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Walking away from church.
October 17, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Organized religion's increasing identification with conservative politics is a turnoff to more and more young adults. Evangelical Protestantism has been hit hard by this development. 'After 1980, both churchgoing progressives and secular conservatives became rarer and rarer. Some Americans brought their religion and their politics into alignment by adjusting their political views to their religious faith. But, surprisingly, more of them adjusted their religion to fit their politics.''Throughout the 1990s and into the new century, the increasingly prominent association between religion and conservative politics provoked a backlash among moderates and progressives, many of whom had previously considered themselves religious.''This backlash was especially forceful among youth coming of age in the 1990s and just forming their views about religion. Some of that generation, to be sure, held deeply conservative moral and political views, and they felt very comfortable in the ranks of increasingly conservative churchgoers. But a majority of the Millennial generation was liberal on most social issues, and above all, on homosexuality.'

'Just as this generation moved to the left on most social issues — above all, homosexuality — many prominent religious leaders moved to the right, using the issue of same-sex marriage to mobilize electoral support for conservative Republicans. In the short run, this tactic worked to increase GOP turnout, but the subsequent backlash undermined sympathy for religion among many young moderates and progressives. Increasingly, young people saw religion as intolerant, hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic. If being religious entailed political conservatism, they concluded, religion was not for them.'

'Nevertheless, predictions of the demise of religion in America would be premature. More likely is that as growing numbers of young Americans reject religious doctrine that is too political or intolerant for their taste, innovative religious leaders will concoct more palatable offerings.'
posted by VikingSword (171 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's that, and there's also the fact that atheists, agnostics, and people of non-mainstream beliefs can find communities online. And as they see that they aren't alone, they're less afraid to publicly admit they just don't believe in a personal God.

I get the feeling there have been a lot of people who don't believe in their religion, but who were afraid to admit it for fear they'd be ostracized.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


I also get the feeling that it'll be hard for existing sects that are conservative on homosexuality to change. Like the GOP, they're dependent on a socially conservative base who they don't want to alienate, but the problem is that that base is generally aging and dying. Further, religious dogma is hard to overturn. It's not impossible, but it's hard, especially when you have members with deep pockets who have used that dogma to justify their biases.

That's not to discount tolerant and/or progressive sects, like Jim Wallace's Sojourners movement. However, I see the conservative sects shrinking and getting more extreme in their intolerance and bigotry towards gay people, in a desperate attempt to retain members.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]



Stupidity isn't going anywhere, my friends. Especially here in the Western world.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:33 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Last Tuesday in Finland there was a discussion program 'Ajankohtainen kakkonen' themed 'Homoilta', 'Gay Night' about issues such as gay marriage, gay adoption etc. Two representatives for religious point of view were a Christian Democratic MP (a small party of conservative right-wing christians) and a bishop from one diocese. The both presented surprisingly appalling views on homosexuality and whether church can allow homosexual marriages. These views were surprising, as the role of Evangelic Lutheran Church of Finland has not been for most of the people as any kind of conservative force, but just a nice general conscience-raising organisation, where everybody belongs, but very few in any serious fashion. The backlash was immediate. By weekend resignations exceeded 15,000. The stealthy backwardness of church has become the talk of the week.
posted by Free word order! at 12:48 PM on October 17, 2010 [71 favorites]


A lot of what churches provide is social, live interaction, and there is a huge void for this in the U.S. (Who goes to the Elks Lodge or Odd Fellows any more?) It's interesting that the biggest growth lately has been in "non-denominational" churches, though unfortunately many of these are rabidly ideological and conservative.

I've met (and dated) some people in these churches -- it's as if the tag non-denominational blinds them to the political stridency. But at least it points to a desire for community and generalized spirituality, and the lack of a church "brand" identification should make these folks open to realigning later -- the same way that candidates who run as independent (Ross Perot, John Anderson, etc.) don't permanently align their voters in the way a political party does. For better or worse, this is the age of independents.
posted by msalt at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


America offers sudden economic bonus and equally sudden set-backs, sometimes randomly. In this climate of uncertainty and luck, religion thrives, and it really thrives when it's tax free.
posted by Brian B. at 1:06 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's the young people who are leaving behind the founder's belief that we should love and respect each other.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 1:21 PM on October 17, 2010 [19 favorites]


Nevertheless, predictions of the demise of religion in America would be premature. More likely is that as growing numbers of young Americans reject religious doctrine that is too political or intolerant for their taste, innovative religious leaders will concoct more palatable offerings. Jesus taught his disciples to be "fishers of men," and the pool of un-churched moderate and progressive young people must be an attractive target for religious anglers.

Isn't that what the megachurches and the "prosperity gospel" churches have been doing for some time now? Joel Esteen and his ilk don't really talk about the gays unless they're pressed to. Joel Etseen's opinion: "I don't think it's God's best. I never feel like homosexuality is God's best." He then quickly added that he didn't "feel like homosexuality is his issue" and that "all people should know that God is here for them." This isn't Kumbaya stuff, but it's a far cry from the damnation and hellfire of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

All the same, though, as long as there are people who are willing to hear the message, the damnation and hellfire folks will be around. Zach Harrington committed suicide in Oklahoma a week or so ago not long after attending a city council meeting where the fundie bigots were out in full force screaming for three hours straight about the homos violating God's plan and not being fully human. It's good to know that things are changing for the better, but things also remain much the same in many respects and in many places.
posted by blucevalo at 1:22 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I never understood how the Right captured the Christians... from what I read in the New Testament, Jesus taught that we should embrace everyone without judgment. Conservatism and Christianity should be at opposite poles. Helping others and tolerance aren't really Conservative values.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:32 PM on October 17, 2010 [22 favorites]


Christianity has been reinvented numerous times. You can see various historical iterations of it coexisting today. New ones will arise as prevailing mores about homosexuality take firm root, and the older versions will evolve, and/or dwindle (but probably not totally disappear).

The actual teachings of Christ are a very small part of the Bible. He said nothing at all about gays or abortion, but contemporary conservative Christians seem to obsess about those 2 issues to the extent of almost centering their faith (and politics) around them. But Christians in other eras have paid attention to other things, and Christians in the future will do so as well.

Remember that many great reform movements in this country's history have had a religious component: abolitionism, progressivism (the turn-of-the-20th-century variety), the sufragettes, civil rights. This could happen again, however unlikely it may seem now. The xenophobic white oldsters won't dominate American Christianity forever.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:33 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


P.S. 100 years ago, America was full of Christian Socialists... including the guy who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:38 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I never understood how the Right captured the Christians... from what I read in the New Testament, Jesus taught that we should embrace everyone without judgment. Conservatism and Christianity should be at opposite poles. Helping others and tolerance aren't really Conservative values.

What you have to understand is that fundamentally it's not about what the religion teaches. You can skim through the Bible, at least, and build out of excerpts a hateful, tyrannical god, or an indifferent god, or a benevolent, loving god, and those are all gods that people have constructed from the Bible and declared to be the God of Christianity. What it's about is that religions tend to encourage people to make the religion not just something that they're into, but something which forms a large part of their identity.

(This is also part of why a lot of people freak the fuck out over what look to outsiders like minor slights against the faith- to attack the faith is to attack the people who can't tell the difference between the faith and themselves, or who reject such a distinction.)

Now, we don't like cognitive dissonance. It hurts. So we start to rationalize the contradictions between the things we believe, and the things we identify with/as, and the results are often pretty silly or unsound. In this case, the Christian Conservatives have rationalized the dissonance between their identity as conservatives and their identity as Christians by choosing the hateful, tyrannical god.

After that it's simply a matter of propaganda, and the American right is way the fuck better than the American left at propaganda for a number of reasons.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:43 PM on October 17, 2010 [27 favorites]


I never understood how the Right captured the Christians... from what I read in the New Testament, Jesus taught that we should embrace everyone without judgment. Conservatism and Christianity should be at opposite poles. Helping others and tolerance aren't really Conservative values.

Look, it's super-groovy that there's a strain running through Christianity that ties in well with ideas of tolerance and love, but let's not miss the forest for the trees in failing to recognize that patriarchy and submission are also central themes of the Christianity narrative, and those fit right into conservatism like Slot A and Tab B.
posted by threeants at 1:44 PM on October 17, 2010 [32 favorites]


One year in college I was extremely surprised to meet a whole bunch of my friends--most of whom I met at school, and with whom I'd never really discussed religion or spirtuality--outside Easter vigil mass. And a few years later, working on putting out a weekly, left-leaning news and opinion magazine, I was shocked to find in a quick "raise your hands" poll that nearly three-quarters of the kids in the room were raised Catholic.

(This in a school where religion was dominated by mainline and evangelical Christianity.)

Unsurprisingly few of these kids, including myself, were devout or practicing or anything like. At best, you went to Easter and Christmas mass with the family and maybe, maybe remembered to go to Ash Wednesday. I'm sure that plenty of them have decided that they're agnostic or atheist,* others are still probably Catholic at heart--just, because they were left leaning, they felt pushed out of the church that they were raised in. I know I felt that way for a long time, and it's only recently that I've been able to overcome that feeling.

(2000 years of beautiful tradition from Jesus to Josiah Bartlet, you're damn right I'm living in the past.)
posted by thecaddy at 1:44 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


*Deleted my footnote accidentally, which was saying that the process of leaving a religion and identifying as an atheist or agnostic is hard to describe, because "conversion" isn't right and "becoming" isn't right either. A decision to leave is the most neutral way I can think of to describe it, because there is an underlying belief that must then be acted on.
posted by thecaddy at 1:48 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of what churches provide is social, live interaction, and there is a huge void for this in the U.S. (Who goes to the Elks Lodge or Odd Fellows any more?)

A surprising number of my peers (I'm in my late 30s) have joined fraternal organizations like the Masons for this very reason - the sense of belonging, the ceremony, the social interaction that comes with being a part of a group.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:48 PM on October 17, 2010


For folks who make an effort to attract the liberal and progressive would-be-churchies, check for the designation "Open and Affirming." There are quite a few of them of many different denominations, and they're really explicit about being for social justice and encouraging LGBT members to feel comfortable.
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


P.S. 100 years ago, America was full of Christian Socialists... including the guy who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

God didn't show up in the PoA until the 1950s.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:53 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Broadly evangelical churches, even megachurches, are finding that they're having to do more and more to keep the pews filled, mostly because they're having a hard time attracting and retaining people under 35. Received wisdom is that they're losing people in three main directions.

1) People who don't really care about religion. These people just stop going to church.

2) People who really care about progressive politics and are turned off by evangelicalism's political conservatism. These people tend to wind up in churches along this model either, i.e. Rob Bell and Blue Like Jazz. Many of those people don't want to be called "Christians" at all. There's a critique out there which argues that they're basically progressives who happen to be Christians rather than the other way around, and trendiness and politics tend to guide and trump theological commitments.

3) People who really care about theology and are turned off by evangelicalism's theological vapidity. These people are moving to the Reformed tradition in increasingly large numbers, to the point that it's really making a comeback.

I'm talking about places like Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, where Rev. Tim Keller has created the largest theologically conservative church in the city by telling Manhattanites that sin is a serious issue, that they can't sleep with whomever they like, that homosexual conduct is impermissible, and that repentance and the blood of Jesus are the only solution to a life broken by sin. The church has various daughter churches both in New York and elsewhere.

These are serious Christians who know their theology, take it seriously, and are pretty ambivalent about politics in general. Why? Because they can't vote for the Democrats, who 1) don't mind killing babies, and 2) tend to operate from the assumption that everyone is basically good, which has disastrous policy consequences. But neither can they vote for Republicans, who 1) don't mind shafting poor people, and 2) tend to operate from the assumption that religion is second in importance to political power, or even worse, a tool for attaining political power. So you can pick which commandment you'd rather have your political masters dedicate themselves to breaking, the third and eighth or the sixth and seventh. Awesome.

These people, among whom I count myself, are very theologically conservative--and most evangelicals don't generally have enough theology to be conservative--but want no truck with the religious right. Indeed, there's a tendency to discount both liberals and conservatives as being two sides of the same modern liberal coin.

I frequent Redeemer Presbyterian in Indianapolis with my girlfriend, and went to Grace Presbyterian in DC while I was in town. Those are just the churches with which I am personally familiar, but you'll find similar churches in most cities above a certain size. They're growing, both in size and number.

