The post-Christian culture wars
November 26, 2019 1:15 PM   Subscribe

The Trump administration’s two most revealing speeches weren’t given by Trump. Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. They have 27 governorships and governing trifectas in 21 states. But many conservatives — particularly Christian conservatives — believe they’re being routed in the war that matters most: the post-Christian culture war. They see a diverse, secular left winning the future and preparing to eviscerate both Christian practice and traditional mores. And they see themselves as woefully unprepared to respond with the ruthlessness that the moment requires.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (82 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
Almost 70 percent of American seniors are white Christians, compared to only 29 percent of young adults.

That is a truly astonishing sentence.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:27 PM on November 26, 2019 [72 favorites]


Cry me a river. I was absorbing these exact same tropes (often with the same phrasing and fear-mongering) from World News Groups kid-friendly magazine since I was a god-fearing 7 year old in 1989.
posted by curoi at 1:28 PM on November 26, 2019 [21 favorites]


I remember seeing that kind of rhetoric when I went to a Christian private high school. Fortunately kids these days aren't buying it, they're able to see what a bunch of old white folk calling themselves Christians yet would vote in Donald Trump as what they really are.
posted by JHarris at 1:30 PM on November 26, 2019 [32 favorites]


Do you know what drives people away from Christianity? The hypocritical flag-waving jingoism and enactment of laws that discriminate against people. So the more you dig in and fight...the more you push away moderates.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:34 PM on November 26, 2019 [46 favorites]


It's interesting how eager American Christians have been to discard their morality in order to fight perceived moral relativism. It's up there with the possibly mythical We had to destroy the village to save it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:35 PM on November 26, 2019 [60 favorites]


It's up there with the possibly mythical We had to destroy the village to save it.

This is addressed directly in the Vox article. The right-wing term for it is Flight 93ism.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2019 [11 favorites]


BrotherCaine: I’d argue that eagerness is embedded in the fabric of the Christian myth. cref. much of the Old Testament, Gospel of John, Acts of the Apostles, the Crusades, papacy, etc.
posted by curoi at 1:42 PM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Cry me a cup of 10% ABV blood, and we can all stick our tongues in it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:44 PM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


"Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism...but it began with a recognition that the condition of conservative Christianity was too desperate to countenance the niceties of liberal democracy."

It's called money. Why have one set of morals when you can have two for twice the price.

"...But many Christian conservatives have come up with an answer both coarser and clearer than Ahmari’s musings: Donald Trump. "


In the trade, we call this Cirque théocratique.
posted by clavdivs at 1:49 PM on November 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out online?
posted by mecran01 at 2:03 PM on November 26, 2019 [15 favorites]


Funny that they need to blame an outside enemy to explain away the natural decay of social relevance in a mythology that is being shed like an old dead skin that people are slowly outgrowing
posted by Redhush at 2:06 PM on November 26, 2019 [15 favorites]


One thing that I've been thinking recently is that it's standard practice for Christianity to expand by converting the rulers. The reason is as go the rulers, so goes the populace.

But with modern democracy, that just doesn't work any more. The ability to coerce people into church is limited both legally and by the attrition of the populace.

The American obsession with freedom in effect is denying a Christian monostate. So is it any wonder that Christians are now down on democracy and civil rights?

But really this article echoes what I've been saying when people ask why Republicans support Trump: he's giving them what they want, and not just legislatively. He's fighting for Christian hegemony, and if the death of democracy is the cost, so be it.

The thing is, I think he's not the last. The next Republican leader will be more extreme. And as the Christians lose more, they will turn to mass violence.
posted by happyroach at 2:11 PM on November 26, 2019 [56 favorites]


This is not the lake of fire I was imagining.
posted by lextex at 2:14 PM on November 26, 2019 [11 favorites]




They see a diverse, secular left winning the future

God willing.
posted by Splunge at 2:20 PM on November 26, 2019 [80 favorites]


The irony of all this is that Christian conservatives are likely hastening the future they most fear.

No kidding. I now understand the Christianist ideology to be the most pressing threat I face, and I basically don't see a solution besides some version of laicite.

Rod Dreher is in fact why I understand it to be necessary to bounce the rubble. He demonstrates that these people understand me as a threat to them by the mere fact of my existing unashamedly in the public square as a gay man. I don't know how I'm supposed to respond to that other than in kind.
posted by PMdixon at 2:40 PM on November 26, 2019 [66 favorites]


Ezra Klein has really been hitting it out of the park recently.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 3:34 PM on November 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war

Another way of expressing Barr's thesis would be "Progressives are fighting for their lives while Conservatives are merely fighting for the opportunity to harm those lives and grab a few extra marginal dollars that they don't actually need."
posted by straight at 3:47 PM on November 26, 2019 [55 favorites]


My pitch to evangelicals next year is gonna be that Evangelical Christianity can survive an Elizabeth Warren presidency but four more years of Donald Trump will destroy it, if it's not already too late.
posted by straight at 4:00 PM on November 26, 2019 [31 favorites]


it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.

Plz to ignore the several Trump officials now spending time in prison.

conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

“If you look at seniors, only about one in 10 seniors today claim no religious affiliation,” Jones told me. “But if you look at Americans under the age of 30, it’s 40 percent.”

