inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #101 of 142: Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Sun 3 Sep 06 10:11
    
I've seen the incredible power of fear in the religious right -- and
in the broader conservative movement -- and to be honest, it's one of
the harder things for me to grasp emotionally. A few years ago I was at
a right-wing film festival in Dallas where several documentaries told
stories of people slaughtered in their homes by rapists and thieves; in
many cases, the movies claimed the victims had recently tried to buy
guns but were stymied by waiting periods. The relentless focus on crime
was kind of a revelation to me, because these were people who all
lived in suburbs or exurbs that were at least fairly affluent. I live
in Brooklyn -- a nice yuppie neighborhood, sure, but still an urban one
-- and I'm generally a pretty anxious person, but crime is something I
barely even think about, even though I actually have been robbed and,
years ago, assaulted by a crazy person on Broadway.  It was the first
time I realized how much psychic space the fear of criminal disorder
occupies in some people's minds. 

While I don't worry about being victimized by crime, I do have
nightmares about being accused of a crime I didn't commit (which is
probably as irrational as worrying about being mugged in a gated
community). I've sometimes thought there might be great psychological
differences between people who have a primal fear of anarchy, and those
like me who have a deep terror of arbitrary authority. This right-wing
fear of random invasion and violence -- and resultant desire to be
armed to the teeth -- isn't based on any actual threat, but it's
symptomatic of the same terrors leading people to mobilize against the
world-destroying dangers of gay marriage and secularism.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #102 of 142: Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Sun 3 Sep 06 14:16
    
>And it's hardly unique to Christians, or even to religious folks.
I've known union people whose whole life revolved around what was good
for the union. The Founders understood this and counted on pluralism to
check the excesses of any one absolutist perspective.<

This is an important point which is missed in all the hand wringing
about religion.  Where was all the hand wringing when anti-religious
absolutism was stalking the world?  

Could the current situation be just an indication that absolutism can
flourish under religion as well as it has under irreligion?  

Perhaps the nature of the beast is a better direction for inquiry then
the clothes he/she happens to be parading in at present.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #103 of 142: Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Sun 3 Sep 06 15:23
    
By anti-religious extremism, are you talking about Communism? Because
there's been plenty of hand-wringing -- actually, anguished outrage
would be a better way to put it -- about the horrible suppression of
religion and destruction of monuments under Stalin, Mao, etc. 

Again, I don't think the problem is religion per se. I don't really
see Christian nationalism as a religion -- I see it as a totalistic
political ideology that cloaks itself in divine revelation. So yes, the
danger is absolutism, not faith…
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #104 of 142: Public persona (jmcarlin) Sun 3 Sep 06 15:47
    

> the danger is absolutism, not faith

Especially fear and anger driven abolutism. There are a lot of changes
going on in the world today that have negative impacts on people and that
is causing a fear-based search for certainty.

Understanding it, if my presumption is correct, does not mean acquiescing
to a takeover, of course, but it might help in the fight against such
forces.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #105 of 142: John Payne (satyr) Sun 3 Sep 06 18:00
    
> a lot of changes going on in the world today

Urbanization, globalization, pollution, oil depletion, war, greenhouse
effect, forest destruction, soil erosion, species extinction, to mention 
a few.

It seems to me that this phenomenon really got a boost from the
fragmentation of media.  Where there used to be three televsion networks
(then four, then five), that all had to take into account a range of
sensibilities, now there are hundreds of channels to choose from, and
little of that sort of accountability remaining.  Almost any point of view 
can be broadcast, no matter how vaporous.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #106 of 142: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sun 3 Sep 06 18:09
    
Thinking about Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas,"
which is very interesting but almost totally misses the religious
dimension Michelle talks about...  I wonder if it's a coincidence that
the places where Christian nationalism burns brightest (e.g. Kansas and
Oklahoma) are places where the economy for non-rich people has
absolutely been cratered.  Any thoughts from anyone?

Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, New Mexico,
Montana, and the Dakotas are just stuffed full of places that have
dried up and blown away.  Basically 21st-century ghost towns (see David
Plowden's recent book "Handful of Dust" for a really depressing
mini-tour).
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #107 of 142: Scott Stoeffler (skepticscott) Sun 3 Sep 06 19:27
    
Michelle, to what extent does what you call the Christian nationalist
movement overlap with the Christian Zionists, and how much of US
foreign policy in the Middle East do you think is being driven by
fundamentalist Christians with an apocalyptic viewpoint about the fate
of Israel and the Holy Land?
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #108 of 142: Straight Outta Concord (angus) Sun 3 Sep 06 23:28
    

> Where was all the hand wringing when anti-religious
> absolutism was stalking the world?

Uh...
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #109 of 142: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Sun 3 Sep 06 23:32
    
The Christian Zionists really creep me out.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #110 of 142: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 4 Sep 06 06:33
    
Re: anti-religious absolutism, I seem to remember a 50-year Cold War,
and growing up half expecting to be blown up in a nuclear holocaust. 
None of which has much to do with Christian Nationlism in the
present-day U.S.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #111 of 142: John Payne (satyr) Mon 4 Sep 06 11:00
    
I broadcast a link to this topic on a mailing list to which I belong, 
and someone else on that list sent this along...

Public Conversations Project (PCP)
http://www.publicconversations.org/pcp/index.asp
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #112 of 142: Dave (davidwag) Mon 4 Sep 06 21:38
    
>I seem to remember a 50-year Cold War

Two years ago when I stopped attending an evangelical church in Orange
County, one of the reasons I left was because it was starting to
remind me of the 1960's version of 'there's a Commie behind every tree
and under every rock',
except in this case it was the Devil, which easily translates to _____
(fill in the blank) Commie, Democrat, Liberal, Terrorist, ACLUer,
Abortionist, etc, or any other entity which is posessed or influenced
by the Devil or dominions thereof.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #113 of 142: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Mon 4 Sep 06 23:51
    
The really funny thing about the obsession christians have with
the devil is, there is no devil in the bible.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #114 of 142: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Tue 5 Sep 06 05:19
    
Well, he's in there a couple of times, but not in the starring role he
gets in Christianity. He shows up as a sort of drinking buddy of God's
in the book of Job, and , um, (clickety-click, Wikipedia) in 1
Chronicals, and in Esther in passing. But definitely, if you see life
as a struggle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, that
emphasis is strangely absent. 
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #115 of 142: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 5 Sep 06 07:03
    
Michelle, since we're almost at the end of our time here (and thank
you very much, by the way), do you have any advice for those of us who
have read the book and/or the topic and "get it?"  What concrete things
might we do about the threat posed by Christian Nationalism?
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #116 of 142: Low and popular (rik) Tue 5 Sep 06 07:16
    
Pray for us.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #117 of 142: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Tue 5 Sep 06 08:29
    
The bible has a bunch of different badguys.  But a single super badguy
responsible for all evil?  A war in heaven with a rebel angel cast
down to the underworld?  There is nothing like that in the bible.
It's nonsense by their own measure.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #118 of 142: Low and popular (rik) Tue 5 Sep 06 08:39
    
A bit of a lift from Zoroastrianism, I think.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #119 of 142: John Payne (satyr) Tue 5 Sep 06 10:04
    
It would be interesting to know when in the history of Christianity the
devil gained such prominent status.  While not literally true that there's
no Devil in the Bible -- he's there in the Garden of Eden, again in Job,
again in the temptation of Christ, and yet again in Revelation -- he 
certainly doesn't seem to have played as significant a role as in more 
recent times.

Even Baal, treated as a manifestation of evil in recent media, was
depicted not as a menace but as an empty, ineffectual nothing in the story
of Elijah.  Baal worship presented a problem mainly in that it was a
distraction from God and the way of righteousness, and also because it
diluted the identity of the Jewish people.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #120 of 142: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Tue 5 Sep 06 10:18
    
I think the angel wars and some of the more interesting Lucifer stuff
is in the Apocrypha, which almost all Christian entities denounce.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #121 of 142: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 5 Sep 06 10:23
    
One thing I've noted is that the further right you go in the political
spectrum in Christianity, the more you get all the most punitive parts
of the Old Testament and the colorful ravings in Revelation and the
less you get of Jesus.  

