Venue turned down an interracial wedding, citing “Christian belief.”
September 4, 2019 9:39 AM   Subscribe

The relationship between religious exemption laws and racial discrimination is not new. As the venue owners attempt to minimize the fallout and backlash to their business, the incident has also called new attention to a 2016 Mississippi law that protects “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” about same-sex marriages, premarital sex, and gender identity. The law does not allow a person to discriminate based on race or ethnicity. Federal law prohibits racial discrimination in public accommodations.
the Mississippi incident fits into a larger discussion about religious exemptions (also known as religious accommodations), which have recently been used to support those who argue that providing services to LGBTQ people or covering things like contraception for women violate the religious beliefs of business owners.

Critics of these sorts of accommodations argue that they are nothing but a shield for people who want to discriminate against others. To make that point further, civil rights advocates often argue that there is little distinguishing these sorts of accommodations from bans on interracial marriage and racial discrimination. Supporters of religious exemptions counter that there are clear civil rights laws that ban discrimination based on race, and that they would not break these laws.

But incidents like the one at the Mississippi venue suggest that there are people who aren’t aware of the distinction some groups have sought to construct.

In recent years, the discussion of race and religious accommodations has largely been hypothetical. But it doesn’t have to be; historically, similar religious accommodation arguments have been used to oppose integration and interracial marriage. The argument, according to proponents of these accommodations, was that protections based on race infringed on religious beliefs.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (54 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a hell of a thing, to me, that the lady crept back into the public eye long enough to say that she'd really sat down and read her Bible, talked with her pastor, prayed on it, and decided that interracial marriages weren't against Christian belief after all. This is probably self-serving, but I don't doubt it could happen in just this way. There are fundamentalists that do not have any damn idea what the Bible says, no more than medieval peasants did. Luther would weep.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2019 [37 favorites]


Even before recent upwellings of emboldened racism and new laws protecting the "religious freedom" of people to discriminate, it was notoriously hard to hold bigots accountable in these cases.

My brother and his wife had reserved a wedding venue, only to have their reservation cancelled when the owner found out that the wedding was to be a non-denomintional one between an agnostic man and a Jewish woman. "You can have the deposit back, though," he told my sister-in-law. "I know your kind love getting their money back."

The ACLU took the case right away and the ADF was standing by. But the venue owner arranged to sell the business and retire out of state, making the case an expensive and logistically complicated one. It died out and he got away with it.

And this was in suburban Chicago. Even when the case was cut and dried, even in a state that had laws specifically prohibiting this kind of discrimination, it was easy enough for a well-liked local business owner to wriggle away unscathed.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2019 [56 favorites]


American white supremacy has always, always, always cloaked itself in the vestments of Christianity, no matter how much it has to twist, ignore, and even make up the words of Christ to do so.
posted by Etrigan at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2019 [91 favorites]


American white supremacy has always, always, always cloaked itself in the vestments of Christianity,

Indeed, this claim of “Christian belief.” is nothing more than attempt to find a different way to excuse bigotry, racism, & hatred. They just rebranded their hate in a different way. It's offensive and yet not surprising.
posted by Fizz at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Came here to say just that, Etrigan
Christian Identity is just a new kid on the block of white Protestant supremacy—the earliest such group was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, which was founded as a Christian organization and still sees itself as defending true Christianity. Especially in the KKK's earliest days, Klansmen openly recruited in white churches, attracting members from all strata of society, including the clergy.
Slavery and Racism in the Bible ( Learn Religions.com) -- or more accurately, slavery and racism justified by the Bible.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


The most telling thing the woman said was her reference to the "Christian race."
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:11 AM on September 4, 2019 [68 favorites]


Also, this slip of the tongue says so much:
"We don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean, our Christian belief," a woman says.
[Emphasis mine]
posted by Fizz at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2019 [18 favorites]


For anyone has not seen it, Doug Muder's “Religious Freedom” means Christian Passive-Aggressive Domination is required reading on this general topic.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2019 [18 favorites]




What "fallout" and "backlash"? They know very well that if they get into any kind of serious trouble, they can hit the far right welfare circuit, do some fundraisers, and get together much more money than a backwoods event venue would ever have made them. It's a scam.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


Christ gave two commandments: Love thy God and Love thy Neighbor.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:39 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


i thought there was also something about ass coveting but i won't mind being wrong
posted by poffin boffin at 10:41 AM on September 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


Drink wine instead of water was the other one, IIRC.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


It's almost as if these "Christians" just project their own bigotries onto a book they claim is the most important but have never actually read.

