De-legitimizing Christians outside the evangelical tribe

Timothy Noah again expresses his frustration with how the “New York Times Mislabels ‘Christians’” — using the word to apply exclusively to Republican members of the evangelical tribe:

A 78-percent majority of Americans is Christian. Only about a third of them self-identify as evangelical, which is a very rough proxy for the Christian conservative minority that increasingly insists on being called, simply, “Christian.” Such totum pro parte synecdoche de-legitimizes mainline Protestantism, historically black Protestantism, and Catholicism, which account, combined, for most of the other two-thirds of all [American] Christians. The de-legitimization is why Christian conservatives favor it. Mainstream news organizations like the New York Times, ever-fearful of being branded anti-religious, have allowed themselves to be bullied into accepting the Christian right’s implicit suggestion that the only true Christian is a Christian conservative member of an evangelical or fundamentalist congregation.

The sentence I’ve bolded there is the key to why tribal Republican evangelicals have bullied reporters and editors into allowing them the exclusive rights to words like “Christian” or “evangelical.”

This is a deliberate, intentional attempt by a politicized faction of American evangelicals to do two things: 1) redefine “Christian” to mean “white evangelical Protestant,” and 2) redefine “evangelical Protestant” to mean “conservative Republican.”

This is inaccurate. And uncivil.

It’s deliberately insulting to every Christian who is not a white evangelical Protestant and to every white evangelical Protestant who is not a conservative Republican. The latter group is not a small category. Millions of white evangelical Protestants voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Millions of them. Millions of us. More than the combined total populations of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, the Dakotas, Vermont, Wyoming, Rhode Island and West Virginia. But for the most part, the fundraisers and vote-herders of the religious right have succeeded in getting the media to play along with the weird idea that these millions of people do not exist.

The de-legitimization Noah describes is the attempt by the self-appointed bishops of the religious right to exclude those millions from Christianity — and to prevent the remaining majority of white evangelical Protestants from being able to imagine that voting for anyone other than who they’re told to vote for is even a possibility.

The power of these power-brokers depends on their being able to claim that they speak for all evangelicals — and for all “real” Christians. The very existence of Christians who are not white evangelical Protestants or of white evangelical Protestants who are not right-wing Republicans undermines their claim to speak as the voice of God and of all of God’s real people.

Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research illustrates — partly intentionally — the de-legitimization strategy in a post titled, “Our Leading Presidential Candidates: Self-Professed Christians Whom Many Christians Don’t Believe Actually Are Christians” (via):

Both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney profess to be Christians, but that profession is widely disbelieved. Romney is doubted primarily because he is a Mormon, while President Obama is doubted for a variety of reasons.

A “variety of reasons”? Tell me more, please, about this “variety of reasons”:

President Obama has a compelling testimony that would make an evangelical proud … yet his positions and policies have left many evangelicals questioning the sincerity of that belief.

Ah, OK, so the “variety of reasons” has to do with “his positions and policies” that are apparently “un-Christian.” And what would those be, exactly?

Stetzer doesn’t say. Stetzer doesn’t seem to think he even needs to say.

And for LifeWay Research’s epistemically captive audience, he doesn’t need to say anything more. They know. Obama is not part of the tribe. Obama is not a Republican, so therefore he is not a white evangelical Protestant. And Obama is not a white evangelical Protestant, so therefore he is not a real, true Christian. “For a variety of reasons.”

Here, again, is the opening paragraph of Jonathan Dudley’s Broken Words:

I learned a few things growing up as an evangelical Christian: that abortion is murder; homosexuality, sin; evolution, nonsense; and environmentalism, a farce. I learned to accept these ideas — the “big four” — as part of the package deal of Christianity. In some circles, I learned that my eternal salvation hinged on it. Those who denied them were outsiders, liberals, and legitimate targets for evangelism. If they didn’t change their minds after being “witnessed to,” they became legitimate targets for hell.

The belief that anyone who does not believe in “the big four” is an “outsider” and cannot be allowed to call themselves Christian is inaccurate. It is untrue — just as each component piece of the big four is untrue.

Embracing untruth as the very definition of one’s faith and the core of one’s identity is not a recipe for peace of mind.

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  • Helena

    If these people insist on calling themselves evangelicals, let them. Since you have nothing to do with them, call yourself something else. If they are what Christians are or what Baptists are, you ought to consider being something else. You don’t have much hope of changing them to be like you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569235898 Nicole Resweber

     Extend that logic to any group YOU are a part of, though, Helena. Would you be chased out of a part of your identity because some people are claiming it to mean things you disagree with?

    Being able to claim the word “Christian” or “evangelical” means something much in the same way being able to claim “human” or “Democrat” or “scientist,” or any other group means something. Group identity is an integral part of personal identity for many (I would say most) people.

    The argument I think Fred is making is that they are NOT what Christians are or what Baptists are. They are SOME of what Christians, Baptists, Evangelicals, etc. are, and they are using political pull to try to change the meaning of those words to serve their definition and purposes.

  • Tricksterson

    This is why I still call myself a libertarian when the people who are most identified in the public mind with “libertarianism” support thigs like corporate welfare, or, to a lesser extent anti-choice or anti-gay marriage (Yes, I’m looking at you Ron Paul on those last two) positions.

    That is when I’m not outright waving the black flag of anarchy and/or nihilism.

  • Helena

    its time Fred faced up to facts and stopped calling people not Real True Christians.

    1. Most Christians, or at lease most of the most intensely Christians ones, are like the ones he denounces, hypocritical, lying, racists and misogynists. Fred does an excellent job of describing what these people are like. The rest simply go along with an institution they learned in childhood but don’t really know or care that much about. That what’s they are and Fred can’t change it by wishing.

    2. Fred needs to get over this whole my thing. He won’t say what he actually believes, but here is the truth he would be better off accepting: when people die, that is the end of them–there is no life after death, no judgement, no salvation, no damnation; the supernatural, including gods, does not exist; there is no magic; prayer does exactly nothing outside of the consciousnesses of the one praying; Jesus was an ordinary human being, and his moral teaching, though relatively admirable, was inferior to others (e.g. Socrates). Once you realize that all of that is false, what is left of Christianity? the odd quilting bee in the church basement? He needs to grow up and stop believing in fairy stories.

  • AnonymousSam

    I believe it’s a rule of thumb that when you go into the religious blogs here on Patheos, you agree to respect the beliefs of those within it whether you agree with them or not. I do not believe you have shown respect to Christians in this post, much less Fred.

  • Worthless Beast

    You need to grow up and stop telling people what they’re “allowed” to believe in.  Being a grownup means that you accept that people are different from you and believe different things than you do.  And some of us like “fairy stories.”

  • Tricksterson

    Especially if we got them from the fairies themselves. ;>

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira


    Jesus was an ordinary human being, and his moral teaching, though relatively admirable, was inferior to others (e.g. Socrates)

    Uh. How much do you know about Socrates? Among other things, he wasn’t a big fan of democracy. Also, he believed in the immortality of the soul, believed himself to be an emissary of the gods, and thought the goodness or lack thereof in any person was due solely to the gods.

    If you want to claim that one historical figure’s moral teachings were somehow objectively better than another’s, maybe get a bit more acquainted with what the historical figures actually taught.

    I happen to believe that Jesus was a human being, though definitely not an ordinary one, and that he was conceived from one human being having sex with another human being. However, I would not presume to claim to know as “fact” that there is no afterlife, etc., nor would I be so presumptuous as to tell someone the religion they believe in, with a 2000+ year history, was a “fairy story.” That’s ignorantly dismissive of both religion and stories. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    God you’re annoying.

  • Beroli

    its time Fred faced up to facts and stopped calling people not Real True Christians.

    It’s time you faced up to facts and stopped–no, too easy.

    I wonder, I truly do wonder, if you’re seriously under the impression that if you repeat your viewpoint enough times it will overwhelm everyone here with its rightness instead of getting its usual barrage of overripe fruit, or if you’re trolling.

  • AnonymousSam

    I wish I could tell the difference. That’s just the way some atheists think. There are plenty of Christians who do the same thing on their blogs too. What’s worse is when there are absurd extremes on both sides who alienate everyone on that side…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    He won’t say what he actually believes, but here is the truth he would be better off accepting:….

    Since I’m sure someone has developed a Slacktivist drinking game, how many drinks are posts like this one worth? They don’t come up every thread, but they are a common enough recurrence to be predictable.

    Though I suppose since Helen did not include the “Fred, I don’t understand why you claim to believe these things when you are demonstrably intelligent enough that you must secretly agree with me as any intelligent person would” clause usually found in such posts.

  • LouisDoench

     Thing is, whilst I find her (I assume her?) behavior boorish and out of line, I don’t completely disagree with her sentiment. We’d love to have a schmart guy like Fred on Team Atheist. Fuck, Fred would be  a rockstar on Team Atheist.  (Fred, Come to the Dark Side… we have beer and we sleep in on Sundays) But part part of the reason I come here is that I agree with so many other things the Fred believes that I’m willing to give him a pass. He’s a happy healthy believer who fosters a friendly environment for discussion. Why would I ruin that by being rude? My hypothesis is that the “Helena’s” we get here from time to time are going to tend to be young, excited and just in the first stages of coming out as Atheist (Check some stuff on deconversion stories from fellow Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist). It can be a real heady time and you can get the feeling that you can just “save” everybody if only they finally heard the argument that convinced you. Probably very similar to the “born again” experience.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    My hypothesis is that the “Helena’s” we get here from time to time are going to tend to be young, excited and just in the first stages of coming out as Atheist (Check some stuff on deconversion stories from fellow Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist). It can be a real heady time and you can get the feeling that you can just “save” everybody if only they finally heard the argument that convinced you. Probably very similar to the “born again” experience.

    “You can change your beliefs and be an arsehole just like me” isn’t a very attractive pitch from any side of the fence.

  • Worthless Beast

    I think what people like Helena need to learn is approach and tact.  What I read into the post was exactly what you surmised: She doesn’t *understand* how someone whom she thinks of as *at least as smart as she is* can believe in things she finds assinine. A “You’re too smart for this, dammit!” reaction.  So she start talking about “lying” as in she thinks “the smart guy can’t posssibly really believe something only stupid people believe, so he must be LYING to ingratiate himself to people or lying to himself because he’s cowardly/being immature.”

    What people like Helena need to understand is that sometimes, people you know are smart can, indeed, believe in things you, or even a lot of people think are stupid.  Here’s a cool list I read yesterday of revered scienists who believed weird things: http://www.cracked.com/article_19777_5-great-scientists-who-believed-wildly-unscientific-things.html

    Beliefs are strange and they aren’t always a matter of logic.  For instance, I think athiesm is immensely logical. It takes none of that “faith” crap to believe in the material world you see around you, yet, I’m not an athiest. I don’t know if it’s the “call of God” on my heart or if it’s just unfortunate genetics and bad brain-wiring that makes me feel like something immaterial “is,” but I’ve never been able to snap my fingers and “just stop believing right the fuck now!” for anyone. In fact, people who approach me that way (even online) make me not want to. I don’t want to “snap to” to please people like that.  I figure that people who need the world to “snap to” for them have more insecurity issues than I do (which is saying something). 

    Tell me to “grow up” and you’ll get me talking about all the YA novels, animated programs and videogames I like. I plan to stay 12 forever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    She doesn’t *understand* how someone whom she thinks of as *at least as smart as she is* can believe in things she finds assinine. A “You’re too smart for this, dammit!” reaction.  So she start talking about “lying” as in she thinks “the smart guy can’t posssibly really believe something only stupid people believe, so he must be LYING to ingratiate himself to people or lying to himself because he’s cowardly/being immature.”

