The ‘Big Four’ markers of the evangelical tribe

Not all of the Big Four carry equal weight.

I’ve commended Jonathan Dudley’s excellent book, Broken Words, for his frank and insightful assessment of the four tribal markers that characterize the boundaries of American evangelicalism: abortion, homosexuality, evolution and environmentalism. Opposition to all four of those constitutes evangelical tribal identity.

Such opposition need not be active or particularly outspoken. What’s important is the “stance” of opposition, to use the lingo of the tribe. That “stance” must be “firm.”* When someone takes a “firm stance” against any of the Big Four, they solidify their identity as a member of the tribe in good standing. When the firmness of one’s stance against any of these four is in question, so too is one’s status, identity and membership in the tribe.

As with much of what passes for American evangelical theology, the sense seems to be that what matters most is intellectual assent to a propositional assertion. One needs to be able to give the proper answer when asked the question, but it’s perfectly acceptable to spend most of one’s time on other activities.

The Rev. Billy Graham, for example, spent most of his long career as an evangelist conducting old-school revival meetings. He didn’t spend his time or energy railing against the Big Four. That wasn’t his thing. But, like all American evangelicals, even evangelists and revival preachers are required to check in from time to time to reaffirm the firmness of their stance against the Big Four and thus the validity of their membership in the tribe.

“What’s the password?” the sentinels of the tribe will occasionally demand and, familiar with the ritual, the evangelists will supply the proper responses — confirming the firmness of their stance against abortion, homosexuality, evolution and environmentalism. To do otherwise would call into question their legitimacy within the tribe, which they fear would distract and detract from their larger work.

I suspect that Billy Graham’s current spasm of partisan activism on behalf of North Carolina’s recklessly cruel Amendment One is, for him, another instance of this ritual confirmation of the firmness of his stance. (A response likely orchestrated and exploited by his political hack son, Franklin, who has long sought to turn the family business into a more aggressively partisan operation.)

The interesting thing about Billy Graham is that he’s 93 years old, which makes him far older than the particular culture-war issues of the current Big Four tribal markers.

When I first went to work for an evangelical parachurch agency, the Big Four was still only the Big Three. But back when Graham first began his ministry, it was only the Big One. Opposition to evolution was an important tribal marker for evangelicals in the 1950s, but the evangelical movement as a whole was far less tribalistic at that time (or, at least, their tribalism was less political in nature) and the other three pieces of the Big Four didn’t yet have any particular significance for most evangelicals.

In the 1950s, gay rights and environmentalism hadn’t yet arisen to prominence in the national conversation. They weren’t yet on the radar for most evangelicals or for most Americans. If you could hop in Marty McFly’s DeLorean and travel back to 1955 to interview prominent evangelicals, they’d have been surprised to be asked about such topics. If pressed, they would likely have expressed vague opposition to gay rights and vague support for environmentalism, but those weren’t really matters they’d given much thought.

Those 1950s evangelicals would have been slightly better prepared to discuss the question of legal abortion. That wasn’t yet any sort of priority for them, but it was already something they generally favored.

(Yes, favored. This was partly due to 1950s-era anti-Catholicism among evangelicals, but the prevailing opinion among evangelicals mostly favored legal abortion up through the 1960s and 1970s. The complete reversal of this “stance” didn’t really take hold until after the 1980 election.)

So back when Billy Graham was just starting out, the boundaries of the tribe weren’t policed and enforced as fiercely as they are today. There were other tribal markers — no drinking, no dancing, etc. — but only one of today’s Big Four was then in place: opposition to evolution. That’s the oldest of the Big Four — the only one that traces back to the last time when the culture wars were as prominent and heated as they’ve become in recent decades.**

But if evolution is the oldest of the Big Four, it is also probably the weakest. Categorical opposition to evolution is not as mandatory as categorical opposition to abortion and homosexuality. A firm stance against evolution verifies one’s status within the tribe, but the lack of such a firm stance doesn’t necessarily require one’s expulsion.

Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham’s institution promoting young-earth creationism, is more on the fringes of the evangelical tribe than, for example, Wheaton College, the respected evangelical school near Chicago. Yet it’s something of an open secret that the science departments at mainstream evangelical schools like Wheaton teach evolution as scientific fact. Polls show that a majority of evangelical clergy still deny the science of evolution, but most evangelical academics — including theologians, biblical scholars and journalists — do not share their ignorance. Those academics nearly all accept evolution as true — albeit somewhat cagily, always cognizant of who might be listening or looking over their shoulder.

People like anti-evolutionist Southern Baptist Cardinal Al Mohler are now more the exception than the rule within evangelicalism. Mohler regularly denounces other evangelicals he regards as “soft” on evolution, and he purged most such faculty in his takeover of Southern Seminary. But those faculty all landed on their feet elsewhere, embraced and accepted at other evangelical institutions.

Consider two recent books: Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Neither book is compatible with a “firm stance” against evolution. Those books may get their authors classified as officially “controversial,” but neither Enns nor Walton was summarily expelled from the tribe, reclassified as “post-evangelical” the way Jay Bakker was for embracing LGBT people as his brothers and sisters. The evangelical publishers of those books (Brazos Press and IVP, respectively) haven’t experienced any sort of backlash for publishing them — certainly not the sort of vehement denunciations and calls for retractions that would have followed if they had instead published books advocating for gay rights or abortion rights.

The other weak tribal marker among the Big Four is anti-environmentalism. This is the newest of the bunch, taking hold only in the wake of the 2000 election (in the 1980s, evangelicals liked Al Gore).

It is possible to retain one’s membership in the evangelical tribe without taking a firm stance against environmentalism. It is even somewhat possible — although, of course, “controversial” — to retain membership in the tribe while embracing and advocating for environmentalism.

Their classification as controversial limits the appeal and influence these evangelical environmentalists might otherwise have. They have sometimes tried to counter that by striking a troubling bargain that has tended to reinforce the underlying, corrosive problem of tribalism.

