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Bloggingheads 01-01-2009 11:57 PM

Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Afterthought
We apologize for the poor quality of Amy Sullivan's video, but this conversation is so good that Amy's dearth of visible movement is a small price to pay.

--BhTV staff

Wonderment 01-02-2009 02:08 AM

Obama in bed with Rick Warren?
 
What's being glossed over in the inauguration controversy is the fact that Barack Obama is on the wrong side of a major civil rights issue. He is opposed to same-sex marriage. This is an unacceptable position to Obama's progressive base.

However, it may not be a bad thing. With so much anger about Prop Hate in California and similar initiatives elsewhere, Obama will really have to fulfill all his promises to gay/lesbian constituencies short of gay marriage. That will mean full federal protection for civil unions and gay/lesbian families (including spousal immigration, for example).

Rick Warren is a terrible symbol of Obama's muddled thinking and wishy-washy morality on the subject, but as long as he delivers substantively such gestures won't matter.

***

On the faith-based pseudo-controversy, few people on the left are upset about money going into poverty programs run by religious groups. In our community we have supported ALL the faith-based programs because they are often the only people applying for the funds anyway. The only problem is if the government DISCRIMINATES in favor of a faith-based group. If anti-discrimination safeguards are in place, it's not a big deal to anyone who actually works in these communities.

Ottorino 01-02-2009 02:47 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Trips to the shopping mall can be profound. Religion doesn't have and never has had a monopoly on sacredness.

a Duoist 01-02-2009 03:44 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
It's natural that this discussion focuses on evangelicism, Mr. Obama, and the current political scene. However, increasingly in 2009 and certainly up to the American mid-term elections in late 2010, the conservative religious Right governing in Iran becomes a nuclear power; what are the views of the American religious Right about honored doctrines of theology in a salvific religion welding with extremist doctrines of discredited fascist ideology?

The Left in Iran is now decimated by the theofascism, yet much of the Left in America supports the Iranian theocracy's antagonism toward the United States and Israel. If dual-capability nuclear power in Iran is to be denied, isn't the religious Right in America the most credible voice to make that argument?

rfrobison 01-02-2009 03:52 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ottorino (Post 100260)
Trips to the shopping mall can be profound. Religion doesn't have and never has had a monopoly on sacredness.

Er, You must go to different malls than I...

Francoamerican 01-02-2009 09:17 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by a Duoist (Post 100261)
If the Right governing in Iran becomes a nuclear power; what are the views of the American religious Right about honored doctrines of theology in a salvific religion welding with extremist doctrines of discredited fascist ideology??

I was unaware that a "salvific" religion like Christianity had a doctrine on nuclear weapons or fascist ideology. Could you clarify? As far as I know, the official doctrine of the Church is: Render unto Caesar etc.... Salvation comes in the next world.

Quote:

The Left in Iran is now decimated by the theofascism, yet much of the Left in America supports the Iranian theocracy's antagonism toward the United States and Israel. ?
This "Left" is a pure figment of your imagination.

Quote:

If dual-capability nuclear power in Iran is to be denied, isn't the religious Right in America the most credible voice to make that argument?
Credible only in the sense that lunatics scream the loudest in lunatic asylums.

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 09:31 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
To add to what Francoamerican said:

Quote:

Originally Posted by a Duoist (Post 100261)
... much of the Left in America supports the Iranian theocracy's antagonism toward the United States and Israel.

This is simply an idiotic statement. There is a world of difference between not wanting to sing along with "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" and supporting the Iranian theocracy and its antics. Same for Israel: there is a world of difference between viewing Israel as something less than 100% pure and wishing to indulge the dark fantasies mouthed by Ahmadinejad and his puppetmasters.

That you might be able to find a few random moonbats shooting off their mouths does not say anything about the general view of liberals regarding either of these countries. Further, it is almost certainly true that the overwhelming majority of such irresponsible statements stem from reaction to the chickenhawk and "my country right or wrong" mentalities that have dominated our foreign policy for the past eight years.

Quote:

If dual-capability nuclear power in Iran is to be denied, isn't the religious Right in America the most credible voice to make that argument?
Only if by "credible" you mean "most desirous of starting a(nother) needless war."

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 09:41 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100262)
Er, You must go to different malls than I...

On my first visit to the Mall of America, I was pretty sure I'd passed through a few of Dante's circles. So, certainly profound, and arguably sacred, or at least anti-sacred, which to me amounts to about the same thing.

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 09:52 AM

Re: Obama in bed with Rick Warren?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 100258)
On the faith-based pseudo-controversy, few people on the left are upset about money going into poverty programs run by religious groups. In our community we have supported ALL the faith-based programs because they are often the only people applying for the funds anyway. The only problem is if the government DISCRIMINATES in favor of a faith-based group. If anti-discrimination safeguards are in place, it's not a big deal to anyone who actually works in these communities.

Interesting. This goes along well with what Amy said about there being no stories to be found about job-seekers experiencing discrimination at the hands of faith-based relief groups.

I'm instinctively against government funds going to religious organizations, but maybe in this case, the pragmatic stance outweighs the principled, and maybe it really isn't a big problem. If needy people are getting fed and sheltered and otherwise helped, and there's only one group stepping up to do it in a given neighborhood, how can I oppose that?

rfrobison 01-02-2009 10:11 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
BJ,

As an Evangelical Christian who [GASP!] voted for McCain, I'd like to ask you: On what basis do you conclude that the "religious right" is "most desirous of another needless war"?

Which right-wing American Christian leader is advocating war with Iran?

As a follow up, are there any circumstances under which a military strike against Iran would be needful?

Winspur 01-02-2009 01:34 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Very interesting piece.

I think Amy and Steven would agree that the best 20th-century parallel to President Obama is not JFK, as many quintagenarian journalists (and Caroline Kennedy) proclaim, but Jimmy Carter (who was, in fact, the first president to invite a gay rights group to the White House).

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 01:37 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100276)
BJ,

As an Evangelical Christian who [GASP!] voted for McCain, I'd like to ask you: On what basis do you conclude that the "religious right" is "most desirous of another needless war"?

By being aware of their talk, and by failing to come up with another group who is equally pugnacious in this regard.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100276)
Which right-wing American Christian leader is advocating war with Iran?

Pat Robertson comes to mind. So does John Hagee. Rod Parsley seems to want to wipe out Muslims in general, so I'd add him in. James Dobson has dropped hints, at least. Ditto William Donohoe and Rick Warren. So has Sarah Palin, who if not strictly speaking a religious leader, certainly is principally favored for her religiosity by many of her supporters.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100276)
As a follow up, are there any circumstances under which a military strike against Iran would be needful?

I suppose. At least, I would not say there are no imaginable circumstances at all.

=========
h/t: harkin for catching the missing "out"

thprop 01-02-2009 01:50 PM

Dan Dennett smacks down Rick Warren
 
Rick Warren spoke at the TED conference in 2006. Dan Dennett had a wonderful response - that shows the real purpose in life. It is well worth watching Dennett.

Robert Price wrote a rejoinder to Warren's book - The Reason Driven Life.

Christopher Hitchens has a couple of blasts at Warren (a "vulgar huckster") in Slate, Dec 29 and Dec 19.

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 02:10 PM

Re: Dan Dennett smacks down Rick Warren
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by thprop (Post 100284)
Rick Warren spoke at the TED conference in 2006. Dan Dennett had a wonderful response - that shows the real purpose in life. It is well worth watching Dennett.

I've seen that. I quite agree.

Quote:

Robert Price wrote a rejoinder to Warren's book - The Reason Driven Life.

Christopher Hitchens has a couple of blasts at Warren (a "vulgar huckster") in Slate, Dec 29 and Dec 19.
Thanks for these.

Wonderment 01-02-2009 03:37 PM

Re: Obama in bed with Rick Warren?
 
[QUOTE]If needy people are getting fed and sheltered and otherwise helped, and there's only one group stepping up to do it in a given neighborhood, how can I oppose that?[/QUOTE

Yes, Amy understood this. In my area basically nobody works with teenage male gang members. There is not a long line of secular volunteers. The best programs for gang youth have been run by priests like Catholic priest Greg Boyle.

It is not surprising that Obama, a community organizer, understands this. Religion is not the issue. The issue is to fund all those groups willing to do the heavy lifting.

