Why religiously unaffiliated Republicans flocked to Trump

Peter Beinart writes: When pundits describe the Americans who sleep in on Sundays, they often conjure left-leaning hipsters. But religious attendance is down among Republicans, too. According to data assembled for me by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has nearly tripled since 1990. This shift helped Trump win the GOP nomination. During the campaign, commentators had a hard time reconciling Trump’s apparent ignorance of Christianity and his history of pro-choice and pro-gay-rights statements with his support from evangelicals. But as Notre Dame’s Geoffrey Layman noted, “Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.” A Pew Research Center poll last March found that Trump trailed Ted Cruz by 15 points among Republicans who attended religious services every week. But he led Cruz by a whopping 27 points among those who did not.

Why did these religiously unaffiliated Republicans embrace Trump’s bleak view of America more readily than their churchgoing peers? Has the absence of church made their lives worse? Or are people with troubled lives more likely to stop attending services in the first place? Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful. Since the early 1970s, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college. And even within the white working class, those who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to suffer from divorce, addiction, and financial distress. As Wilcox explains, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world. They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and otherwise forging real and abiding ties in their community. The culture and economy have shifted in ways that have marooned them with traditional aspirations unrealized in their real-world lives.”

The worse Americans fare in their own lives, the darker their view of the country. According to PRRI, white Republicans who seldom or never attend religious services are 19 points less likely than white Republicans who attend at least once a week to say that the American dream “still holds true.”

But non-churchgoing conservatives didn’t flock to Trump only because he articulated their despair. He also articulated their resentments. For decades, liberals have called the Christian right intolerant. When conservatives disengage from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims. In 2008, the University of Iowa’s Benjamin Knoll noted that among Catholics, mainline Protestants, and born-again Protestants, the less you attended church, the more anti-immigration you were. (This may be true in Europe as well. A recent thesis at Sweden’s Uppsala University, by an undergraduate named Ludvig Bromé, compared supporters of the far-right Swedish Democrats with people who voted for mainstream candidates. The former were less likely to attend church, or belong to any other community organization.)

How might religious nonattendance lead to intolerance? Although American churches are heavily segregated, it’s possible that the modest level of integration they provide promotes cross-racial bonds. In their book, Religion and Politics in the United States, Kenneth D. Wald and Allison Calhoun-Brown reference a different theory: that the most-committed members of a church are more likely than those who are casually involved to let its message of universal love erode their prejudices.

Whatever the reason, when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Donald Trump declares a vision of religious nationalism

The Atlantic reports: When Donald Trump looks out on the world, he sees a landscape of potential threats to the United States and its values. “Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but also a right under threat all around us,” the president said at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. “The world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways,” he went on, “but we’re going to straighten it out. That’s what I do. I fix things.”

He laid out a vision of what it means to end these threats to United States: Stop terrorism. End the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians. Defend the country’s borders from those who “would exploit that generosity to undermine the values we hold so dear.” Religious Americans also feel threatened within the U.S., he said: “That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” a provision of the tax code that prohibits religious leaders and institutions endorsing or opposing political candidates, “and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” Repealing the Johnson Amendment would theoretically allow houses of worship and religious leaders to openly advocate for political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status, while also allowing them to funnel religious donations into explicitly political efforts.

Trump is championing an agenda of religious nationalism. Along with key White House staffers like Stephen Bannon, he believes America represents a set of values, rooted in the country’s religious identity. While there’s little evidence that Trump himself is religiously devout, he has benefited from affiliations with largely white evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. [Continue reading…]

In the Steven Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks plays the part of James B. Donovan who in 1957 defended the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. In the following scene Donovan explains to a CIA agent why he insists on following the law and what it means to be an American:

 

Facebooktwittermail

How Harvey Cox reminds us of the radical possibilities and egalitarian hopes of a Christian left

Elizabeth Bruenig writes:  In a recent Harper’s Magazine article, Baylor University professor Alan Jacobs caused something of a stir: What had become, he asked, of America’s Christian public intellectuals? Once a prominent feature of public life, the Christian social critic seems to have faded from view. “Half a century ago,” Jacobs noted, “such figures existed in America: serious Christian intellectuals who occupied a prominent place on the national stage. They are gone now.”