Aaaand they think they can change that by spewing hatred and oppression?

It really is fascinating how they not only fail to realize how many of the "problems" they describe fit their own outlook and tactics, but also how they have absolutely no plan beyond "destroy the opposition." Do they plan on murdering 30% of people under 30? Force-converting them? Do they think that, if they turn women into chattel property and have a constitutional amendment declaring the bible is high law, that'll convince those damn snake people millennials to start buying houses and napkins at the rate they sold in the 80s?

I can see what they're upset about, but I cannot wade through the hate and paranoia to see what their idea of a perfect endgame is.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:02 PM on November 26, 2019 [26 favorites]


And they see themselves as woefully unprepared to respond with the ruthlessness that the moment requires.

Among other things, this is why fatwa envy is such a thing with a lot of these people.
posted by non canadian guy at 4:03 PM on November 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


I'd like to think what drives young people away from Christianity is the institutionalized child raping. The Catholic Church most famously, but now the Southern Baptists are having their moment. These organizations have no right to claim any sort of moral authority and should not for the next 100 years, until all the rot is dead and they've spent a century atoning.

But then I'm just some homosexual liberal Californian, I'm one of the enemies of William Barr's theocratic state. This article is very useful in framing this particular axis of power and the devil's bargain they're willing to make with Trump to keep in power.
posted by Nelson at 4:04 PM on November 26, 2019 [26 favorites]


Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursuing a deific end.

Project much?
posted by Monochrome at 4:10 PM on November 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


There's a strain of modern conservative Christianity that has "we are victims!" as a core identity.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:11 PM on November 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


I'd like to think what drives young people away from Christianity is the institutionalized child raping.

Unfortunately, no. That keeps them from returning, but unless they're personally connected to a case, it's kept very abstract and distant. However, "the church tells me [my best friend at school/the celebrity who inspires me/my cousin who brings me cool t-shirts] is damned and going to Hell" pushes young teens into a choice... and the church rarely wins that one.

Then when they're in their late 20s and missing a sense of community, they watch a few Hallmark specials and think, hey, maybe I could go to church... and then they discover the decades of scandal and coverup of abuse, and decide "eh, maybe not this year."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:11 PM on November 26, 2019 [24 favorites]


Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out online?

I quite enjoy the Episcopal/Anglican twitter-verse.
posted by Biblio at 4:25 PM on November 26, 2019 [20 favorites]


I posted this previously (last year) but it seems apropos here, too:

"Why are conservatives so bad at literally everything resembling human culture?"

"Millions of words have been written about the conservative persecution complex, and how despite holding power and wielding it brutally for centuries, conservatives—and white Christian men in particular—have a constant sense of grievance that the world is treating them, per their leader’s favorite term of art, “unfairly.” Part of this is the result of con artistry by a never-ending series of manipulative hucksters scamming them to get votes for policies that benefit the wealthy. Part of it is bigoted anger that the world is not centering Christian white men quite as much as it always did.

But at a certain level, this tired conservative whine is correct: the people who lead and create culture don’t respect them. Artists, actors, inventors, comedians, entrepreneurs, academics, musicians, journalists and professionals across almost all creative industries have no patience for what passes for modern conservatism. And why should they?"

...

"Culture is created mostly in urban environments, where traditions and ethnicities and influences mix and merge, often in conflict and often in cooperation, creating new understandings and new experiences. Goods and ideas are traded. People are more free to express their identity than elsewhere. Cities are also economic powerhouses. Large companies are centered there, picking the best possible talent. Artists congregate for inspiration. Universities absorb and interpret these influences free of old doctrines."

— David Atkins, The Washington Monthly, Conservatives Will Never Get the Respect They Crave. They Don’t Deserve It.

Linked to within the above article is this NPR piece: Despite So Much Winning, The Right Feels Like It's Losing

"President-elect Donald Trump proclaimed on election night 2016: "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."

With his victory, Republicans held more power than they have had in nearly a century. Conservatives had control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House, and held a majority of the country's governorships. Conservatives also now have a majority on the Supreme Court, in no small part because of Trump's election.

But beyond politics, Hawkins said, the average American conservative feels bombarded daily with disrespect.

"He turns on a TV show where he's insulted, and then he's like, 'well, maybe I'll just unwind and watch an awards show' — the Oscars or something — where he gets trashed all day long," Hawkins said. "He goes to Twitter and he's got some you know guy calling him in a-hole ... this is sort of like a pervasive all-out attack if you're a conservative. And it's all the time sort of thing."

