Monday Reads

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I have lived in the deep south for nearly 25 years and I still cannot figure out the strange mix of white grievance and supremacism, neoconfederate ideology and anti-theological christianity, and the overt racism and sexism that characterizes much of the exurbs and hinterlands here.

It was recently ignited by the election of a Black President whose character and attainment is beyond what most of these folks could achieve because they’d never even dream that big.  It’s been stoked by the insistence we recognize members of the GLBT community as citizens with full rights.  It’s been threatened by the diversity of others’ philosophies and religions and the idea that we quit glorifying the traitors of the past. It’s a movement that’s reactionary, angry, and resentful of shared progress.  It seeks to hold tight to the idea that only certain people are deserving of upward mobility and any one else must’ve stolen it from the deserving folks. The more I see and read of it, the more I wonder if it will die off and when. I further wonder what we can do to rid public life of it.

I began rethinking this when I read a series of articles last night discussing why many White Evangelicals seem to have no compunction about voting for absolute moral reprobates. But, I’m going to start by providing this link to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Much of what I’ve been reading has to do with polling the people that the media wants to portray as some how simple white working Joes with economic woes.  These polls show something much more perverse. Here’s the headline:  “Poll: In the old Confederacy the racial gap shows no sign of closing”.

Black Southerners and white Southerners are so profoundly split on central questions of equality and opportunity that the only thing they seem to share is geography, a new poll of the South suggests.

The Winthrop University poll of the 11 states of the Old Confederacy, released last week, finds some common ground between the races on certain issues. But 61 percent of white people in the survey believe that all Americans have an equal chance to succeed if they work equally hard. Only 33 percent of black people surveyed feel that way.

Likewise, 60 percent of black Southerners believe strongly that the legacy of slavery and discrimination continues to hold black people back. But only 19 percent of white Southerners share that strong conviction.

“I came from a modest background and built something because I stuck with it and took some risks,” says Lyza Sandgren, a white business owner in Suwanee. “That is available to everyone in this country. Does everyone have the same ability to succeed on the same level? Of course not. The only avenues that any of us have are education, hard work and the willingness to take a few risks. Nobody’s going to do it for us. On that level, I say that everyone in the United States has an equal chance to succeed.”

Sandgren said she finds the poll results unpersuasive.

“To anyone who in these polls says, whites think this, blacks think that: I don’t care. I listen to the person, not the race,” she said.

Courtney Spencer, an African-American resident of Paulding County, argues that the deck has been stacked against black people since the earliest days of colonial America.

“During slavery you have the slave owners, who actually created wealth off of the ones that they put into slavery,” said Spencer, who works in the pest control business in Hiram. “So, basically that wealth trickled down from generation to generation. But when black people finally got their freedom, they were already hundreds and hundreds of years behind. They’re having to play catch up, and it’s hard to play catch up because there are people who don’t want them to.”

The key to racial understanding? “I really think progress can only come from uncomfortable conversations,” Spencer said. “There are a lot of people, regardless of race, who don’t want to talk about race. They’d rather be silent about it and hope it will go away. But it never does.”

Fifty percent of White Southerners in the poll feel “under attack”.  I do not understand how a group of people feel under attack just because the majority of us do not choose to live as they do and would like their worldview to be kept out of public institutions.

Nearly half of white Americans living in the South feel like they’re under attack, a new Winthrop University poll found.

Forty-six percent of white Southerners said they agree or strongly agree that white people are under attack in the U.S. More than three-fourths of black respondents said they believe racial minorities are under attack.

And 30 percent of all respondents in the poll agreed when asked if America needs to protect and preserve its white European heritage. More than half of respondents disagreed with the statement.

Forty percent of respondents said they believed that Confederate statues should remain as is, while nearly a quarter said a plaque should be added to contextualize the statue.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the statues should be moved to a museum. Nearly half of black respondents said the statues should be in museums, and a quarter said they should be completely removed.

Southerners overall said that racism is the most important issue facing the U.S., and black respondents were twice as likely to say it is the most important issue.

They’re so aggrieved that a huge swath of white Evangelicals–which is really a Southern fixture–would rather vote for corrupt reprobates as long as they get lip service to their brand of religion. They trust the untrustworthy over institutions that will not let them run amok over the rest of us. 


Quick: do you think politicians can still do their jobs if they’ve screwed up in their personal lives?

Many Americans answer this question differently now than they would have five years ago. And for white evangelical Protestants, it’s especially likely their opinion has changed.

That’s what a new PRRI/Brookings poll says. In 2011, 30 percent of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” Now, 72 percent say so — a far bigger swing than other religious groups the poll studied.

It’s just one poll, but it does suggest a sizable shift in how Americans of several religious stripes think about the connection between morality and politics. White evangelicals also are less likely than they used to be to say that “strong religious beliefs” are “very important” in a presidential candidate. That share fell from 64 percent in 2011 to 49 percent this year.

White mainline Protestants and Catholics also grew more accepting of a candidate who has committed “immoral acts,” while religiously unaffiliated people barely changed. Those “unaffiliated” people in 2011 had been much more willing than the broader population to believe candidates who had committed “immoral acts” could do their jobs. Now, they are in line with Americans as a whole. (The published results did not include data on other groups.)