It’s impossible to dispute Jacobs’s central point: In the United States, we no longer have a Walter Rauschenbusch or a Reinhold Niebuhr, thinkers who critiqued American society from a Christian perspective. True, there are Christians who are also intellectuals — figures like Cornel West and Robert P. George — but their cultural cachet is hardly comparable to that of their 20th-century predecessors.

In part, this is the result of shifting currents in the American disposition. As a public, we don’t have the same taste for sermonic advice we once did, intellectual or otherwise. But, as Jacobs argues, the decline of Christian public voices is also a function of something internal to Christian thought: Over the past half-century, many strains of Christianity have seen a “privatization of religious experience and discourse.”

Ever since, Christians on the right have been attempting to reverse this process, whether by invoking a past in which some aspects of traditional Christian thought defined social norms, or by using many of the rights created by liberalism in order to protect the public expression of Christian values — for example, conservative Christians have claimed legal protection for abstaining from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, and for refusing to offer insurance coverage for medical practices they believe run counter to their faith.

Indeed, the right’s dominance over public expressions of Christianity has been so pronounced that it has created something of a crisis for liberal and left-wing Christians: How can one launch a Christian critique of poverty, inequality, racism, or the United States’ seemingly endless appetite for war when Christianity, at least as it has largely been understood by one’s comrades, is often associated with the fundamentalist right? How can one invoke the egalitarian and communitarian ideals of the faith when the right has so dominated the public landscape that the very notion of “left Christianity” is often now a puzzling idea?

Without a unified Christian left to contrast against a powerful and already unified Christian right, there is no obvious political program or donor base for an incipient generation of left-Christian activists and intellectuals. Young Christians committed to social and economic justice have to carve out their own lineage and propose their own goals and priorities; on the right, that work has already been done for them.

It’s in the face of these challenges for an emerging new generation of Christian liberals and leftists that Harvey Cox— a Baptist minister, Harvard divinity professor for more than 40 years, and Christian left-wing intellectual to the core—offers a beacon of light. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Donald Trump reveals evangelical rifts that could shape politics for years

The New York Times reports: When Jen Hatmaker speaks to stadiums full of Christian women, she regales them with stories about her five children and her garden back in Austin, Tex. — and stays away from politics. But recently she took to Facebook and Instagram to blast Donald J. Trump as a “national disgrace,” and remind her legions of followers that there are other names on the ballot in November.

“Trump has consistently normalized violence, sexual deviance, bigotry and hate speech,” she said in an email interview. “I wouldn’t accept this from my seventh-grade son, much less from a potential leader of the free world.”

In the nearly four decades since Jerry Falwell Sr. founded a group called the Moral Majority, evangelical Christians have been the Republican Party’s most unified and reliable voting bloc in November presidential elections. The leaders of what came to be known as the religious right were kingmakers and household names, like Pat Robertson, James C. Dobson, Ralph Reed.

But this year, Ms. Hatmaker’s outraged post was one small sign of the splintering of the evangelical bloc and a possible portent of the changes ahead. While most of the religious right’s aging old guard has chosen to stand by Mr. Trump, its judgment and authority are being challenged by an increasingly assertive crop of younger leaders, minorities and women such as Ms. Hatmaker.

“Those men have never spoken for me or, frankly, anyone I know,” said Ms. Hatmaker, the author of popular inspirational Christian books. “The fracture within our own Christian family may be irreparable.”

The fault lines among evangelicals that the election of 2016 has exposed — among generations, ethnic groups and sexes — are likely to reshape national politics for years to come, conservative Christian leaders and analysts said last week in interviews. Arguments that were once private are now public, and agendas are no longer clear. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

White Christian America is dying

In an interview with the Washington Post, Robert P. Jones, author of The End of White Christian America, says: The American religious landscape is being remade, most notably by the decline of the white Protestant majority and the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. These religious transformations have been swift and dramatic, occurring largely within the last four decades. Many white Americans have sensed these changes, and there has been some media coverage of the demographic piece of the puzzle. But while the country’s shifting racial dynamics are certainly a source of apprehension for many white Americans, it is the disappearance of White Christian America that is driving their strong, sometimes apocalyptic reactions. Falling numbers and the marginalization of a once-dominant racial and religious identity — one that has been central not just to white Christians themselves but to the national mythos — threatens white Christians’ understanding of America itself. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Trump crowds are angry about the demise of America’s white Christian majority

Robert P. Jones writes: On the surface, the answer to why the campaign rallies of Donald Trump have been frequently marked by vitriolic and racist outbursts, harsh rhetoric and even violence is simple: the candidate has encouraged it. But the raw materials Trump has at his disposal have been mined and refined for nearly half a century. Trump is not the source but an igniting spark.

