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April 24, 2005

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pebird

Wow - did not know about the Whigs/evangelicals and their involvement with the Irish famine. Sounds like a good Harpers - I'll pick it up. Thanks, Jodi.

Jodi

The issue really is marvelous--and kinda scary! I learned a lot.

chris robinson

Thanks for the heads up on Harpers. Chris Hedges is one of my favorite writers these days. I interviewed him on our local NPR last October and he was utterly brilliant. Toward the end of the interview he went at the Neocons calling them idolators, the bad Christians, and then he used the "F" word --fascists. With that the phone board lit up. I thought, "Here it comes." But all the calls were from Burlington, VT and they all were in agreement with him.

Patrick J. Mullins

I'm sold, too. I'm getting it today.

Patrick J. Mullins

i just read the 3 articles, which are extraordinary. One of the most astonishing remarks was in Sharlet's article, mentioning The Falls Church near D.C., as 'an Episcopal church that is, like many "mainline" churches today, now evangelical in all but name...'

I also had not realized how specific and targeted is anything urban. I had read about one 'missionary weekend' in Manhattan last year, but now I think I understand why things have been feeling a bit barren here as the year has worn on: They must be here all the time, and already infecting the place with their filth--primarily homo-hatred, but also intellectual hatred, which translates as jealousy because of their unadulterated ignorance. This gives me a lot to watch out for, and has made me work on reasons not to go certain places this summer that I had heretofore thought inevitable.

The description of Pastor Ted's son and also of the shit music meant to stay bland and marketable (he likens it to a beer commercial) to the dumb and home-schooled, was chilling. I can't thank you enough, because it is very unlikely I would have found it otherwise.

Patrick J. Mullins

addendum to above--I meant to say 'pastor Ted's son's wedding,' which was all fake snow and white-spray painted twigs as I remember (he should have called Aaron Spelling who I think got real snow imported for Tori or something), and then nobody saw them off, they just had to walk across the parking lot to their SUV and thought they had lost their keys. However, I admit that the bridesmaids had been fabulous in sleeveless crimson and their hands in 'white furry muffs.' That's like David Byrne's stroller parade in Arlington,Texas in 'True Stories.' god, what poverty...

Anyway, Colorado Springs sounds like one of the world's great armpits.

Derek Gilbert

The great mistake people will make in reading these articles is assuming that all Bible-believing Christrians are Haggard-ites, or Osteen-ites, or Meyer-ites, just because they have tens of thousands of followers and make millions of dollars. Confirming their preconceptions about bigoted, bass-ackward followers of "JAY-zuss", they will see in these pieces justification to reject the historic basis for proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is God.

Some of us Christians are actually college-educated! Some of us are real, professional authors, scientists and academicians! Some of us even like real music, go to movies and watch TV!

Some of us are discerning enough not to mistake the charlatans and buy into unbiblical, false doctrine.

When you rant against the "unadulterated ignorance" of conservative Christians, just remember that not everyone who calls himself a Christian is one, just as wearing a baseball cap doesn't make me the third baseman for the Chicago Cubs.

Jodi

DG--Do you really think that this mistake is widespread? It might be, but I don't come across it much myself, in a college setting where people take liberation theory quite seriously, for example. I think that most on the left recognize religious difference and plurality. But I may be naive in this regard: I grew up among liberal Baptists and it hasn't been easy to explain to some yankees that this isn't a contradiction in terms.

test case

This is a bunch of bogus, false-alarm whackoism. Conservative Christians, when they read these slanderous articles supposedly about themselves, say, "Who are they talking about?"

Kate Marie

"Do you really think that this mistake is widespread?"

Isn't this question a bit disingenuous -- as though the group of synopses you provided had no particular rhetorical valence? Were you surprised, then, by Patrick J. Mullins' reaction and his reference to "unadulterated ignorance"? Or by his regression into aesthetic concerns about tackiness -- his sneering at those qualities of the "evangelical community" which might be considered class markers?