But that, I’m afraid, is a larger, separate, topic and thus one I’ll have to save for a future discussion.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Yes, this “firm stance” lingo invites a host of double entendres. Feel free, but try not to let it undermine an opportunity for genuine communication. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to bite my lip when some earnest evangelical has guilelessly asked me, “What’s your stance on homosexuality?”

** In the great fundamentalist-modernist culture wars of the 1920s, evangelicals suffered one huge defeat and suffered one even larger victory. The defeat — over the teaching of evolution — forced evangelicals to retreat and regroup. But the bigger blow to evangelical culture warriors turned out to be their apparent success: Prohibition. It seems nothing is more devastating for culture warriors than a decisive triumph.

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  • SketchesbyBoze

     Brilliant analysis. Have you read this recent article explaining the differences – and similarities – between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/04/what-distinguishes-evangelical-from-fundamentalist/

  • Mary Kaye

     I am pretty sure I heard conservative Christian attacks on environmentalism when I was growing up in the 1970’s.  I would have blamed the Moral Majority, but Wikipedia tells me they didn’t start until 1979 and were not particularly known for a view on this topic.

    The key word at the time was “ecology”, I recall, and the usual slander was to depict concern for the ecology as pagan.

    I was a Catholic at the time, and I know that within that church there was a tendency to dismiss environmental concerns as being merely a cover for overpopulation concerns, a problem issue due to the church’s stand on birth control.  (My mother came back from church very angry one day, and said the priest had said that there couldn’t be overpopulation as he’d flown over the heartlands and seen tons of unoccupied land there….)

  • glendanowakowsk

    (My mother came back from church very angry one day, and said the priest had said that there couldn’t be overpopulation as he’d flown over the heartlands and seen tons of unoccupied land there….)

    Sigh…
    When I was an undergraduate (late 70’s or early 80’s), I took an ecology course.  It wasn’t what I expected – I guess I expected something kind of hippy-dippy, but I learned about things like the carrying capacity of an ecosystem (how many individuals of a species an environment can sustainably support.)

    What the priest said is approximately the environmental equivalent of saying, “My account can’t be overdrawn, I still have plenty of checks.”

  • Michael Pullmann

    Well, we all know Larry Craig’s stance on homosexuality.

  • mud man

    One thing about Evolution and Environmentalism is that they both are about *change*, whereas “God doesn’t change.” On the other hand, they are both about factual observations, which means they can be critiqued by logic, so there’s a certain tension there.

    Homosexuality and Abortion (aka fetal personhood) are about *values* and values (Sam Harris to the contrary) have at best only a tenuous relationship with “facts”, and therefore whatever standard can be waved promiscuously. The only thing that can oppose a value is a greater value. The Gospel (rightly divided) works for me. “Individualism” might be OK, but political parties are not made from “individuals”.

  • Lori

     

    The only thing that can oppose a value is a greater value. The Gospel (rightly divided) works for me.

    And there in lies the rub.

    “Individualism” might be OK, but political parties are not made from “individuals”.

    Sure they are. That’s how groups work. They’re made up of individuals. Political parties are not The Borg.

  • mud man

    “Sure they are. That’s how groups work. They’re made up of individuals. Political parties are not The Borg.”
    Not??? The whole point of a “party” is to assemble a coalition: that is, I will support your position whether or not I agree with it in order to get your support for my position. 

    Generally, a whole system will have properties that emerge from the properties of its parts but are not evident in them. A society is more than a mob of individuals. Ecology is more than Chemistry. Beethoven’s Fifth is more than a bunch of notes. 

  • Lori

     

    I will support your position whether or not I agree with it in order to get your support for my position.   

    Those positions are still held by individuals and individuals can and do have things they aren’t willing to trade away. The modern GOP is about as uniform as a political party gets when it comes to it’s votes in Congress, but even they don’t all agree on things. That’s why there are arguments about RINOs and why there’s some (highly amusing) in-fighting going on these days between various factions.

    Generally, a whole system will have properties that emerge from the
    properties of its parts but are not evident in them. A society is more
    than a mob of individuals. Ecology is more than Chemistry. Beethoven’s
    Fifth is more than a bunch of notes. 

    Yes, the whole is generally more (or sometimes less) than the sum of it’s parts. The parts don’t disappear though. The notes in Beethoven’s Fifth don’t have agency. They didn’t organize themselves into music and they can’t jump off the staff and join some other piece if they decide the Fifth just isn’t working for them. People can.

  • http://www.crochetgeek.net/ Jake

    Yes, this “firm stance” lingo invites a host of double entendres.

    Maybe they should be labeling their attitude towards homosexuality as “stiff opposition” instead.

  • http://aynrandhatedjesus.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    They have a stiff opposition to a gay agenda being rammed down their throats.

  • JonathanPelikan

    These are the folks who decided that they wanted their new political revival movement to be associated firmly with a particular sex act famous in the online gaming community.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    ** In the great fundamentalist-modernist culture wars of the 1920s,
    evangelicals suffered one huge defeat and suffered one even larger
    victory. The defeat — over the teaching of evolution — forced
    evangelicals to retreat and regroup. But the bigger blow to evangelical
    culture warriors turned out to be their apparent success: Prohibition.
    It seems nothing is more devastating for culture warriors than a
    decisive triumph.

    I think theyt’re actually better off not winning a clear victory i the abortion thing. Sure, they would LIKE to ban abortion, nationwide, in every single case, but if they can engineer a situation where it’s technically legal but subject to  to so many restrictions and hurdles that it’s practically abolished, that’s their best case scenario. They can fundraise off of it as much as they like without having to actually allow it to occur.

  • http://intellectualoid.wordpress.com/ Reader John

    You’re a bit off on the abortion chronology.

