society is going to have to be diligent about for a long, long time.

It does seem that Western Civilization is at least developing some coping mechanisms (e.g., a value for secular society) that help dampen some of the worst tendencies. Of course, then you get the uberstrain of nationalism+religion rearing its ugly head and end up launching elective wars based on fraudulent data, etc., etc.
posted by darkstar at 3:10 PM on February 14, 2012


Bwuh? Like, including the Old Testament as divinely-inspired Scripture? Or the doctrine of salvation by faith in a sacrifice to appease a displeased God? Or the doctrine of Hell and Final Judgment by the Creator of the universe?

I get that some Christians can downplay these aspects in their day-to-day living out their faith. But the idea that most interpretations of Christianity doesn't inherently, explicitly involve submission to the greatest authority-figure in the universe, and the importance of living according to His dicta/wishes? That just doesn't seem tenable at all to me.


Authoritarianism is a political philosophy, not a religious tenant. To have absolute faith in spiritual being or to submit to a metaphysical principle no more makes one an authoritarian than those who use Kantian ethics are. Spiritual submission and political submission are such different beasts that they can't even be said to correlate. To believe in an omnipresent, omnibenevolent god and think that that ALONE is worth worship—not some golden idol of the state—is about as far away from authoritarianism as I can think.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:12 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the 1980's there was the Sanctuary Movement (hands up who has heard of that?)

*also raises hand* I wrote my undergrad thesis on the Sanctuary Movement, so I have most definitely heard of it! When I stumbled onto the topic, I definitely found myself wondering rather indignantly just what the Christian Left is up to now and why they're letting the Christian Right dominate the media and political landscape. If learning about the Sanctuary Movement taught me anything, it was that the Christian Left could be a powerful force for progressive change, not necessarily on the grand, national scale, but in influencing individual Christians and congregations. The Sanctuary Movement gave those congregations that participated in it first hand experience with immigration policy, asylum policy, the US's foreign policy in Central America, Central American politics...stuff they probably didn't necessarily know or care about before their churches offered sanctuary. Once they did learn about all these things, a lot of the participants in the movement found themselves feeling both more religiously fulfilled and more politically active. And they did manage to effect changes to US asylum policy.

Is there anything comparable happening in the Christian Left now? Is there anything comparable that could happen on the Christian Right that would move them away from being anti-gay rights, anti-contraception, etc.?
posted by yasaman at 3:19 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The theory of evolution killed the Christian Left. Even Tommy Douglas wrote his thesis on eugenics. A resurrection of the Christian Left to the kind of standing it had a century ago would require it to fight the theory of evolution. Not much chance of that, I'm afraid. I guess its stuck with running soup kitchens and refugee shelters.
posted by No Robots at 3:29 PM on February 14, 2012


Hmm...it seems that the distinction you're making would pretty much allow all faiths to say they're not really authoritarian. Is there any mainstream faith that would qualify as authoritarian under that rubric? I'm not sure why the word "authoritarian" cannot be applied to faiths which exhibit a dependence upon and a reverence for anuthoritarian rule, even if they aren't nation-states.

I'm looking at a few things in mainstream Christianity that suggest its based upon a profound value for authoritarianism (both in conception and in manifestation in the physical world):

1. The belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing moral authority figure,
2. The belief in the necessity of appeasing or pleasing that authority in order to have salvation from Hell or some other concept of ultimate fulfillment (both physical and spiritual),
3. The belief that said authority has been written down in (variously) accurate tomes so that it can be known and adhered to by adherents of the faith,
4. The belief that some people are given special understanding, discernment, teaching, in-dwelling, etc. on how to follow the teachings and proscriptions of the universal authority by virtue of said Being's intervention in history or individually in their lives,
5. The positioning of some of those gifted people in positions of authority (physical, moral and/or spiritual) over other people, for teaching, reproof, leading, etc.

Now, the degree to which these tenets manifest, and the way they influence folks' politics may differ from one sect of Christianity to another. But I'm not aware of ANY mainline sect of Christianity that doesn't substantially ascribe to most, if not all, of the above.

