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April 09, 2007

Comments

Hopefully, she’ll have her moment of clarity and her fever will break too.

hah. odds are good that she'll end up at a think-tank somewhere, forever a C-list wingnut celebrity martyr who lost her job to the deranged, blood-thirsty, terror-lovin DhimmiIslamoDefeatocrats. she'll probably be writing columns for WingnutDaily and TownHall before the end of the summer. there's easy money in lying to the choir.

I read the piece in the paper yesterday wondering when I would get to some statement about something that Ms. Goodling did that was inconsistent with her job -- some place where she'd arguably conflated God and Bush. I didn't see it.

"I’m obviously speculating, but I can see the rationalizations swimming in her head."

The most accurate statement in the posting. There is a lot of theorizing, some based upon what you went through, but it is almost totally conjecture.

Seeing Bush doing God's work is not the same as seeing Bush as God. Social conservatives may have a "a unique and complex psychology" but they are not all the same, so this psychology does not apply to them all.

"although liberals are not hostile to religion" is a telling line. That might be true for yourself, and, as a very religious person, myself, but is hardly true for a significant portion of liberals. That has been obvious on some threads here based upon comments made, and is definitely true at places like Kos.

Additionally, I think you may be making a major assumption that they are supporting behaviors somehow antithetical (and I know you didn't use this term) to their faith. I tend to believe that they see all this as an extension of their faith. To me it might be a perversion of Christianity, but that is my opinion based upon what I believe Christianity is and what it stands for.

Although I am primarily on your side of the fence, this posting tends to do what we on the left (many of us) decry as the right's tendency to stereotype us, when such is not an accrate thing to do.

But then, maybe I am just reading too much into it.

john miller, some liberals (and some conservatives) are genuinely hostile to religion, far more are hostile to what they perceive (rightly or wrongly) conduct a religion permits, encourages, or even serves as a justification for, in its followers.

Some religionists then pick up that hostility and claim it as hostility to their religion, rather than to the conduct of prominent followers of their religion. It would be a mistake to identify everyone who detests Bill Donahue as "anti-Catholic", for example, though I don't doubt that Donahue himself would argue that.

How can Christian conservatives be so hypocritical? Because so many of them have an "authoritarian personality" and worship whoever is in authority.

I think that's the succinct answer, one that was exhaustively explored by Nixon's jailed lawyer John Dean in his book, "Conservatives without Conscience." The checklists in that book about authority worship provide a very comprehensive answer to this riddle.

urban -- i generally agree with that, but i would ask why? what drives people to see the world that way.

but i should also make clear that htis post isn't about christians per se, but evangelical social conservative christians (i.e., a subset, though a politically important subset)

A friend of mine, who grew up in a right-wing Pentacostal household, had his own moment of clarity a few months back. He had long been puzzled by the paranoia of the "Christian Right," and suddenly realized that their paranoia was a projection of their own desires: if they had power they would use it to enforce their way of life - not dictatorially, but but in away that marginalizes "the other" -but since they don't have that power they must be the "victims" of those who desire to marginalize Christians.

Psycobabble to be sure, but I think he's got a point.

Jes, I realize many, and I include myself in this category, find what we consider hypocrisy to be a major issue and are hsotile to that. For example, I consider James Dobson one of the most dangerous people in America, and part of the reason why is that he uses religion to cloak what I perceive as his primary motivations.

There are also many on the left who see any religious people as being, to put it simply, delusional idiots. And I am not limiting myself to Christianity. My usual response to them has been that am liberal/progressive, a Democrat despite people like them, not because of people like them.

I do believe that urban coyote has stated one of the issues. There is a sense of looking for and following an authority figure (who unfortunately sometimes becomes an authoritarian) It is part of the issue, but not, IMO, a full answer.

And, in fact, I don't think there is a "one size fits all" type of answer out there.


Publius,

I don't know the answer to that, though I myself come from a large family, many of whom worship authority.

However, I feel the quality of "resentment" is central in motivating people toward authority.

I don't know about these appointees conflating Bush for God but I know they are purposefully shifting the focus of our government to serve a group that I'm pretty sure doesn't need the help - wealthy white Christians. They are not discriminated against in any meaningful way. The only way one can get that impression is to look at the civil rights movement and the secondary expansion of government power in that arena as a mistake. I'm afraid that the people running our DoJ have no respect for the recent history of American justice.

Publius is right about this - paranoia is driving much of this behavior.

I still don't get it. For years, I've been trying to get into the heads of conservatives and figure out why they do the things they do. I've read a hundred theories and ideas, like this post. All the theories sound vaguely plausible, but none feel really satisfying.

Funny thing is, I'm a pretty good judge of non-political psychological issues. I can tell when somebody is struggling with fear of change, or self-doubt, or any of the other things that hold people back in life.

But I don't get political psychology. Why is it so opaque?

"But I don't get political psychology. Why is it so opaque?"

Primarily because there are too many driving forces involved. For some there is a sense of paranoia (right and left), for some there is a sense of being driven to do the right thing (both on the right and the left), for others it is a drive for wealth and power (probably more on the right than on the left but on both to some degree), and so forth.

john miller: There are also many on the left who see any religious people as being, to put it simply, delusional idiots. And I am not limiting myself to Christianity.

If we don't limit ourselves to Christianity, there are many on the right who see religious people as delusional idiots.

My point is that my impression is that the left-wingers who argue that anyone claiming religious belief is a delusional idiot are a smaller and certainly less significant number than the left-wingers who are referencing specific religious groups of delusional idiots (the Catholic League: the people who want to argue that the Grand Canyon was made by Noah's Flood or that evolution is "just a theory" and it's only anti-religious bias that means creationism can't be taught in science classes: etc).

Certainly you get a lot more high-profile high-traffic religious-people-are-delusional-idiots websites on the right than on the left - Little Green Footballs, for example.

I agree that this essay is entirely speculative and as such should be taken with a grain of salt, but I also agree that such speculations are important. It's important to understand why some people are driven to become suicide bombers, and it's also important to understand why some people are driven to such political extremes.

I'd like to add a minor observation regarding the matter of perceived inferiority. We can think of it as a liberal vs conservative issue or urban vs rural issue -- but I would like to add a third dimension: East Coast versus everybody else. As a West Coaster, I have noticed in business dealings with East Coast big shots that they are animated with a strong sense of hierarchical superiority. It's not that they think that East Coast is better than anybody else. The perception seems to be that "I have climbed up this ladder and I'm higher on the ladder than you, therefore I'm right and you're wrong." In Silicon Valley it is common to dismiss somebody as a 'Harvard MBA' ("sometimes right, never in doubt"). Many of these people seem to think that their particular pecking order is the only one that matters. It's very off-putting and I can imagine that conservatives, who don't have much presence in the East Coast Pecking Order, resent it bitterly. I sympathize with them.

I haven't actually seen (or can't recall seeing) any great degree of hostility or contempt towards religious people here at Obi Wi. (I'm a Christian lefty myself, like John Miller.) It's mostly as Jes said, hostility directed at specific Christians who deserve to be criticized. Though I might have missed whatever it is that John saw.

At other sites, though, there is a fair amount of contempt aimed at religious believers by some lefties. Religious belief is equated with mental illness. I might be wrong, but I get the impression that someone like Dawkins or his acolytes would like to live in a society where religious belief was so rare those few who still professed to believe in God could be sent to mental institutions where we belong.

But that's about the limit of "persecution" of Christians in America. A few snide remarks and a sense that some atheists think we're clinically insane. On the whole atheists have it worse, though it probably depends on your social circles.

As for rightwing Christians, I think they are mostly sincere, but not any the less dangerous for that. Hypocrisy is a natural byproduct of ideology--Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism" is the classic essay on that theme.

Dawkins, of course, is British. I suppose his American analogue is Sam Harris, but I haven't read his stuff.