This notion that God is against "race mixing" goes back a really long ways, and is no longer solely confined to fringe extremists like the Christian Identity movement; it's an idea that has reached memetic status in the broader fundamentalist movement. Entirely unsurprising this person had zero idea what's actually in the Bible; who needs to read the words of Christ themselves when all your racist pals can just paraphrase and interpret for you?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Slavery is right there in the Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. (King James Version).

Manservant and maidservants were not British-style butlers and maids.

It is interesting that in this list of possessions, wife is included. Also wife, slaves, ox, and a really nice ass get equal billing.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Wonder how long I'd go before I got shot if I were to discriminate against white people on account of it being my religious belief.
posted by aramaic at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2019 [28 favorites]


Makes me wonder what the world would be like if none of the offshoots of the Reformation had abandoned bishops so that all congregations would still require adult, er, episcopal supervision..
posted by ocschwar at 11:24 AM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Indeed, this claim of “Christian belief.” is nothing more than attempt to find a different way to excuse bigotry, racism, & hatred. They just rebranded their hate in a different way. It's offensive and yet not surprising.

They rebranded their hate as love. Which is, to me, extra revolting.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 11:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [17 favorites]


Wonder how long I'd go before I got shot if I were to discriminate against white people on account of it being my religious belief.

I was raised Quaker. Imagine how long I'd last refusing to serve someone in an open carry state.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 11:30 AM on September 4, 2019 [15 favorites]


wife, slaves, ox, and a really nice ass

...no one rides for free.
posted by The Tensor at 11:31 AM on September 4, 2019 [29 favorites]


Yeahhhh I'm pretty effing worried about the next time my wife has to go to the ER or fill her hormone prescription
posted by captain afab at 11:58 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]



And this was in suburban Chicago. Even when the case was cut and dried, even in a state that had laws specifically prohibiting this kind of discrimination, it was easy enough for a well-liked local business owner to wriggle away unscathed.


Name and shame.
posted by lalochezia at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


What I find most telling here is that her realization that mixed-race marriages were not in fact prohibited by the bible was the result of an entirely academic process. She read the bible, and discussed it with her husband, and was surprised to find that there was no such rule! So now, she sees the truth.

It's not because the practice is inherently vile, dehumanizing other people to the extent that you believe their love for each other is evil. It's not because you have finally realized that your defense of racial purity was misguided, destructive, and hateful. No, it's because you did some research and you can't seem to find a specific rule in a book, so now it's ok, oops.

But there is that line in Leviticus though, so the gay thing is still out.
posted by CaseyB at 12:26 PM on September 4, 2019 [19 favorites]


Christians* who try to twist archaic history in the Old Testament to justify either slavery or racism are simply choosing not to read the whole Bible.

In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26–28).

Non-Christians should take some smug satisfaction in the fact that the Christian's own Bible condemns this kind of behavior, and quite strongly:

If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors (James 2:9). “Partiality” translates from the word 'prosopolempsia,' meaning to show favoritism or prejudice, to treat one person as inherently better than another. Such prejudice is “sin.”

But even in the Old Testament, God said to his people: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

Assuming that isn't clear enough, you could quote Jesus: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Who also told us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, quoting Leviticus 19:18).

Peter, to the Gentiles who sought to hear the gospel: “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

The Bible is just outrightly clear on the issue of racism and Christians who pervert God's message around it, I firmly believe, will be held to a higher standard when they meet their maker. They should be warned.

Mandela believed that's still possible: No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.

*Disclaimer: I'm a Christian.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:31 PM on September 4, 2019 [39 favorites]


"We don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean, our Christian belief," a woman says.

It's been stated, but kinda can't be over-stated: when used to argue for policy, "Christian" is for all intents and purposes a euphemism for "straight and white (and preferably male)". Anyone arguing for religious accommodation for their "Christian beliefs" is 100% arguing for straight white male supremacy and is simply couching it in language that they think is unassailable (how can you question religious beliefs, after all?)

Fuck it. Question religious beliefs. I'll start giving a shit about Christian religious accommodations when the things they ask for stop being indiscernible from the demands of white supremacists.
posted by tocts at 12:31 PM on September 4, 2019 [17 favorites]


But there is that line in Leviticus though, so the gay thing is still out.