To bring this back around to the tenor of the FPP, which suggests that we may be on the verge of a progressive resurgence as young Christians abandon the right... I wouldn't bet on it. I'm in those trenches, and I just don't see it happening. There's too many problems with the Left's political agenda to make wholesale adoption by large numbers of disgruntled evangelicals a possibility.

But it is worth pointing out that it wasn't until the twentieth century aligned the Left with atheism--international Communism, anybody--that the religious community and the Right wanted much to do with each other. I think instead of a movement to the Left, we're seeing the dissolution of an alliance which was never terribly natural. I think it isn't going to be long before neither party is able to reliably count on the main body of Christian church-goers for their votes.
posted by valkyryn at 1:54 PM on October 17, 2010 [19 favorites]


check for the designation "Open and Affirming." There are quite a few of them of many different denominations

That's definitely a code-phrase, but the church is aware of it, and you won't find any evangelical or theologically-conservative churches using it.
posted by valkyryn at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2010


Church really is, or should be, all about community. My mom didn't go to church for 50 years, then started going again because she got bored after retirement. She didn't find Jesus again or anything, just wanted someone to talk to besides my dad.

In this sense, we are lucky - not churchgoers, but our neighborhood has a really strong sense of community. All that crap about looking out for one another? We actually do it. We carpool, let our kids run amok in each other's houses, go to the park together, hang out on the stoop and glower at outsiders together, etc.

But many people don't get that community fix, and church is a good way to provide it. Unless your church is really wingnutty.
posted by Mister_A at 1:57 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because they can't vote for the Democrats, who 1) don't mind killing babies ...

There's too many problems with the Left's political agenda to make wholesale adoption by large numbers of disgruntled evangelicals a possibility.

Like, say, challenging an unthinking adherence to patriarchy?
posted by joe lisboa at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


I never understood how the Right captured the Christians... from what I read in the New Testament, Jesus taught that we should embrace everyone without judgment. Conservatism and Christianity should be at opposite poles. Helping others and tolerance aren't really Conservative values.

Jimmy Carter, noted Baptist, was elected president with strong evangelical Christian support under the assumption that he would push pro-theocratic policies. When he didn't, he lost than support and it went to Reagan in 1980 and it has stayed with the Republicans ever since.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Gays are easy. They have good taste and assimilate readily. Old stereotypes and caricatures just don't match peoples' firsthand experiences with gays and lesbians. So religious and political leaders who spout prejudice born from those stereotypes just look like savage dinosaurs and find their authority diminished in consequence. Although it's always easy to hate the other, it takes effort to make an other of a person who looks so much like you do, or better yet, would like to.

But acceptance of gays and lesbians is not going to be the hill that American Christianity dies on. The old generation of haters will pass away and a new generation, invigorated by their direct experience of diversity, will shift their message to accommodate a larger, more variegated flock. This has been happening for a while now and the process of inclusion is becoming rapid indeed. Gays and lesbians are finding an effective, mainstream political voice and the landscape is changing accordingly. Religious leaders will recognize and bless that or they'll die irrelevant.

No, the hard one is economics. If America leaves this new decade with a permanent underclass and our sprawling exurbs collapse in on themselves, we'll be left with a serious fissure running through our society. On one side, established voices will sanctify inequality and articulate increasingly harsh forms of prosperity theology. On the other, charismatic religious expression and traditional protestant antinomianism will combine to frame social dissent in theological terms. The idea that American protestantism or evangelicalism speaks with a single voice will seem, two decades from now, to be an echo from a lost era. The middle class who have so far sustained a mild, apolitical protestant mainstream will be torn apart by centrifugal economic forces.

Is anyone watching God in America on PBS? It's a wonderful retrospective that really gives one the impression that we stand on the cusp of a major realignment in our national religiosity. I don't think God is going away, but I do think that the communities that invoke God in our national discourse are becoming more distinct and idiosyncratic in their forms of expression and that the public square is becoming, by necessity, more secularized by virtue of its need to encompass all these fracturing and fractious voices.
posted by felix betachat at 2:01 PM on October 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


But it is worth pointing out that it wasn't until the twentieth century aligned the Left with atheism--international Communism, anybody--that the religious community and the Right wanted much to do with each other.

Yeah, I'm sure the atheism inherent in communism really influenced the secular shift in liberal capitalists. That totally makes all kinds of sense, and demonstrates a strong grasp of politics and history.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:02 PM on October 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


Something that this article fails to mention, but that is a reality for the left and liberals, is that by ceding churches, we are seeding an excellent opportunity for organizing. Getting a group of people to work for a common cause multiplies their influence beyond their raw numbers, and that's easier to do when there's already a social community that has an identifiable (and often long-standing, and irrationally reinforced) tradition of working together. I love atheists and I'm not gonna front on staying home on Sundays myself, but it is sad to see that an incredibly powerful tool for justice and progress is withering on the vine because conservatives have turned young people against all religion.

I'd also love it if I felt like there were more secular alternatives, as my personal faith doesn't really jibe with going into church to worship. On many levels I get along theologically better with atheists, but I wish that the tradition of doing good for others could be better harnessed in my "spiritual" community.
posted by klangklangston at 2:06 PM on October 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


"The more closets opened, the more to see that there is nothing to hide or fear."

-My dad.
posted by clavdivs at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


So much arrogance from the "humble." So much aggression from the "meek." They were led into it so easily.

This isn't a huge shock, at least, not for this country. Prosperity, after all, is a sign of grace. That's a heavy stripe throughout the character of the United States and has been in this land before the country was founded. This makes Christianity, at least the US-based Christianity, very vulnerable to seduction by interests who represent a great deal of money. All that cash meant you were doing something right; everyone loves a winner.

If you refer to yourselves as a flock, don't be surprised if someone leads you on to be fleeced. Money, dignity, respect, all shorn away.
posted by adipocere at 2:09 PM on October 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


I never understood how the Right captured the Christians

It's all about Communism. Really.

In the middle of the twentieth century, theological conservatives in most of the mainline denominations got fed up with the theological liberalism of denominational leadership that there was a pretty wide-scale defection from the mainline denominations, e.g. PCUSA, ELCA, UMC, ECUSA. This is when we see the birth of the evangelical movement, with Billy Graham etc. really getting influential in the 1950s.

Well it's always been the theological conservatives who cared about missions work. And what were their missionaries in Russia, China, and around the world telling them? That the new Communist regimes are officially atheistic, rounding up Christians, deporting missionaries, and dedicated to spreading their ideology to other countries. The Democrats were widely perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being at least sympathetic to communist ideals, but the GOP were ardent anti-communists. Thus was born an alliance which would last the better part of fifty years.

Well, communism has basically gone away, so that alliance is starting to crack. But I have to say, the way the Democrats are treating Islam isn't helping much. Evangelicals are just as concerned about the treatment of Christians in Islamic countries--which ranges from official disapprobation to the execution of converts--as they were about Communist persecution, and the DNC has been pretty vocal about tolerance and non-confrontation.

I'm not saying I agree with any of this, just trying to describe the situation as it's happened.
posted by valkyryn at 2:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Some polling data on the religious beliefs and affiliations of US young people from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
posted by nangar at 2:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


>But it is worth pointing out that it wasn't until the twentieth century aligned the Left with atheism--international Communism, anybody--that the religious community and the Right wanted much to do with each other.

Yeah, I'm sure the atheism inherent in communism really influenced the secular shift in liberal capitalists. That totally makes all kinds of sense, and demonstrates a strong grasp of politics and history.


I'm not arguing that any of this makes sense, only that that's how it happened. Because evangelical Christians were ardently anti-communist for the entire Cold War.
posted by valkyryn at 2:11 PM on October 17, 2010


A lot of what churches provide is social, live interaction, and there is a huge void for this in the U.S

Solution: MeFi meetups.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:12 PM on October 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


But it is worth pointing out that it wasn't until the twentieth century aligned the Left with atheism--international Communism, anybody--that the religious community and the Right wanted much to do with each other. I think instead of a movement to the Left, we're seeing the dissolution of an alliance which was never terribly natural.

Where? In Europe? The U.S.? There wasn't much open atheism before 20th century period, for the simple reason that it could get you killed and certainly strongly discriminated against. Any reform minded protest movements tended to express themselves through schisms and the like, and Protestantism can be seen as a rebellion against the corruption of the RCC, both theological and institutional. Now, of course this doesn't mean it would be recognizable as anything "leftist" from today's point of view, it must be seen against the background of the intellectual/political world of those times. Perhaps a more precise descriptor would be "anti-establishment".

And the exact opposite was the case with conservatism or the right in general - usually strongly pro-establishment and definitely authoritarian (or in the case of reactionary movements a harkening to past authoritarian political systems).

Therefore there has always been a natural political alignment between religion and the right based on its connection to the establishment, going back all the way to Constantine in the case of Christianity and various state religions before that in Roman times etc.

History shows consistently the alignment of authority with religion - even in pre-state tribal structures. And authority and the establishment, but it's very nature are conservative - which means translated into more modern terms "right wing":

"In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist are generally used to describe support for preserving traditional social orders and hierarchies.[1][2][3][4][5] The terms Right and Left were coined during the French Revolution, referring to seating arrangements in parliament; those who sat on the right supported preserving the institutions of the Ancien Régime (the monarchy, the aristocracy and the established church).[6][7][8][9]
Use of the term "Right" became more prominent after the second restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 with the Ultra-royalists.[10] Today it is primarily used to refer to political groups that have a historical connection with the traditional Right, including conservatives, reactionaries, monarchists, aristocrats, and theocrats. The term is also used to describe those who support free market capitalism, and those who support some forms of nationalism, including fascism."


In other words, the exact opposite of the claim valkyryn makes.
posted by VikingSword at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


This post describes my experience precisely. I grew up in an Episcopal church in Northern Virginia (wiki), Truro (church site). It's one of the ones that voted to leave the Diocese of Virginia to join the Convocation of Anglicans In North America. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has long been a well-known parishioner of Truro, which should give you some sense of where the church is, politically.

Growing up in the 80s and early 90s, I volunteered in the nursery, at VBS, and my father and I taught Sunday School for a few years together. But as I got old enough to form my own political opinions in adolescence, I found myself increasingly mentally at odds with our pastor, Martyn Minns (who eventually led the move of Truro away from the Diocese of Virginia). I disagreed with him about abortion. I disagreed with him about homosexuality. Once I had a driver's license, I often found myself leaving mid-service, out of frustration and anger. And eventually I never came back.

That meant I walked away from Christianity entirely, because that church was most of my experience with it, and there was no way to square up the things I believed and the messages coming from the pulpit. I resented being told that things I found odious were god's word, and that the things I believed were wrong, full stop. I found out later that there were other Christian denominations in which I probably would have fit in fine, and only in the past couple years (through reconnecting on Facebook) that a lot of my friends from the phenomenal, life-changing, really rather liberal Episcopal summer camp I went to for six summers attended Episcopal churches that weren't like mine at all!

I turned out agnostic, and I married an atheist lapsed Catholic who went through a similar period of adolescent religiosity and then non-religiosity. His parents are okay with it; they explicitly said to him in adulthood that they raised him Catholic to give him something to reject. My father, on the other hand, regularly prays for me to come back to my faith, and of me going back to it in the form I was raised there's not a chance in hell.

Though I think the schism that's happened in the Episcopal Church is unfortunate, I can't say I'm entirely unhappy about it. I'm glad the Episcopal Church has become more liberal, and if that means the most conservative factions feel unwelcome and depart the mainline, okay. Less oppression in the world is always a good thing, in my mind.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:32 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Therefore there has always been a natural political alignment between religion and the right based on its connection to the establishment, going back all the way to Constantine in the case of Christianity and various state religions before that in Roman times etc.