Sure, there's a big difference between an authoritarian police state and the US Southern Baptist Convention. But I think that doesn't require us to dismiss the deeply seated authoritarian tenets in mainstream Christian faith.
posted by darkstar at 3:33 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile i don't even know what the fuck is going on with the UK.

A Conservative Muslim baroness (hey, "Lady Warsi" is a pretty epic sounding name, I'll give her that) is advocating that Christians be bolder in Europe, in the face of alleged militant secularists. Other than the fruit of empire totally ending up coming out in all sorts of flavours of interesting if you let it ferment long enough, I can't tell if that's over compensation to prove she is too a good conservative faithful type despite being A)female, B)foreign-ish and C)not of the majority religion, or a self destructive cry for help given non-secular societies' track records with the above categories, or if she's attempting to find common ground in an identical deity with a different supporting cast and choreography.

Honestly I don't know what's going on either.
posted by Phalene at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2012


Right, and she;s telling this to the Pope. The Pope. Now, if there is one thing that the predominant strand of UK Christianity is about, it's about not giving a shit what the Pope thinks, so ??????
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Its not just Christianity, but all religion that contains within the seed of authoritarianism.

Religion provides an out...you agree genocide is wrong? Well God said its right, so its right. End of the story. Go kill all the men, all the old women, leave nothing that breathes alive, except oh yeah, keep the nubile females. That crazy old testament....
posted by Chekhovian at 3:42 PM on February 14, 2012


But that's playing so loosy goosey with the definition of authoritarianism that it becomes somewhat meaningless. If one believes in an all-powerful authority figure, that makes them no more or less a tyrant (or one who supports tyrants) than one who sees all of morality as a plaything and believes in the exaltation of self.

And 4 and 5, which seems to be the real connection you're trying to make between spiritual belief and authoritarianism is tenuous. Plenty of denominations have no grand veneration of church leaders, or at least they do at the same level that people tend to respect scientist, judges, doctors, or businessmen if you were in that profession and looking towards the experts for more guidance. Surely you would not think of one who defers to more experienced scientists as scientific authoritarians, would you? And if you would reply that anyone can reproduce science, so too many Christians believe in the fallibility of their leaders and the preservation of the personal understanding of Godhead.

One who believes in an Absolute God is not an authoritarian. They could be, but certainly they could be an anarchist just as much. And if one is a Christian Anarchist, is this still an ideology of authoritarianism that must be opposed?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's the same kind of weirdness that has people who, for decades, claim to be the "party of small government" who "want government out of our lives" but then mobilize the fastest action ever seen on national legislation to pass a law to dictate the final End-of-Life arrangements for one individual in a vegetative state down in Florida over the objection of her husband.
posted by darkstar at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2012


I'm looking at a few things in mainstream Christianity that suggest its based upon a profound value for authoritarianism (both in conception and in manifestation in the physical world):


4 and 5 are your problem, and they are by no means universal.
posted by empath at 3:45 PM on February 14, 2012


Religion provides an out...you agree genocide is wrong? Well God said its right, so its right.

That works both ways.
posted by empath at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2012


And if one is a Christian Anarchist, is this still an ideology of authoritarianism that must be opposed?

Anyway, is Christian Anarchy really a mainstream form of Christian faith?

I'm curious to know which mainstream sects of Christianity don't express some form of items 4 and 5. Not to say they don't exist. But if they are in the minority, then I think my point pretty much stands.
posted by darkstar at 3:48 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to know which mainstream sects of Christianity don't express some form of items 4 and 5

Almost all protestant sects, at least nominally.
posted by empath at 3:53 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not very sanguine about this.

I'm firmly of the belief that religion, especially the kind typified by conservative Christianity, is largely a response to fear and unhappiness. Christianity is all about the promise of a better life than the current one; it's pretty implicit in that formulation that the current one must largely suck. Conservatism, similarly, is ultimately the statement that, left alone, tomorrow will be worse than yesterday.

I think at the heart of both of these is a sense of hopelessness. You can't really make your life better, so you better just hope for a payoff in the afterlife. On a larger scale, we as a species can't really improve our lot, so the best we can do is keep with the things that have gotten us (however painfully) this far.

