Different Republican Responses to Changing Times

I know a number of Republicans who hate Trump. They are refusing to vote Republican because of this. Some are considering the Libertarian candidate or else not voting at all. I suspect some might even vote for Hillary Clinton, God forbid!

One Republican I know well is really struggling with what to do. He has voted Republican for nearly every election in his in adult life and, as far as I know, he always votes. He is an old school mainstream conservative.

I overheard a conversation he had with his brother. Like him, his brother is a lifelong Republican. But his brother has a different bent, such as his having defended social liberal positions. I guess he might be a Rockefeller Republican or something like that, although probably not as far left as a Theodore Roosevelt Bull Moose Republican. Both of them are more conservative on economic issues. They can agree on much, despite key differences.

The brother is even more put off by Trump. It sounds like he is going to register as a Democrat. I know the brother fairly well. He is on the city council in the small town he lives in, and he ran as a Republican. If he does switch to Democrat, that could upset many people who voted for him and that likely would be a big deal in a small town.

Trump isn’t just temporarily turning some away from voting Republican. He may be permanently driving away quite a few. The GOP will likely never be the same again. Goldwater eliminated most of the moderate and liberal Republicans. Now the few remaining will be gone. It will leave nothing but the authoritarian extremists, the hardcore partisans, and I suppose the establishment politicians who have nowhere else to go. I’m not sure what kind of Republican party that will be (or what kind of Democratic party as well, once all those former Republicans join).

I heard the first guy I mentioned above talk to another Republican, a Trump supporter. It was interesting. I could feel the tension of worldviews. The two of them have been acquaintances for decades, but they never were the same kind of Republican. Still, I couldn’t tell if even this supposed Trump supporter actually took Trump’s campaign seriously, as he seemed amused by the whole thing. I guess he is for Trump simply because he is entertaining and because he isn’t a Democrat.

All three of these Republicans are Christians (and all older white males). Yet they are of entirely different varieties. The Republican-turning-Democrat is a socially liberal Christian. The Trump supporter is more of a fundamentalist, unsurprisingly. The Republican who knows both of these other two is more centrist in his Christianity, a moderate conservative, although moreso in the family values camp.

In talking to the Trump supporter, this moderate conservative ended up defending the morally relativistic position that scripture can be interpreted differently in terms of views about such things as homosexuality. It was interesting to hear a conservative Christian make such an argument in opposition to a fundamentalist. Maybe the socially liberal brother has influenced his views.

Strange times. Even old white males and conservative Republicans aren’t immune to change.

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Who Are the American Religious?

I was looking at polling data for the religious. Just minor curiosity, on this Sunday morning.

Like the rest of the population, the overall US trend is toward progressivism and liberalism (I wonder what the trend is in other countries and across the world). One poll from Beliefnet was done in 2008.

Beliefnet Poll: Evangelicals Still Conservative, But Defy Issue Stereotypes

It’s probably a little out of date, as the results of demographic shifts are quickly changing and becoming more apparent. In the intervening years, progressives have increased among Evangelicals, although many others have left Evangelicalism. More broadly, religious progressives now outnumber religious conservatives.

Anyway, what interested me was the following section from the above link:

“In some ways, the survey reveals evangelicals to be quite conservative: 41-percent said they were Republican compared to 30-percent who were Democrats; 47-percent said they were conservative versus 14-percent who said they were liberal. Almost 80-percent said they attended church weekly or more than weekly and 84% said the Bible is the “inerrant word of God.”

“Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. Twenty three percent said their views had become less positive about Republicans, twice the number who said they’d soured on Democrats, though half of respondents said they had become less positive about both parties. Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality.”

That mirrors the same confusion of labeling confusion as found in the general population. This weird phenomenon creates problems in interpretation. It is rare to see the self-identification data clearly compared and contrasted with public opinion data.

Still, this is far from an unknown social reality, as far as it concerns academic researchers.

Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinities
by John T. Jost, Christopher M. Federico, & Jaime L. Napier

“Since the time of the pioneering work of Free & Cantril (1967), scholars of public opinion have distinguished between symbolic and operational aspects of political ideology (Page & Shapiro 1992, Stimson 2004). According to this terminology, “symbolic” refers to general, abstract ideological labels, images, and categories, including acts of self-identification with the left or right. “Operational” ideology, by contrast, refers to more specific, concrete, issue-based opinions that may also be classified by observers as either left or right. Although this distinction may seem purely academic, evidence suggests that symbolic and operational forms of ideology do not coincide for many citizens of mass democracies. For example, Free & Cantril (1967) observed that many Americans were simultaneously “philosophical conservatives” and “operational liberals,” opposing “big government” in the abstract but supporting the individual programs comprising the New Deal welfare and regulatory state. More recent studies have obtained impressively similar results; Stimson (2004) found that more than two-thirds of American respondents who identify as symbolic conservatives are operational liberals with respect to the issues (see also Page & Shapiro 1992, Zaller 1992). However, rather than demonstrating that ideological belief systems are multidimensional in the sense of being irreducible to a single left-right continuum, these results indicate that, in the United States at least, leftist/liberal ideas are more popular when they are manifested in specific, concrete policy solutions than when they are offered as ideological abstractions. The notion that most people like to think of themselves as conservative despite the fact that they hold a number of liberal opinions on specific issues is broadly consistent with system-justification theory, which suggests that most people are motivated to look favorably upon the status quo in general and to reject major challenges to it (Jost et al. 2004a).”

It interested me to see this same type of thing in the religious polling. But it isn’t surprising. Confusion abounds, especially when it comes to politics on the left.

By the way, the following are links to some of the data on changes in the religious demographic(s), especially among the younger generations. I’ve seen much of this data over the years. There is a shift that has been happening for a long time. It’s nothing new, but it’s good to keep in mind.

Survey | Generations at Odds: The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights
by PRRI

Young Evangelicals in the 2012 Elections
by Sojourners

Are Millennials Killing Off the Religious Right?
by Amanda Marcotte

More than half of evangelicals oppose cutting government funds for poor, survey shows
by Electa Draper

Survey shows diversity in political opinion among mainline Protestant clergy
by Mary Frances Schjonberg

Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage
And the Bible isn’t getting in their way.
by Jim Hinch

Young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accepting of homosexuality
by Michael Lipka

Millennial Christians Are More Socially Progressive Than You Might Expect, Shattering Some Conservative Stereotypes
by Emma Cueto

Why Pope Francis is Polling The World’s Catholics
by Jack Jenkins

If Vatican conservatives are so afraid of gay rights, young Catholics aren’t going to wait around
by Zach Stafford

Young Christians Are Fleeing Evangelicalism—And Here’s Why
by Eleanor J. Bader

Politico: Catholic Republicans Have a Pope Problem
by Courtney Coren

Poll: Americans Prefer Gay President To Evangelical Christian
by Alan

How evangelicals won a war and lost a generation
by CNN

 

A Conservative’s Personal Experience

A while back, I was talking to a conservative Christian. He is a white guy, a typical American from the older generation.

He mentioned to me an experience he had that changed his view on an issue. At the church he attends, there was a talk given on a subject and from a perspective that few Americans get the opportunity to hear. The speaker was a Palestinian Christian who gave the details of his personal experience. His talk was about living in Palestine with Israel as a not-so-friendly neighbor.

Most Americans, especially conservative Christians, probably never think about Palestinians as including Christians. When they think of Palestinians, they put them in the category of ‘other’ and hence in the category of ‘enemy’. Palestinians are portrayed in the MSM basically in terms of the enemies of the Israelis, and every American knows the Israelis are the good guys. The Israelis escaped the oppression of the Nazis and they are our allies who help us in the fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, Palestinians are supposedly all Arabs and Muslims, despite the fact that Palestinians are genetically and culturally the original Jewish population that never left.

This guy noted how angry this Palestinian was. This did bother him because angry Palestinians are the bad guys. But he couldn’t dismiss him. First, he was a fellow Christian speaking at this guy’s own church. Second, he was a real person, not just a picture of a person on the news or a caricature portrayed by a right-wing demagogue. This Palestinian’s Christian experience became also real for this American white guy, and so a sympathetic connection was formed.

