America, I apologize for the South’s hypocrisy

Issac Bailey writes: As a native Southerner, I’d like to apologize to the rest of the country. My region repeatedly claims that we place God above all else, but our actions tell a different story, especially when we mix religion, politics and the mistreatment of women and girls. We have politicians who feel no compunction, even, misusing the story of a sacred virgin birth to ignore child molestation.

“Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told the Washington Examiner Thursday, in an attempt to defend Roy Moore, a candidate for the US Senate from Alabama, after a damning story about Moore’s alleged past was published by the Washington Post. “They became parents of Jesus,” Zeigler added.

Such assertions of support are likely why a man like Moore felt comfortable enough to fund-raise just hours later — while boldly proclaiming the name of God.

That’s right. A man in a high-profile political race representing the supposed “family values” party, after being named in an eye-popping report alleging that when he was a 32-year-old man he tried to have a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, not only did not drop out of the race or hide in shame, he doubled down. Moore denied the allegations and evoked the term “spiritual warfare,” which is well known in Southern Christian churches, black and white, to elicit as much sympathy from the faithful as possible.

“The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me,” Moore pronounced in an email to supporters asking for emergency donations. “Their goal is to frustrate and slow down our campaign’s progress to help the Obama-Clinton Machine silence our conservative message. That’s why I must be able to count on the help of God-fearing conservatives like you to stand with me at this critical moment.”

Moore plans to weather this political storm with help from the same God-fearing conservatives who made sure Donald Trump remained on a path to the presidency after being caught on video bragging about sexually assaulting women. And there’s no reason Moore won’t survive it, for in our region, in the eyes of many conservative Christians, the only evil greater than Satan himself is a Democrat with political power. Increasingly, little else seems to matter. [Continue reading…]

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The evil of sexual predators is that they attack the weak, make them weaker, then discredit them because of their weakness

Nancy French writes: I used to admire men like Roy Moore, because I loved everything about church — the off-key a cappella rendition of “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” the typos in the bulletin, the ladies who smelled like Aquanet with little round rouge circles on their cheeks, and — yes — men like Moore who said long prayers and ran the show.

This changed one hot summer day when I needed a ride home from Vacation Bible School. I was delighted when the preacher volunteered to drop me off. As we drove, I chatted incessantly, happy to have him all to myself without people trying to get his attention in the church parking lot. When we got to my house, I was shocked that he walked me inside my dark house, even more surprised when he lingered in conversation, and thunderstruck when he kissed me right on the lips.

At 12 years old, I swooned over my good luck. He picked me out of all the girls at church. But the relationship, especially after he moved on, reset my moral compass. If all the church conversation about morality and sexual purity was a lie, what else was fake? Now that the “family of God” felt incestuous, I rejected the church and myself. Didn’t I want the preacher’s attention? Didn’t I cause this? When I careened from faith, I made a series of poor romantic decisions that later almost cost me my life. Still, I couldn’t very well criticize the church because I was an utter emotional mess.

On Thursday, all this came back to me after I read one sentence in The Washington Post. The article was about allegations that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually touched a teenager when he was in his 30s. A sentence from Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time, jumped out at me.

“I felt responsible,” she said. I swallowed back tears as I read the rest. “I felt like I had done something bad. And it kind of set the course for me doing other things that were bad.” After her life spiraled “with drinking, drugs, boyfriends,” she attempted suicide two years later. In fact, she didn’t come forward earlier because she worried that her three divorces and poor financial history would make people doubt her story. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump and the dawn of the evangelical-nationalist alliance

Tim Alberta writes: Donald Trump’s supporters always had diverging interpretations of his campaign mantra, “Make America Great Again,” yet they all centered on returning the country to a better and more comfortable time.

To economic nationalists, it meant going back to an era of high tariffs and buying American. To defense hawks, it meant returning to a time of unquestioned military supremacy. To immigration hard-liners, it meant fewer jobs for foreign-born workers—and, for some of those voters, fewer dark faces in the country, period.

But for many evangelicals and conservative Catholics, “Make America Great Again” meant above all else returning to a time when the culture reflected and revolved around their Judeo-Christian values. When there was prayer in public schools. When marriage was limited to one man and one woman. When abortion was not prevalent and socially acceptable. When the government didn’t ask them to violate their consciences. And, yes, when people said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

This explains one of the more striking lines in Trump’s speech Friday to the Values Voter Summit, which in just 10 years has become one of the premier annual gatherings of social conservatives in Washington. Touting the “customs, beliefs and traditions that defined who we are as a nation and as a people,” the president recalled the Founders’ repeated reference to a “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence. “How times have changed,” Trump said. “But you know what? Now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.”

The audience roared with a 20-second standing ovation.

Of course, much of the cultural drift the “values voters” fear seems irreversible as America’s demographic transformation yields an electorate that is younger, more ethnically diverse, more urban, more educated and less religious. Same-sex marriage is settled law with ever-broadening public support; abortion rights are probably impossible to fully retract. And the country’s steady secularization, decried for decades from church pulpits, appears to have accelerated in recent years: According to a comprehensive Pew Research Center poll of more than 35,000 Americans, the share of self-identified Christians decreased nearly 7 percent between 2007 and 2014, while the share of religiously unaffiliated citizens increased nearly 7 percent in that time.