    Yep. The mindset seems to be “my view on things is the ONLY conclusion that an intelligent, well-informed, and well-intentioned person could reach. Therefore anyone who claims a different view must be stupid, ignorant, ill-intentioned, or simply lying.”

    Since spending any time at Slacktivist makes it clear that Fred is intelligent, well-informed, and well-intentioned, people with that mindset and a different view frequently accuse him of lying about his beliefs because they simply cannot conceive any other explanation given the evidence at hand.

  • Worthless Beast

    It happens from the other side, too.  I don’t recall seeing it too much here, but other Prog. Christ. blogs I visit tend to attract them: The “How can you truly believe in/have a relationship with God/Christ, have read the Bible, take faith seriously, etc. etc. and be SUPPORTIVE of LGBT, compassionate to people who’ve had abortions, not-Republican, whatever!  Stop lying!/Go join the atheists and/or pagans you false-believer who thinks diffently about politics than us!” 

    Which is exactly what the main post is about…

    It seems like a lot of people honestly think “How can someone have the brains/heart/logic/faith/ethics/morality that I have and not think exactly like me in all ways?”

    Personally, I don’t have paitence for people who think the world would be perfect if everyone though exactly as they do, nor for people who think you’re just “one step below being a full human being” for not thinking like they do on a wonk issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    It happens from the other side, too.

    Eee-yup. I think it has far more to do with certain mindsets, certain patterns of thinking or viewing the world and regarding others, than anything to do with what the religious/political/philosophical/whatever ideas are.

    It’s an inability to consider that one might be wrong, and a lack of empathy in being unwilling or unable to consider why another person holds different views.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     It seems passing strange to me that someone could read Fred’s writing, and get that he’s intelligent, well-informed, well-intentioned, and compassionate, but somehow miss that he is *honest*.

  • Michael Pullmann

    The response to that is the Michael Bolton dictum: “Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks!”

  • http://waskommenmag.tumblr.com/ Kylejacobritter

    “Since you have nothing to do with them…”

    This simply isn’t true. Christians have a mandate to love their neighbors. Even other Christians.

  • Lawrence

    The reason why this matters is what Nicole said below but also the damage teh evangelical set has done to the “brand” of Christianity particularly among young people.  Young people, all the way up to 40, view the religion as a hateful sect of political zealots who care about politics first and the love of Christ, oh, about 200th.  Which is a sad, sad thing. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I find it particularly obnoxious how such fundamentalists with all the microphones at their disposal insist on forcing moderate Muslims to ‘own their extremists’ even as they take great pains to portray themselves as the only ones with a direct phone line to God and the rest of those wishy-washy mainline Christian groups can all just sod off.

    I suspect such fundies would be highly insulted if any mainline Christian group intended to ‘own their own extremists’.

  • http://trogholm.panshin.net/ Cory Panshin

    Fred — I see you saying over and over that Christianity is facing an existential crisis.  That it’s being taken over by Ayn Randists and people whose theology would have gotten them labeled as heretics in any era that still took its theology seriously.  But if that’s true — and if you *believe* that to be true — then simply holding up signs saying “We’re Christians too” isn’t going to cut it.

    It’s not my fight, or even a fight I completely understand.  I was raised Jewish agnostic (what my father called “the fourth branch of Judaism”), so I was aware from an early age that being Jewish had nothing to do with beliefs but was partly a matter of ethnic heritage and partly a particular style of engaging with philosophical questions.  From my perspective, all these arguments among Christians look like nothing so much as an argument between Trotskyites and Maoists over who are the real Marxists.

    But it’s a problem that you have to deal with.  And simply saying “I’m a Christian and so are you” in response to someone who is insisting “I’m a Christian and you’re not” — at the same time that you’re painstakingly documenting how the “you’re not” folks are marking themselves by their words and deeds as not being followers of  Christ — would seem to put you in the middle of an insoluble paradox.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    From my perspective, all these arguments among Christians look like nothing so much as an argument between Trotskyites and Maoists over who are the real Marxists.

    The Trots.

    (Couldn’t resist)

  • biomuse

    I think this misses the point. Fred doesn’t attempt here to resolve any paradoxes about who “real Christians” might actually be, as that is oblique to the subject being treated, which is why large media outlets might allow themselves to be cowed into a *particular* narrow working definition of “Christian,” and to whose benefit that odd behavior might redound.

  • Jer_00

    But look Fred – you’re not going to get anywhere by saying “you guys are Christians and we are Christians too so stop being inaccurate”.

    Throughout ALL of Christian history, various groups of Christians have vied to be THE group of Christians.  Their tactics involved each group denouncing the other group as “Not Real Christians” (also known as “heretics”).  Ask the Albigensians or the Marcionites or the Arians how well the “but we’re Christians too” argument worked out for them in the pages of history.

    You want to play this game, then you need to denounce THEM as “Not Real Christians”.  Calling for the firing of Richard Land is all well and good, but at what point do you come right out and say that the organization he’s a leader of is not a “Real Christian” organization?  At what point do you denounce them as “Tools of Satan”?

    And the answer is “never”.  Because you’re a good-hearted person, and you believe in pluralism and that people should be allowed to find their own paths in life.  And I have infinite amounts of respect for that.  But they’re going to own the label “Christian” before all is said and done, much as the conservatives in the Roman Catholic hierarchy and laity have snatched the label Catholic away from the liberal Catholics, and much how the “evangelical” label has already been lost.  Much as you might hate that fact, it really is true – it would be really hard to change the associations that the word “evangelical” has with the younger generation right now – the association with hateful, spiteful, two-faced people who use their religion as a weapon to hurt other people.  The word “evangelical” is going to be poison in another 20 years time as the current generation and the next grow up, and if the liberal Christians don’t start seriously fighting back, the word “Christian” is going to follow suit.

    As with Cory above I don’t have a dog in this fight – other than the fact that I too believe in pluralism, and I’d like to see the liberal Christians start fighting back, even though I know their instinct is to turn the other cheek and live and let live…

  • twoforjoy

    I don’t think the problem with liberal Christians is that they want to turn the other cheek; it’s that they lack the structures–media outlets, political organizations, etc.–that the Christian Right has.  I mean, that’s the problem liberals always have, right?  Where’s our Fox News?  Where’s our Rush Limbaugh?  

    Plus, most liberal Christians don’t fight back as Christians, but as liberals.  They are interested in coalition building and inclusiveness.  And, let’s face it, there’s a whole lot of people inclined to work on liberal causes who would run the other way if they knew Christians were involved.  So I’d venture to guess that many if not most Christians involved in left-wing causes and working against the Christian right don’t do so explicitly as Christians, and there’s probably a lot of good, practical reasons for that.

  • Worthless Beast

    Exactly.

    You go “liberal” and most outspoken Christians panic and say “You aren’t really a Christian.”  Then, if you try to approach liberals, they don’t want you to have any kind of Christ-connected belieffs. Say you’re a “liberal Christian” the liberals say “Ew, go away! Go thump your bible! Eeeeeevil!” We aren’t wanted by either. We don’t exist for either. Stereotypes are very comforting.  This is why I feel loads of sorrow for gay Christians, for instance. They must have things especially hard.

    I hang out on John Shore’s blog a lot, under my usual name that I stopped using here because I once put my foot in my mouth bigtime (I didn’t think I’d be listened to under my usual name after that, nor did I think any sincere apology would be accepted since people were angry, so I started using another name here and just stuck with it). Anyway, the folks who hang out at Shore’s blog seem to have this adorable idealism about them – a “taking back Christianity.” While I share in the attitude of love, I kind of thing us “Unfundamentalist Christians” are doomed….

    Then again, maybe that’s the point of Christ’s spiritual kingdom – it’s never going to happen in a world that worships power. Those who are more about love than power will always be trampled underfoot and pushed to the margins.

    We do have Stephen Colbert, but, again – he’s not seen as a warrior for liberal Christendom or Catholicism because when he’s not satirizing, he’s just too *inclusive of everyone,* not to mention actually *loved* by non-believers, so he just won’t be seen the “Christian warrior” that is demanded.

  • Daughter

    Ya know, for all of the right wing attacks on Bill Clinton–a Democrat who wasn’t on board with the “big four” of evangelical Christianity, and who, unlike Obama, wasn’t faithful to his wife–I don’t think any right wingers ever questioned his Christianity. So what makes Clinton different than Obama? Hmmm…..

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

    Bill Clinton’s Southern Baptist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

     Not that the Right Wing is not virulently racist (because Oh Good Lord is it ever!), but if Bill Clinton had been raised by a non-Christian before becoming a Christian after college, I have no doubt that his enemies would have accused him of not really being a Christian just as they do with Obama. Clinton’s biography simply didn’t give them that  opening.

  • stePH

    Clinton is a southerner?

  • LL

    Living in Texas, I’d have a pretty hard time finding a self-described evangelical Christian who isn’t also Republican of the sort we despair about here. Like it or not, this is the group people assume you are aligned with. Expecting them to change to suit you (or to stop claiming to represent Christianity, or at least the evangelical part of it) is probably not going to do you much good. You people obviously need better PR. Or any PR at all. I’m assuming you all are spending  money on actually helping people, rather than on lavish mega-churches and PAC money for Republican politicians. It’s not really fair or just or right that it’s much easier (and usually more lucrative) to be a colossal asshole than to be a decent person. Something religion in general does not seem to have made much headway against. 

  • twoforjoy

    I am not an evangelical.  I’m a mainline Protestant.  But, I live in an inner city, and I know plenty of evangelicals, both white and black–who would agree on theological matters with any Texas evangelical out there–who are not political conservatives or Republicans.  In fact, I’m not sure I know, in real life, any evangelical Christians who are conservative Republicans.  Now, of course, my sample is skewed.  I mostly know evangelicals under 40.  Most are college educated.  Most are choosing to live in an impoverished urban area because they are concerned about issues of poverty and racial reconciliation.  But, they do exist, and I really don’t think saying “They should just accept evangelicals are assholes and leave” is fair.  Especially given that I tend to think that many under-40 evangelicals–especially urban and/or non-Southern ones and/or non-white ones–are more similar to the people I know than to the Republican Right crowd.  

    Part of the reason, I think, that these right-wing evangelical leaders are so desperate to define the term is because they know that their time is quickly running out. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if, in 20 years, the kinds of evangelicals I know, or that Fred represents, are far more representative of evangelicalism in general than today’s Christian Right leaders.

  • JoyfulA

    In the Bush era, the United Church of Christ, not being able to get so-called earned media, made commercials and paid for network broadcast time. But the networks wouldn’t take our money; they said our Bouncers ad (standing outside a church and turning away “undesirables”) was divisive and didn’t meet their standards.

    It isn’t easy to get a megaphone.

  • AnonymousSam

    A lot of things don’t make the standards of a broadcasting agency. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that was a bad commercial.

    It comes as a mild surprise to hear that it was rejected, but not entirely. If you want an exercise in ridiculous standards, try publishing an advertisement for atheism. It doesn’t matter what the contents are. At all. A recent advertisement consisting of nothing but the wordAtheists” was rejected due to being “too controversial.” Another was rejected from a theater advertising rotation due to “complaints from Christian customers.”

    I guess the bottom line is, if you’re advertising that other ways of thinking are out there–regardless of what they are–then they don’t want anyone to hear it. They’re too busy holding to the illusion of solidarity, at the cost of denying what that whole first amendment thing is about.

  • MikeJ

    Why complain about the NYT when the site that hosts this very blog  puts this blog in a category other than evangelical?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

     If you think it’s ironic that Patheos does not consider this blog by a self-described evangelical to be evangelical enough to put on the evangelical channel, consider the fact that most evangelicals probably wouldn’t consider all the bloggers who were on the actual evangelical channel to be evangelical because by blogging at Patheos, they’re consorting with non-Christians and even pagans and atheists!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Why complain about the NYT when the site that hosts this very blog puts this blog in a category other than evangelical?