In the early 20th century, the conservative Christians of that day
tried to remake Jesus as a tough-minded manly man, and even an
executive and marketing genius (see: Bruce Barton).  But there's really
no getting around the fact the Jesus was basically a long-haired
sandal-wearing Jewish peacenik who didn't have a very high opinion of
worldly power and riches.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #122 of 142: Authentic Frontier Gibberish (gerry) Tue 5 Sep 06 10:40
    
I think there's a common tendency to oversimplify "the
Religious Right," and I've been guilty of that myself.

I found this to be an insightful analysis:

  "Judging from the amount of press coverage they get, you'd
   think the only religious groups in American politics were
   the religious right - and everyone else. In fact, a shrewd
   candidate needs to understand the idiocyncrasies and hot
   buttons of all Twelve Tribes of American Politics."
 http://www.beliefnet.com/story/153/story_15355_1.html
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #123 of 142: Dave (davidwag) Tue 5 Sep 06 20:38
    
Threat, fear, punishment, and "curing" the cause of those things; all
things that the far right religious and political groups have in
common.  Fear motivates. Anger motivates. Saving yourself and your
family motivates.  War is a great justification--the War on Terror, the
war between God and the Devil.
What a marriage!
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #124 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Tue 5 Sep 06 21:01
    
It's the spiraling self-amplification of Jung's Shadow -- fear begets
anger, and acting on anger often increases the real risk, ratcheting up
the fear. Or, to peel off another layer, we fear something within
ourselves, project it onto someone else, and attack it there -- making
us all the more afraid, and all the more determined to eradicate the
externalized symbol of our own internal darkness. If you've never heard
this before it may sound very woo-woo, but it sure seems to describe
this recurring phenomenon of the worst among us (GWB and OBL, for
example) shouting about righteousness while they wreak havoc on
everybody else.
  
inkwell.vue.280 : Michelle Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming"
permalink #125 of 142: Michelle Goldberg (goldberg) Wed 6 Sep 06 07:32
    
Someone asked earlier about the connection between Christian
nationalism and Christian Zionism -- I apologize for not answering
until now (I've been frantically on deadline) but it has some bearing
on this discussion about the devil as well. Christian Zionism is
related to one of the dominant strains in American evangelical
Christianity called premillenial dispensationalism. (catchy, I know).
Premillenial dispensationalism developed in the mid-1860s, and it's
based on a peculiar reading of Revelation. In the dispensationalist
scenario, before Christ's return, the Jews will return to the biblical
state of Israel, a charismatic antichrist will arise making deceptive
promises of world peace, and a world war, centered on the biblical site
of Megiddo, or Armageddon (located in Israel's Jezreel Valley) will
threaten to engulf the world. (There are, of course, some variations on
this). This might sound outlandish, but in polls, about 40 percent of
Americans say they believe the world will end in a battle at Armageddon
-between Jesus and the Antichrist. The Left Behind Books are
essentially premillenial dispensationalism with a Tom Clancy gloss. 

This largely accounts for the ardent Zionism of much of the religious
right. Indeed, Christian Zionists tend to be much more supportive of
Israeli expansionism than most American Jews. If you want to read more
about how this affects politics, you might want to check out Israeli
journalist Gersholm Gorenberg's amazing book "The End of Days." The BBC
recently did a piece about the new lobbying group Christians United
for Israel, which comes out of this theology:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5193092.stm. (I'm quoted in it). I
wrote a piece about the politics of Christian Zionism a few years ago:
http://dir.salon.com/story/politics/feature/2002/05/24/dispensational/index.ht
ml

Premillenial dispensationalism is an apocalyptic creed that sees the
world locked in a final battle between the forces of good and evil, and
so it leads to a very rigid, dualistic and fundamentally right-wing
politics. Because it imagines that the fallen world is in its last
days, it tends to oppose the humanitarianism of social gospel theology.
In another really fascinating book, "On The Road to Armageddon: How
Evangelicals Become Israel's Best Friend," author Timothy Weber quotes
an early 20th century premillenialist preacher: "Sociology, or social
service as generally emphasized is, in its final outworking, a black
winged angel of the pit…Satan would have a reformed world, a moral
world, a world of great achievements…He would have a universal
brotherhood of man; he would eliminate by scientific method every human
ill…But a premillenialist cannot cooperate with the plans of modern
social service for these contemplate many years with gradual
improvement through education as its main avenue for cooperation,
rather than the second coming of Christ."
  

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