In that sense, liberalism and freethinking are sort of luxury goods -- they're part of the self-actualization at the top of Maslow's hierarchy. They require some fundamental security and agency; you need to feel that what you have isn't so fragile that it will be lost forever if you try something new, and you need to believe that you can actually make things better through your attempts.

So the current state of things worries me a lot, because I see the potential for a lot of that to disappear. If things really start to fall apart -- economically, environmentally, or in any number of other ways -- I can see authoritarianism and parochial self-interest come roaring back in no time, no matter what values we try to codify.
posted by bjrubble at 3:56 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's pretty much what Protestantism MEANS: you don't need an intermediary between you and God; you can address him directly.
posted by Fnarf at 3:57 PM on February 14, 2012


We are definitely talking past each other, then, and don't understand the words each other are using.

In my experience and research, virtually every mainline protestant sect selects its leaders by laying on th of hands and acknowledging either the "calling" by God to serve as a leader or teacher or recognizing some degree of "indwelling" or giftin by the Holy Spirit to serve that function. That, basically, it may resemble a democracy, but it is explicitly based on theocratic guidelines, ratified by people exercising their, again, God-given discernment.

I've been elected to the elder board of both conservative and liberal churches, and have served on pastoral selection and ordination committees and in all cases, leadership was promulgated on how fit the candidate was to adhere to the Christ-likeness set forth authoritatively by the revelation of God, facilitated by the gifting and calling of God on the candidate's heart, etc.
posted by darkstar at 3:58 PM on February 14, 2012


fnarf, yes, you can access the authority of God directly. But God is the ultimate authority, to whom you owe complete allegiance. That's my point. That Christianity has, at its very center, an authority figure to whom you must be obedient or face the consequences.
posted by darkstar at 4:00 PM on February 14, 2012


Now, if there is one thing that the predominant strand of UK Christianity is about, it's about not giving a shit what the Pope thinks, so ??????

Depends how you measure predominance. If it's by Sunday attendance for instance...
posted by Jahaza at 4:00 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been elected to the elder board of both conservative and liberal churches

And you personally experienced the authoritarian power this gave you over the congregation?
posted by empath at 4:01 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Conservative Muslim baroness (hey, "Lady Warsi" is a pretty epic sounding name, I'll give her that) is advocating that Christians be bolder in Europe, in the face of alleged militant secularists. Other than the fruit of empire totally ending up coming out in all sorts of flavours of interesting if you let it ferment long enough, I can't tell if that's over compensation to prove she is too a good conservative faithful type despite being A)female, B)foreign-ish and C)not of the majority religion, or a self destructive cry for help given non-secular societies' track records with the above categories, or if she's attempting to find common ground in an identical deity with a different supporting cast and choreography.

In a related note: she's party chairman (gendered title her choice, not mine), has to keep the consituency Conservative Associations and back benchers on side, and is ambitious for further promotion within the party.

All good grist for the us-vs-them (those damn secular Guardian-reading bastards, what) mill, and helpfully positions Lady Warsi inside the 'us' section when the majority of the Tory party might not have taken that exact view about her in the past.
posted by jaduncan at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2012


fnarf, yes, you can access the authority of God directly. But God is the ultimate authority, to whom you owe complete allegiance. That's my point. That Christianity has, at its very center, an authority figure to whom you must be obedient or face the consequences.

So, you're not really against authoritarianism so much as authority as a concept, it seems?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2012


That's pretty much what Protestantism MEANS: you don't need an intermediary between you and God; you can address him directly.

Yeah, not really. If you wrote something like "there's no advantage to having an intermediary between you and God; address him directly" you might be closer to the truth, but most Protestants believe in intercessory prayer for instance. The way you've formulated makes it sound like Catholics and the Orthodox don't believe the ordinary believer can address God directly.
posted by Jahaza at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2012


empath, that's the whole point of appointing someone to those positions: so they can oversee church affairs, speak authoritatively, teach, lead, preserve doctrinal soundness, etc. Individual congregants may decide to squint really hard and see just a pal and a functionary in a cassock, to whom they owe no particular deference, if they are individualist (anarchist) at heart. But that doesn't change the fact that, for most mainstream Christian sects, the whole arrangement of appointing pastors and elders is explicitly the physical, institutional manifestation of a spiritual authority that derives from a supreme universal authority figure that must be obeyed, even if His temporal leaders are sometimes flawed.