    This. Seriously, Patheos admin, when are you going to show respect for “progressive Christianity” (and evangelicals and Catholics, for that matter)?

  • Donalbain

     Why have it in ONE section anyway? OK.. so Fred is a progressive Christian, so it makes sense to have him in that section. But he is also an evangelical Christian, so why not have him in THAT section as well. This is the internet. Not a shelf in a library. It would be easy for Patheos to have Fred in both of the sections if that is what they wanted. But it isnt. They want to keep their little fences up. To be in the Catholic section you have to agree with that vile excuse for a human being, the Anchoress. To be in the Evangelical section, you need to be a right winger.. progressive Christianity is their section for the “leftovers”.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Exactly. I hate it, and it doesn’t speak well of the Patheos admins’ commitment to the vision they promote.

    I’ve looked through about a third of the blogs in the Catholic section, and they were overwhelmingly filled with (mostly men) freaking out about abortion with no equivalent freaking out about poverty and injustice, as well as bitching at Obama/”liberals”/”elites”. ARGH.

  • caryjamesbond

    What others have said. 

    I too, have no dog in this fight- but part of a group identity is defining who isn’t in the group. This doesn’t have to be cruel, or dogmatic- I wouldn’t  be offended if a rabbi said: “I’m a Jew and you are not.”   There are things that define someone as Jewish, and I meet none of those criteria.  

    Are there things that define someone as Christian? These people think there is. They’ve got a nice, neat list of four things. 

    Four things that you argue are not only tangential to the message of Christ, but in complete opposition to it. 

    Fine then. These people are not Christians. Q. E. D.  If I go around shooting people and say it’s because Gandhi wanted me too, I’m not just a bad follower of Gandhi. I’m in complete opposition to everything he stood for.  I’m the Anti-Gandhi. 
    They have no problem defining you that way. Simply put- all else being equal, the prize goes to the one that wants it more.  And they want it enough to condemn you to hell.  They want it badly enough to lie to themselves and others, every single day. You want it enough to suggest that maybe, in Christian charity, they could let you SHARE the label they trample on with every breath. Jesus was big on hugs and love and fluffy bunnies.  Jesus also drove the money changers out  of the temple with a whip, and told people they were going to hell. If you don’t want to get squeezed out- you’re gonna have to throw a few elbows.  These people are taking your Heavenly Father’s holy church and turned it into a den of thieves and liars. I don’t think Christ’s response would be more ecumenical councils.  

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira


    These people are taking your Heavenly Father’s holy church and turned it into a den of thieves and liars. I don’t think Christ’s response would be more ecumenical councils.

    I love this.And yeah, Fred, as MikeJ says, the very site you’re on does not put you in the “evangelical” category. Maybe start with Patheos, rather than the New York Times?

  • AnonymousSam

    The problem with Christianity and the No True Scotsman fallacy is that there is significantly less solidarity between Christian groups than between Republicans. A hundred disorganized voices with differing messages will not be heard over a crowd of a thousand voices shouting in unison.

    Even on a lesser scale, though, every time the Westboro Church organizes a protest to heckle a grieving family at a funeral, I wonde how in God’s name they’re allowed to get away with it. Forget legal recourse — where are the Christians rallying to drown out their message of hatred and filth with one of love and acceptance? I have no doubt that it happens, but fifty, a hundred, even five hundred Christians saying so is not nearly enough. It’s not even the tip of an iceberg. If about 75% of this country self-identifies as a Christian of some kind or other, 74% of the country needs to tell that 1% of antiChrists to bugger off.

    It doesn’t happen. It should, but it doesn’t. And that’s why Republicans are allowed to represent Christianity. The 1% is representing the 75%, and the 75% isn’t being nearly loud enough when they say that this representation is inaccurate.

    Unless it’s more accurate than they want to admit. Republicans get elected into office somehow

  • Worthless Beast

    The problem with Westboro is kind of the opposite of what’s being talked about here.  This post seems to be about the Silent Majority being actively silenced while Westboro is a stark minority that happens to be very loud and get publicity because they are outrageous.  I really hate it when people bring them up as “an example of Christianity” of *any* kind because, frankly, a modicum of Interents-research will tell you they’re only about 71 (something like that) strong in numbers, some of those are children, and they’re all mostly relatives of the cult leader, Fred Phelps.

    A little bit of research will also point out that Fred Phelps was extremely absuive to his offspring, which is why it’s not surprising that they’re fearful adults today. Very few members escaped the family. (One of them speaks at Atheist rallies now).  

    They also get their money and basically survive off of getting people angry enough to assualt them or to try to level laws against them – lots of lawyers in the family who are very good at playing the lawsuit game.   The reason why I, personally, have not marched picket against them is not only because of them not being in my vicinity at an opportune time and the very real fear that I’d lose my cool and wind up in jail for physical assault. (If they ever protest a funeral at the cemetary I live across the street from, me in jail is probably going to happen).

    Contrary to “Christians implying they agree with the cult by not protesting them” – there are loads of counter protests, many of them hilarious. (And some of the crowd no doubt would identify themselves as Christians and, if I’m not mistaken, of the “love fest” counter protests have happened on church grounds).

    Lastly, as an article I once read stated – bringing up WBC is a cheap-shot.  People like to compare themselves to others, “I’m an athiest/christian/pagan/whatever, so I’m better than THOSE people.”  WBC is so easy, using them for this is almost like using Nazis. You don’t have to do any good in the world to be better  than WBC. You an sit on the couch all day eating Cheetoes and not caring about anyone and you’re already better than WBC. If you think “WBC = All Christians” you’re sadly mistaken, but probably inclined to publicize them as “Christian examples” so you don’t have to do any actual work to be “better.”

  • AnonymousSam

    Does there being so few of them mean they can be permitted to continue doing what they’re doing with so little opposition? 73 versus ~230,578,018 (74% of current US population). How many actively decry what the Westboro Church does? … well, about 20 might show up and wave a sign that says “GOD HATES FAQS,” but several of those are atheists and Pastafarians and they are not doing anything to aid Christianity by doing so.

    My point is, it doesn’t matter if the 74% oppose what the 1% is doing in their hearts if they do nothing to prevent them from continuing to do it and doing nothing to make up for it after the fact. And it’s even worse if it’s not 1% who misrepresents the faith, as I suspect to be the case for the Republicans. If the most obvious, disgusting, blatantly unChristlike group is allowed to run rampant and little support or assurance is given to their victims, then what the hell is going to be done about the ones who people genuinely believe represent Christianity?

    If your name is being smeared, why do you keep writing it in easily smudged ink? Go out and write it with a Sharpie and make the declaration, “Haters gonna hate, but that’s not what Christianity is about!”

  • Worthless Beast

    The problem is that many of us do scrawl in Sharpie, but aren’t listened to.  I rant on Interent blogs preciesely because I am powerless. I’m poor, I have a disability, I am so far a failed fiction writer… I never made it as an artist, I’m too honest and socially awkward to be a politician, I could never afford the education it takes to be a scientist.   No one gives a dip about me or what I have to say outside people who read my text on obscure Interent sites.  I think that is the problem with most of us, whatever our beliefs are.   If I had any power, do you think I’d be here?

    Furthermore, WBC in particular has the law on their side, sadly. Whenever someone does try to silence them or levy a charge of innapropriate conduct, they whine and lawyer it out and wave the Constitution at everyone. People have *tried* to create a law against protesting at funerals recently but it was deemed unconstitutional (if I am remembering recent events correctly).

    One of the biggest problems with WBC is that they’re a freak-show. They do things that we all assumed people were too decent to do, and it’s like, no one knows how to deal with it. This is also why ‘they’re publicized – everyone loves a freak-show. It’s a nice bonus for people who hate religion or just one broad form of religion to say “Hey! We’re better! Look at these religion-addled wastes of life!”

    I think there needs to be some kind of new Internet law about using WBC in an argument – like Godwin’s Law or pulling the “Stalin Card.”  

    As for Republican-“Christians” having loads of power, my guess is the voting block that consists of scared old people. And when young, liberal Christian types vote for someone like Obama, it gets swept under the rug because people, particularly those who manipulate power, don’t seem to like people who don’t fit stereotypes. 

    WBC = a perfect stereotype for the very worst of Christinaity.

     

  • AnonymousSam

    Aye, but like I said, I’m not talking about legal recourse. The problem has to do with what you said:

    You don’t have to do any good in the world to be better  than WBC. You can sit on the couch all day eating Cheetoes and not caring about anyone and you’re already better than WBC.

    And I’m arguing that this is not the case. It’s not enough to simply be better ); Christians need to show everyone that they’re better than that. If you don’t want Westboro lumped in with the rest of Christianity, step one is to expulse them from Christianity. Failing that (because I understand it’s not as simple as passing around a referendum and getting a bunch of signatures), there needs to be a united front against them which sufficiently differentiates itself from their name. This front needs to be prepared to both decry their message and reassure their victims that God does not, in fact, hate anything, least of all them.

    In no way do I believe Westboro represents Christianity, but here’s the problem- how would I be able to tell if that weren’t the case? Their message and the message I hear from Republicans differs only in how vulgar the content, and people are voting for Republicans. In order to reclaim the Christian banner from Republicans, Christians need to unite against the Republican agenda.

  • twoforjoy

    *In no way do I believe Westboro represents Christianity, but here’s the problem- how would I be able to tell if that weren’t the case?*

    Well, if 78% or so of the US population are Christian, then there’s a very good chance that you know many Christians.  There’s even a very good chance that the majority of people you know–even the vast majority–are Christians.  And if they aren’t all abject assholes, that’s probably a good indication that the WBC doesn’t represent their religion.

    I live in an area with a large Muslim population.  So when people are all, “Where are the Muslims standing up against extremism?”, I’m just like, “Uh, right here.”  I mean, they aren’t walking around denouncing extremism, but they are wonderful, kind, loving, decent human beings living their lives and practicing their faith.  It would be ridiculous for me to base my opinion of their faith on the Muslims who usually make the news.

    So, you can go by the people you know.  I’d venture to guess that you know many Christians, even if they don’t identify as such to you.  I don’t generally go around sharing my religious affiliation, so I’d assume that most of my acquaintances have no idea I’m a Christian.  But I am.  I’d also sooner gouge my eyes out than vote Republican.  I mean, if I’m honest, there’s not a whole lot I *wouldn’t* do for a million dollars, but “Vote Republican” would be on that very, very short list.  Given the statistics, many if not most people you know are Christians, whether they identify as such or not.  

    So you can probably just go by the fact that, thankfully, 78% of the population is not made up of rabidly homophobic right-wing assholes to realize that the WBC and even the “Christian Right” do not represent all Christians.

  • Worthless Beast

    I seem to remember seeing on this very blog – maybe I’m misrembering…

    Didn’t Fred (our Fred) make a post about “Freds” and how certain “Freds” (Phelps) are making the name Fred look bad and how the Freds of the world aren’t standing up and very loudly decrying the abuse of the name of Fred at every waking moment, therefore the Freds of the world must all be bad people or cowardly for not angrily taking back the name of Fred? 

    I seem to remember such a thing, but am too lazy to archive-hunt right now.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    You’re probably thinking of Calling all Freds.  Which some considered to be in the same style as Please forgive me for the actions of extremists I have never met who commit acts of violence that I have never advocated, which I cannot locate.  The links go to old-Slacktivist but the post isn’t there which should mean that it was migrated here but I can’t find it here.

  • AnonymousSam

    But (speaking hypothetically) if no one tells me they’re Christian, how would I recognize them as such? The people who are telling me they’re Christian are the bad people, and the good people… aren’t letting me know they are, so I have no counterexample to draw upon. That’s that lack of solidarity I remarked upon.