I meant "Right" as in "right-wing political establishment in America". Because despite your broader claims, which I do not address here, Christian churches and the GOP had a pretty chilly relationship until about 1950. I talked about this at some length last month, and the main link there captures pretty well the political transformation in the last century. Really, until the 1950s, the Republican Party was pretty much the party of northeastern Rockefellerian blue-bloods, but there was a radical shift starting about then.
posted by valkyryn at 2:33 PM on October 17, 2010


More broadly, VikingSword, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" lose pretty much all of their meaning when you try to capture such a wide spread of history like that. It makes for a neat narrative, but it doesn't really do justice to the people involved in the history.
posted by valkyryn at 2:34 PM on October 17, 2010


Even if historically prominent Communists were atheists, they were still not fomenting revolution for the purpose of spreading atheism. It's a common mistake of logic to equate atheism with Communism, except for the purposes of studying the history of propaganda in 1950s cold war-era United States.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:36 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a common mistake of logic to equate atheism with Communism, except for the purposes of studying the history of propaganda in 1950s cold war-era United States.

Which is what I was doing.
posted by valkyryn at 2:37 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meant to include this article as part of my comment, too, for those who aren't familiar with the Episcopal congregations' departure: Episcopal Churches' Breakaway in Va. Evolved Over 30 Years.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:38 PM on October 17, 2010


Look, a bunch of people are reacting to my comments with a "That's not how the Left/atheists/communists really are!"

Don't care. Not the point. The point is that, as far as I can tell, that is how they were/are perceived by most evangelical or proto-evangelical Christians and that they acted on the basis of that perception. Whether or not the perception is accurate was/is entirely irrelevant.
posted by valkyryn at 2:39 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


jocelmeow, that's interesting, but I think what's been happening there is the same theologically conservative/liberal split that hit the rest of the mainline denominations--Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Congregational--in the middle of the twentieth century is really coming home to roost in the Episcopal church now. The Anglican communion has always put a higher premium on unity than the rest of the Protestant church, but the divide is over things pretty fundamental to the faith--homosexuality isn't really the main point of contention--so it was only a matter of time before things came to a head. The rest of the Protestant church dealt with those and other issues fifty years ago or more.
posted by valkyryn at 2:42 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The other funny thing is how Communism being an extreme form of Leftism (as Fascism is of the Right), is that it perfectly illustrates the disconnect between ideals and practice. In fact, Communism, as promulgated by Marx, was in the long run supposed to be inherently freeing of authority. In practice the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was of course totalitarian, with the ideals of Communism relegated to a distant future that always felt utopian. Still, it's interesting to see how at bottom, the Left - even in its extreme form - was supposed to aspire to true anti-state Liberty. The Left is essentially anti-establishment and anti-authority and questioning and journey of discovery. This is why the "cult of personality" has always been the language of denunciation for Communist societies - it's seen as a deviation from the ideal of Communism and equality of all people. There is no such language of deviation on those grounds (personal inequality) under fascist (i.e. extreme right wing) regimes - those are quintessentially about authority figures, superiority of one ethnic group over another, subhumans etc.

On the other hand religion is about arrival, final destination, the absolute truth, and acceptance on faith. It's about authority. No wonder there's such a natural alliance with the establishment. The right is all about Authority. Both are in a perpetual seeking of a pair of enormous feet to worship at, lie at, slobber over, kiss and prostrate oneself under. Sometimes, as under fascism, those feet are shod in a pair of jackboots (or for religion, pope Prada /joke/), but the only conflict between them is a struggle for supremacy - both want to control the authority. And that's how you'd have some conflicts between Fascism and the church - the struggle to be the ultimate authority - not about going in the opposite direction of questioning authority. It's a question of who will be boss - not about abolishing the boss altogether. They both want the enormous feet to lie under - the only question is what those feet will be shod in.
posted by VikingSword at 2:44 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ron Thanagar: "I never understood how the Right captured the Christians... from what I read in the New Testament, Jesus taught that we should embrace everyone without judgment. Conservatism and Christianity should be at opposite poles. Helping others and tolerance aren't really Conservative values."

From an FPP last month:
In a five part series he wrote a few years ago, blogger J. Brad Hicks breaks down how, in the mid-1960s, the Republican party made a conscious decision to rebrand themselves as the party of Christians, and in doing so, how they had to shift the ideology of the churches to what he calls a "false gospel".

Part 1: The False Gospel
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.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:51 PM on October 17, 2010 [20 favorites]


But it is worth pointing out that it wasn't until the twentieth century aligned the Left with atheism--international Communism, anybody--that the religious community and the Right wanted much to do with each other.

Yeah, I'm sure the atheism inherent in communism really influenced the secular shift in liberal capitalists. That totally makes all kinds of sense, and demonstrates a strong grasp of politics and history.


I don't agree with valkyryn about much of anything, but I think he's pretty dead on in his assessment of the historical antecedents of the alignment between the "religious" and the "right" in late 20th century America. This was my takeaway from quin's "Christians in the Hands of an Angry God" post from last month, and was more or less the explicit claim of Part 2 of the linked blog series.

It's interesting that the theory met with a warmer welcome when it was presented as the story of a "recovering" evangelical, turned liberal, who was essentially slagging on both the religious and the right as a bunch of hypocrites.
posted by rkent at 2:55 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


On preview, what Rhaomi said, and so forth.
posted by rkent at 2:56 PM on October 17, 2010


The Left is essentially anti-establishment and anti-authority and questioning and journey of discovery. . . .

On the other hand religion is about arrival, final destination, the absolute truth, and acceptance on faith. It's about authority. No wonder there's such a natural alliance with the establishment. The right is all about Authority.


I'm tempted to categorize this as "not even wrong," but I think it's more like "absolutist idealism." I just don't know where to start. If you're going to set up your definitional framework that way--what, don't we get some kind of argument here? We're just supposed to take those massively objectionable points on your say so? Who's the authority now?--I'm really not sure what anyone can say to you. I don't want to accept any of those definitions.

So I won't. It's obvious to me that this isn't a conversation that's going anywhere, as you and I have such radically different concepts of the world that mutual understanding isn't really in the cards. All I can really say is "I object to just about everything about the way that you see the world" and leave it at that.

That being said, I do wish that you and others taking your part would actually deal with what I consider to be the substance of my original comment, i.e. the idea that large numbers of young Christians who are serious about their faith are not becoming progressives or joining progressive churches because there still remain significant problems with the progressive agenda for theological conservatives.
posted by valkyryn at 2:56 PM on October 17, 2010


VikingSword, you're massively oversimplifying things.

Many people would say that the political left has a form of authority going on too, in that it has an underlying assumption about what "ought" to be understood as right; and that religion can certainly have a non-authoritarian version, in christianity evident in "who will cast the first stone" or the admonishment to pray in your closet - the point not being to do what the leader does, but to examine what you are doing.
posted by mdn at 2:57 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I have to say, the way the Democrats are treating Islam isn't helping much.posted by valkyryn at 2:10 PM on October 17

What?
posted by yesster at 3:01 PM on October 17, 2010


"I meant "Right" as in "right-wing political establishment in America". Because despite your broader claims, which I do not address here, Christian churches and the GOP had a pretty chilly relationship until about 1950.[...]Really, until the 1950s, the Republican Party was pretty much the party of northeastern Rockefellerian blue-bloods, but there was a radical shift starting about then."

Well then you should have specified that - instead you made a broad and historically false claim. And btw. it's pretty meaningless to assign "right" vs "left" to parties in the U.S. - there are blue dog democrats who are more right wing than some liberal northeastern Republicans (though true, the liberal Repubs seem to have died out). More importantly, when you speak of "shifts" it's important to keep in mind the left/right, not the democrat/republican - after all, for a time, the republicans owned progressive/leftist politics vs the democrats (Civil War and all).

So I don't find it as helpful to speak of GOP/Democrat here. I do find it much more helpful to speak of right/left.
posted by VikingSword at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2010


There wasn't much open atheism before 20th century period, for the simple reason that it could get you killed and certainly strongly discriminated against

Or possibly because more folks were genuine believers. Just saying.

And authority and the establishment, but it's very nature are conservative - which means translated into more modern terms "right wing"

Plenty of atheism among the leftist hotheads who started the French Revolution, and plenty authoritarian they were when they got themselves established into power.

Anyway, what the study lacks is any inquiry into the young folk and the more liberal minded churches. If it's just politics and the gay, then the Unitarians and (certain) Episcopalians and such like should be making out like bandits (so to speak). Are they? Are they not?

Back in the day, in the south, at least, a new comer to town would be welcomed and asked what church he expected to be attending. I expect that question is less asked, so it comes down to a question of the church actively soliciting members, and many of the more liberal churches are are not real good at that.

Which is a study in itself.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:03 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


posted by Rhaomi at 2:51 PM on October 17

Great, thanks, I missed that and will read it!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:04 PM on October 17, 2010


"In religious affinities, as in taste in music and preference for colas, habits formed in early adulthood tend to harden over time."

It would be nice if they provided evidence for this and other claims in the article. The conventional wisdom is that habits of non-churchgoing in early adulthood are often changed when people have children (i.e. they go more often.)

"So, why this sudden jump in youthful disaffection from organized religion? The surprising answer, according to a mounting body of evidence, is politics. Very few of these new "nones" actually call themselves atheists, and many have rather conventional beliefs about God and theology. But they have been alienated from organized religion by its increasingly conservative politics."

They then offer an argument (sort of) based on 1) increased political conservatism among evangelicals and 2) that at that time there was also decreased church adherence.

How long O Lord, will we have to remind ourselves that correlation is not causation. I see no evidence in this article that we have anything else. I understand they have limited space in the article, but it would have been useful for them to use the space they have presenting their actual research rather than speculating about the future.

"Many of them, however, espouse beliefs that would seem to make them potential converts to a religion that offered some of the attractions of modern evangelicalism without the conservative political overlay."

My understanding is that in looking at the comparative attractiveness of religions, those that are linked with more "right-ward" moral stances have done a better job of retaining young people.

Clarence Thomas, by the way, formerly attended Turo, but returned to the Catholic Church several years ago.
posted by Jahaza at 3:08 PM on October 17, 2010


Well then you should have specified that - instead you made a broad and historically false claim.

Given this, I don't think that you of all people get to lecture me about history. I stand by my original post as sufficiently clear and historically justifiable.

I do find it much more helpful to speak of right/left.

Given the above linked comment and seeing from there what you mean by them, i.e. the Left is all that is good and right with the world and the Right is all that is authoritarian and evil, I'd find it massively unhelpful to talk about right/left.

Seriously, dude, WTF?
posted by valkyryn at 3:10 PM on October 17, 2010


those that are linked with more "right-ward" moral stances have done a better job of retaining young people.

That's been my experience, certainly. The ones with right-ward politics can have trouble, but traditional moral and theological teaching combined with deep political ambivalence is powerful stuff.
posted by valkyryn at 3:11 PM on October 17, 2010


valkyryn:
If Rev. Keller is going off about homosexuality, he should probably dig a little deeper into the history of the Presbyterian church. During the early 20th century the Presbyterian church in the US , along with (I think) a couple of the other denominations, wanted to see if there was a biological origin to homosexuality. Genetics and heredity were a fairly new science at the time, and so they enlisted a number of clergymen with agronomic/biology backgrounds to investigate. At that time the US was still a very agrarian nation and it was not unusual to find young men with a farming background who went to college in agronomy before answering the call of ministry.

The researchers combed old church records-- churches in those days being places that recorded births and deaths with some degree of accuracy. The researchers then went out and did interviews in communities to try and identify people who were reputed to be gay. In the end, they discovered that homosexuality was probably an inherited trait, and that there was some kind of genetic component. Needless to say, the study was then suppressed.

How do I know this? I know this because an old mentor of mine, now deceased, was one of the young clergyman-researchers. I grew up among quite a number of retired Presbyterian clergy, and only as I've gotten older did I realize how definitely left wing their politics were. These were men and women who had participated in the civil rights, anti-war, and labor struggles of the early and mid 20th century.

Not all Presbyterians share the views of Rev. Keller. I know that my mentor did not, and I sure don't.
posted by wuwei at 3:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


And btw. it's pretty meaningless to assign "right" vs "left" to parties in the U.S. - there are blue dog democrats who are more right wing than some liberal northeastern Republicans (though true, the liberal Repubs seem to have died out).

So you won't be applying your right=authoritarian=bad critique to the GOP then?

