Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 10, 2006
By: Steve Waldman

As I noted in my Monthly piece, the one group that would surely oppose the approach taken by many 21st evangelicals is 18th century evangelicals. They were eloquent and fierce supporters of separation of church and state. I know many people will read that Monthly article as further evidence of the hypocrisy of modern evangelical conservatives.

But I would also like to point out that the history also challenges the liberal notion that religious Christians are inherently backwards, regressive and opponents of liberty. The evangelicals were the true religious freedom fighters of that era and names like Isaac Bachus and John Leland Baptists who fought for separation of church and state should be counted among the great American heroes.

Steve Waldman 2:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (122)

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Comments

Evangelical Christianity, like so much else in American culture, was utterly corrupted through its contact with the American South.

Posted by: Realish on March 10, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

But I would also like to point out that the history also challenges the liberal notion that religious Christians are inherently backwards, regressive and opponents of liberty.

I would like to point out that history challenges your assertion that this is "liberal" notion. Delete the word liberal and you are quite accurate. Sure there may be some people that consider themselves liberal that believe Christians are inherently backwards but that doesnt make a "liberal" notion anymore that that some conservatives might be racist makes racism a "conservative notion."

Now if you want to say that its a liberal notion that fundamentalist rightwing christians tend to be backwards, that might be closer to true, but I'm not sure that history challenges that notion.

Posted by: Catch22 on March 10, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I thought that Roger Williams was kind of the founder of the modern Baptist church and a fiery and eloquent proponent of the separation of church and state.

Of course, I was raised Catholic in a Jewish neighborhood and the exotic and vast array of Protestant churches continues to astound and confuse me. I may now be the object of a Baptist fatwa for suggestion that Roger Williams was who he was.

Posted by: J Bean on March 10, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

J Bean: I was raised Catholic in a Jewish neighborhood and the exotic and vast array of Protestant churches continues to astound and confuse me.

Don't feel bad, even we Protestants are astounded and confused by the vast array of Protestant churches. Of course I was raised Protestant in a Catholic/Jewish neighborhood.

Posted by: alex on March 10, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Realish:Evangelical Christianity, like so much else in American culture, was utterly corrupted through its contact with the American South.

yup, corrupted so much that it was a preacher from Alabama who moved to Georgia who was the biggest leader of the Civil Rights movement.
corrupted so much that the leaders of the modern evangelical movement are from Colorado and California.

but i guess only southerners make gross generalizations and stereotype people.

Posted by: e1 on March 10, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

J Bean, I think the most ignorant Baptists think that their church goes back to John The Baptist, skipping right over Roger.

Realish, hate to piss in your coffee (no I don't), but it was the frontier that "corrupted" the Evangelical movement. Out there they didn't have time to wait around for educated clergy, so they just agreed on likely fellows based on their "spirituality" which was unrelated to the separation of c and s.

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 10, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Baptist fatwa

I think I've seen those in the frozen foods section.

Posted by: craigie on March 10, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who was raised a Souther Baptist and who still considers himself an evangelical christian (albeit without a particular denomination), I'm sure most SBs have no idea who Roger Williams was. Don't worry J Bean.

I would like to say that based on the comments at Eschaton among other places, you'd certainly be forgiven for making the mistake that viewing evangelicals as backwards is a liberal notion.

Posted by: MNPundit on March 10, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

There was a POV about a budding young liberal in the middle of Lubock. Her pastor sat her down for a talk and explained that she's trying to be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time and that those two things just don't go together. Poor girl replied sheepishly "I know but..."

Let's face it. While there's a huge and ancient tradition of liberal Christianity that continues today, there's also a huge culture of much more recent promanence that no longer questions whether liberalism is anethema to Christianity.

Posted by: Boronx on March 10, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

"...challenges the liberal notion that religious Christians..."

Liberal have no problems with religious Christians. It conservative christians we view as backwards, and rightly so. MNpundit thinks that conservative christians represent religious christians, and that just isn't so. Most christians aren't old-testament whackjobs praying daily for god to kick some righteous ass for their amusement like in the good old days, before jesus came along and preached tolerance, respect, compassion, and that money is a corruptor, not a reward for piety.

I like religious christians. They are very liberal in outlook, recognizing the main separation between rich and poor is simply opportunity and circumstances. They are good people. Rightwing nutjobs who still think God destroyed New Orleans, that jesus wants them to kill doctors, and that gods showers wealth ont he faithful aren't christians. They think Jesus gave them a get-out-of-hell-free card, but they really have no use for him after that.

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 10, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Its hard for to decide what these guys thought separation of church and state should mean. It seems to me their views were colored by Britain where the Anglican church was the church of England. There's no comparable church of America. Separation of church and state has come to mean that the people with convictions should be separated from their government.

Posted by: Chad on March 10, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, but Steve, great to see you will carry on the fine Drum tradition of reinforcing Rovian talking points. Good Job!

Hey, tell us about how we are weak on national security. I never get tired of hearing that.

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 10, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure most SBs have no idea who Roger Williams was.

He was the founder of the SB church and a singer of syrupy ballads? Whoda thunk.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Mysticdog-

i'm with you. i've got no problem with religous people who actually do something with their faith that's good for themselves and the community.

They think Jesus gave them a get-out-of-hell-free card, but they really have no use for him after that.

this is the thing i've never understood about some so-called Christians; they accept Christ as their personal savior, then use that as the excuse to get away with anything. "i'm saved i know i'm going to heaven" "only Jesus was perfect, i'm not expected to be perfect" (in me experience they're usually are the ones who tell you they're Christian in the first minute of a conversation cuz it's supposedly the most important thing to know about them)

Posted by: e1 on March 10, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it. While there's a huge and ancient tradition of liberal Christianity that continues today, . . . Posted by: Boronx

True, but you won't find it outside the big cities on either coast for the most part. Flyover land is predominately Jesusland, which isn't necessarily Christianity. Or, least ways, Christianity with a brain.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Just want to add my $.02 to the chorus decrying Steve's repetition of Rovian talking points here: "the liberal notion that religious Christians are inherently backwards, regressive and opponents of liberty."

WTF? Who holds this opinion? This is a ridiculous straw man, a heinous stereotype of liberals. And here it is, repeated as if it were a fact upon which all sane people can agree.

What, did Joe Klein suddenly occupy Steve's body and start banging away at the keyboard? Maybe it was Richard Cohen or Jacob Weisberg.

Or maybe Steve is just trying out for a pundit gig with one of the big mainstream outlets, where liberal-bashing is a requirement of the job for all "liberal" writers.

Posted by: pdp on March 10, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

What "liberal notion"? You just made that up!

Listen, if I want to read snide dishonest lazy straw-man canards about liberals, I'm quite capable of waiting 'til Kevin gets back, thank you.

Posted by: derek on March 10, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK
While there's a huge and ancient tradition of liberal Christianity that continues today, there's also a huge culture of much more recent promanence that no longer questions whether liberalism is anethema to Christianity.

That's because the right-wing political groups that decided they needed to use religion to gain themselves an uncritical base and get people to vote against their own economic self-interest made a coordinated campaign out of pressuring the media to repeat the liberals vs. Christians meme -- and no largely doesn't need pressure to make them continue, since its an established and convenient frame for the media now.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"I thought that Roger Williams was kind of the founder of the modern Baptist church and a fiery and eloquent proponent of the separation of church and state. "

"As someone who was raised a Southern Baptist and who still considers himself an evangelical christian (albeit without a particular denomination), I'm sure most SBs have no idea who Roger Williams was. "

Roger Williams lived from 1603 to 1684 in England and Massachusetts and could possible be considered the founder of the Baptist church. But Southern Baptist started in 1845 in Georgia as a rejection of later Baptist from Massachusetts.

I'm not sure why this would make Roger Williams the founder of the Southern Baptists. Why not just say Jesus is the founder of the Southern Baptists? I'm Methodist, though, so maybe someone can enlighten me.

Posted by: Chad on March 10, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

I know this point has already been raised, but I had to write in anyhow to challenge the notion that there is a "liberal notion that religious Christians are inherently backward, regressive and opponents of liberty." I'm pretty sick of the way that sterotype gets bounced around the blogosphere as well as the MSM. I'm a liberal, and along with most people I know, I can recognize that some of the strongest fighters for liberal ideals, social justice, and the greater good have been religious Christians; and often, those same religious Christians have been...wait for it....liberal Christians.
The "liberal vs. Christian" tropes have their uses, I know -- politically, culturally, and for writers looking to spice up their copy and gin up attention. But it's extremely disappointing to check in with a liberal-left blog and find that lazy meme making the rounds here.

Posted by: Minnie on March 10, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Catch22 is exactly right. The slur on "liberals" is as foolish as it is unnecessary. Any educated person with a glancing understanding of the history of this country and of britain knows enough to know that religion has been a force for political change, that the multiple english sects led to a suspicion of state involvement with religion, etc...etc...etc... That (modern) liberals object to (modern) evangelical's attempts to erase the wall of separation between church and state and specifically the attempt by dominionists to replace a secular state with a theocratic christian state isn't a sign of our historical ignorance, its a sign that we are PAYING ATTENTION to today's issues and not confusing history's evangelicals with todays.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on March 10, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not sure why this would make Roger Williams the founder of the Southern Baptists. Why not just say Jesus is the founder of the Southern Baptists?