The apocalyptic rhetoric that regularly escapes the bounds of civil discourse at Trump events is fueled by the particular energies that are unleashed when a long-dominant group senses the looming end of its era. Certainly, the boarded up shop fronts of small towns that testify to the disappearance of reliable working class jobs are a critical part of this sense of loss and distress. But the watershed moment that many analysts have missed, and that Trump’s most ardent supporters feel in their bones, is this: During Barack Obama’s tenure as president, the United States has crossed the threshold from being a majority white Christian country (54 percent in 2008) to a minority white Christian country (45 percent in 2015). The passing of a coherent cultural world — where working class jobs made ends meet and white conservative Christian values held sway — has produced this powerful politics of white Christian resentment. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

How a biblically illiterate adulterer succeeded in fleecing Christian conservatives

McKay Coppins reports: On July 17, 2015, Donald Trump received a caps lock–heavy campaign memo from one of his advisers containing instructions on how to communicate with a voter species that was especially exotic to the candidate at the time.

“The audience is CHRISTIAN SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES,” the Trump adviser wrote on the eve of the the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. “They are open to your candidacy but NEED TO KNOW that their issues are IMPORTANT TO YOU.”

The document — along with several other internal Trump camp memos recently obtained by BuzzFeed News — illustrates just how tenuous the New York billionaire’s connection was to his party’s religious base at the outset of this election cycle. Throughout 2014 and 2015, Trump’s small political team coached him on how to make himself more palatable to conservative Christians.

On the issue of abortion, one memo urged, “Unless you are specifically asked, it is not beneficial to state that you support the exceptions of life of the mother, rape, and incest.” Another suggested that Trump “DEFLECT” any debate questions about school prayer by saying, “I employ thousands of individuals and make sure my employees have the freedom to express their faith however they see fit.” If asked whether he believed in “creationism or evolution,” an adviser suggested the candidate respond, “I believe in both” — and then added in a parenthetical, “(Mr. Trump — we may want to follow up on this.)”

For all his advisers’ best efforts, of course, Trump never did master the language of the religious right — but it has hardly held him back. Not only has Trump succeeded in capturing the Republican nomination, but according to a recent Pew survey, he is also currently polling better among white evangelicals than any GOP nominee on record. This success has dismayed many of Trump’s Christian critics, who have spent much of this year fretting that a biblically illiterate adulterer was fleecing their fellow believers.

But in fact, some devout detractors argue, the real threat Trump poses to the conservative Christian movement may be in just how many of his god-fearing supporters know exactly what they’re getting. Never before has the Republican Party nominated a standard-bearer so nakedly illiterate on religious matters — and so unwilling to even pretend. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

How Khizr Khan helped Democrats reclaim religious liberty from Christian supremacists

Mark Joseph Stern writes: Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant whose son was killed while serving in Iraq, brought the Democratic National Convention to tears and raucous applause on Thursday when he held up his pocket Constitution and admonished Donald Trump: “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” Khan’s rebuke was, of course, a profoundly moving and very necessary rejoinder to Trump’s rampant Islamophobia. But that powerful moment, as well as Khan’s entire address, also revealed that after years of surrendering the issue to the GOP, Democrats have finally learned how to talk about and present a progressive vision of religious liberty.

Indeed, that very phrase — religious liberty — has become so freighted with discriminatory overtones that I hesitate to use it. The fight for “religious liberty” has come to dominate the Republican Party in recent years, through a series of campaigns that aim to promote prejudiced Christians’ freedom over everybody else’s. We saw conservative advocacy groups persuade the Supreme Court that for-profit corporations have a religious right to discriminate against female employees who wished to access contraception through their own health insurance. We saw Republicans endorse the idea that religious businesses should be able to refuse to serve same-sex couples. We’ve even seen laws that, under the banner of religious freedom, give mental health counselors and medical doctors the right to refuse to treat gay and trans patients.