Wonderment 01-02-2009 03:41 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
If Obama were serious about change and civil rights, he would have invited a gay/lesbian minister to give the invocation.

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 04:04 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 100297)
If Obama were serious about change and civil rights, he would have invited a gay/lesbian minister to give the invocation.

I disagree. While I, too, would like him to be more in line with our views on gay rights, I reject the notion that because he doesn't check every box on our wish list, that automatically means he's not serious about change and civil rights. It's not an all or nothing thing.

Winspur 01-02-2009 04:21 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
"I disagree. While I, too, would like him to be more in line with our views on gay rights, I reject the notion that because he doesn't check every box on our wish list, that automatically means he's not serious about change and civil rights. It's not an all or nothing thing."

Hear hear. I recall that abolitionists railed against Lincoln for not being serious about ending slavery, in the first two years of his presidency.

harkin 01-02-2009 05:26 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Why is that the opponents of prop 8 continue to accuse any proponent as a hater? With the No on 8 thugs attempting to shut down businesses, drive people from their jobs and shaking down others for money (all the while conveniently ignoring the black and hispanic communities that voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8), there seems to be more hate on the side of those advocating tolerance.

And how hilarious is it that people who say anyone against gay marriage is an intolerant bigot are some of the same people who would kick army recruiters out of shopping malls and the Blue Angels and USS Iowa out of the San Francisco area while at the same time stopping jr ROTC (not to mention legalizing the sex trade and sanctuary for illegal alien drug dealers)? Part of the reason people voted yes on 8 was because they didn't want their community to mirror the chaos that is San Francisco.


Quote:

Rod Parsley seems to want to wipe Muslims in general,
Can't they wipe themselves?

bjkeefe 01-02-2009 06:12 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 100313)
Can't they wipe themselves?

harkin makes a funny!

Truly, it is a time of hope.

rfrobison 01-02-2009 08:50 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100281)
By being aware of their talk, and by failing to come up with another group who is equally pugnacious in this regard.

And to what degree is the alleged hostility of the people in question toward Iran a product of their religiosity as opposed to their "rightness"? There are plenty of irreligious righties who, while not favoring war, in the first instance at least, as the best way of dealing with America's adversaries, feel that some sort of military force may be justified to prevent, or at least raise the cost of Iran's effort to build a nuclear weapon to the point where they might give it up.

By the same token, there are no doubt quite a few Christians (and other believers), who, although they support Republican positions on, say, social issues or tax policy, think a war with Iran would be either immoral, ineffective, or both. How to account for this?

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100281)
Pat Robertson comes to mind. So does John Hagee. Rod Parsley seems to want to wipe out Muslims in general, so I'd add him in. James Dobson has dropped hints, at least. Ditto William Donohoe and Rick Warren. So has Sarah Palin, who if not strictly speaking a religious leader, certainly is principally favored for her religiosity by many of her supporters.

Well, I've been a born again type for quite a few years now and other than Pat Robertson (has-been), Rick Warren and James Dobson, I've never heard of the people you mention--Oh, wait, Hagee was the meth head guy caught with the male prostitute, wasn't he? Do you have actual quotes from these fellows advocating war with Iran, or is it just a sense that whenever the U.S. finds itself in a war they happen to support it out of (misplaced?) patriotism?

In any case, speaking for myself, I don't take my marching orders from my own church pastor when it comes to politics, let alone somebody who shouts into a TV screen or a microphone in a broadcast booth that God told him we should attack Iran. Even if the people you refer to are all preaching the foreign policy "Gospel According to Oppenheimer," I suspect they have less influence over their flocks in such matters than you think, and little to none over policymakers, conservative or otherwise.

I get awfully tired of hearing about how Evangelicals are a bunch of war-mongering Neanderthals (less of a problem for those who see Adam and Eve as their literal father and mother, but alas, I subscribe to evolution [another refusal to play to type!)]) who, when they're not busy pleading with God to smite their enemies, are praying that George Bush will smite America's. (He'd better hurry. He's almost out of time!) But Jesus told us to expect a bum rap, so I guess it comes with the territory.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100281)
I suppose. At least, I would not say there are no imaginable circumstances at all.

And what would those be, pray tell?

bjkeefe 01-03-2009 09:53 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100334)
And to what degree is the alleged hostility of the people in question toward Iran a product of their religiosity as opposed to their "rightness"? There are plenty of irreligious righties who, while not favoring war, in the first instance at least, as the best way of dealing with America's adversaries, feel that some sort of military force may be justified to prevent, or at least raise the cost of Iran's effort to build a nuclear weapon to the point where they might give it up.

By the same token, there are no doubt quite a few Christians (and other believers), who, although they support Republican positions on, say, social issues or tax policy, think a war with Iran would be either immoral, ineffective, or both.

Both good points. I grant that my generalization is not without individual exceptions, that there are people who are bellicose without being driven by Jeebus, and that there are other people who call themselves Christians who are not eager for war.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100334)
Well, I've been a born again type for quite a few years now and other than Pat Robertson (has-been), Rick Warren and James Dobson, I've never heard of the people you mention--Oh, wait, Hagee was the meth head guy caught with the male prostitute, wasn't he?

No. That was Ted Haggard.

As for the rest of your questions in this section: hint, hint.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100334)
In any case, speaking for myself, I don't take my marching orders from my own church pastor when it comes to politics, let alone somebody who shouts into a TV screen or a microphone in a broadcast booth that God told him we should attack Iran. Even if the people you refer to are all preaching the foreign policy "Gospel According to Oppenheimer," I suspect they have less influence over their flocks in such matters than you think, and little to none over policymakers, conservative or otherwise.

Good for you for thinking for yourself. Sadly, I think you are more the exception than the rule among people who share your religious leanings. There is no question that lots of people place great stock in what prominent evangelicals preach. There is also no question that they hold great sway over politicians, particularly Republican ones. This is so obvious that I'm not going to entertain your disputes seriously, nor am I going to waste the time making the case at length. If you are going to claim that you're unaware or skeptical of the influence of prominent evangelicals in this country, there is nothing I could say that would convince you otherwise.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100334)
I get awfully tired of hearing about how Evangelicals are a bunch of war-mongering Neanderthals ...

Sweeping generalizations suck, don't they? You might keep this in mind the next times you get ready to type "the left."

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100334)
... but alas, I subscribe to evolution ...

Not sure why you think this is something to bemoan (kidding!), but I'm glad to hear it, nonetheless.

All I can say is that if you and people like you don't like being lumped in with the Young Earth Creationists, the IDiots, the End-Timers, and groups like that, it's going to be up to you to distinguish yourselves from them. I already believe that not every last person who self-identifies as an Evangelical Christian is a full-blown wingnut, but I'm dubious about how many of you there are who aren't, and irritated that if your numbers aren't trivial, how rarely you appear to do anything to oppose the wingnuts. Especially when they're out there howling for war, discriminating against gays, jamming the Bible into the science classroom, advocating abstinence-only sex education, opposing condom distribution in AIDS-plagued communities, calling for a blanket criminalization of abortions ... you get the picture.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100334)
Quote:

I suppose. At least, I would not say there are no imaginable circumstances at all.
And what would those be, pray tell?

Sorry. I have no interest in fantasizing about war scenarios.

rfrobison 01-03-2009 12:08 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
Both good points. I grant that my generalization is not without individual exceptions, that there are people who are bellicose without being driven by Jeebus, and that there are other people who call themselves Christians who are not eager for war.

Yeah, I think the numbers are 17 and 4, respectively. The rest are fully paid up modern-day Crusaders ready to kill the infidel.


Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
As for the rest of your questions in this section: hint, hint.

Well, that's one, I guess. But you named four or five prominent preachers, are they all "howling for war?

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
Good for you for thinking for yourself...

Mighty big of you.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
Sadly, I think you are more the exception than the rule among people who share your religious leanings.

Based on what? Have you done a scientific survey of the political attitudes of Evangelicals? How many actual Evangelicals do you know? Do you have any Jesus Freaky friends?

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
There is no question that lots of people place great stock in what prominent evangelicals preach...There is also no question that they hold great sway over politicians, particularly Republican ones.