Leviticus is Old Testament, and I've always wondered if by accepting Jesus, you give up your right to cite OT...

After all, once you start worshiping the idol of Jesus, Crucified, and the polytheism of "Father, Son, Holy Spirit", you've pretty much given up on the 10 Commandments anyway.
posted by mikelieman at 12:33 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Leviticus may be Old Testament, but then you also got Paul's statements against homosexual sex in the Epistles, which were really more about bashing the Greeks and their whole pederasty thing, IIRC. Either way, Paul isn't citing a damn thing Jesus said.
posted by SansPoint at 12:37 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Name and shame.

Oh, we did. I'm leaving out the link with our family name for my privacy, not his. I'll MeMail the link if anybody wants, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:20 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


No, it's because you did some research and you can't seem to find a specific rule in a book, so now it's ok, oops.

And yet they looked at me as if I'm the crazy one when I suggested the clean-shaven man who showed up to the church potluck wearing glasses and a cotton-poly blend while carrying a plate of shrimp cocktail presented a great opportunity for a good old-fashioned stoning.

Sheesh. No sense of consistency.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 1:21 PM on September 4, 2019 [20 favorites]


There are fundamentalists that do not have any damn idea what the Bible says, no more than medieval peasants did.

This is not surprising at all. Vast swaths of Christians have never read the entire bible, if they have they haven't studied it and basically only know the high points that tend to get sermonized.

A close friend in college was born into a serious catholic family. Bible study several days a week growing up, when to a christian school, parents were married in high school and popped out his sister nine months to the day of their wedding. He wasn't catholic at all. But he knew the bible. It was hilarious to see him going toe to toe with some bigot trying to use the bible to justify their position. Any position really, he was of the opinion that the bible was such a mishmash that you could prove any point by it pro or con, ban practically any activity.

And like in los pantalones del muerte's example practically none of these people would like to enforce all the rules even for them selves. Mixed fabrics being the easiest to pick-out. Leviticus 3:17 prohibits the eating of animal fat and pork. So if you want to use it to prohibit an activity better cut out butter an pork products first. The guy I knew could just work down assorted "rules" the person was breaking or had broke in the last day and ask when they were going to stop this sinful behaviour.
posted by Mitheral at 1:35 PM on September 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


Sorry the pork ban is Leviticus 11:7-8
posted by Mitheral at 1:37 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


So what's the difference between a deity whose subjects are suborned to prejudice, bondage and murder just to avoid their own eternal torture and suffering and... a devil? Just curious. Asking for a fiend.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:40 PM on September 4, 2019 [15 favorites]


Having been mainlining Lucifer, Good Omens, Black Phillip, and other chaos beings, I think it's the capacity for empathy? And the ability to discern love from abuse?
posted by stet at 2:08 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


This was certainly not great, but let's note that the story ends with the very religious systems we're blaming (as did the owner at first) leading her to realize how wrong she was being:

it took a review of her Bible and a conversation with her pastor for the woman to realize that she was wrong.
posted by freebird at 2:20 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I would very much like to hear from her pastor on the details of that conversation.
posted by jquinby at 2:34 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


This was certainly not great, but let's note that the story ends with the very religious systems we're blaming (as did the owner at first) leading her to realize how wrong she was being

Did it? Or did it just lead her to conclude that there's nothing technically, legalistically wrong with it, but do absolute fuck all to induce her to examine the underlying racism? Because I think it's that.
posted by axiom at 2:34 PM on September 4, 2019 [19 favorites]


freebird: “This was certainly not great, but let's note that the story ends with the very religious systems we're blaming (as did the owner at first) leading her to realize how wrong she was being”

Oh, so she’s apologized and changed her mind about refusing to do gay weddings too? Or did she find enough Biblical evidence that she feels entitled to hold on to that piece of bigotry?
“First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race … because of our Christian race, I mean, our Christian belief,”
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:43 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I find it frustrating that the discussion about this topic devolves mostly into biblical discussions. To me (an atheist) the issue has far less to do with Christianity than the law. After all, racists have used all sorts of arguments to justify their beliefs including so-called scientific ones. What’s important here is that the state, and also the Supreme Court, have chosen to give bigotry the force of law.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:51 PM on September 4, 2019 [24 favorites]


Sorry the pork ban is Leviticus 11:7-8

I'd forgive you, but according to my pastor there's nothing in the Bible that says I should.
posted by The Tensor at 2:58 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


This notion that God is against "race mixing" goes back a really long ways, and is no longer solely confined to fringe extremists like the Christian Identity movement; it's an idea that has reached memetic status in the broader fundamentalist movement.