In a clever act of doublespeak, Republicans have branded these measures “religious liberty” — but, as a federal judge recently pointed out, they really amount of Christian supremacy. (Or, more accurately, conservative Christian supremacy.) This attempt to legally elevate certain Christian beliefs above all others flatly contradicts the spirit and letter of the First Amendment, which was designed to protect religious belief and exercise while preventing the government from directly aiding religion or favoring certain creeds. Republicans’ “religious liberty” battle cry is also painfully hypocritical in light of the GOP standard-bearer’s repeated calls to forbid all Muslims from entering the United States. And a stunning number of Republicans who profess to support religious liberty also believe that the practice of Islam should be outlawed and the religion itself should be criminalized. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Ted Cruz, not Donald Trump, is the scariest candidate standing

By Randall Stephens, Northumbria University, Newcastle

The 2016 Republican primary is now essentially a two-man race. Donald Trump has tallied an astonishing 678 delegates, while Ted Cruz, the dogmatic, far-right Texas Republican, who apparently gets along with no one in his own party, has garnered 423. Even though John Kasich, former governor and the last great hope for moderates, won his home state of Ohio, his candidacy is mathematically dead in the water; his only hope is to pull some remarkable trick at a contested convention.

For Cruz as well, it’s still an uphill battle. But depending on the outcomes of subsequent primaries, other Republican leaders may yet rally to his side. As CBS News put it: “Cruz may be the only candidate who can beat Trump in the delegate count before the convention.”

This is the mainstream party’s worst nightmare. Comedy Central’s Daily Show compared the choice between Trump and Cruz to picking between getting a blood clot or bone cancer, and to listen to the party’s establishment, the clot has so far been getting the most attention. As a Los Angeles Times headline put it, “Cruz is Scary, Trump Is Dangerous”. Jeb Bush memorably called Trump the “chaos candidate”. George W. Bush’s former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, describes Trump as a “wrecking ball”.

South Carolina senator and former GOP candidate Lindsey Graham has decided to back Cruz in a desperate effort to stop the chaos candidate, but even he once compared the decision to choosing between being poisoned or shot by a firing squad. The cyanide capsule seems to have cracked between Graham’s teeth.

[Read more…]

Facebooktwittermail

America’s embattled Christian majority?

In America, 72% of the adult population identify themselves as Christian.

That, to my mind, makes this demographically (though of course not constitutionally) a Christian country.

And yet, among white evangelical Protestants, 70% believe that discrimination against Christians has become as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups!

The persecuted majority?

Do Christians get harassed by the police? Get discriminated against by landlords or employers? Get harsher jail sentences? Suffer any of the other forms of discrimination experienced by many minorities in this country?

Or, do some Christians simply resent living under a democratic constitution that separates Church and State?

Facebooktwittermail

The bitter tears of the American Christian supermajority

Chase Madar writes: The most persecuted minority in the United States is not Muslims, African-Americans or immigrants. It’s our Christian supermajority that’s truly oppressed.

Verily, consider three anecdotes from the past few weeks.

On March 2, three Baptist ministers in Akron, Ohio, arranged for the local police to mock-arrest them in their churches and haul them away in handcuffs for the simple act of preaching their faith. A video was posted on YouTube to drum up buzz for an upcoming revival show. A few atheist blogs object to uniformed police taking part in a church publicity stunt, but far more people who saw the YouTube video (24,082 views), in Ohio and elsewhere, took this media stunt as reality — confirmation of their wildest fears about a government clampdown on Christianity. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Richard Rodriguez on what the Left has lost by rejecting religion

Salon talks to Richard Rodriguez about his new book, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography:

Let me read a line to you from late in the book, and if you could explain it a little bit. You say, “After September 11, critical division in America feels and sounds like religious division.” Where are you going with that?

Well, it seems to me that there are two aspects of that. One of them is that I think that increasingly the left has conceded organized religion to the political right. This has been a catastrophe on the left.