Yeah, but that's not what I was arguing. I was arguing that TV preachers have very little influence over the foreign policy views of Evangelicals and very, very little among foreign policy professionals. You've not given any evidence to the contrary, but simply made another blanket assertion.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
I already believe that not every last person who self-identifies as an Evangelical Christian is a full-blown wingnut...

Again, mighty big of you. I lost my wings a while back. Maybe you can help me find them.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
All I can say is that if you and people like you don't like being lumped in with the Young Earth Creationists, the IDiots, the End-Timers, and groups like that, it's going to be up to you to distinguish yourselves from them. ...and [I'm] irritated that if your numbers aren't trivial, how rarely you appear to do anything to oppose the wingnuts.

Sorry to let you down. But did it ever occur to you that we, the merely partially nutty Christians, might have better things to do with our time than talking politics in church? In all my nearly 30 years as a nut--er, Christian--I've NEVER heard a pastor make what I could call an overtly political statement, still less a command to vote a certain way on a certain issue. Winning souls for Christ is hard enough as it is without injecting politics into it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
Especially when they're out there howling for war, discriminating against gays, jamming the Bible into the science classroom, advocating abstinence-only sex education, opposing condom distribution in AIDS-plagued communities, calling for a blanket criminalization of abortions ... you get the picture.

Well, there's no space to take each of these issues in turn, but to the extent that we disagree with you on them, or among ourselves for that matter, we must balance the need to be peacemakers in a conflictual, pluralistic society, with the need to follow God's commandments as best we can in our public as well as our private lives, and to "love our neighbors as ourselves." I won't ask you to pray for us, but you might wish us well.



Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100357)
Sorry. I have no interest in fantasizing about war scenarios.

But the point is that wars fought by the West in the modern era are EXCLUSIVELY justified in political or economic terms. If you do not require religious sanction to justify a war, neither do religious believers. We can and should pray that God grant us wisdom in our political choices, but we make lots of big decisions in life without consulting our preachers first. We're simply not the sheep you take us for.


Finally, I'd advise you to look at people in all their complexity before passing judgment on them. Oddly, some of those who are screeching loudest about how tolerant they are are the mirror image of the narrow-minded bigots who claim a special insight into God's own truth.

bjkeefe 01-03-2009 03:47 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
Well, that's one, I guess. But you named four or five prominent preachers, are they all "howling for war?

I named the following specific individuals and did not characterize all of them as "howling for war:"

Quote:

Pat Robertson comes to mind. So does John Hagee. Rod Parsley seems to want to wipe out Muslims in general, so I'd add him in. James Dobson has dropped hints, at least. Ditto William Donohoe and Rick Warren. So has Sarah Palin, who if not strictly speaking a religious leader, certainly is principally favored for her religiosity by many of her supporters.
If you can't figure out from the hint I gave how to use the Google to look up the rest, I'm sorry.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
Have you done a scientific survey of the political attitudes of Evangelicals?

No, but others have, and the data are but a few keystrokes away, if you're of a mind. However, there's that Google hurdle again, isn't there?

Okay, one more hint.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
How many actual Evangelicals do you know? Do you have any Jesus Freaky friends?

Don't know a firm number offhand. In the dozens, including about ten family members (first and second cousins). These, by the way, do not serve as the sole basis of my impressions of Evangelical Christians.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
Yeah, but that's not what I was arguing. I was arguing that TV preachers have very little influence over the foreign policy views of Evangelicals and very, very little among foreign policy professionals. You've not given any evidence to the contrary, but simply made another blanket assertion.

Depends whether you define Robertson, Hagee, Parsley, Dobson, Donohoe, and Warren as "TV preachers." I did not use that term. That's yours, and perhaps it's a straw man. In any case, these six, plus many others, do have influence over evangelical Christians in the general population and over Republican politicians. (Here, you're trying to be slippery and change it to "foreign policy professionals," I see.) That's just a fact, deny it though you may.

You're right that I haven't given evidence, and I already told you why I won't bother:

Quote:

If you are going to claim that you're unaware or skeptical of the influence of prominent evangelicals in this country, there is nothing I could say that would convince you otherwise.
Back to you ...

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
In all my nearly 30 years as a nut--er, Christian--I've NEVER heard a pastor make what I could call an overtly political statement, still less a command to vote a certain way on a certain issue.

Lucky you.

Or perhaps you're not listening closely enough. Maybe it doesn't happen in your church, but it happens all the time in others. Believe it or don't, I don't care.

But if you're willing to open your mind, I'll give you two thought questions to get you started: Why did Rev. Gregory Boyd garner so much attention a couple of years ago? Why did Richard Cizik garner so much attention a couple of weeks ago?

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
Well, there's no space to take each of these issues in turn, but to the extent that we disagree with you on them, or among ourselves for that matter, we must balance the need to be peacemakers in a conflictual, pluralistic society, with the need to follow God's commandments as best we can in our public as well as our private lives, and to "love our neighbors as ourselves." I won't ask you to pray for us, but you might wish us well.

I won't wish you or your compatriots well to the extent that you seek to advance your views on any of the issues I listed in my last. I will grant (again) that I am aware there isn't unanimity on all of the issues among those who identify as evangelical Christians. I am speaking of the (usually overwhelming) majority point of view. I wish those of you who hold atypical views on these issues well.

I'll also wish you all well in letting go of your superstitions and in achieving a little more consistency and inclusiveness in the whole "love your neighbors as yourselves" thing.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
But the point is that wars ...

Bait declined.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
Finally, I'd advise you to look at people in all their complexity before passing judgment on them.

I do (or at least try to), when dealing with them on an individual basis. As a political group, the averaging out of the attitudes, so to speak, removes the individual complexities. Put another way, I can speak confidently in terms of statistical likelihoods.

Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100367)
Oddly, some of those who are screeching loudest about how tolerant they are are the mirror image of the narrow-minded bigots who claim a special insight into God's own truth.

Ah, it never fails. Sooner or later, fundies always play the b-b-b-but you're a liberal, you have to be tolerant or you lose!!!1! card.

Do you hear me calling for you to be prevented from worshiping how you please? To have your rights restricted unless you renounce your faith? That you pass a litmus test before I'll allow you to be a teacher or a government employee? To be forbidden from attempting to publicize your message or lobby for your political goals?

No.

So, to that extent, I'm tolerant. Believe what you want, do what you want, as long as it doesn't impinge on me.

When you come out in public and try to push your beliefs on others, that's where I push back. You're not entitled to proselytize or agitate for political change without having to risk disagreement.

I freely admit I'm not tolerant of stupid ideas, mystical thinking, attempts to legislate these, and the perpetual claim of special privilege based on faith. It doesn't bother me that you think I'm intolerant in this regard -- I want you to understand how little patience I have for such attitudes.

rfrobison 01-03-2009 10:58 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
I named the following specific individuals and did not characterize all of them as "howling for war:"

No, you merely implied that the (vast?) majority of Evangelical Christian leaders who matter (though how you establish THAT is another question), and presumably their followers are. That's a distinction without a difference as far as I'm concerned, but well, I'm just a dumb Evangelical, so maybe there's something I'm not getting.



Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
If you can't figure out from the hint I gave how to use the Google to look up the rest, I'm sorry.

And If you think I have the time or inclination to trawl the Net for every last utterance by Christian leaders whose views I may or may not share and attempt to demonstrate how and why their influence is hugely exaggerated, I am also sorry. You'll simply have to take it on faith [hee, hee!]--or not.

My point is and remains that there is a multiplicity of views, even among us holy rollers--to say nothing of the "mainline" Protestant and Roman Catholic churches on any given issue. You may deny that we are three-dimensional people with quirks, foibles and yes, brains, but that doesn't change the facts.



Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
No, but others have, and the data are but a few keystrokes away, if you're of a mind. However, there's that Google hurdle again, isn't there?

Okay, one more hint.

Maybe I'll check that out.



Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
Depends whether you define Robertson, Hagee, Parsley, Dobson, Donohoe, and Warren as "TV preachers." I did not use that term. That's yours, and perhaps it's a straw man. In any case, these six, plus many others, do have influence over evangelical Christians in the general population and over Republican politicians. (Here, you're trying to be slippery and change it to "foreign policy professionals," I see.) That's just a fact, deny it though you may.

