Carl LaFong (mcdee) Thu 24 Aug 06 15:31
Michelle, can you talk a little more about the "gay agenda?" Until I read your book, I just thought the whole gay agenda notion was just more right-wing blather. I was surprised to learn that many right-wing Christians believe there is an actual gay conspiracy, a la the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Thu 24 Aug 06 17:36
I should get my fundie sister into this discussion. She once wrote a letter to the Contra Costa Times delineating and condemning the "gay agenda". The group held breath in our family is waiting for the day her fundie, mid 20's son comes out. There are an awful lot of indications in that direction. The crime is that his beliefs may cause him to suppress his true nature for his entire life.
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Fri 25 Aug 06 06:59
One of the things that I don't think most liberals realize about the religious right is that there is actually a deep intellectual infrastructure supporting many of its positions. The myth of the "homosexual agenda" is a good example. Sure, some of the movement's anti-gay bigotry is driven by antipathy and anxiety (homosexuality is seen as both utterly disgusting and so incredibly tempting that, if restrictions are loosened, *everyone* will do it). But countless books try to give these prejudices a kind of theoretical legitimacy by constructing a homosexual conspiracy that seeks nothing less than the destruction of Christianity. "The Pink Swastika," by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, explains that stories about the Nazi victimization of gay people are lies devised to further the homosexual agenda. In fact, Nazism was a primary homosexual movement, and today's gay rights movement is its direct descendent. To be honest, I can't tell you how many people in the movement actually believe this. But Lively, the California state director of Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, has been widely featured on Christian right radio and TV. And the idea of a demonic homosexual plot against America is very common in Christian nationalist discourse. Alan Sears is the president of the Alliance Defense Fund, a major Christian right legal group that's frequently in the news for fighting high-profile culture war cases. He co-wrote a 2003 book called "The Homosexual Agenda," whose introduction promised, "We will outline how the homosexual agenda touches every area of our lives, from the media to education to families to corporate America and to government [sic]. We will document how the religious freedoms of all Americans are under attack from radical homosexual activists." This kind of demonization gives people a scapegoat for the very real anxieties that plague them. As I write in the book, it's tempting (and I've certainly given in on occasion) to relish the irony of the high divorce rates in the states most obsessed with protecting marriage. But it makes sense that people in these areas really do feel like marriage is under attack, because the marriages they see around them seem so terrifyingly tenuous. Incidentally, next week I'm going to Ohio to debate Phil Burress, the head of that state's Focus on the Family affiliate and a driving force behind the anti-gay marriage amendment there. He's been married three times.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Fri 25 Aug 06 08:29
And how many of those marriages produced children? Did he marry any women past the age of reproduction for purposes not of bearing children, but for sex and companionship alone?
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 25 Aug 06 08:40
>>>One of the things that I don't think most liberals realize about the religious right is that there is actually a deep intellectual infrastructure supporting many of its positions.<<< Those books don't seem like a "deep intellectual infrastructure" to me, though. What kind of objective evidence do any of them give to support their hypotheses? Which published academic historians do they quote saying the Nazis were a homosexual movement?
Berliner (captward) Fri 25 Aug 06 08:58
(The 19th Century/early 20th Century German military, Roon most notoriously -- his career was ruined for it -- had a deep streak of homosexuality. Wasn't the Night of the Long Knives Hitler's purge of the gay faction of the SS? But after that, the Nazis didn't have any overt homosexuals in their ranks, as far as I'm aware).
Elisabeth Nygren (wickett) Fri 25 Aug 06 09:00
I think a parallel to this is the myth that the US is a Christian nation. There may not be a "deep intellectual infrastructure" documenting that the Founding Fathers meant ours to be a faith-based government or that the Puritans left England determined to create a nation with a godly leader, but that there are books or leaflets, that there are "experts" out there repeating the same thing over and over is deemed sufficient.
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Fri 25 Aug 06 10:35
Michelle, could you compare the current situation from the right to the earlier zeal with which Marx was believed to have all the answers. Also, why was Marxism such an intellectual obsession? Perhaps absolutist thinking exists notwithstanding brains or lack thereof.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 25 Aug 06 11:01
Has this happened before in history? How'd we get out of it?