Resentment can be a powerful motivator, but it is hardly ever constructive in the long run. I know people who resent those who have gone to excellent schools, claiming that their education at My State College (or an even less prestigious institution) was just as good as the one at Competitive University. Sorry, that just isn't so. Sure there are people who turned out to be brilliant grads of inferior schools, but that is almost always because of external events in their lives that made the challenge of a superior school impossible for them to take on at the time.

Resentment doesn't really feed your feeling of well-being. It poisons your life with hatred of those who have had better opportunity, whether they got it fairly or not. The politics of resentment can easily poison both Democrats and Republicans. That fact that life isn't fair tends to help those who want to indulge in resentment do so. They are not completely out of touch with reality. They can always point to real examples of injustice and unfairness.

Ultimately, though, resentment fails because it takes decision-making out of your own hands. You are not responsible, first for a few things, then for many things. They become the problem and feeding resentment distracts from actual accomplishment. It also distracts from your own ability to evaluate whether those who are exploiting your resentment have your interests in mind.

Do the people who exploit Regent University graduates really care about their religiously motivated morality? Will they ever do anything to actually accomplish the goals? On the left, will things be done to change the problems of the poor or will they also be led on by politicians who want their voters angry at the opposition? Will Democrats create a decent social safety net or just complain about the greed of the Republicans?

I agree that this essay is entirely speculative and as such should be taken with a grain of salt, but I also agree that such speculations are important.

or, in the words of Peggy Noonan:

    Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

?

obviously there's a lot of liberal-hatred out there (some, like Limbaugh and RedState, seem to exist for no other reason). and yes, religion can give people cover to do crazy things. but i'd feel very uncomfortable trying to guess at the motivations of a person i'd known only from the third-hand descriptions in a half-dozen news reports. for all we know about her, Goodling might as well be fictional, a minor character in a John Grisham novel. and as to divining the motivations of millions... count me out.

which is to say, i'd like to go on record as being a little uncomfortable with this much speculation and mass-psychoanalysis-from-a-distance.

Publius-

I am not so sure that what you're describing is terribly unique in the world of politics. Power is a heady thing, and many of the folks who work for an administration, be it Republican or Democratic, ultimately end up having an "us against the world" mentality.

Moreover, the fact that many religious conservatives end up conflating politics with faith doesn't surprise me in the least bit. It is a difficult thing to keep those matters entirely separate. The key, I think, is to constantly be on guard to make sure that one's faith is always in the forefront. I have noticed, however, that when one does this consistently, one ends up making party loyalists on both sides angry. And for me, that is a sign of success. If both Republicans and Democrats are upset with me, that is a fairly good indicator that I am living life in accordance with my faith (as best I can).

And for the record, I am not anti-liberal. There are many goals that liberals and Democrats have with which I agree wholeheartedly. The difference is often one of approach. For example, I disagree with Publius that supporting "unprogressive tax structures" is anti-Christian. Unlike torture, tax policy is an issue where reasonable people can disagree about what is ultimately best for society. The problem, of course, is that both sides are more interested in scoring cheap political points (e.g., Democrats are Marxist, and Republicans want the poor to starve), than they are in actually solving the problem.

And much in the same manner that Publius views the Republican party, I see a great deal of hypocrisy in the Democratic Party's characterization of itself as the party of the little guy (e.g., the poor, minorities), given its polices on abortion, euthanasia, embyronic stem cell research, etc. (all of which harm the most vulnerable members of our society).

Finally, as for harboring an "inferiority complex with respect to secular liberals," I can only speak for myself, but that is certainly not the case for me. What I recognize is that secular liberals view the world is a radically different light than I do, and this often makes it difficult to have a constructive dialogue on various and sundry policy issues. This is changing somewhat though> I have been very impressed with the amount of cooperation between grassroots liberals and conservatives on raising awareness of the genocide taking place in Darfur, and my hope is that this same group of folks will work together to help bring an end to the death penalty in the U.S. Will that translate into agreement on contentious issues like abortion? Perhaps not. But my hope is that by joining together on certain issues, there will be a greater appreciation for where the other is coming from. I think Publius, to his credit, has this appreciation for the mentality of many social conservatives, and I commend him for his willingness to treat them (and their motives) fairly in discussing various issues.

(No time to double check spelling, etc. So, please accept my apologies in advance for any typos)

If they equate the modern socio-political order with Egypt under Pharaoh, then there's nothing hypocritical about employing any and every means at their disposal to blow that order to smithereens. Far from being a betrayal or a compromise of their Christianity, their ethics spring naturally and logically from their apocalyptic and destructive worldview.

Jes, actually we are ibn agreement. My point was never that the majority of the left was hostile to religion, just that there is a significant number, and as Donald points out, on some sites, whenever religion comes up, the disdain is evident.

I was reacting to publius' that "liberals are not hostile to religion." It is a blanket statement which just happens to be wrong.

Donald, I admit you don't see the hostility often at ObWi, but it does show up from time to time.

Speaking as someone who has some experience of elitist snobbery, though from the other side: it is of course true that there are annoying snobs coming out of elite institutions. But it is also true that there's a lot of insecurity that doesn't wait for actual occasions to manifest itself.

For various personal reasons, I am a sort of walking trigger for it; this was even more true earlier on in my life. I have, basically, exactly the sort of background that reliably makes some kinds of people think (before they know me at all): hah, I bet you think you're pretty special. Well, I'm going to knock you off your high horse. I have always (or rather, since I was 12, when I acquired this part of my background) taken it as a fact of life, not to be minded any more than one would mind the law of gravity, that there are going to be people who are convinced that I am on a high horse that I need to be knocked down from, and that that was just that.

Much easier to deal with than a pervasive sense of insecurity, of course, but having to prove, again and again, that you're not a monster of arrogance, or that you're not constantly snickering inwardly about other people's inadequate background/education/whatever, is not all that much fun either.

john miller: I was reacting to publius' that "liberals are not hostile to religion." It is a blanket statement which just happens to be wrong.

Well, no, it's right - partly: most liberals are not hostile to religion. And, as you say, some liberals are kneejerk-hostile to religion, so it's wrong - partly. Most blanket statements are. I seem to remember something about this in the posting rules, but I think it only covered hostile/negative statements, not positive statements.

feddie - get a blog.

Cleek: Well said. Also John Miller.

OTOH, I’m not crazy about 150 alumni of Pat Robinson’s college working in the administration either.

In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.

"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.

I have no problem with people who are actively religious, but I do want to maintain a firm line between church and state. I don’t want the religious right implementing their belief system as law any more than the most secular liberal does. If it’s true that the Civil Rights Division’s focus switched to discrimination against Christians then I would say there is a department that is no longer needed – close it down.

Inasmuch as it's relevant, my experience has been that, speaking very broadly, a) liberals and lefties are more hostile towards religion in general -- the whole Militant Atheism thing -- but b) conservatives and righties tend to be even more hostile to religions that aren't theirs. With the obvious caveat that who the hell knows what libertarians think?

What you're really asking is, why do people demonize opponents. It's a natural human trait, unfortunately. All studies show that groups, divided even for short periods and on a basis they know is completely arbitrary, will soon develop great hostility and attribute all sorts of horrible behavior to the other, while cheering on their own side's dirty tricks. Think summer camp sports teams.

So, why ask why? It just is. People are like that. The only thing you can do about it is appeal to common ground. When the basis for separation is something integral to their self-image, like religion, class, or ethno-regional identity, this is difficult.

Uniting against a common enemy is the best method, historically. I suspect that if the US faced an understood existential threat, a lot of these internal conflicts would feel much less important. But instead, decades of religous demagogues have crafted the illusion of an existential threat to Christianity, so that Muslim diehards and athiest blowhards are grouped together in the minds of True Believers here. That makes no sense at all, of course. But it doesn't have to.