Then, what exactly is it you think is notable about the article in the FPP? It links right-wing social positions to churches with conservative religious beliefs and says that churches with conservative religious beliefs have gotten less popular because right-wing social beliefs have gotten less popular. But if this right/left doesn't reflect politics in the U.S., why should we listen to the sociology in the FPP that relies on such a dichotomy to judge the alignment of religious groups with political groups.
posted by Jahaza at 3:15 PM on October 17, 2010


I'm tempted to categorize this as "not even wrong," but I think it's more like "absolutist idealism." I just don't know where to start. If you're going to set up your definitional framework that way--what, don't we get some kind of argument here? We're just supposed to take those massively objectionable points on your say so? Who's the authority now?--I'm really not sure what anyone can say to you. I don't want to accept any of those definitions.

Fine. The definitions, starting with what is "right wing" and "right" are pretty uncontroversial, seems to me (see the link I gave to wikipedia). Same for my other claims, which are based on history and anthropology and even some recent psychosocial research (right-wingers being more often beholden to authority etc.). Obviously there is a lot of nuance I would not be able to capture in a few paragraphs on a board (see: Quakers), but I don't believe anything I've stated is in the slightest bit controversial to the vast majority of historians. Btw., the alignment of religion and the right and authority is so uncontroversial, that no man for centuries now would be puzzled by what this old saying means: "man shall not be free until the last king has been strangled with the guts of the last priest".

So I won't. It's obvious to me that this isn't a conversation that's going anywhere, as you and I have such radically different concepts of the world that mutual understanding isn't really in the cards. All I can really say is "I object to just about everything about the way that you see the world" and leave it at that.

Agreed.
posted by VikingSword at 3:17 PM on October 17, 2010


If Rev. Keller is going off about homosexuality, he should probably dig a little deeper into the history of the Presbyterian church.

wuwei, I'd need some links or references to actual people and institutions to be able to respond to that intelligently. But Keller is not part of the PCUSA, the large, mainline, liberal denomination which represents the merger of Northern and Southern Presbyterian churches. The PCA is the conservative denomination that split away from them in the 1970s, largely because of things like the events you discuss in your comment.

I am not going to get drawn into a discussion about Christianity and homosexuality here. Complete derail, and I've been through that already.
posted by valkyryn at 3:20 PM on October 17, 2010


I don't believe anything I've stated is in the slightest bit controversial to the vast majority of historians

Well, it is. Or at least my time spent in graduate seminars would certainly lead me to conclude that.

Agreed.

Fair enough.
posted by valkyryn at 3:23 PM on October 17, 2010


The Left is essentially anti-establishment and anti-authority and questioning and journey of discovery. [...] On the other hand religion is about arrival, final destination, the absolute truth, and acceptance on faith. It's about authority. No wonder there's such a natural alliance with the establishment. The right is all about Authority

By this definition Ayn Rand sleeps on Lenin's left.
posted by eeeeeez at 3:23 PM on October 17, 2010


"That's definitely a code-phrase, but the church is aware of it, and you won't find any evangelical or theologically-conservative churches using it."

Conservative, no. Evangelical, yes.
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on October 17, 2010


Conservative, no. Evangelical, yes.

Any Protestant Christian church that primarily speaks English will have the term "evangelical" turn up from time to time, and hell, one of the big mainline denominations is the "Evangelical" Lutheran Church in America. Which isn't terribly surprising, considering that Luther invented the term in the sixteenth century.

But neither they, nor the UCC church to which you linked, would be considered "Evangelical" in the sense that the term is used to describe the contemporary religio-social movement which can trace its lineage back to Billy Graham et al. The UCC is generally about as liberal as they come, and theological liberalism is inherently incompatible with evangelicalism, theological conservatism being pretty much one of the defining criteria.

Really, the only English-speaking Christian churches which don't use the term are Roman Catholic and Orthodox.
posted by valkyryn at 3:31 PM on October 17, 2010


Wuwei, Keller is PCA, not PC(USA) (which on preview, I think I realize you might know, but it's worth pointing out to everyone.)

Keller's views on homosexual behavior reflect "historic orthodoxy", but he's talked publically about how he finds it a difficult issue to address in sermons and has been criticized for not being more forthcoming about it.
KELLER: Well, it’s much, much, much easier to to have private conversations about it. I think…..uh…I can make this short. I…I believe in general that if you preach on why homosexuality is a sin,..uhhh….there are……at least in my…in my..in my..in my church I know there’s lots and lots of folks who have same sex attraction who know that that’s not….as a Christian, I can’t do that. I’m not gonna go there. There’s a good number of them. I’ve got a lot of non-Christians who are present who are friends of gay people but are not gay. Uhhh…and then uhh there’d be a number of people with same sex attraction who…are there. And generally speaking, it’s almost impossible to preach a sermon and hit all 3 or 4 of those constituencies equally well. Ummmm.. it’s just.. it’s just think about..you know..you know…you’re a communicator. You know you need to…well, what’s my goal? Who are my audience and..wow! it’s like a conundrum you can’t solve. So, the best thing has always been for me..[...COUGH]…to not do the public teaching as much as segment my audience through…ummm [...COUGH]..Books, through classes, through one-on-ones, and so on. I think the time is probably coming in which we’re going to have be more public in how we talk about homosexuality. And I haven’t….I’m actually thinking quite a lot about it. Uhhh.. as to how I will go about it or how we should go about it but I’m not prepared to give you 3 bullet points.
I grew up among quite a number of retired Presbyterian clergy, and only as I've gotten older did I realize how definitely left wing their politics were. These were men and women who had participated in the civil rights, anti-war, and labor struggles of the early and mid 20th century.

Except that today their politics might not count as leftist and/or they might react differently to the current environment. This is the whole point of quotes like Reagan's, "I didn't leave the Republican party, it left me," and the non-former-trotskyist neo-conservatives like Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (who marched with King and was a cofounder of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam).
posted by Jahaza at 3:32 PM on October 17, 2010


valkyryn:
No names and no references--not looking to have a discussion about homosexuality. I realize that Rev. Keller is part of PCA. It is an organization that I strongly disagree with. In the interests of full disclosure, I was confirmed at a PCUSA church many years ago.
posted by wuwei at 3:33 PM on October 17, 2010


I think it isn't going to be long before neither party is able to reliably count on the main body of Christian church-goers for their votes.

This rings true from experience in the UK at least, we're seeing a whole new wave of evangelical christianity arrive that doesn't align itself with any politics at all and blames the right wing in particular for focusing too much on abortion and homosexuality. Red Letter Christians seem to be booming in my local area, and they're getting their supply of new members from conservative church backgrounds rather than the local hippy methodist population. On the other hand this article seems to predict a much quicker death than is reasonable.
posted by shinybaum at 3:34 PM on October 17, 2010


valkyryn, your broader points aside, I do think it's revealing that in your first lengthy comment you basically define "serious" Christians as those who agree with you, and those that don't as un-serious somehow.

Firstly, those un-serious Christians - left or right - probably feel about as serious as you, so I think judging them is kind of redundant.

Secondly, from over here in atheist-land, you all look equally serious me. Taking the bible more or less literally etc doesn't make you more or less serious, imho. That only works if you're Christian.
posted by smoke at 3:34 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


valkyryn, your broader points aside, I do think it's revealing that in your first lengthy comment you basically define "serious" Christians as those who agree with you, and those that don't as un-serious somehow.

I think you've misread his comment. His point was that there are serious Christians who don't agree with him about politics, but that there are serious Christians who do agree with him about politics and that they're still serious Christians.
posted by Jahaza at 3:37 PM on October 17, 2010


Jahaza:
My mentor remained steadfastly in favor of organized labor, gay rights and civil rights generally, until Alzheimer's disease robbed him of the ability to speak. Not a big fan of GW either.
posted by wuwei at 3:38 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taking the bible more or less literally etc doesn't make you more or less serious, imho. That only works if you're Christian.

It's hard to respond to you without knowing what you mean by "literally", but I think valkyryn would allow that both Fundamentalists (in a 5 fundamentals way) and Roman Catholics can both be "serious Christians" and that they read the Bible in very different ways.
posted by Jahaza at 3:40 PM on October 17, 2010


I don't think there's much the left should do, even if they could, to pick up theological conservatives if they are as Valkyryn describes them. Val's theological conservatives' ambivalence is defined in part by their inability to "vote for the Democrats, who 1) don't mind killing babies and 2) tend to operate from the assumption that everyone is basically good."

Number one is, well, it's a major platform of the party, inextricably tied to a commitment to women's autonomy over their own body and opposition to forced pregnancy. Not all Democrats sign on, but it's hardly a policy anomaly that theological conservatives could reasonably expect to be discarded. And even if the platform were changed, the theological liberals could make the same demand with the same force that it be readopted. If other people having safe, legal access to abortion is the hill the theological conservatives die on, I don't think there's anything to call them other than political conservatives as well.

As for number two, it is is simply false. It isn't like Democrats are proposing deregulation because people will comply with the law out of the goodness of their hearts or even self-interest. Frankly, I'm straining to figure out what sorts of disastrous policies Democrats support on the basis of a pollyannaish worldview. The best I can come up with is a broad reading of the First Amendment, but that's not even especially controversial in the U.S. I suppose that the objection might be read as "Democratic policies are well-intentioned but don't actually work." which I'd be more inclined to agree with were it not in the context of helping the poor, where Democratic (or at least leftist) programs have been very successful in reducing the rate of poverty. The Great Society is one, but I'm also counting land grant universities, labor rights, and the existence of public schools.

I think this is more a complaint that Democrats don't broadly endorse the story of the fall from Eden, or talk about humanity's debased nature. But that looks like nothing but a complaint that Democrats aren't theological conservatives a problem that, absent the imposition of a theocracy, isn't going to be "solved" anytime soon. And even then, what kind of ambivalence could this even create? "I'd love to support increased funding for Head Start and food stamps, but I don't think you believe humans are wretched enough"? That's a nasty ordering of priorities.

So if that's an accurate portrait of theological conservatives, then it's no surprise they have trouble voting for Democrats: they're just religious Republicans. That they don't want to be lumped in with the damaged brand of televangelists on the Religious Right is understandable, but more a matter of their self-presentation than a problem the Democrats can solve by reaching out.

Also, this: The Anglican communion has always put a higher premium on unity than the rest of the Protestant church, but the divide is over things pretty fundamental to the faith--homosexuality isn't really the main point of contention
This is like saying "The U.S. Civil War was over states' rights, not slavery" when the right in question was "Having Slaves." The split is over things like unity, authority, and tradition because the conservatives believe very strongly that it is better to be straight than gay, and the liberals don't, and there's no good internal way to resolve conservatives' desire to not have anything to do theologically with people who disagree on this issue.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:40 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892, was a Baptist minister and Christian socialist who, interestingly enough, wrote the "godless" original version of the Pledge.
posted by dhens at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, communism has basically gone away, so that alliance is starting to crack. But I have to say, the way the Democrats are treating Islam isn't helping much. Evangelicals are just as concerned about the treatment of Christians in Islamic countries

Many of us on the left have already made the insight that the right-wing is whipping up anti-Islamic fervor in their need to find a new boogeyman in the absence of Communism. The way the Democrats are treating Islam is the American way. The right is trying to foment hope for a clash of civilizations abroad and an anti-American anti-Muslim hatreds at home.

What is the problem is not that Islam is the new Communism. It's that Islam is the new African-Americans: both targets used by politicians to whip up resentments in order to unify southern whites.

they can't vote for the Democrats, who 1) don't mind killing babies, and 2) tend to operate from the assumption that everyone is basically good, which has disastrous policy consequences. But neither can they vote for Republicans, who 1) don't mind shafting poor people, and 2) tend to operate from the assumption that religion is second in importance to political power, or even worse, a tool for attaining political power.

As you said, you attend a Presbyterian/Reformed church, which is the last bastion of serious theological scholarship in American protestantism. Many Catholics have the same mindset you describe, as well. But what we're talking about are two things: first, evangelicals, who are a much more amorphous group of blacks, latinos, asians, and whites and much more theologically diverse. And next is the large number of people who might be nominally religious or culturally Christian and would otherwise go to church on Christmas, Easter, marriages, and baptisms who are leaving Christianity altogether because they don't identify with the unification of the church and the Republican party.
posted by deanc at 3:51 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Many of us on the left have already made the insight that the right-wing is whipping up anti-Islamic fervor in their need to find a new boogeyman in the absence of Communism. The way the Democrats are treating Islam is the American way. The right is trying to foment hope for a clash of civilizations abroad and an anti-American anti-Muslim hatreds at home.

