Friday Reads: Grappling with Religious & Right Wing NuttinessPosted: September 8, 2017
I don’t know what’s worse these days. Trump himself or the increasing wingnuttery he’s bringing to our government.Fascism and the ideologies of white supremacists and bigoted, anti-science christofacists have a strong friend in 45 who sees them as an adoring mob. They are popping up every where in the few jobs he’s tried to fill. Several of them are joyfully taking us back to the Dark Ages. Here are a few recent moves that should worry us.
The oldest living confederate widow continues to place the DOJ in support of bigotry. “In major Supreme Court case, Justice Dept. sides with baker who refused to make wedding cake for gay couple.” This is just another example of the absolute glee with which the AG goes after the rights of every one who doesn’t look like him.
In a major upcoming Supreme Court case that weighs equal rights with religious liberty, the Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The Department of Justice on Thursday filed a brief on behalf of baker Jack Phillips, who was found to have violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to created a cake to celebrate the marriage of Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. Phillips said he doesn’t create wedding cakes for same-sex couples because it would violate his religious beliefs.
The government agreed with Phillips that his cakes are a form of expression, and he cannot be compelled to use his talents for something in which he does not believe.
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote in the brief.
People have a right to believe what ever nonsense they want to under our first amendment and to not have those beliefs disrupted by the government. However, they do not have the right to use those beliefs to oppress others and that appears to be the case with most of these folks. They can’t keep it to themselves and to their personal lives. They have to punish the rest of us with it.
This approach to your beliefs–that you’re a strict adherent to whatever–that your beliefs preclude you from doing your job without inflicting it on the rest of us is popping up in the Senate hearing of an appellant Court Judge who is a strict Catholic. This has implications for many of the rights of people who do not carry the same beliefs. A judge is government appointed to uphold secular rule of law. Should one person’s nuttery guide every one else’s pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness?
Dianne Feinstein sat alongside other senators at a hearing on Wednesday and questioned two federal appellate-court nominees. She was particularly anxious about Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame: Feinstein was not convinced that Barrett would uphold Roe v. Wade given her traditional Catholic beliefs.
“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”
While recent Senate hearings have skirted the boundary of posing religious tests for public servants, raising constitutional questions, something more complicated seemed to be going on here. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic senator from Rhode Island, expressed frustration that Barrett and her fellow nominee at the hearing, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, refused to discuss how their personal beliefs might shape their legal thinking. He and the other Democratic senators seemed to believe that religious convictions affect how judges apply the law. “To sit here and pretend that there is no role for people’s personal and private views … when they go to the court—it’s just, it’s so preposterous as to be silly,” Whitehouse said.
As conservative, often religiously motivated positions on issues like gay marriage and banning abortion increasingly become out of step with popular opinion and legal precedent, this boundary between personal conviction and legal fidelity is going to become even tricker to navigate. What’s the line between examining a nominee’s religious convictions and believing those convictions disqualify her from serving the country?
You cannot live in a democratic society without a live and let live philosophy. Keeping to your own personal beliefs should not mean condemning and preventing others from exercising theirs. Crazy religious fundamentalists are also stopping progress on Climate Change in this country. What can we do to stop these people from encroaching on common sense, modernity, and policy that would improve the lives of millions?
Just a day before Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, ExxonMobile shareholders voted for the company to come up with a plan to address climate change. When even oil companies that have long opposed environmentalism are in favor of reducing carbon emissions, why is the Trump administration set against those policies? The answer may lie in the fact that for many religious fundamentalists, a belief in God’s omnipotence and infallibility is what orders their existence—a conviction that can overrule economic incentives or earthbound politics.
Philip Schwadel is a sociologist at the University of Nebraska who studies how Americans’ attitudes about religion and politics change from generation to generation. For a study published in April, he reviewed decades of polling data to try and figure out the most likely predictor for thinking that global warming was not a major problem. Schwadel concluded that biblical literalism—or the belief that the Bible is the word of God —is what’s keeping Americans from an agreement to fight climate change.
His paper in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion analyzed 18,083 survey responses from 1983 to 2012 in which people answered the question, “Which of these statements comes closest to describing your feelings about the Bible?” Evangelical Protestants make up about 20 percent of the US population, and according to Schwadel’s study, 55 percent of people who identify as evangelical answered that question with, “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” Overall, he found that white people who chose that answer were the most likely to de-prioritize environmental spending and not think climate change was something to worry about.
There are an estimated 35 million biblical literalists in the United States. These people—who may think, for instance, God intends for the Earth to end like it’s written in Revelation anyway, so who am I to intervene?— are incredibly hard to convert to the cause of fighting climate change. Pleas from secular scientists and journalists are going to fall on deaf ears; the two sides end up mostly talking past each other.