    In assurance, though, I do know there are plenty of good people out there who also happen to be Christian. Some of them let me know that, others don’t and I’ve figured it out. The situation is not entirely unlike one I myself have lived through. If I were to tell you that I’m a goth, I’m sure you’d get a mental picture of either a girl wearing bold black eye shadow and lipstick with fishnet gloves and a short skirt or a guy with his eyebrow pierced wearing a t-shirt with a skull and a middle finger on the front. Once upon a time, though, the gothic subculture had less to do with black eyeshadow and more to do with artistic expression, individuality and philosophy (summarized as “like 70s punk, but with a brain and better manners”).

    What happened between then (the late 70s) and now? A lot of very loud kids took notice of a neat thing and started imitating it, and before long, those kids had taken on the gothic label and no one else was allowed to play under it anymore. “Well, if those aren’t goths, where are the real ones?” said the public. “Uh, right here,” said I. “What? You’re not goth. You’re not even wearing black.” (Right, that’s the point, goths aren’t supposed to be identifiable at a glance, or that defeats the point of being an individual…)

    The Republicans are the loud kids. There are already people saying “What? You’re not Christian; you don’t even hate gays.” It’s a slippery slope, but it’s amazing how fast you can slide down it without group consciousness. If no one organizes against faux-Christianity, then pretty soon the only thing people think of when they imagine Christians is faux-Christianity.

  • twoforjoy

    *There are already people saying “What? You’re not Christian; you don’t even hate gays.” It’s a slippery slope, but it’s amazing how fast you can slide down it without group consciousness.*

    They’re failing, though.  It’s not working.  Support for gay rights keeps going up and up, at a much higher rate than people are giving up religion.  Catholics, at this point, support gay rights at a higher rate than the general public; you are now more likely to find LGBT allies at your local Catholic church than at our local park.  More Catholics support employers being forced to cover birth control than non-Catholics do.  The right-wing bishops can try to dig in their heels, but they are losing, and they know it.

    Same with evangelicals.  They see where things are going.  Young evangelicals support gay rights.  They think that poverty is a more important issue than abortion.  They are increasingly likely to vote for Democrats.  

    The Christian Right leaders are old men.  They know their time is up.  They are getting louder and louder–and can, because they have the money and power, as old white men disproportionately do–but they are representing fewer and fewer people.  And the more they talk, the more people they are turning off.

  • AnonymousSam

    WB’s post above your own does not reassure me that they are failing. I
    think both sides are becoming outspoken and the balance is teetering,
    but I’m not convinced that faux-Christianity isn’t currently the most predominant.

    Time will tell, I suppose. A good step forward would be seeing our current legislative branch (federal and state) see a huge overhaul.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edo-Owaki/1268185670 Edo Owaki

    Both you and twoforjoy are right, I think. Faux-Christianity is predominant. It has institutions, it has money, it has the ears of power, and it has hegemony.

    What they don’t have is demographics. The old denominations are crumbling, and it’s completely up in the air about what’s going to emerge when the dust settles. The issues that they’ve chosen as defining are poisoning them, and they know it.

    Contradictions are heightening. What happens next I can’t guess.

  • AnonymousSam

    Me neither. It’s my hope that they are crumbling and will eventually find no one willing to listen to their poison. I don’t like Christianity, but I like Fred’s Christianity a lot more than theirs. Push comes to shove, I know with whom I’m much more comfortable living together.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K


    The old denominations are crumbling, and it’s completely up in the air about what’s going to emerge when the dust settles. The issues that they’ve chosen as defining are poisoning them, and they know it.
     

    Actually I’m not sure they DO know they’re poisoning their own well. Rather like the rich people who wonder why people make a big deal over healthcare.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edo-Owaki/1268185670 Edo Owaki

    I’m not sure “know” is the right word myself, now. (At the very least there’s a lot of people whose paychecks depend on not knowing.)

    But the SBC had a vote to change its name. So the SBC, at least, is aware of the problem. Just not self-aware.

  • Tricksterson

    Would probably be more accurate to say that they’re aware that other people consider it a problem and that there are enough of those other people to cause them problems.  The majority of them probably fon’t think ot should be a problem though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edo-Owaki/1268185670 Edo Owaki

    And what does “organizing against” even mean?
    My response to the WBC (for instance) is to be Christian, with and for the QUILTBAG people in my life. Until they show up conveniently close to home, going to counter-protest is a waste of my limited time and resources, and wouldn’t do anything to challenge their normativity.

    And that’s the root problem: normativity. Where are the liberal Christians? At the same party as the Muslims, who aren’t out in the streets protesting each day’s terrorism anew: sick and tired of having to assert, loudly, that we aren’t all like that, each day anew.

  • hapax

     

    But (speaking hypothetically) if no one tells me they’re Christian, how would I recognize them as such? The people who are
    telling me they’re Christian are the bad people, and the good people…
    aren’t letting me know they are, so I have no counterexample to draw
    upon. That’s that lack of solidarity I remarked upon.

    That’s not a “lack of solidarity”.  That’s Christians refusing to act in the ways that their Scriptures condemn, and insisting on identifying themselves as Christians in the way that their Scriptures command

    While I appreciate that the advice is well-meant, I really do not want to be told how I am Doin’ Christianity Rong by folks who themselves admit they “have no dog in this fight”, any more than I appreciate hearing it from those right-wing conservatives who think that my mistake is not hating enough.

  • AnonymousSam

     The problem with the “what the scriptures say” thing is…

    If you don’t think I have a dog in this fight, then I clearly don’t live on planet Earth, much less a country with approximately 243,041,695 people who are not making it clear enough that they reject right-wing conservative interpretation of the Bible.

  • hapax

     

    much less a country with approximately 243,041,695 people who are not making it clear enough that they reject right-wing conservative interpretation of the Bible.

    And how would you like me to do that?  Shoot Fred Phelps?

    I have *personally* been there when WBC demonstrators were surrounded by smiling, happy people with rainbow streamers and twirling pinwheels and holding signs saying “GOD LOVES EVERYBODY” and handing out balloons and water bottles to all, including the WBC members — who got disgusted, gave up, and went home.  I know of many other similar events.

    Try to find any news coverage of these.  Anywhere.  You can’t — they’re BORING.  “Fight DOESN’T break out at church event.”  Yawwwwn.

    My denomination, my diocese, my parish ordain QUILTBAG  clergy and perform same-sex commitment blessings.  Nobody pickets, nobody burns anything down, so it’s not news.
     
    We offer food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, shelter to the homeless, and visit those in prison.  We know that our efforts are only a drop in the bucket, so we hold voter registration drives, petition our elected officials local and national, preach about it from the pulpit, talk about it with our friends and neighbors and co-workers.   You think that these efforts would be more effective if we put up big banners stamped OFFICIAL CHRISTIAN ACTIVITIES GOING ON HERE?  

    Maybe, just MAYBE, we are more concerned about good things getting done, than with making sure that you approve of the label we choose for ourselves.

  • AnonymousSam

    No, I don’t want you to engage in violence. I want you to do exactly what you’re doing.

    For that matter: Why didn’t you say so in the first place? Now you’re and everyone you speak for on my list of favorite people in the world. Wasn’t that easy?

    But I can’t agree with you that it doesn’t matter what people think of Christianity as long as you’re being Christlike. Isn’t that the entire problem here? Or are you suggesting that it doesn’t matter how terrible Christianity’s reputation becomes as long as its existing members know exactly what they are? Because I dare say, if the Republicans continue down their current path and don’t burn out, eventually Christianity itself is going to suffer too — from lack of people willing to believe that the hate and vitriol isn’t part and parcel of the religion.

    Can’t I not want that, even if I’m not a believer?

  • hapax

     

    Or are you suggesting that it doesn’t matter how terrible Christianity’s reputation becomes as long as its existing members know exactly what they are?

    Mmm.  I wouldn’t personally say it doesn’t matter, precisely, otherwise I wouldn’t have commented, and Fred Clark wouldn’t have made this post.

    I’d say that that “safeguarding Christianity’s reputation” is an awfully low priority, compared to  — not “knowing what we are”, but “doing what we should be doing.” 

    As such, I’m not particularly interested in what the NY Times or anybody else says, except insofar as I can say to my fellow Christians (even those whom I disagree with)  “Hey, see this cool thing somebody’s doing?  Let’s do that!”  and “Wow, see how doing this thing makes people unhappy?  Maybe we should avoid that one!”  And that’s not an easy sell, if I preface it with, “By the way, I think that I’m a REAL Christian, and you’re NOT.  How would you like to be more like ME?”

    Which is kind of the approach that I thought Fred Clark was trying for in this blog, as well.

  • hf

     And how would you like me to do that?

    What caryjamesbond said: get your view of Christianity into the media. You could likely make a good start at this if you have the time, since the biblical ‘literalists’ seem to stink at image and media manipulation when they don’t have rich Republicans doing it for them. And if the latter want to disassociate their party from Santorum right now, as I think they do, then you won’t find a better time to make yourself heard.

    I don’t actually think you should do this, because I view Christianity as factually wrong and probably far from the best form of ethics.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    While I appreciate that the advice is well-meant, I really do not want to be told how I am Doin’ Christianity Rong by folks who themselves admit they “have no dog in this fight”, any more than I appreciate hearing it from those right-wing conservatives who think that my mistake is not hating enough.

    Yep.

  • Raben2

    Loved everything about what you said, especially the last line about faux-Christianity. Thanks very, very much. You aired many of the things I’ve been thinking, in a depressive state, for the last week after hearing a “Christian” radio station denounce the President as non-Christian.

  • twoforjoy

    *It’s a nice bonus for people who hate religion or just one broad form of religion to say “Hey! We’re better! Look at these religion-addled wastes of life!”*
    Not only that, though, I think the WBC also gives Christians who are *almost* as hateful a chance to feel like they are indeed loving and tolerant toward gay people.  I mean, sure, they believe they are sinners headed for hell and work to deny them the right to marry, but it’s not like they’re protesting their funerals, right?  

    I’ve wondered a few times if the WBC isn’t an invention of the anti-gay Christian right, to give them something to rally against–because anti-gay Christians DO rally against the WBC, unless they happen to be members of it–so they can look like they are “loving the sinner.”  I don’t think it is, but it does seem to serve that purpose.

  • twoforjoy

    Is protesting the Westboro Baptist people really the best way to show opposition to them?  Is it a good use of time and energy?

    I mean, I think their behavior is abhorrent.  But, if I went out and protested every single time somebody who identified as a Christian was doing something shitty, my kids and husband would be very lonely.  

    I don’t know anybody who does support WBC.  I take it as a given that people disagree with them.  And, personally, I disagree with counterprotests, because I think it feeds them.  That is what they want.  They want people showing up with protest signs, because it gives their protest more attention and feeds their sense of being persecuted.  I’m not inclined to want them to have more attention or to feed their persecution complex, so if they showed up in my city, I’d stay home.  (As an aside, I’ve always though the most effective response to the WBC folks would be to be really, really nice to them.  Bring them gift baskets.  Play with their kids.  Hold up signs saying how much God loves them.  Invite them over for dinner.  Just shower them with love.  I bet that, unlike angry counterprotests, that would be something they’d be unprepared for and not know how to respond to.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Quite possibly (and it would be the far more Christlike thing to do). We won’t know until someone tries, though. Preferably a goodly number of someones.

  • swbarnes2

    All of these anti-gay marriage props that get passed in different states…that wouldn’t happen if large numbers of Christians were not voting for them.

    Westboro church might be extreme in their tactics, but not in their sentiments.  Plenty of Christians agree with them.