Granted. It was very late here when I wrote my reply. It's easy to get careless with language under such circumstances (e.g., "TV preacher," "foreign policy professionals"). I also stipulated to your point that certain high profile Christian leaders have a great deal of influence over (primarily) Republican politicians. I would say (again), however, that their sway is far greater on social issues than foreign policy ones, which was the focus of my original post. Foreign policy is an afterthought for most Americans, Evangelicals included, though Iraq and 9/11 have certainly raised people's awareness of its importance.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
But if you're willing to open your mind, I'll give you two thought questions to get you started: Why did Rev. Gregory Boyd garner so much attention a couple of years ago?

Never heard of him.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
Why did Richard Cizik garner so much attention a couple of weeks ago?

Because (as you are obviously aware) he was the spokesman for one of America's most important Evangelical organizations and he came out in favor of gay civil unions. This position is at odds with what most Evangelicals believe to be Biblical teaching. I'm not really interested in discussing this point as it has nothing to do with my original contention: Evangelicals are not clamoring for war with Iran.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
I won't wish you or your compatriots well to the extent that you seek to advance your views on any of the issues I listed in my last.

Again, you misunderstand. I was not asking you to wish us well in the sense of asking you to wish for the political success of those with whom you disagree. I may be a dumb Evangelical, but "Ah ain't STOOPID!" I was asking you to wish us well in the sense that we Christians, like everyone else, must strive to play a constructive role in civil discourse, holding fast to our ideals, while at the same time playing by democratic rules. It also means giving the other side a respectful hearing and at least considering the possibility that they have something useful to contribute to the national discussion. That applies as much to nonbelievers as believers. Is that too much to ask for your er, blessing on?

You may not be saying this, but the message I seem to be getting from certain "secular fundamentalists" is something like: "You idiot Christians. Get back in your pews and shut up!"

Sorry, no can do, chief.

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
I'll also wish you all well in letting go of your superstitions...

Ah, c'mon! Just lemme keep a FEW superstitions. Please, pretty please?


Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
...and in achieving a little more consistency and inclusiveness in the whole "love your neighbors as yourselves" thing.

Much obliged. Though "inclusiveness," to say nothing of love, does not mean for us: "Ah, shucks! Just be happy here with us amid the stained glass windows. Hear the pretty organ music?" Being a Christian is also about repentance. Something we can discuss later if you like, but somehow I doubt you'll be interested.

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
Bait declined.

What you call "bait" I call the entire point of my original post. The religious justification for war with Iran and the alleged clamor for war among us rightish Christians is largely, if not entirely, a figment of your imagination. There are good, solid, cases to be made for and against military action against Iran that make no appeal to divine authority--and certainly not as mediated by some red-faced screamer. Christians are as capable as anyone of understanding those arguments. You seem unwilling to grant believers even the most rudimentary powers of rational thought. That is my original gripe and maybe your original sin (to coin a phrase).

Christians can, and in my opinion should, seek God's guidance in deciding where to come down on matters of war and peace--people's lives are at stake, after all--but no self-respecting Christian I know, and I know quite a few--takes his cues on such matters from the people you've mentioned, colorful quotes from colorful political pulpiteers not withstanding.

It's an awfully long stretch to go from Evangelical leader X says, "We must kill Iranians for God's sake," to Christian voter Y votes in favor of Party of War Candidate Z, to President Bush authorizes General A to blast the hell out of targets B, C, and D, killing thousands.

By the time it gets from God's mouth to the general's finger the message is bound to be attenuated if not utterly garbled. Nope, the Evangelicals will have a minuscule effect on whether or not the bombs fall.

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
I do (or at least try to), when dealing with them on an individual basis...

Good for you (to coin another).


Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
Ah, it never fails. Sooner or later, fundies always play the b-b-b-but you're a liberal, you have to be tolerant or you lose!!!1! card.

I didn't call you intolerant. I said some of those wearing their tolerance on their sleeve are mighty intolerant of those whose views don't square perfectly with their own, which strikes me as a bit of an inconsistency with their cardinal virtue.

Only you can decide if the shoe fits, as it were, and whether that's important to you. I would caution you again, however, that if you write off an entire category of people on the basis of their religious beliefs you're forestalling the possibility of cooperation on a whole range of issues, as well as generally making life unpleasant. People who act or talk that way--again, not saying you're one, necessarily--are just as prejudiced as those who wear a white sheet on their heads, however many civil rights marches they may take part in.


Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
When you come out in public and try to push your beliefs on others, that's where I push back. You're not entitled to proselytize or agitate for political change without having to risk disagreement.

May the best worldview win.

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 100379)
I freely admit I'm not tolerant of stupid ideas, mystical thinking, attempts to legislate these, and the perpetual claim of special privilege based on faith. It doesn't bother me that you think I'm intolerant in this regard -- I want you to understand how little patience I have for such attitudes.

Fair enough--except for the bit about wanting "special privilege." No such claim is made, nor should it be granted in a democracy. As for the rest I'd characterize your views on Evangelical Christians as more "judgmental" than intolerant. In that attitude you may have more in common with the Jerry Falwells of this world than you'd like, but well, take your lumps and love 'em. I do.

If you simply want to say, in the end: "I don't like political conservatives, and ones of a religious bent are particularly annoying." Then so be it. It's my job as a Christian to love and serve as best I can without letting politics get in the way, not to win a popularity contest.

As someone who enjoys political discussion and debate, and thinks about and cares about the issues as much as the next guy, It'd be nice to be treated as a serious interlocutor with arguments worthy of serious thought, and not to be pigeonholed or treated with condescension, but to quote the noted philosopher Mick Jagger: "You can't always get what you want." (That's more of a general lament than a specific complaint against you.)

I look forward to meeting you again here. If I can learn something from you, great. If you from me, so much the better.

Francoamerican 01-04-2009 10:57 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100389)
Christians can, and in my opinion should, seek God's guidance in deciding where to come down on matters of war and peace--people's lives are at stake, after all--but no self-respecting Christian I know, and I know quite a few--takes his cues on such matters from the people you've mentioned, colorful quotes from colorful political pulpiteers not withstanding.

If I may throw in my two cents worth in this passionate and interesting exchange....

As neither a Christian nor a card-carrying atheist, I have to agree with both of you on certain points. However, from a purely political point of view, which is the only point of view that matters here, the decision to go to war should surely be based---shouldn't it?--on whether or not another country poses a threat to the security of one's own country or to the security of one's allies. A banality perhaps, but I really cannot see how God---who, if such a being exists, must be impartial---would favor one side or the other, even if one side were more to blame than the other for the outbreak of hostilities. Even the most "unjust" wars are only possible because nations or nation states are always, at least potentially, in a state of war with one another and believe, no doubt sincerely, that war is necessary or just or both. Does God somehow forget this fact when war actually breaks out?

I can't help feeling that the influence of certain evangelicals in the US, like that of certain Muslim clerics in Iran and certain religious leaders in Israel, contributes, if only indirectly, to the unfruitful confrontations between Israel and Iran.

bjkeefe 01-04-2009 12:12 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100389)
My point is and remains that there is a multiplicity of views, even among us holy rollers--to say nothing of the "mainline" Protestant and Roman Catholic churches on any given issue. You may deny that we are three-dimensional people with quirks, foibles and yes, brains, but that doesn't change the facts.

I don't deny that. I have said several times that I acknowledge that views among Evangelical Christians are not unanimous and that ECs are not a pure monolith. I am saying that there are clear tendencies, places where correlations between membership in that group and opinion on a given topic are highly statistically significant. You keep saying "but there are exceptions," and I keep saying, "I know." Not sure why you can't grasp the distinction, but maybe it's because you're embarrassed to be associated with a lot of the majority views among ECs. If so, good.

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I'm not really interested in discussing this point [Richard Cizik] as it has nothing to do with my original contention: Evangelicals are not clamoring for war with Iran.
Fair enough. I remind you, for the record, that I offered him as an example of my contention that there is an awful lot of politicking going on among EC leaders, in response to your assertion: "... I've NEVER heard a pastor make what I could call an overtly political statement, still less a command to vote a certain way on a certain issue." I will take your latest statement as implicit acquiescence to my larger point.