No one said he was the founder of the Southern Baptists, but, OTOH, it wouldn't be unreasonable, given his relation to the broader Baptist tradition, to expect SBs to know who he was. Just as it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect them to know who Jesus was, even though he, too, didn't found the SB church per se, just its antecedent before several schisms.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

"True, but you won't find it outside the big cities on either coast for the most part."

Nope. Not true. I live right near a large church that is very active in fair trade, antiwar activities, and other progressive causes and has a large gay/lesbian population. Up the road is a Quaker meeting-house, also active in progressive causes. Downtown we have the Church of the River, which is Unitarian Universalist. I'm not sure what stances the local Catholic churches take, but most of the local Catholics I've met are pretty liberal. The liberal Christians are out there, they just don't advertise themselves as loudly as the wingnut Christians.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 10, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

You're right. I misread their comments.

But as a Methodist, I definitely don't know of anybody that was a predecessor of John Wesley. I know the founder of my denomination, not some guy 100 years prior to my founder. I mean, serious, are people backwards because their religious and aren't into religious history from 1600?

Posted by: Chad on March 10, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Well times has changed. The war on terror is upon us. The world as we know it is breathing its last vestiges of life. If you are a born-again Christian, evangelicals, then you believe in the imminent second coming of Christ as much as I do.

I think evangelicals are just responding to the world events. It would be immoral for us not to realize the prophecy, and prepares and saves as much souls as possible before the final war. We owe it to Christ to build and prepare an army that that will destroy Satan and bring the world's demise for His glory. We have a responsibility to hasten this process so that His glory may shower us with life in eternity.

Besides, the fact that evangelicals's changing attitude shows flexibility and adaptability. There is nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: Mini Al on March 10, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

18th century evangelicals as well many other sectarians in the colonies were very aware of great destruction and death caused by the English Civil War, 1641-1644, a conflict borne of religious/political strife.

Drawing a line between church and state was very important to most leaders at that time.

Posted by: Keith G on March 10, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Or, perhaps, cmdicely - because we want to get America back to the founding principles where Government cannot interfere with an individual's religion? As pointed out above, Roger Williams had it right. The first idea -- that the magistrate should not punish religious infractions -- meant that the civil authority should not be the same as the ecclesiastical authority. The second idea -- that people should have freedom of opinion on religious matters -- he called "soul-liberty."

But, that did not mean that government was free from religion. An outline of the issues raised by Williams and uncompromisingly pressed includes the following:

1. He regarded the Church of England as apostate, and any kind of fellowship with it as grievous sin. He accordingly renounced communion not only with this church but with all who would not join with him in repudiating it.

2. He denounced the charter of the Massachusetts Company because it falsely represented the king of England as a Christian, and assumed that he had the right to give to his own subjects the land of the native Indians. He disapproved of "the unchristian oaths swallowed down" by the colonists "at their coming forth from Old England, especially in the superstitious Laud's time and domineering." He drew up a letter addressed to the king expressing his dissatisfaction with the charter and sought to secure for it the endorsement of prominent colonists. In this letter he is said to have charged King James I with blasphemy for calling Europe "Christendom" and to have applied to the reigning king some of the most opprobrious epithets in the Apocalypse.

3. Equally disquieting was Williams' opposition to the "citizens' oath," which magistrates sought to force upon the colonists in order to be assured of their loyalty. William maintained that it was Christ's sole prerogative to have his office established by oath, and that unregenerate men ought not in any case to be invited to perform any religious act. In opposing the oath William gained so much popular support that the measure had to be abandoned.

4. In a dispute between the Massachusetts Bay court and the Salem colony regarding the possession of a piece of land (Marblehead) claimed by the latter, the court offered to accede to the claims of Salem on condition that the Salem church make amends for its insolent conduct in installing Williams as pastor in defiance of the court and ministers. This demand involved the removal of the pastor. Williams regarded this proposal as an outrageous attempt at bribery and had the Salem church send to the other Massachusetts churches a denunciation of the proceeding and demand that the churches exclude the magistrates from membership. This act was sharply resented by magistrates and churches, and such pressure was brought to bear upon the Salem church as led a majority to consent to the removal of their pastor. He never entered the chapel again, but held religious services in his own house with his faithful adherents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Williams_%28theologian%29

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

"True, but you won't find it outside the big cities on either coast for the most part."

Nope. Not true. I live right near a large church that is very active in fair trade, antiwar activities, and other progressive causes and has a large gay/lesbian population.

MJ, I said "for the most part." That does not mean not at all. There are always exceptions to every rule.

Careful or someone might mistake your jump at the jugular reply for the Diceman. He's gonna be a lawyer, ya know?

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Puhlease people. Roger Williams' life was extremely interesting and he was quite an important figure in early American history. Read and enjoy:

www.rogerwilliams.org/biography.htm

Posted by: ithinkillsettlehereandcallitprovidence on March 10, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

FYI,

As a non practicing Catholic, I make no distinctions between nutjob evangelicals and Christians. I consider any biblethumpers dangerous to progress and even liberty. To all of you who are religious but don't follow Dobson and Co., you might keep this in mind. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks like that.

Posted by: Sauce on March 10, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Keith G.:

A "line" is important - do you agree with where Roger Williams drew it?

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK
Or, perhaps, cmdicely - because we want to get America back to the founding principles where Government cannot interfere with an individual's religion?

I don't think those are alternatives, I think they they go together. But, yes, certainly that's part of it.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II

You know, I am a Christian, a liberal and live in "flyoverland." I must be one mixed up human being.

You think you could push anymore sterotypes into one sentence?

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 10, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a stretch to draw a direct theological and social line between today's evangelicals and mid-18th century Baptists. I would argue that today's evangelicals draw their religious heritage much more from Methodist Arminianism on one side of the spectrum and premillennial dispensationalism on the other, and the influence of both of those post-dates the First Great Awakening (in the time period you're talking about, anyway--1740s).

The Second Great Awakening of the 1800-1830s had a significantly greater influence than the pretty mild-in-comparison revivalism of the First, and even by the end of that period Baptists and Methodists in the South lost most of their early radicalism as they became more firmly entrenched in the South and accepting of its cultural mores (as Realish points out above).

So I'm not sure it says much to point out the Moral Majority's hypocrisy in not following early Baptist theological and social understandings of the separation between church and state. Early Baptists, as you point out in the piece, weren't part of the establishment; that seems reason enough to me to want to both protect religion from the state and keep the state from adopting a national religion. Theological positions change as the cultural context in which they're interpreted change, particularly in religious groups as fluid as evangelicalisn.

Saying that today's evangelical Baptists should believe and follow the same theological precepts in regard to religion's relationship with the state as did 18th c. (kind of ) evangelical Baptists (you say proto-evangelical, but in the sense that that implies a direct lineage to today, I would disagree with that) doesn't carry a lot of weight. Religious and theological understandings don't exist in a vacuum. And I'd hate to think the left would try to use the same rigid understandings of belief and theology as conservative evangelicals do in calling them on this supposed hypocrisy.

Posted by: April on March 10, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it. While there's a huge and ancient tradition of liberal Christianity that continues today, . . .

They were warmongers, too:

The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation
In The War for Righteousness, Gamble reconstructs the inner world of the social gospel clergy, tracing the evolution of the clergy's interventionist ideology from its roots in earlier efforts to promote a modern, activist Christianity. He shows how these clergy eventually came to see their task as world evangelization for the new creed of democracy and internationalism, and ultimately for the redemption of civilization itself through the agency of total war. World War I thus became a transcendent moment of fulfillment. In the eyes of the progressive clergy, the years from 1914 to 1918 presented an unprecedented opportunity to achieve their vision of a world transformed--the ancient dream of a universal and everlasting kingdom of peace, justice, and righteousness. American sacrifice was necessary not only to save the country, but to save the entire world.

Vividly narrating how the progressive clergy played a surprising role in molding the public consensus in favor of total war, Gamble engages the broader question of religion's role in shaping the modern American mind and the development, at the deepest levels, of the logic of messianic interventionism both at home and abroad. This timely book not only fills a significant gap in our collective memory of the Great War, it also helps demonstrate how and why that war heralded the advent of a different American self-understanding.

Posted by: Scott on March 10, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I am a Christian, a liberal and live in "flyoverland." I must be one mixed up human being.

You think you could push anymore sterotypes into one sentence? Posted by: Ron Byers

No. But you could use a reading comprehension course. See my reply to MJ Memphis ("Home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks.")

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK
And I'd hate to think the left would try to use the same rigid understandings of belief and theology as conservative evangelicals do in calling them on this supposed hypocrisy.

I don't know; I thought accusations of hypocrisy could only be grounded in the targets own overt standards. It seems very odd to question the appropriateness of using "the same rigid understandings of belief and theology as conservative evangelicals" when accusing conservative evangelicals of hypocrisy -- what other understanding could be used?

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

My dear mother, who is Christian but not evangelical, voted for Bush twice. She doesn't think Jesus will condemn or even admonish her at the time of her judgement for her American imperialist sins. She does believe Jesus will comdemn others to hell though. Whether evangelical or not, most believers of all faiths subscribe to this idea that their God loves and forgives them but not those others.

Posted by: Hostile on March 10, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

As Stephen Carter notes in his excellent book Culture of Disbelief, 18th Century Christians were much more concerned with protecting the church from the state than visa versa.

Posted by: eah on March 10, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I second the recommendation of Stephen Carter's book.

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know; I thought accusations of hypocrisy could only be grounded in the targets own overt standards. It seems very odd to question the appropriateness of using "the same rigid understandings of belief and theology as conservative evangelicals" when accusing conservative evangelicals of hypocrisy -- what other understanding could be used?

