Jef Poskanzer (jef) Sat 26 Aug 06 23:17
Christianity is a cannibalistic death cult. They are also the majority in this country. You respect them because if you don't, they might massacre you. They've certainly done that enough times in the past.
Elisabeth (wickett) Sun 27 Aug 06 09:32
Myths are the cultural medium in which we all sprout. Myths impel societies, religions, and nations. I may think that my sense of history, admiration for the Enlightenment, and devotion to democracy are all fact-based and real and, nevertheless, recognize that they function for me also as myth. Without the will to respectful diaglogue among mythic cultures, we may as well as draw our swords, barricade our doors, and wait for armageddon. I have the desire to learn how to speak and act effectively in this political environment, I simply don't know how. I am teachable.
Public persona (jmcarlin) Sun 27 Aug 06 09:35
> 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... Word. (Well-speak for "I agree"). There are Christians who attempt to live the Sermon on the Mount and such people are worthy of respect. Hypocrites who call themselves Christian, OTOH, should read what Jesus had to say about them such as Matthew 7:5: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
John Payne (satyr) Sun 27 Aug 06 10:19
> Christianity is a cannibalistic death cult. Ahem! Without actually disagreeing with you on that point, I just want to point out that there are several powerful dynamics at work in the origin of Christianity... - the Hellenization of the culture, by the remnants of Alexander's empire - the threat of further assimilation posed by Roman rule - the belief in a single God, given to retribution - the belief in the special status of the Jewish people with respect to that God - the belief in sin, and death as its natural consequence - the belief in sacrifice as an atonement for sin - and, finally, the belief that God, himself, had provided a sacrifice as atonement for the sins of all who would accept it (and the associated image of the self-sacrificial male, which figures prominently in the popularity of the faith with women) The significance of the symbolic cannibalism is the acceptance of that atonement, leading to victory over death. But, I'll grant that if you don't share the framework it can look a lot like a cannibalistic death cult.
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Sun 27 Aug 06 11:01
I think you can respect the place religion has in many peoples' lives without catering to it politically. There's no denying the role that Christians have played in most American social justice movements, and it's clear that faith gives some people solace and meaning. The GOP has successfully convinced a great many Americans that the Democrats hold their traditions in contempt, and the results have been disastrous for all of us. There's a difference, though, because acknowledging and respecting someone's beliefs and allowing it to intrude into government or to dictate policy. We need to convince Americans -- most of whom are Christian -- that separation of church and state is not anti-Christian, but in order to do that you need to cut through the sense that Sharon describes.
Carl LaFong (mcdee) Sun 27 Aug 06 11:42
Michelle, in your research for the book, did you develop a sense of what % of American Christians are hardcore Christian nationalists? It strikes me that if it's 2/3rds we may be drifting towards a Civil War, but if it's 10% that would be a very different matter.
Dave (davidwag) Sun 27 Aug 06 18:39
(slip) >I refuse to respect so-called Christians who seem not to live the life that Christ preached about. Rick, perhaps remind them that Jesus says you have a choice: "Knock, and I will come in." IOW, He won't force his way in uninvited. You have to choose to open that door. So if He gives you a choice, why won't they? If only all Christians would hold that dear. It's not right that they force their beliefs (and laws) down peoples' throats.
Dave (davidwag) Sun 27 Aug 06 19:31
Michelle, I listened with great interest to your interview on NPR, since this is a subject of great interest to me (and I remember writing the title of your book on the palm of my hand while driving on the freeway, heh!). I am curious about how sincere you think the Bush administration is about being Christian and doing God's work vs. simply using Christianity as a means to achieve long-standing right-wing goals?
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Mon 28 Aug 06 06:10
I estimate the number of Christian nationalists at somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the population, based on various polls about whether people believe Christianity should be the official religion of the United States, whether they believe Christian politicians should ever compromise with non-Christians, and whether they consider themselves part of the religious right. So we're not talking about a majority by any means -- in fact, we're probably not even talking about a majority of evangelicals, who make up somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the population. But Christian nationalists are the most well organized faction in American politics, and they exercise substantial control over the GOP. And of course the Republican Party has a structural advantage in American politics due to apportionment and gerrymandering, meaning that Christian nationalists have outsized influence in politics. One of the more striking figures in my book, I think, is that in 2004, the Christian Coalition gave 42 senators 100% approval ratings, meaning they voted with the Christian Coalition on every issue that group considers important. (More than half of the Senate got at least 83%). And this was before the election that brought in new ultra-right senators like Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint. Now, 42% of Americans clearly do not agree with the Christian Coalition about everything, but we are being governed as if they did.
Berliner (captward) Mon 28 Aug 06 06:25
And that last sentence is one that should be tattooed on every Democratic Party policy-maker's brain.
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Mon 28 Aug 06 07:02
Michelle, what do you think has happened on a national level to allow the Christian Coalition to take control of the initiative like this? Is it careful planning and strategizing on their end, lack of initiative on the part of the moderate right and the left, or what?
Low and popular (rik) Mon 28 Aug 06 08:48
They have a daunting rhetorical advantage in that criticism of them is characterized as bigotry.