Like a typical American, specifically one who is from the right side of the spectrum, he had always seen just one side of the story which was the official Israeli government perspective as parroted by the American MSM. It is all he knew for no media he encountered ever challenged his understanding. He existed in a media bubble and didn’t even know it. This was no fault of his own, not in any direct sense. He didn’t realize he was being deceived and being given partial information, and so didn’t know to challenge it.

Hearing this Palestinian Christian’s experience, he suddenly saw that the situation was a lot more complex. There was no straightforward good and bad guys. More importantly, he came to understand that the official Israeli position wasn’t beyond questioning, especially from a moral perspective. It is one thing for Muslims to be oppressed by Jews, but it is a whole other matter for Christians to be oppressed by Jews. To the conservative Christian, Christians are most definitely the good guys for Christianity is the religion of the West and specifically of the United States.

Personal experience is the one and only thing that can challenge propaganda and rhetoric, lies and manipulation. When you look at so many fears and hatreds people hold, it almost always goes hand in hand with a lack of personal experience in relation to what is feared and hated, whether gays or Palestinians. If a conservative has their own child come out as gay or if a conservative meets a Palestinian in person, then the entire context shifts and it no longer is in the realm of abstract moral absolutes. In bringing an issue down into messy personal experience, it becomes viscerally and emotionally real. It is harder to hate or fear someone who you get to know as an individual human being.

Every moral and political battle is fought on the level of the personal. Minds are changed one at a time.

Where is early Christian history?

Here are a couple of papers that question what we think we know about early Christianity. It is fascinating. There are so many assumptions we make in trying to understand something. When these assumptions become shared beliefs of a society or of a field of study, a reality tunnel can form.

I don’t know if Jesus ever existed and I don’t know if even Christianity existed in the first century. It honestly doesn’t make much difference to me, but obviously it makes a big difference to many people and not just fundamentalist Christians. What interests me is both the questioning itself and the fact that we live in a time when people are free to question such things.

Anyway, here are the papers:

http://historyhuntersinternational.org/2010/10/08/the-gospels-according-to-hadrian-the-magic-wars-and-the-massiah/

http://historyhuntersinternational.org/2011/03/06/the-vacuum-of-evidence-for-pre-4th-century-christianity/

And here is part of the second paper:

Perhaps the most surprising discovery is somewhat akin to the famous Holmesian episode in which the dog didn’t bark in the night.

Not a single artefact of any medium – including textual – and dated reliably before the fourth century can be unambiguously identified as Christian. This is the most notable result of our archaeological survey of sites, inscriptions, libraries, collections and so on from the Indus River to the Nile and north to Britain.

Taking into account the vast volume of scholarly works claiming expert opinion for the exact opposite point of view, let me clarify terms.

There is, of course, much archaeology interpreted commonly as Christian. This does not contradict the bald statement above. The difference lies between data that spells out Christian clearly and unambiguously, and that which expert opinion claims to look as though it is Christian.

There are very many texts claimed to be Christian and composed before the fourth century, though the documents themselves are not dated to that early period. We have found no text before the fourth century which mentions either Jesus Christ, or the term ‘Christian’.

The earliest fragments and codex of the New Testament pre-date the fourth century, though nowhere in them have we found the key word Christ. Many biblical scholars claim that they do, but our visual inspection of them fails to find a single such usage of this term. We have been unable to find a single text transliterated correctly in this regard.

As there are gospels and other texts of a religious character, so there is archaeology for places of worship and many artefacts: none spell Christian. Claims that any are Christian are, in fact, a matter of opinion only and we disagree with all such opinions.

Six months ago, this was a tentative view and during this time, many scholars have been asked – challenged even – to provide evidence of a contradictory nature and other than largely silence, the response has been supportive of this view. We did receive a list of (well-known) sites and events purported as Christian, though not a single artefact.