There is that bit in Ezra telling the Jewish men to put aside their gentile wives - but then again, there is the WHOLE BOOK OF RUTH celebrating interracial marriage and how awesome Ruth "the Moabitess" is and how she is the ancestor of the Best King Evar (TM).

Also, the more specific and well-researched New Testament citations above.

My SO has a formula: the more right-wing Christians rag on about something, the more likely it is to not be in the bible or to be a minor thing. Gays? Mentioned once in Leviticus (along with shrimp) and again in Paul - but never by Jesus, unlike divorce, which Jesus condemns again and again. Why aren't they fighting against divorce, condemning those who divorce? As for abortion, not only is it not forbidden by the bible, until the 1970s, evangelicals interpreted bits of Exodus to be explicit that fetuses were not the same as people (which is also the traditional Jewish interpretation).

Also, it's been a while since I read my gospel, but I'm pretty sure it was much heavier on "give money to the poor" than "markets should be free".

This isn't original, but I've long since come to the conclusion that right-wing Christians are really bad at being Christian - in contrast to the many progressive Christians I know who read their holy book and take it seriously, particularly the important bits like "what you did for the least
of these...".
posted by jb at 3:21 PM on September 4, 2019 [22 favorites]


Did it? Or did it just lead her to conclude that there's nothing technically, legalistically wrong with it, but do absolute fuck all to induce her to examine the underlying racism? Because I think it's that.

Exactly- for me, her now-deleted apology just sounds like she's apologizing for incorrectly claiming that the Bible forbids interracial marriage. Nowhere in her apology does she mention coming to the realization that it's not her place to prevent interracial couples from using the space to get married. Her apology seemed like it was more to the Christian community at large for misrepresenting the text of the Bible instead of an apology to LaKambria S. Welch for how she treated her in the video.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:26 PM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


It seems to me that the measure of a sincerely held religious conviction would be how well they uphold other precepts in their chosen text. do they eat shell fish, or pork? keep the sabbath, no I mean REALLY keep the sabbath, not do they go to church. there are many laws in the bible, if they' picking and choosing, they're wrong.
posted by evilDoug at 5:33 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


If we're going to exempt people from the law based on sincerely held religious belief, yes, it would make sense to evaluate the claim of sincerity based on the person's history of holding to those supposed beliefs.

However, I'd much rather not do any of that since it all makes me cringe.
posted by wierdo at 7:22 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


To me (an atheist) the issue has far less to do with Christianity than the law.

I'm also an atheist, and I'm always slightly annoyed that religious beliefs are privileged over non-religious ones. In the US at least, the ability to be true to one's religion is seen as something fundamental to human freedom. The ability to be true to one's other sincerely held beliefs, not quite so much.

So we make all sorts of allowances and exceptions for the religious - sometimes with good intentions and results, like accommodations for religious holidays, and sometimes with bad intentions and results, like ... basically every religious exemption pushed by the Republican party. Because it's religion. Religious beliefs deserve special consideration.

And like, I feel even in pretty secular spaces we buy into that. So when someone has bad religious beliefs, there's always a discussion about whether they're "correct" or not. It's not true Christianity; she hasn't read her own book; here are my quotations to prove her interpretation is wrong. And like, that's an important discussions for Christians to have with each other, but it's really beside the point for me. It wouldn't matter to me if Paul indisputably wrote "Jesus said no race mixing" in an epistle somewhere. The belief would still be hateful and not worth respect.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:19 PM on September 4, 2019 [23 favorites]


The Bible doesn’t do itself any favors, motivated reasoning or otherwise. If Christianity is anti-slavery then the Bible should just say No Slavery instead of pussyfooting around the word.
posted by um at 8:26 PM on September 4, 2019


jb: My SO has a formula: the more right-wing Christians rag on about something, the more likely it is to not be in the bible or to be a minor thing.
How characteristically "capital E" Evangelical beliefs about race and homosexuality have been and continue to be biblically justified are indeed strongly linked both to each other and other politically characteristic beliefs like the pro-life stance through a characteristic form of exegesis. Proof-texting and a particular form of bilbical innerency, as this excellent comment on /r/AskHistorians by sunagainstgold describes, are purpose built American tools for justifying chattel slavery in the face of texts that are clearly hostile to the practice that have been endlessly adapted to other fucked up ends:

"The Initial Stance
The thing is--there was no single "initial stance" on abortion among conservative Protestants. (There was no "initial stance" on a lot of issues. Daniel Williams, God's Own Party, is great on this matter.) In the middle of the 1970s--post Roe v. Wade--the Southern Baptist Convention was busy voting against resolutions condemning abortion. Meanwhile, influential individual Southern Baptist delegates were busy bringing those resolutions, and hardline fundamentalist churches were vehemently against it already.