LC, no, I don't generally have a problem with authority. Nor are we talking about a general concept of authority. We are instead talking about whether, at the core of your belief system, there is a Being of arbitrary, universal authority and whether you believe that Being must be obeyed regardless of your personal views. Conflating the two concepts so as to dismiss my observations as me simply having a problem with authority really doesn't do my position justice, I think.

But I've probably gone on too long about this anyway. Getting into a theological debate wasn't really my intent (I try to avoid them nowadays, to be honest). If I have given offense at anyone's sense of their Christian faith, it was unintentional.
posted by darkstar at 4:51 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Christian Anarchy is familiar to anyone who has ever been to a jumble sale or a particularly poorly planned pot-luck.

My Episcopal parish works with Interfaith Power and Light on environmental issues. IPL is multi faith, but it's certainly a place that attracts lefty Christians. The funny thing is that many of our members are former Catholics and when we talk about liberal concerns from the pulpit they look all confused for a moment and then relax like "oh, that's right! We're here now with the nice lady priest!"
posted by Biblio at 6:55 PM on February 14, 2012


They are opposed in theory but not in practice. [contraception] I'm willing to bet that greater than 50% of the GOP's wives and daughters use some form of contraception.

I think you're way underestimating. I can't think of any that have 7-8-9 kids. Or maybe they're too busy screwing their mistresses to conceive with their non-contraceptive using wives.

We can only wish the religious righties are dying. Unfortunately, all it would take would be another terrorist attack or some such off the wall thing to revive it twice as strong and twice as crazy.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:38 PM on February 14, 2012


Fundamentalists in this country went underground in the '20s and '30s after it became clear that the country as a whole was not on board with their anti-evolution, anti-Catholic and anti-religious-neutrality platform. They left the big-tent mainline denominations to found their own conservative denominations (e.g., the Missouri Synod Lutherans, the conservative Presbyterian groups), seminaries and parachurch institutions.

Quibble- the LCMS and PCA are indeed quite conservative, but they are not fundamentalist. They likely have too much theology that draws from the likes of the Book of Concord or the Westminster Confession of Faith to make typical American fundamentalists happy. Furthermore, there are numerous denominations in both American Lutheranism and Calvinism that are even more conservative, though much smaller in composition.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:20 PM on February 14, 2012


Fundamentalists in this country went underground in the '20s and '30s after it became clear that the country as a whole was not on board with their anti-evolution, anti-Catholic and anti-religious-neutrality platform. They left the big-tent mainline denominations to found their own conservative denominations (e.g., the Missouri Synod Lutherans, the conservative Presbyterian groups), seminaries and parachurch institutions.

Adding to Apocryphon's needed corrective, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod never split from anyone. It was founded in 1847 by German immigrants. Ironically enough, the mainline Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed by the merger of three smaller denominations in 1988. The two have never actually had anything to do with each other.

There were a few conservative Presbyterians that broke away from the mainline Presbyterian church in the 1930s--the still-extant Orthodox Presbyterian Church--only to have several more fundamentalist groups split away from them immediately thereafter. But the largest conservative Presbyterian denomination in the country, the Presbyterian Church in America, didn't actually leave the mainline PCUSA until the 1970s, long after the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy had largely run its course. By that point, the differences that led to that split were as much cultural and aesthetic as theological.

I think you're also equivocating on "fundamentalist". Capital "F" Fundamentalism consists of one side of the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy in the early twentieth century and pretty much every denomination that isn't explicitly devoted to liberal theology--including most evangelical and non-denominational churches--counts as Fundamentalist, though most churches neither accept the terminology nor even understand the connection. But "fundamentalist" can also refer to one particular line of Christian tradition most associated with Independent Baptist churches, i.e. KJV only, "biblical literalism," pre-millennial dispensationalist, white-guy "fundamentalism". Neither the LCMS nor PCA has anything to do with this type of "fundamentalist," theologically, historically, or even culturally.