    I was an Evangelical back in those days, and reacted somewhat negatively to Roe v. Wade and, even before Roe, to the complicity in abortion of some mainstream ministers. I recall no sermons or propagandizing, pro or con before Roe, but my values seem to have been so shaped that when Roe arrived, I didn’t cheer. Neither did I boo too loudly. But I remember my reaction fairly well. It came as a shock to me years later to learn that Southern Baptists had been officially – well, whatever euphemism preceded “pro choice” – until sometime later, perhaps in the 80s.
    However, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race,” a book and movie by Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, were out no later than the dead of winter 1979-80, and were enjoying sponsorship by Evangelical Churches.
    On evolution, “firmly opposed” could be very squishily confused by how to reconcile faith and science.
    Gay rights back then meant decriminalization, and many Evangelicals were in favor for libertarian-leaning reasons.
    It’s a shame your readers aren’t sophisticated enough for you to use “Shibboleth” where your piece cried out for it. 

  • Monala

     You’d be surprised. Fred’s readers are pretty sophisticated, and many would recognize the term “Shibboleth” had he used it. (In fact, I think he might have used it once in a previous post).

    Frank Schaeffer, Jr. traces evangelical opposition to abortion back to himself. In the early 70’s he and his girlfriend (now his wife) had a child out of wedlock — right around the time Roe v. Wade was decided. In his mind at the time*, abortion was about people saying his daughter, born with disabilities to a pair of unwed 18 year olds, shouldn’t exist. He began to push his father, who was very influential, to speak out against it.

    * He’s come to regret and renounce his previous involvement in fomenting the culture wars.

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

    That’s nice, regret doesn’t change the fact that he opened up a can of worms that should have been better left alone.

  • Lori

     

    That’s nice, regret doesn’t change the fact that he opened up a can of worms that should have been better left alone. 

    I’m pretty sure he would agree with this statement, but unless you’ve got a working time machine he can borrow that ship has sailed.

  • Monala

     Yeah. It was a sort of “perfect storm” confluence of events: FS Jr.’s kid being born, Roe v Wade, needing to “atone” for being a prodigal son of a famous evangelical speaker*, and, because FS Jr. now needed to provide for a family at 18, his dad hooked him up with a job with a company that produced evangelical propaganda films that were used to influence legislators, exposing him to the idea of using religion to affect politics.

    *That may be Franklin Graham’s issue, too. He was a prodigal son when he was younger, too, so now he has to prove he’s changed by being more hard-lined than his father ever was, at least publicly. At least FS Jr. has realized his wrong, unlike Franklin Graham.

  • Richard Hershberger

     “However, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race,” a book and movie by
    Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, were out no later than the dead
    of winter 1979-80, and were enjoying sponsorship by Evangelical Churches”

    I am no expert on the subject, but my understanding is that Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop were at the forefront leading Evangelicalism to oppose abortion.  This isn’t to suggest that some individual Evangelicals or some factions within Evangelicalism weren’t opposed to it, but it was not a general characteristic of Evangelicals as a group.

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


    It’s a shame your readers aren’t sophisticated enough for you to use “Shibboleth” where your piece cried out for it.

    Where did that come from? 

    A writer not using a word you think the writer should use doesn’t say anything about the writer’s audience. And in this case, you obviously don’t know anything about the writer’s audience.

    By the way, the word “shibboleth” is not a proper noun and should not be capitalized.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

     A great many of us know what a Shibboleth is; so did the ancient Benjaminites, much to their dismay.

  • eric_berge

     Isn’t it pronounced “Sibboleth”?

  • Monala

    Opposition to evolution was an important tribal marker for evangelicals
    in the 1950s, but the evangelical movement as a whole was far less
    tribalistic at that time (or, at least, their tribalism was less
    political in nature) and the other three pieces of the Big Four didn’t
    yet have any particular significance for most evangelicals.

    The author Philip Yancey has argued that tribal markers have long been they’re, they’ve just changed. Back in the ’50s, the Big Three would have been belief in evolution, drinking and divorce.  You see a little of that in the movie Walk the Line, when a woman lambasts June Carter in a grocery store for being a disgrace to Christianity because she’s divorced.

    Given that divorce rates among evangelicals equal those among non-evangelicals, it’s obvious why that has changed. I’m not sure why the drinking marker changed, however. I suspect that evangelicals probably drink less than non-evangelicals (for example, the evangelical parties and weddings I’ve attended typically don’t serve beer or wine), but for some reason they’ve come to view drinking as not a big deal. Anyone have any idea about why?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I suspect that the demotion of drinking is because, to a large degree, it stopped functioning as a tribal marker. It’s a bit hard to comprehend for someone in my age group unless you’re watching Mad Men, but back in the 50s and 60s, drinking was part of the social contract in a way it just *isn’t* now. People used to drink a lot more. That’s why we call them “cocktail parties”. It was considered normal for an adult to go down to the bar for a few hours after work, and come home tipsy every night. It was condsidered acceptable for mom and dad to leave the kids with a babysitter, go over to a friend’s house and get hammered every once in a while. It was normal for someone with an office job to go out to lunch and have a few drinks, and if you were an executive worth your salt, you’d have a wet bar in your office. 

    Today, insisting on complete abstinence from alcohol is basically just a very extreme version of what’s *already the societal norm* — the idea that drinking to drunkeness is Very Bad, and that hard liquor is a “sometimes” food. But when it was on the list of evangelical shibboleths, “I don’t ever drink,” would be considered a weird, kinda quirky thing to say. 

    The thing about the evangelical Big Markers is that they like them to have a social cost. You deny evolution or climate change and you risk being painted as intellectually ignorant, you might be shunned from communities where science is taken seriously.  If you come out as homophobic, you risk being painted as a bigot and shunned from polite civilization — shunned by the mainstream, embraced by their insular little culture, and endowed with a delicious persecution complex. Exactly what they want.

    Back in the 50s, if you didn’t drink, you faced a similar sort of social cost; social acceptance, sometimes even job prospects could hinge on being able drink yourself into the sweet spot between seeming unmanly by your temperance and seeming like a sloppy drunk.  Now? Say you don’t drink, and unless you’re a college student, you’ll pretty much just be respected as a responsible person. 