Deep Background of the Change
First we're going to take the time machine back a little further, to the middle of the 19th century. What's the big American political issue then? Slavery, of course. The idea of "biblical inerrancy" rose to prominence in the 19th century to defend slavery. In theory, it means the Bible can't be wrong. In practice, it means proof-texting: if you can find it in the Bible, it's right. Abolitionists advocated a more holistic, "liberal" theology that looked for what they read as the meaning of scripture. Defenders of racist ownership of other people turned to proof-texting. Of course, the vast, vast majority of Christians interact with the Bible either indirectly, through the words of their pastors/priests, or directly under the influence of their pastors and priests. This was true in the 1800s; this was true in the 1970s. The Victorian/Progressive era around 1900 further demonstrated how successful religion could be at justifying and motivating political intervention. It also witnessed a key development for our purposes: widespread, mandatory public education. The Catholic Church fought for its right to have its religious schools count as alternatives.

Creating a Single Group Out of Many
Moving towards the middle of the 20th century: supporters/opponents of formal civil rights for African-Americans bore a strong resemblance to the line between abolitionists and defenders of enslavers. When the U.S. Supreme Court mandated school desegregation, there was a sudden flurry of new Protestant schools in the South--ones that, their operators argued, could continue to serve only white children. The policies were challenged in federal court in the early 1970s (Green v. Connally; Coit v. Green). The threat was not closure of the schools, you understand--it was their tax exemption. But conservative Christian leaders couldn't have that. And as we saw earlier, religion was recognized as a major tool in pushing and shaping political interaction. Southern evangelical leaders weren't going to defend segregation in order to defend their...not paying taxes. Instead, they defended "religious freedom." This is a feel-good (and look-good) cause--even though the real reason is racism. And so, conservative Christians followed them. The fight to maintain financial support for racist education policies, under the guise of religious rhetoric, coalesced and mobilized a unified, largely-southern, evangelical voting bloc. Additionally, per their type of Christianity, they were inclined towards proof-texting/biblical inerrancy beliefs, and practiced a form of Christianity where pastors were very, very influential over individual beliefs.

Abortion As Microcosm
The late 1960s and early 1970s attempted to introduced a large number of minor to radical changes to American society that we would call "progressive" today. Can you believe we nearly got federally-funded, universal child care for working mothers&fathers in the early 70s? Nixon vetoed. And of course, he was not nearly alone in wanting across-the-board retrenchment in social and economic policy despite a society that was changing. Conservative Christian leaders saw society doing what they thought was spiraling further and further out of traditional, God-centered, patriarchal control. They also knew they had a whole bloc of voters on follow-the-leader lockdown. As Jerry Falwell bragged in 1976:
We can offer [Gerald Ford] a special audience he can get no other place: 100,000 conservative, fundamental people in Lynchburg, Va., and another 15 million fundamental, conservative voters watching on national television.
They looked for an issue to mobilize that bloc around, with a goal of ensuring elected politicians with an overall politically-conservative agenda. Evangelical author Francis Schaeffer, Sr., had one in mind: abortion. Schaeffer's big emotional trigger-phrase was "secular humanism." The baseline of his view was that America was rejecting a God-centric view of the universe, in favor of one that emphasized natural forces and human agency. For him, abortion was a perfect storm of Bad Things. Medical technique represented modern science as a way for humans to circumvent God's ordained miracle of life. A woman's choice to abort a fetus prioritized women's control--a violation of patriarchy and, again, of God's ultimate authority. Abortion was a threat to the divinely-ordained order of things. National policy legalizing abortion was a threat to Christianity. Jerry Falwell in particular was a big fan of Schaeffer's ideas--including the central place of abortion in destabilizing God's world. He made it a big issue for his Moral Majority organization. Other evangelical leaders and conservative politicians also took up the idea of opposition to abortion as a way to staunch an overall tide of a de-Christianizing world. Phyllis Schlafly's (a Catholic!) infamous opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment actually ended up drawing evangelical women, who agreed with that view against women's equal rights, to the position against abortion that Schlafly promulgated.