Basically, what happened is the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy split American Protestantism along the line of liberal theology, with the liberals on one side and pretty much everybody else on the other. The latter group were all basically conservative in their theology. But this included high-powered intellectual academic conservatives like those at Westminster in Philadelphia and Concordia in St. Louis as well as fire-breathing, largely uneducated conservatives from the hinterlands of Appalachia. The two groups never really got along all that well, and by the 1940s and 1950s, the Fundamentalist side of the F-M controversy had split into fundamentalists and evangelicals. You actually had people refusing to associate with the likes of Billy Graham because he wasn't conservative enough.* The latter group is now itself splitting into the sort of bland, white-bread, theologically mushy evangelicals which dominate the media and the more theologically rigorous types who actually give a damn about theology.

*Actually, one of his main "sins" was not refusing to hermetically separate himself from liberals and Catholics entirely. So even though leading fundamentalists had no real qualms with much of what Graham himself was saying, the fact that he wouldn't separate from people who were objectionable was, in itself, objectionable.
posted by valkyryn at 4:50 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Christians in the Hand of an Angry God (part 1) by J. Brad Hicks
The first principle of Biblical fundamentalism is that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) In other words, every word of the Scripture in its original language is 100% precisely the word that God Himself intended to be there. The Holy Scripture is the primary and only 100% reliable means by which God communicates with mankind. This is not a ridiculous thing to believe. I believed it once, from early 1976 through mid 1983. Biblical literalists believe that when God has chosen to amend His word, He has ratified that change by a time of miracles. In between those times, He has miraculously intervened to protect His word, so that those who didn't live in times of divinely inspired prophetic writers could also receive His word ... and be judged thereby. It may seem odd to you to believe that God subtly intervened over thousands of years of time, moving men's hearts in subtle ways, actingly only and continuously to protect the integrity of one collection of books. If it does seem odd to you, then I can only assume that you (like me) do not believe it, and assure you that whatever it is that you do believe, it looks just as silly to someone else.

Nonetheless, this belief is sincerely held by somewhere around 45% of the American population, so let us take it seriously for a moment. Like a lot of ex-Christians, I know a lot of Scripture. I made a serious, dedicated study of it, at schools dedicated to the teaching of it. I narrowly escaped a career in the Christian ministry. I am so sure that I know what I am talking about that I am willing to debate anyone who says other than I do about what the Scripture actually says and what it doesn't actually say. And here is what I say that it says: The gospel that is being taught in almost every evangelical and fundamentalist church in America is a false gospel, and it has condemned tens of millions of people to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.
Part 2—The Republicans and fear of the Communists
Part 3—Homosexuality versus the "Holiness Code"
Part 4—Abortion and Contraception
Part 5—Public prayer and Conclusion

P.S. I think I was first introduced to this series of essays by PopeGuilty in 2009. If not, it certainly came to my attention when it was posted to the front page by quin in 2010. I stole quin's descriptions of the parts because they were much better than what I had come up with.

It is relatively long, but well worth the quarter-hour or so it will take to read in its entirety.

posted by ob1quixote at 8:15 AM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


empath, that's the whole point of appointing someone to those positions: so they can oversee church affairs, speak authoritatively, teach, lead, preserve doctrinal soundness, etc.

But in presbyterian and congregationalist sects, they're elected. Which is kind of the opposite of authoritarianism.
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting thread so far. If the author of The Age of Austerity (reading it now) is correct, the foreseeable future of American politics will continue to be fertile ground for the Evangelical Right.
posted by Rykey at 8:35 AM on February 15, 2012


The GOP Farm Team Brings The Wingnut Once More by Charles P. Pierce
The fact is that the presidency is not really that important to them. They have found a way to make it impossible for any Democratic president to govern as a Democrat. Their real goal is in the legislatures, federal and state, where they have been able to exercise their power on the issues they care about. They will not change themselves. They are going to have to have the wingnut flogged out of them over several losing election cycles, and they've arranged things in the states so that may not be possible.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:00 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


But in presbyterian and congregationalist sects, they're elected. Which is kind of the opposite of authoritarianism.