A logical consequence of your view is that the right is acting in an unamerican way. This kind of language from right-wing figures usually provokes (justifiably) angry reactions from the left. You may want to reconsider it if you want to persuade people of your views.
posted by Jahaza at 3:56 PM on October 17, 2010


By this definition Ayn Rand sleeps on Lenin's left.

I always thought the old left/right paradigm was useless. Really it should be a three axis graph: Democracy vs Dictatorship, Tradition vs Progress, Individual Rights vs Social Equality. Get too far on either end, and you're looking for trouble.
posted by notion at 3:57 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


VikingSword, I agree with you that religion is an inherently conservative force, in the basic meaning of conservative. But religion, conservativism and party affiliation in the United States have been a little bit more complicated than that.

For most of the 20th century, what we would now call social or religious conservativism was identified with Democratic party which was also relatively pro-labor. The progressive movement in the early 20th century was identified with the Republican party. The progressive movement wasn't liberal by current standards of liberalism. The progressive movement tended to be strongly pro-business and embrace industrialization with few caveats. Many progressives were extremely racist, directing most of their racism at supposedly inferior "races" of Europeans (ie. new immigrant groups). There were, though, recognizable elements of what we would now call liberalism within the progressive movement.

The New Deal, introduced under a progressive Democratic president, split the progressive movement, dividing it in the long run into what we now call "liberals" (pro-New Deal progressives) and "economic conservatives" (anti-New Deal progressives). In another shift, in the late 20th century, apparent in Reagan's election in 1980, traditionally Democratic religious conservatives shifted their allegiance to the Republican party.

Religious conservatives are conservative, but they haven't always been in an alliance with proponents of laissez-faire capitalism. (And the history of racism in the politics of US is, to put it mildly, a bit complicated.)
posted by nangar at 4:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


The split is over things like unity, authority, and tradition because the conservatives believe very strongly that it is better to be straight than gay, and the liberals don't, and there's no good internal way to resolve conservatives' desire to not have anything to do theologically with people who disagree on this issue.

Yeah, see, no. There have been long-standing fractures in the Episcopal church before homosexuality really became an issue, which it really only did in the last two decades. I mean, Bishop Spong. We're talking about a guy who explicitly rejects Christian doctrines which are part of the ancient ecumenical creeds.

The analogy to the Civil War and the slavery/states' rights controversy is completely inaccurate. There, "states' rights" had been a code word for slavery almost since the founding of the Republic. Here, we're talking about theological controversies that predate the development of homosexuality as a pressing issue by decades.
posted by valkyryn at 4:10 PM on October 17, 2010


It's that Islam is the new African-Americans: both targets used by politicians to whip up resentments in order to unify southern whites.

It's not just the south, I see of lot of it here in the Pacific Northwest. But there's definitely seems to be a racial component to the hate campaign.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:14 PM on October 17, 2010


As you said, you attend a Presbyterian/Reformed church, which is the last bastion of serious theological scholarship in American protestantism. Many Catholics have the same mindset you describe, as well. But what we're talking about are two things: first, evangelicals, who are a much more amorphous group of blacks, latinos, asians, and whites and much more theologically diverse.

Which is why my original statement that the Reformed tradition is currently experiencing a resurgence is significant. Evangelicals of all stripes who get serious about their theology are finding their way into the Reformed tradition--if you're going to be Protestant and aren't going to be Lutheran, that's your only option, really--as evidenced by the Southern Baptist Convention's movement in that direction for the better part of a decade and a half.

And next is the large number of people who might be nominally religious or culturally Christian and would otherwise go to church on Christmas, Easter, marriages, and baptisms who are leaving Christianity altogether because they don't identify with the unification of the church and the Republican party.

They'd fall into the first category I described, i.e. people who even though they may be culturally Christian don't actually care much about the religion as such. I know a bunch of those people, and most of them basically stop going to church on a regular basis when they move out of their parents' houses.
posted by valkyryn at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2010


A logical consequence of your view is that the right is acting in an unamerican way. This kind of language from right-wing figures usually provokes (justifiably) angry reactions from the left. You may want to reconsider it if you want to persuade people of your views.

No one's going to tell me that American beliefs about religious freedom exist over a rainbow spectrum of differences over which we can all agree to disagree while all agreeing that we share a common American value system. You either belief that Muslims deserve freedom of worship and freedom to construct their religious centers, or you stand against the supposed value systems that we were taught are supposed to be part of the American way. I'm not going to call Newt Gingrich's demagoguery on the Park 51 muslim community center/mosque and the outrage at the expanding mosque in Tennessee as anything than an anti-American spitting in the face of American values of religious freedom. I mean, forgive me if I took all those lessons in civics class seriously: I thought I was being told the truth, not a bunch of "noble lies" to tide me over until the Republicans could tell me what our value system was really about.
posted by deanc at 4:21 PM on October 17, 2010 [20 favorites]


. people who even though they may be culturally Christian don't actually care much about the religion as such. I know a bunch of those people, and most of them basically stop going to church on a regular basis when they move out of their parents' houses.

Traditionally, they would have gotten married in the church and then started to drift back, somewhat nominally, as they had children, got them baptized, etc., creating another generation of nominal Christians, some of whom might become more religious than their parents, some just as nominal, and some less. What's happening now is that the association with "[evangelical] Christian" and "Republican/conservative" has become so strong that maintaining this nominal Christian identity isn't happening as much as it used to.
posted by deanc at 4:24 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jahaza if you're going to play that card then we're going to have to decide what the "american" way is.

But I find it hard to believe that labeling Islam as the enemy of America as well very American.

Then again historically we've been doing stuff like that since forever.
posted by Allan Gordon at 4:29 PM on October 17, 2010


Here, we're talking about theological controversies that predate the development of homosexuality as a pressing issue by decades.
But which nevertheless prompted a split only once people started saying "We are okay with homosexuality." It isn't like there weren't disagreements about issues other than slavery that made the U.S. Civil War possible, after all.
posted by Marty Marx at 4:31 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


(To clarify, lest that be misread as Lost Cause mythology, I'm saying that other regional and economic disagreements made war possible, not that the war was fought over those disagreements.)
posted by Marty Marx at 4:34 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, forgive me if I took all those lessons in civics class seriously: I thought I was being told the truth, not a bunch of "noble lies" to tide me over until the Republicans could tell me what our value system was really about.

Be that as it may, perception matters, and the perception is that progressives want to be tolerant towards what others view as an existential threat to their way of life. So calling them un-American is just gonna piss 'em off. You're talking past each other.
posted by valkyryn at 4:38 PM on October 17, 2010


>Here, we're talking about theological controversies that predate the development of homosexuality as a pressing issue by decades.

But which nevertheless prompted a split only once people started saying "We are okay with homosexuality." It isn't like there weren't disagreements about issues other than slavery that made the U.S. Civil War possible, after all.


You can't disregard the more substantive issues that easily. Actually, what's caused the split is when the liberals decided that tolerance for homosexuality was more important than unity. The Anglican Communion, as a unified body, came to a decision in 1998 at the Thirteenth Lambeth Conference, which the American hierarchy decided to disregard. Until then, no one had actually come out and thumbed their noses at Anglican unity, and it's the liberals, not the conservatives, who are the schismatics here.

If you want to analogize to the Civil War, this would mean that the North would have been the ones who voted to secede. So, like I said, the analogy to the Civil War really doesn't work at all.
posted by valkyryn at 4:43 PM on October 17, 2010


you attend a Presbyterian/Reformed church, which is the last bastion of serious theological scholarship in American protestantism.

cite?
posted by reverend cuttle at 4:48 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


So calling them un-American is just gonna piss 'em off. You're talking past each other.

I will leave the soothing words to politicians. I will continue to be an asshole to those whipping up hatreds against my fellow Americans who were expecting freedom of worship.

And you know what the consequence is? That a nominally religious guy who might identify as Christian might say, "wow! that church I used to go to is full of a bunch of jerks beating up on the local Muslims!" And maybe if he cares about Christianity, he'll go off and find a community less overrun jerks that have attitudes incompatible with American ideas about religious freedom. But more likely, unfortunately, he'll probably say, "wow, I guess Christian = anti-religious-freedom loudmouthed jerks who love the Republican party. Screw them!"
posted by deanc at 4:48 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Which is why my original statement that the Reformed tradition is currently experiencing a resurgence is significant. Evangelicals of all stripes who get serious about their theology are finding their way into the Reformed tradition--if you're going to be Protestant and aren't going to be Lutheran, that's your only option, really--as evidenced by the Southern Baptist Convention's movement in that direction for the better part of a decade and a half.
The movement of disgruntled evangelicals to the Orthodox Church has also been watched with some interest. To a large extent, the sneak-eating-its-tail of Sola Scriptura is one of the primary drivers for everyone I've known.

To say that there is a migration from Evangelicalism to Reformed theology is incorrect: it is more accurate to say that a migration out of NeoAmericanJesusism by the young. Some are becoming agnostics and atheists, while others stay within their broad tradition of faith but seek more depth.
posted by verb at 4:53 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's all about Communism. Really.

...except where it's about Jim Crow and the southern strategy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:57 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> the right-wing is whipping up anti-Islamic fervor in their need to find a new boogeyman in the absence of Communism. The way the Democrats are treating Islam is the American way. The right is trying to foment hope for a clash of civilizations abroad and an anti-American anti-Muslim hatreds at home.

Jahaza: >A logical consequence of your view is that the right is acting in an unamerican way. This kind of language from right-wing figures usually provokes (justifiably) angry reactions from the left. You may want to reconsider it if you want to persuade people of your views.


I take your point, but is this really a controversy? Are (you, presumably, and other) conservatives really incapable of distinguishing the tactics used by their own side from whether they are right or wrong on key issues? There is no shortage of liberal-leaning commenters here criticizing Democratic tactics. Nor are conservatives in this very topic, for example, excluded from the discussion for rhetoric that diminishes their opponents.

So what's your beef? Do you really believe that the campaign by Republicans against the Park 51 community center does not in any way undermine the American value of religious freedom?
posted by msalt at 4:58 PM on October 17, 2010


...except where it's about Jim Crow and the southern strategy.

That's another funny thing about these discussions about what evangelicals are or aren't doing when it comes to being right-wing or not. What they really mean when they're talking about evangelicals being Republican/conservative is white evangelicals.
posted by deanc at 5:01 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


To say that there is a migration from Evangelicalism to Reformed theology is incorrect: it is more accurate to say that a migration out of NeoAmericanJesusism by the young.

Huh?
posted by valkyryn at 5:01 PM on October 17, 2010


What they really mean when they're talking about evangelicals being Republican/conservative is white evangelicals.

Isn't that kind of redundant? Most of the big capital-E evangelical churches and denominations which fit into evangelicalism as a movement are predominantly white. This is recognized as being a problem.
posted by valkyryn at 5:07 PM on October 17, 2010


Huh?

I think that Time-magazine-equivalent-of-a-NYT-style-section-trend-piece would fall under verb's category of "stay within their broad tradition of faith but seek more depth"-- in that case by adopting a more Calvinist theological bent to their evangelicalism.
posted by deanc at 5:07 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, what's caused the split is when the liberals decided that tolerance for homosexuality was more important than unity.

Oh. So it is about homosexuality then?
posted by Marty Marx at 5:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


No one's going to tell me that American beliefs about religious freedom exist over a rainbow spectrum of differences over which we can all agree to disagree while all agreeing that we share a common American value system.

If you think you disagree about some value, you should argue about the value, rather than using inflammatory labels.

I will leave the soothing words to politicians. I will continue to be an asshole to those whipping up hatreds against my fellow Americans who were expecting freedom of worship.

If you care about the people they're "whipping up hatreds against" you should try to persuade people, not try to shout them down.

Jahaza if you're going to play that card then we're going to have to decide what the "american" way is.

But I find it hard to believe that labeling Islam as the enemy of America as well very American.


Umm, no, I'm rejecting the idea of calling people unamerican as a rhetorical/political strategy.

So what's your beef?

My beef is that both sides should stop calling each other anti/un-American. That's one of those annoying things conservatives do... they make limited points.
posted by Jahaza at 5:22 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Calling someone unamerican is usually political mudslinging with no substance.