Those fundamentalists represent a fairly tiny minority in the US—a little more than 10 percent of all Americans. But enabled by fossil fuel money, religious climate change deniers have acquired massive amounts of political influence, to the point that some conservative politicians who favor fighting climate change are allegedly afraid to speak up. And several biblical literalists are in Trump’s cabinet, which surely had something to do with the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June.
This is happening just as a time when the number of White self-identified Christians is dwindling. Yet, with the party of white supremacy and its current torch holder we see their radical agenda driving policy.
The future of religion in America is young, non-Christian and technicolor.
Almost every Christian denomination in the U.S. shows signs of growing diversity as white Christians, once the majority in most mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations, give way to younger members, who tend to be of different races, according to a study released Wednesday (Sept. 6) by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Americans are also continuing to move away from organized religion altogether, as atheists, agnostics and those who say they do not identify with any particular religion — the group known as the “nones” — hold steady at about one-quarter (24 percent) of the population.
The study, “America’s Changing Religious Identity,” contacted 101,000 Americans in 50 states, and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 0.4 percentage points. And while the survey spotlights transformations afoot in many religious groups, it also shows a seismic shift for a long-standing American religious powerhouse: white evangelicals.
“This report provides solid evidence of a new, second wave of white Christian decline that is occurring among white evangelical Protestants just over the last decade in the U.S.,” said Robert P. Jones, PRRI’s CEO and author of “The End of White Christian America.”
“Prior to 2008, white evangelical Protestants seemed to be exempt from the waves of demographic change and disaffiliation that were eroding the membership bases of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics,” he said.
“We now see that these waves simply crested later for white evangelical Protestants.”
Their numbers have led to enabling the crusade of Kremlin Caligula against all things Barrack Obama. You absolutely must read this essay in The Atlantic by TA-NEHISI COATES. It’s a long read with lots of data and brilliant analysis.
It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”
In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.
The largest narrative in this piece tears apart the media narrative that no one understands the poor white working man. It delves into the demographics of Trump vs. Hillary voters and the false narrative that the Democratic Party ignores the working class.
The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.
This transfiguration is not novel. It is a return to form. The tightly intertwined stories of the white working class and black Americans go back to the prehistory of the United States—and the use of one as a cudgel to silence the claims of the other goes back nearly as far. Like the black working class, the white working class originated in bondage—the former in the lifelong bondage of slavery, the latter in the temporary bondage of indenture. In the early 17th century, these two classes were remarkably, though not totally, free of racist enmity. But by the 18th century, the country’s master class had begun etching race into law while phasing out indentured servitude in favor of a more enduring labor solution. From these and other changes of law and economy, a bargain emerged: The descendants of indenture would enjoy the full benefits of whiteness, the most definitional benefit being that they would never sink to the level of the slave. But if the bargain protected white workers from slavery, it did not protect them from near-slave wages or backbreaking labor to attain them, and always there lurked a fear of having their benefits revoked. This early white working class “expressed soaring desires to be rid of the age-old inequalities of Europe and of any hint of slavery,” according to David R. Roediger, a professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. “They also expressed the rather more pedestrian goal of simply not being mistaken for slaves, or ‘negers’ or ‘negurs.’ ”
This is the same narrative realized in the dynamics of the flee to the Republican Party by Dixiecrats summed up by LBJ.
The night that Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Actof 1964, his special assistant Bill Moyers was surprised to find the president looking melancholy in his bedroom. Moyers later wrote that when he asked what was wrong, Johnson replied, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.”
It may seem a crude remark to make after such a momentous occasion, but it was also an accurate prediction.
To understand some of the reasons the South went from a largely Democratic region to a primarily Republican area today, just follow the decades of debate over racial issues in the United States.
You can read or watch more on this at the History Channel in a special on the Civil Rights movement and the signing of Civil Rights legislation in 1964. There is actually plenty of evidence that Pastors and not Politicians turned Dixiecrats Republicans. The wing nuttery of the Trumpsters is the wing nuttery of white supremacists wrapped up in a warped form of fundamentalist christianity. They are both forms of facism and they are natural allies.
Crediting the Nixon campaign with the flight of Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party dismisses the role Southerners themselves played in that transformation. In fact, Republicans had very little organizational infrastructure on the ground in the South before 1980, and never quite figured out how to build a persuasive appeal to voters there. Every cynical strategy cooked up in a Washington boardroom withered under local conditions. The flight of the Dixiecrats was ultimately conceived, planned, and executed by Southerners themselves, largely independent of, and sometimes at odds with, existing Republican leadership. It was a move that had less to do with politicos than with pastors.