Elisabeth (wickett) Mon 28 Aug 06 11:09
Yes. Having defined the academy as the haunt of subversive liberal theorists, they readily dismiss its output as threats as well as bigotry. They also have a compelling emotional advantage because they have all the answers, which are simple and absolute.
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Mon 28 Aug 06 13:49
The Christian Coalition is actually a pitiful shell of its former self, but other groups have moved into the gap -- Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Center for Reclaiming America, and statewide groups like the Ohio Restoration Project and the Texas Restoration Project. They're all part of the same movement, and they've been able to have such a disproportionate influence on policy because they are extremely well organized. With gerrymandering, so many elections are decided in the primaries, where they can be decisive. Look at McCain -- he tried to stand up to the Christian right in 2000, and now he's had to desperately backpedal because they're blocking his presidential hopes.
Authentic Frontier Gibberish (gerry) Mon 28 Aug 06 13:55
Is the Southern Baptist Convention connected to any of those?
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Mon 28 Aug 06 14:58
Michelle, your response to my post in #33 above may have been buried in another response above. If so, would you consider summarizing it? From #33: >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.<
Michael Thomas (mthomas) Tue 29 Aug 06 11:00
IMO, one of the significant ways is which George W. Bush was a stealth candidate was with regard to the depth and nature of his religious convictions and their roots in modern Christian Right - his own account of his born again status and the role it played in his overcoming alcohol abuse (and perhaps addiction) was a matter of public record, but it's my impression that outside the community of similar believers the nature of these beliefs and their possible policy implications not wildly appreciated, certainty by much of the the electorate, and probably even by many of his major financial supporters. Now that we have had experienced with a presidency grounded in such belief, and some experience of the results of this sort of direct personal appeal to divine guidance to to set and justify policy, do you feel that this sort of religious conviction will be evaluated differently by the electorate, and/or by the elites instrumental in choosing candidates? And if so, how?
Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Tue 29 Aug 06 13:05
In response to the question about comparisons between Christian nationalists and Marxists, the similarity comes from believers' conviction that they have discovered a system that unlocks the puzzle of history and offers the definitive answer to every social and political question. There's a certain kind of personality that craves this absolute certainty -- a certainty liberalism can never provide.
Cogito, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Tue 29 Aug 06 14:35
>There's a certain kind of personality that craves this absolute certainty -- a certainty liberalism can never provide.< May we assume that such cravings are "natural" and are expressed through whatever absolutist doctrine appeals? If so, does intellectual development militate against such cravings or, possibly, reduce the attraction of the absolutist doctrines? I don't recall much intellectual challenge to Marxism years ago. Perhaps it was the "scientific" claims that muted criticism. I'm glad to hear that liberalism presents no threat in the way of absolute certainty.
Rick Brown (danwest) Tue 29 Aug 06 14:38
absolute certainty can be the way of the lazy. Let's face it, it's easier to follow a party line, be it religion, sexuality, whatever. Howver; if people actually were absolutly certain, they would not seem so insecure.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 29 Aug 06 16:40
Michelle, one of the reasons we have never had another Civil War in this country is that so far no major conflict has developed along geographic lines. It almost seems like we're now heading back into a new geographically aligned conflict -- only this time between the two coasts (and some blue islands) and the huge but much more thinly populated hinterland. When reading about Christian nationalists in Ohio and Kansas, I felt no more connected to them as human beings than I'd feel reading about people living on another planet. If there really is an unassailable cultural divide between us cosmopolites and the 10 or 15% who are hard core Christian nationalists... and the nationalists effectively control the government... well, any thoughts on where all this is headed?
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 29 Aug 06 17:52
Remember, most of that territory is stil just slightly redder purple.
you had it, you blew it, move over (smendler) Tue 29 Aug 06 19:20
I'm sure that lurking at the back of many people's minds is the "Handmaid's Tale" scenario...a relatively small fundamentalist force taking over the government, and the majority being cowed into submission by violence. Jef alludes to it in <51> ("massacre") and Mark gets closer to it in <71>. I don't think that we'll see armed divisions singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" as they march on Berkeley, Austin, or Cambridge, but we might well see small bands of guerillas harassing or disappearing people... particularly as they see their "way of life" being more and more "under attack".... to what extent is that possibility hinted at or mentioned? Or do they expect to be hunted down themselves?
Cogito, Ergo Spero (robertflink) Tue 29 Aug 06 20:15
>Howver; if people actually were absolutly certain, they would not seem so insecure.< Nor would they need a group to reassure themselves. OTOH, absolute certainty and security may be somewhat confining for some members of a species that displays curiosity, creativity and restlessness as well as dogmatism. Perhaps it serves a species well to have a great variety of impulses and great variety in the expression thereof, at least as much as reasonable social order can tolerate. I tend to doubt the durability of any movement that strives to limit individual choice for the glory of god, science or the intellect.
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Tue 29 Aug 06 20:28
I wasn't talking about science fiction, I was talking about history. Christians have a long history of massacre, genocide, and general unpleasantness.
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