And what, exactly, do you conclude from the detail about evangelicals and the Irish famine? Is it somehow different from what one might conclude from the fact that communists are in great part responsible for the bloodiest century in human history?

Kate Marie

Here's a different take on the Harper's articles:

https://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz200504280758.asp

John Reeve

I'll contribute something from my lived experience, though I haven't read the Harper's issue.

I live in Lubbock TX,

Of the 9 English language broadcast television stations here, 3 are christian.

I (who study popular culture and cinema) have watched these, and not just occasionally. I have heard lengthy seminars on why the teaching of evolution is evil, how and why the homosexual adgenda is the product of satan, and how the evil university professors are interested in corruping _you_ for the sake of corruption.

If you listen to the radio between here and amarillo Tx, you have a choice between 2 college stations, NPR, and 6 different clear channel stations (all owned by the same, and I believe, chrisitan, corperation). But you can also choose between 12 different christian stations.

At my house, on my FM radio, I can get 4 christian stations in a row, that broadcast anti-homosexual and misogynist propaganda.

If you go to the place where I rent mass market movies, you can rent a scary film called _Left Behind_ based on a popular series of books, which dipicts the UN as the tool of satan, world peace as the sign of the apocalypse, and an end to world hunger as a tool of satan.

The visit of Fred Phelps to our town (to protest the GSA and the Elton John's glasses in the Buddy Holly Muesem) was not an occasion to soundly denounce hatred, but insted served as a point for local churches to say, we don't agree with his methods or what he says, but we do believe that god hates fags for thier homosexuality.

It is my general feeling that as many as 1/4 of the people (this is, admittedly _not_ scientific) in my immediate vicinity believe that we live in the "end times."

Or, to take a stranger or more esoteric example, the christians objected to a set of aeolian icons that were to go on the new highway project that was being built.

They felt that it was pagan.

https://www.kcbd.com/Global/story.asp?S=3202337

So they vandalized them, and the highway department decided not to put them up.

Now, I suppose these people aren't _really_ christians, or that the educated christians don't feel that they are a really christians. Or whatever.

But I guarantee if the tejano stations here (the ones that promote la raza) had the same kind of media power (or, rather, sepearted from the evangelical christianity which seems to be the uniting factor between latios and white folks here) there would be some kind of media reaction.

So are you guys not getting 4-page full color glossy flyers in your mailboxes, advertising the "Countdown to Armageddon," with Free admission, free child care, free, parking, and a free bible?

Or is these just my own misconceived perceptions of an entirely local phenomenon?

Alain

Kate Marie

With all of the problems our country faces, do you really believe sodomy and teenage execution are near the top of the list of major issues? The left, or progressives, or whatever you want to call them/us, are responding to what is being said and done by "leaders," both political and religious, in the name of Christianity and preserving our Christian nation. If the Harper's article is slanted, or somehow unfair to Christians in general, so what. I do not think it lessons the significance of what is being proposed in the name of religion.

And I guess this brings us back to the issue of incommensurability. I cannot speak for everyone who writes on this blog, or even the "left" in general, but I do not think religion itself is the issue. It is the politization of religion, or the spiritualizing of politics, that is our concern. But I understand that these things may not be an issue for you. In fact, you might welcome these developments as the articulation of grass roots democracy. It is these fundamental differences in starting points that makes it difficult, though not impossible, to engage in fruitful discussion.

Jodi

John, I just got back from Tuscon. Soon after I arrived there, I saw a giant billboard, Pray for Tuscon. My friend told me she had to be careful about what school her daughter was in because some organized Right wing Christian groups were having a major impact on the school curriculum. TV clips from 'justice sunday' included a preacher railing against the teaching of tolerance in the schools. I would hope that Christians who reject what is being done in their name would organize and speak out against it. And, of course, some do--the Episcopal church now has an openly gay bishop. I'm not up on what sort of stance, if any, it has adopted toward the war.

Your example about tejano radio is great.