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Again, you misunderstand. I was not asking you to wish us well in the sense of asking you to wish for the political success of those with whom you disagree. I may be a dumb Evangelical, but "Ah ain't STOOPID!"
That remains unsettled. Hard to believe that you couldn't pick up that I was being deliberately obtuse for effect.

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I was asking you to wish us well in the sense that we Christians, like everyone else, must strive to play a constructive role in civil discourse, holding fast to our ideals, while at the same time playing by democratic rules. It also means giving the other side a respectful hearing and at least considering the possibility that they have something useful to contribute to the national discussion. That applies as much to nonbelievers as believers. Is that too much to ask for your er, blessing on?
Something about motes and beams and eyes comes to mind here. When I see this attitude among more of your brethren, I'll be happy to reciprocate.

I'm not denying there are some ECs who might think like you do here, but I don't much hear from them, and I do hear, all the time and all over the place, from those who preach the exact opposite. You may not like that "the agents of intolerance" are your group's de facto public face, but they are.

I do find some reasons to be hopeful, I'll admit. I have a sense that green ECs may be a growing force. I can happily work with people when we share a common desired outcome -- in this case, protecting the environment -- even if we have different motivations underlying.

I'm also encouraged by stories I've seen that suggest an impatience among some ECs with the usual hot-button political issues being permanently first on the agenda. This bears watching.

I've heard a couple of evangelical ministers saying that the kids they minister to are increasingly unconcerned about their gay classmates. Though, again, anecdotes are all I have here, this fits with the usual way that societal acceptance works -- the old bigots die off, and the poison they tried to spread beforehand dilutes over time.

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You may not be saying this, but the message I seem to be getting from certain "secular fundamentalists" is something like: "You idiot Christians. Get back in your pews and shut up!"
A caricature, but not without elements of truth. It'd be more accurate to portray the message as, "Make all the noise you want, but stay in your pews while doing it."

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Sorry, no can do, chief.
I understand that my wish not to be proselytized to is in direct conflict with your belief that you must not hide your light under a bushel. I also understand that many among you consider it of paramount importance to regulate what other people do with their own bodies. As a result, things will likely remain noisy.

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Much obliged. Though "inclusiveness," to say nothing of love, does not mean for us: "Ah, shucks! Just be happy here with us amid the stained glass windows. Hear the pretty organ music?" Being a Christian is also about repentance. Something we can discuss later if you like, but somehow I doubt you'll be interested.
Correct. I have no interest in hearing why you believe you need to repent at the top of your lungs. Seems to me other sects, like the Catholics and the Jews, do it well quietly. It also appears that what you mean by "repentance" primarily concerns what you think others should do.

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... but no self-respecting Christian I know, and I know quite a few--takes his cues on such matters from the people you've mentioned, colorful quotes from colorful political pulpiteers not withstanding.
I can only conclude from this that you believe there are a lot of Christians who lack self-respect. I am happy to see hints of common ground emerging.

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I didn't call you intolerant. I said some of those wearing their tolerance on their sleeve are mighty intolerant of those whose views don't square perfectly with their own, ...
Welcome to reality, starring all of humanity.

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... which strikes me as a bit of an inconsistency with their cardinal virtue.
Ah, well. It was a short stay, wasn't it?

Play this card all you want, but it scores no points with me. Your view of "those" and "some" and "their cardinal virtue" is somewhere between a distorted understanding and a straw man.

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I would caution you again, however, that if you write off an entire category of people on the basis of their religious beliefs you're forestalling the possibility of cooperation on a whole range of issues, ...
Addressed above.

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... as well as generally making life unpleasant.
Don't much care. Or, more precisely, it already is unpleasant, it has been for a long time, and it always will be, as long as there are people who try to force their religious views on others. The only thing that's different, lately, is that some of us have decided that a policy of limiting ourselves to polite murmuring is unsatisfactory, and indeed, has hurt our society.

While there are always unwanted side effects to ramping up confrontation, my own view is that we have achieved a net gain by being more outspoken and more antagonistic. That people like you feel compelled to take time and effort to distance yourselves from most of your prominent spokespeople is encouraging. So is the marked increase in pearl-clutching by guys like Dobson and Donohue. So is the growth in people willing to self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or at least affiliates of "no organized religion."

You probably think the unpleasantness is recent, because you're not used to having disagreeable views banging on your door, thrusting leaflets into your hand, and taking up space on your airwaves. Better get used to it -- as long as you're going to exercise your rights to speak in the public square, there will be others exercising the same rights to shout back.


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People who act or talk that way--again, not saying you're one, necessarily--are just as prejudiced as those who wear a white sheet on their heads, however many civil rights marches they may take part in.
You're never going to get anywhere until you stop clinging to this false equivalence. No atheist/liberal/secularist wants to suppress your rights. We are not calling for you to be discriminated against when you look for jobs, houses, or places to eat. We are not trying to prevent you from voting or congregating. No one wants to hang you from a tree, shoot you in the back, or throw you in jail. Time for you to grow up, take your thumb out of your mouth, and set aside the security blanket that says that people mocking your beliefs are the same as the KKK.

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Fair enough--except for the bit about wanting "special privilege." No such claim is made, nor should it be granted in a democracy.
You're either leading a lucky life among a highly unusual group of friends, you're stone deaf, or you're being disingenuous. Simple illustration: Googling christians outraged returns nearly two million hits, christians take offense returns nearly four million, and christians offended returns five million.

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As for the rest I'd characterize your views on Evangelical Christians as more "judgmental" than intolerant.
Whatever. I'm happy with either label.

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As someone who enjoys political discussion and debate, and thinks about and cares about the issues as much as the next guy, It'd be nice to be treated as a serious interlocutor with arguments worthy of serious thought, and not to be pigeonholed or treated with condescension ...
You're already getting this treatment from me. You think I'd be typing this much if I thought you were worthy only of dismissal? Don't mistake a lack of kowtowing and genuflecting for a lack of consideration.

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I look forward to meeting you again here. If I can learn something from you, great. If you from me, so much the better.
Likewise.

DoctorMoney 01-04-2009 04:28 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 100297)
If Obama were serious about change and civil rights, he would have invited a gay/lesbian minister to give the invocation.

As Bush proved so clearly, unilateral political actions tend to move your football the wrong direction in the long run. Like it or not, people who are horrified (or "horrified") by the mainstreaming of gay Americans require some hand holding.

A lasting majority means ignoring the Rove-ish impulse to declare that you have political capital and that you intend to spend it.

rfrobison 01-04-2009 07:36 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Well, BJ,

It's been an interesting back and forth. I had hoped to make this just a brief note to thank you for your time and your formidable debating skills. It's been a (maddening) pleasure. But you've gone and made some points that I want to try and answer. You must promise to keep any response unimaginative, or I may have to give up the rest of my life entirely.

One clarification: When I said I had never heard a pastor make an overtly political statement in 30 years, I probably should have said I've never heard any of MY numerous pastors make such statements from the pulpit. If that is acquiescence to your earlier point, then point taken.

You have accused me of employing straw-men at various points in our discussion. Now I must return the favor. You enjoin me to "grow up" and realize that those who criticize or mock my beliefs are not the same as the KKK or others seeking to curtail the rights of groups they don't like. Of course not. I didn't say their goals or tactics were the same, I said people who dismiss others based on their religious beliefs showed a similar prejudice. If my analogy was over the top, I apologize.

You will at least concede, I hope, that religious types have no lock on authoritarian thinking. The historical and ongoing repression of various avowedly atheist communist regimes toward believers (and a host of other enemies) should put paid to that idea. And no "communism is just another religion" please, that's a cheap dodge. And no, I am not accusing you of being a commie, nor do I see that as a real threat, at least in the countries where you and I live, so please don't come after me with a rhetorical knife to gut me.

I would go a step further and argue that the very rationalism and freedom of thought which militant atheists have deified and turned into a false idol--and I mean that in a literal sense--are themselves a product of the Christian humanism exemplified in the Reformation as much as anything else, and that it was only later with the Enlightenment that such ideas were shorn of their Christian roots, much to your delight and my chagrin. But I'm getting way out of my depth here, so I'll stop.