Biblical Inerrancy, Meet Abortion
Christian opposition to abortion wasn't new to the late 1970s. Just focusing on 20th century, especially American, politics alone, the Catholic Church had upped the ante on its stance against abortion since Humanae vitae (1968). The hardline fundamental branch of Christianity, too, had long been staunchly opposed. Despite their own longstanding opposition to each other, these groups shared two features particularly important here: already-developed biblically-based arguments against abortion, and morality-centric anti-abortion rhetoric. Modern conservative Christianity operates on a "God said it / I believe it / that settles it" perspective with respect to the Bible. But of course, "what the Bible says" is a matter of interpretation. Evangelical Christianity, as mentioned earlier, uses proof-texting as its method of interpretation. If evangelical leaders started to promote an idea, evangelical pastors preached it. Evangelical Christians as a whole, clinging to the comfort of biblical inerrancy to guide them through daily struggles, looked to their pastors for instruction on what the "God said it" was. In fact, over the course of the 1960s and 70s, biblical inerrancy became more and more important to the theology of conservative Protestantism. Catholic, fundamentalist, and some other Protestant groups had already-standing citations to the Bible that they argued prohibited the right to choose. The proof-texting against abortion was, essentially, pre-packaged. Evangelical congregants took their cues from evangelical pastors, taking their cues from evangelical leaders and major organizations--including on the question of abortion rights. The second thing that carried over from earlier abortion opponents was the emotionality of moral-religious rhetoric. Texas-based Baptist pastor Robert Holbrook, for example, dropped "the killing of the unborn" already in 1973. (He, in fact, started bringing the anti-abortion resolutions to the Southern Baptist Convention). Ronald Reagan bridged into mainstream politics: "You cannot interrupt a pregnancy without taking a human life."

Who opposes the idea that innocent life must be protected? Evangelical theologians and leaders like Schaeffer positioned abortion as a crucial point of reference for the status of Christians' God-ordained war to stay in control of society. Falwell and Schlafly pushed its potential to overturn the proper, male-dominated hierarchy of the family that was important within conservative Christianity. Emotional rhetoric was effective at motivating evangelicals to be vocal, active, and financially-supportive in their opposition against abortion. And their adherence to the principle of biblical inerrancy, combined with their pastors' direction on what exactly the Bible said, legitimized their anti-choice beliefs.

~~

P.S. I've written about this earlier on AH and might have a few similar phrases; however, my earlier answer was written at the gym during the worst week of my life, so it is kind of a mess and just...yeah, no. Also, it starts in like 300 A.D. Have fun with that.

P.P.S. I've tried pretty hard to make the only "soapboxing"/politicized language here directed against slavery and segregation. So think on that a moment before you default-report."
posted by Blasdelb at 3:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [14 favorites]


Mandela believed that's still possible: No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.

So does O'Leary:
Racism isn't born, folks. It's taught. I have a 2 yr old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:34 AM on September 5, 2019


There is a whole commandment against using the Lord's name in vain. That is exactly what she did - lied about her faith to cover up her sin.
posted by soelo at 9:52 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


That was a pretty excellent summary, Blasdelb, speaking as someone who grew up in it. Props on the Schaeffer mention - so many people trying to analyze what happened to the Evangelical Church with regard to abortion fail to mention him, which is a bit like trying to discuss Western Philosophy without Descartes or Nazi Germany without Goebbels. The big name I think you’re missing in all this is James Dobson/Focus on the Family, who had a very central role in messaging and corralling Evangelicals into a unified bloc from the early 80s until 2010. Within the church, Schaeffer was considered more of a philosophical grandfather of modern Christianity - really intensive Bible study groups composed of the (largely male) “serious thinkers” in any congregation tend to read Schaeffer heavily. In terms of what you’re reading/listening to as a member of the church outside those groups, however, at least throughout the 80s to early 00s it was decent odds Focus on the Family or one of a handful of lesser imitators produced it.

While Biblical inerrancy/literalism was used for a lot of heavy lifting in all this, I want to caution that it’s not an original invention of Evangelicals - pretty much anybody attempting to influence people with any form of Christianity going back to the 5th century church was going to start quoting 2nd Timothy 3:16 or Revelation 22:18-19 at you. They’re too perfectly suited *not* to.