  • Monala

    Great answer; makes a lot of sense.

    And hee-hee:  I see what you did! Read carefully, Reader John!

  • Tricksterson

    I vote we make the shibboleth our mascot animal.  I envision it as a cross between a giant ground sloth and an anteater.

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

    And what to become of the boobies?

    (^_~)

  • Lori

     

    And what to become of the boobies? 

    Still the official bird.

  • Tricksterson

    One reason I proposed a new mascot is that I haven’t seen a lot of the boobies lately.  They’ve been laying down on the job lately.

    On the other hand, maybe they could work out a timeshare

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

    That’s strange that the 1950s encouraged the consumption of alcohol to a greater extent than today, especially given the moral straitlacedness of the public media and television at the time, as well as given the right-wing nostalgia over the era.

    I think it’s that while a lot of stuff was accepted when it shouldn’t have been (domestic abuse, etc), that included being willing to accept the notion that being under the influence was not the worst thing in the world.

    It makes me wonder if the complaints about “permissiveness” post- the 1960s are really just complaints that people started to make the connection that easy-going attitudes to one pleasurable activity – drinking – could easily apply to another – sex.

    If anything, there’s been a lack of permissiveness about drinking and sex in the 1990s and 2000s, considering how social attitudes now frown a bit on “too much” obvious sex and any kind of drunkenness – in particular that which might cause harm to others.

  • Monala

     Media and entertainment in the ’50s regularly portrayed people as smoking as well, even while showing married couples sleeping in separate beds.

  • Lori

     

    That’s strange that the 1950s encouraged the consumption of alcohol to a
    greater extent than today, especially given the moral straitlacedness
    of the public media and television at the time, as well as given the
    right-wing nostalgia over the era.

    Remember that the drinking that was accepted in the 1950s was basically Republican drinking. It was rich white people drinking the kind alcohol that rich white people drink. It was scotch and martinis, not beer in a can. It was OK for the same reason that owning a liquor store is legal and selling pot will get you hard time. Like a lot of things in America is was about the often unacknowledged power of the classes we’re not supposed to have or talk about.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Like a lot of things in America it was about the often unacknowledged power of the classes we’re not supposed to have or talk about.

    Tying a few threads of this thread together, class distinctions (social as well as economic) played a major role in Prohibition as well, and made some strange bedfellows for the WCTU.

    Prohibition represented a conflict between urban and rural values emerging in the United States. Given the mass influx of immigrants to the urban dwellings of the United States, many individuals within the prohibition movement associated the crime and morally corrupt behavior of the cities of America with their large immigrant populations. In a backlash to the new emerging realities of the American demographic, many prohibitionists subscribed to the doctrine of “nativism” in which they endorsed the notion that America was made great as a result of its white Anglo-Saxon ancestry.

    I enjoy the irony of this line from Wikipedia (emphasis added):

    They were opposed by the “wets” – primarily liturgical Protestants (Episcopalians, German Lutherans) and Roman Catholics, who denounced the idea that the government should define morality.

  • http://www.crochetgeek.net/ Jake

    They were opposed by the “wets” – primarily liturgical Protestants (Episcopalians, German Lutherans) and Roman Catholics, who denounced the idea that the government should define morality.

    Doesn’t surprise me at all. Historically, American Catholics have been alarmed by any legislation serving a religious morality in America for the simple reason that it wasn’t their morality that was likely to be served by it. America’s had a strong anti-Catholic current since pre-colonial days, which has frequently erupted into outright prejudice and occasional violence.

    It’s kind of weird in consequence of this for me to conceive of theocracy in  America being spearheaded by the likes of Romney and Santorum. Those trying to push religion into the law have hitherto been awfully hostile to both of their religions, and one would think they’d have cultural memory of the fact that the American religious right is really not their friend.

  • Tricksterson

    If you had to (publicly at least) act as morally confined as the avrage middle classer in the Fifties, you’d drink a lot too.

  • LectorElise

    If I may be cynical- recruitment potential. Just about everybody drinks occasionally or knows somebody who does. ‘Drinking is a sin’ translates to pinning the label of sinner on somebody to potential convert knows. Where as ‘Queerness is a sin’ has a much lower chance of being personally applicable, and comes with the bonus of feeling smugly self-righteous for resisting a sin that never appealed to them in the first place.
    Similarly, evolution, and environmentalism aren’t behaviors, not really, so our potential convert is unlikely to oh, attend zir cousin’s recital and see said cousin being an environmentalist at the open bar afterwords. And finally, abortion isn’t habitual, like drinking, or easily noticed, like getting divorced- how many of us have heard stories about conservative anti-abortion activists having abortions? They’re all sins without an overabundence of visible sinners.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    If I may be cynical- recruitment potential. Just about everybody drinks occasionally or knows somebody who does. ‘Drinking is a sin’ translates to pinning the label of sinner on somebody to potential convert knows. Where as ‘Queerness is a sin’ has a much lower chance of being personally applicable, and comes with the bonus of feeling smugly self-righteous for resisting a sin that never appealed to them in the first place.  

    That only applies if the person condemning the sin does not know a person important to them who is affected by all that anti-gay condemnation.  As more people are “out”, the more obvious this becomes, and the more relaxed social attitudes toward homosexuality get.  Of course, for those who still hold onto condemnation of gays, that only further undermines them, which is why they seem so eager to push for petty symbolic gestures that have no practical effect other than to “send a message” to gay people.  

    Sadly for these clowns, the genie cannot be put back in the bottle (or closet as the case may be,) and their fight to do so is a hopeless one.  