I agree with you. It's why I wrote "supposed hypocrisy." Apologies for the confusion.

Posted by: April on March 10, 2006 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK
As Stephen Carter notes in his excellent book Culture of Disbelief, 18th Century Christians were much more concerned with protecting the church from the state than visa versa.

Isn't that how it should be? By protecting both the church and the individual conscience from the state, you protect the individual from others religions acting through the state as well. It is, after all, the individuals whose protection matters -- while a certain degree of anthropomorphism around the state seems a practical necessity, I think its a mistake to carry it so far as to suggest that the we need to protect the State from the beliefs of its consituents, rather than vice versa.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Baptists began as a hated and persecuted minority. They were originally known as Anabaptists (against baptism) because they refused to baptize infants only converted adults. The move from government-persecuted minority to the largest single US demonination and a politically active one at that, is explanation enough for the change of heart about separation of church and state.

Posted by: rb on March 10, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

I think its a mistake to carry it so far as to suggest that the we need to protect the State from the beliefs of its consituents, rather than vice versa. Posted by: cmdicely

Tell that to Shrub, his base, and the current Rethug majority. That applies to pretty much most of the Muslim world. Sharia and civil society do not mix.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

rb:

How would you define "Separation of Church and State"? Did you read the Roger Williams biography excerpts above?

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

"I mean, serious, are people backwards because their religious and aren't into religious history from 1600?"

Well, pretty much. Are you really unaware of the relationship of the Methodist movement and John Wesley to Anglicanism?

Southern Baptists were heavily into separation of church and state as recently as the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s.

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 10, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:

While I agree that sharia and civil society don't mix, I don't understand your objection.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile, the notion that we're going to heaven and everyone else goes to hell is far from a universal trait of all relgions. The Abrahamic religions are almost unique (by my limited understanding) in the way they divide the world into believers and non-believers.

Posted by: Boronx on March 10, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK
The move from government-persecuted minority to the largest single US demonination

Last I checked, there were (very roughly) 1.5 as many Catholics as Baptists in the US, though Baptists are the largest Protestant denominational family.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Constitution was passed in September of 1787; not in 1784 as you imply. Your historical timeline is in serious error.

"James Madison. Though not as well known as Henry, Madison had just played the central role in the constitutional convention and had growing influence within the legislature. He fervently believed that even though the assessment did not create a religious establishment, it posed a severe threat to religious freedom.

On Nov. 11, 1784, the tall, charismatic Patrick Henry and the frail, brainy James Madison faced off in the legislature"

Posted by: DaveA on March 10, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Boronx, good point.

Whether evangelical or not, most believers of monotheistic faiths subscribe to this idea that their God loves and forgives them but not those others.

Posted by: Hostile on March 10, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Modern evangelicals (an oxymoron if I ever wrote one) are not really "Christian". Virtually none of their actions identify them with a follower of Christ.

They are some sort of pseudo-pious cult of death-worshipping war-mongers. Pity them.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 10, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

DaveA:

Actually the Constitution wasn't "passed in 1787". It began to be debated late that year in Virginia and othe places. Virginia didn't ratify until June 1788, which was also when the necessary two-thirds (nine states) had ratified, at which time the Constitution was thereby "passed".

Posted by: dan on March 10, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK


Steven Waldman has it backwards. History provides an abundance of evidence that religious Christians are inherently backwards, regressive and opponents of liberty. As historically Christian countries and communities have come to embrace modernism and liberty, their religiosity has declined accordingly. This trend is especially evident in Europe, but has occurred throughout the West, including in the United States.

Posted by: jibjab on March 10, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

There's no doubt about a serious decline in the number of American Catholics vs. Evangelicals (every convert to Protestant is a double whammie). It would be twice as bad for the Church were it not for all the illegal immigration: http://www.americamagazine.org/gettext.cfm?articleTypeID=1&textID=714&issueID=301

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think the bicentennial of the constitution was celebrated in 1989, making 1789 its inaugural year.

Posted by: Hostile on March 10, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

jibjab:

History provides an abundance of evidence that religious Christians are inherently backwards, regressive and opponents of liberty.

And then you wonder why these same people don't vote for your "enlightened" party?

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK
Actually the Constitution wasn't "passed in 1787".

I think by "passed" the idea was that the final draft was adopted by the Constitutional Convention for ratification by the states, the point being that any fame Madison had from that event in 1787 could not be relevant to how the two disputants were perceived at the time of his debate with Henry in 1784.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

It would be twice as bad for the Church were it not for all the illegal immigration: http://www.americamagazine.org/gettext.cfm?articleTypeID=1&textID=714&issueID=301
Posted by: Don P.

The Atlantic Monthly had an article about this last year discussing the "browning" of The Church. If it weren't for the growing number of non-Europeans converting to Catholicism, world-wide the church would be half the size it is today.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK
There's no doubt about a serious decline in the number of American Catholics vs. Evangelicals (every convert to Protestant is a double whammie). It would be twice as bad for the Church were it not for all the illegal immigration: http://www.americamagazine.org/gettext.cfm?articleTypeID=1&textID=714&issueID=301

I have no idea why this is directed at me, since it doesn't seem more than tangentially connected to anything I said. But then, that's hardly atypical of Don P., to whom relevance isn't really important to his blind tirades against religion, on the one hand, and the idea of liberal people of faith, on the other.

Which is why I suspect he is a wingnut trying to reinforce right-wing stereotypes of the left as anti-religion and religion and the left as being incompatible.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK
The Atlantic Monthly had an article about this last year discussing the "browning" of The Church. If it weren't for the growing number of non-Europeans converting to Catholicism, world-wide the church would be half the size it is today.

And if it hadn't been for the bunch of non-Jews in the early years, it would be far smaller. So?

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

The liberal Christians are out there, they just don't advertise themselves as loudly as the wingnut Christians.

word.

Posted by: Edo on March 10, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

So Don P returns with his repetitious predictable sneering anti-Catholic bigotry. Just what Political Animal has been missing lately. Not.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 10, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Your post at at 5:25 PM was as follow:

Last I checked, there were (very roughly) 1.5 as many Catholics as Baptists in the US . . .

"Very roughly" indeed. Your precious Church is shrinking faster than you'd care to admit, which is why I posted the stats. Still as confused and nonsensical as the day I left you. Do we need to debate the "No True Scotsman" argument again?

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh dear. Animist is still in full-rant mode I see.

Posted by: Don P. on March 10, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

And if it hadn't been for the bunch of non-Jews in the early years, it would be far smaller. So?
Posted by: cmdicely

I'm tempted to assume you really aren't as obtuse as some of your posts suggest. Then I remember that you're in law school. Let me explain, your exchange with Don P. to you.

You made a comment about the numbers of RC vs. Prods. Don P. added that RC numbers would be smaller yet (in the U.S.) without illegal immigration. I was tagging on Don's post adding that the RC church is in sharp decline in Europe and most of the places colonized by Europeans. The only place the RC is growing is in the "developing world."

Do you un-der-stand now? I can't type any slower or use smaller words.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I just checked out your new blogger on beliefnet, and I gotta say I'm disappointed. The Discovery Institute is qwacky, and Klinghoffer's write-up of liberals relies on Michael Medved, who isn't the fairest or most credible commentator out there. Klinghoffer is unserious.

Posted by: Dan-O on March 10, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

So Don P returns with his repetitious predictable sneering anti-Catholic bigotry.

Yeshiva style discourse.

Posted by: on March 10, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

April:

Really good post. The historical context is extremely important here. Also kudos to the person who mentioned that Baptists were initially a breakaway sect, thus Separation would be a key issue to them (as it is to all non-majority religious traditions).

Of further note is the argument between Baptists and the evolving Calvinism of the New England churches. Baptists reputidated most strongly the notion of predestinarianism (Calvinists were beginning to cut it loose, too), and placed Free Will at the center of their theodicy. This led to a doctrinal individualism that lends support to liberal notions of universal equality and human rights -- but also serves as an underpinning for classical liberal economic doctrine, or (in today's parlance) libertarianism.

So the religious ferment of 18th century America is a double-edged sword for liberals, not a legacy we can unambiguously claim. Yes, we got Abolitionism -- but also the Temperance movement. Yes, we got crusades for social justice on behalf of the poor -- but also the messianic pseudo-colonial foreign policy ("making the world safe for democracy") which characterizes the Progressive era. Cultural supremecism is intimately bound up with all flavors of evangelism.

A big change occured after the Civil War, when the carnage and social upheaval swayed many evangelicals away from postmillenniarian progressivism -- making the world safe for the Lord's return, to a culturallly pessimistic premillienarianism -- the world is hopelessly fallen and Jesus will return at any moment to save a handful and condemn the rest.

That outlook is tailor made for a traditional social conservatism which argues generally against the prospects of social change. And out of that painful aftermath -- which marks the beginning of a century-long struggle for de jure civil rights -- evangelicals as traditionalist conservatives was forged.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

So, the Catholic Church is in serious trouble, and it's only going to get worse. 100 years ago, a baby born to Catholic parents in Europe or America would most likely grow up to be, and to remain, a Catholic himself. In today's multicultural, internet-enabled world, it's anybody's guess what religion, if any, he will be. If you're banking on Catholicism to win on its supposed merits in the marketplace of ideas, you're likely to be very disappointed.