I’m old enough to remember the black Civil Rights movement, which was as I understood it a movement of the left and insofar as it was challenging the orthodoxy of conservatives in the American South. White conservatism. And here was a group of protestant ministers leading processions, which were really religious processions through the small towns and the suburbs of the South. We shall overcome. Well, we have forgotten just how disruptive religion can be to the status quo. How challenging it is to the status quo. I also talk about Cesar Chavez, who is, who was embraced by the political left in his time but he was obviously a challenge to organized labor, the teamsters and to large farmers in the central valley.

So somehow we had decided on the left that religion belongs to Fox Television, or it belongs to some kind of right-wing fanaticism in the Middle East and we have given it up, and it has made us a really empty — that is, it has made the left really empty. I’ll point to one easy instance. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And what America heard was really a sermon. It was as though slavery and Jim Crow could not be described as a simple political narrative; racism was a moral offense, not simply an illegality. And with his vision of a time “when all of God’s children” in America would be free, he described the nation within a religious parable of redemption.

Fifty years later, our technocratic, secular president gave a speech at the Lincoln memorial, honoring the memory of the speech Dr. King had given. And nothing President Obama said can we remember these few weeks later; his words were dwarfed by our memory of the soaring religious oratory of fifty years ago. And what’s happened to us — and I would include myself in the cultural left — what has happened to us is we have almost no language to talk about the dream life of America, to talk about the soul of America, to talk about the mystery of being alive at this point in our lives, this point in our national history. That’s what we’ve lost in giving it to Fox Television.

So here’s the flip side of that. You write about the “New Atheism” emerging from England, catching on here. How is it new and why does it seem like a dead end to you?

It seems to me that the New Atheism — particularly its recent gaudy English manifestations — has a distinctly neo-colonial aspect. (As Cary Grant remarked: Americans are suckers for the accent!) On the one hand, the New Atheist, with his plummy Oxbridge tones, tries to convince Americans that God is dead at a time when London is alive with Hinduism and Islam. (The empiric nightmare: The colonials have turned on their masters and transformed the imperial city with their prayers and their growing families, even while Europe disappears into materialistic sterility.) Christopher Hitchens, most notably, before his death titled his atheist handbook as a deliberate affront to Islam: “God Is Not Great.” At the same time, he traveled the airwaves of America urging us to war in Iraq — and to maintain borders that the Foreign Office had drawn in the sand. With his atheism, he became a darling of the left. With his advocacy of the Iraq misadventure, he became a darling of the right. [Continue reading…]

As an Englishman in America who is frequently reminded that Americans are indeed suckers for the accent I retain, let me add a cultural footnote whose validity I can’t document but about which I am nevertheless convinced.

It’s on the origin of American crassness: it comes from England. Bad taste — we invented it.

From the English perspective, civilization has always been something that came from somewhere else.

Facebooktwittermail

Ret. Gen. Boykin promotes End Times view of war in Syria

Mother Jones: Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a top executive at the influential Family Research Council, has joined the chorus of religious conservatives touting the Syrian conflict as a prelude to Armageddon. On Wednesday, Boykin appeared on Prophetic Perspectives on Current Events, a talk show hosted by dominionist preacher Rick Joyner (see the video above). The pair discussed a passage in Isaiah 17, which predicts Damascus will be reduced to “a ruinous heap.”

“One of the scriptures that has never been fulfilled and has to be fulfilled before this age can end is that Damascus will be destroyed, never inhabited again,” Joyner explained. “What in the world could cause a city to be destroyed and never inhabited again?” Boykin didn’t hesitate. “One of the ways Damascus could be destroyed, never to be re-occupied, would be through a chemical attack,” he replied. ” So let’s just take a scenario: The Free Syrian Army takes Damascus and Bashar al-Assad is in a desperate mode now…. What would be his final act? Well it may very well be to unload all his chemical weapons on the population center there in Damascus. Destroy the city and destroy it in a way that he just kills maybe millions of people. But the byproduct is that he has residue there that could make Damascus uninhabitable and for a very long time.”