But America was founded on ideals, rejection of monarchy, aristocracy, and a hereditary upper class, that each individual deserves liberty, that no one is above the law. Now there is great latitude to quibble about what exactly those mean. But it is also very possible to be fighting politically against some of those ideas entirely. It is entirely possible to have a political stance that is downright unamerican.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:51 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


My beef is that both sides should stop calling each other anti/un-American.

but one side is not going to quit calling people that and you know it - we cannot afford to let them define what americanism is and who is against it - too many times, the conservatives have wrapped themselves in the flag and the left has simply chosen not to contest with them over it

bigotry and intolerance should be unamerican and we need to say that
posted by pyramid termite at 6:12 PM on October 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


My beef is that one side calls people unamerican for not supporting torture and the other side calls people unamerican for not respecting freedom of religion but for some reason this is considered an equal offense.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


God didn't show up in the PoA until the 1950s.

Doesn't change the fact that Francis Bellamy was a Christian Socialist.
posted by electroboy at 6:49 PM on October 17, 2010


I always thought the old left/right paradigm was useless. Really it should be a three axis graph: Democracy vs Dictatorship, Tradition vs Progress, Individual Rights vs Social Equality. Get too far on either end, and you're looking for trouble.

I felt the same way, until I realized that nobody was going to apply a three-dimensional coordinate system to political events anytime soon (which means there are probably good reasons against it (if perhaps not rational reasons)) and that by rejecting left/right as useful terms in a discussion all I did was place myself outside of that discussion.
posted by eeeeeez at 6:50 PM on October 17, 2010


I think that Time-magazine-equivalent-of-a-NYT-style-section-trend-piece would fall under verb's category of "stay within their broad tradition of faith but seek more depth"-- in that case by adopting a more Calvinist theological bent to their evangelicalism.
Indeed. I was a little too short in my comment, because I think it sounded like I meant that there aren't evangelicals moving to reformed churches. Rather, at least in my experience and study, there are a lot of people who were part of culturally anchored churches who've decided to seek out more "traditional" ones. For some people, the Reformed church hits that sweet spot but the move from the Evangelical world to the Orthodox one is just as dramatic.

I'll have to dig it up as it was on my other machine, but I was just reading a number of articles by members of the Orthodox church concerned that their churches' characters could be dilluted, even fundamentally altered, by the dramatic influx of Protestants-Seeking-Depth-But-Not-Sure-What-That-Means.
posted by verb at 6:55 PM on October 17, 2010


This thread makes me much happier that earlier tonight I raised a toast with some crazy hippie chick to Jupiter.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:58 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, what's caused the split is when the liberals decided that tolerance for homosexuality was more important than unity.
s/liberals/conservatives
s/tolerance/condemnation

It goes both ways, ultimately. You can say which side you think is "correct" on various grounds, but the framing in the statement above isn't about correcting the historical record, just announcing which side of the argument one falls on.
posted by verb at 6:59 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to leave this here and quietly walk away.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:07 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Be that as it may, perception matters, and the perception is that progressives want to be tolerant towards what others view as an existential threat to their way of life.

Where did the perception come from that terrorism, or Islam in general, is an existential threat to our way of life? It didn't come out from nowhere-- it was a concept invented by politicians for the purpose of turning Islam into the new Communism as a political wedge.
posted by deanc at 7:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Where did the perception come from that terrorism, or Islam in general, is an existential threat to our way of life? It didn't come out from nowhere-- it was a concept invented by politicians for the purpose of turning Islam into the new Communism as a political wedge.


...and from people being scared shitless by terrorists blowing up skyscrapers and airplanes on live national TV.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:20 PM on October 17, 2010


As a former conservative who has renounced most of his political beliefs after finally realizing that the Republican party's hatred of the poor is incompatible with the message of Christ, I think that if you twist your religion to fit your politics you never really cared about your religion to begin with.
posted by vorpal bunny at 7:25 PM on October 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


This also explains why there are so many new religions are being created.Some of the new religious movements such as jediism or dudeism is straight out of the hollywood movies( star wars and Big lebovsky)It is pretty clear that christianity is fast becoming extinct due to its detachment from the needs of our generation..
posted by tsagis at 7:39 PM on October 17, 2010


Well the main theme in the New Testament (aside from everyone love one another) is the separation of church and state.
posted by ovvl at 7:39 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well the main theme in the New Testament (aside from everyone love one another) is the separation of church and state.

Umm... No. Just no. Actually, I wouldn't describe either of those as the "main theme" in the New Testament, though they're certainly the themes that non-Christians tend to like the most. The one you set off in parentheses is at least present in the text, but "separation of church and state" is a distinctly modernist idea. Never really appeared in Western thought until at least the seventeenth century and wasn't fully developed until the eighteenth and nineteenth.
posted by valkyryn at 8:05 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apparently Dawkins and Hitchens have created fewer atheists, at least among the young, than have Falwell and Robertson.
posted by kozad at 8:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was just reading a number of articles by members of the Orthodox church concerned that their churches' characters could be dilluted, even fundamentally altered, by the dramatic influx of Protestants-Seeking-Depth-But-Not-Sure-What-That-Means.

I don't have hard numbers for you, but I'm under the impression that there are a lot more evangelical Christians moving in a Reformed direction than there are going Orthodox. Like, literally millions. The reason the Orthodox communion is justifiably worried is that there are more than twelve times as many Evangelicals as Orthodox in the US, so a rounding error in Evangelicals is 10% of the entire Orthodox population in the country. Hell, Orthodoxy doesn't even always show up as an option on demographic surveys it's such a fringe movement in the US. There isn't even a Wikipedia page about Orthodoxy in America.

In addition, some Orthodox churches still don't conduct services in English, predominantly serving Russian or Greek populations, so the effect of even a minor influx of white-bread Americans is going to have an even more pronounced effect on those Orthodox traditions that do use English.
posted by valkyryn at 8:18 PM on October 17, 2010


Umm... No. Just no. Actually, I wouldn't describe either of those as the "main theme" in the New Testament, though they're certainly the themes that non-Christians tend to like the most.
Yeah, although valkyryn and I disagree on a lot of counts, I'm with him on this one; just as reading modern conservative political philosophy back into Scripture is dangerous, reading generally modern political and social philosophy into it is falling into the same trap.

The dominant themes of the New Testament can be argued for a long while, and some would argue that 'The New Testament' is pretty hard to find a single dominant theme in at all. Most of the things people like to point at in discussions like this are, to be honest, minor footnotes. Things like gender equality, "free market principles," social equality, tax policy, political guidance for religious believers, etc... there are hints at ideas that might be extrapolated into ideas similar to ones that we now support, but that's not the same as a dominant theme, by any means.
posted by verb at 8:18 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can't disregard the more substantive issues that easily. Actually, what's caused the split is when the liberals decided that tolerance for homosexuality was more important than unity. The Anglican Communion, as a unified body, came to a decision in 1998 at the Thirteenth Lambeth Conference, which the American hierarchy decided to disregard. Until then, no one had actually come out and thumbed their noses at Anglican unity, and it's the liberals, not the conservatives, who are the schismatics here.

You understand how absurd this is, right?

Let me try to spell this out. You have a key issue, which the people fall on two sides over. Both sides value unity within the organization, but both consider the official stance on this issue more important than that unity - if the homophobe contingent really valued unity above their condemnation of homosexuality, they would have adopted official policy that kept the tolerant contingent within the group, just as the tolerant contingent might have adopted the other side's homophobic rhetoric if they valued being part of the Communion more than their ideals. Neither side was willing to yield on this issue, and thus you have a schism. It takes two to tango.

The difference is, as I mentioned, the schismatic issue here is of whether or not homosexuality is evil, with one side representing bigotry and hatred, and the other side being unwilling to associate themselves with that bigotry. You could flip this around - replacing "bigotry and hatred" with "sexual deviance" - if that was your point of view. But you would be wrong to do so, because there simply is a right side and a wrong side to this issue.
posted by kafziel at 8:23 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't have hard numbers for you, but I'm under the impression that there are a lot more evangelical Christians moving in a Reformed direction than there are going Orthodox. Like, literally millions.
Until we both get ourselves some numbers, I think we'll both be stuck recounting anecdotal evidence. I know one evangelical believer who moved to the Reformed church, one who became an atheist, and three who became part of the Eastern Orthodox church. Maybe it's regional, maybe it's a statistical blip, but it sounds like both of us are basing our ideas about these trends on our own experiences and cherry-picking random factlets to support.

I stand by my statement: you, as someone who chose to join the Reformed church, are framing the current shift away from Evangelical culture as a shift towards Reformed Theology when it is in fact a move away from Evangelical culture towards many different endpoints, including Reformed theology, agnosticism and atheism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and so on.
posted by verb at 8:27 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's that Islam is the new African-Americans: both targets used by politicians to whip up resentments in order to unify southern whites.





To put in my own 2 cents, not all American Muslims are people of color. There are immigrant /refugee populations from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia-Hercegovina and parts of the Russian Federation.

Even among people of color, Black is not the only color. There are Arabs, South Asians, Indonesians, members of Muslim minorities from Viet-Nam, Cambodia and Thailand

Islam can't be the new Communism either. Many Muslims are social conservatives.

Basically Muslims are used by both 'liberals' and 'conservatives' as a very handy enemy. Muslims work great as a handy all-purpose enemy, because few Americans actually know very much about Islam.

posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:58 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think another issue creating a schism between youth and established churches revolves around respect for the environment. A belief that either a) God gave us the earth to exploit or b) wrecking the planet because the rapture will cure everything doesn't square with the green movement. I think the first church that figures out how to market (theologically, of course) caring for the world as part of caring for what God has provided will reap benefits--members-- when younger folks have kids and want to provide the experience of religious community for their children. Disclaimer: I am an atheist.
posted by carmicha at 9:05 PM on October 17, 2010


valkyryn: "separation of church and state" is a distinctly modernist idea. Never really appeared in Western thought until at least the seventeenth century

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's."
posted by msalt at 9:05 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the first church that figures out how to market (theologically, of course) caring for the world as part of caring for what God has provided will reap benefits--members-- when younger folks have kids and want to provide the experience of religious community for their children. Disclaimer: I am an atheist.

Or they could just become Jewish. My wife once observed to me that Christians have a holiday where they cut down trees and we have a holiday where we plant them -- the equivalent of Arbor Day. ;)
posted by zarq at 9:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the happy side effects of learning that I no longer believed in God was relief from the endless hair-splitting.
posted by sneebler at 9:22 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the other hand religion is about arrival, final destination, the absolute truth, and acceptance on faith.

Really? I must have missed a memo somewhere.

Please don't simplistically and inaccurately lump all religions under a "NEVER QUESTIONS AUTHORITY" banner. We're not all Christians, you know.
posted by zarq at 9:42 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's."
That pull-quote does not constitute "The main theme of the New Testament," no matter how convenient it would be. Jesus was speaking to a religious group living under foreign occupation, and different factions favored collaboration vs revolution. His religious opponents asked him publicly whether Jews should pay taxes, presumably so that either he'd be guilty of treason or lose the support of the revolutionaries. In that context, his quote is a well-executed rhetorical dodge, not a bold statement in favor of church/state separation.
posted by verb at 9:50 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Stupidity isn't going anywhere, my friends. Especially here in the Western world.

Hey hey! Don't take all the credit. You Westerners don't have a monopoly on stupidity, you know.
posted by WalterMitty at 9:51 PM on October 17, 2010


That pull-quote ("Give to Ceasar") does not constitute "The main theme of the New Testament," no matter how convenient it would be.

I completely agree. But Valkyryn declared that separation of church and state "never really appeared in Western thought until at least the seventeenth century and wasn't fully developed until the eighteenth and nineteenth." I think this counts at least as an appearance.

Also, you can dismiss it as the Savior's sophistry, just a clever debating point, but it's pretty cocky to decide Jesus didn't really mean what he said. Especially given other similar quotes -- "My kingdom is not of this world," (John 18:36), etc.
posted by msalt at 11:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


deanc wrote: "You either belief that Muslims deserve freedom of worship and freedom to construct their religious centers, or you stand against the supposed value systems that we were taught are supposed to be part of the American way."

Exactly. As an educated American adult I have every right to point a finger at a bigot and call them what they are -- un-American fuckwits. My job is not to play nice with these people. The responsible thing to do is to mock and shun them for their ignorance.