In congregationalist traditions, yes. In Presbyterian traditions... kind of. Congregations get to choose their elders and pastors, but elders and pastors then generally serve for life and are pretty difficult to remove without the involvement of other elders and pastors. It's a deliberate hybrid system, a combination of top-down and bottom-up governance designed to mitigate both the excesses of direct democracy and the dangers of consolidated authoritarianism.
posted by valkyryn at 9:11 AM on February 15, 2012


"Christians in the Hand of an Angry God (part 1)" by J. Brad Hicks

Hicks is an interesting cat, but he doesn't know the Bible nearly as well as he thinks he does. Probably because he learned the Bible from the very people he argues against.

Ultimately, the linked articles are as classic an example of the straw man fallacy as it's possible to conceive. In essence, he's arguing against doctrines espoused by a pretty narrow sliver of evangelical and independent fundamentalist types, i.e. exactly what confessional Christians in the Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions have been doing for at least a century. But Hicks then assumes, having "defeated" evangelical fundamentalism, that the Bible therefore doesn't say things he doesn't like about homosexuality, abortion, contraception, etc.

Unfortunately for Hicks, it does. The very same Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox people who would agree with him in many his arguments against evangelical fundamentalism would actually agree with the evangelical fundamentalists on most of those points of ethics. The justification for those positions would be very different, but they'd still be there. Similarly, the fact that evangelical fundamentalists can't actually support their doctrine of hell or eternal judgment doesn't mean that such a doctrine is not easily supported from Scripture. It just means that evangelical fundamentalists are lousy theologians. I don't see too many people disagreeing with him on that point, but the conclusion is not as useful as he'd like it to be.

On the other hand, Hicks is pretty dead on in his analysis of the bizarre alliance between political conservatives and religious/cultural conservatives that dominated twentieth-century American politics and is now starting to unravel. But he, like the author of the article in the OP, will likely find that the fact that many Christians are starting to question their allegiance to the GOP does not necessarily mean that most Christians are going to wind up questioning their positions on sexual and social ethics. It turns out that it's possible to both support increased progressivity in the tax structure, an expanded social safety net, and be generally pro-life and anti-promiscuity. Which is why the fact that evangelicals are starting to desert the GOP has not actually resulted in the DNC gaining all that much ground.

It remains to be seen how this is going to play out.
posted by valkyryn at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2012


valkyryn: "Hicks then assumes, having "defeated" evangelical fundamentalism, that the Bible therefore doesn't say things he doesn't like about homosexuality, abortion, contraception, etc. "

I was raised Catholic and therefore didn't spend a lot of time memorizing verses. As an adult I've become a "gospels only" heretic who uses The Jefferson Bible when I have occasion to use a Bible at all.

Are there verses outside of Leviticus and the cited questionable passage of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians that condemn homosexuality?

P.S. As an aside, does anyone know if there's a cool Greek name for my heresy? A cursory search only turned up the names of heresies relating to the divinity/humanity of Jesus.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:50 AM on February 15, 2012


Are there verses outside of Leviticus and the cited questionable passage of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians that condemn homosexuality?

This is kind of a derail, but whatever. Read this thread.

The Scriptures actually talk about sex a lot. "Sexual immorality" shows up in just about every list of Really Bad Stuff, whether it's in the prophets, epistles, or Revelation. It's usually undefined too, so the argument that the term refers to x behavior in this situation and y situation in that one doesn't really hold water. It's just "sexual immorality," in general. With that in mind, it's impossible to read Scripture, as a whole, in any kind of faithful way and come away with the impression that sex is an amoral activity

So what does the term mean? Well, the only form of sexual interaction which is ever put in a positive light is that between a married man and woman. Homosexuality does, in fact, show up in a few places in Scripture, and you've pointed to some of them. When it does how up, it's pretty much always negative. So, if we're going to employ the same kinds of hermeneutical rules that Christians employ when developing other doctrines--the Trinity, justification, etc.--which look at the whole weight of Scripture rather than just trying to "proof text", there's really only one possible conclusion.