This is not the first time Boykin has embraced the notion that war in the Middle East will lay waste to the Syrian capital—and pave the way for Jesus’s return. He recently wrote an endorsement for Damascus Countdown, a fictionalized account of the looming biblical conflict by best-selling author Joel Rosenberg. And he has spoken at several of Ronseberg’s annual Epicenter Conferences, which explore the Middle East’s role in biblical prophesy.

Facebooktwittermail

The God conservatives worship

Paul Froese writes: In recent decades, “big tent” conservatism has seemed on the brink of collapse, its poles buckling under competing constituencies with “values” voters in one corner pitted against fiscal conservatives in the other. Discussions among academics and media pundits suggest these are two distinct categories of Republicans—the former made up of mainly working-class white evangelicals and the latter historically comprised of higher-income whites. Republican politicians must seek the favor of both special interests, appealing not only to traditional social issues—gay marriage and abortion—but also to economic fare such as reducing government and lowering taxes.

This distinction is central to Thomas Frank’s engaging analysis of the popularity of conservatism in the American Midwest in his 2004 bestseller What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank championed the narrative that working-class Americans vote against their economic interests, having been lured into the GOP tent largely with what he sees as insincere religious rhetoric. “The people at the top know what they have to do to stay there,” writes Frank, “and in a pinch they can easily overlook the sweaty piety of the new Republican masses, the social conservatives who raise their voices in praise of Jesus but cast their votes for Caesar.”

However compelling this dichotomy may be, it is a false one. As a researcher and social scientist, I have found that economic perspectives are indelibly tied to religious cosmologies. Voters need not choose between God and mammon. Instead, they tend to see their money, the market, and the economy as a reflection of their God.

This finding is a rarity in the annals of social science, where the division between economic and social interests is often reinforced. Pollsters and social scientists think in terms of variables, some measuring economic opinions and others indicating various forms of religiosity. These two are often correlated but their ongoing association is rarely tested directly. Though classical theorists such as Max Weber have famously demonstrated the constant interplay of economic and religious ideologies, contemporary social scientists seldom ask people directly about how their economic position informs their religion, or vice versa. In fact, we often assume that working-class evangelicals struggle to either prioritize their economic interests or remain committed to their religious ethics.

In 2005, I, along with a team of researchers at Baylor, began surveying American religious beliefs, values and behaviors. Last fall, our third installment of the Baylor Religion Survey was released. Our combined research, which included polling from Gallup and dozens of detailed one-on-one interviews, suggests that value and economic concerns are becoming increasingly hard to disentangle. In fact, for many white evangelicals, religious and economic spheres are conceptualized as two sides of the same coin. They describe their worldview as one in which the spiritual and the material are mutually dependent and interactive. And the popularity of this worldview cuts across social class.

This compatibility of social and economic concerns has become apparent, of course, in the Tea Party movement. While Tea Partiers were initially cast as die-hard fiscal conservatives, the movement’s pious rhetoric — along with subsequent polling data — indicated that religious concerns were central to its popularity. Ultimately, the Tea Party movement revealed the extent to which religious and economic beliefs meld in the minds of many frustrated Americans.

To put this more concretely, approximately 31 percent of Americans, many of whom are white evangelical men, believe that God is steering the United States economy, thus fusing their religious and economic interests. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Texas’s war on history

Katherine Stewart writes: Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 2007 to 2009, is a “young earth” creationist. He believes the earth is 6,000 years old, that human beings walked with dinosaurs, and that Noah’s Ark had a unique, multi-level construction that allowed it to house every species of animal, including the dinosaurs.

He has a right to his beliefs, but it’s his views on history that are problematic. McLeroy is part of a large and powerful movement determined to impose a thoroughly distorted, ultra-partisan, Christian nationalist version of US history on America’s public school students. And he has scored stunning successes.

If you want to see a scary movie about this movement, consider taking in Scott Thurman’s finely-crafted documentary Revisionaries, currently making the festival circuit, which records the antics of McLeroy and a hard right majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) as they revise the textbook standards that will be used in Texas (and many other states).