Posted by: Price on March 10, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

There is no liberal notion that religious Christians are inherently backwards, regressive and opponents of liberty. Liberalism is opposed to orthodoxy in the political realm, not to Christianity, religion, or even orthodox religion. Many liberal European governments have state religions. Liberals distrust religion in government, no matter how benign, because history teaches us it is often used, like so many other things, as a nasty political tool to limit liberty and political participation. Some atheists have a negative view of religion, many are liberals, some are not, but liberalism and atheism are entirely separate.

One great force that has altered most religious outlooks in the 20th century is fundamentalism- a counter-revolutionary reaction to pluralism, modernity, and the liberal-democratic state. This is what is inherently backwards, regressive and opposes liberty. And it informs modern evangelicalism. It is religion as political ideology, a kind of nationalism, that can result in totalitarianism once it gains the tools of the modern state.

I do not think that the social conservatives in the Republican coalition represent religion sensu stricto. It is important to remember something about religion in the Southern context. It has nothing to do with Jesus, the Gospels or the Bible for most of the church-going voters that tend to vote Republican. It is a feature of a nationalist herrenfolk culture- a shibboleth. By the beginning of the 20th century, some in this regional culture began to identify with a broader white Protestant America, in part as a reaction to increased immigration from Europe, secularism, the decline of agriculture, and the pan-nationalist movements that came out of industrial imperialism and led to the first and second world wars. The second manifestation of the Klu Klux Klan was dedicated to "comprehensive Americanism. The Anti-Defamation League points out the new organization was against "Niggers, Catholics, Jews...dope, bootlegging, graft, night clubs and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex and scandalous behavior."

Populism, piety and authoritarianism.


Posted by: bellumregio on March 10, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK
"Very roughly" indeed.

2001 ARIS (via adherents.com): 50,873,000 Catholics, 33,830,000 Baptists, or 1.5027× as many Catholics as Baptists; 2000 Harris poll (via adherents.com), US Registered Voterss 19.9% Catholic, 12.9% Baptist, or 1.54× as many Catholics as Baptists.

Again, your assertion of a decline (without discussing starting or ending ratios, even) in Catholics vs. Evangelicals has nothing, in any case, to do with my comment about the ratio of Catholics to Baptists, nor the point that it is not correct to characterize Baptists as the largest denomination or denominational family in the US, unless one specifies "Protestant".

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK
You made a comment about the numbers of RC vs. Prods.

Nope, I made claim about the number of RC vs. Baptists in the United States.

Don P. added that RC numbers would be smaller yet (in the U.S.) without illegal immigration.

Well, yes, without one of the sources of growth, the numbers would be smaller ("smaller yet" suggest that they are already "small", which, given that Catholics are the largest denomination in the US and, depending on the survey, between 20-25% of the population, I don't think is a fair characterization.)


I was tagging on Don's post adding that the RC church is in sharp decline in Europe and most of the places colonized by Europeans.

That's in inaccurate characterization of your earlier statement, as many of the places in which the growth you referred to is occurring had, at one point in time, been European colonies.

And then I responded, pointing out that irrelevances of your Don's "but-forism".


Do you un-der-stand now? I can't type any slower or use smaller words.

I understood before. Apparently, you did not.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio:

Bingo. American Volkishsme (I'm just guessing at the German noun declention, so please feel free to correct :)

Well-put and well-historically grounded, as always.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio:

Your central point needs to be stated succinctly, because it's absolutely critical:

While evangelicalism is a broad-based movement that encompasses many strands that liberals would find congenial (good stewardship of the earth, defense of the poor, a rejection of racial discrimination, etc), *fundamentalism* absolutely cannot, because fundamentalism is an explicit doctrinal critique and repudiation of cultural modernism itself.

The greatest contradiction that American fundamentalists embrace (Protestants most intensely) is the assimilation of their anti-modern social views with a complete embrace of libertarian economic doctrine.

If Marxism wasn't dead, I'd call it an irreconcilable contradiction that will lead to its inevitable demise :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK
The greatest contradiction that American fundamentalists embrace (Protestants most intensely) is the assimilation of their anti-modern social views with a complete embrace of libertarian economic doctrine.

I don't think its really as paradoxical as you make it sound; while of course philosophical libertarianism itself is a strand of classical liberalism that is incompatible with fundamentalism, the laissez-faire economic doctrines of libertarianism can survive grounded in moral viewpoints from various strands of fundamentalism, such as that material good or ill is a natural (or supernatural) result of moral good or ill, and interference with that by secular human agency contravenes the Will of God.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'd call it an irreconcilable contradiction that will lead to its inevitable demise :)

The irrefutable logic of the historical dialectic, eh?

Posted by: Edo on March 10, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

as many of the places in which the growth you referred to is occurring had, at one point in time, been European colonies. Posted by: cmdicely

Christianity, and RC in particular, had virtually no impact on the native populations in the European colonies in Africa and Asia. Latin America is the exception. What growth in Christianity there has been in Africa and Asia has occured quite recently, some forty to fifty years after the colonial powers left or were driven out. In other words, there is no thread of influence tying a distant colonial past and today's circumstances. Got it? (It's like trying to explain something to a three year old in his "Why" stage).

I'm sorry it pains you that Catholicism is pretty much dead, but it's all for the best. Now if it could somehow take down the fundi Prods, Orthodox Jews and all of Islam with it, the world would be a much more reasonable and orderly place.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 10, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Oh, it's not philosophically or theologically paradoxical at all. It's No King But Jesus taken to its logical extreme. I've actually debated a Mormon cultural dissident who was completely anti-statist while being almost incomprehensibly (to these Northern eyes) socially conservative.

As a *social* doctrine, however, it doesn't parse at all. If taken at its word, it leads to either a kind of quietism and/or communalist removal from the fallen world (e.g. the Amish, the Jehovah's Witnesses) -- or else to a Dominionist overthrow of secular government.

You can't be a Christian fundie and bewail at the corruption of, say, commericial media and simultaneously support the very free market forces that inevitably uses gratuitous sex and violence as sales tools to go one better on the competition.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Christianity, and RC in particular, had virtually no impact on the native populations in the European colonies in Africa and Asia.

Um, so? I never said it did. I said that Europe, contrary to your characterization, did in fact colonize those places. Do try to pay attention.

Latin America is the exception.

Well, there are quite a number of individual other exceptions, but certainly it is an exception, principally because the form of colonization in Latin America was neither based on displacement (as with, e.g., the British colonization of North America) or planting isolated outposts and controlling trade (as much of the rest of the European colonialism was), but an essentially feudal model.

What growth in Christianity there has been in Africa and Asia has occured quite recently, some forty to fifty years after the colonial powers left or were driven out.

I'm quite aware that that is largely (though not entirely) the case, and have said nothing that conflicts with that.

In other words, there is no thread of influence tying a distant colonial past and today's circumstances. Got it? (It's like trying to explain something to a three year old in his "Why" stage).

I'm not the one who asserted the relevance of the presence or absence of past colonization, that was you. I'm not sure why I am being berated for your error.

I'm sorry it pains you that Catholicism is pretty much dead, but it's all for the best. Now if it could somehow take down the fundi Prods, Orthodox Jews and all of Islam with it, the world would be a much more reasonable and orderly place.

Well, in fact, there are more Catholics left than any of those other groups in the world, assuming by "fundi Prods" you mean "Protestant fundamentalists" and not something else. But, eh, whatever, you've clearly gone almost as far off the deep end as Don P.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK
As a *social* doctrine, however, it doesn't parse at all. If taken at its word, it leads to either a kind of quietism and/or communalist removal from the fallen world (e.g. the Amish, the Jehovah's Witnesses) -- or else to a Dominionist overthrow of secular government.
Well, yeah, and I agree with your point there; the fundamentalist/libertarian economic alliance is only as durable as the image among fundamentalists that the State is an un- or even anti-Christian entity.

The fundamentalists have been pretty open in being willing to support rather pervasive state control for their own religious purposes.

There is a certain academic interest in seeing, if the Republicans aren't booted out of power, how that inherent conflict in the Republican base gets resolved; tempered, of course, in the fact that either faction winning is stunningly bad for the country.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely (from way, way upthread),

That's because the right-wing political groups that decided they needed to use religion to gain themselves an uncritical base and get people to vote against their own economic self-interest made a coordinated campaign out of pressuring the media to repeat the liberals vs. Christians meme [ . . .]

Can we please get over the "voting against their own economic self-interest" business? There is nothing particularly attractive, much less heroic, about voting your pocketbook, and Democrats used to understand that. Whites who personally benefited from racial discrimination in employment campaigned against it, thereby working "against their own economic self-interest." I refuse to think of this as disgraceful in itself.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 10, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Gosh, I love these elevated religious discussions; they do so bring out the best in posters :)

Anyway -- here's the thing that bugs me about this post. Why, oh why, do "sensible liberals" need to keep trying to suck up to don't-tread-on-me libertarian conservatives? The answer is easy: We need 'em politically right now. Nothing gives Kevin and his acolytes more of a woody than watching ultraconservative Republicans break with Bush on executive power. It shares a genetic similarity with the left's misplaced fascination with John McCain.

So now we're trying to find it with frontier Baptists who fought the Calvinist, Catholic, Quaker and Anglican mainstreams of the late Colonies and early states. A hard drinkin' manly Scots-Irish lot they were ...