Of course, thanks to FOX News all sorts of un-American craziness has invaded our political discourse and become normalized as "centrist" thinking. And the larger problem isn't that those on the left aren't nice enough. Far from it -- we aren't angry enough.
posted by bardic at 11:57 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


valkyryn wrote: "But I have to say, the way the Democrats are treating Islam isn't helping much."

You mean not demonizing brown people and/or murdering them with remotely fired missiles? Because I'd say Democrats are treating Islam a lot better than Republicans/Teabaggers these days.

And I know, I know, Obama hasn't pulled out of Iraq or Afghanistan but still, I'd love to hear you explain just what you mean by this statement.
posted by bardic at 12:03 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


if the homophobe contingent really valued unity above their condemnation of homosexuality, they would have adopted official policy that kept the tolerant contingent within the group

Umm.... see.... they tried. Thirteenth Lambeth was supposed to be something like the beginning of a process. It was an initial position with the mechanism in place for investigating it more thoroughly. The liberals in the American hierarchy didn't want to play ball.
posted by valkyryn at 3:44 AM on October 18, 2010


I think another issue creating a schism between youth and established churches revolves around respect for the environment.

Maybe, but less than you might think. There's always been an environmentalist contingent in evangelicalism. You don't have to be completely in the tank with AGW and in favor of cap-and-trade to be sensitive to environmental issues.
posted by valkyryn at 3:48 AM on October 18, 2010


Because I'd say Democrats are treating Islam a lot better than Republicans/Teabaggers these days.

Exactly. Which isn't helping the fact that they're perceived as weak on terror.

I'm not saying this is good, I'm just saying.
posted by valkyryn at 3:49 AM on October 18, 2010


Apparently Dawkins and Hitchens have created fewer atheists, at least among the young, than have Falwell and Robertson.
posted by kozad at 4:10 AM on October 18


Source?
posted by Decani at 3:54 AM on October 18, 2010


We're just supposed to take those massively objectionable points on your say so? Who's the authority now?

Well, in fairness, mate, you started it! You described this position and then said that you agree with it:

Democrats, who 1) don't mind killing babies, and 2) tend to operate from the assumption that everyone is basically good, which has disastrous policy consequences.

The first point is a massive generalisation and in keeping with your rather disturbing habit of acting like you know what people think (when you can't possibly). Not only that, but you tend to claim that they think the least charitable, most damning, most petty interpretation of their behaviour.

Endorsing abortion is not remotely the same thing as "not minding killing babies" in the minds of the people who endorse it. You might not agree with that, but you're casually and insultingly mischaracterising how they see things.

The second point is also one that I would passionately disagree with. In my experience, the idea that people are basically bad has been much more common, throughout history, and much more often used as a tool of tribalism, self-hatred and oppression than the reverse. It underpins a lot of right-wing thinking on crime, drug use and the economy. I don't believe that the results of those right-wing policies have ever been particularly successful.

Anyway, the point is: you made a bunch of massively objectionable points, slipped in as if they were descriptions of a position that you don't agree with - but then you endorsed them. You said "these people, among whom I count myself, are very theologically conservative".

That's fine. Your Christian perspective on stuff is interesting.

But it pisses me off that you would use it to put in some claims that you know other people will find insulting and then get mad at those people when they do it back to you.

I'm sure you're better than this. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right?
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:33 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hi. I'm one of those people that is not supposed to exist. I'm a mainline Protestant. I'm progressive in my politics and my theology. I take my politics seriously. I take my theology seriously. I take Reformed tradition and liturgy seriously. I am also a scientist and I take my science seriously. My congregation has a large contingent of 20-40 somethings who are like me. Some of them are GLBT, some are disabled, some are immigrants. We are not Evangelical in any traditional sense. We go out and build Habitat houses and work at the homeless shelter and march in the Pride parade and when there's a newspaper story about something we're doing or a passerby asks us about what we do we tell them to come check out First Pres if they're interested.

Some of them come once, and decide that they can't handle all the God stuff. Some stay because they decide they like the God stuff. And some stay because they decide they like us, and we're doing something that they like, and they want to find out about what it is that inspires us to do what we do. And so we have a ragtag diverse community of people who love each other, that welcomes doubt and unbelief and heresy and does wonderful things.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:40 AM on October 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


One of the happy side effects of learning that I no longer believed in God was relief from the endless hair-splitting.

Oh yes. So much talk on the differences between fundamentalist and reformed churches when back here where I sit it's basically Aliens vs Predator.
posted by Ritchie at 6:00 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"1) don't mind killing babies"

That's not just deeply offensive, it's also wrong. Studies have shown that countries with legal, safe abortion access actually have lower rates of teenage pregnancy and miscarriages.

If you're a Christian you should love women and children. You should want them to be healthy and safe. You should support a woman's right to complete access to health care.

Oh, but that's right -- Jesus spent all that time warning against late-term abortion. Gospel of Ignorant Asshattery, I believe.
posted by bardic at 6:21 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


A part of me is scratching my head on this an thinking, "bwah?" IME you can't swing a stick in liberal political organizing without hitting a person of faith, often a minister.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:57 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it isn't going to be long before neither party is able to reliably count on the main body of Christian church-goers for their votes.

And this will be a great day when it happens. Christianity is a way of life and ethic that should rise above alignment with political parties. To be neither written off or taken for granted is the proper place for Christianity in politics. It should police, through moral persuasion, the excesses of politics.
posted by dgran at 7:20 AM on October 18, 2010


Apparently Dawkins and Hitchens have created fewer atheists, at least among the young, than have Falwell and Robertson.

The article linked in this very post would seem to disagree with you. This is from the 3rd paragraph: "So, why this sudden jump in youthful disaffection from organized religion? The surprising answer, according to a mounting body of evidence, is politics. Very few of these new "nones" actually call themselves atheists, and many have rather conventional beliefs about God and theology. But they have been alienated from organized religion by its increasingly conservative politics.

IOW, walking away from organized religion doesn't mean they're automatically atheists.
posted by zarq at 7:21 AM on October 18, 2010


don't mind killing babies

The GOP doesn't mind killing babies, either, so long as they're not in utero. It's funny how the Right plays up the moral squickiness of abortion while hand-waving over the moral squickiness of waging war knowing there will be "collateral damage" to the children of the invaded.

And, of course, there's the "welfare babies" meme, the kids born so welfare mothers can take more money from the state to buy crack. And how public schools are "evil" because they "teach evolution" or are just "inefficient" and need to be replaced with charter schools that teach "morals." Meanwhile, the school lunch programs are underfunded and filled with the fat and sugar-laden foods their political benefactors produce.

The real problem with the Democrats isn't they "don't mind killing babies." It's that they can't boil down all the ways the GOP kills babies into one four word emotion-overpacked soundbite.
posted by dw at 7:29 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Exactly. Which isn't helping the fact that they're perceived as weak on terror.

WHO is saying the Dems are weak on terror and WHO is demagogically railing against the religious freedom of Muslims in the USA for political gain? This isn't happening in a vacuum. It's happening because republicans are saying it.

Isn't the problem here that there is something MORALLY WRONG with the religious right and their politician-enablers that they're engaging in this kind of thing? And isn't it the logical choice of the marginally religious who are a bit more mrally grounded and don't identify with this demagoguery to simply walk away from those religions?
posted by deanc at 7:32 AM on October 18, 2010


The Anglican Communion, as a unified body, came to a decision in 1998 at the Thirteenth Lambeth Conference, which the American hierarchy decided to disregard.

This is also very simplistic. The Anglican Church has for the last 40 years been in a pickle -- caught between the conservatives who have the numbers and the liberals who have the money. Because they lack the central authority the Catholics have (who have the exact same problem) there was really no way to iron-fist policies through and have both sides just take it.

Thirteenth Lambeth was an attempt to try to thread the needle, but in the end neither side would budge, so we ended up with this "listening process" mess combined with the whole "homosexual practice" is bad resolution. It was the same political muddiness that's belied every American mainline denomination for the last 50 years.

If the Anglicans had voted down the "homosexual practice" clause the conservatives would have bolted right then and there, but there would be none of this "they disregarded the hierarchy" talk. It would be "great" and "wonderful" they were "being true Christians." The idea the liberals are somehow "wrong" is really silly. They made their choices, one bishop at a time, just as the conservatives in the US have in switching primates. Instead of the cataclysmic schism in '98, we have a slow trickle out in '08-now.
posted by dw at 7:39 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or they could just become Jewish.

Isn't that really difficult to do (other than by marrying into Judaism)?
posted by acb at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2010


The world is full of honeypots, tar babies, and the narcissism of small differences.

Your personal narrative of arriving at your beliefs is interesting to you but likely only to you; you not only are not a special snowflake but also are not a reliable narrator of your own beliefs.

You may believe you arrived at your beliefs on, say, Islam or Christianity or homosexuality via processes and for reasons materially different from those you imagine were employed most others who have arrived at similar outlooks on those topics.

This probably isn't true; even if it it true for your specific case it's rarely true in general.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's probably a duck, even if it swears up and down it's a Dutch Hookbill unlike those Mallards over that way.

Life is too short for it to even be possible to give each person the kind of respectful hearing they deserve. The youth of today have easier access to more information than ever before and thus have an easier time spotting the families, genera, and species of outlooks, thereby making more educated decisions about which topics merit more than trivial inquiry. This will be interesting to watch.
posted by hoople at 7:53 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


To be neither written off or taken for granted is the proper place for Christianity in politics.

The proper place for Christianity in politics is as a silent touchstone for its followers.

In fact, that's true for all religions.

It should police, through moral persuasion, the excesses of politics.

In Christians, sure. But Christians should not attempt to dictate their "morals" to the rest of us non-Christians through legislation. Don't believe in abortion? Fine. Don't have one. Don't believe in gay marriage? Fine. Don't have one. Don't perform them.

Your religions beliefs should not be applied universally through political influence. You don't speak for all of us.
posted by zarq at 8:00 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't that really difficult to do (other than by marrying into Judaism)?

Depends on what you mean by "really difficult." Different sects are more welcoming to converts than others, but in most, the process attempts to weed out people who aren't determined or interested in making a genuine effort.
posted by zarq at 8:08 AM on October 18, 2010


Islam can't be the new Communism either. Many Muslims are social conservatives.

But then the narcissism of minor differences can come into play. If Catholics and Protestants can despise each other in Ireland, with the ostensible sticking point being the assumption of the Virgin Mary or some similar theological McGuffin, then Evangelical Christians and Muslims can despise each other, even whilst sharing an abhorrence of the liberal, secular direction society is heading in.

And the question of whether, if push comes to shove, they'd throw their lot in with the gays or the Muslims doesn't enter into it. Narcissism being what it is, they would imagine that it's all about them, and their enemies are united against them; that the lesbians of San Francisco are working with al-Qaeda to annihilate Christianity in America.
posted by acb at 8:16 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, it's things like this that's the reason why I'm a filthy accomodationist atheist in regards to recent debates. Meyers claims that we deal with the problems of religious faith by attacking religion qua religion. But between Hitchins' hawkish ethnocentrism and Dawkins' lukewarm heterosexism(*), it's pretty clear that mere atheism would not necessarily advance my politics or values.

It's critically important to stay focused and on-target, and while I may not agree with the religious calling of religious liberals I'm not about to make their faith an issue when we're talking foreign policy or gay rights.

(*) He's a great example of putting personal prejudices aside for the sake of supporting the right thing though.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:20 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The proper place for Christianity in politics is as a silent touchstone for its followers.

Yes, heaven forbid that some uppity religious type act upon their faith. The world would be so much better if Martin Luther King, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Dorothy Day weren't getting all up in people's faces about human rights.
posted by dw at 8:26 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Islam can't be the new Communism either. Many Muslims are social conservatives.

I think you missed a lot of the point of my comment. It wasn't that Muslims are all non-white: it's that Muslims are being portrayed as a "scary other", like African Americans were/are potrayed, by politicians in order to whip of fervor and attract political support.

And, it's true, many Muslims are social conservatives, but they understand political dynamics as well as anyone else. They may not approve of gay marriage in the abstract, but they see right-wingers railing against gays (or illegal immigrants, or "Cadillac driving welfare queens," or whatever) as "the alien other," and they logically think, "once they're done beating on them, they're going to come for us as their next target of the 2-minutes-of-hate."