    And of course, the Westboro church also believes that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he died on a cross to redeem those who believe in him from the consequences of their sins.  That consensus position is what defines a Christian., not social policies that half your fellow believers in Jesus strongly reject based on their interpretaion of Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    And of course, the Westboro church also believes that Jesus was the Son
    of God, and that he died on a cross to redeem those who believe in him
    from the consequences of their sins.  That consensus position is what
    defines a Christian.

    Oh man, looks like I had best stop falsely claiming to be a Christian, then. I’ll let my mom know so she can follow suit.

    Since you clearly have the authority to define “Christian,” what should I start calling myself?

  • http://profiles.google.com/anoncollie Anon Collie

    Much of this post could be replace “Christian” with “Catholic”.
    I may consider myself liberalish for being a Catholic, but I still consider myself part of and active in the Church. 

    But according to the “faithful,” I’m misguided at best, or I don’t exist at worst. Because the slightest disagreement with the bishops, or their voting rules which inevitably skew Catholics towards voting for the GOP every time for solely the sake of Abortion, means that you are not part of the tribe. You are outside the glass wall, looking and acting similar to Catholic, but you aren’t one of us.

    As I’ve brought up previously,  I was fired from my teaching my job by one of these super-devouts because he didn’t want do any real world application of being a Christian, because the bishop’s education protocol was the totality of what these kids should learn. Not learning to work for the greater good or glory of God; not learning to live out the faith as a compassionate soul; just the rules and regulations of the church. That was all.

    I disagreed, and despite trying to keep my class within his wishes; I could not *not* challenge my students to a greater standard of ideals and a legacy to embrace with real world examples.

    As Fred pointed out with a new article a week or two ago, the Catholic Church is changing. (As evidenced by high school kids protesting an anti-gay rally put on by their diocese). We are moving away from these four principal issues to a greater reflection of the core of Christianity. But the Bishops aren’t going to cede those four or any sort of accountability to the people, and it’s driving more and more young and old Catholics away.

    I’m just not sure they realize it.

  • veejayem

    I am English ~ which is to say, a mongrel. And proud of it. It has angered me for a long time that certain far-right political groups in Britain try to appropriate patriotism, the Union Flag and “Englishness” for their own ends. And you’ve seen a similar kind of thing in the US, where Republican politicians think they can define what makes a patriot, a citizen and now a Christian. But there’s lots of stuff in the Bible about people who make a noisy show of piety, the kind of verses people like Stetzer never seem to quote.

    Did you know that the WBC are banned form entering Britain? I’m almost sorry ~ I would have liked to see a slightly battered WBC member trying to tell a British judge that an outraged group of mourners had violated his constitutional rights …

  • VMink

    Does anyone find it interesting that Fred’s blog has been put into Patheos’s “Progressive Christian Channel,” and that it’s not easy to find it if one goes through the other channels here?  I get the distinct impression that there’s walls being put up, which runs counter to Fred’s entire purpose for moving here, to wit, to preach to the masses rather than to the choir. :(

  • Nequam

    You are outside the glass wall, looking and acting similar to Catholic, but you aren’t one of us.

    I don’t remember where I first heard the term “ronin Catholic”, but I always rather liked it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s not what other people call you, it’s what you consider yourself to be that counts. That said, if you consider yourself to be something the majority of society misidentifies as being something else, you’re going to have a helluva lot of headway to make.

  • ConservativeWhitebread

    Does it actually matter what you identify as if the majority misidentifies you as something else?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Well, yeeeeeees.

    Consider how many trans people who would prefer to be addressed a certain way don’t get addressed that way, because uninformed people haven’t yet unjammed their mental gears, and purposely malicious people delight in the misidentification.

  • ConservativeWhitebread

    That’s part of my point.  What difference does it actually make?  Transfolk get misidentified, genderqueer etc, and the majority doesn’t change a dem thing.

  • EllieMurasaki

     Does it actually matter what you identify as if the majority misidentifies you as something else?

    Nobody offline knows I’m genderqueer. For at least as long as that condition persists, everyone offline will assume I’m female and use female pronouns for me. But I continue to identify as genderqueer. Because most days, I am not female, and it matters to me that I not identify as something I’m not.

  • AnonymousSam

    Does it still count if the people online might possibly have offline avatars too? (Do those exist? I haven’t logged into my Real Life account in a long time. The admin might have purged it for inactivity by now.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Does it still count if the people online might possibly have offline
    avatars too? (Do those exist? I haven’t logged into my Real Life account
    in a long time. The admin might have purged it for inactivity by now.)

    *gigglefit* you know what I meant.

  • AnonymousSam

    I think I know what you’re going through, too. The only time I self-identify as male or female is when a website is forcing me to pick one or the other when I’m signing up for an account, or I’m filling out something and would rather not jam up the scanner it goes in. As far as I’m concerned, that part of the brain decides whatever the hell it wants to be, and sometimes the phrase “that day of the week” applies too. As much as it sounds like something out of a science-fiction film (vaguely like Demolition Man, for that matter), I feel like the question “What gender, if any, do you self-identify as?” should be in the same category as “How are you doing?”

    Have still yet to find a gender-neutral pronoun that my brain, in extreme prejudice, does not label with the pejorative “TYPO!” on sight though.

  • ConservativeWhitebread

    I’d be getting into invasive questions here – I’m a bit of a negative nellie myself and should refrain from commenting on most blogs, given my own identity issues.
    I will say tho I admire even that much courage to identify on as strange and troll-infested place as the interblag.

  • LL

    Found this link: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1112/religion-vote-2008-election
    Scroll down for charts. It’s from Pew (pew pew!)

    The not-Republican religious appear to be outnumbered by the Republican ones. At least in the ways that matter (I suspect at the state level, where a simple majority is required to get all the electoral votes in most states, like, for example, Texas, if we’re talking about presidential elections). But it’s not just about the president. This is where the younger Democrats have failed – and yes, it is THEIR failure, not Obama’s. If you only vote for president and don’t give a shit about all the other elections (that’s where politicians come from, the state level), you get crap like Prop 8 and Catholic bishops testifying before Congress about birth control. That shit wouldn’t fly if younger people would vote. But they won’t. So the crazy, racist, woman-hating, intolerant assholes get to elect the people who run your life, because many of you can’t tear yourselves away from your iPhones long enough to pay attention to anything that doesn’t have “Obama” in it. 

    I’ll tell you one thing many racist, woman-hating Republican people manage to do if they do nothing else: vote. I know because they’re pretty much the only other people I see at the polls when I go to vote for city council, state legislature, governor, etc (I’m assuming, of course, that many of them are Republican, because, as I mentioned somewhere up there earlier, I live in Texas). And for an added irony: the polling place I vote in is a library. And I live in a state that has early voting. So I go to vote in a public building, on a Sunday (or Saturday) and I’m surrounded by people who see the voting booths as those weird things they passed on their way to the bathroom or the children’s book section. I sure as hell don’t have to stand in line nearly as long as I did when I voted for president in 2008. When it’s a lowly city council or gubernatorial election, I get right in and vote and then leave in the space of about 5 minutes. 

    So I’m somewhat less than  impressed by the griping of the younger people about how the Republicans have hijacked their country/religion/whatever. The Republicans did it in plain sight. And many of you stood by and let them do it. You really have mostly yourselves to blame. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Right, it’s all young peoples’ fault, because as we all know, over twenty years ago, when Rush Limbaugh started solidifying his death grip on the Republican party, people who are young now could have stopped that. It’s all young peoples’ fault that being a “non-resident” in a college town means voting has massive hurdles. It’s all young peoples’ fault that so many of them have to work full time while going to college full time. It’s all young peoples’ fault that they’ve been handed this world — what the hell were they doing when they were twelve years old? Riding bikes or something? What lazy assholes!

    Yep, it’s young people who are what’s wrong with the world today. As they always have been and always will be. Middle-aged and older people never did or do one little thing wrong. And when they were young, they were practically perfect in every way.

  • AnonymousSam

    Pfft, I’m an older-than-young person and I won’t be voting this year, but that’s because I’m stuck in a rather goofy little loop that the federal government has set up: I can’t vote without a state ID, but I can’t get a state ID without documents that I can’t produce without the means to identify myself. I’m one piece of identification short, and none of the items on their secondary ID list are things I can get without a state ID.

    So I need an ID to get the documents I need to get an ID. @_@

    Tautology: The problem with the government is the problem with the government.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    AnonymousSam: Is there any chance your parents could help you get home-state ID that would qualify under the full faith and credit clause?

  • AnonymousSam

    My parents moved out of state too (to a different state). They’ve sent me what materials I have (so now I have my college transcript, social security card, etc), but I’m still just… one piece off. Apparently, state IDs from another state only count if brought in by a certain date!

    (Totally unintentional rhyme, but that sort of thing happens all the ti–GAH)

  • Matri

    People like Fred try to show the world that not all Christians are not greedy, heartless capitalists.

    And then people like Setzer go “Oh no he didn’t!”

  • Guest

    I’ll be honest. When someone tells me they’re Christian, I don’t immediately think words like “love,” “acceptance,” and “tolerance.” I think “bigot,” “hypocrite,” “intolerant,” and “hateful.” That’s my initial gut reaction, and I’m immediately wary of the person. I’ll give the person a chance, of course, but they’ve immediately started with a strike against them in my mind. It’s not a nice thing, and it’s judgmental. I know that. But that’s what has happened to that word. It has an immediate negative association.

  • hapax

     

    It has an immediate negative association.

    That makes me sad, but mainly because my brothers and sisters who have claimed the name have done evil, and have caused grief and pain to so many in the process.

    The word “Christian” had pretty bad associations for the first three hundred years or so that it was used, and in plenty of places and times after that.  Sometimes it deserved it, sometimes it didn’t. 

    To paraphrase Paul, I wasn’t baptized “in the name of Christianity”, but in the name of Christ.  God hasn’t called me to serve as a PR agent for a label.  God has required that I “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” 

    I have enough trouble trying to manage that. 

  • Tonio

    I’m not proud of the fact that I also tend to be wary of such people. I immediately wonder if the person will treat me as a depraved heathen because I listen to rock music and read Harry Potter and accept natural selection. Plus, I expect them to be pushy like any other salesperson, and being subjected to any pushy sales pitch feels to me like an invasion of my personal boundaries. Interestingly, I know many people “outside the evangelical tribe” who do NOT make a point of telling other people that they’re Christians.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    “such people” meaning anyone who says they’re Christian?

  • Tonio

    No, I mean anyone who makes it a point of telling everyone that they’re Christian, which suggests a mentality where others are potential converts. I’m making a distinction between that and the religion coming up through the course of normal conversation.

  • twoforjoy

    I’m a Christian myself, and I feel the same way.  Because, who goes around announcing their religious affiliation, you know?  If somebody tells me they’re a Christian–as opposed to having their religious beliefs come up naturally in discussion, or as we get to know one another better–I figure there’s a reason, and I figure that reason is that they are an asshole.  If somebody quickly identifies as a Christian to me, I assume it’s because they want to identify themselves as a member of the right-wing Christian tribe, and are trying to figure out whether I’m in or out. I could very well be wrong, but they are then in a position where they have to prove to me they aren’t a jerk by what comes next.

    But loads of people feel the same way, including many Christians.  I was having a conversation with a white evangelical friend the other day, who was talking about how put off she was when another women we know, when they first met, said something about being a Christian right away.  We both like this other woman a lot now, but it was indeed a strike against her, fairly or not.  Although, honestly, I tend to think fairly.  Most people–including most evangelical Christians–do not immediately announce their religious affiliation.  If somebody does, that’s off-putting.  

    I met a very nice woman last weekend, and we had a good conversation, but she announced almost immediately that she is an atheist (she knew and continues to know nothing about my religious beliefs) and it was out-of-nowhere and off-putting.  She clearly wanted to identify herself as an “us” in the us-vs.-them battle.  Maybe she wanted to know if I was an “us”, too?  I have no idea.  But I just nodded and smiled and went back to talking about books with her.  It was fine, and she’s cool, but it didn’t exactly make the best first impression.