To engage in a bit of demonization of my own, it seems to me that the problem is not so much that we're on opposite sides, with all that comes with it, as that their side has abandoned our distinctly American ideals. It's a national, even a global, tragedy that so many Americans have no notion of the great dreams of the American experiment with constitutional democracy. They sold that birthright for a mess of "Christian nation" pottage, helped along by schools like Regent and its pre-K-12 feeder schools, which systematically twist and taint our history.

That's the part that both you and Lithwick are missing, publius. It's not enough to say, Regents produces qualified, smart lawyers. I'm sure it does, and that many of them, like Goodling, long to put themselves in the service of the public. But their idea of serving America has very little to do with preserving constitutional government. So you don't really have to go to great lengths to understand why Goodling would break the rules to serve the President. She probably never thought of the rules she was breaking as anything important, or even real. So why not break them?


BTW, before feddie or someone says that the left has people just as butt-ignorant of our national ideals, and just as willing to tear them down in the service of, say, environmentalism or ethnic advantage, of course we do. Difference is, ours aren't saying that G-d commands 'em to do it. You wonder where leftwing hostility to Christianity comes from, well, there's a big one. John Miller, imagine if Communism in the 30s in this country had been the mainstream Christian movement. How would you feel about Christianity?

That sense of siege is crucial, or at least it's one of the things I remember most strongly from my evangelical days. Evangelical preaching and writing, at least of the '80s-90s, was filled with the sense that there is a constant battle for the very soul of the nation, the West, and the world going on, and that true believers are losing it. It's difficult to convey the sense of almost-doomed urgent intensity to someone who lacks a belief in a great overall story to the world's events; it's something that people of most faiths (or of none in particular) will feel only at rare moments of crisis. Living in it is immensely stressful - and I think that this is a major contribute to the poor evangelical record on matters like divorce and child abuse. We're just not made to live in that much agitation all the time.

As Publius says, people who feel themselves always on the brink of total disaster have an easier time convincing themselves to cut this corner and that.

She probably never thought of the rules she was breaking as anything important, or even real. So why not break them?

And that, mes infants, is why some liberals are "hostile towards religion."

Because religion lends itself, better than anything else, to the notion that there's a Higher Law that invalidates all the other laws. The correllary is, of course, that since the Higher Law was handed down by the ultimate authority (i.e., God) there's no point in debating whether it's a good law, or even whether it makes sense - in fact, just asking the question means you're a heretic of some sort.

I really don't care what you believe in: God, Thetans, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It's when you insist on your ultimate and unquestioned authority taking predence over secular rule and law that I say "Hell, no!" - because secular laws have, or at least are supposed to have, some objective justification that can be proven (or disproven) by analysis. "Higher Laws" don't.

Speaking of Regent University, apparently Romney is giving the commencement address and the Times wants him to explain what that whole Mormon thing is all about.

Captain Ed doesn’t think he should legitimize Robertson by speaking there at all:

In my opinion, Romney should use the occasion to explain why he's speaking at Robertson's college at all. Robertson serves as the embarrassing old uncle that can't control his mouth at family reunions. His long history of political lunacy should have marginalized him years ago in the GOP, but candidates like Romney keep propping him up. Perhaps Romney can address Robertson's charges that federal judges are more dangerous than the 9/11 terrorists, or that the US should assassinate Hugo Chavez, because appearing at his venues keeps his media access alive for insane pronouncements like those.

That is how most of us on the right view Robertson – an “embarrassing old uncle”.

"John Miller, imagine if Communism in the 30s in this country had been the mainstream Christian movement. How would you feel about Christianity?"

There is a difference in my mind between Christianity and the mainstream Christian movement. So the question should be how I felt about the movement, not the faith. And you miss my point. I am talking about religion as a whole, not specifically Christianity.

CaseyL, you have a point, and what bothers me is when religious people talk as if they know what is right, that they Know that what they believe is 100% correct. I believe in what I believe, but I don't know that what I believe is correct.

At the same time, there are many secularists that protest current laws. And they tend to have that same air of certainty about them. Reality is that this will probably be an ongoing struggle as long as people tend to believe that they own property rights to what is good, right and ought to be. Which means forever.

CaseyL, I don't think there are very many people, religious or not, who believe adherence to the current law in their countries is the highest moral value.

Most people here are pretty ignoranct of christianity. So let me educate you on something.

Every time you see a conservative claiming to be a christian I guarantee you that they are merely republicans posing as christians.

It is impossible to be a christian, a real christian, while embracing and furthering conservative republican principals. It is simply impossible.

"It is impossible to be a christian, a real christian, while embracing and furthering conservative republican principals. It is simply impossible."

painting with an awfully broad brush, aren't we? All conservative principles are anti-Christian? Including opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic-stem-cell research? Come on, Ken. Surely you don't believe that.


I said absolutely nothing about "highest moral value."

The "highest moral value" cannot be defined, or quantified, with any specificity that doesn't intrude on other moral values; it therefore has no place in actual law-making.

(Example: Is feeding the hungry the highest moral value? If so, then why aren't you out there emptying supermarket shelves into a cart and heading out to the homeless shelter?)

I referenced the concept of a Higher Law - one that, by definition, supercedes all others and therefore nullifies all others... a "Higher Law" that generally concerns the unquantifiable and unprovable ("All good people go to heaven"); a Higher Law that can, in the service of these unquantifiable and unprovable "goods," mandate behavior that would otherwise be completely unacceptable - for instance, torture ("It is better to torture the body and save the soul than it is to lose the soul by forgoing torture.")

Posted by: urban coyote | April 09, 2007 at 12:14 PM

How can Christian conservatives be so hypocritical? Because so many of them have an "authoritarian personality" and worship whoever is in authority.

But i think reasonable Christians and other theists can, and do, reach a balanced sythesis. God the ultimate authority is worthy of our unflinching devotion, but his earthly representatives (especially the self-appointed ones!) are entirely fallible and subject to scrutiny. I mean, that's my point of view as a Christian who tries for intellectual honesty and open-mindedness. I'd hope it's other people's point of view, although i agree that lamentably the authoritarian strain in US evangelicalism right now is quite high.

Ironically, you'd think Protestants would be well-positioned to question earthly authority figures, given the history of rejecting Papal infallibility and all. US Protestantism is an alphabet soup of different denominations, and those schisms started someplace, so obviously someone along the way wasn't afraid to make waves. But these days, generalizing very broadly, it seems to me that US Catholics have more of a reputation for accepting or rejecting items on the smorgasbord. I recognize that I'm really painting with a very broad brush but that's interesting, no?

Does US Evangelicalism need a new Reformation? What would that look like?

Most people here are pretty ignoranct of christianity.

A statement that would be all the better with some proof or at least reasoning. For all you know, half of us are archbishops.

Trilobite-

You can call me Cardinal Feddie, thank you very much. ;)

CaseyL, are there no circumstances under which you'd take food from supermarket shelves? It seems to me that people have all sorts of good and bad justifications for violating laws, some of which are religious, some of which are not. Some of the justifications I might find convincing, some of them not.

And I don't think that the idea that the ends justify the means can get you into trouble is uniquely applicable to those who are religiously motivated.

So the question should be how I felt about the movement, not the faith. And you miss my point. I am talking about religion as a whole, not specifically Christianity.

Ducking the question much? OK, how would you feel about the movement? And, if you were not a Christian, would you as an outsider not tend to collate the two? If it's easier for you to imagine, what if the vast majority of the country were Hindu and the Hindi mainstream was communist?