Jodi

Alain, one of the neatest points you raised is your response was grass roots democracy. This is exactly right--and the major reason I've become convinced (or simply fear?) that democracy can't solve the problems we face, or it won't be able to until progressive/leftists can mobilize numbers and intensity like the Right has.

Alain

jodi

I completely agree. Until progressives can mobilize in numbers and intensity, things will continue to move in this direction.

Along the same lines, you might want to check out RIPope's discussion with Adam Kostko regarding the President's comments on religion last night. He has a Lacanian spin on the matter that is interesting.

John Reeve

Jodi and Alain,

In an article (IIRC) for the Belgrade Review(?1998?), Lyotard wrote an article where he outlines two phenomina: a civic/hetrogeneious body where negotiation must take place and others are understood to hold contentious views, and a demotic/homogenenous area where all hold the same views and understand others as holding those same views.

I read it a long time ago, but I remember becomeing skepticle of the term democracy at that moment.

I wonder if it is possible to be for a civic body but anti-democratic?

As shocking as it would be, for all its resonances with less nuanced understandings of the terms as a party name or 'freedom' itself, I wonder if a progressive embrace of the term 'anti-democratic' would allow for a critique of this process where it is assumed that freeedom is equal to being able to shape public policy based on a priori private beliefs -- or at least change the terminological field in a way that 'progressives' could find useful.

At the point at which the term anti(ante?)-democratic becomes shocking, it also opens up the field to questions, especially as people here (and I mean my immediate location) seem to think that the only two modern forms of governement are naively constructed fascism and democracy (maybe this is an overstatement, but the folks in Lubbock generally seem to think that there is little or no line between losing the privledge of carrying concealed firearms and being sent to a concentration camp).

Would the adoption of term open up questions about the what people mean in using ther term democracy? I think that there are really many incoherant definitions already lying around, and a general rhetorical possibility would be to pick up on some of the dissonance between them in order to force debates about the role of individuals and their idenitity groups within our public government.

Of course, I often wonder wonder if this anti-democratic position is the strange (to me) position from which neoconservatives have misread Arendt and Marx to justify (as opposed to legitimize) things like violence in Iraq; rather than simply rejecting the demotic as a problem, neocons seem to embrace a totaltarianism where the possibility of homogeneity is evidence of virtue.


{sorry think while writing...this (m'sane) rambling would be better as a private .pdf on my computer, but it is already in this text box...}

Kate Marie

John Reeve,

Your description of life in Lubbock is interesting. Shall I now share my experience of living in Los Angeles? Or would you take any description of my lived experience as an exercise in false consciousness?

Kate Marie

With all of the problems our country faces, do you really believe sodomy and teenage execution are near the top of the list of major issues?

--No, but who, exactly, does? Chris Hedges' vague pronouncements notwithstanding, is there empirical evidence that "evangelicals" or conservative Christians consider sodomy (as opposed to same-sex marriage) or teen executions near the top of the list of priorities?

"The left, or progressives, or whatever you want to call them/us, are responding to what is being said and done by "leaders," both political and religious, in the name of Christianity and preserving our Christian nation. If the Harper's article is slanted, or somehow unfair to Christians in general, so what. I do not think it lessons the significance of what is being proposed in the name of religion."

-- Again, what, exactly, is being proposed in the name of religion, and by whom? The two issues, it seems to me, that have a widespread mandate as "priorities" among Christians are abortion and same-sex marriage. To be pro-life or against same-sex marriage is not an extreme or "out of the mainstream" position (though, just so you know where I'm coming from, I don't oppose civil unions or same-sex marriage rights as long as they are the result of popular referenda or democratically elected state legislatures, and even in the case of "judicial fiat," it's not something that I am likely to get too "exercised" about). There are principled, reasonable arguments to be made for each of those positions. Why is the fact, for instance, that most pro-life advocates are motivated by religious or moral concerns so scary? Was Martin Luther King scary? If not, why not?