But as soon as you bring in religion, it just collapses into contradiction. Religion is *all about* poking its nose in other people's business -- and the religious sects who argue most strongly for the Establishment Clause are *naturally* the ones who, at that moment, happened to be out of the mainstream (the mainstream sects made sure to stick in the Freedom of Religion clause to make that whole religion section of the First Amendment almost as self-contradictory as the two clauses of the Second Amendment).

It confuses the issue utterly. We liberals *love* religion when it takes on private behavior in the public sphere. We love Abolitionism, alms for the poor, protecting the environment, assuring social justice in the tax code. But we *hate* religion when it comes to Temperence, international missionaries, morally justifying global warfare and other decidedly un-libertarian intrusions on the lives of the peaceful. Religious-motivated strictures on social behavior do *not* respect John Stuart Mill's dictum that my rights end at the beginning of your nose.

So celebrating frontier Baptists for their don't-tread-on me advocacy of the Establishment Clause is only to celebrate them for a self-interest in surviving in a pluralist country -- not for their contributions to the public weal -- which is a much more complex and double-sided legacy as it is with all religions.

And truthfully ... it *feels* a little too much like kissing libertarian butt.

Ptui.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK
Can we please get over the "voting against their own economic self-interest" business?

Are you debating the accuracy of the claim?

There is nothing particularly attractive, much less heroic, about voting your pocketbook, and Democrats used to understand that.

I didn't claim there was. Nevertheless, people tend to do it, since its among the most transparent set of utilities, unless distracted by something else. To get someone to vote regularly against their own economic interests and, even moreso as is the case with the Right's manipulation of religion, largely consistently for the economic self-interest of another group of people, requires some pretty clever manipulation.

I think you mistake description for moral judgement here. I am not saying that voting against your own economic self-interest is disgraceful, nor am I saying it is categorically wrong to honestly try to convince others to do so (though, of course, some instances of that may well be, even if honest.)

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: right-wing political groups [...] use religion to [...] get people to vote against their own economic self-interest

waterfowl: Can we please get over the "voting against their own economic self-interest" business?

Yes, because a better characterization would be "right-wing political groups use religion to get people to vote for career white collar crooks who will use the power of government to rob them blind and enrich themselves, their cronies and their financial backers."

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 10, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK
But as soon as you bring in religion, it just collapses into contradiction. Religion is *all about* poking its nose in other people's business -- and the religious sects who argue most strongly for the Establishment Clause are *naturally* the ones who, at that moment, happened to be out of the mainstream (the mainstream sects made sure to stick in the Freedom of Religion clause to make that whole religion section of the First Amendment almost as self-contradictory as the two clauses of the Second Amendment).

The Freedom of Religion and Establishment Clauses are not contradictory. The government is forbidden from directing private religious belief and practice, either by creating one of its own or constraining those that exist to uphold the doctrines it prefers, and not preach those it dislikes.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK
Yes, because a better characterization would be "right-wing political groups use religion to get people to vote for career white collar crooks who will use the power of government to rob them blind and enrich themselves, their cronies and their financial backers."

Well, yeah, that would be a fair characterization.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 10, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Well, the correct way to interpret the religion section of the 1A is to call it a balance, not a contradiction (which is only a bit of rhetorical hyperbole).

Nonetheless, there are Christian revisionists ankle-deep in the Federalist Papers who are trying to claim that America was founded as a "Christian nation" and who deliberately misread other parts of the Constitution regarding elected officials taking no religious oath -- or neglecting to mention God at all -- a first for such founding documents. Not to mention, of course, the famous deist Freemasonry of Jefferson, Washington and Franklin, etc ...

Like all sections of the Constitution that attempt to balance competing claims, you can put stress on either one. To "what part of Shall Not Be Infringed" don't you understand? I answer what part of "Well-Regulated" don't *you* understand?, etc. ...

And thus with the Establishment Clause -- which can be read to clearly draw a wall between Church and State, is balanced by the Freedom of Religion clause -- which, by asserting that the government enact no regulation on religious practices at all, seems to imply that America *is* a deeply religious nation ...

Which all goes to show anyone that "the Framer's intent" is at best a chimerical concept.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

'The liberal Christians are out there, they just don't advertise themselves as loudly as the wingnut Christians.

word.

--edo

What he/she said.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 10, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely says that

"Well, in fact, there are more Catholics left than any of those other groups in the world,"

This is false. There are far more Muslims than Catholics. As for fundamentalist Protestants and Orthodox Jews, since Catholics always outnumbered those groups, it's hardly surprising that they still do.

The point is that Catholicism, like Christianity more broadly, and religiosity more broadly than that, is increasingly a phenomenon of the third world. The first world is increasingly post-Christian, increasingly secular, a place where religion is progressively losing its power and influence over people's lives.

Posted by: Price on March 10, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Price:

I would broadly agree with that, adding, however, an extremely important caveat:

The more the developed world becomes secularized, the more strident becomes the fundamentalist reaction. If Western Europe wasn't falling so rapidly away from religion in general (save, as you imply, for their recent immigrants), it's less likely that you'd have an ultraconservative doctrinal enforcer as the new Pope, on record wanting a "smaller, more pure" Church. The more America slides into the comfy nihilism of consumerism and self-fulfillment, the more fundamentalist denominations increase their membership and fundraising bases. Secularism has its discontents that can only be answered by a strong critique of materialist values. New Age find-your-own-path relativist mushiness also wins converts -- but it does not sate in the least the hunger for transcendent certitude that is at the base of the religious impulse. If anything, it helps drive the fundamentalist reaction.

And as much as liberalism is founded on a solid moral basis, as much as good chunk of evangelicals support liberal social goals, the fractional *fundamentalist* reaction *cannot* be channeled or co-opted by liberals, as fundamentalism is irreducibly and explictly anti-liberal.

Jimmy Carter is an evangelical Baptist -- but he is no fundamentalist, and has warned against it. Same for Baptist minister John Danforth.

Best we can do is to enlist more liberal evangelicals to sound the klaxon over the increasing and inevitably pernicious influence of the fundamentalist Christian right.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

If you'd really like to explore the underpinnings of fundamentalism - not only Christian, but also Jewish and Islamic, I really recommend Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God.

In fact, I recommend everything Karen Armstrong has written.

Posted by: Ducktape on March 10, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

The "fundamentalist" Christian Right is a paper tiger. It has consistently failed to achieve its political and social goals, and its putative members are becoming increasingly pluralist and secular just like American Christians in general. As for liberal Christians, all that really seems to distinguish them from liberal Jews or liberal atheists is terminology. I don't know why they bother. It's not like their religious beliefs actually make a difference on anything that matters.

Posted by: Price on March 10, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Price:

That's naive in the extreme. George Bush wouldn't be president without his Prot fundie hardcore base -- a base which his father alienated by not being pure enough and which arguably cost him the election.

Tell it to Roberts and Alito -- two conservative Catholics who are nearly certain to overturn Roe when it comes to the court in the next two terms, as the South Dakota abortion ban guarantees it to.

And where did the South Dakota abortion ban come from -- reasonable, scientific secular opinion?

Speaking of which -- riddle me Intelligent Design. Where did *it* come from, and how did it proceed so far into local school boards?

Faith-based social services? Another irrelevant bogeyman created by secular lefties looking for something to shudder about? How about school vouchers? Just a rational answer to underperforming public schools?

No, Price. The politically active fundamentalists in this country wield a disproportionate amount of political power. Best you can argue is that their discipline and organization amplifies their clout out of proportion to their numbers.

But their numbers are hardly insignificant, either. Born-again Prots are the fastest growing denominations in America, easily making up for the decline in Catholics among native-born Americans.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1: New Age find-your-own-path relativist mushiness also wins converts -- but it does not sate in the least the hunger for transcendent certitude that is at the base of the religious impulse.

I have no idea what you mean to lump into the (apparently intended as disparaging) category "New Age" but I don't see anything "mushy" about people wanting to "find-their-own-path". Rather, that sounds to me like having the courage to think for oneself and take personal responsibility for one's own choices.

You seem to simultaneously disparage the "hunger for transcendent certitude" and at the same time disparage those who reject the notion of "certitude" as embracing "mushy relativism".

Personally, I embrace transcendent uncertainty. In words attributed to the Bodhisattva Jesus of Nazareth, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."


Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 10, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Karen Armstrong basically doesn't like the paternalism of the ancient Hebrew culture, doesn't like the moral absoluteness of the ten commandments, considers all the social history and prophecy of the Old Testament as being nothing but the delusions of any overly warlike people intent on separating their culture from ancient fertility-worshipping cultures with prominent godesses, she doesn't like the twelve disciples being all male, she doesn't like either Peter or Paul, she seems to view Jesus as little more than a caring social idealist wrongly promoted to a deity, whose best chance of achieving relevance was through the promotion of his mother to god status and forgetting the nonsense about virgin birth and resurrection.

More offensively to me, Karen Armstrong loathes and despises Martin Luther and makes no bones about it. She particularly seems to hate the fact that Martin Luther realized that when the peasants got their own Bibles they would not only find much about that document intriguing, beautiful, and mesmerizing, they would insist upon interpreting it for themselves without much regard for the opinions of great theological thinkers like herself.

Worse than that, Martin Luther really invented "family values" Christianity and wedded Protestant theology to instinctive middle class virtues. To top it all off, Luther realized the critical role that music could and would play in evangelization, especially in preserving and triumphing the reality that Christianity really is firmly and joyfully a complete "other worldly" philosophical system.