As for your perception of hostility towards religion as a whole and not just Christianity, that's a little like saying that the John Birch Society showed a hostility towards non-capitalist economic forms as a whole, not just Soviet-style and Maoist communism. Or that the 1920s Klan objected to all dark people, not just American blacks. People express their ideas broadly, but react to what they actually see around them. We're in a country where the vast majority have always have called themselves Christian, when an American talks about religion, what do you think he's thinking about? Most atheistic diatribes I've seen may say "religion," but the specifics are all about Christian concepts and practice. Abrahamist at most. Harris wrote a "Letter to a Christian Nation," not to "a Religious Nation."

I hope you realize, by the way, that I'm not saying that people are right to despise Christianity however despicable the mainstream Christian viewpoint may be. Although an argument could surely be made that a movement is what it is in practice and not what some of its followers theorize, and that just as communists don't get to say, no, communism isn't bad, it just hasn't been tried, maybe Christians don't get to say that their religion isn't really like it always has been in practice. But I'm not going there, I'm just saying that any Christians who take offense that non-Christians react to the mainstream practice and not to the minority theory should look to the beam in their own eye.

In general I don't try to duck questions. And I really didn't see myself as doing such.

I really and truly do not try to collate a specific religion with what the majority of its followers adhere to. But being human I sometimes do. And since I wasn't around in the 30's, and therefore not impacted by the soicety then, I really can't answer your question. I can say, based upon my readings, that some religions have had a communist sense to them, and not necessarily in a bad way. But I won't go there.

And, btw, many of the arguments I have heard against religion may talk about Christianity in some particulars, but almost all of them (emphasis on the word almost) start by talking about the nonsensicalness of believing in a god, any god. We could get into a discussion of how one defines religion, but I really don't want to go there.

And I don't take offense when this religious or even Christianity bashing takes place.

...so obviously someone along the way wasn't afraid to make waves.

Making waves is great when you're railing against the establishment, much like early Christians were, say, against the corrupt Jewish hierarchy and the Romans, or early Protestants were against the Catholic Church. Once you become the establishment, it loses its luster.

Freddie, it is indeed impossidble to be a conservative republican and be a christian. It is impossible.

Let me illistrate the difference between christians and republicans:

When a madman recently killed a bunch of Amish shoolchildren the Amish forgave him, as christianity demands. They are christians.

When Bush had Karla Faye Tucker on death row he mocked her before he killed her.

Anyone who voted for Bush endorsed his action and is not a christian.

This is just one example. Pick anything else: torture, human rights, dignity, abortion, anything you want, you will always see that conservatives are using christianity for political purposes - they are not christians they are just republicans posing as christians.

CaseyL, are there no circumstances under which you'd take food from supermarket shelves? It seems to me that people have all sorts of good and bad justifications for violating laws, some of which are religious, some of which are not.

This has very little, if anything, to do with my comment.

I wasn't talking about breaking laws; I was talking about the basis for laws in the first place.

There is a difference between the philosophy of law-making and the philosophy of law-breaking that has to do with universality versus contingencies. Anyone can make a decent case for breaking some laws some of the time under exigent circumstances. However, only anarchists and nihilists would put forth a serious case for breaking any laws one wishes any time one wishes in any circumstance of one's choosing.

The reason that is so is that laws allow human society to function at all. How is that possible? Because laws regulate behavior, assign ownership of property, and offer structures for conflict resolution. The efficacy of such laws efficacy can be measured objectively. The fairness can be determined, and tweaked when necessary, objectively.

Basing laws on religion, and on nothing but religion, removes them from an arena where their fairness and efficacy can be determined, because "Higher Law" trumps fairness and efficacy.

I don't see why this is so hard to grasp. Perhaps, instead of seeing religiously-derived laws through the lens of whichever religion you profess, you could try seeing them through the lens of a religion you find distasteful.

I think abortion is a perfect place to engage with Feddie here: what tenet of Christianity says anything at all about the extent of the power of the state to regulate human reproduction? What tenet of Christianity declares that a doctor performing an abortion, or a woman undergoing one, should be punished by the state?

Thanks for a thoughtful response, john m., & sorry I was tetchy. I get peevish about the victimhood cult in today's evangelical world, but you were not espousing it.

...only anarchists and nihilists would put forth a serious case for breaking any laws one wishes any time one wishes in any circumstance of one's choosing.


Nihilists! F**k me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

"With respect to the more narrow Goodling question, Lithwick proposes an answer -- people like Goodling started mistaking Bush for God."

I don't think that is it. I pretty much agree with trilobite's first post on this thread--demonizing opponents is one of things that people do. I don't think it requires Goodling to start to mistake Bush for God. It requires that Goodling confuse "the Cause" with "good". She thinks the aim is so good that the methods of getting there are for the most part incidental. In many respects it is very similar to the semi-religious fervor which was once seen for Communism in Russia. The post-capitalist state is so desirable that all sorts of bad things can be justified to bring it about.

I'm not sure if there is any sense in trying to figure out precisely how many liberals are or are not hostile to religion, because it is not simply a question of percentages. I think there is a profound disdain for religion running thru the 'liberalism', as one can see from the Bright movement, and people, as is their wont, may or may not fall into step behind it.

Unfortunately, that disdain for religion not only feeds the Christian Conservative Right paranoia MREs, and permits a use of the Overton window when the media, for the sake of 'balance', puts on the 'Christian' viewpoint up, which usually ends up as someone like Bill Donohue, a process which ends up in having Dinesh D'Souza get trashed by Colbert.

Ironically, I think an underlying disdain of religion ends up getting rechanneled by the warmonger right in adding fuel in the WoT by raising the level of disdain for Islam and these are the folks most willing to come into comment sections and debate. Thus, an underlying rejection of religion tends to be taken for granted because the two sides fighting over it accept that point as a given.

"Basing laws on religion, and on nothing but religion, removes them from an arena where their fairness and efficacy can be determined, because "Higher Law" trumps fairness and efficacy."

Yes but religion isn't the only human concept that does this. It could be "Racial Justice" or "Anti-Colonial Action" or "Anti-Communist" or "A Sense of Egalitarian Fairness".

seb -- i agree with that re communism. also, to make it clear, my point about "mistaking bush for god" was more of a rhetorical point. i think mixing up "the cause" with "the good" is probably more accurate.

"I get peevish about the victimhood cult in today's evangelical world, but you were not espousing it."

So do I. At least that part of the evangelical world that does espouse it.

a process which ends up in having Dinesh D'Souza get trashed by Colbert.

just to note: Colbert is "devout" Catholic and teaches Sunday school.

Ken, I can't quite agree. Speaking as an outsider (Cardinal Feddie can correct me on matters of doctrine, I'm sure), it seems plain that no candidate for the Presidency in U.S. history has been a perfect Christian, so, by your reasoning, a citizen must either endorse non-Christian conduct, or refrain from voting. Is that where you meant to go?

@ Sebastian Holsclaw | April 09, 2007 at 04:20 PM

I agree that Goodling probably never literally mistook GWB for God, never literally would have held GWB's word to be a revelation that trumps the 66 books of the Bible, etc. Nothing that straightforwardly blasphemous.

But the broader problem that the Religious Right has largely conflated its own political power with societal righteousness. The natural corollary is to look at a [then-]popular politician who's led the "right" people to victory as a sort of vicar. Jesus didn't express an opinion on the Iraq war, but the Biblical basis for just war theory is pretty well-established so if our Godly president says this war needs to be fought then he must be right. Jesus didn't explicitly state tax policy, but some of Paul's writing kinda sorta support equality of opportunity instead of equality of outcome, so if the President says he's a compassionate conservative that's good enough for me.

I don't think anyone literally ever thought GWB was God, but many have seemed to view him as some sort of de facto priest, uniquely equipped to interpret God's will for the masses. No one would really call GWB a priest -- Evangelicals being convinced of the priesthood of the believer and all -- but effectively that's how they've treated him.

My point about D'Souza is the fact that he ends up in a place where he is arguing that fundamentalist in Islam have a point about the decadence of Western culture rather than as a jibe at Colbert, though Colbert's beliefs raise an important corollary, in that any culture that values sarcasm and iconoclasm like the left does is going to end up, to all appearances, as mocking religion.