"And I guess this brings us back to the issue of incommensurability. I cannot speak for everyone who writes on this blog, or even the "left" in general, but I do not think religion itself is the issue. It is the politization of religion, or the spiritualizing of politics, that is our concern. But I understand that these things may not be an issue for you. In fact, you might welcome these developments as the articulation of grass roots democracy. It is these fundamental differences in starting points that makes it difficult, though not impossible, to engage in fruitful discussion.

-- You'll have to define "the politicization of religion" or the "spiritualization of politics" for me. I do think religious organizations of all stripes should be wary of becoming too entangled in politics -- not because of the danger that such an entanglement poses to the state but because of the danger posed to the religious organization as an institution which mediates between the individual and the state. I don't want the buffers between individual and state to be erased or attenuated any more than they already have been. As for grass roots democracy, I do believe it is generally a good thing, as I trust that our system and our Constitution will temper and check any grass roots movements that seek to impose tyrannical or truly theocratic conditions on the rest of us. What would you propose as empirical evidence that such theocratic impulses won't be held in check?

The talk of "anti-democratic" movements I do find rather unsettling, especially as it is so ill-defined. Is there a historical or contemporary model that someone here can propose for how an "anti-democratic" politics might work?

President LIndsay

"What would you propose as empirical evidence that such theocratic impulses won't be held in check?"

Try this: https://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=7569&sectionID=1

Derek writes: "...they will see in these pieces justification to reject the historic basis for proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is God. Some of us Christians are actually college-educated! Some of us are real, professional authors, scientists and academicians! Some of us even like real music, go to movies and watch TV! Some of us are discerning enough not to mistake the charlatans and buy into unbiblical, false doctrine."

How, may I ask of this erudite college educated poster, can there be a "historic basis for proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is God" when the very existence of God is simply a matter of unsubstantiated belief? Or is our intellectual here playing semantics and really referring to the historic basis of "proclaiming" while carefully avoiding locking himself into actually claiming that Jesus is God? Not likely, I guess, since he refers later to "unbiblical, false doctrine."

Hey, I don't care if you've got a dozen PhDs behind your name, if you believe in hooey that doesn't make it any more believable to me. I've got college educated siblings who are fundies so I've seen it all up close and personal. People choose what they want to believe, and many, many of them choose to abandon rationality in favor of a comfy social/religious/political paradigm that answers all their questions very neatly and at the same time allows them to coddle their bigotry and superiority. If you happen to be one of these, who cares how educated you are? Your abandonment of logic and rationalism in the service of your "faith" negates any authority your education may impart to your opinions and renders your self-congratulating discernment laughable. Oh, you might express your beliefs more eloquently, but ultimately it comes down to this: I've decided to believe such and such despite the fact that there is no evidence for it. Because I'm an educated person, that should convince you to believe the same thing.

This is very similar to appeals to numbers: if [insert relevant number here] in the world are Mormons (or Jehovah's Witnesses, or Catholic, or Moslem), then surely your individual feeble reasoning can't support the pretension that you know better than all those people!

As Sam Harris said in his excellent book The End of Faith, there's sanity in numbers. Beliefs which would consign somebody to an asylum for their grand delusions are granted respectability and even reverence when they're shared by millions. It doesn't make them any less delusional, though, it's just that it's a grand shared delusion, so the rest of us better not have the temerity to question it or—Zeus forbid!—disparage it.

By the way, isn't there ample historic basis for declaring that Zeus is God? After all, millions upon millions of people believed that wholeheartedly for centuries. Some of them were the most educated men of their day. Could it all have been a shared cultural delusion? Good thing we're not susceptible to such nonsense today!

Ross Emmett

It is truly amazing how the Irish famine story gets twisted by Bigelow. The roots of the political response to the potato blight lie in the NON-evangelical English perception of the Irish during the 1800s (the evangelicals were NOT racists, like Carlyle and other Victorians were -- see Punch cartoons for pictures of the Irish as monkeys). The Whig response to the famine did not help (although for reasons other than those Bigelow suggests), but not because of its evangelical roots.

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