  • LectorElise

     That is my hope. I’m hoping, over the next fifty years, as climate change, gay rights, and the anti-anti-feminism backlash continue to be more and more prominent, big four style evangelists will find their bases shrinking back until they’re only a feature in hyper-conservative enclaves.
    Girl can dream, anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Appelget/100000185646776 Steven Appelget

    An old marker was probably also “anti-Catholic”.  You can hear echoes of it from some places like Chick Comics.  At some point, though, it faded away as a marker of Evangelicalism.

  • guest

    Huh, I wonder when that changed–that still seems to have been a marker in the early ’90s when I (Catholic) lived for a couple of years in a small midwestern town.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m not sure “faded away” is as accurate as “went underground”.

  • V. Gottlob

    Peter Enns’ take on the interpretation of Scripture was deemed too liberal by the Board of Trustees of Westminster SemInary and he was dismissed in 2008, although he had the support of the faculty.

  • Wygrif

    “** In the great fundamentalist-modernist culture wars of the 1920s,
    evangelicals suffered one huge defeat and suffered one even larger
    victory. The defeat — over the teaching of evolution — forced
    evangelicals to retreat and regroup. But the bigger blow to evangelical
    culture warriors turned out to be their apparent success: Prohibition.
    It seems nothing is more devastating for culture warriors than a
    decisive triumph.”

    Fun fact; the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union still exists, and (I think) still advocates prohibition–though they’ve branched out to include prohibitions on drugs and homosexuality in their program. 

  • guest

    Many years ago I met a woman who was a member of WCTU–IIRC while the things she told me they worked for now weren’t exactly progressive (though of course this was something like 25 years ago; the issues were different) they were promoting sensible and not specifically religious reforms, like issues to do with protecting children and victims of domestic violence.

  • Lori

    Many years ago I met a woman who was a member of WCTU–IIRC while the
    things she told me they worked for now weren’t exactly progressive
    (though of course this was something like 25 years ago; the issues were
    different) they were promoting sensible and not specifically religious
    reforms, like issues to do with protecting children and victims of
    domestic violence.

    In a very real way that’s just sticking true to their original mission. The fact that women and children had very little recourse against husbands and fathers who drank away the rent money and/or became abusive when drunk was a major driver of Prohibition. The WCTU pushed to eliminate alcohol because their imaginations seemingly didn’t extend to any other way to protect the vulnerable from drunks.

  • glendanowakowsk

    Fred has used the word “shibboleth” before.  Here’s just one example:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2011/07/09/from-the-archives-the-gay-hatin-gospel/ 

    Be sure to read the associated footnote.  Still makes me giggle.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And speaking of evangelical watchwords, in Waco, Texas, anti-intellectualism is such a tribal marker that Bill Nye The Science Guy got booed for saying that the moon reflects sunlight rather than emitting its own

  • Swordfish788

    They booed him for that, huh? Welp, time to start drinking again.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    When contacted for a response, Bill Nye reportedly said “Eppur si muove.”

  • Tricksterson

    Well yeah, everyone knows that the light of the moon comes from the natural radioctivity of the cheese from which it is composed.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I’m also skeptical of anti-environmentalism not becoming a pillar of evangelical thought until the 2000 elections. Going by my mother’s side of the family (farmers in western Washington state), there was an extremely virulent anti-environmentalist stance going back as far as I can remember. My grandfather couldn’t pass a pond or a grove of trees without railing against “environmentalists and stupes.” Now, you might be thinking that there are a lot of trees and ponds in western Washington, and you’d be right. He spent a lot of time angry about a lot of things.

    @rraszewski:disqus :

    It’s a bit hard to comprehend for someone in my age group unless you’re
    watching Mad Men, but back in the 50s and 60s, drinking was part of the
    social contract in a way it just *isn’t* now.

    Wasn’t it common before Prohibition to drink two bottles of hard liquor a week? Modern attitudes have changed a lot over the past century. “Three martini lunch” certainly didn’t come around as a phrase in the last 20 years. I guess the three martini lunch also reinforces Lori’s point about the drinking rich white men do being socially acceptable (and tax deductible), while other drinking wasn’t.

  • P J Evans

     The company I work at banned drinking at lunch in the late 80s. I suspect too many employees were getting into accidents on their way back to work.

  • Lori

    I suspect too many employees were getting into accidents on their way back to work.

    Either that or they were  embarrassing the company in front of clients.

    I worked for Big Name Database Software Company in the 90s. At the time said company was famous for it’s holiday party*. That fame rested partially on the fact that it was open bar. My first year the VP of our division paid us a visit the Thursday or Friday before the party to remind us that while Big Name wanted everyone to have a good time we should all remember that it was a work event. Because he didn’t want to have to call anyone into his office on Monday morning, unlike the previous year**. Awkward.

    The average employee age at Big Name at that time was 26 or 27 and some folks hadn’t quite figured out how to navigate the transition from frat kegger to office function.

    *I am not joking. People who worked for other companies angled to be invited as the +1 of people who would otherwise have gone stag and for the unneeded tickets of people who were dating within the firm. I have no idea if that’s still true.

    ** Reliable sources informed me that the story involved an over-served soul honest-t0-dog hitting on a VP’s spouse, some unfortunate business with one of the potted palms and some other things that were a bit unclear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    When I worked there, in the summer months at AOL we frequently had Friday afternoon “Beer Bashes” at the data center I worked in.  People would come from the other data centers and HQ and hang out on the lawn for hours drinking beer/wine, eating assorted snack foods, playing volleyball, and just generally hanging out.  There were…incidents, such as the time someone threw up in the Executive Board Room, but that never dissuaded anyone from having them.We also had lavish holiday parties that were the talk of the area (we spent a lot of money on them), and they were always very booze-heavy.  And like the parties you mention, people woud angle to be the +1 of an employee.  I can, unfortunately, attest to this fact…When I started at my current company, I remember when the holiday party was approaching and people who had been there longer than I had were surprised that there was going to be an open bar at the party.  Apparently there had been some scandalous behavior (people got fired, including a VP, I believe) at a party several years earlier, and from that point on up until that year’s party, the parties had been dry.
    Even so, our parties are still pretty boring, from what I understand.  They take place in the early afternoon, and are strictly limited to employees.  No +1s at all.  I’ve never gone to one; I usually wait until everyone else has left for the party, then go home.We periodically have a margarita machine available during company events, such as all hands meetings and whatnot, and once a month there’s a “happy hour” event at a local bar, so we’re still not as booze-centric as AOL was, but we’ve loosened up in the time that I’ve been there.  Not that it matters to me, of course.