At the core of the problem for many American conservatives is a feeling that the culture war has been irrevocably lost to their ideological opponents."
posted by bz at 5:06 PM on November 26, 2019 [35 favorites]


happyroach: "But with modern democracy, that just doesn't work any more. The ability to coerce people into church is limited both legally and by the attrition of the populace. "

For now.
posted by adamrice at 5:19 PM on November 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


They see a diverse, secular left winning the future and preparing to eviscerate both Christian practice and traditional mores.

i mean i hope so bc otherwise what am i going to do with all these half price lions and this ramshackle colosseum
posted by poffin boffin at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2019 [43 favorites]


"He turns on a TV show where he's insulted..."
The average American conservative certainly has their choice of procedural detective shows, which are pretty darn conservative in their leanings, especially in terms of being pro-gun and pro-cop. There's about a million Law and Order and NCIS episodes airing at any given time catering to exactly those people. If they want to get bent out of shape over Murphy Brown again, it's because they like feeling persecuted.
posted by tautological at 5:53 PM on November 26, 2019 [43 favorites]


normal human beings suffering persecution: state sponsored acts of violence and war crimes are being committed against people of my race, religion, or ethnic group and i'd like that to stop, please

american conservative christians suffering persecution: those two people whose genders confuse me are holding hands and i want them killed
posted by poffin boffin at 6:01 PM on November 26, 2019 [76 favorites]


Do they plan on murdering 30% of people under 30?

Ah, correction, it'd be 70% of people under 30. Only 29% of people under 30 are white Christians.

The irony of all this is that Christian conservatives are likely hastening the future they most fear. In our conversation, Jones told me about a 2006 survey of 16- to 29-year-olds by the Barna Group, an evangelical polling firm, that asked 16- to 29-year-olds for their top three associations with present-day Christianity. Being “antigay” was first, with 91 percent, followed by “judgmental,” with 87 percent, and “hypocritical,” with 85 percent. Christianity, the Barna Group concluded, has “a branding problem.”

Yeah, it's the branding that's the problem. Just whip out a Buddy Christ and the whole issue should be fixed, right? Don't gotta change anything you're doing to be perceived as judgmental, just slap a new brand over the old one to appeal to those hip young teens!

Right?
posted by sciatrix at 6:16 PM on November 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out

Some of them have been taking turns holding a non-stop worship service for three months to prevent the Dutch police from arresting and deporting an Arminian family seeking asylum.

Others have been debating on Twitter whether Baby Yoda ought to be baptized.
posted by straight at 6:25 PM on November 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


I can see what they're upset about, but I cannot wade through the hate and paranoia to see what their idea of a perfect endgame is.

Look to Christian Schools as an example of the endgame. If you want to know what their perfect society and government would be, just look at the spaces where they have complete control. Their little pocket sized dystopias. Bob Jones University, for example, gives you an idea of day-to-day life in a fundamentalist theocracy.

And in some respects, they don't care if you believe as long as you obey. I went to an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist school as a kid. Something that forever ruined Christianity for me. It was all about control. Their God was insanely superficial. He only cared about hair length on men or skirt length on girls. He didn't want you to dance or fuck or watch movies or listen to anything with a beat. He wanted you to mindlessly parrot Bible verses (KJV only, of course). He didn't care if you understood the verses. He wanted the boys to pray loudly. He wanted the girls to be quiet. But did he give a fuck if you actually believed? They said he did, but it was clear as long as you obeyed and made shallow pronouncements of faith, they weren't going to worry much about your actual internal state.

That's the endgame. A place where the boot smashes your face forever, and the owner of the boot keeps yelling: "I'm doing this because I love you!"
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:34 PM on November 26, 2019 [80 favorites]


Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out

If you're willing to go on Facebook, there's some interesting and well-populated pages & groups. Here's a few I'm associated with. Some are good for discussion. Others are better for shitposting. But it's all kinda thereputic.

The Christian Left
The Naked Jesus
The Unitarian Universalist Hysterical Society Coffee Hour
Exvangelical
Progressive Christian Memes

posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:45 PM on November 26, 2019 [22 favorites]


Aaaand they think they can change that by spewing hatred and oppression?

Well, no, they think they can change it by force, if no other way. A theocratic state can effect such a change, and more than a few of these people would be happy to make that the American reality.

Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out?

Look over on the Progressive Christian blogs at Patheos. My personal favorite is Fred Clarke's Slacktivist, and I know he's not the only one there.

I still consider myself a Christian, though I've moved a long, long way from my evangelical roots and I no longer participate in any organized (or disorganized) way. The church in America is no longer Christian in any sense I recognize, and they frighten me deeply.
posted by lhauser at 6:53 PM on November 26, 2019 [19 favorites]


One thing I'm always interested in with these sorts of analyses is how people come to situate themselves within a political space and how they justify their beliefs and actions with respect to other political actors.

Klein is describing the conservative feeling of defensiveness, their perception that everything they think is important is under attack. They see "conservative values" as the cause of everything good and successful, so "liberal values" are inherently destructive to ...everything. Conservatives have identified a vast and powerful and debased and, I think most importantly, deliberate enemy out of the vaguely constituted social and demographic trends of the past 50 years. A deliberate enemy is one that cannot be reasoned with because it is fully aware of the situation and has already made its choice (apparently: smartphones and drugs and sex and baby killing and anchor babies--and fascism so that they can mooch off of the few remaining conservatives with a work ethic).

A deliberate enemy is one that you only come to the bargaining table with in bad faith--because you know they are already coming in bad faith. A deliberate enemy is one that you must throw the book at, twisting norms and laws until they break, because they were already broken, because your enemy would have broken them in the exact same way if they'd had the chance.