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Fri 25 Aug 06 11:57
I might have put that badly-- what I meant by deep intellectual infrastructure wasn't that there's a lot of profound thinking going on. Rather, I meant that there's a huge cannon of books reflecting the Christian nationalist's alternative reality, often chock full of footnotes referencing each other, so that the entire thing becomes a richly detailed, nearly impenetrable edifice of untruth. It's an ideology rather than simply a set of prejudices
Authentic Frontier Gibberish (gerry) Fri 25 Aug 06 13:31
Hi, Michelle. I look forward to reading your book. In the meanwhile, I'm wondering how much (if any) common ground your observations might share with Karen Armstrong's take that fundamentalism is a reaction to modernity.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Fri 25 Aug 06 13:39
Michelle, many secular liberals who (my interpretation) have a hard time imagining anyone taking right-wing Christian beliefs seriously have talked about these trends in terms of the Republican party cynically taking advantage of the religious "base." Is that all we're looking at, or is the government currently being infiltrated by Christian theocrats?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 25 Aug 06 15:00
How can we convince Democrats to treat religious voters with respect rather than writing them off as superstitious idiots?
Low and popular (rik) Fri 25 Aug 06 15:10
Respect is circular.
Dave (davidwag) Fri 25 Aug 06 15:16
Perhaps those outside the religion are not aware of believers' acceptance of and trust in chain-of-command (using the word "authority" doesn't really get my point across). Children will obey their parents. Wives will obey their husbands. And so on. And lest you think these are hayseed-chewing folk, this is accepted by intelligent, successful, and fabulous people. So this acceptance of God-ordained chain-of-command is ripe for exploitation. Then there is the view that there is literally a spiritual war going on here and now between God and the Devil, in which we are all involved. So *everything* is polarized and interpreted in that regard (which allows for statements like: "You're either with us or against us") leaving out any middle ground and the only option is: "Make your choice--good or evil". This leaves no options. Again, this trust is so susceptible to misinterpretation or exploitation.
Alan Turner (arturner) Fri 25 Aug 06 18:19
I think the biggest question in my mind after reading the book is this: How much do you think the leaders of the Christian Nationalist movement believe what they preach? You can see someone like Santorum first saying gay marriage will soon lead to people marrying animals, and then backpedalling rapidly. Likewise on his Intelligent Design position. It could be that he's saying what he believes, and then realizes that it might cost him votes. Or it could be that he's saying what he thinks will get him votes, and realizes he's made a mistake. To put it another way, do you think that they are following an agenda that they believe, and tweaking it for pragmatic reaons, or do you think that they are being manipulative in the first place, and fine-tuning their source of votes and funding? And it may vary by celebrity; Santorum might be working the public in a different way than Jerry Falwell is. But knowing who is working the crowd which way would suggest strategies.
Michael Zentner (mz) Fri 25 Aug 06 18:56
There's another thing that may be at play. He may be saying what's been drummed into him through years of Christian indoctrination, and the backpedaling is because he's finally been called on it.
Dave (davidwag) Fri 25 Aug 06 19:35
There is a real problem in the local evangelical community, and I suspect in the national community as well, with the faithful not speaking out when they feel that one of their own is wrong. This failure will eventually set them back further than where they were when they started.