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

    Re: drinking parties etc.

    One thing that I am peripherally aware of is that drinking at pubs and bars is still a major component of social interaction in the large industries here in BC that are heavily male-dominated.

  • Lori

     

    drinking at pubs and bars is still a major component of social
    interaction in the large industries here in BC that are heavily
    male-dominated. 

    We have that in the US too. Just change “pubs and bars” to “strip clubs”.

    So lovely. /sarcasm

  • Lori

    There were…incidents, such as the time someone threw up in the
    Executive Board Room, but that never dissuaded anyone from having them.

    Whoa. That would not have flown at Big Name. The cynical part of me thinks that this may partially explain the current fortunes of AOL vs Big Name.

    Even so, our parties are still pretty boring, from what I understand.

    I never attended the holiday parties of any of the companies I worked for after Big Name. They were unfun, by design at Company A and out of incredible cheapness at Company B*. I wouldn’t have had any interest in going in any case, but  especially after 5 years of amazing** there just didn’t seem any point.

    *So not kidding. The 1st year I was with the company we made record-breaking profits. The holiday party was held on a Sunday night to take advantage of the lower rates (and the fact that far fewer people will attend), had a cash bar and  reports were that the food was lousy in ways that screamed “cheap”.

    **Also not kidding. The year at the Design Center was good. The year when we basically had all the public space at the Fairmont was It. People who weren’t even there still talk about it. I honestly wouldn’t want to make it a lifestyle even if I could, but the occasional ostentatious display of pure cash can make for a good time. (For the record, unlike some companies the cash for the party wasn’t part of some elaborate con on the part of upper management or anything. IIRC it was a line item in the company report and everything.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    I really didn’t enjoy the one AOL party I went to.  There were just SO many people there – I believe there were 10,000 or more –  and while it was in a very large convention space, it was difficult to find a place to sit, and everywhere you went there was loud music that made conversation virtually impossible.

    The worst part* (from my perspective) was that I was supposed to be there by a specific time to meet up with my team at a specified location, but I was delayed by my date, so I missed the meet up, and never managed to find any of my friends or co-workers in the mass of people, so while I was there with a smoking hot date, I never actually got to be seen with her by anyone who knew me.  The one time I briefly encountered someone I knew, she was in the restroom.

    I mean, I actually liked her as a person (until I figured out that she was just using me), and the most important thing to me was just having the pleasure of her company, but, you know, there’s no harm in getting a little ego boost from having your friends see you with a beautiful woman on your arm…

    As for drinking in academia, when I worked at a private college, whenever we had a meeting of the Board of Trustees, we always had to have the receptions and banquets off-campus, as the campus itself was dry, and not having booze just wasn’t an option…

    *Okay, the worst part was probably when my date got an angry phone call from her boyfriend.  I guess I’m pretty slow on the uptake sometimes (or perhaps just too optimistic for my own good), but it took me a long time to figure out that the whole thing – pretty much right from her initial flirtation with me – was just her using me as a way to get an invitation to one of the fabulous parties she’d heard so much about.

  • Lori

     

    it took me a long time to figure out that the whole thing – pretty much
    right from her initial flirtation with me – was just her using me as a
    way to get an invitation to one of the fabulous parties she’d heard so
    much about.

    I know that it was a long time ago, but I am still seriously indignant on your behalf. What is wrong some people? That is such a total asshole thing to do.

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

    Yeah. In the 1990s, AAMOF, it was fashionable to bash environmentalists especially in smaller logging towns up here in BC. When there was a strenuous debate over logging in Clayoquot Sound* some news comment columns of the day actually came out with (paraphrased) ” as far as I’m concerned the government can pave the Clayoquot”.

    Re: drinking and tax deductibility

    These days the rules are that at least two people have to partake in the meal and there has to be some proof that the meal was related to business, since the inclusion went down to 50% from 100% of the cost. That said, business owners who hold this up as some kind of “PROOF!!!1111” that the IRS/Revenue Canada are cracking down miss the point that the government is still partially subsidizing an act most of us working stiffs don’t get any money back for doing.

    Raise your hands if you ever got a check from the government reimbursing you for all your meals over the last year.

    * Phonetically pronounced, clah-uh-kwut, roughly speaking. I can’t do a schwa, so the “uh” is my best rendering of an unstressed syllable.

  • Ursula L

    When looking at the way anti-environmentalism beliefs behave in this context, it’s worth remembering that anti-environmentalism isn’t the same thing as denying climate change.

    Long before climate change was an issue, anti-environmentalism was still a conservative shibboleth.  But it was about letting big business do what it wanted.  Don’t stop them from clear cutting forests.  Don’t stop them from dumping waste in fresh water.  Don’t stop them from spewing smoke in the air.  Don’t make them build cars that are fuel efficient.  

    When you have the connection between conservative evangelicalism and conservative pro-business economics, opposing environmentalism is a way in which social conservatives indicate that they are toeing the line for economic conservatives. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Remember, though, that before Nixon and Reagan, the connection between evangelicals and big business was not like it is now. It wasn’t completely absent, but it was tempered by the perception of big businesses as being overly _worldly_.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    “Remember, though, that before Nixon and Reagan, the connection between evangelicals and big business was not like it is now.”