On the one hand, maybe conservatives are going to all die out. On the other hand, maybe stopping this escalation is a key challenge for our current democracy.

I am also fascinated by the way that the left does the same thing. Klein's whole piece and all of the paragraphs I just wrote about conservatives describe an enemy much like they see in us: deliberate and debased (Barr and various conservatives have abandoned democracy and morality more broadly in order to save conservatism) and all powerful (conservatives have most of the branches of government) and yet lacking in political legitimacy (Trump lost the popular vote, conservative policies are unpopular, etc.).

I definitely think liberals are correct and conservatives are wrong, like, in general. But I also think a democracy needs to agree on certain things in order to exist and I'm frightened that there is less and less we agree on. Or that we're trying to agree on. One can argue that it's only the conservatives who have abandoned any search for common ground and that there has been endless handwringing over Trump voters and "the white working class" etc. etc. But the left has won a lot of cultural battles and people who were encouraged to make the losing side of those battles their whole identity... well, I personally don't think it's a legitimate political grievance, but people get riled up over all kinds of things and the perception that, say, God's Word is being shat upon by a growing majority of heathen sinners is at least understandably motivating.

I guess if I have a point it's that righteous defeat of the enemy is oh so appealing. Maybe it's a little too appealing, even when the enemy is wrong. We need to be really conscious about how we think about 'others', and be articulate and fair about why and how they err. (To be clear, I think all of you are good at doing that.) The power of compassion is easy to forget, though.
posted by ropeladder at 6:55 PM on November 26, 2019 [28 favorites]


The graph cited in the article showing changes in religious identification over time since the 1970s is kind of remarkable, and shows an aspect of the story that I'm surprised they didn't discuss. The short takeaway is that religious non-affiliation is on the rise at the expense of Christian identification, which is true, but only about Mainline Protestantism. Aside from some random fluctuations, Evangelicals, Catholics, and Black Protestants have maintained a roughly stable share of religious identification since 1970. (This isn't exactly true for Evangelicals, who underwent rapid growth from 1970 up until the early '90s, followed by a bit of a corrective return until 2000, since when they've held stable but still well above 1970 levels. But the point is their numbers don't seem to be declining right now in any dramatic way.)

Now, my impression is that the Christians who are most concerned about the "secularization" of America are the Evangelicals, and to a lesser extent conservative Catholics, not the Mainline Protestants. Perhaps that impression isn't correct, but if it is, it's an interesting aspect of this whole phenomenon. It's not so much that conservative Christians are in actual decline as it is that Mainline churches, which tend to be more moderate or liberal, are. Of course, in decades past the conservative, Evangelical Christians railed against the Mainline Protestants for being insufficiently godly. So perhaps not much is really changing there, only the identification of the people being attacked.
posted by biogeo at 7:00 PM on November 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


Ropeladder, I share with you a concern that America has less of the common ground and discussion that's necessary for a democracy of diverse opinions to survive.

OTOH, let's examine one of those recent "cultural battles" that have the Christian supremacists all riled up. Gay marriage. It took a long time and it happened very slowly and then all at once. And now hey! I have an equal right to marry my partner every else has. What a wonderful civil right, in retrospect it seems pretty simple.

Except for the hateful Christians. In which case somehow I've taken something away from them, that they have been victimized, that they now suffer because we finally won a struggle for a very simple civil right. When pressed the only real argument they have against gay marriage is "our cultural tradition says it's wrong". (Even the appeal to the Bible doesn't really work for this one). Well, I'm sorry, but your Christian cultural tradition is wrong and oppressive. There's no common ground or compromise possible on something like this.

We went through this exact same set of dramas 50, 70 years ago with the Civil Rights movement for African Americans. The stance of Christian churches in that one is much more complicated and there are plenty examples of noble and heroic Christian action. But there's still this whole group of conservatives who felt they lost a battle with Civil Rights, that they and their fellow white people have suffered oppression because Black folks suddenly had something closer to equal rights.

Decent people have zero patience for the racist arguments about Black civil rights any more. Why do we still entertain some idea that Christians have a right to prevent LGBT people from having their civil rights?

I get it's painful for Christian white people to see their power eroding. It's too fucking bad, it is the only correct and moral way for our nation to go forward. The question now is whether it leads to a civil war or not.
posted by Nelson at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2019 [51 favorites]


so, uh, I know there are "cool, progressive intellectual christians" here on metafilter, but I do not think this thread is going to result in more of them outing themselves
posted by golwengaud at 7:03 PM on November 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


I can't really get het up about some people feeling vaguely ashamed of being Christian, given what the other Christians are doing to the rest of us. It's like being the niece of a serial killer; you keep it on the down-low and treat it dismissively, because the other option is pretty unsavory.
posted by Scattercat at 7:10 PM on November 26, 2019 [17 favorites]


"But there's still this whole group of conservatives who felt they lost a battle with Civil Rights, that they and their fellow white people have suffered oppression because Black folks suddenly had something closer to equal rights."

When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
posted by bz at 7:31 PM on November 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


[Dreher] doesn’t simply see a society that has become secular and sexualized, but a progressive regime that insists Christians accept and even participate in the degeneracy or fall afoul of nondiscrimination laws and anti-bigotry norms.