All conservative principles are anti-Christian? Including opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic-stem-cell research?

I was unaware that those were "conservative" principles. "Christian" for very limited values of "Christian", perhaps, but not "conservative".

"Conservative" principles are more along the lines of "Them what has, gets", or "He who has the gold, makes the rules", or "I got mine, screw everybody else", or "I gotta gun and you ain't", or "My daddy's got money so I'm better than you". Hard to reconcile with that Yeshua ben Yousef character.

OCSteve: That is how most of us on the right view Robertson – an “embarrassing old uncle”.

Yet major candidates seek his blessing, and his abundant money. So, as long as that happens, I'm inclined to shrug off the protestations that Robertson is marginal, a character from the past, a diminishing influence. I see the guy and his pernicious institutions up close, and that's just not true.

Publius, where would you honestly rank Regent University among U.S. law schools? It's regarded as a clown college by law school students and professors that I know, but I'm open to being convinced they're just biased.

Colbert's beliefs raise an important corollary, in that any culture that values sarcasm and iconoclasm like the left does is going to end up, to all appearances, as mocking religion

yep. and that jumps right out when Colbert fans hear, for the first time, that he's a Sunday school teacher. there's quite a dissonance between the stereotypical Sunday school teacher and the kinds of humor he does. his Strangers With Candy character, for example, is pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect from someone who teaches kids about Jesus. of the people that i know who've learned about Colbert's faith, most have been like, "no way. really? so he's just, what, faking it on TV?" it really is hard to reconcile.

Wonkette turns her sights on Goodling. ouch.

"Yet major candidates seek his blessing, and his abundant money. So, as long as that happens, I'm inclined to shrug off the protestations that Robertson is marginal, a character from the past, a diminishing influence."

I suspect that is scary things from the outside, while realizing that the things people call scary aren't that important when seen from the inside. See for example the importance of ANSWER in anti-war organizing, or going the rounds shaking the hands of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

There's an aspect of evangelical culture that hasn't gotten a lot of attention from folks who know what they're talking about, but that seems relevant here. Evangelical reading of Scripture identifies a lot of heroic personas, and places a great deal of emphasis on the passages which talk about people being called and gifted for various missions: "for such a time as this" is a passage you'll hear a lot when evangelicals talk about responding to crises. There's Moses positioned all unawares to lead the people of Irsael out of Egypt, Joseph sold into slavery and then rising to save the nation from famine, Esther become queen and able to intervene in another time of need, and so on and on. This is quite different from the actually messianic role, in that all these are normal people, just with the precisely right gifts and circumstances to save the day. In theory it shouldn't be an occasion of pride to be one of their rank, but, well, pride is pride.

In addition, there's the separate idea that in a time of need, grace can make use of our failings as well as our strengths - to confound the wisdom of this world, as Paul put it. Madeleine L'Engle demonstrated the idea compassionately (as one would expect of her) in A Wrinkle In Time, in which one of Meg's faults, her stubbornness, is crucial to saving her family from the hive-mind of Camazotz. The principle can easily be extended too far, and an evangelical bent on defending Bush could come up with any of several rationales for Bush's obvious character failings, including "well, if it saves us now, then there's time to repent and repair it once we're off the brink."

When I was applying for jobs as an attorney, I reached out to people who graduated from my school, and similar schools (which would be service academies for undergraduate, and Rutgers for law school). As an attorney, I have made it a practice to help attorneys who graduated from my schools. It seems to be the system to get a foot in the door, and there is a pretty big industry to aid that system.

I have in fact had an interview with a hiring attorney who stated that people with a military background are too close minded to be effective attorneys (in the interview). I suspect that guy would have had the same response to someone from a religious school (my suspicion is that his problem really had to do with anyone interested in truth, rather than defending through any means available, because after working with him for a while, I was fairly disgusted).

So I don't see anything especially nefarious about hiring from your alma mater. It is how it works: you have something in common, and probably have similar views of the law. When you get a foot in the door, you should help those coming after you.

the passages which talk about people being called and gifted for various missions: "for such a time as this" is a passage you'll hear a lot when evangelicals talk about responding to crises.

This is a good point. I think another aspect of this culture is to expect crises to resolve themselves into narratives of overcoming, especially if you work hard and are virtuous.

Bruce Baugh: That sense of siege is crucial...

Amen to that, in a deeply depressing kind of way. I really do think that's the unspoken glue that's holding the Republican Party together: a mass sense of besiegement, of encroaching hordes who will defile all that's good and holy and ruin your family and corrupt the essential purity of your bodily fluids, or something like that.

[And ick you with gay, it now seems.]

I'm not saying that all Republicans feel that, mind, but it's the best explanation I've found for explaining the strange alliance of fiscal conservatives, foreign policy hawks and fundamentalist evangelicals we call the GOP. And it goes a long way to explaining the GOP's takeover by radicals: if you're feeling under siege you want someone strong, someone willing to bend the rules and Get Things Done, someone willing to fight back against the foe -- imaginary will do, though real is even better -- and you're going to be willing to overlook their failings. It's only natural. Which means that if someone cynical enough and unscrupulous enough realizes this... hello, modern Republican Party.

trilobite: that's a little like saying that the John Birch Society showed a hostility towards non-capitalist economic forms as a whole, not just Soviet-style and Maoist communism. Or that the 1920s Klan objected to all dark people, not just American blacks. People express their ideas broadly, but react to what they actually see around them.

That may be true generally, but doesn't explain the curious phenomenon of antisemitism in Japan, among others. I'm sure LJ knows more about it than I so I'll let him take it from here.

ken: Even if I agreed with what you write -- and I'm not sure that I do -- that is not the way to go about convincing anyone of it. Take a deep breath, write more carefully and try to make your point without needlessly antagonizing everyone.

Philip the Equal Opportunity Cynic: I don't think anyone literally ever thought GWB was God, but many have seemed to view him as some sort of de facto priest, uniquely equipped to interpret God's will for the masses.

I disagree. I think he's being regarded as a pre-Enlightenment monarch, as an embodiment of true divine right. He was appointed by God, quoth any number of evangelical preachers, he was divinely inspired to lead us in the War on Terror, he has the ultimate power to make or break laws, and so forth. He's basically Louis XIV with better hygeine.

Finally, to touch on a topic CaseyL and john miller raised: I've thought for a long time that the greatest sin of the evangelical movement is its elimination of doubt. [There's an old quote that I can never quite remember that runs something like "Faith without doubt is terror".] This obsessive need to prove Christianity, to prove its inerrancy, to prove the wonders of God, the "magic Jesus button" doctrine of salvation... it seems to me like overcompensation for the terror of what might happen if they're wrong. Of fear instead of faith. When you try to eliminate that, you eliminate the only true feedback mechanism we have to determine whether we're doing good things or bad, the only way we can curb the excesses of our zeal.

And doubt isn't just a fundamental human emotion, it's a cornerstone of science -- as skepticism -- and arguably Western civilization -- as a questioning of authority. Eliminating doubt necessitates a war on science, it demands a war on culture... not because they're different from religion but because they're fundamentally incompatible with an absolute certitude. This is no longer a political issue, it's something that strikes to the very core of their faith, or at least their theology, and it has to be destroyed.

None of the observations are original, mind, and I'm obviously painting with an enormously wide brush. [Heck, hilzoy did a paean to doubt here not that long ago.] I do think, though, that the first -- and only -- step that fundamentalist evangelism needs to make is to truly question their ways. And to be clear, I'm not saying that evangelicals are all self-absorbed dolts who have no sense of introspection, nor that questioning will cause them all to lose faith -- though I suspect more will than would care to admit it -- but that a culture so pervaded with certitude is a culture that's going to get hijacked by some very bad people for some very bad purposes.