Jews are economically successful and religious, which would seem to be a typical profile of a Republican, but they vote Democratic. Why? Because the Democrats are perceived to be the ones who are least likely to start picking on minority/"out" groups in order to get votes. You're going to see Muslims-Americans make a lot of the same calculations, especially when they see Republicans target them, specifically.
posted by deanc at 8:30 AM on October 18, 2010


Yes, heaven forbid that some uppity religious type act upon their faith.

You quoted me, but apparently didn't understand what I wrote. Perhaps it would be best if you read it again, paying special attention to the words "for its followers."

Yes, heaven forbid that some uppity religious type act upon their faith. The world would be so much better if Martin Luther King, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Dorothy Day weren't getting all up in people's faces about human rights.

Yes, Luther was such a champion of human rights, wasn't he? We should all take a moment to appreciate the immense contributions he made to humanity through his tireless antisemitism and extensive advocacy for the conversion of Jews. An inspiration to the Nazis, wasn't he?
posted by zarq at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2010


And of course, now I have egg on my face, because I read "Martin Luther King" as "Martin Luther."

*sigh*

Sorry about that. :(
posted by zarq at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


My point, which I'm sure is pretty much lost at this point... is that one can and should fight for the downtrodden without imposing ones religion on others.
posted by zarq at 8:43 AM on October 18, 2010


I'm glad to have been so thoroughly corrected. Thnx gang.
posted by srboisvert at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2010


If Catholics and Protestants can despise each other in Ireland, with the ostensible sticking point being the assumption of the Virgin Mary or some similar theological McGuffin,

Are you serious? It hasn't been a religious debate for centuries. Catholic and Protestant are in that context primarily national/tribal affiliations, hence the old joke about Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists.
posted by Jahaza at 9:34 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


And of course, now I have egg on my face, because I read "Martin Luther King" as "Martin Luther."

*sigh*

Sorry about that. :(
Heh. Pretty big difference. Although the protestant reformation was probably a good thing for Europe.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 AM on October 18, 2010


Heh. Pretty big difference

Yep. Huge difference! His full name was included in the bit I quoted too, which makes it even more of an "aw shit I'm an idiot" moment for me.

Although the protestant reformation was probably a good thing for Europe.

I think it probably was, too.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on October 18, 2010


Looking at Ireland, while religions differences often do serve as a proxy for issues of national identity, race, class, and politics, the complicating factor of "they don't worship the same way we do" can make those schisms deeper.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:05 AM on October 18, 2010


lucien_reeve and dw, it isn't just that you aren't previewing, you aren't actually reading.
posted by valkyryn at 10:29 AM on October 18, 2010


"America’s Holy Writ: Tea Party evangelists claim the Constitution as their sacred text. Why that’s wrong."

American Christianity has always struck me as such a fractious and divisive collection of people and beliefs. What do these people know about the spirit of unity that creates these United States?

If the Clinton democrat's Fleetwood Mac song was "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)," the Tea Party Republican/conservative's is "You Can Go Your Own Way." It's all about me, and what rights you're taking away from me, but without that pleasing libertarian ideal of keeping your laws off my body.

As valkyryn said:

"Tim Keller has created the largest theologically conservative church in the city by telling Manhattanites that sin is a serious issue, that they can't sleep with whomever they like, that homosexual conduct is impermissible, and that repentance and the blood of Jesus are the only solution to a life broken by sin."

This strikes me as eerily similar to the Comic Book Guy's speech about converting to Pon Farr in "They Saved Lisa's Brain." For some of you, this means a lot less sex. Because I'm not getting laid a lot, so to reduce my cognitive dissonance, having sex must be bad. You should be punished for having [more] sex [than me].

In other words, I'm all for laws that benefit me me me, and the hell with the rest of ya. Because I'm part of the white majority, I can live with this when broadly applied, because I have nothing to lose from, say, reversing affirmative action measures. Much like Protestantism, you get a million flavors of righteousness that happen to overlap due to an investment in the existing power structure.
posted by Eideteker at 10:50 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This strikes me as eerily similar to the Comic Book Guy's speech about converting to Pon Farr in "They Saved Lisa's Brain." For some of you, this means a lot less sex. Because I'm not getting laid a lot, so to reduce my cognitive dissonance, having sex must be bad.

The hell now? You've completely misread me. Keller's church is on the Upper East Side in New York City and primarily serves highly educated young professionals, a demographic not exactly known as a bastion of traditional sexual morality. My post was intended to highlight the contrast there, exactly the opposite of what you seem to be suggesting. He's telling the one demographic group the most likely to be completely opposed to his message exactly what they don't want to hear, and his ministry is wildly successful as a result.
posted by valkyryn at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2010


The hell now? You've completely misread me. Keller's church is on the Upper East Side in New York City and primarily serves highly educated young professionals, a demographic not exactly known as a bastion of traditional sexual morality.

Yes, it's all Yuppie orgies around here. That's why most of us save time by listing our kinks and fetishes on our LinkedIn profiles.

My post was intended to highlight the contrast there, exactly the opposite of what you seem to be suggesting. He's telling the one demographic group the most likely to be completely opposed to his message exactly what they don't want to hear, and his ministry is wildly successful as a result.

This city has a decent-sized population of folks in their 20's and 30's who come here from a wide range of regions, hoping to make it in the big city. One of my co-workers is a practicing Baptist, from a town in New Mexico that has a population of under 12,000 people. Another is an Episcopalean from a very small town in Nebraska. Yet another is a Roman Catholic from a small town in Florida.

Are you so sure you understand the nature of that demographic you're referring to? The one you say are " most likely to be completely opposed to his message," may be nothing of the sort.
posted by zarq at 11:18 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are you so sure you understand the nature of that demographic you're referring to?

I was one of that demographic for a while.
posted by valkyryn at 12:16 PM on October 18, 2010


Either way I still have no idea what Eideteker is on about or what it has to do with my comment.
posted by valkyryn at 12:17 PM on October 18, 2010


Rev. Tim Keller has created the largest theologically conservative church in the city by telling Manhattanites that sin is a serious issue, that they can't sleep with whomever they like, that homosexual conduct is impermissible, and that repentance and the blood of Jesus are the only solution to a life broken by sin.

I mean, this is like saying that Latin-Rite Catholic churches are seeing a huge resurgence or conservative Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Churches are seeing a lot of people drawn to them: what's happening is that there are pre-existing religious people, and those religious people are going to go to the places that serve their needs. NYC has a lot of people of all types. The theologically conservative are going to end up going somewhere, so it might as well be to the person who serves that market niche. It's not that there are more religious people. It's that the differences between the religious and the non-religious are becoming more stark-- so you have fewer nominal believers, as they leave the church altogether. The religious people are dissatisfied with the middle-of-the-roadism of their current churches, so they leave for someplace more appealing to them. And since New York City has 8 million people, even a very limited market niche is still going to be pretty large: at the end of the day, Keller's church and affiliated churches are likely rounding errors compared to the number of Catholics and Baptists in NYC.

I get that you're presbyterian, but there aren't that many Presbyterians in the USA, either: that sort of mainline protestantism has remained pretty static in favor of evangelicalism and pentecostalism, though they benefit from having a functional theological tradition, which means they have something to fall back on and seem to be doing better than, say, the Episcopalians and the Methodists.

Also: the upper east side? You're telling me that a straight-laced mainline protestant faith is picking up traction in a neighborhood of the city defined by WASPs who work at investment banks and white-shoe law firms? Color me shocked.
posted by deanc at 12:30 PM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


And of course, now I have egg on my face, because I read "Martin Luther King" as "Martin Luther."

In citing Boenhoeffer I'd already Godwinned the thread. Try to keep up!

one can and should fight for the downtrodden without imposing ones religion on others.

I don't think King and Day were in that business at all. Boenhoeffer, perhaps. Oscar Romero, probably. But I still think it's dangerous to shut out the religious from humanist movements just because they start talking about their faith. Even if it's in self-interest (or, really, "salvation interest") it can still be a net positive. There was some guy in what's now the West Bank that was saying that a couple millennia ago.
posted by dw at 12:38 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see little chance of religious liberals getting "shut out" in the near future.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:32 PM on October 18, 2010


In citing Boenhoeffer I'd already Godwinned the thread. Try to keep up!

Heh. Thanks for being a good sport about me making an ass of myself upthread. :)

But I still think it's dangerous to shut out the religious from humanist movements just because they start talking about their faith.

I'm not saying they should be shut out, per se. I'm saying that their good works should not come with strings attached. Voluntary efforts to improve the human condition should not be considered an opportunity for religious folks to proselytize, especially if they are doing so in an environment where there is a power imbalance. Similarly, dictating legislation for an entire group based solely on one subgroup's religious beliefs is wrong.

Even if it's in self-interest (or, really, "salvation interest") it can still be a net positive.

Clearly, it can also still be a net negative.

Personally, I get worried when people start talking about the importance of salvation, and use religious belief to claim the right to impose change on others. Terrible acts have been justified over the centuries by self-righteous folks who believed they knew what was best for their victims and had the force of religious authority behind them.

The Catholic Church and many Protestant sects still justify secular oppression and the denial of civil rights to gay men and women, based on the belief that they as Christians know better than everyone else what their deity wants for all of humanity. Some Christians are actively anti-intellectual and anti-science. They push damaging beliefs on gay men and women, saying that they can be "reeducated" from what science explains is a matter of biology and therefore not a psychological disorder. In this and other ways, some religious Christians promote strict adherence to myths over scientific rigor, and they want everyone to believe as they do, not just their own followers.
posted by zarq at 11:35 AM on October 19, 2010


Personally, I get worried when people start talking about the importance of salvation, and use religious belief to claim the right to impose change on others. Terrible acts have been justified over the centuries by self-righteous folks who believed they knew what was best for their victims and had the force of religious authority behind them.

I agree, but honestly, you can say that about any group that has power over another. Sometimes religion is a justification, sometimes it's a rationalization, and sometimes it's just along for the ride.

I look at your last paragraph and think of how many secular folk are homophobic, or racist, or sexist. And I think of how many Americans aren't good, progressive, selfless folk but shady, reactionary, and very selfish. Objectivism, keep in mind, wasn't created by a religious writer but an atheist with great disdain for organized religion (which makes the conservative Christian embrace of Rand all the more insane).

It's why the Good Samaritan parable transcends Christianity. Here's a man beaten and left for dead by the side of the road, and the two people most like him just walk right by, while the third guy, in every way not what the beaten man is, gets him to a doctor and pays all his expenses.

You can play it however you want. Two Jesus freaks, one atheist. Two atheists, one Jesus freak. Two Michigan fans, one Ohio State alum. Two Republicans, one Democrat. And so on, and so on, and so on. But the end is the same -- Jesus turns to the guy and says, "So who did the right thing?" and all the guy can do is spit out, in his best McCainian disdain, "that one."

There are a thousand reasons to hate organized religion, particularly conservative Christianity. But if one of them rescued you from a terrible situation, or stood up for you at a time where no one else would, would you dare refuse their actions just because they are a member of a homophobic religion?

The real problem with the Christian church the last 50 years isn't that they used politics to interfere with everyone else's lives. It's that they started to believe in the politics more than the religion, and the politics substituted for the religion, until their faith lay more with the Republican party than with their own Savior. And this generation that's following on is turning away from that, either by turning towards these new churches that are apolitical (or, really, less political than before), or they're walking away from the church out of disgust for the organization their parents and grandparents built.

So, I don't know. If someone tells you God told them to do XYZ I'd look askance at them. OTOH, if XYZ jibes with what you're trying to accomplish, do you reject them?
posted by dw at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh. Thanks for being a good sport about me making an ass of myself upthread. :)

I don't know if you're being honest or sarcastic, but seriously, I've done it so many times myself I've lost count. No worries.
posted by dw at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2010


Apparently Dawkins and Hitchens have created fewer atheists, at least among the young, than have Falwell and Robertson.
posted by kozad at 4:10 AM on October 18

Source?
posted by Decani at 11:54 AM on October 18


Lack of response noted; appropriate conclusion drawn.
posted by Decani at 1:21 PM on October 22, 2010


dw, apologies. Didn't realize you'd responded to me until Decani made a comment.

I was quite serious, and was not being sarcastic. Thank you.

Will respond to your other comment within the day.
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on October 22, 2010


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