And that is the problem in a nutshell.

As a citizen of the US, I have two frameworks that guide me through my actions every day. One is my own sense of personal morality, whatever set of beliefs and philosophies help me decide what is the right thing to do in any given situation. The other is the law; something that binds all citizens equally (at least on paper), granting privileges and rights and weighing responsibilities and penalties based on common standards of conduct.

Both of these are important. There are those who believe that the former (a religious belief system) is more important than the law, and that when the two clash, they are honor-bound to favor the former over the latter. But that does not (or at least should not) relieve them of the consequences for acting in a way that violates the second standard, if they choose to remain citizens in good standing. Civil disobedience involves accepting civil punishments when necessary.

And that is what Christian conservatives want; a society in which their beliefs are privileged, when they can act upon them in ways that infringe on others' beliefs (or lack of beliefs) and have their faith protect them from consequences, but in which others' differing beliefs do not share a similar protection.

"An in-group protected by the law but not bound by it, and an out-group bound by the law but not protected." Sounds familiar, for some reason...
posted by delfin at 7:59 PM on November 26, 2019 [50 favorites]


Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

So this tells us what anti-conservatism must be:

The proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.

— Frank Wilhoit
posted by bz at 8:05 PM on November 26, 2019 [47 favorites]


Fundamentalist Christians worship power. White supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, cissexism, all such structures are holy to them because the thing they like about God is that he's The Almighty. Brutally forcing everybody else to submit is an act of faith for them, and we would do well to regard them as being as dangerous as any cult or terror organization that controlled the wealthiest and most powerful government in the world.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:08 PM on November 26, 2019 [24 favorites]


So, is Trump a diety that Christians can prove does exist?
posted by bz at 8:09 PM on November 26, 2019


But beyond politics, Hawkins said, the average American conservative feels bombarded daily with disrespect.

"He turns on a TV show where he's insulted, and then he's like, 'well, maybe I'll just unwind and watch an awards show' — the Oscars or something — where he gets trashed all day long," Hawkins said. "He goes to Twitter and he's got some you know guy calling him in a-hole ... this is sort of like a pervasive all-out attack if you're a conservative. And it's all the time sort of thing."


Wow, this is literally what growing up gay in the 70s and 80s and into the 90s was like. F-word jokes and limp wristed nancy walking in sitcoms and movies and it's all a joke, it's the humor. And that's before one even comes out, that just the entire culture, nearly all the time. After you come out, the masses literally attack you physically, or throw you out of restaurants and bars because you somehow indicated that you're "like that". And that's just the larger culture, that doesn't even involve what family situations were like coming out during that time for many many many people.

Poor guy feels insulted on the Oscars or abused on twitter. I really don't have much sympathy considering the way they've made the world for me my entire life.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 PM on November 26, 2019 [64 favorites]


The Trump Prophecy slwikipedia
posted by otherchaz at 8:51 PM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


One thing that's always interested me is how easily divorce has become acceptable. Now Jesus didn't say a word about gays or abortion, but he did say (we'll assume) "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." And yet you never see evangelicals coming down on divorced people. If I were a sociologist, it would be a interesting research topic.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:19 PM on November 26, 2019 [19 favorites]


Serious question: has there ever been a book or article where conservatives try to understand and appreciate liberal fears and concerns and how to ameliorate/compromise with them? I've never seen such a thing, but I don't read conservative media on a consistent basis and maybe I just missed it.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:14 PM on November 26, 2019 [26 favorites]


The cult wears Christian clothing, what with certain of the televangelists being first to join up, but it is just that, clothing. Still, it's good to see the problem openly identified, even if the roots aren't precisely located. If people come to grasp the full implications, there will be enough splash damage that it won't matter, next door is close enough.

We are, after all, talking about some of the last of the willfully adherent.
posted by wierdo at 12:42 AM on November 27, 2019


it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.

Bizarre. What I am seeing now is American liberals / leftists who have previously been committed to working within the norms of the system accepting that the right wing doesn't play by those rules and therefore they have no choice but to do likewise. If the next time the Democrats control the Senate and White House they decide to pack the Supreme Court, it will be because of what the Republicans did to the Garland nomination. But that "giving up on" treasured centrist norms is a reluctant reaction to Republican behaviour.
posted by atrazine at 1:42 AM on November 27, 2019 [15 favorites]


Now Jesus didn't say a word about gays or abortion, but he did say (we'll assume) "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." And yet you never see evangelicals coming down on divorced people. If I were a sociologist, it would be a interesting research topic.

It's not very deep, really. Most of them don't want to have gay sex or "kill babies," and any evidence to the contrary can be redefined out of existence, but it's hard to redefine "I'm not married to or having sex with this person any longer."
posted by Scattercat at 2:31 AM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


The next time someone says Christians are as persecuted as LGBTQ+ people, ask them when was the last time a parent murdered their child for coming out as Christian.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:11 AM on November 27, 2019 [13 favorites]


The right-wing term for it is Flight 93ism.