This should not be understood as a claim that nothing was happening in these three centuries that can be related to the appearance of Christianity in the fourth century. The archaeology that can be associated most-closely with Christianity is for the name Chrest, a magical Jesus Chrest and for ‘Servants of Jesus’. We have termed these chrestic. In ancient Greek, the pronunciation of both terms – Christ and Chrest –  is identical as far as is known today and this acutely interesting and fortuitous linguistic circumstance facilitated the re-working of textual artefacts as well as recasting the entire context of the original theurgy related to the cult.

As Chrest was expunged from the New Testament and replaced with Christ, so the possibility arises that following the prosecution of chrestic followers by Diocletian – mis-termed commonly ‘The Great Persecution’ of Christians – the chrestic archaeology record was wiped clean generally as far as possible.

Divide and Conquer

Here is something I never understand.

Every time I hear someone talk about “Real Americans” it’s almost always a Christian conservative (such as Sarah Palin”. Why is this “Divide and Conquer” mentality so appealing to many conservatives? And why does it seem so repulsive to most liberals?

The only answer I’ve found is the research of Bob Altemeyer. He found in the US Right-Wing Authoritarianism correlates to social conservatism and Christian fundamentalism. In communist countries, the bigots tend to be communists. In fascist countries, the xenophobes tend to be fascists. But, in America, this same type of person tends to be a socially conservative Christian. Why?

I understand the power of group mentality especially in terms of fundamentalism, but still I just can’t get my mind around it. There is this obvious conflict between what Jesus did and said and what right-wing Christians too often do and say. Shouldn’t all Christians, even conservatives, be against such bigoted xenophobia and fear-mongering?

Many right-wing Christians will ask: What would Jesus do? But why do so few right-wing Christians ask this question when they walk past the homeless guy sleeping on the cold sidewalk? Why do so few right-wing Christians ask this question when confronted with undocumented immigrants who are trying to escape a country that has become violent because of the US War on Drugs? Why do so few right-wing Christians ask this question when they hear drum-beating and flag-waving propaganda for yet another war?

My problem isn’t that Christians fail to live up to Christ’s example but that so few even try. Still, their not trying doesn’t stop them from being righteous towards the failures of others.

I don’t know what Jesus would do, but I do know that Jesus wouldn’t be a right-wing Christian.

Anne Rice: Moderate & Liberal Christianity

I highly respect Anne Rice for being so open about her views. I think people, no matter what their beliefs or change of beliefs, should always be honest.

I was raised as a liberal Christian and so I appreciate liberal Christians like Anne Rice standing up for moderation and humility. Too many religious people act like they have the answer for everything. There is nothing that irritates me more than a fundamentalist who defends their dogma through intellectual dishonesty and/or righteous arrogance.

Just imagine if all the religious liberals and religious moderates of the world (whether Christian, Muslim or whatever) stood up and made themselves heard. I suspect that most religious people are moderate on most issues and my sense is that the numbers of religious liberals is larger than one would guess from watching the mainstream media. The religious fundamentalists and extremists are very loud and very active. They dominate the political narrative about moral and cultural issues. Through evangelism and political organization, they have immense influence. Just consider how the Mormon church influenced (through illegal donations) public opinion about Prop 8 and contributed in no small part to its originally having been passed into law. When liberal and moderate Christians do speak up about civil rights and the public good, about caring for the poor and helping the needy, rightwing leaders such as Glenn Beck attack them.

Anne Rice is the biggest name that has come up in criticism of religious fundamentalism from the perspective of religious moderation and humility. I hope her example will help others to also speak up. I’d love to see someone like Michael Moore make a movie about Christianity in America and it’s relationship to progressivism and the civil rights movement. Few people realize that Moore is not only a Christian but is specifically inspired by Jesus Christ in doing his work as a documentarian and activist. Because liberals are so moderate and humble in their religiosity, they tend to believe religion should be kept as a personal issue. That is a generally good attitude, but I think it’s time to shake off some of that humility and demonstrate that liberal religiosity isn’t something to be hidden.