The best way to evaluate Karen Armstrong is this: is there a supernatural realm or not? If you say NO! OF COURSE NOT! Then Karen Armstrong is the gal for you. She will trash-talk Christian believers until the last late-night postmodern talk show signs off at the break of dawn, having prattled through the midnight of man's intellectual condition.

Some Karen Armstrong fans might actually believe in a femi-pagan sort of supernatural sphere, with lots of prominent godesses, saints, or angels, and who is to say there might not be something to that? I am a Christian because I am absolutely convinced that existence is undergirded with supernatural, mystical, paranormal, and outright bizarre influences at every turn, and I feel much more comfortable preaching and anticipating a Judeo-Christian afterlife than one populated by the likes of Thor, Diana, demi-urges, godesses that demand the sacrifice of babies, Baal, Woden, or other surprises.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 10, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

"George Bush wouldn't be president without his Prot fundie hardcore base "

So what? George Bush isn't any more willing or able to enact the "fundamentalist" agenda, to the extent that there even is such a thing, than were his father or Ronald Reagan.

"Tell it to Roberts and Alito -- two conservative Catholics who are nearly certain to overturn Roe when it comes to the court in the next two terms, as the South Dakota abortion ban guarantees it to."

I very much doubt that Roe will be overturned, and even if it is the resulting backlash and experience will prevent any real erosion of abortion rights. One of the greatest strengths of democracy is its capacity for self correction.

"And where did the South Dakota abortion ban come from -- reasonable, scientific secular opinion?"

It came from a small band of overreaching conservatives in a tiny (population-wise) state.

"Speaking of which -- riddle me Intelligent Design. Where did *it* come from, and how did it proceed so far into local school boards?"

It came from the defeat of more explicitly religious forms of creationism, a defeat so unequivocal that they're not even on the political radar screen any more. I don't agree that ID has proceeded far into local school boards. Where it has made significant inroads, as in Dover and Kansas, it's being effectively defeated in the courts and elsewhere.

"Faith-based social services? Another irrelevant bogeyman created by secular lefties looking for something to shudder about? How about school vouchers? Just a rational answer to underperforming public schools?"

Faith-based social services are nothing. And yes, vouchers are, in part at least, a rational (though not necessarily effective) answer to underperforming public schools.


Posted by: Price on March 10, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

"I am a Christian because I am absolutely convinced that existence is undergirded with supernatural, mystical, paranormal, and outright bizarre influences at every turn, and I feel much more comfortable preaching and anticipating a Judeo-Christian afterlife than one populated by the likes of Thor, Diana, demi-urges, godesses that demand the sacrifice of babies, Baal, Woden, or other surprises."

Your "absolute" conviction is pretty scary. A little humility is in order. And while you may feel more "comfortable" with Christianity than competing religions, experience suggests that comfort level isn't a particularly reliable indicator of truth.


Posted by: Jason on March 10, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Secular:

Before I read Michael Cook and get really aggravated :), lemme quickly say that I don't mean at all to disparage your sort of views -- or anyone's who might find their own brand of enligtenment in certain aisles of bookstores ... transcendence is as transcendence does, and who am I to deign judge it?

What I meant is that there's a definite hunger out there for *certitude*, a kind of certitude that all forms of modernity makes problematic -- hard science as much as soft situational ethics. And to this type of mentality, any kind of spiritualism which isn't anchored by a firm doctrinal setting forth of What Is and What Isn't is extremely threatening -- more threatening than garden-variety weak atheism or adherence to a different, even flatly contradictory, doctrine. An apostate is always more threatening than a mere infidel.

Nothing gets the flecks of spittle to to fly for a fundie more than cofronting a Unitarian -- or a person who says "well, I'm very spiritual -- just not religious."

My disparaging tone against New Age relativism was only a rhetorical stance from the imagined POV of this kind kind of mentality.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Price:

Let's just leave it that you're a lot more optimistic about the self-correcting nature of democracy at this particular historical moment than I ...

We look at the same data points and see different things. I'm cool with that.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Secular:

Michael Cook exemplifies to a T the mentality I just described ... *shudder*.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 10, 2006 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Secular:

I brought up New Age for another reason which I didn't recall until I re-read my original message, and it wasn't to disparage those sorts of beliefs.

The modern world has its discontents, and there is absolutely a well-developed line of critique that is congruent with the fundamentalist critique in the objects of criticism, but otherwise unconnected to it. Fundies aren't the only ones who object to the cultural rot that comes from rampant materialism. There's a long, well-developed tradition of leftist social critique rooted in egalitarianism that encompasses feminism, environmentalism, economic justice and a re-spiritualization (or re-valuation) of the world. It can take a purely secular, materialist direction, but with the death of Marxism, this strain is currently less developed than the Thoreauvian, neo-transcendentalist strain.

It is also (unfortunately) acidly mocked as being the politically impotent product of smelly middle-class hippies and malcontents, on the extreme end yielding a radical Luddite like the Unabomber and anarchist destruction mongers and on the other political naifs who throw their votes away for Ralph Nader, or who prefer euro-trashing it to economic summit protests rather than serious political organizing.

It's ironic in the extreme, but all those button-down drug-free homeschooling fundies are motivated at base by the same kinds of concerns about the modern world. They've gotten organized and speak with virtually one voice -- radical leftists are a cacaphony.

There's definitely a lesson in here somewhere ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 11, 2006 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

The greatest contradiction that American fundamentalists embrace (Protestants most intensely) is the assimilation of their anti-modern social views with a complete embrace of libertarian economic doctrine. --rmck1

Indeed. The Judeo Christian has jesus turning the tables in the markets of the money changers yet our Society says money money, material, cars, jewelry, etc....Conflicts.

Quite a few of these Judeo Christians search for this 'enlightenment' and join masonic type lodges looking for the answers thru middle east mysticysm. Not that this is bad, it just shows the conflicts that society and religion can create quite They pray for health and fortune and often life deals illness and misfortune.

Without rehashing history of religion, Look at this 'Liberal' talking 'point' of Bushco about 'libruls'

80-90% of America is Judeo Christian? About right? The other 10% are mixed...
70% of America is currently not liking Bushs actions right? But Rove is saying that DEMOCRATS are these 'liberals' are somehow less moral?

Obviously thats not so if 70% of America (mostly JudeoXian) isn't approving of the 'course' or the Iraq War. Only 30-35% of these VERY SAME JudeoXians approve. Rovers Full of Crap.

What Roverco/Freepers\Faux News are trying to pass as FACT is nothing but Clever Misleading Roviating opinion and this crap is the same CRAP they have been spewing on this never ending re-election campaign of Roves. People are Sick of it, in my view, (I'm sick of it) and thats what we, perhaps, are seeing.
If you saw my other post 70% of the Jewish Americans also aren't favorable to Bush either.

Coffee!!
(and yes I do read political theory)
http://www.politicaltheory.info/
Daily Political Theory

Posted by: Mach TucK on March 11, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Cook sez:

"I am a Christian because I am absolutely convinced that existence is undergirded with supernatural, mystical, paranormal, and outright bizarre influences at every turn..."

You state you're absolutely convinced of this stuff. Aside from what you've read in some version of the Bible - which any reasonable person must admit was translated from several languages, where the NT quotations of the OT are all from a Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint) which varies radically from the compiled Hebrew and Aramaic copies of whatever originals (?) existed at the time, and is filled with poetry that folks now want to take literally - what exactly is that "convinces" you so "absolutely" about this "supernatural"? realm? If you admit that it is as you've described it, what's so "absolute" about it?

If you don't get this, Michael, I'd suggest you go rent all six seasons of the Sopranos and start watching them. Tony and his psychiatrist as still trying to figure out the meaning of his first dream - the one where a bird carries off Tony's detached penis - as well as the rest of them. That is the nature of the supernatural - uncertain, vague, unconvincing, confusing. Just like the book of Revelation. Or Ezekiel. Or Daniel. Or the 25th chapter of Matthew, and the rest of the parables in the Bible.

Posted by: Tom Paine II on March 11, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Tom, whoever told you that the Septuagint "varies radically" from the original Hebrew and Aramic sources is an outright liar. The Dead Sea scrolls confirm the extraordinary degree of invariancy between the ancient and most modern translations. Of course, someone can bitch that the Gettysburg Address translated into Japanese is highly distorted, because translators take what they consider is the most precise meaning of an English word and substitute what they consider is the appropriate Japanese word.

On my shelf are about six different English translations of the Bible. The wording of some of them is so simplistic as to be the "Bible for Dummies" yet still the meaning is preserved.

I'm sorry you have a hard on against our theology, but the fact is that we regard it an ancient social wisdom that was extremely hard-won and should not be tossed in the dustbin of history because postmodern idiots like yourself sneer at it.

As far as it being "poetical", of course it was.
It is also highly allegorical. My view of the Bible is that all of it is true and some of it actually happened. I have said that in Sunday school classes I teach without rebuke. The ancient Hebrews were trying to make sense of historical events from the point of view that they were either in or out of favor with God. To those of us who believe in an all-powerful, all-seeing God who is not in the least handicapped by "deist" notions popular with contemporaries of the original Tom Paine, this is not an unreasonable point of view.

Incidentally, about 400 years B.C.E. the Hebrew elders became intrigued by the idea of translating their sacred texts into "modern" Greek, that is, the newly unified Greek language that had been suggested by Aristotle. His pupil Alexander established a commission which worked for decades to create a written Green language which at the time seemed like the most suitable language around for the expression of delicate philosophical concepts.