That is sick. I mean, I knew that the right-wing basically militarized Sept 11 for their own agenda, but that term just takes it to a new level. These people need to be assessed as sociopaths.

how easily divorce has become acceptable

I mean, it only took 500 years and a Church schism, but sure, super easy!
posted by basalganglia at 4:13 AM on November 27, 2019 [17 favorites]


May God – in whatever form we freely choose – save us from all religious zealots in politics, and from all political zealots in religion.
posted by cenoxo at 4:32 AM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.

The rule of law is what got Jesus crucified.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:50 AM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


"The rule of law is what got Jesus crucified."

And colonialism.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:49 AM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Divorce is still stigmatized by some. Both of my parents are divorced and remarried and one pair were basically blocked from leadership roles in their old, liberal-side-of-moderate church by a group who felt that having divorced and remarried people organizing events and trips would be unseemly. One of the effects of a culture where the jerks declare themselves to be the true version of the thing they are and everybody else is trying to get along is that the jerks aquire incredible power over everybody else.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:57 AM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


They see a diverse, secular left winning the future...

When old white conservative people talk about global warming, they readily enough retreat into the (incredibly shitty) "What do I care, I'll be dead by then" posture.

Why don't more of them have the same attitude about the looming diverse secular left-leaning universal healthcare gay marriage hellscape?
posted by Western Infidels at 7:23 AM on November 27, 2019 [14 favorites]


Wow - this whole thread and no one yet mentioned this gem: Florida Pastor Rick Wiles rages against a "Jew Coup"
posted by Mchelly at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2019


God willing.

Inshallah.
posted by erattacorrige at 8:23 AM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Serious question: has there ever been a book or article where conservatives try to understand and appreciate liberal fears and concerns and how to ameliorate/compromise with them?

One of the core tenets of conservatism is a belief in the virtuousness of dominance. Compromise (and, to some degree, even empathetic understanding) is fundamentally opposed to their worldview.
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:22 AM on November 27, 2019 [7 favorites]


I've stopped calling myself a democratic Christian socialist, and instead now go by Judeo-Marxist globalist. Has a more catchy ring.
posted by No Robots at 11:14 AM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Serious question: has there ever been a book or article where conservatives try to understand and appreciate liberal fears and concerns and how to ameliorate/compromise with them?

This question runs into the no-true-scottsman problem. Some would say that--by definition--a conservative is someone who doesn't try to understand and compromise with the secular culture.

The use of the term "Evangelical" after WWII was in contrast to Fundamentalists, the Evangelicals were the ones who thought conservative Christians should engage with secular culture rather than trying to keep themselves separate and pure. Fundamentalists would refuse to talk to and worship with Liberal Mainline Christians but Evangelicals would pray with and debate them and generally draw larger circles of who was "really" a Christian.

Today you have people like John Fea, a historian who considers himself an Evangelical and teaches at an Evangelical college - so writing for and teaching Evangelicals - criticizing Evangelicals who support Trump.

In general, you would find a lot of faculty at Evangelical colleges who spend much of their time trying to get Evangelical college students to understand and sympathize with liberal and secular perspectives and to revise some of their beliefs in response to those perspectives.
posted by straight at 11:33 AM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


But a lot of that is "Hey, we have to accept Liberals are right about this," which is different from "Liberals are obviously wrong about this but can you sympathize with why they would feel that way?" (I have seen Evangelicals talk/write about that too, but not often enough I can think of an example.)
posted by straight at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Such zero-sum thinking. And oftentimes, the 'losers' and their concerns never really go away.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


My guess is that they don't feel like they need to strive to understand secular society, because they think that secular society is already winning the culture war, and so they're forced to understand it, whether they want to or not. I don't think they actually do understand secular people as well as they think they do, but they really think that they have us figured out because we're cramming our values down their throats, and so they don't need to work to understand where we're coming from. Also, they shouldn't have to, because they're right and true and good, and we're wrong and dumb, but I don't think that's the whole story.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:03 PM on November 27, 2019


There's a whole lot of Christians who think "being oppressed" means "I am required to acknowledge that other religions exist."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:07 PM on November 27, 2019 [12 favorites]


so, uh, I know there are "cool, progressive intellectual christians" here on metafilter, but I do not think this thread is going to result in more of them outing themselves

I think I qualify as one of those. I'm a regular member of a pretty progressive Protestant church, and I have Issues with a lot of what other people do in the name of Jesus. If you were to compare my voting record with the average mefite, it would look very similar I'm sure. I find it difficult to participate in discussions on here for reasons, but I lurk and like to keep up with the thoughts and opinions of other progressive people, even if most of them aren't Christians.
posted by hootenatty at 12:26 PM on November 27, 2019 [10 favorites]


One thing that's always interested me is how easily divorce has become acceptable. Now Jesus didn't say a word about gays or abortion, but he did say (we'll assume) "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." And yet you never see evangelicals coming down on divorced people.

While divorce is certainly more acceptable within the church now than it was 50 years ago, there's still plenty of judgment towards Christians who have been divorced, both overt and implied. Going through one myself opened my eyes to the ways in which I was subconsciously judging other Christians who went through divorce. It was surprising. Like most big events in my life, it increased my empathy and taught me to love others more unconditionally.
posted by hootenatty at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


there's still plenty of judgment towards Christians who have been divorced

There is, but I don't know of any mainstream Protestant churches that deny membership to divorced people, or that insist divorce is the sin that's destroying America, or who give a wink and a nod to people who beat up or murder divorced people.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:21 PM on November 27, 2019 [9 favorites]


The nature of the beast is to fear that which is different.