Public persona (jmcarlin) Fri 25 Aug 06 20:17
> ... Wasn't the Night of the Long Knives Hitler's purge of > the gay faction of the SS? That's not what Wikipedia and other sources says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Long_Knives http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/night_of_the_long_knives.htm From what I read, that event was a typical purge of political opponents.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Sat 26 Aug 06 06:13
Michelle, come back and save us from topic drift! :-)
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Sat 26 Aug 06 09:49
A question for Sharon Lynne Fisher -- which Democrats dismiss religious voters as superstitious idiots? Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama? Al Gore? This charge gets hurled around a lot, but I don't see any evidence of it, and I'm curious about what makes you feel that way. As for the question of what might be called the cynicism-fanaticism continuum, I think it often depends on the individual. I do disagree with the Tom Frank thesis, which (and I'm probably oversimplifying it) imagines GOP victories as a result of crafty plutocrats manipulating the pious rubes to get them to vote against their economic interest. Obviously there's some of that going on -- the modern Christian right, after all, was born when a group of Goldwater veterans recruited an obscure Baptist pastor named Jerry Falwell to found the Moral Majority in the hopes of wedging blue collar social conservatives away from the Democratic Party. These days, however, its the religious right that largely controls the GOP, especially at the grassroots, and there are many senators (Inhofe, Santorum, Coburn, Brownback) and countless representatives who I think truly believe in some kind of messianic Christian restoration. There's not necessarily a contradiction between their faith and their political weaseling, since if politics is a great showdown between good and evil, then the ends justify any means. I have to run to catch a flight to Ohio, but will be back online later
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Sat 26 Aug 06 09:59
One thing that struck me about your book was your (to me refreshing) assertion that when it comes to hardcore Christian nationalists, there is no compromise. Simply speaking respectfully of peoples' beliefs, etc. isn't going to accomplish much when the are fanatics bent on taking over the United States and imposing a theocracy. So I suppose part of the trick is knowing whom you should treat with respect (ordinary Christian believers) and who are your implacable enemies.
Elisabeth Nygren (wickett) Sat 26 Aug 06 11:09
I agree, mcdee. The blank wall of non-communication that I came up against with those Christian nationalists of my acquaintance was beautifully explained in your book, Michelle. I hadn't previously seen the implacable alternate reality supported by home schooling and the encyclopedic array of textbooks and think tank tomes defining, describing, defending it. I saw an early Francis Schaeffer book and dismissed it as light-weight twaddle. Now I am still trying to grasp that figures I so admire, Edmund Burke, Voltaire, Jefferson, Paine and the entire Enlightment are perceived by some as powers of darkness tearing down the fabric of a "Christian nation." (I am usually loath to use quotes, but I must. I do know v. fine Christian people and I simply cannot use Christian as adjective or noun to identify both.) I shudder to see the current tearing down of international law, one of the most recent and fragile protections of the modern world. Initially I could not understand the "homosexual agenda" either. It seemed to me that supporters of marriage and family would embrace others eager to take on those same responsibilities and foster the next generation. Initially I could not understand the virulent opposition to abortion. There are so many abandoned living children in this country, so many who may not be physically abandoned, but who are inadequately loved, fed, protected, nurtured, educated. Why would anyone in their right mind want more unwanted babies? Why would anyone want to imprison a woman into motherhood for 18 years when she herself didn't want the job or the child? Call me naive, if you will. Now I have a better intellectual grasp, but I still don't understand in my heart. As to authority or the chain of godly commands, YES! When Pope Urban II called for crusade against the infidels in 1095 and Bernard responded with a fiery sermon from his citadel in Citeaux, war was launched. Read his sermon sometime, it will send chills down your back. We are once again engaged in that same war and both sides claim direct authority from God--through pastors and imams--for their actions.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 26 Aug 06 16:44
#46: elsewhere on the Well. I don't mean Democratic officials.
Rick Brown (danwest) Sat 26 Aug 06 22:02
But why should myths be respected? Is my lack of respect for much or what main-stream Christianity seems to espouse any more of an issue than their idea that I am going to burn in hell for ever-lasting time? Does catering to folks who refuse to give an inch make things better? How can one call them on their shit in a "respectful" way? Do Christians treat wiccians or pagans with "respect"? I refuse to respect so-called Christians who seem not to live the life that Christ preached about. Love, forgivness, and all those other good things. As a Gay person, how could I "respectfully" engage those who wish to treat me as a second class person. How can I "respect" those who will not allow me to get married? Respect? Hell, I just with the rapture would happen so humanity could get on with makeing our way in this very difficult world. There is no place for the likes me in the "Kingdom Coming". I know a lot of Christians I respect though. Fellow Quakers. Sometimes that gives me hope, and trust me, I would never dream of dissing them.
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