I think another aspect of this culture is to expect crises to resolve themselves into narratives of overcoming, especially if you work hard and are virtuous.

That's another issue that I don't quite understand in modern conservatism, since it seems to thread through a number of different branches: the notion that I Am A Hero. Not that I could be a hero if the situation warranted, or that there's good work to be done that others might find heroic -- I have a buddy who's a volunteer firefighter, for example, and while I consider his actions heroic I think he'd just laugh in my face -- but that somehow I, right now, in my everyday life, am a hero. As if making time for your kids is something to be proud of, or that sticking to a budget is noble, or that writing blog posts is making a stand against terror. They're all hard and worthwhile, to various degrees, but heroic? The concept's become so debased and so Disneyfied -- Hometown Heroes! They're so AWESOME! -- that even when we talk about real heroes, e.g. WWII vets, we soften the edges of their sacrifice because, frankly, we can't deal with the real thing any more.

True story, as an aside: when I went to Normandy as a young lad, I had tears in my eyes looking at the Pointe Du Hoc. I was crying buckets when we went to the cemetary. Hell, I'm tearing up now just thinking about those crosses. Yet there hasn't been a "Greatest Generation" documentary that hasn't made me want to throw something at the screen because they take the heroism away from the heroes. Normandy, for example... it was cold that morning, bullets were whizzing through the air, people were dying left right and center, the soldiers had to charge up a fairly flat beach through barbed wire trenches while guns large enough to hit battleships over the horizon roared above them... I mean, that's the bloody point: the Normandy landings were terrifying. The men who fought there were heroes because it was terrifying. Because they could, and often did, die. Because the water was cold and the blood was warm and the shrapnel was hot and still they charged and climbed and won.

Heroism without the terror, without the terrible consequence of failure, isn't heroism. It's Hollywood Heroism. And it's crap.

There's nothing in my everyday life -- nor most any other middle-class yonk on the internet -- that compares. And yet, there's a certain section of people who think that it does. They used to exist in great numbers on the left, though they've dwindled almost to non-existence; they're rife on the right, though, and they're growing in numbers. If I had to guess at a cause, I'd say it's a confluence of three separate issues: the sense of siege mentioned above; the sense of purpose given in evangelical theology; and the sense of purposelessness of modern middle-class life, a kind of existential ennui that's been paradoxically sharpened by the blurring of the lines between heroic and mundane. To be blunt: why be a nobody living an ordinary life, when you can be a Hero and Make A Stand without actually doing stuff that real heroes do? As I said in the journalism thread, the illusion of heroism is so much more comfortable than the real thing, and so much easier.

But I've talked enough -- can you tell it's been a long f***ing day? -- so I shall leave this wonderful thread to those more eloquent and less verbose than I. Toodles.

Anarch: I've thought for a long time that the greatest sin of the evangelical movement is its elimination of doubt.

I read somewhere a while back that if the devil came to earth he would be a nice looking person who would take away all doubt from mankind--offer the yellow brick road, so to speak. Make it so very easy eliminate the need for self-reflection and debate and resolution. It will be all so easy, just do as he/she says. And with that the idea/concept of free will is eliminated.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that it is true.

I don't get political psychology. Why is it so opaque?

I don't think it's opaque at all. It's essentially the same as the individual kind. How is it not?

The invocation of Ashcroft as a professional is yet another example of the Overton window and slippery slopes to my mind. It comes as no surprise that Monica Goodling's web page was topped with a quote from the man himself.

"That's another issue that I don't quite understand in modern conservatism, since it seems to thread through a number of different branches: the notion that I Am A Hero. Not that I could be a hero if the situation warranted, or that there's good work to be done that others might find heroic -- I have a buddy who's a volunteer firefighter, for example, and while I consider his actions heroic I think he'd just laugh in my face -- but that somehow I, right now, in my everyday life, am a hero."

I think this isn't quite right. I think the actual role many evangelicals see themselves in is 'shieldbearer'--loyal, steadfast, longsuffering, aid to a good cause. The problem of course is when you are shieldbearer to the wrong general...

But I could be projecting, because I was talking with a friend of mine about how in modern literature it is difficult to see compelling portrayals of supporting characters who really seem them selves as supporting a primary character. Even among literary analysis of older works, the need to define multiple characters as 'heros' is annoying. (This came up through a discussion of the Lord of the Rings where apparently a number of people see Samwise as 'the real hero'. This comes from a deep misunderstanding of the dynamics of the characters. Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo are heros in the story. Elrond (hero from previous stories), Samwise and the rest may be heroic at times, but their function is in heroic support of the heros.

Agreed, Sebastian. Sam's actions are heroic and indispensable, but Tolkein wisely kept the focus on Frodo's moral struggle. One big problem w/ Jackson's rendering of the trilogy was that he got carried away with the appeal of Sam-as-hero, to the extent that Frodo nearly disappeared from the third movie. Inserting that cliche cliff-hanging scene at the end was the nail in the coffin.

But then, Jackson missed the moral dimension of the trilogy in general.

But I could be projecting, because I was talking with a friend of mine about how in modern literature it is difficult to see compelling portrayals of supporting characters who really seem them selves as supporting a primary character.

I'm reminded of a line from "Shakespeare in Love"...

WENCH: "What is this play about?"

NURSE: "Well, there's this nurse..."

Although perhaps you had to be there.

Thoughtful post and thread.

jrudikis wrote: "...I don't see anything nefarious about hiring from your alma mater......"

On its face, neither do I. But with regard to the specifics of Regent University and Pat Robertson's stated goal of eradicating the separation of Church and State and founding his university and employing it as a bootcamp and staging area for training attorneys and other specialists whose collective, disciplined mission is to effect that eradication from within the institutions and agencies of the U.S. Government is, in my opinion, unacceptable.

Look (now to the thread at large), all of us can argue in good faith to what extent the Founding documents of the United States are "informed" by the Judeo-Christian heritage and tenets (and we can disagree in good faith regarding specific issues like abortion, public religious displays, etc), but the goal of Pat Robertson and some within the Republican Party is to halt the discussion we have been having for 230 odd years in this country.

There will be no petition to a manmade institution that employs folks who believe, without doubt with a capital D, that only their God can be petitioned, and only by the faithful.

Nor do I desire the U.S. Government to be an arm of the Evangel.

I would react the same way if Madelaine Murray O'Hare started churning out graduates of a diploma mill for atheists and they began hiring each other en masse in the U.S. Government, or if Angela Davis started her own university with one major: Nationalizing All Private Property 101.

Note: if you believe that's what happened in the 1960s and the 1970s, then you're even more paranoid that I am and you vastly overestimate the organizational skills and discipline of the colorful Left.

The Robertson people, whom I'm sure are perfectly nice folks, are not hiring each other because they shared a fraternity or sorority membership, nor are they remotely similar to, say, William F. Buckley who, if he was a public servant, might hire fellow graduates of all religious denominations from Yale Law School.

One more point, of a more personal nature.
Both of my grandmothers were women of deep faith though different denominations. My neighbors, to one extent or another, are Christians. Many of my friends are church-going, good folks.

But they nearly all possess what I believe is the key ingredient of a diverse (may I use that word in its plainest sense without causing knees to jerk?) society: Doubt. And thus their faith possesses a certain humbleness and courtesy about how other folks choose to believe and what Death and Eternity have in store for them.

Not so with the several Robertson-like fundamentalists I've known and had discussions with. They are not humble or circumspect in their certain, literal reading of the Gospel. Let's leave my eternal fate aside, since I'm a liberal, agnostic hypocrite quaking in doubt. No, one of them told me that my dear, sweet, faithful grandmothers were, as we spoke, burning in hell.