But note that the distinction between homosexual conduct and homosexual desires is important. The former constitutes voluntary conduct subject to moral rules. The latter just kind of are. Having desires is not, in and of itself, a moral thing. It's how we act upon those desires that has moral value. So having homosexual desires, from the historic Christian perspective, is on the same level as a man having sexual desires for a woman to whom he isn't married, i.e. something which arises from biological impulses but which one is morally obligated not to act upon. Or in the same category as having a desire to binge eat (gluttony) or even just to waste time (sloth). They're desires we have because we're broken people, no better or worse than any other. It's all a matter of what one does in response.

That's all I'm going to say about this here, as it's a complete derail. If you think I've mischaracterized the historic Christian position, by all means let me know, but if you simply disagree with the position I've described, I honestly don't give a fig.
posted by valkyryn at 1:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Marcionism, or the "Marcionite Heresy", is the view that the Old Testament is not a guiding document for Christians and that the New Testament is true Scripture that describes the real nature of God.
posted by darkstar at 1:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I apologize for the derail. Thank you both.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:47 PM on February 15, 2012


Having desires is not, in and of itself, a moral thing.

What about that whole "do not covet thing"?
posted by Chekhovian at 2:36 PM on February 15, 2012


What about that whole "do not covet thing"?

It has to be an unreasonable desire.
And so far is the desire--natural in us all--to acquire and hold possessions from being reproved as offensive by God, that, if kept within the bounds of reason and justice and resisted triumphantly in its inordinate cravings, it is positively meritorious. Even when indulged, covetousness is not a grievous sin, except in certain conditions which involve offence of God or the neighbour, e.g. when one is prepared to employ, or does actually employ, illicit or unjust means to satisfy the desire of riches, holds to them in defiance of the strict demands of justice or charity, makes them the end rather than the means of happiness, or suffers them to interfere seriously with one's bounden duty to God or man. Nourished and developed into an unrestricted habit, it becomes the fruitful mother of all manner of perfidy, heartlessness and unrest.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on February 15, 2012


Ok. So go ahead and covet, but only a little. Check. Guess its hard to add footnotes to stone tablets. So can we bear false witness, if its not unreasonably false?
posted by Chekhovian at 5:41 PM on February 15, 2012


Every law leads to interpretation.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:48 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


And every interpretation requires interpreters.
posted by darkstar at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


And every interpretation requires interpreters.

Yep. I found the Hicks essay brilliant; had not seen it before, but having been raised SBC it rang very true. Valkyryn's comment less so; if you have a point, you don't say the point exists, you make the point. I suspect Hicks would take Valkyryn's objections apart just as succinctly on the different grounds V claims would be made. Hicks has the advantage that he doesn't believe, he considers it a word game. Hicks wasn't arguing against V in the essay, he was arguing against the fundie nutjobs. But when you are reduced to saying "The Scriptures actually talk about sex a lot," but you don't actually mention any of the specific times they do, it's because you are doing exactly what Hicks accuses the fundies of doing and reading shit into things that isn't there. You're just reading different shit in than what Hicks was arguing against, so he would have to make a different argument with you.

I for one would love to see that argument. Have bookmarked Hicks' LJ.
posted by localroger at 7:13 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, I think valkyryn addressed the question. The misunderstanding—or you know the heresy—was mine. His point was that there are lots of doctrines of faith among the mainline churches that aren't supported chapter and verse in the Bible.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:09 PM on February 15, 2012


The Christian Left
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:46 AM on February 18, 2012


Contraception’s Con Men by Garry Wills, NYRBlog, February 15, 2012.
By a revolting combination of con men and fanatics, the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office. Take the controversy over contraceptives. American bishops at first opposed having hospitals and schools connected with them pay employee health costs for contraceptives. But when the President backed off from that requirement, saying insurance companies can pay the costs, the bishops doubled down and said no one should have to pay for anything so evil as contraception. Some Republicans are using the bishops’ stupidity to hurt the supposed “moderate” candidate Mitt Romney, giving a temporary leg up to the faux naïf Rick Santorum; others are attacking Barack Obama as an “enemy of religion.”
posted by ob1quixote at 11:12 PM on February 19, 2012


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