It is extraordinary to me that the ancient Hebrews recognized this and went to considerable expense and trouble (it took decades) to have all their own lore translated into Greek.

Now for one mystical part--no confirmation of any ancient Judeo-Christian texts was found until post World War Two, the Holocaust, and the invention of the nuclear bomb, when all of a sudden both the Dead Sea scrolls and the Nag Hamadi Christian writings were independently found with a few years. To me, that is an awesome bit of synchronocity or "coincidence" if you will.

Much of the Old Testament is chronology, much of it social history and poetry, but much of it is prophecy. If I were a typical postmodern agnostic secular humanist know-it-all smart ass, I wouldn't sneer at the ancient prophecy part. You ain't seen nothing in this old world yet.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 11, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Fundies aren't the only ones who object to the cultural rot that comes from rampant materialism.
Posted by: rmck1

Where in the world did you arrive at this? Fundies are no less materialistic on the whole than your average Gordon Geckos on Wall Street. Probably without understanding it, many have internalized that aspect of Calvinism believing that prospering is fine as long as you tythe and you are morally correct. If you are rich and believe, you are being rewarded by God, a concept that, of course, predates Judiasm and Christianity.

The fundies biggest split with the contemporary world is moral, not financial.

Posted by: JeffII on March 11, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Your "absolute" conviction is pretty scary. A little humility is in order. Posted by: Jason

Seconded. Nothing is worse than people who know anything absolutely, right Dice Man?

"A closed mind is a wonderful thing to waste." - Richard Feyman.

Posted by: JeffII on March 11, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

"George Bush wouldn't be president without his Prot fundie hardcore base "

Actually, that's not even close to being true. Rove didn't get a woody about the fundies until the 2004 election. They are believed to have stayed away from the polls in 2000. And in any case, their voting numbers are estimated to only be about 9 million nation wide.

No, again, Bush won in 2004 not because a bunch of brain dead religious conservatives united behind him. Bush won because most American's are brain dead in general, and because there was, as in 2000, massive voter fraud.

Posted by: JeffII on March 11, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely says that

"Well, in fact, there are more Catholics left than any of those other groups in the world,"

This is false. There are far more Muslims than Catholics. As for fundamentalist Protestants and Orthodox Jews, since Catholics always outnumbered those groups, it's hardly surprising that they still do.

The point is that Catholicism, like Christianity more broadly, and religiosity more broadly than that, is increasingly a phenomenon of the third world. The first world is increasingly post-Christian, increasingly secular, a place where religion is progressively losing its power and influence over people's lives. Posted by: Price

Well said, Price. The Dice Man would have been perfect in the Clinton administration able to obsufucate and parse meanings all day long. Moves the goal posts more than the Trolls do. Sparing with him is like sparing with Martin Short's Nathan Thrum character from SNL - "I never said that. You said that." "Yeah, well, so what?"

Posted by: JeffII on March 11, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Cook sez:

"Well, Tom, whoever told you that the Septuagint "varies radically" from the original Hebrew and Aramic sources is an outright liar.

Well dude, since I have a copy of the LXX in Greek as well as several well-read Greek NT's in my library, I guess I would know. Can you read Greek? If not, how can you comment on this?

As far as my being an "idiot", you don't know me at all, Michael. That being the case, I can only assume that your pronouncing me an idiot is mere projection of your own self view. At one point I had more than 40 Bibles in my library. So what?

The NT writers quote the OT Septuagint. The Septagint varies in significant ways from the commonly accepted Hebrew compilations the existed then and exist now. I can prove that. It's not difficult.

You state that you're "sorry (I) have a hard on against our theology..." Which theology is that? Or, more specifically, which flavor?

You failed to answer my question. I asked, what exactly is that "convinces" you so "absolutely" about this "supernatural"? realm? If you admit that it is as you've described it, what's so "absolute" about it?

While we're at it, Michael, I spent more years than you could even imagine studying, discussing and contemplating this realm with literally thousands of people. I don't know - or, frankly, don't care - which brand of Christian you call yourself. I don't "sneer" at these bizarre ideas that you and many others hold, and certainly don't do so lightly. But your attitude, this "I'm a Christian and we know yada yada and we're better than you all for some reason only we understand" I find truly repulsive. It is also, sadly, a reflection of the delusional ideas that people like you insist on projecting upon this "supernatural" realm you all love to opine about.

So can you answer my question now? Or are you going to change the subject again and go off on another rant?

Posted by: Tom Paine II on March 11, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Why, oh why, do "sensible liberals" need to keep trying to suck up to don't-tread-on-me libertarian conservatives? The answer is easy: We need 'em politically right now.

Hardly. Libertarians are even fewer in number than the fundies

Nothing gives Kevin and his acolytes more of a woody than watching ultraconservative Republicans break with Bush on executive power. It shares a genetic similarity with the left's misplaced fascination with John McCain.

No. It's because traditional American conservatives do believe in the constitution and a limited executive branch power. What you see in the White House and the recent appointments to the Supreme Court are quasi-royalists that would make even Hamilton blanche.

We liberals *love* religion when it takes on private behavior in the public sphere. We love Abolitionism, alms for the poor, protecting the environment, assuring social justice in the tax code. But we *hate* religion when it comes to Temperence, international missionaries, morally justifying global warfare and other decidedly un-libertarian intrusions on the lives of the peaceful. Religious-motivated strictures on social behavior do *not* respect John Stuart Mill's dictum that my rights end at the beginning of your nose.

Well said.

So celebrating frontier Baptists for their don't-tread-on me advocacy of the Establishment Clause is only to celebrate them for a self-interest in surviving in a pluralist country - not for their contributions to the public weal - which is a much more complex and double-sided legacy as it is with all religions. Posted by: rmck1

Also well said.

Posted by: JeffII on March 11, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Cook wrote: we regard it [as] an ancient social wisdom that was extremely hard-won and should not be tossed in the dustbin of history

Well said. To say that religion is a "social wisdom" is not to claim it is anything more than the "hard won" accumulated collective wisdom of human beings. As such it can certainly be argued that religious thought contains lessons from our history as to how human societies can increase human well-being, that should not be "tossed in the dustbin".

Michael Cook: I am a Christian because I am absolutely convinced that existence is undergirded with supernatural, mystical, paranormal, and outright bizarre influences at every turn.

Please define what you mean by
"supernatural"
"mystical"
"paranormal"
"bizarre"

My sense of these words is:

I consider the word "nature" to mean "all that is". Thus the word "supernatural" has no meaning, or rather no content. If something exists, it is part of "all that is", therefore it is "natural".

A quintessential "supernatural" phenomenon, for example, might be a ghost -- contact in some form with what appears to be the personality of a dead person. But if such phenomena (e.g. hauntings, apparitions, contact in dreams, mediumistic contacts, cases of the reincarnation type) actually do occur, then they are not "supernatural". They are just natural phenomena that we don't understand, indicative of the existence of aspects of nature that we don't understand.

The word "mystical" essentially refers to the idea that there is some fundamental truth about reality that can only be experienced, and cannot be communicated in words. The nature of that alleged "mystical" truth often, though not always, has to do with an altered experiential relationship between oneself and "that-which-is-not-oneself", i.e. the rest of the world, in which the conventional divisions between self and world change or disappear, thus revealing the "truth" that one's ordinary sense of self and world is not the "whole story" of reality.

"Paranormal" simply means beyond or outside the normal range of experience.

"Bizarre" is just a subjective characterization and a vague one at that.


So, having said that, I don't quite understand what it is you are saying you think existence is "undergirded with" or why it causes you to be a Christian, particularly as opposed to being a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Scientologist or whatever.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 11, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

The fundamental "absolute" assumption is this: either a supernatural dimension to existence can be reliably apprehended, or it can't. If one, in the course of their life, becomes aware of certain metaphysical effects being "absolutely" undeniable, then one has to suspect that everything is shot through and through with mystical influences (especially quantum physics!)

I didn't start out believing the Bible was true because I read of miracles therein. I started out as a thoroughly atheistic secular materialist who ran head-first into phenomena in THIS WORLD that convinced me beyond any shadow of a doubt that the universe throbs with metaphysical power.

So, I was left with the problem: given that the universe is scarily supernatural, what should I believe in or pay homage to in the unseen realm?
Should I appease Krishna, make sacrifices to Isis, or lounge in obeisance to Bachanal or the trolls in forest groves or naiads in tinkling streams?

I settled on Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism, which I view as a theological trilogy with a lot of intellectually interesting historical things going for them. More than all that, there is the creation problem and the where is E.T. problem?
The universe appears to be so inherently hospitable to organic compounds that one would reasonably suppose it should be filthy with advanced life forms.

One would suppose, that since life can arise spontaneously from material conditions, it would do so again and again in a much wider variety of bio-chemical patterns than apparent today. The lame explanation is always given that (when other twists get started) the dominant forms of life "out-compete" them and drive them quickly extinct. We should see evidence of that.

Life looks to me like it cooperates more than it competes. It looks like specialized organisms develop until they get a sequence of genes worked out for the benefit of all life, then they go away. It looks like nature treasures its big grab bag of genes and preserves them, able to call on any of them when the time comes. It looks like nature rarely re-invents the wheel, but is capable of making any genetic bio-chemical mechanism do double, triple, or a hundred-fold duty, depending on exquisitely precisely determined time and place.