I’m not religious myself these days. I can’t say I’m fighting for my own conception of true Christianity. I really don’t care what others believe Christianity to be. I’m just tired of the overt politicization of Christianity by the religious right. Going by the polls, the younger generations are also tired of this religious politicization. The liberals and moderates shouldn’t become like the rightwingers in their challenging the politicization of the rightwingers. Unlike what some rightwingers believe, this isn’t a fight where only one version of Christianity can become victorious. I just want all voices to be heard so that there can be sincere discussion about issues that are very important.

 – – –

 * Note: I don’t mean to imply that all conservatives are fundamentalist extremists and far rightwingers. In using the term “moderate”, I’m also including moderate conservatives. I’m actually arguing that most people who identify as conservative probably are moderate. To illustrate this, polls show that more Americans identify as conservative than liberal, but if you ask about specific issues most Americans lean towards liberal/progressive views.

Why I am no longer a Christian by Evid3nc3

This video is an atheist explaining how he lost his faith. It’s long, but I found it worth watching. The guy is very respectful of Christianity and he is far from being dismissive of his past faith.

His example reminds me of Robert M. Price who also began studying with the hope of strengthening his faith. The risk of apologetics is that it uses the methods of the enemy (logic, argument, questions, doubts, intellect, etc). There is a real danger to opening yourself up to any and all doubts and following questions to whatever answers they may lead. This is true for any person, whether religious or not. Intellectual inquiry isn’t for the contented. Questions aren’t for those who wish to remain in comforting certainties.

A Moral Fundamentalist! Oh My!

I came across this video. The guy apparently is a fundamentalist of some variety. I’m typically critical of fundamentalists because of their not unusual hypocritical behavior. I was surprised to hear this fundamentalist voicing criticisms of the hypocritical rightwing Christian leadership which has led us into unjust wars. He comes at it from his own Christian perspective, but what impressed me is that he was considering data that comes from views other than his own.

I’m so used to fundamentalists defending other fundamentalists at all costs. It’s quite refreshing to see this particular fundamentalist struggle with his own sense of morality. Could you imagine if Bush had struggled with his own morality to the degree this guy is doing in this video? If Bush had, so many vile atrocities would never have happened.

Intelligent Christian Blog: The Website of Unknowing

Let me recommend a rather lovely blog.  It’s well written and the author seems well informed.  The blog in question is The Website of Unknowing and the author of it is Carl McColman.  He apparently is also an author of a number of books on religion.

Some things stood out to me about this blog and it’s author. 

McColman began as a Christian who became a Neopagan and who then later returned to Christianity via mysticism.  I also noticed he has some interest in Flannery O’Connor.  Mysticism and O’Connor together immediately make me think of my good friend Mike.

Beyond these interests, McColman demonstrates a fairly wide and intelligent selection of ideas and writers.  In particular, I was happy to see Ken Wilber mentioned rather prominently.  But he also blogs about a spectrum of Judeo-Christian writers and ideas from the traditional to the liberal (Teresa of Avila, Charism, C.S. Lewis , Philo’s Platonic allegorizing, Pagan Christianity).  And in one post he links to an article written by Harvey Cox.

I had the immediate sense of what kind of religious person McColman is.  In some ways, his religious interests, although wide, are a bit more tame than my own.  He apparently avoids political issues (at least in this blog) and I didn’t see him write about the fiction genres of horror and sf (which often relate to theological concerns such as with PKD).  But I did find quite interesting his post about the movie Where the Wild Things Are.  All in all, his blog has a Boomer sensibility about it.  It turns out he is a young Boomer at the age of 48 (according to the generational model of Strauss and Howe).

To me there is something simultaneously appealing and tame (in an inclusively politically correct way) about Boomer spirituality.  I grew up in a politically correct New Agey Christian church that attracted many lost Boomer souls seeking some form of religion they could tolerate.  However, McColman’s thinking has some meat to it.  He isn’t intellectually lazy and he is aware of the dangers of “boomeritis.”

I guess my reason for sharing this Christian blog is because I’ve butted heads with some Christian fundamentalists lately (and also an ideological atheist).  I just wanted to turn some attention towards a more moderate and informed view of religion.