  • Erista

    I can’t speak for the women you spoke to, but I can tell you something about myself. There was a time when I identified myself as an atheist almost immediately. It was soon after I’d decided to actually tell people at all, and I was telling people right away because I wanted to weed out the Christians who would reject me as soon as possible. I had endured a lot of rejection by Christians who I had trusted because of my atheist, and it hurt almost more than I could handle. I didn’t want to invest in someone anymore if they were just going to do terrible things to me when they found out I was an atheist.

    I’ve become less nervous about waiting to tell over the years, but that’s largely because I’ve thrust myself into a field that has a sizable chunk of atheists (science). I no longer have to worry that most people are going to reject me, so I don’t need a weeding mechanism. Now that I know that most people around me will at least accept me, I can risk having a few who will reject me.

    So I don’t know why the woman you spoke to said what she did. But I do know that there was a time that I did the same thing, and it wasn’t because I wanted to make an “us” and a “them”; it was because I wanted to identify anyone who would label me as a “them.”

  • LouisDoench

    twoforjoy, for a lot of us coming to atheism was a serious “coming out” process. It’s different in degree but not kind to coming out of the closet as QUILTBAG. And being “out” can be really cathartic to folks who have recently deconverted, especially if it was a painful process (as it is for a lot of people leaving abusive or reactionary faiths).  And it’s a privilege issue as well. Sure, as part of the Christian majority you don’t feel the need to “announce” your faith. Despite the fevered imaginings of the Christian Right, you as a christian will almost never see any particular disadvantage in doing so if you see fit. You can wear a cross, stick a fish on your car,  say a prayer before your meal at a restaurant, whatever. Not only will no one find it odd, if you wanted to find another Christian, well they have big fancy houses that they gather in on Sundays. And you can pretty much take that for granted.  On the other hand your Atheist friend may not know any other unbelievers. Depending on where in the country  (assuming USA) you two are it may even be dangerous to ones career or family life to be out as an Atheist.  It’s quite possible she was feeling you out to see if you would react negatively before treading further into conversation.  It’s a privilege thing.  As a minor cog in the atheist activist universe I actually am encouraged by people being forthright about their identity. As you said, you went on to have a lovely conversation. That’s cool.  That’s what we are trying to do, show people that people on our end of the spectrum are just normal folks. You may not have any of the popular prejudices against Atheists, but we can never be sure who does and we’d like to pop those bubbles when we can.

  • twoforjoy

    I see what you are saying, and in many contexts that would be true.  But, honestly, we live in a very progressive urban neighborhood, where “coming out” as a Christian would raise many more eyebrows than “coming out” as an atheist.  And, that’s not a bad thing!  I’m certainly not complaining: I love living here.  But, I don’t think she really was motivated by a worry that she might be rejected for being an atheist, especially given some of the conversation.  It very much did seem like an “us versus them” thing, and she seemed to assume that I was an “us.” 

    But, absolutely, there are many places in the country where that would be true.  There are, however, other places in the country–like hip little urban neighborhoods and northern college towns–where it’s assumed that you are not religious and, if you are, that you’ll have the good manners and sense to keep quiet about it.  And BY NO MEANS am I saying that those two things are the same.  Atheists win the religious oppression Olympics against Christians, hands down.  No question.  But, as a liberal Episcopalian academic who has lived and worked all of my adult life in liberal universities in progressive areas, I can say that there are settings where Christians, even very liberal ones, feel very uncomfortable revealing their religious identity and also fear social and perhaps even professional consequences if they do.  And maybe that’s how it should be; perhaps we should keep quiet about our religious identity, and that’s fine.  But it’s certainly a social pressure, and that was more the setting we were in, where she would expect her listener would agree with her (as is similar, I imagine, to what many atheists feel in settings where people expect others to be Christian).

  • LouisDoench

    That’s eminently fair ;) I’ll tell you though, I tend to tell new people I’m an atheist pretty quick because I like to talk about atheist stuff in real life. Maybe there’s a little of that going on.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

      There are, however, other places in the country–like hip little urban neighborhoods and northern college towns–where it’s assumed that you are not religious and, if you are, that you’ll have the good manners and sense to keep quiet about it.

    …entire countries…

  • Tricksterson

    Because, who goes around announcing their religious affiliation, you know?

    Well, I WOULD have Discordiangnosticbuddhistjungianshaman tattooed on my head but I’m not sure it would fit.

  • Lunch Meat

    To me, the problem with some Christians saying loudly, and therefore society accepting, that there’s only one way to be a Christian is not that outsiders accept it and judge all of Christianity by it. It’s the damage it does to young people raised in faith who think that there’s only one way to be and try to force their life into a mold it wasn’t meant to fill. I want to make it more normal to be a Christian who, for instance, accepts queer people because when I’m mentoring a group of college students or high school students, I want them to know that they’re okay being who they are.

  • AnonymousSam

    To be honest, if Fred Clark was someone I had known earlier in life, I
    might still be Christian myself — not because I feel like what I
    believe now is wanting, but because I never would have felt as alone as I
    did back then. Fred is a good man. A good Christian, too. Finding this blog helped heal parts of myself I never realized were still raw from when I left the faith, which is part of why I’ve stayed, despite not sharing that faith with others. I’d like to think being here is what has led me to the faith I’ve found since then (a form of pantheism), which I consider far more positive and uplifting than the quasi-atheism I had before.

    Hum. I thought about it for a bit and I realized that I can appreciate the dilemma here. On the one hand, you’re not supposed to wear your faith on your sleeve (Matthew as you quoted), but on the other, you’re also not supposed to act as though you’re ashamed of it (Luke 9:26 among others), and one might interpret shame as keeping it hidden from others, leading to a contradiction (“Don’t make it obvious, but don’t hide it…”)

    Either way, you may be right — it doesn’t seem appropriate for Christians to gather under a banner to make a public spectacle, even if the purpose is one of goodness. It could lead too easily to prideful behavior, and as Matthew warns, to hypocrisy. Plus, what happens if someone under that banner does something unbecoming of the faith? To be Christlike would mean to forgive them, but to adhere to solidarity would mean to reject them. Which is… pretty much the same problem as this thread. Forgive the Republicans and accept them as part of the faith, despite their abhorred behavior (which, unfortunately, is likely to continue either way), or turn them away and officially declare a splinter in the faith, achieving no union at all?

    I’ll have to think on this. I admit I have no answers.

  • DiscreteComponent

    One of the great tragedies of American Evangelicals is that they have forgotten, if they ever new, the original meaning of ‘evangel’.  It is so sad that they do such disrespect to ‘Bringing Good News’ when they spend so much time telling others how sinful they are.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    This is a deliberate, intentional attempt by a politicized faction of American evangelicals to do two things: 1) redefine “Christian” to mean “white evangelical Protestant,” and 2) redefine “evangelical Protestant” to mean “conservative Republican.”

    Not to mention 0) Redefine “Christian” to mean “American Christian”

  • caryjamesbond

    You think that these efforts would be more effective if we put up big banners stamped OFFICIAL CHRISTIAN ACTIVITIES GOING ON HERE?

    More effective at feeding the homeless/passing out blankets? Probably not. Fighting the cultural meme that christians are right wing assholes?  Yup.

    Because every time they rally for a republican, every time they rally against gay rights, every time they protest an abortion clinic, they put out a BIG sign saying “THIS IS AN OFFICIAL CHRISTIAN ACTIVITY SPONSORED BY HONKY JESUS INC.”

    Jesus never heard of Madison Avenue, or mass culture, or the internet. Advertising WORKS.  

    If you want to be otherworldly monks meditating on the Word and its meaning- peachy. Go up on top of a mountain. But if you want to be involved in the world, accept that the world is a dirty place full of dirty people using dirty tricks, and learn to use a few yourselves.  If that means publicly praying against the war, publicly pray against the war, because your enemies are publicly praying FOR it.  

    Maybe, just MAYBE, we are more concerned about good things getting done, than with making sure that you approve of the label we choose for ourselves.

    Well, a LOT of those people you’re trying to help are running screaming in the other direction from the damage YOUR brothers and sisters are doing.  So maybe doing something to stop them, or at least casting them out as your brothers and sisters would be a good start?

    See, this is whats nice about being an atheist. I don’t HAVE “brothers and sisters.” The fact that Helena is an atheist says diddly about me, because I have no relationship with her in this world.  What she does is not my responsibility. But if you want to say that these people are your FAMILY- then do something about it. That’s what families are for. 

    And you’re saying right now: “Yeah, these people are awful and do evil harmful things to millions of innocent people, but not only are they my comrades, I’m going to embrace them to my bosom as brother and sister.”

    Should we tar people with the same brush? Eh.  In general, if it waddles and quacks, “duck” is good enough to go on.  I know there are wood ducks and mallard ducks and peking ducks- but 99% of the time I don’t care about the nuances. I just see “duck.” And if I’ve been beaten and threatened and insulted by a bunch of mallards, I’m not gonna be impressed by your claims that “No! We’re WOOD ducks! We’re the nice ones!”

  • twoforjoy

    *The fact that Helena is an atheist says diddly about me, because I have no relationship with her in this world.  What she does is not my responsibility. *

    I’m not sure I buy that.  I mean, what other white Americans do *does* reflect on me.  And, it kind of is my responsibility that a lot of white people are assholes.  I’m not sure that denying the bonds we have with one another and the complicity we have in each other’s actions is particularly useful, even if it does make us feel better.

  • hapax

     

    And you’re saying right now: “Yeah, these people are awful and do evil
    harmful things to millions of innocent people, but not only are they my
    comrades, I’m going to embrace them to my bosom as brother and sister.”

    Well, I’d TRY.  I’m not very good at the forgiving and loving part. 

    But I’d try just as hard to embrace you, caryjamesbond, and Helena, and everyone else, whether they call themselves Christians or Jews or Pagans or atheists or don’t care for labels at all, because you are all human beings and you are all my brothers and sisters. I have had blood relatives do horrible, horrible things, and I’ve even helped make the painful decision to put one in a situation where he couldn’t cause such harm any more — but I didn’t “cast him out of the family.” 

    I don’t even quite understand how one DOES that.  It’s like “renouncing my white privilege.”  I mean, it sounds all noble and righteous and stuff, but I’m still white, I still have privilege, no matter what I say;  all I can do is be conscious and considerate.  Same thing — I can say, “Well, YOU’re not a member of my Christian/USian/human family”, but what earthly good does that do but protect the purity of my precious amour propre?

    But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t ALSO try as hard as I can to stop such a one from doing evil harmful things to other people (“innocent” or not, *they* are also my brothers and sisters), because “love” doesn’t mean “automatically approve of every action and choice.”

    And thinking about this off and on over the past day — y’know, I’m not exactly happy if the label “Christian” gets a bad rap, but I can live with it.  In fact, I can see some up sides to it (and not just in “meditating on a mountaintop” as you put it.)  If we Christians are aware of this, maybe we can rid ourselves of the default assumptions that some of our behaviors and choices are automatically “good” because they’re “Christian.” 

    If I had to scrutinize, say, our homeless shelter and say, “Hmm.  Is this actually doing enough of value in the community that it can transcend that dreadful stain of ‘Christianity’ and be justified on its own merits?”  Or even “Wow, I want to set up a food distribution network, but nobody will come because they know I’m one of those awful ‘Christians.’  I wonder if the local Buddhist temple and Wiccan circle would be willing to work with me, and help vouch for my good credentials?” 

    I realize that all this must sound dreadfully naive to those who have lived all their lives working to improve the world without the incredible privilege of belonging to the dominant religion.  But “walking humbly” is in our MISSION STATEMENT  — and worrying about burnishing our image can only get in the way.