    No, but don’t forget the The Family, the organization that runs the National Prayer Breakfast which has been attended by every president since Eisenhower:

    Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant, founded the Fellowship (the organization now known as the Family) in Seattle in 1935, in direct response to a wave of militant strikes along the West Coast. First regionally and then nationally, business leaders rallied to Vereide’s prayer circles as a way to inject a new spirit of purpose and unity into their fight against organized labor and the New Deal.

    http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~lyonsm/BringingTheElite.html 

  • Turcano

    I would disagree with the notion that anti-evolutionism is the weakest of the Four Pillars.  Anti-evolutionism is, at least in my experience, far more likely to be found in “statements of faith” than anti-environmentalism, and there seems to be a lot more genuine anger behind it, as it’s seen as a direct attack on religious principles.  Conversely, anti-environmentalism usually just boils down to “lol silly libruls.”

  • Mary Kaye

    Ursula L. writes: 

    Long before climate change was an issue, anti-environmentalism was still
    a conservative shibboleth.  But it was about letting big business do
    what it wanted.  Don’t stop them from clear cutting forests.  Don’t stop
    them from dumping waste in fresh water.  Don’t stop them from spewing
    smoke in the air.  Don’t make them build cars that are fuel efficient.  

    How do you see this as differing from the current climate-change fight?  As far as I can see, conservative opposition to climate change nowadays is driven in large part by the fact that working to stop it might hurt businesses.  I mean, in the 70’s we liberals were trying to get people to stop driving gas-guzzlers because it led to air pollution and dependence on foreign oil.  Now we’d like them to stop driving SUVs because it leads to global warming and dependence on foreign oil.

    I think climate change is just another round.  People are getting cynical about deregulation:  “Your opponents want poison in your food” is too good a weapon in liberal hands.  But climate change actions are likely to sting–people want to keep their SUVs, and to be really effective we’ll have to change a lot more than just SUVs.  That’s an easier sell.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think for evangelicals especially, opposition to envirotnmentalism is mostly about tribal identity and nothing else. There are a few out there who will try to work up a religious justification (“God gave us this world to abuse as much as we want, so climate change contradicts the bible!”), but for the most part, the reason evangelicals oppose environmentalism is *because those filthy liberal hippies are for it*. When they’re vocally anti-environmental, they take a hit for it, earning them that sense of persecution they so desire

  • Mary Kaye

    Drinking can be pretty important in academia.  I teach in two versions of a two-week intensive course (for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and junior faculty)–one in the US, one in Europe, but organized by many of the same people.  In both cases the organizers tell the students forthrightly on day 1 that a significant part of the course occurs in the bar after the  last lecture.  That’s the prime time to interact one-on-one with the faculty.

    This drives me crazy.  Not only do I not drink but I am incapable of following conversations in a bar.  I know that some students suffer from this too, and I have tried to arrange alternative social space, but without much success. 

    We also have more or less yearly trouble with the (rather strict) local law at the US venue due to the actions of course members who drink too much.  One year a bunch of participants drunkenly invited themselves to a party on a boat.  When the owner of the boat found out, there was trouble.

    So it startles me to hear that drinking’ s importance has gone *down*, though I can believe it.  (I hadn’t realized how much smoking had decreased in the US–until I went to Europe.  Wow.)

  • Trixie_Belden

    This drives me crazy. Not only do I not drink but I am incapable of following conversations in a bar.

    So it’s not just me!  I’ve always been mystified, whenever I go to a crowded bar, and I look around and I see people conversing with apparent relaxation and enjoyment.  I think I have pretty decent hearing – I’ve never damaged it with a lot of loud noise, etc. – but I find when I’m in a crowded bar the room noise overwhelms me, and I can’t usually hear the person I’m trying to talk to very well.  Then when I’m trying to reply, my normal tone of voice won’t be heard, so I have to try pitch my voice in an awkward way as I try to speak more loudly without coming right out and shouting.  By the end of the evening, my throat always feels the strain.

  • Jenora Feuer

    Actually, having good hearing might actually work against you… being able to pick up enough of the background conversational noise that you can start to parse language sounds out of it could interfere with the normal language parsing.  That said, I often have the same issue of picking out one conversation from a crowd.

    As for drinking, I’m not a heavy drinker either.  Part of it is my parents: both that neither of them were significant drinkers, but also because neither of them treated alcohol as something mysterious that I was never to touch.  My father introduced me to hard cider (B.C. Growers) back when I was in my early teens, though I could only have small amounts.  Thus demystified, alcohol did not come at me with the ‘you are now at University and can drink as much as you want!’ aspect.  Though the main issue is just that I really hate not being in control of myself.

    My average alcohol intake is about one drink per month, and half of that is when I’m visiting family.  The company where I work normally gives one free drink at the annual business bashes, and everything alcoholic after that you pay for yourself.  Of course, the fact that three of the department I work in (including my group’s manager) are Muslim and don’t drink at all also rather limits the number of people actively trying to get hammered.

    On the other hand, the one time I went to a business meeting in Japan, some of the people there were quite obviously having trouble walking straight, much less giving speeches, well before the night was over…

  • friendly reader

    The whole “social drinking whilst getting  periodically plastered” is still very much a part of social life here in Japan (I guess that’s another thing where they’re still stuck in the 1950s…) but I haven’t hit much of it thanks to where I work. When you’ve got people working in a preschool, after school programs, and evening classes, everyone goes home at different hours. But my friends and acquaintances who work in public schools say that Friday is frequently “everyone goes bar-crawling and gets hammered.” And at parties and karaoke nights, yes, my Japanese friends have gotten quite drunk and had to take taxis home.

    And then they wonder why I don’t drink much. The answer, of course, is that I have a very low tolerance for alcohol. Part of the reason is that I’ve always been too cheap to buy a lot of alcohol; I hate beer and what I do like tends to be expensive. Hence drinking is a treat for me, and I’ve never built up a tolerance. The part I don’t tell them, thanks to stigmas here, is that the medication I take massively lowers my alcohol tolerance. I can buzzed on only a little bit of alcohol.

    Also, were German Lutherans the only wets? What about the Scandinavians and Finns? Did they cave to pressure? Can I get some German Lutheran pride out of the fact that we told Prohibitions to go suck an egg?