There is something about that statement that doesn't work, unless you're hiding in a cave somewhere and certainly not working for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

You may start a church and not pay taxes. Fine. But stay out of my government.

So, I figure, the least I can do is wax a little sarcastic about such fair game and their beliefs. And I can get a little creepy chill up my spine, like I do when I watch the seedpods in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" get smuggled into the basements of folks turning in for the night, when I hear that so many office cubicles are occupied by Robertson graduates.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Well, there are moments in The Return of the King where Sam is a hero. Well, okay, one short period - when Sam thinks Frodo is dead, and realizes that as the only one of the Company left he has to take the Ring and go on to Mount Doom and destroy it. And he does. ("I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.") And this short period ends when Sam - the only Ringbearer ever to do so - gives the Ring back to Frodo. Sam isn't a hero before that, he's the perfect sidekick: and he isn't a hero after that, he's a heroic sidekick.

But briefly, yes, Sam is a hero - as all of the Company are, at some point. Boromir isn't, but in a way (in the book) Faramir gets to be the hero - the opportunity Boromir rejected.

Tolkien does make a distinction between Heroes in the mythological sense and the Ordinary Folks whom the hobbits represent. There's even a discussion between Sam and Frodo about it at some point, although without a copy to hand I'm not likely to get any of the dialogue right.

The Elves, Dwarves, and Men occupy some different world than the hobbits do; the former are more likely to be the stuff of epics, the latter of comic song.

Frodo, however, becomes a Christological figure, transformed by his suffering (and progressively more difficult for the reader to identify fully with). As that process deepens, Sam's role as "sidekick" verges into the heroic---but I do agree with Sebastian that Sam's heroism is more everyday, more metaphorical than grand and structural.

As for the shieldbearer in literature, did you consider the representation of wives?

Typepad thinks I am a comment spammer. Go over to TiO to see what I think, Mr. Thullen.

Also I'm waiting to hear from you about that other thing.

"This comes from a deep misunderstanding of the dynamics of the characters. Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo are heros in the story. Elrond (hero from previous stories), Samwise and the rest may be heroic at times, but their function is in heroic support of the heros." ...SH

A deep misunderstanding indeed. :)

It is important in in reading the books to recognize the class issues involved, because they were important to Tolkien. Frodo, Pippin, and Merry are from a higher social class than Sam. Frode is a country squire and Sam his gardener. Somewhat approaching nobility, Frodo, like the Prince who went to Iraq, acted because he had to, because it was expected of him, because he loved the Shire, because it was his duty. Pippin & Merry act out of adventurism, but also with the Ents and elsewhere are concious of duty. After the Ringwar, Pippin & Merry went on to further adventures and were buried next to Aragorn. Both also gave their Allegiance elsewhere than the Shire, thralls to other kingdoms.

Sam has little sense of duty, except to Frodo. Sam acts out of love and friendship. Sam is given the seeds, and rebuilds the Shire after the scourging. Sam becomes Mayor.

Tolkien was an expert on "heroes", Beowulf, and with personal experience of the officer class and ordinary soldiers.

Frodo eventually succumbed to the Ring. Only Sam (and Bilbo kinda, Galadriel's hubby, who gave his to Gandalf), possessed a Ring, The Ring, and gave it up willingly. This is the key scene of the story, and why Sam is the hero of LOTR.

Dutiful heroes preserve and destroy. As Frodo destroyed the Ring, as Aragorn ended the line of Numenor, as Gandalf caused the Elves to leave ME.

Lovers create, nurture, grow things.

As far as the topic goes, liberalism and the Enlightenment are in mortal opposition to anything I would call religion. Deal with it. I have much more sympathy for Goodlng and Dawkins than most in this thread.

Why pray toward Mecca 5 times a day? Why not 4 o 6? Why would Abraham kill Isaac?

No reason. Because authority so commands, and we submit. And so once Bush is accepted as authority, Goodling serves. This isn't rocket science.

Anarch on heroes: well said.

Yes but religion isn't the only human concept that does this. It could be "Racial Justice" or "Anti-Colonial Action" or "Anti-Communist" or "A Sense of Egalitarian Fairness".

Those causes certainly attract people who regard them as messianic concepts, but there is still a key, basic, fundamental difference between those and religion as political ideology.

Traditionally, the religious have connected their faith to worldly causes: racial justice to address very real, quantifiable discrimination; anti-colonialism against very real, quantifiable oppression by the colonizers; egalitarian fairness as a reaction to very real, quantifiable inequality.

What is fundamentalist Christianity about? What is the Christian Right interested in achieving?

Salvation and righteousness.

How do you determine which policies lead to salvation and righteousness?

Well, for one thing, you can't in any objective way, because the definitions of those things depend on which faith you practice, and which version of holy book you say is the "true" one. There is no real-world standard for "achieving Salvation," because - however much anyone may deeply and sincerely believe Heaven and Hell are real, factual places - they're not. The existance of either one is unproven and unprovable. So basing public, governmental policies on Salvation isn't just illogical, its irrational.

For another, the standards of righteousness have a way of changing. It was once a standard of righteousness to kill as many unbelievers as possible; it was once a standard of righeousness to destroy a culture right down to its historical record in the course of forcibly converting its people to an approved religion. To own slaves was considered righteous, even as other Christians were saying the opposite. To keep people of color from voting, owning property was once a standard of righteousness. To outlaw mixed-race marriage was once a standard of righteousness.

Now it's supposed to be a standard of righteousness to make war on Islam; and to keep gays from marrying or adopting children or even living in one's town; and to keep young people ignorant of birth control.

The common thread among all of those standards of righteousness is that, if you remove the religious justification for them, there's little or nothing left for them to stand on. Is there a real world reason to outlaw mixed-race marriage? For outlawing same-sex marriage? For saying "abstinence only" is a good policy for preventing unwanted pregnancies?

No, there isn't. Not only is there no real world reason for supporting those things, there are real world reasons to oppose them.

Racial justice, inequity, and so on are real, observable, quantifiable things. You might be able to argue they're desirable things - but if you take Biblical precepts out of the equation, you need to come up with factual reasons why they're desirable things. You need to come up with some rigorous, logical philosophical, historical, statistical argument.

Ditto the policies to address those issues. You might disagree with things like affirmative action, progressive taxation, the ADA, and such - but you need to defend your position with something more, something more real, than "because it says so in the Bible."

Oh, frak. I'm so so sorry. Someone please turn off the italics.

Please, Lord, italics off.

Anarch: "That's another issue that I don't quite understand in modern conservatism, since it seems to thread through a number of different branches: the notion that I Am A Hero.

Sebastian: I think this isn't quite right. I think the actual role many evangelicals see themselves in is 'shieldbearer'--loyal, steadfast, longsuffering, aid to a good cause. The problem of course is when you are shieldbearer to the wrong general...

Urgh. Thus is a goalpost moved.

I think Anarch is exactly right, and you see it all the time from the likes of Hugh "Working in midtown Manhattan is exactly like serving in Iraq" Hewitt, John "Those British pussies should've let the Iranians martyr them in service to the War On Islam I Mean Terror" Derbyshire, et al. The guys at Sadly, No! regularly have a field day with this sort of nonsense.

Incredible thread.

It seems that many Americans tend to forget that Fundamentalism was developed by conservative/orthodox Protestants in the early 20s/late Teens. The greatest threat to American Fundamentalists was not atheism, but moderate Protestants who were “modern” in their hermeneutics. Karl Jaspers, Rhineold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Martin Luther King Jr., Bonheoffer held to a “Modernist” interpretation of scripture.

Christians put Darwin in the schools. Show me the list of athiests that made that possible? Social Darwinism was embraced by many religious Protestants.

Many Fundies were Democrats (William Jennings Bryan was as Left as you can get, in the Democratic Party c. late 1890’s) and rejected Capitalist economic system that rewarded greed. While Fundies in the Republican Party thought Fundies in the Democratic Party should shut the Hell up!