What, then, can a thrice-married Manhattan billionaire—or any politician, for that matter—realistically offer Christian voters who hope for a cultural and spiritual revival in America? [Continue reading…]

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White evangelicals have made a desperate end-of-life bargain with Trump

Robert P. Jones writes: The general decline of white Catholics and white mainline Protestants, the more liberal branch of white Protestantism anchored in the Northeast and upper Midwest, has long been noted by sociologists. But until recently, their white evangelical cousins in the South and lower Midwest had seemed immune to these trends. This evangelical exceptionalism was not lost on white evangelicals themselves, who frequently pointed a judgmental finger at their more liberal cousins, arguing that there was a direct link between more progressive theology and denominational decline.

But one of the most important findings of our survey is that as the country has crossed the threshold from being a majority white Christian country to a minority white Christian country, white evangelical Protestants have themselves succumbed to the prevailing winds and in turn contributed to a second wave of white Christian decline in the country. Over the past decade, white evangelical Protestants have declined from 23% to 17% of Americans.

During this same period, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans has grown from 16% to 24%.

The engines of white evangelical decline are complex, but they are a combination of external factors, such as demographic change in the country as a whole, and internal factors, such as religious disaffiliation — particularly among younger adults who find themselves at odds with conservative Christian churches on issues like climate change and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. As a result, the median age of white evangelical Protestants is now 55, and the median age of religiously unaffiliated Americans is 37. While 26% of seniors (65 and older) are white evangelicals, only 8% of Americans younger than 30 claim this identity.

The evangelical alliance with Trump can be understood only in the context of these fading vital signs among white evangelicals. They are, in many ways, a community grieving its losses. After decades of equating growth with divine approval, white evangelicals are finding themselves on the losing side of demographic changes and LGBT rights, one of their founding and flagship issues. [Continue reading…]

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Yearning for the end of the world

As a child in Iran, Dina Nayeri belonged to a secret Christian church where the Rapture was welcomed as a rescue. She writes: In my mid-20s, after years of grappling with my identity as a refugee and my place in the world, I stopped believing in the Rapture. By then I had embraced all the secular, corporeal things I had secretly desired: a rigorous education, travel, great food, the admission that I do believe in science and that the Bible is at most a metaphor to me. I watched that old movie, A Thief in the Night, on my laptop and was fumed at the heavy-handed messages that had colonised my adolescent brain. The Christian characters benefit from the goodwill and love of their secular friends, then dismiss human love as insufficient. Ever blase, their lives never progress; they only wait. This was the detail in the movie that struck me most as an adult: the two primary Christian characters don’t have jobs or romances. They live in the next life.

This fetishisation of waiting was the final straw. Because here is something that only refugees (and people newly in love) can tell you: there is no painful business quite like waiting. Roland Barthes calls it subjection. For me, waiting for the Rapture and for political asylum felt much the same: the constant anticipation of a new start, of vanishing, of having already smelled the tiny yellow roses that draped our garden walls or tasted my grandmother’s celery stew for the final time. Being a refugee is dismantling home, setting out into the desert and becoming stateless in pursuit of a better life. Refugees are seekers of a sort of Rapture, and, in leaving their known world for something unimaginably good beyond, they enact a small apocalypse.

When I said this to my mother recently, she balked. Though she believes in the Rapture – it is her “living hope” – and has suffered long bouts as a refugee, she doesn’t like the comparison. “I didn’t choose to leave my home,” she said. “Being a refugee is being homeless, not having hope. In those years I lived in constant numbness, because while you’re waiting, there is nothing. No way back and no way forward. With the Rapture, going back isn’t an option, but what’s ahead is beautiful.”

The Rapture story offers a known future that you don’t have to build yourself. It happens in an instant: before you’re done with one life, you’re whisked into another. And that is everything – skipping that in-between space, the country of purgatory where the refugee lingers. “If you’ve ever been a refugee,” my mother says, “you know how much that matters.”

She’s right: I do know that. I understand now that eschatological promises provide closure, the end of mankind’s story on Earth, at once terrible and necessary. They are designed to assuage a universal fear: the fate of the refugee. To set off as an asylum seeker is to endure a carousel of embassy visits and interviews and application papers without any idea of what comes next. It’s life without a heaven or hell, just recurring cycles that lead nowhere. Refugees live out the ancient themes of purgatory and banishment literally, and that – not the guillotine’s blade or the antichrist or oblivion – is the ultimate nightmare: life without closure, forever in limbo.

But I also know that being rescued from the nightmare of waiting is not only the refugee’s greatest desire, but also her greatest dread, because then home is no longer home and she’s no longer who she once was; she is transformed. Maybe that’s why I was so much more afraid in Oklahoma than in Isfahan – by then, I had tasted that transformation. I knew what it was like to be taken away, never to smell the yellow roses or taste the celery stew again. [Continue reading…]

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‘God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,’ claims one of Trump’s evangelical advisers

The Washington Post reports: Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to take out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Jeffress said in a phone interview that he was prompted to make the statement after Trump said that if North Korea’s threats to the United States continue, Pyongyang will be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” [Continue reading…]

Jeffress also believes God placed Trump in the White House. As for God’s role in giving power to Kim Jong Un and the successful development of his nuclear missiles program, that remains unclear.

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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…]

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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:

 

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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?

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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…]

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