  • AnonymousSam

    But I’d try just as hard to embrace you, caryjamesbond, and Helena, and everyone else, whether they call themselves Christians or Jews or Pagansor atheists or don’t care for labels at all, because you are all human beings and you are all my brothers and sisters.

    On behalf of felines everywhere who have evolved the capacity to bang our furry heads against the keyboard to form semi-coherent messages,

    awww tanks so muchs
    id givs u a cheezburger

    but i eated it

  • hapax

     I may have my moments of arrogance, AnonymousSam, but I’m not so vain as to think that I could ever claim equality with cats!

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    But in the U.S., the Christian label has power. These jerks are using that label to hurt people. It’s not about burnishing your image, it’s about doing something that might possibly take away some of the jerks’ power. We non-Christians can’t do it, any more than an Iraqi could do something about the same jerks in the U.S. using the label “patriotism” to hurt them. 

  • Tonio

    This is a deliberate, intentional attempt by a politicized faction of
    American evangelicals to do two things: 1) redefine “Christian” to mean
    “white evangelical Protestant,” and 2) redefine “evangelical
    Protestant” to mean “conservative Republican.”

    While Fred’s assertion is eminently plausible, is there evidence that this was the intention from the start? I’m allowing for the possibility that this faction was so deluded by tribalism that they were incapable of perceiving their religion any other way. These were the same people who abandoned Jimmy Carter when he didn’t support their political agenda. They chose instead an opponent who didn’t have a reputation for being devout, or at least didn’t make a show of being devout, but who pandered to their culture warrior mentality in secular ways.

  • AnonymousSam

    Mmm, actually, I’m not sure that there’s not. I see their claiming the label of Christian in the same light that I see their claiming of Patriot, American, and their turning the labels of Liberal and Socialist into insults designed to bring the conversation to a halt.

    They are trying to say that “the rest of us” don’t matter, that we are the antithesis of “what ought to be.” Why shouldn’t that include Christians?

  • Tonio

    They are trying to say that “the rest of us” don’t matter, that we are the antithesis of “what ought to be.” Why shouldn’t that include Christians?

    Fred goes further than that. He’s saying that there was a conscious goal to redefine Christianity to exclude everyone but white conservative Republicans. We’re talking about people who chose to exploit the abortion issue as an organizing tool, according to Paul Weyrich, so the strategy that Fred claims could very well have happened. I’m suggesting instead that the exclusion may be a natural and unavoidable outcome of viewing religion in tribal terms. These people may not know or care about any distinction between religious affiliation and national or ethnic identity.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’m still not sure that wasn’t their goal. Exclusion is what they do – they define “us” and “them” boundaries, and not only are those boundaries actively harmful, but they outright dehumanize anyone outside them, much less consider their positions legitimate. It’s to the point where these same people are passing measures which make it difficult or impossible for the out-group to vote, meaning that at the federal level, we’re not American citizens anymore.

    What’s a little thing like which version of Christianity you are compared to not recognizing the fact that you have rights? I’m sure they do consider themselves the only legitimate Christians, just like they consider themselves the only true Americans.

  • Tonio

    I think you and I are talking about two different things. No question that the fanatics we’re talking about sought to exclude people who didn’t share their political agenda. I’m simply questioning Fred’s assertion regarding the motive. If I read Fred correctly, he’s alleging that they sought to redefine the religion as a pretext for pushing that agenda and excluding any opponents, a power grab for power’s sake.  My theory involves no such subterfuge. I’m proposing that the fanatics saw their agenda and the religion as the same thing, perhaps believing that exclusion was a divine or biblical mandate.

  • AnonymousSam

    Ah, I see. I could see it either way. Some of these people do not inspire me with a great deal of confidence for their intellect, but no question that they’re natural-born schemers…

  • JustoneK

    I also don’t see a lot of conflict between those two ideas – whole lotta Promised Land stuff to go from.

  • Erista

    I don’t know. This whole, “But we are brothers/sisters in Christ!” makes me nervous.

    I’m a woman and an atheist. I’m really used to self-proclaimed Christians taking a crap on me in one form or another. I don’t like it (at all), but it comes with the territory. And one of the ways that self-proclaimed Christians dump on me is with the whole, “Yes, that Christian may be doing X thing (which is terrible), but they’re SAVED, and that means that they are forgiven/better than you/going to heaven/etc.”

    I don’t like the idea that I can be a good person doing good things, but I will still be of less importance to a good Christian doing good things than a bad Christian doing bad things would be. I don’t think Fred does this (which is one of the reasons I like him), but a lot of otherwise nice Christians do. “Christian” becomes a label that overrides all other things, including ethics and morality. And that hurts.

    So, please remember, when you say something along the lines of, “Yes, that Christian is bad, but we are brothers/sisters in Christ,” your statement is lending a level of compassion to Christians that is not being loaned to anyone else. Because we atheists know that if it was us who was being bad, your “but” would have nothing after it.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    So, please remember that, when you say something along the lines of, “Yes, that Christian is bad, but we are brothers/sisters in Christ,”

    I can’t recall anyone saying that – not here, and not in RL either. If I see someone like the Phelps who claim loudly to be Christian but don’t act like it, I have a Bible verse that covers them: Matthew 7:21-23 – the ones that end with “get away from me; I never knew you”

  • Erista

     Well, I’m glad you don’t encounter it. I encounter it a lot, along with statements “We’re all sinners,” and “Being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect.” It has been my experience that when atheists do bad things, it proves to some Christians that atheism is bad, but when Christians do bad things, well, everyone makes mistakes.

    An example that comes to mind is my Catholic co-worker who falls all over himself to excuse all  manner of Christian stupidity, from the Catholic Church child molestation scandal to Ted Haggard’s coke and gay sex and crack binge, but nevertheless insists that atheists are universally the worst people because they don’t have a god to guide them on moral issues. It makes me twitch.

  • Tricksterson

    Nh, you’re not damned.  but you might have to take a few jazzercise classes.

  • Erista

     Jazzercise?! Nooooo! Not that, anything but that! 

  • Worthless Beast

    “Being *blank* doesn’t make you perfect, all is forgiven, but those *other* people making mistakes just prooves how bad they are as a whole” – That’s not Christianity, that’s tribalism, and I’ve seen it in other tribes.  It doesn’t make it any less stupid for a Christian to say such things, but there are places online, liberal news channels I go to that have majority commenting populations of athiests, some of whom say a reverse-mirror of the example.  According to them, atheists are naturally smarter than the rest of the superstitious herd of humanity, and therefore have a better morality (or have a b etter morality because they’re “good for nothing” and think everyone with a religion is just trying to buy their way into Heaven or Nirvanna or something), and, according to some, atheists can never truly do wrong because if someone does anything crazy religion just *had* to be involved somehow. 

    I remember seeing one such guy (immature username and all) claim that the guy who shot Gabrielle Giffords was acting on behalf of the Christian Theocratic Conspiracy even *after* it was well-known news that the guy was not religious (even anti-religious in his private life according to the news I heard) and was just a nutter with his own weird political motivation. 

    I tend to feel sorry for people of minoirty religions who like to read the main articles at the places I read because it seems like when the “Christian Theocratic Conspiracy” does something, it’s somehow the fault of Hindus/Jews/Wiccans/Etc. too, even if they’re railing against Christianity as much as the next guy.

    I’ve found this blog’s commentary to be…. far more intelligent than open news sites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    …according to some, atheists can never truly do wrong because if someone
    does anything crazy religion just *had* to be involved somehow.

    Ee-yup, and along with that I usually see any non-religious ideology that Stalinism that caused harm dismissed as “really being a religion.”

  • Worthless Beast

    ((Ee-yup, and along with that I usually see any non-religious ideology that Stalinism that caused harm dismissed as “really being a religion.” ))

    It is annoying. I don’t like to play the Stalin Card because I see it as being like the Hitler Card, though I will not reprimand anyone who plays it in response to someone starting out with the Inquistion Card or the Westboro Card. 

    I will award the point if the harmful non-religious ideology is “North Korea” because, from what I’ve heard, Kim Jong Ill really *did* set him up as a god or godlike mythic figure and demanded forms of worship essentially making it a weird kind of religion that I suspsect most North Koreans practiced out of being terrified.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     I only play the “Stalin card” when someone starts making ignorant and inflammatory claims about religion being the cause of all the world’s ills, all wars and mass murders, etc. I regard bringing Stalinism up as an example of “what atheism” causes as just as dishonest and vile as doing the same with the Inquisition re: religion.

  • http://www.tommyjonestheband.com RantingTommy

    not “all’, just “most”

  • Tricksterson

    If by “religion” uou mean somthing that is followed out of blind faith then yeah, you can be a religious atheist.  Having been an Objectivist I can state that from personal experience.

  • http://www.tommyjonestheband.com RantingTommy

     but atheism is not based on blind faith, it’s based entirely on physical evidence

  • Tricksterson

    But in Communism or Objectivism while they’re technically atheists they simply substitute something else for God.  In the case of Communism it’s “history”/”the will of the masses”.  In Objectivism it’s “the worship of Man qua Man” (that’s a direct quote btw).  Only of course like any religion they need human cult figures so communism has Marx and Lenin as the true prophets of history, with Stalin actually a more controversial figure.  Objectivism of course has Rand with Nathaniel Brandon as the fallen angel figure.  It’s all about having a crutch to lean on and even more importantly Someone or Something in who’s name you can kill opress and persecute others, although to be fair Objectivists, to this point at least have stuck to ridicule and…sarcasm (which is why eonard Peikhoff is being hunted by a giant hedgehog)

  • jkarov

    The premise of atheism for some of us is that we don’t care about religions, mythology, or spirituality except perhaps in an academic  sense.

    Myths, and associated tenets and beliefs of various  religions are not relevant to us.

    Many accuse atheism of being a religion of it’s own, with fervent followers, activists, and “evangelicals” preaching about it’s virtues.

    I consider myself more of a non-theist, and for good reason.   My analogy is this:
    atheism is a religion, like OFF is a TV channel

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     Isn’t group identity-based morality FUN?

    “When one of US does it, it was an isolated mistake by that one person. When one of THEM does it, it is further proof of how bad THEY all are.”

  • lowtechcyclist

    The people who’ve managed to wrest control of the “Christian” label from the rest of us have put their faith (if you can call it that) in the service of a particular tribal political agenda.

    I’m sure they are familiar with Jesus’ saying that “no man can serve two masters.”  Their solution, it seems, has been to relegate Jesus to figurehead status in their faith.

  • LouisDoench

     I’m not gonna feed our troll, but please fellow atheists… don’t be Helena, it’s really fucking rude.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    No one who was not a Christian has ever screamed at me that I was a slut who was going to hell. Whenever I walked on my college campus, every day, white male Christians did scream at me that I was a slut who was going to hell.

    So, white male Christians verbally abused me every time I was doing my job of taking classes. People who self-identify as Christian are the ones who are trying to relegate me to the status of chattel again as a woman, the ones who are fighting against getting me the medical care I need, and the ones who are scoffing at me as a lazy “dependent” for needing food stamps, and trying to take those away too. And they say they are doing these things as Christians. Loudly. No other group of people has done anything like this to me, as a group.

    They use the power of the “Christian” label to hurt people. Saying, “oh whatever, I’m too busy doing other stuff” — well, none of that “other stuff” seems to be working in this country today on a large scale. And if someone tells me they’re Christian, especially if that person is a white male, and I don’t have very good reason to think they don’t want to hurt me, I’m gonna back up a couple steps and get ready to run. Because I don’t like being screamed at by misogynist assholes. Even though I know Fred is a white male Christian, even though my family holds many white male Christians, the chance of a white male Christian deciding today would be a good day to shriek abuse at me (or worse) is just too high for me to give a modicum of trust to white male Christian strangers.