There is no way to know what caused these shifts. That said, it’s difficult to see this outside of the context of the 2016 election, and in particular what role Donald Trump — fending off allegations of sexual misconduct — plays in it.

Some white evangelical leaders (and other Christians) have decided to stand behind the Republican nominee even as other Christians strongly condemn him.

Evangelicals have always been an odd lot.  You may recall the history of the likes of Aimee Semple McPherson.  There have been movies like “Elmer Gantry” based on the 1926 novel by Sinclair Lewis.   Try this plot description on for size and then think about all the icky pastors that continue to bring in the money and the converts.  Gantry was played by Burt Lancaster who was simply brilliant in the role.

Elmer Gantry is a satirical novel written by Sinclair Lewis in 1926 that presents aspects of the religious activity of America in fundamentalist and evangelistic circles and the attitudes of the 1920s public toward it. The novel’s protagonist, the Reverend Dr. Elmer Gantry, is initially attracted by booze and easy money (though he eventually renounces tobacco and alcohol) and chasing women. After various forays into evangelism, he becomes a successful Methodist minister despite his hypocrisy and serial sexual indiscretions.[1]

Here’s a list of “fallen pastors”.  Ted Haggard is at the top.  He’s probably got the honors because he turned out to be Gay which is far more unforgivable than preying on young girls or married women.  Which leads to the question of the original article that I read yesterday.  “Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?”  This has led me and many others to believe the word “more” should be inserted before the “Sociopathic”.

Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, said Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s by positions of “pro-life” and opposing gay marriage. “Suddenly theology fell to the background,” he said. And somewhere in the middle of all the change, Evangelical Christianity crossed the line of faith and belief to hatred and abuse. Those who cruelly implement the actions of their faith are oblivious to the destruction they cause to their religion, or the people their beliefs impact. Is it fair to call it sociopathic?

Psychology Today listed sixteen characteristics of sociopathic behaviors, which include: Untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).

We see examples of these kinds of behaviors in church leaders and followers. Franklin Graham, for example, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue.” His stand fits well with his conservative politics and vocal support of Donald Trump, but his callousness toward immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States goes against everything he says he believes (Lev. 19:33-34, Mark 12:30-31). Yet, Graham doesn’t see one bit of irony between his political stance and his religious belief. Nor does he seem to notice the horrific casualties in war-torn countries these immigrants are desperately trying to flee.

I never recognize the actual teachings and actions of the Jesus of the New Testament in any of these folks.  Their pastors seem quite obsessed with power and wealth.  They’re a natural fit with the Republican Party. David Atkins of Washington Monthly has some great analysis. 

Yesterday I wrote that Roy Moore’s behavior was in keeping with hardcore conservative evangelical culture of sanctioned patriarchal sexual abuse. I have also stated that the release of the Access Hollywood tape almost certainly actually helped Trump with some evangelicals because, despite being a philandering adulterer, Trump established a more fundamental cultural rapport with their moral value system. I have similarly pointed that that the abuses of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, far from being the product of liberal sexual revolution, are the product of patriarchy and capitalism, and that conservative religious orthodoxy tends to amplify rather than curtail the abuse.

These are admittedly controversial positions. But they’re also hard to refute after today’s polling shows that 37% of Alabama evangelicals are actually more likely to vote for Roy Moore after hearing the allegations against him, and 34 percent said it would make no difference:

Nearly 40 percent of Alabama evangelicals said in a new poll that they are more likely to vote for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore following allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

JMC analytics poll found that 37 percent of evangelicals surveyed said the allegations make them more likely to vote for the GOP Senate candidate in the upcoming election.

Just 28 percent said the allegations made them less likely to vote for Moore and 34 percent said the allegations made no difference in their decision.

These numbers cannot be attributed to pure political tribalism. It is quite simply a culture of abuse.

Moore is and has always been one of their own. His offenses against the law, his bigotries, his lack basic compassion are their own. And yes, his (alleged) active predation on teenage girls is part of it, too. It’s culturally expected. And if it went just a little too far, well, Moore is a man of God who has almost certainly been forgiven by the Lord, so all is well in the land of the Duggars and Duck Dynasty.

And it’s time that all of us started calling it exactly what it is: a culture of explicitly sanctioned sexual abuse.

We are looking at Tribalism and it’s very much a throwback from the Confederacy, the Jim Crow years, and the post-reconstruction rewrite of American’s sin of Slavery.  This entire situation smacks of a deal with devils.  Mitch McConnell may say he believes Moore’s accusers but then tax cuts for the Donor Class and appeasement of this angry base always goes straight to the top of the priority list.  Of course, the Pussy Grabber thinks Moore as falsely accused. It would take a huge amount of self reflection for a confessed and unrepentant serial sexual assaulter to come to any other conclusion. We know Kremlin Caligula has no ability to do that.

Top White House officials have now made President Trump’s position on Roy Moore absolutely clear: Trump does not believe that the allegations that Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old — and pursued three other teenagers — should disqualify him from becoming a U.S. senator.