The ironic bit is that the only verse that can be legitimately interpreted as weighing in on abortion even slightly is Psalms 139:13, which is pretty explicit on the existence of fetal identity. Here’s the thing, though: within the beliefs of the church itself Psalms is just King David’s song lyrics. That’s literally it. This is openly acknowledged and discussed, yet for some reason (*cough*) it’s treated as a serious position worthy of defending with all the energy the religious right has poured into its anti-choice efforts.

Even worse - and this is directly addressing evilDoug above - it’s the Old Testament. Within the church the first 39 books in the Bible are referred to as such, and they don’t actually have decisive weight in terms of behavioral guidelines or assessing good vs evil. It’s basically considered God’s original contract with the Jews, which was then superseded by the New Testament beginning with Christ’s ministry, which is considered God’s current contract with everyone. It’s worth noting that the majority belief is that this old contract was never invalidated *for Jews*, they can still adhere to it if they want (it’s a back-breakingly long list of rules, as evilDoug noted), but given the extremely light behavioral requirements of the New Testament, relatively speaking...why would you do that (aside from caring about your culture, traditions, history, stuff like that...[/s])?

The Old Testament is still included for purposes of context and continuity, but within the church nobody believes that adherence to rabbinical law was ever an expectation for non-Jewish people, nor is it for any Jewish converts.

And apologies for going on about this but even still after 20 years of atheism it really irritates me when people try to call out Evangelicals for not adhering to any of the insanely convoluted rules in Leviticus - it’s like, you’re attempting to “gotcha” people within their belief structure without understanding the most absolute basic facts about those beliefs, chief of which is that only the last 27 books of the Bible actually dictate terms for any form of Protestant anything, and those terms are extremely relaxed compared to virtually everything else in the major Abrahamic faiths. The fact that people outside the church consistently get this wrong helps feed the prevailing in-group myth of intellectual superiority within the Evangelical Church, and ultimately serves to further perpetuate their bullshit. It’s a deeply toxic belief system and the less we give them fuel the sooner it will die out (which, eventually, it will).

As to the original post: one of the very few good things I will say about Evangelical Christianity (at least as it is practiced in upstate New York farm country), is that racial prejudice of that kind was explicitly called out as a direct violation of “love thy neighbor as thyself” and considered a major sin. ...In less formal settings somebody usually would add something deeply classist about that being the kind of thing only those backwards trailer trash savages in the South would ever do.

In conclusion: Evangelical Fundamentalism is a land of contrasts.
posted by Ryvar at 10:23 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Thank God in heaven my 2yo doesn't hate naps. Only thing mine hates is when you try to help him not fall off his balance bike.

Speaking frankly, though, I come from an ultra-right-wing conservative upbringing that was racist, homophobic, and a whole lot of other hateful, twisted shit. I know, because I'm an imperfect person (unlike my holy parents), that I'll screw my kid up in plenty of ways. But at least my kid will never learn to be a racist asshole. So he's got that going for him.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:24 AM on September 5, 2019


> I would very much like to hear from her pastor on the details of that conversation

"I'm so sorry I forgot to ever mention the whole ''love everybody' thing, I'll be sure to work it into the sermon next week."
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:24 AM on September 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


And apologies for going on about this but even still after 20 years of atheism it really irritates me when people try to call out Evangelicals for not adhering to any of the insanely convoluted rules in Leviticus - it’s like, you’re attempting to “gotcha” people within their belief structure without understanding the most absolute basic facts about those beliefs, chief of which is that only the last 27 books of the Bible actually dictate terms for any form of Protestant anything

I'd think you had a great point here if it weren't for the evangelicals themselves digging through the old testament to justify homophobia, to pick one obvious example.
posted by wierdo at 4:22 PM on September 6, 2019 [10 favorites]


only the last 27 books of the Bible actually dictate terms for any form of Protestant anything

I'd think you had a great point here if it weren't for the evangelicals themselves digging through the old testament to justify homophobia, to pick one obvious example.


And I don't think it's the Jews who are clamoring to post the Ten Commandments in public places.
posted by Etrigan at 8:33 PM on September 6, 2019 [6 favorites]


I don't know which is more amusing: that there are people clamoring for minimum standards of bronze age behavior to be publicly posted, or that these same people can barely name five of them.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:07 AM on September 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


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