Slowly, Americans are coming around to the idea that many of the boogeymen that their elders feared are nothing of the kind, but are everyday people like themselves. Like liberated women, minorities, immigrants, LGBTQs, atheists, Muslims, abortion-seekers, and lots of other American subgroups, for instance. They are living and working next to people who are in these categories, their children are playing and going to school with the other group's children, and people are realizing that there's nothing to be afraid of here. Divorcees were merely among the first of those subgroups to become mainstreamed in America.

Now, when your church - slash - political party insists that THEY (insert subgroup from above) are part of what's wrong with America and are to be shunned and persecuted, not treated as equals, they're not very fond of the idea of the rank-and-file reaching decisions on their own about that. But they're not very fond of the idea of the rank-and-file making decisions about much of anything.
posted by delfin at 1:33 PM on November 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


The rule of law is what got Jesus crucified.

Personal pet peeve, but this isn't what "rule of law" means. "Rule of law" refers to the idea that everyone, even political leaders, are bound by the law. Christianists in general are opposed to the rule of (secular) law, as they believe theocrats need to be above the law in order to carry out their god's will. Rome under the Imperium also largely lacked the rule of law, as the emperor, his representatives, or even sufficiently powerful military commanders were empowered to act by fiat: their actions defined the law. (It's a bit messier than that as things varied considerably during the Imperial period of Rome, as well as between provinces. To the extent that the Senate retained its power in the early Imperium, there remained a weakened rule of law.)

The crucifixion of Jesus was an act undertaken within the legal framework of Roman occupation of Judea, but is essentially unrelated to the question of whether there was in fact the rule of law in Roman Judea.

This is important to me because you often hear right-wing extremists, Christian or otherwise, talk about the "rule of law" as though it means "law and order," or an application of police force to pacify dissent. This is a distortion, and in fact their ideology is usually diametrically opposed to the rule of law.
posted by biogeo at 1:51 PM on November 27, 2019 [21 favorites]


whether there was in fact the rule of law in Roman Judea.

The way the Gospels tell it, Pilate was able and willing to let Jesus go if the crowd wanted it or if Jesus had sucked up to him and begged for his life. That Pilate thought Jesus was innocent of breaking Roman law, couldn't figure out / didn't care whether he had broken Jewish law, and basically said "whatever, kill him, I guess" and then coined the "washing my hands of all this" metaphor. And then mocked the whole thing by posting a sign that said, "LoL Jews, check out yer King." So, no, not really an execution governed by the rule of law.
posted by straight at 3:24 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Regarding the divorce sidebar (derail? hope not)--I happened to read this the other day in a New Yorker article about anti-abortion activists in Indiana:

In 1981, Paul Carey became the pastor of an independent Baptist church in Terre Haute. In 1988, Sharon, now the mother of three young children, met a well-off local man who was interested in opening a C.P.C. The evangelical organization Care Net sent employees from Virginia to help the pair set up the Wabash Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center as a nonprofit. Two years later, when the C.P.C. opened a satellite in Brazil, Carey became its director. A Biblical counsellor, she was prepared to encourage women not to end their pregnancies. But she discovered that many of them needed other kinds of help. Some were victims of abuse; others couldn’t afford food for their children. With assistance from a local nonprofit and the police department, she helped women find safe houses and apply for maternity benefits.

Over lunch recently, Paul and Sharon explained that they felt that their faith had anchored them through a difficult time. In 2002, their younger daughter, Autumn, then twenty-one years old and recently married, told Sharon and Paul that she was deeply unhappy and wanted to leave her husband. Autumn filed for divorce, and the deacons at Paul’s church voted to rescind her church membership. When the Careys publicly supported their daughter’s decision, the deacons asked Paul to resign. “We left in shame, basically,” Sharon told me. Paul, an empathetic, humorous man, grew serious. “I won’t lie,” he said. “Sometimes I struggle with bitterness.” Sharon told me, “We know what it’s like to be betrayed,” noting that many of the young women she sees at the C.P.C. feel abandoned by a family member or a partner.


I was surprised, because yeah, I didn't think American Protestants mostly cared about divorce much anymore. Here's the article.
posted by The Minotaur at 3:37 PM on November 27, 2019


Hoo boy. I posted the Pew Research Center study about the decline of Christian identification in America about two weeks ago and was wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.

I keep thinking about an analysis done by a couple of economists [Guardian article] [academic paper (pdf)] that showed that the witch trials coincided very strongly with the Catholic counter-reformation in both time (1550-1650, see the plot on page 16 of the paper) and place:
We argue that the great age of European witch trials reflected non-price competition between the Catholic and Protestant churches for religious market share in confessionally contested parts of Christendom. Analyses of new data covering more than 43,000 people tried for witchcraft across 21 European countries over a period of five-and-a-half centuries and more than 400 early modern European Catholic–Protestant conflicts support our theory. More intense religious-market contestation led to more intense witch-trial activity. And compared to religious-market contestation, the factors that existing hypotheses claim were important for witch-trial activity – weather, income and state capacity – were not.
This is a dangerous time and I think it will require both vigilance and some serious cultivation of hyper-local social capital. Contrary to the American mythos, timescales of history are long, progress is not inevitable, and human rights are socially constructed.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:06 PM on November 27, 2019 [8 favorites]


Serious question: has there ever been a book or article where conservatives try to understand and appreciate liberal fears and concerns and how to ameliorate/compromise with them?