Southern churches, warped by generations of theological evolution necessary to accommodate slavery and segregation, were all too willing to offer their political assistance to a white nationalist program. Southern religious institutions would lead a wave of political activism that helped keep white nationalism alive inside an increasingly unfriendly national climate. Forget about Goldwater, Nixon or Reagan. No one played as much of a role in turning the South red as the leaders of the Southern Baptist Church.
There is still today a Southern Baptist Church. More than a century and a half after the Civil War, and decades after the Methodists and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America’s largest denomination remains defined, right down to the name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery.
Spirituality may be personal, but organized religion, like race, is a cultural construct. When you’ve lost the ability to mobilize supporters based on race, religion will serve as a capable proxy. What was lost under the banner of “segregation forever” has been tenuously preserved through a continuing “culture war.” A fight for white nationalism and white cultural supremacy has in some ways been more successful after its transformation into an expressly religious, rather than merely racist crusade.
You can also see the Republican Party’s drive to disenfranchise people of color by their crusade removing access to Voting. Disenfranchising racial minorities and limiting poll access is key to White hegemony. Kris Kobach is obsessed with the idea that outsiders are still elections in traditionally white voting enclaves that Kobach believes must’ve been stolen because after all, all white people think like him except the minority rotting away in big cities. He’s also being empowered by the Kremlin Kaligula Krewe.
Writing for Breitbart, Kobach picks up a story from the Washington Times about voting in New Hampshire last year. That state has been a focus of voter-fraud conspiracy theories for two primary reasons: (1) It was close and (2) Trump didn’t win it. (In Michigan, a state he did win and where the percentage-point margin was even narrower, no one allied with Trump has raised a question at all. In fact, his lawyers asserted in a anti-recount lawsuit in that state that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”)
New Hampshire has also been a focus of fraud allegations because it has same-day voter registration, allowing people to show up to a polling place to vote even if they hadn’t registered in advance. This is the focus of the Times piece, and of Kobach’s failing freshman logic paper at Breitbart.
The Times presents numbers released by the Republican speaker of the New Hampshire House, which we quote directly below:
- 6,540 people registered and voted on Nov. 8, based on presenting out-of-state licenses.
- As of Aug. 30, about 15 percent (1,014 of the voters) had been issued New Hampshire driver’s licenses.
- Οf the remaining 5,526, barely more than 200 (3.3 percent) had registered a motor vehicle in New Hampshire.
So: some 5,313 voters registered with out-of-state licenses but hadn’t then registered a car within 10 months.
Now, here’s Kobach:
“So 5,313 of those voters neither obtained a New Hampshire driver’s license nor registered a vehicle in New Hampshire. They have not followed the legal requirements for residents regarding driver’s licenses, and it appears that they are not actually residing in New Hampshire. It seems that they never were bona fide residents of the State.”
And then he’s off to the races: It’s likely that the results of the Senate race are tainted! It’s possible that New Hampshire’s electoral votes went illegally to Hillary Clinton!
John le Carré is an author focused on bringing his experience as a British Spy to cold war spy fiction. He’s given an speech covered by The Guardian. John le Carré on Trump: ‘Something seriously bad is happening’ Author draws parallels between Donald Trump and rise of 1930s fascism, in rare public appearance at Royal Festival Hall
John le Carré, one of Britain’s greatest living writers,has spoken of the “toxic” parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of 1930s fascism.
In a rare public appearance, the 85-year-old novelist and former spy spoke of his disdain for Trump and his despair for the US and the wider world.
“Something truly, seriously bad is happening and from my point of view we have to be awake to that,” he told an audience at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
“These stages that Trump is going through in the United States and the stirring of racial hatred … a kind of burning of the books as he attacks, as he declares real news as fake news, the law becomes fake news, everything becomes fake news.
“I think of all things that were happening across Europe in the 1930s, in Spain, in Japan, obviously in Germany. To me, these are absolutely comparable signs of the rise of fascism and it’s contagious, it’s infectious. Fascism is up and running in Poland and Hungary. There’s an encouragement about.”
Even today, Le Carré said, Ang Sang Suu Kyi is speaking of “fake news” in Burma. “These are infectious forms of demagogic behaviour and they are toxic.”
Is it too much to ask that we throw all these ideologies to the ashbin of history in the age of weapons of mass destruction and the ability of mankind to forever scar the planet? There is no place for these ideas that seek to raise up the self worth and paths of some people over those of others when we need every one’s cooperation to keep the peace and save the planet. It’s not moral to enable them to do it. We must stop this assault on Civil Rights.
What’s on your blogging and reading list today?