Christians made Roe V. Wade possible. Only 10 percent of this nation claims to be atheist. Show me all the atheists in the Supreme Court who made Roe V. Wade possible.

Christians took prayers out of many public events. Many Protestants didn’t trust Jews and Roman Catholics with prayer, let alone Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and 7th Day Adventists.

I think the latest attempt by right-wing nationalists to revive history to paint a Christian solidarity in the United States is crazy. Mainline Moderates have always been the biggest threat to Fundamentalism.

Clicked on Orcinus by mistake but came up with this restrained take on Regent University as a result:

Orcinus">http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2007/04/my-regent-semester.html">Orcinus

As a matter of statistical likelihood, if you pick a random self-identifying liberal and a random self-identifying conservative, it's somewhat more likely that the liberal will be dismissive of religious faith. Emphasis on "somewhat". I think that's about as far as you can take the "liberals are hostile to religion" thing.

This is a big country, with lots of different kinds of people in it. We're not ever going to all be the same. We might as well get used to it. What a cliche, right? But, that's the reality. We really and truly might as well get used to it, because that's who we are.

Regarding Goodling, I think Sebastian has hit the nail on the head with this:

She thinks the aim is so good that the methods of getting there are for the most part incidental.

The issue is not whether Goodling thinks that she is going to bring about the kingdom of God through her efforts in the DOJ. Some folks might think that, and do absolutely wonderful things. The beliefs and aspirations that motivate people are really their own star to follow.

The issue is whether Goodling was willing to observe the rules that we've all agreed to live by -- which is to say, the law -- or whether she thought her particular motivations and goals were so uniquely important as to justify stepping outside the law.

I don't really care if someone went to Regent, or Liberty, or Patrick Henry, although contra jrudkis I would prefer that folks not use the DOJ as a jobs program for their alma mater. I don't care if they went to NYU, or Harvard. I don't care if they went to the state university around the corner from me. What I care about is that they do a good job, and that they are willing to respect the limits of their office.

Nobody should be disrespected for their religious beliefs, and nobody should expect special treatment for their religious beliefs. There are all kinds of people living here, and we all deserve our place at the table.

Thanks -

That was beautifully put, CaseyL. It's been something I've been trying to articulate for some time but could never quite jot down.

As a counter to Goodling, let me propose Lt. Colonel Stuart Crouch, profiled in the March 31 Wall Street Journal. Motivated by Evangelical conviction, he refused to prosecute Mohamedou Ould Slahi,a "sure death penalty case" in the words of the article.

Col. Couch refused to proceed with the Slahi prosecution. The reason: He concluded that Mr. Slahi's incriminating statements -- the core of the government's case -- had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law.

It was his faith -- what he heard in church (this being Falls Church Episcopal, a conservative, Evangelical congregation)-- that tipped the balance. Religious faith, even strong Evangelical faith does not necessarily lead to the corrupt thinking of a Monica Goodling; sometimes it can yield a fruit of conscience and righteousness that stands as a kind of beacon.

I would suggest this is one of those instances.

To Sebastian: there's a world of difference between regarding oneself as a shieldbearer to a general and a footsoldier in the War On Whatever. Or a vanguard of the proletariat, come to that. I suspect there are plenty of the former in the conservative movement, but it's the latter who are getting all the airtime.

Yes but religion isn't the only human concept that does this. It could be "Racial Justice" or "Anti-Colonial Action" or "Anti-Communist" or "A Sense of Egalitarian Fairness".

Seb,
This statement seems somewhat disingenuous. Of course, people can elevate any human belief over all others. That's obvious. The question is, "for what belief systems do normal people do that in practice?"

I assert that far more americans do so with Christianity than with any of the examples you listed. Now there is no way to know for certain what large numbers of people really believe in their heart of hearts, so I propose that as a proxy, we measure where people spend their time and money.

Many christains devote 10% of their income to their church. Can you show me an equally large group of people in America in 2007 that devote 10% of their income to eliminating racial injustice? Or anti-colonial action? Or a sense of egalitarian fairness?

Again, I'm not saying that there is literally no one on earth who strongly believes those things and puts up serious cash to but back their belief. But I am saying that the relative numbers are simply insignificant.

What do you think?

Mr. Harris, thank you for bringing up the case of Col. Couch. While I am appalled by the abuses of such faux-Christians as Ms. Goodling, I am uncomfortable with generalized Christian-bashing. True Christians, while not the majority in America, are fine and noble people. Would that all Christians were true to the ideals of Christ.

"To Sebastian: there's a world of difference between regarding oneself as a shieldbearer to a general and a footsoldier in the War On Whatever. Or a vanguard of the proletariat, come to that. I suspect there are plenty of the former in the conservative movement, but it's the latter who are getting all the airtime."

But we were talking about Goodling and people like her. I don't see any evidence that she sees herself as a hero, but she acts exactly like you expect of a shieldbearer.

Common Sense: "This statement seems somewhat disingenuous. Of course, people can elevate any human belief over all others. That's obvious. The question is, 'for what belief systems do normal people do that in practice?'

I assert that far more americans do so with Christianity than with any of the examples you listed."

On the left it is just more fractured. And frankly you can only make that last statement because you inappropriately throw together all the versions of Christianity.

Seb,

On the left it is just more fractured.

Huh? What are the specific beliefs that you allege people on "the left" have fractured their allegiance to?

From an economic perspective, I'm not sure this argument makes any sense. I look across this country and I see many many thousands of churches that in aggregate represent vast sums of capital, time, and energy. Infrastructure is expensive; buildings and maintenance and minister salaries are expensive. I don't see anything even close to that amount of economic activity in beliefs associated with "the left," even if you consider lots of causes on the "the left" together.

Seriously, what are you talking about? What specific things on the left garner so much cash, even in combination? As someone on "the left" who donates to his local church, I'm really confused as to what you could possibly be thinking here.

And frankly you can only make that last statement because you inappropriately throw together all the versions of Christianity.

Why on earth was that inappropriate? The specific argument that you made referred to the proportion of the population that elevate particular belifs above all others. You argued that religious beliefs were not the worst offender. In that case, talking about the aggregate behavior of christains in America seems pretty darn relevant. Can you explain why it is not?

At least, I think that's what you argued. I suppose you could have written your comments in the spirit of "there are statistically insignificant numbers of people who elevate non-religious beliefs in the same way," but I asume you were not trying to introduce a pointless statement into the discussion just to muddy the waters.

Focusing on the important point: "They are, quite literally, the dark side of the force."

There's a literal Force? Really? Literally?

@Sebastian at 5:28: I don't think so. People who pooh-pooh Robertson's influence are looking at him from considerably further away ("outside") than am I -- someone involved in Virginia politics.

"From an economic perspective, I'm not sure this argument makes any sense. I look across this country and I see many many thousands of churches that in aggregate represent vast sums of capital, time, and energy. Infrastructure is expensive; buildings and maintenance and minister salaries are expensive."

I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were applying your statements to ALL Christians. Our disagreement is rather deeper than I thought.

And I absolutely do think there are a statistically very signifcant number of people on the left who do exactly what you are accusing 'Christians' of doing--elevate their exalted sense of morality above the legal system.

"I don't think so. People who pooh-pooh Robertson's influence are looking at him from considerably further away ("outside") than am I -- someone involved in Virginia politics."

How important is Virginia politics in the scheme of the US right? I don't think it is particularly important, not particularly unimportant, but not particularly important either.

And I absolutely do think there are a statistically very signifcant number of people on the left who do exactly what you are accusing 'Christians' of doing--elevate their exalted sense of morality above the legal system.

Even if true -- a matter which is, um, yet to be established -- those people do not attempt to convince voters that there will be eternal metaphysical implications and/or punishment by the creator of the universe for not enacting those morals.

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