Regarding your charge about the "special privilege" Evangelicals seek, I plead "not guilty." You cite "Christian outrage" to substantiate your charge. Hell, BJ, we're all outraged about something: I'm outraged at being called a war monger. You're outraged by pushy Christians asking you to accept Jesus and advocating policies you detest. The pushy Christians are outraged by Robert Maplethorpe's (sp?) latest sacrilegious, puerile display masquerading as art..."As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen."

If the pushy Christians want to picket and yell and scream and kick up a fuss, let 'em. It only drives up ticket sales. If they advocate censorship, then I strongly condemn that. If you, on the other hand, feel the need to rush to the barricades for your side, then knock yourself out. It's all background noise to me and most unpleasant to focus on. So you'll pardon me if I choose to tune it out.

Re: your point about distancing myself from the public statements of prominent Evangelical leaders, it's less a question of "distancing myself" than one of never having acknowledged their right to speak FOR ME on any of these issues in the first place. I really don't much care what Warren, Dobson and the other dudes think about public policy (or anything else, for that matter). To the extent that such policies overlap with my Christian ethics, I make the best choices I can "as God gives [me] the wisdom to see the right," to quote Honest Abe, based on my limited understanding of scripture, prayer, and occasionally the counsel of Christian friends and mentors whose opinion I value.

Does that make me not a "real" Evangelical in your eyes? If so, then maybe we've been arguing over nothing.

We Bible bashers have a saying: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I'll not bother asking you to fear a God whom you (I assume) believe does not exist. Maybe you could substitute "humility." Just a thought.

I'll be working on mine. See you out there.

bjkeefe 01-04-2009 10:38 PM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100441)
Well, BJ,

It's been an interesting back and forth. I really don't have much else to say. I do note that you never bothered to take on my central contention throughout, i.e, that Christians like myself do not require an OK from their so-called leaders to make an informed decision about Iran or other questions of foreign policy, but never mind.

The first thing I'd say is: You ducked a lot yourself during this back and forth, you brought up a number of separate points to which I did respond, and therefore, if that's been your central contention throughout, then you've hidden it well. It seems more accurate to say that this is something you don't want to budge on, when all the rest is said and done.

In any case, if you would like that to be declared as your main point, fine. Here is my response.

I will agree that Christians like yourself do not require an OK from their so-called leader to make an informed decision about Iran or other questions of foreign policy.

You've defined yourself as someone who does not take political direction from his pastor, so, by definition, this is a statement I can accept.

This does not change my view that a lot of ECs do, in fact, take plenty of political direction from their religious leaders, and that lots of EC leaders (and their flocks, by direction or not) are likely to have a pugnacious attitude towards Iran, not to mention other Arab and/or Muslim countries and regions.

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I do remain hopeful that people can "disagree without being disagreeable" and I'm of the (naive?) belief that willingness to express one's convictions, whatever they are, in the public sphere as well as in one's private life and actions, is all to the good for the health of democracy. "Truth will out," and all that.
(*rolls eyes*) All right, all right, enough with the motherhood and apple pie.

I make no pledges about not being disagreeable. My mood changes from day to day. It can be affected (for the worse) by any number of things, including what others have written here, what's going on out in the rest of the world, and not to put to fine a point on it, but the latest antics of the wannabe theocrats cluttering up this country. I am not going to dance on eggshells, particularly with regard to someone's faith.

This is not to say I'm bent on picking a fight every time you mention your faith, but as you've doubtless figured out by now, getting pounded over the head with frequent references to the imaginary character Erdös called The Supreme Fascist isn't likely to boost my equanimity. Ditto sanctimonious statements about your mission or how you live your life or what commands you. As far as I'm concerned, your bringing this kind of talk is as offensive as anything I could possibly say in return.

[Side note to harkin and the harkin-like: Before you start sputtering about the EVUL LIBRUL TRYING TO CENSOR, I'm not telling anyone what not to say. I'm merely pointing out that I feel equally entitled to say what I believe. Especially in reaction.]

You'll just have to decide whether my tone is something you can deal with, or not, and maybe on a post-by-post basis. Or ignore me all together.

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We Bible bashers have a saying: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I'll not bother asking you to fear a God whom you (I assume) believe does not exist. Maybe you could substitute "humility." Just a thought.

I'll be working on mine. See you out there.
I'd say caving to fear of the Lord is embracing the end of wisdom, and that this is a poisonous attitude promulgated by politically-minded and power-hungry religious leaders to keep their flocks subservient. I'd also say that if there is an entity that created this awesome universe, he, she, or it would have less concern about my being fearful than I do about amoebae having good table manners.

As for "humility," feh. What you're really asking is that I pull my punches. Nix to that. If you can't deal with my making a vigorous case for my point of view, or stating my opinion plainly or forcefully or even mockingly, then either don't invite it, or don't read what I have to say.

You've said that you're "someone who enjoys political discussion and debate, and thinks about and cares about the issues as much as the next guy, and that "[i]t'd be nice to be treated as a serious interlocutor with arguments worthy of serious thought." Fine. I'm keen to see if you really want to do that, and if you'll do it without feeling the need to proselytize in every paragraph. Odds are, you'll find me less pissy when I'm not being pestered with pieties.

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p.s. One (almost) final clarification: When I said I had never heard a pastor make an overtly political statement in 30 years, I probably should have said I've never heard MY numerous pastors make such statements from the pulpit. If that is acquiescence to your earlier point, then point taken.
I'm delighted to hear you acknowledge, finally, that there might be other things going on elsewhere.

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p.p.s. Re your point about distancing myself from the public statements of prominent Evangelical leaders, It's less a question of "distancing myself" than one of never having acknowledged their right to speak FOR ME on any of these issues in the first place. [...]
That's fine. That's a perfectly acceptable way to conduct yourself. You are under no obligation to distance yourself from those who more or less share your faith but who evidently do not share your views.

However, the reality is, they're the ones with the loudest voices, and there are a lot of them, and they all claim to speak on your behalf. It may be a mistake for me to form first impressions of you colored by impressions of them, but when you start off sounding just like them, with the Lord this and the Bible that every other sentence, you ought to recognize the possibility that I'll fail to discern a difference.

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Does that make me not a "real" Evangelical in your eyes?
Nope. It sounds like you're claiming to be what I'd call an atypical one, though. And if you're going to reject that characterization by saying there are a lot more people than I know who are like you, then all I can say is that I wish you all would find some among yourselves who are willing to get out there and make some noise about your disagreement and disapproval of the messages being pushed in your name.

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If so, then maybe we've been arguing over nothing.
It wasn't nothing as far as I'm concerned. We have differences and those differences are worth airing.

I'd also say that you've made a case that you're distinct, in some ways, from the ECs I usually encounter. That should count for something to you.

rfrobison 01-05-2009 01:44 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
BJ, I have substantially revised my previous...if you're at all interested. This REALLY is my last post on this topic.

rfrobison 01-05-2009 01:56 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
OK, really, really last post:

I'm truly sorry if you consider my references to God and the Bible and my faith offensive. Perhaps YOU should not engage with a person who starts a discussion with: "As an Evangelical Christian, I have a few questions to ask..." Like you, I make no apologies for who I am. I was simply trying to end the discussion on a positive note. If that bugs you, that's unfortunate.

Maybe you secretly like being offended or are secretly afraid you might want to become a Christian....Nah!

Ciao.

bjkeefe 01-05-2009 07:16 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100450)
BJ, I have substantially revised my previous...if you're at all interested. This REALLY is my last post on this topic.

I see.

Okay, I will address your reworked post in a moment. First, let me make some meta-comments.

I think it is bad form to go back and "substantially revise" after someone else has already posted a response. In this instance, I am not saying you did anything slimy, like deleting what you said and replacing it with something else entirely, in hopes of undermining the rebuttal, the way others have done in the past. (Hello, kidneystones! And how's by you, Whatfur?)

Still, you have taken some advantage of my words to improve your own, and you've created the appearance that you said them first. You've also made my response look to others reading sequentially through our exchanges as though I quoted you out of sequence, ignored or couldn't come up with an answer to some of what you had to say, and perhaps misinterpreted other parts. In a forum like this, it is assumed that what one is reading is a stream of give and take, the fine print of the automatically appended "Last edited" line notwithstanding. [1]

I can understand the urge. Believe me, no one suffers from l'esprit de l'escalier more often than I. I'm also sure I'm not far from holding the record for Most Stuff Said Online Later Wished Had Been Put Differently. But I think we have to play fair and observe the conventions of the medium we're using to communicate.