It sometimes happens when there's common ground. I remember this sometimes happening in the 2000s with libertarians and the paleo-conservatives. The common ground being "torture, domestic spying, and the Iraq War are bad." I'm starting to see glimmers of it again with the #nevertrumpers. In both cases, those commentators are (or were) coming around to a position of: "Democrats might have terrible social and economic policies. But they love our country like we do and aren't the enemy of democracy & reason like Trump or Bush." That's a pretty bland statement and not exactly what you're looking for, but it's progress in that direction. Less about outreach to leftists and more about convincing themselves to vote Democratic, at least for the duration of the crisis, but it's still in the direction of trying to understand and find compromise.

The anti-abortion / forced birth people are generally all hardliners now. But I do remember a time, back in the 80's and 90's when some of them were coming from a position of "all life is sacred because each human is worthwhile." They sometimes made attempts to bridge the gap. Working with the other side to provide pregnancy care, contraception & education. And trying to promote "pro-life" ideals from a liberal point of view.

And I guess the answer to the question above depends on what type of conservative you're observing. Libertarian conservatives can understand and compromise easily on social issues like gay marriage or marijuana legalization. Paleo-conservatives would reach out on issues of constitutional rights and bad wars. Moderate conservatives, an endangered species but still present in my state of Kansas, will understand and reach out on basic issues like tax rates, school funding and infrastructure.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:20 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


my impression is that the Christians who are most concerned about the "secularization" of America are the Evangelicals

One of the things that bugs me about Evangelicals wanting to get religion all up in people's business is that when the US was founded, they were the outsiders who were victimized by religious states.

Massachusetts and other northern colonies had the Congregational church as the established state religion. In Virginia and other southern colonies the Anglican church was the official state religion. Baptists, Methodists, and other evangelicals paid taxes to support the state religion, and could be arrested and imprisoned for preaching "heresy."

The founders didn't establish an official religion in the United States because they already had recent bad experience with them.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:33 PM on November 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


there's still plenty of judgment towards Christians who have been divorced

There is, but I don't know of any mainstream Protestant churches that deny membership to divorced people, or that insist divorce is the sin that's destroying America,


Yes, that was my point. There's still a certain amount of judginess, but contrast that with pre-1950s America when you might be denied housing, for example. I remember there being something of a discussion when Reagan took office. Maybe that's when the evangelicals just stopped caring.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:53 PM on November 27, 2019


Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out online?

In addition to the spaces mentioned above, there's Ship of Fools which is a long-running forum that skews liberal Anglican/Lutheran. It's mostly liturgical nerdery but there's a decent amount of theological discussion of a non-assholish sort.

And if you look at theological threads on MeFi, we do tend to pop up and say our piece.

More philosophically, though, I think evangelicals have a more bumper-sticker-able theology that translates easier to memes/Twitter/etc. They offer concise diagnoses of the root causes of evil and how to fix the world. (I put kneejerk internet socialists or kneejerk anti-American leftie types in the same boat, tbh.) Mainline theological types are more nuanced and tend to think in paragraphs. (I realize I'm biased here.)

Also, we're more likely to say (following people like St Thomas Aquinas, no heretic he) that "all truth is God's truth" -- that is, if something is *really* true, we should be able to look at it through either a theological or a scientific lens, and that they will converge/complement each other in the end. We see reason as a tool that can be applied to both scripture/holy tradition and natural observation, and that these things should ultimately cohere. If they're not doing that, then we done fucked up *somewhere*, but that's okay because both good theology and good (for lack of a better word) natural philosophy are both valid approaches to truth which are progressive, always growing and provisional and questioning.

As a result, when we're engaged in the public square, we'll tend to argue from secular principles, since we do think those are valid. I wouldn't use Scripture as part of an argument re: say climate change on Metafilter because it's not a part of the accepted body of knowledge here, but that's okay. If I were talking to another Christian, though, I'd feel fine using both scientific data/reasoning and reasoning from theological principles or Scripture to justify a point since we share an acceptance of both authorities.

So we tend to be kind of closeted in mixed company, as it were.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:38 PM on November 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


Where do the cool, progressive intellectual Christians who still believe in God hang out online?

The Magnificast
is a left-wing Christian podcast (that arguably is far left of progressive, the hosts are Communists, and one is a theology grad student or professor I think?) that do interesting stories about things like liberation theology and the time Dorothy Day visited Cuba. They also have a private Facebook page.

In the offline world, I just picked up a copy of Geez magazine, and while I haven't dug all the way in yet to its theology, it seems promising if your theology is tuned to the frequency of things like Christian Peacemaker Teams.
posted by mostly vowels at 4:45 AM on December 1, 2019


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