This is not how they presented their position, of course. On the Sunday shows, legislative director Marc Short and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway both expressed great shock and horror over the charges. But then each of them carefully carved out a position that appears designed to allow Moore to continue with his run for Senate largely unobstructed and, ultimately, to accept Moore as a senator if he wins, while letting the allegations fade away in a fog of he-said-she-said uncertainty.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Short claimed “there’s a special place in hell” for such sexual predators and said that “no Senate seat” is “more important than the notion of child pedophilia.” But then Short said the White House would object to seating him as a senator only “if more evidence comes out that can prove that he did this,” while adding that this is “a huge if,” because “more facts” could still “come out.” Said Short: “We have to afford him the chance to defend himself.”

This is exactly the kind of leadership we expect now from Republicans.  Take a look at this from our Authoritarian Curious Usurper:Trump Bonds With Duterte Over Their Dislike of Obama, Avoids Human Rights”. 

U.S. President Donald Trump bonded with Rodrigo Duterte over a common dislike for Barack Obama, whose criticism of the Philippine leader’s deadly war on drugs last year spurred a rift between the allies.

 “The relationship appears to be very warm and very friendly,” Duterte spokesman Harry Roque told reporters after they met in Manila on Monday. “They’ve been very candid in their dealings, and it’s very apparent that both of them have a person who they consider as not their best friend. They have similar feelings toward former U.S. President Barack Obama.”

This is truly disturbing.

There’s a lot to be read and written about why Evangelicals support sexual predators like Judge Roy and the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief.  None of them are easy to read or stomach.  Issac J Bailey has this to say at Vice.

No one should be surprised if, after everything, Roy Moore still becomes the next US senator from Alabama.

In a Thursday Washington Post article, Moore, the Republican senatorial candidate in a December special election, was accused by a woman of initiating sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. This puts the Southern evangelical Christians who have supported Moore—who is so far to the right on social issues that he said in 2005 that “homosexual conduct” should be illegal—in a position to make a choice. This is a chance to draw the line and begin declaring, again, that their faith, their principles, matter more than blind partisanship.

I’m not so sure they will.

From what I’ve seen up close, these voters embarked on this path long before Donald Trump arrived on the scene. They have allowed politics to supersede what they’ve been telling themselves every Sunday. That’s why too many of them hated a Christian like Barack Obama, even though he had lived the kind of adult life evangelicals say all men should and whose policies helped push the abortion rate to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade. They then embraced Trump, who bragged about his adulterous ways, said he never asked God for forgiveness, then was caught on video bragging about casually sexually assaulting women.

I’ve lost friends for pointing this out—friends who are white evangelical Christians I spent nearly two decades praying with in the same church pews. They despise me for daring to bring up this inconsistency between how they talk about their faith and how they live it in the political sphere. That’s why I’m not convinced that even the accusation that Moore molested a 14-year-old is necessarily enough to turn them off of him. Opioids and heroin are killing the bodies of too many people in my region, but the drug of political partisanship has killed off the principles of many more.

You may also read this from The Guardian and Emer O’Toole.

In trying to puzzle out how abusive men gain power and hang on to it, it’s tempting to focus on intimidation tactics: macho posturing, aggression. But reflecting on how I ignore the misogynies of men I like, I realise that kindness, affection and loyalty are stronger glue than fear. Wouldn’t dismantling patriarchy be so much easier if abusers were two-dimensional villains? But it’s their charm, their humanity and – yes – their virtues that draw people to them. In turn, the strength of those relationships gives them permission to behave in hurtful ways.

What do we do with our loyalty when men we care about are accused, when we are, after a fashion, accused ourselves of seeing and doing nothing? Is it our feminist duty to betray the genuine bonds that tangle us up in systems of oppression? Or, to put it more viscerally: are we really going to look at a man who gave us a hand up and kick him when he’s down?

We’ve all got our own moral compass (some in better working order than others, clearly). I don’t think there can be a simple imperative in these situations. But maybe there is a duty to remember that power isn’t all threats and tantrums; it’s also friendship and poetry.

When victims speak out, they’re not just confronting an abuser. Often they’re facing an entire community of people who have affection for that man – many of them women. That must be petrifying. And knowing that, you’ve got to have crazy respect for those who dare to tear through layers of love and loyalty, through palimpsests of doubt and shame, to reveal the poison at the very heart of the thing.

So, here’s also something from New Orleans: “Statue of woman appears where Jefferson Davis monument once stood”.

A music video director on Sunday morning (Nov. 12) temporarily placed a twice-life size statue of an African-American woman on the slab where the statue of Jefferson Davis once stood. The controversial monument to the President of the Confederacy was removed on May 11.

New Orleans filmmaker Zac Manuel explained that the installation will set the scene for a video accompanying a new song titled “If All I Was Was Black” by renowned folk singer and civil rights activist, Mavis Staples, who was not present Sunday.


You can check out more from Doug McCash at the link above.

So, let’s watch the wave and the blowback and hope the wave wins in the end.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?