In general, I think going back and fixing typing errors and the like after a response has been posted is fine. [2] Much beyond that, though, I just don't think it's cricket. If you completely wish you hadn't said something, I think it's fine to edit the post, delete the entire contents, and put in a line saying something like, "Upon reflection, I no longer want to stand behind what I originally posted here," or "[Redacted after temper cooled down]." I'm sure there are a few like that under my sig scattered throughout the bowels of this site's archives. I have little doubt there ought to be more.

The middle ground, however, where you want to make major changes to what you originally said, is better handled by simply posting a new comment. Here, you could have attached it as a reply to mine, perhaps prefacing it by saying, "Read your response. Rather than replying, I want to start from the top and take another shot at what I was originally trying to say."

You could also have posted it as a "reply" to the one you wanted to revise, or started a new sub-thread by "replying" to the initial post at the top of the page. You could have put one line in at the top of your new post, saying, "Here is a reworked version of something I posted earlier." You could also have added a line at the beginning of your earlier post, saying something like, "I have posted an updated version of the following. Read this one if you like, but please address my revised remarks. See the post with the subject line ..." (And ideally, add crosslinks to both.)

Really, there's nothing wrong with wishing you had put something a different way, or realizing that you had more to say on a topic, or whatever. I'm just suggesting there is a better way to handle a situation like this, should it come up again. It's important to recognize that for however much he has has since been misunderstood, McLuhan was right.

I'm going on too long about this (another first!), so I'll wrap up. I salute you for posting a comment notifying readers of your changes, and I want to emphasize that I am not accusing you of anything unsavory.


==========

[1] Some reading this may ask, "Why didn't you just quote the whole post, for the record?" My answer: Sometimes I do. Other times, particularly if the post to which I'm responding is long, I prefer not to. Call it a misplaced sense of frugality or an obsession for removing clutter. In some cases, it's a necessity due to the per-post character limit imposed by this forum's software.

[2] If the original mistake was egregious enough, adding a note in the original post seems called for, either inline or at the bottom. As an example, see the bottom of this post.

Francoamerican 01-05-2009 07:26 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100441)
I would go a step further and argue that the very rationalism and freedom of thought which militant atheists have deified and turned into a false idol--and I mean that in a literal sense--are themselves a product of the Christian humanism exemplified in the Reformation as much as anything else, and that it was only later with the Enlightenment that such ideas were shorn of their Christian roots, much to your delight and my chagrin. But I'm getting way out of my depth here, so I'll stop.

Yes and No. As a student of this period (1500-1800), and one who still has much to learn, I think most historians would agree that (1) freedom of thought was indeed one of the outcomes of the Reformation. The wars of religion and the intense theological debates that occurred during the early modern period led, by various devious paths, to the enshrinement of the principle of religious toleration and ultimately to the separation of church and state, a principle that was itself already implicit in Medieval Christianity's separation of the spiritual and temporal realms. However, (2) rationalism, if you mean by that scientific thought, can only be attributed to Christianity by a kind of Hegelian sleight of hand: It is true that the great philosophers of the early modern period---Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Locke etc.---were schooled in the disciplines of late medieval scholasticism. With the exception of Leibnitz, however, they were resolutely "modern" and scientific in their outlook and looked forward, with more or less enthusiam, to the extinction of religious "enthusiasm" (in the Enlightenment sense= fanaticism).

Christian humanism is an interesting idea--but I am afraid it is a bit like what Ghandi is reported to have said of "western civilization"--that "it would be a good idea if only it were true". I assume you mean the kind of Christianity that traces its roots to Erasmus. It would be nice if American evangelicals were more like Erasmus, and had his sense of humor. I wonder, though, how many of them have even heard of "In Praise of Folly?"

rfrobison 01-05-2009 07:55 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Francoamerican,

Hey. Nice to see somebody's keeping an eye on my discussion w/bj. Like I said in the passage that you quoted, I'm way out of my depth when discussing philosophy in the formal sense, my entire study of the subject having consisted of one Intro to Western Philosophy class as an undergrad nearly 20 years ago. I probably shouldn't have mentioned it at all and assuming bj hasn't lost interest in the discussion yet, like as not he'll shred me on it. Oh, well.

With respect to Erasmus, the name rings a bell (vaguely), but that is all. I'd like to think I'm pretty well educated for an Evangelical layman, and I've never read him so I think the answer to your question, at least outside of seminaries, is: very, very few.

Francoamerican 01-05-2009 08:23 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Erasmus is well worth reading, even today. He is especially good at mocking fellow Christians.

What has struck me most in your dialogue with BJkeefe is how little light it generates and how much heat, even though you both seem pretty fair-minded and make good points. This has always been true of debates between believers and non-believers, which is why I usually avoid them. The sad truth of the matter is that they cannot be settled: a dialogue des sourds, as the French say, in which the premises of one side are anathema to the other.

Christian humanism was an attempt to find a bridge between the two camps. But there have been few willing to cross it.

rfrobison 01-05-2009 09:19 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Well, Franco, (Hope you done mind my shortening your handle. I do that with everyone.)

You've thrown down the gauntlet (on Erasmus). I'm pretty sure bj and I are done with this topic, maybe permanently, so I may have to read him. Much as I hate to admit it, I'm unemployed at the moment and could stay that way for a while, so I should have plenty of time.

For my part, I've tried to keep the discussion friendly with bj, but I'm not sure how well I've succeeded. He's a formidable debater and to be honest, far better informed about Christian conservative political activism than I, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage going in.

If I can nudge him even a bit away from the "all Jesus Freaks are morons" position, then my time will have been well spent...maybe. And it's good to have my own comfortable assumptions challenged too.

[Note to bj, if you're reading this: I realize you may not think my characterization of your views of ECs a fair one. I was speaking strictly in terms of my own (undoubtedly biased) perception of that stance]

Your interventions have been a welcome respite from the heat of battle. My brain feels like a wrung-out sponge.

See you on the threads,

R.

rfrobison 01-05-2009 10:33 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009
 
Haven't read through your latest post, so sorry if this is wrong, but I have to say something right off the bat: I did not revise my post in response to your criticisms about "mom & apple pie language" I was away for a couple of hours and realized that I had more to say. The post was already on the long side, so I took out the kinda anodyne stuff to concentrate more on the substantive.

Only then did I realize that you had already posted a response to my earlier version.

R.

bjkeefe 01-05-2009 10:37 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009 (part 1 of 2)
 
[Note to others reading along: This is part 1 of an additional reply to a post by rfrobison, posted after he reworked his original version. My reply to the first version of that post stands; i.e., at least at the per-segment level, my responses still apply. In this two-part post, I reply only to rfrobison's added thoughts.]


Quote:

Originally Posted by rfrobison (Post 100441)
Well, BJ,

It's been an interesting back and forth. I had hoped to make this just a brief note to thank you for your time and your formidable debating skills. [...]

And thank you.

Quote:

You have accused me of employing straw-men at various points in our discussion. Now I must return the favor. You enjoin me to "grow up" and realize that those who criticize or mock my beliefs are not the same as the KKK or others seeking to curtail the rights of groups they don't like. Of course not. I didn't say their goals or tactics were the same, I said people who dismiss others based on their religious beliefs showed a similar prejudice. If my analogy was over the top, I apologize.
Let me first dispute your assertion that I used a straw man argument. I did not. A straw man argument is where one pretends or imagines another's non-existent argument and responds to that, instead of addressing the matter at hand. You did, in fact, compare people like me to the KKK and that's what I responded to.

I accept your clarification of your use of this comparison. I'll say, however, that when you use flamethrower language, you should expect a firehose in return. There are times when intentional hyperbole is easily recognized and (dis)regarded as such. Then there are times when a comparison appears intended to be taken literally, irrespective of how over the top it might actually be. It is difficult to read tone in printed text, and it is near impossible for me to read the intent you had in mind, since I don't yet know you very well.