The first part of this documentary deals with the familiar “science wars”, in which one side seeks to educate children in the sciences, and the other side proposes to “teach the controversy” in order to undermine those aspects of science that conflict with its religious convictions. But it’s the second part of the movie where the horror really kicks in. As I explain in more detail in The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, the history debate makes the science debate look genteel. While the handful of moderates on the SBOE squeals in opposition, the conservative majority lands blow after blow, passing resolutions imposing its mythological history on the nation’s textbooks. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Don’t mention the Word of the Lord to the party that loves Jesus

Brad Reed writes: Since this past Christmas season coincided with the final campaign push before the Iowa caucus, every Republican candidate for president worked extra hard to out-pander one another in claiming that God is supportive of his or her particular flat-tax plan.

But you have to wonder watching some of the Republican debates and press conferences if the GOP hopefuls have actually read the New Testament. Say what you will about Jesus, but he didn’t seem like the sort of guy who would support showering rich people with tax cuts, gutting social programs for the poor and middle-class, or launching multiple wars with Middle Eastern countries. Yet these are the sorts of things that his purported acolytes have been endorsing throughout the year, all the while claiming to be Jesus’ number-one fan in the whole world.

In this article we’ll tackle the five most cringe-inducing moments of the GOP primary, where candidates and their supporters have wantonly broken the Lord’s Commandments with seemingly gleeful abandon.

1. Candidates fall all over themselves to kiss the asses of rich people and trash the downtrodden.

Jesus once said that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Well, the Republicans must want to compensate for this by making rich peoples’ time on Earth as heavenly as possible through a wonderful blend of tax cuts and blatant ass-kissing.

The entire Republican economic philosophy can basically be boiled down thusly: Rich people are magical wealth-creating leprechaun fairies who sprinkle their sparkle dust over all of us worthless dirtbags to bless us with the gift of employment. But if any nasty populist ever says anything relatively nasty about rich people, they will vanish from the realm and take their magical job-creating powers with them and none of us will ever work or have food to eat ever again. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The excommunication of Ron Paul

Steve Kornacki writes: When you’re running near the top of the polls, it’s inevitable that your opponents will gang up on you. But there’s something different about the nature of the attacks Ron Paul is now facing – and, potentially, about their implications.

In the past few days, three of Paul’s rivals – Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann – have publicly declared that the Texas congressman will not under any circumstances win the GOP nomination. Bachmann called him “dangerous,” while Gingrich said he wasn’t even sure he’d vote for Paul over Barack Obama. Another candidate, Rick Santorum, said there’s no difference between Paul and Obama on foreign policy and that he’d need “a lot of antacid” to stomach voting for Paul. And Jon Huntsman launched a scathing anti-Paul ad in New Hampshire with a simple title: “Unelectable.”

This is not a run of the mill pile-on. Paul’s foes aren’t simply telling Republicans that he’s not the best choice to be their nominee; they’re telling Republicans that he’s unfit to call himself one of them – that he’s an imposter who isn’t due even the most basic courtesy (“Oh sure, if he ends up being the nominee I’ll be with him…”) that major candidates for the nomination are typically afforded.

It’s an attitude that’s also being encouraged by some of the GOP’s most powerful opinion-shaping forces. Rush Limbaugh has been disdainful of Paul throughout the campaign, with his guest host this week – Mark Steyn – keeping up the campaign. Fox News, whose primetime hosts have alternated between ignoring and savaging Paul, has been treating him like a pariah since the last campaign, when Paul was denied a seat at a critical pre-New Hampshire debate. And the New Hampshire Union Leader, which boasts one of the country’s most influential conservative editorial pages, branded Paul “truly dangerous” on Thursday.

The roots of this anti-Paul alarmism go deeper than the racist newsletters that were sent out under Paul’s name in the early 1990s and that have attracted new attention in the past week. Sure, the newsletters (and Paul’s shifting explanations for them over the years) would help make him an unelectable GOP nominee, but rest assured the same intraparty voices would be railing against him with the same adamance even if they’d never emerged.

The reason has to do with Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy and his unapologetic mockery of the “clash of civilizations” ethos that has defined the post-Cold War GOP. Today’s Republican Party is dominated by Christian conservatives (44 percent of participants in the 2008 primaries identified themselves as evangelicals) and neoconservatives, who are united in their commitment to an unwavering alliance between the United States and Israel, confrontation with Iran, and a significant American presence in the Middle East. Paul’s warnings about “blowback” directly threaten this consensus.

Facebooktwittermail