  • Lori

     

    I’ve always been too cheap to buy a lot of alcohol; I hate beer and what I do like tends to be expensive.

    Me too. I drank a bit in high school, but by the time I could legally buy alcohol my drinking was mostly behind me. I hate the cheap stuff and there were almost always other things I’d rather buy than the expensive stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I never drank in my youth, it is only when in my very late twenties that I even developed a taste for spirits.  These days, I enjoy the occasional cocktail or beer, but my average rate is maybe a drink or two every week.  Usually just a little here or there to relax my muscles as I do some painting.  

  • P J Evans

     I like beer, actually, although I’ve never been much for drinking (my consumption was on the order of six drinks a year), but the medication I’m on now requires that I not drink at all.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    “What about the Scandinavians and Finns?”

    Sorry: “Prohibition was demanded by the “dries” – primarily pietistic Protestant denominations, especially the Methodists, Northern Baptists, Southern Baptists,New School Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists, Quakers and Scandinavian Lutherans. They identified saloons as politically corrupt and drinking as a personal sin.”

    Wikipedia doesn’t mention Finnish Americans, but Finland enacted prohibition for almost the same period as the US- 1919 to 1932. Sweden, Iceland and Norway too, give or take the start and end times. Beer was prohibited in Iceland until 1989!

  • Lori

     

    Beer was prohibited in Iceland until 1989!

    I find that very surprising. “No beer” and “eating rotted shark” are not phrases you expect to go together.

  • seniorcit

     I didn’t drink wine until I was in my 40s, and now frequently enjoy a glass with dinner.

    My teenage years were in the 1950’s and were accompanied by a whole list of verboten activities:  drinking, smoking, movies, dancing (a vertical expression of a horizontal desire), Elvis music (jungle drums!!), bleached hair, dangling earrings,  low-cut dresses,  movie magazines, belief in evolution, studying science at a secular institution, asking too many questions.  Approved activities were church twice on Sundays (three times if you counted Sunday School), prayer meeting on Wednesdays, daily devotions, vocal prayer before meals even in restaurants, carrying your Bible to school on top of your book pile, attending youth group activities and’/or ISCF and Youth For Christ, witnessing, occasional street meetings, conducting the service at the local mission, teaching Sunday School or VBS, counselling at a Christian summer camp.  Sex education was non-existent, there were occasional pregnancies and early marriages, and lots of late evenings spent “parking” on dark, dead end streets.  When I look around at the people I grew up with I’m amazed at the number of divorces and the those who are no longer involved in a church or who have wandered on to join strange cult-like groups. 

  • GDwarf

    Re: Prohibition: Like many things, it had lots of causes. It started out as a mainly left-wing movement to try and improve the lives of the poor and women, supposedly, because they/their husbands would just drink away all their money and get in trouble. Obviously they couldn’t/wouldn’t stay dry of their own volition, so the more enlightened upper-class would have to step in and keep them safe for their own good. Or that’s how it was sold, anyways.

    There was also lots of racism (“Drunk n*****s will rape your wives” was essentially how it was sold in the south. Plus, most of the big breweries were German while spirits were mainly distilled by Jewish companies), lots of lies about the dangers of alcohol that were taught in schools for decades before-hand, and lots of other factors (For example: The strongest prohibition advocates were Suffrage groups, and once the movement gained a bit of momentum you ended up with “Wet dries”; Politicians that drank but that were willing to be pro-prohibition to court votes. And, as always, you got state’s rights and all that nonsense tangled up in it).

  • Jay

    I’ve had the idea for a while that societies tend to have tension between their centers and their edges.

    By the “edge” of a society, I mean the regions and classes that are exposed to elements of other societies.  Large cities, political capitals, and universities tend to be edge areas.  Trade, immigration, travel, and diplomacy tend to give residents of those areas a cosmopolitan outlook.  Edge residents (edgers?) know members of other cultures and other religions, and understand that there are people in the world who do not share their cultural beliefs and values, but nevertheless get along in life as well as anyone else.  In contemporary America, this outlook would largely be called “liberal”.

    In the center of the society, there are few elements of other cultures (except for those cultures that have been subjugated and whose viewpoints can be safely ignored).  The beliefs and values of the society are taken for granted, and any insult to them is considered outrageous.  In contemporary America, the outlook of the center is usually called “conservative”.

    As a general rule, edge members of one culture are well-equipped to deal with edge members of other cultures, but center members of different cultures are not.  For example, the State Department and the Saudi monarchy are both edge members of their own cultures, and can deal with each other easily.  Center members of the same cultures, such as evangelical conservatives and Taliban, probably won’t get along.

    Speaking a foreign language other than Spanish fluently is a very “edgy” trait.  Knowing many people with distinctly foreign points of view (Muslims, Chinese who consider the Party favorably, people whose marriages were arranged by their parents) is also very “edgy”.

    Generally, members of the edge of a society consider the center members to be backward and unworldly.  Generally, members of the center of a society consider edge members to be weakened by foreign influence; the social narratives, conventions, and values that the center members hold dear are taken far less seriously on the edge.

    The value of this idea, to me, is to understand that something similar happens in every society.  Other countries have their centers and their edges, and anyone who talks to us is probably very “edgy”. 

  • Guest

    “What’s your stance on homosexuality?”

    I hope your response is, “I’m flattered, but I’m married.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaenon Shaenon K. Garrity

    it took me a long time to figure out that the whole thing – pretty much 
    right from her initial flirtation with me – was just her using me as a 
    way to get an invitation to one of the fabulous parties she’d heard so 
    much about.I know that it was a long time ago, but I am still seriously indignant on your behalf. What is wrong some people? That is such a total asshole thing to do.
    Meh… if his main reason for inviting her was to get the “ego boost” of being seen with a beautiful woman on his arm, I’d say he was using her just as much.  Just less successfully.


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