    I am more afraid of white male Christians than of any other group of people, because white male Christians are the only people who have hated me on first site and been very vocal about that fact. They’re the group of people who have the power to take away my human rights, both as a woman and as a disabled person, and who are actively trying to do that. And when a white man tells me he’s a Jew, an atheist, a Wiccan, a pagan, a Pastafarian, etc., I relax just a little bit. One reason I like Fred, besides that I agree with him about nearly everything and he’s a good writer, is that he’s a white male Christian I don’t need to fear. It’s nice.

  • Tricksterson

    Out of curiosity why did they yell at you?  Did they do that to every woman on campus (and if so how did they avoid getting thrown off campus by security?) or was there something that stood out to them?  No I’m NOT saying that something you wore or some mannerism “provoked” them.  I’m just curious.  Part of my commission from Dad.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    They yelled at everyone, but on the Florida campus, where they set up in a high-traffic area, they did seem to yell at me more than others. I think. Though I could be wrong — it’s easy to believe you’re being singled out when someone screams at you. I knew plenty of other women they screamed at, including quite a few Christians. 

    I’m slightly above average height and pale white. Average weight. Not gonna give my measurements. How I’m different from most white women on the Florida campus, besides avoiding getting tan? Uh. I have brown hair and don’t wear makeup. I didn’t stand out as different in any way at all from any other woman on the MSU campus, but the guys who screamed at me there did literally tailor their tirades to each individual who passed — they chose a relatively low-traffic spot for it. 

    No, there is absolutely nothing about me that would make them single me out. And in case anyone is thinking it, no, I do not dress “immodestly”, though if you were thinking it, go boil your head. The nastiest, longest tirade against me came when I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. 

    They spent the entire time screaming at people. Saying that studying physics would take us to hell, we all masturbated and smoked pot all the time and were therefore going to hell, voting for Obama would make us go to hell, and all the women were slut-whores who would go to hell and lure men to hell, and there’s a woman passing now who’s an example of evil womanness so here’s an abusive tirade against her. They didn’t get thrown off campus by security for their abuse and sexual harassment because “free speech.” 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    (O_O) That’s terrible. Why would people like that want to be such miserable jerks who have to make other peoples’ lives a cloud of suck as well? I really hope someone’s gotten them banned from the campus since the time you had the misfortune to deal with them.

  • Tricksterson

    Thank you.  I hope it didn’t hurt too much to recall this.

  • Konsei

    This article also reminds me how Right-wing Pro-Israel Evangelicals tend to ignore the sufferings of Palestinian Christians. To Christian Zionists, you are not a Christian if you support a two-state solution. Palestinian Christians oppose the Israeli occupation just like their Muslim counterparts, just they support peaceful means. Christian Zionists do not see Palestinian Christians as real Christians. Whenever the mention of the suffering of Palestinian Christians, Christian Zionists will immediately blame it on Muslims, but if you ask the Palestinian Christians, they will tell you it is the fault of the Israeli government.

  • Liralen

    As a relatively newly converted Christian, I run into this “de-legitimizing” a lot.  I still retain all of my liberal secular beliefs, which revolve around tolerance and suspicion of anyone who demands that I harm someone else.  It fits well with the teachings of Jesus.

    I do find myself horrified both by what people assume about me because I’m a Christian (which doesn’t have a reputation for tolerance among non-Christians, even though Jesus taught us otherwise), and by Christians who “de-legitimize” me because of things I object to that are unfair or unkind.

    If this continues, Christianity will find it difficult to obtain new converts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    I do find myself horrified both by what people assume about me because
    I’m a Christian (which doesn’t have a reputation for tolerance among
    non-Christians, even though Jesus taught us otherwise),

    I’ve lost count of the number of times people have (rudely) asked me “how can be be feminist/pro-marriage-equality/generally egalitarian despitebeing a Christian?”

    They generally don’t believe when I respond that I hold those positions because of my religious beliefs, not despite them.

  • Tricksterson

    Do you get that from Christians, non-Christians or both?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Can’t speak for Patrick, but I get it much more often from atheists than non-Christians. When pressed, it turns out they usually can’t name any Christians they actually know who fit the stereotype they’ve laid on me, but point to American politicians and right wing media morons.

  • Erista

    I regularly encounter Christians who have out and out told me that you can’t really be a Catholic/Christian and hold certain views.

    Two examples:

    1) A protestant friend of mine who insisted that you couldn’t advocate gay marriage and/or gay rights and be Christian, because if you were a Christian, you JUST KNEW that homosexuality was wrong. I assume she felt this way about other issues, but I tried not to talk to her about it too much, for it made me angry.

    2) My Catholic co-worker (mentioned in an above post) who holds you can’t be a REAL Catholic and use birth control, be pro-choice, or be in favor of gay marriage (among other things). Thus, he has out and out stated that people like Nancy Pelosi aren’t REAL Catholics (this is an example he came up with, not me).

  • EllieMurasaki

    My Catholic co-worker (mentioned in an above post) who holds you can’t
    be a REAL Catholic and use birth control, be pro-choice, or be in favor
    of gay marriage (among other things).

    I wonder what he’d think of my mother. It seems to be important to her to believe that she does not use birth control. But I have seen used condoms in her wastebasket. I have also overheard her say to Dad that if he doesn’t want any more kids, he knows what he can do about it. (Dad’s Presbyterian. I think that means he’s ‘allowed’ to use birth control even though she’s not.)

  • Erista

     I don’t know for sure what he would say, but I do know that he’s married to an Episcopalian, and that he feels that he not is allowed to have sex with his wife if she is on birth control. I don’t know if he’ll change his mind when they’re done having kids (they have 4), but that’s where he stands right now. The mere suggestion that his wife might decide to go on birth control (because Episcopalians don’t think birth control is a sin) upset him. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    he feels that he not is allowed to have sex with his wife if she is on birth control.

    …is that supposed to make sense?

  • Erista

     It doesn’t make any sense to me because I don’t see the point of it, but apparently it does to him. He is of the opinion that if his wife uses birth control and they have sex, he is consenting to the birth control, and is thus culpable in the sin. Abstinence is not a sin, so he won’t be sinning by abstaining from sex. However, he is hoping (?) this won’t happen, and that she will simply respect this opposition to birth control enough that she won’t use it, thus solving the problem.

  • hapax

     No, I get it. It would be like participating his wife’s “sin” of preventing pregnancy, if he were to engage in sexual activities knowing that procreation isn’t a possible outcome.  Sort of like being a receiver of stolen goods.

    I have to admire his lack of hypocrisy, at least.

    (Note:  not agreeing with the position, just explaining)

  • EllieMurasaki

     I…guess that makes sense?

    Am I a bad person for hoping that, if she decides she needs to use birth control, she does so and simply doesn’t tell him? I mean, I’m all for completely honest communication in relationships, but…

  • Erista

     I’m hoping that he’ll either change his mind or she’ll use it without telling him. If they didn’t have kids already, I’d hope she would dump him, but they do, so that’s a bad option at this point. So if you’re a bad person, we can be bad people together. Wheeeee!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Do you get that from Christians, non-Christians or both?

    Both, more often from non-Christians, most often from non-Christians who were raised in a Christian tradition that focused on the “Big Four” tribal markers.

  • Lori

    I’ve stayed out of this discussion because I can’t really be rational about the issue. As a result I have no idea if anyone has posted this yet.

    On the subject of “not all Christians are total jerks” and why don’t the non-jerks ever get any publicity: the priest in Seattle who, against the request of the archdiocese, refused to allow signature-gathering for petitions against  marriage equality in his church got a standing ovation from his congregation and folks are talking about it.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2012/04/17/catholic-pastor-appluaded-for-shunning-anti-gay-marriage-drive/

  • http://www.facebook.com/bluejack Blunt Jackson

    Matthew 7:15-23 may be relevant here.

    “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
          21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

  • jkarov

    Please remember that for many reading your post, the 66 books of ancient writings you are quoting from are not accepted as an authoritative source.

  • Erista

    Well, to be honest, I pretty much try to stay out of deciding who is and who is not a real Christian. Self-proclaimed Christians tend to not tolerate that kind of feedback from an atheist. Even conversations that start out with me saying something like, “Well, doesn’t the bible say that . . .” tend to end with the Christian insisting that I, an atheist, cannot possibly comment on what the bible says or on what it means to be a Christian. As someone who is not filled with the spirit, you see, I cannot possibly understand. So I’ve gotten to the point where if someone says they are a Christian, I just take them at their word.

    And yes, I don’t think this kind of idiocy is confined to religion. I simply encounter it more because I live in a country that is predominantly Christian and overwhelmingly religious, thus granting me with the dubious opportunity to encounter more fools of the  religious variety than of the non-religious variety.

  • Tricksterson

    I don’t even get involved in the “who’s a real pagan” arguments (yeah we hve them too) so I ain’t about to get involved in similar arguments for a religion that isn’t even mine.

  • Erista

    Do you get a lot of people saying things on par with,  “Yes, that person did a bad thing and they SAY they are a pagan, but they aren’t a REAL pagan, so you shouldn’t say a pagan did it,” then? Because I’ve seen a lot of fighting over who is a real Wiccan and so forth, but it seems to be an argument over ideology rather than behavior (i.e. “REAL Wiccans don’t believe blah blah blah,” not “REAL Wiccans don’t do that kind of bad thing”).  But I wouldn’t be surprised if that kind of thing popped up in the pagan community.

  • Bladesmith818

    Call them what they are, Christian “Dominionists”, and lable them thusly.

  • Sidney18511

    Definition of religious bigotry:
    Its not that they hate everyone who doesn’t look, think and act like them~it’s just that God does.

  • wildclover

    Problem is, the fringy evangelical wing is loud and noisy and had some high profile televangelist types that got invited for photo-ops and made it into the news. Pat Robertson making crazy statements about gays and feminists causing 9/11, or Jerry Falwell accusing Tinky Winky of being gay makes for colorful news. The media is used to these nutjobs and reporting on them. Having a TV show or a million dollar church makes you automatically more news worthy than the minister who just does an excellent job of ministering. We get letters and petitions of moderate/liberal religious leaders on whatever topic, and we might read about it on page 5. Get Pat Robertson to say Obama is the anti-Christ, and you will see page one headlines. Reasonable people are boring. Unreasonable people say things that get folks riled up and reading the paper/watching the news. 
    All the Baptists have disavowed WBC, and at least here, they were outnumbered about 10-20 to 1 when they came and showed their butts here. The church being protested requested no counter protest, but their downtown protest ended about 20 minutes early. 
    There is a large number of evangelicals who are active in “liberal” causes, like feeding the poor, protecting the environment, etc. Stuff the Jesus of the Bible laid upon His followers. But they aren’t headlines because they are not newsworthy. A paragraph in the Sunday local news section. A crazy person burning Korans? News. 
    A push back has begun. I see more religious leaders standing up for _their_ freedom of religion. But they got shoved out of the mainstream “news” dialogue for so long, that they don’t make the headway. The fundie propagandists got to the language and the media first by being newsworthy, and now our media is well trained to look to them for “news”.
    I always resented the “values voter” exit polls that were assumed to be the conservative voters. I vote MY values. I’m very family values. But like the “pro-lifers” who don’t give a fig for the life of the born, or the mother, “family values” means solely a subset of what family values should include. They don’t value the families headed by two parents of the same gender, or single mom, or even adoptive parents. And a lot of otherwise good hearted people just hear the words and assume they agree, because they lack the time, or the education, or the access to facts that would show them that the “family values” in the news is not what they value.
     

  • herzliebster

    Thank you for this.  NPR does the same thing and I have called them on it many a time to no avail.  Keep up the struggle.


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