And all of that smacks to me of supernatural determinism, evident to our own eyes.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 11, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1
Your posts are eloquent but any coherent thoughts you've expressed have been obliterated in a Geroge Will like raging river of words.But don't be disheartened as a graduate of one of the woefully inadequte public schools I still understand you.Hopefully you can temper your obvious erudition with enough humility to let the rest of the world understand your insight.

Posted by: frodo on March 11, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, but as you note in your article, these evangelicals did it for self-serving reasons. Just as conservatives in this era have allied themselves with big business to push their agenda, conservatives in that era allied themselves with liberals to push their agenda. In that era, their agenda was simply survival. To not have, say, the Episcopalian religion become the official religion and drive them out. But now they no longer fear being driven out, so they are pursuing their broader agenda of making all of us the same as them. Because evangelicals are all about converting people --- as opposed to Jews, whose religion is primarily inherited --- their ultimate goal will always be to take over a state and impose their religion on everyone.

On a person-to-person basis, that may be a little arrogant, as there are no doubt some evangelicals who hold progressive views. But in terms of the church institutions themselves, institutional self-interest drives them. So while I would agree that economic conservatism --- or big money interests --- can easily be separated from evangelicals, the social conservatism is, in fact, what they're all about.

If you want to prove to me that it is otherwise, you'll have to tell me what the 18th century evangelicals positions on issues other than separation of church and state were.

Posted by: catherineD on March 11, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Paine II:

> Tony and his psychiatrist as still trying to figure out the
> meaning of his first dream - the one where a bird carries
> off Tony's detached penis

Oh, that's a no-brainer. It's from the classic progrock album The
Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1973) by Genesis (when they were good :):

THE COLONY OF SLIPPERMEN

[...]

We're in The Colony of Slippermen
There's no who, why, what or when
You'll get out if you got the gripe
To ses Doktor Dyper, reformed sniper
He'll whip off your windscreen wiper

John and I are able
to face the Doktor and his marble table
He said "You understand, Rael --
that's the end of your tail"
Don't delay, dock the dick,
I watch his countdown timer tick

He places the number into a tube
It's a yellow plastic ... shoobedoobe
He says "Though your fingers may tickle
You'll be safe in our pickle"
Suddenly a raven comes down from the sky
It's a supersized black bird that sure can fly!

{synth interlude}

The Raven brings on darkness and night
He flies right down -- gives me one hell of a fright
He takes the tube right out of my hands
Man I gotta find where that black bird lands

"Look here, John, I've got to run
I need you now, you going to come?"
He says to me "Now can't you see?
Where the Raven flies, there's jeopardy
We've been cured on the couch
Now you're sick with your grouch
I'll not risk my honey pouch
Which my slouch will wear slung very low"

He walks away and leaves me once again
Even though I'd never learn,
I hoped he'd show just some concern

I'm in the agony of Slipperpain
I pray my undercarriage will sustain
The chase is on, the pace is hot
And I'm running so very hard with everything that I've got

He leads me to an underpass
Though it narrows, he still flies very fast
When the tunnel stops
I catch sight of the tube, just as it drops

I'm on top of a bank too steep to climb
I see it hit the water, just in time

To watch it float away
float away
float away ...

--Peter Gabriel

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 11, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:

> "Fundies aren't the only ones who object to the
> cultural rot that comes from rampant materialism."

> Where in the world did you arrive at this? Fundies are no
> less materialistic on the whole than your average Gordon
> Geckos on Wall Street.

Well, I meant materialism more in the philosophical sense
(scientific analogues: reductionism, determinism, physicalism),
to contrast it with spirituality. A lack of belief, in other words,
in transcendence. Everything that is, is all there is. It does
connect, though, to materialism as commonly understood -- and indeed,
this puts a modern fundie in a whopping contradiction between his
libertarian economic views and his social conservatism: My whole
point. Recall all those Dobson-organized boycotts of consumer
products that sponsor immoral TV shows. Which is, of course, absurd
if you're also a Republican who advocates an unfettered marketplace.

> Probably without understanding it, many have internalized
> that aspect of Calvinism believing that prospering is
> fine as long as you tythe and you are morally correct.

Yes. Cf. Max Weber's seminal The Protestant Ethic
and the Spirit of Capitalism. The notion of Grace
is so ineffible in Calvinism that material wealth
serves as an outward-and-visible sign of it.

> If you are rich and believe, you are being rewarded by God,
> a concept that, of course, predates Judiasm and Christianity.

And also directly contradicts the Sermon on the Mount: "A camel
would have an easier time of passing through the eye of a needle
than a rich man would in getting into the Kingdom of Heaven."

Deep contradictions ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 11, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:

> "George Bush wouldn't be president without
> his Prot fundie hardcore base "

> Actually, that's not even close to being true.

I beg to differ. Somebody's going to have to do some research here,
but dollars to donuts, had the fundies stayed home in the numbers
they did in '92 (GHWB never inspired them), Gore would have won.

> Rove didn't get a woody about the fundies until the 2004 election.

Disagreed. There were many moments of coded speech that excited
the fundies as no other candidate has since Reagan. Jesus being
his favorite philosopher and all. Plus, the redeemed reprobate
life narrative -- and redeemed not through AA, but through Jesus.

Plus, the moral disgust over the Clenis was intense. Fundies
had a huge reason to vote in '00 -- though arguably they had
even more of one in '04 with the *cough* war on the Muslim
infidel and bringing democracy to foreign lands because it's
"The Almighty's gift to every man and woman on the planet."

We went from woody to multiple orgasms
with a prostate-probing anal dildo.

> They are believed to have stayed away from the polls in 2000.

Again, I'd contest this. Easy enough to look up ...

> And in any case, their voting numbers are
> estimated to only be about 9 million nation wide.

Way more than enough to sway an electorate of @ 100 million voters.

That's 8-9 percentage points. And they are bloc voters.

> No, again, Bush won in 2004 not because a bunch of brain
> dead religious conservatives united behind him. Bush won
> because most American's are brain dead in general, and
> because there was, as in 2000, massive voter fraud.

One factor of many to be sure -- but potentially a deciding one.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 11, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Most of us fundies are quite cognizant of the fact that the material richness of our day seems to tar everyone, even all us middle-class folks, with the label of "rich." It isn't that hard, anymore. All you need is to own your own home, have a 401K and a couple pensions coming in, and maybe a couple other modest savings accounts and one day you look around and realize the net worth has inched over an inflated million.

You don't feel like a millionaire, of course. You still always fly coach on standby, rarely eat out, and can't remember the last time you bought a new suit. You look in the driveway and don't see anything newer than ten years old. You mow the lawn and clean the gutters yourself.

Then there is historical affluence, because you also know that your absolute standard of living is much higher than the pharoahs. You realize that when you are sick the medical care you receive (after paying that killer deductible)is much superior to what Louis the XIV or Henry the VIII enjoyed.

The eye of the needle is an interesting paradigm, because it likely refers to one of the gates in the wall of Jerusalem that was called "the needle" because of its narrowness. A camel could get through it, after being unloaded.

It seems to me a lot of Hollywood rich adopt annoying limosine liberalism because they have no concept of grace to ease their intense feelings of unworthiness. That's too bad, but it doesn't justify them insulting and stealing from hard working middle class people in order to salve their own consciences with other people's money.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 11, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II:

> "Why, oh why, do "sensible liberals" need to keep trying to
> suck up to don't-tread-on-me libertarian conservatives? The
> answer is easy: We need 'em politically right now."

> Hardly. Libertarians are even fewer in number than the fundies

Jeff, did you read what I said? I wasn't talking about
capital-L Libertarians (who are about as politically significant
as the Green Party), I was talking about the libertarian strain in
conservatism -- to contrast it with the social conservative strain.

Fundies, regardless of their numbers, are orders of magnitude
more politically significant than either of those marginal parties.
There are a lot more Republicans who have no problem using the state
to regulate private behavior for moral reasons while boosting "limited
government" in the economic sphere than there are philosophically
consistent Libs who are both civ-lib and pro-free market.

Probably because consistent thinkers are a small minority of voters.

> "Nothing gives Kevin and his acolytes more of a woody than
> watching ultraconservative Republicans break with Bush on
> executive power. It shares a genetic similarity with the
> left's misplaced fascination with John McCain."

> No. It's because traditional American conservatives do believe in
> the constitution and a limited executive branch power. What you
> see in the White House and the recent appointments to the Supreme
> Court are quasi-royalists that would make even Hamilton blanche.

Surely. But my point here (which you seemed to recognize in the
rest of your response) is that celebrating early Baptists for
their libertarianism (which resembles traditional small-government
constitutionalist Republicanism) is to applaud the political
expression of the religious impulse for the wrong reason.

Lefties like religion when it makes a moral argument for constraining
behavior. Civil libertarian lefties reconcile themselves with this
tradition when the behavior constrained narrows the freedom and/or
rights of other people (like Southern segregationists or corporate
polluters) and reject it when it narrows the freedom of people without
affecting others directly (like the War on Drugs or pornography).

Neither aspect has much to do with frontier libertarianism.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on March 11, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

As I noted in my Monthly piece, the one group that would surely oppose the approach taken by many 21st evangelicals is 18th century evangelicals. They were eloquent and fierce supporters of separation of church and state.

What history books are you reading? This is blatantly wrong. The theist-oriented intellectuals were definitely for separation of church and state, as were minority sects in any particular state, but dominant Christian sects were not the ones pushing separation of church and state. Try looking at some of the early state constitutions for god sakes, or google the term "future state of rewards and punishments".

Posted by: Jimm on March 13, 2006 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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