Like it or not, comparing people like me to the KKK carries baggage as a consequence of others' frequent habit of doing so (and meaning it, as far as I can tell). In a larger sense, the past several decades have been characterized by cogs in the the Rightwing Noise Machine using the following tactic. First, they push a boundary with word choice. If there is no reaction, they declare that choice acceptable, use it as precedent in the future, and seek to push the new boundary a little further. If, however, there is a reaction, they backpedal while sputtering protestations, accuse The Left of failing to get the joke, being overly sensitive, being too PC, what have you. There are papers out there from guys like Luntz and Gingrich and the wingnuts at the Discovery Institute describing how to do this, and there is a database that could almost stagger Google filled with mealy-mouthed retractions and non-apology apologies from everyone from AM radio to Fox TV to Sarah Palin to half the Republican members of Congress to every politically savvy prominent evangelical Christian.

I'm not suggesting that you must bear the burden for their sins, or that you are inextricably associated with their intentions. I do, however, want to show you where I'm coming from. You have a responsibility for the words you utter, and part of that responsibility involves being aware of context, connotation, and historical resonance. Mr. Godwin has a law on a closely related matter.

Quote:

You will at least concede, I hope, that religious types have no lock on authoritarian thinking.
Yes, although I would say that religious types are more prone to it.

Quote:

The historical and ongoing repression of various avowedly atheist communist regimes toward believers (and a host of other enemies) should put paid to that idea. And no "communism is just another religion" please, that's a cheap dodge. And no, I am not accusing you of being a commie, nor do I see that as a real threat, at least in the countries where you and I live, so please don't come after me with a rhetorical knife to gut me.
Sorry. This is just like your earlier use of the KKKomparison. You don't get to just toss off a sound bite and then demand no response.

Hitchens and others have said this better than I can, but I'm going to take a stab anyway. You're being obtuse to pretend that the Stalinist, Maoist, etc., regimes were effectively different from theocracies. They had all the same characteristics of organized religion gone bad -- a deification of the Leader, a requirement that no other gods be put before them, a demand that individual citizens surrender their autonomy for the good of some larger purpose, and that they unquestioningly obey dictates from above, suppress thinking for themselves, and offer no dissent.

The repression of, say, Christians in Soviet Russia is no different from theocracies elsewhere, where there is only one acceptable creed. The only difference between a theocracy and the "communist" totalitarian states is semantic, with a few niggling theological aspects, like a removal of promise of an afterlife or some such. The dictators in those regimes viewed/portrayed themselves as the Supreme Authority From Whom All Blessings Flow, in all the universe there was.

I don't expect I've convinced you, but every time you try to tie atheists in general to Stalin, et al, that's the answer you're going to get.

This is not to say there's no such thing as an atheist who has done wrong.

Quote:

I would go a step further and argue that the very rationalism and freedom of thought which militant atheists have deified and turned into a false idol--and I mean that in a literal sense--are themselves a product of the Christian humanism exemplified in the Reformation as much as anything else, and that it was only later with the Enlightenment that such ideas were shorn of their Christian roots, much to your delight and my chagrin. But I'm getting way out of my depth here, so I'll stop.
Actually, I don't think you're even ankle-deep, but I'll dispute the earlier part a bit.

You're exaggerating either the extent to which atheists idolize rationality, the number of them who do, or both. Or, you're mistaking verbal shortcuts, sloganeering, or sheer exasperation, for the entire point of view, and missing a lot of nuance. A few tiresome twits aside, most respected people who happen to be atheists see things as follows.

First, there is no good reason to believe in things for which there is no evidence, particularly when there are other explanations available that are more plausible and more satisfying. On a related note, we like to point out the only difference between us and people like you is that we merely believe in one fewer god. (I trust you're not one for tossing virgins into volcanoes or looking nervously over your shoulder at Mt. Olympus.)

Second, there is no claim of complete knowledge or understanding, and further, little or no claim that humanity will ever attain this state solely through rational thinking and the scientific method. Both the methods and the results represent merely the best things we've come up with so far and "best thing so far" is very probably always going to be the case. It's a tortuous process, not a linear journey with well-defined endpoints, and very often, the milestones are only apparent in the rear view mirror.

Third, even stipulating to the conceivability that there may, at root, be a requirement that the supernatural be invoked to explain something, the name of the game nonetheless remains seeing how far we can get without so resorting. For instance, maybe we say, "Okay, let's stipulate that God caused the Big Bang. Or created life. Or instantiated a coherent system of physical laws and constants whose manifestations can be discussed in a language we call mathematics. But putting that aside, what can we deduce for ourselves about how it all works?" The point being, once you say, God did it!, what else is there to talk about? It's game over, and not a fun one at that.

Back when I used to believe in God, I always thought of the universe as a gift, and the intent behind the gift was, "Here, I've given you a puzzle that for all its confusing appearance on the surface is actually perfectly logical underneath. I've also given you just enough smarts to work it out, if you try really, really hard. Oh, and you'll probably have to cooperate to have any hope of making progress. Have fun! Play nice! Talk to you later!"

I think this last symbolizes how I agree with your view of the roots of the Enlightenment and a preference for rational thinking in general. Of course we atheists have built upon what came before us, just as Christianity built on what came before it, from the idea of monotheism and divine vengeance through the myth of the flood to the symbolism of a virgin birth. There are very few completely original inventions in human history. We are a species that refines and adapts. Once we have the wheel, we don't ... you've probably heard this one before.

(My reply continues in a "reply" attached to this. Link to be added momentarily ........ here)

bjkeefe 01-05-2009 10:39 AM

Re: Religion and Politics in 2009 (part 2 of 2)
 
[Note to others reading along: This is part 2 (part 1 is here) of an additional reply to a post by rfrobison, posted after he reworked his original version. My reply to the first version of that post stands; i.e., at least at the per-segment level, my responses still apply. In this two-part post, I reply only to rfrobison's added thoughts.]

Quote:

Regarding your charge about the "special privilege" Evangelicals seek, I plead "not guilty."
Which, to belabor the metaphor, is merely an assertion, and not a guarantee of acquittal. I continue to insist at minimum that you, and others like you, do not usually accept the same amount of criticism or tone of voice or attitude of disdain when your religious beliefs are on the table, compared to any other views you might offer.

Not you specifically, but plenty of other ECs, along with plenty of people from other faiths, go further, and expect that their faith not be called into question at all, and that the claims "because God wants it so" and "it's in the Good Book" serve as the perennial twin aces of trumps. Again, I'm not hanging this part around your specific neck.

Quote:

You cite "Christian outrage" to substantiate your charge. Hell, BJ, we're all outraged about something: I'm outraged at being called a war monger. You're outraged by pushy Christians asking you to accept Jesus and advocating policies you detest. The pushy Christians are outraged by Robert Maplethorpe's (sp?) latest sacrilegious, puerile display masquerading as art..."As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen."
Mostly agreed. Couple of minor points:

-- Believe it or not, I woke up this morning thinking about my use of the word "offensive" regarding your proselytizing. I should have said that I find such talk rude or objectionable. I am not really offended by it, in and of itself.

-- Those who do not enjoy Mapplethorpe's art should not look at it. No one is compelled to.

Quote:

If the pushy Christians want to picket and yell and scream and kick up a fuss, let 'em. It only drives up ticket sales.
Shhh. Not so loud. We got a good thing going.

Quote:

If they advocate censorship, then I strongly condemn that.
In all seriousness, I'm glad to hear you say so.

Quote:

If you, on the other hand, feel the need to rush to the barricades for your side, then knock yourself out. It's all background noise to me and most unpleasant to focus on. So you'll pardon me if I choose to tune it out.
After dropping the "sacrilegious, puerile display masquerading as art" bomb, of course. Bet you were a big fan of Ring and Run when you were a kid.

Quote:

Re: your point about distancing myself from the public statements of prominent Evangelical leaders ...
I get your point. Sorry if I didn't make this clear last time. I'll try again. I am not disputing your choice of how to conduct yourself. I merely observe that the reality of life in these times in these United States is that those whom you wish were not seen as speaking on your behalf are, like it or not, perceived to be doing so. I think it would be helpful for you, and people like you, and me, and people like me, if you all made more of an effort to get that message out there. I do not demand that you do. It's just a wish and a suggestion.

I hasten to add that you yourself have already made a good first step: You've convinced me that you do not march in lockstep with the face and leadership of Evangelical Christianity as I perceive it, especially in the realm of political debate. I will keep this in mind from now on.


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