Evangelical tribalism is not healthy for children and other living things

Jason Pitzl-Waters is a wise man. In his regular music round-up, he captures just why so-called contemporary Christian music is not something to be emulated:

The yearning to develop something akin to “Contemporary Christian” music within our own communities is, I believe, counter-productive to the impulses that actually move us into sacred territory.

When I construct A Darker Shade of Pagan each week I don’t think about the Pagan pedigrees, I think about what inspires and envelops me. When I think about music that makes the dead dance, I don’t think about whether that artist is “one of us,” I ask if that artist moves my Pagan soul.

Concern with “one of us” — and the totems, slogans and “stances” that arise to confirm such tribal membership — is at the core of why no one, anywhere, should want to develop anything akin to contemporary Christian music. Or to contemporary Christian politics. Or to the contemporary Christian theology reshaped by that music and politics.

Once “one of us” and it’s its more-important corollary “not one of us” become your concern, they quickly become your main concern, and then eventually your only concern.

And here is a perfect illustration of what that does to music, to religion, to politics, and to any capacity you once might have had for love:


For those who can’t watch video — or who recognize Carman there and thus prudently refuse to click “play” — let me try to describe this for you. It’s a song by Carman and 1980s Christian rock stalwarts Petra.

The lyrics begin by lamenting the 1962 Supreme Court decision ending state-sponsored establishment prayers in public schools. Carman, rapping like MC Neil Diamond, offers a litany of post-hoc argumentation, blaming everything he considers bad on the court’s ruling. He calls it “religious apartheid.”

“It’s our turn now” proclaims the chorus — a rallying cry for the tribal rule of sectarian religion. And everyone else, everything outside the tribe, is on the side of the “devil.”

It’s fairly similar to the rallying cry Mike Huckabee gave this week, when he chose to illustrate what religion-as-tribalism and politics-as-tribalism look like combined.

The former Arkansas governor and former Southern Baptist pastor spoke on a conference call to hundreds of Missouri clergy, drumming up their support for his man, Rep. Todd Akin. “This could be a Mt. Carmel moment,” Huckabee said:

You know, you bring your gods. We’ll bring ours. We’ll see whose God answers the prayers and brings fire from heaven. That’s kind of where I’m praying: that there will be fire from heaven, and we’ll see it clearly, and everyone else will, too.

Huckabee knows, and the right-wing pastors he was addressing all know, the ending of that biblical story:

Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.

Nice guy, that Huckabee. Avuncular. Affable. And oh-so-very civil, don’t you think?

For the Carman video above, you can blame Ericka M. Johnson at the Friendly Atheist. Ericka describes how Carman’s music, and especially this song, played a key role in her faith journey as a teenager. “I was a big fan of it and played it over and over for a long time. I even had ideas for creating my own video to go along with it,” she writes.

Today, she’s a board member with Seattle Atheists. Religion-as-tribalism had it’s its turn. It’s her turn now.

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  • We Must Dissent

     I just watched “A Witch’s Invitation.” Um, what the fuck?

    I was raised as a conservative evangelical. We had church meetings about the evils of rock and roll. My mother still believes to this day that Dungeons & Dragons (and now Harry Potter) involves worshiping Satan. That “song” is still well beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Or the use of the phrase “rocket scientist” as a measure of brains. Logically speaking, “IT tech” is probably closer in current society to the sense of “Really smart person who can control cutting edge technology” but not in language.

    They’re not really comparable.  Maybe the people who design top-of-the-line computer systems would qualify, but an IT technician is more like a plumber or electrician.  Sure, they’re working with fairly complex systems, but it’s not quite in the same grade of ‘creating the best, most complicated thing out there.’  Maybe people researching robotics/AI?
    On the other hand, ‘hacker’ is pretty much synonymous with ‘smart’ in modern pop culture.

    And, well, no, our approach turns out to be better for winning wars, too. One hydrogen bomb in the right place can kill more people than all the Crusaders who ever lived. The challenge facing us is how to avoid killing off people on a vast scale, not how to achieve it.

    What about crusaders with hydrogen bombs?  Where do they score?

  • Tricksterson

    Which I don’t think was around the eastern Mediterranean whatever-century BCE.

  • Tricksterson

    If Akin loses we should hire some cheerleaders to follow Huckabee around chanting “Go Baal!  Go Baal!  Go Baal!”

  • What about crusaders with hydrogen bombs?  Where do they score?

    If we’re staying in the frame of scoring the effectiveness of different ways of affecting the world, it seems clear to me they go on the “science” side, just like anybody else using hydrogen bombs.

    Of course, we’re free to shift frames at any time.

  • Tricksterson

    1) That was probably a thinly veiled jab at Isaac Bonewitz

    2) I’m not even going to try to list the innacuracies of this clowns perception of neo-paganism.  I’m old and might be dead by the time I finished.


    They’re not really comparable.  Maybe the people who design
    top-of-the-line computer systems would qualify, but an IT technician is
    more like a plumber or electrician.  Sure, they’re working with fairly
    complex systems, but it’s not quite in the same grade of ‘creating the
    best, most complicated thing out there.’  Maybe people researching

    I suspect the distinction is lost on a majority of people. Which is why people think that my experience as a software engineer means they should ask me to fix their computer.

  • banancat

     I was never hardcore Evangelical but I got into Christian music a bit as a teen in the early 2000s and I never heard of Relient K.  Fast forward ten years and I’m an atheist, but I like Relient K.  I didn’t even realize they were a Christian band until the 100th time I heard a particular song.  To me it just sounded like typical angsty romance and the only giveaway was the use of the word “grace” in an unusual way that I only recognized because of my quick brush with Evanglicalism many years ago.  Maybe they’re not the best band ever, but I like them.  I don’t really listen to the Christian bands I used to though, and I think if I had liked Relient K back then, I wouldn’t now just because of the bad associations.

  • What about crusaders with hydrogen bombs?  Where do they score?

    Somewhere above crusaders with Holy Hand Grenades.

  • (Warning: Rape)
    Ahem: PA GOP Senate Candidate likens unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock to rape

    Not just in the abstract. He suggested that his own experience of his own daughter’s pregnancy was comparable to the experience of the father of a rape victim.

    I mean, because that’s what’s important, right? Either way, his property interest in his daughter has been defiled by some young rake’s presumption.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m beginnibg to think this will be called “The Year The GOP Committed Suicide”

  • VMink

    Or how I, as effectively a ‘computer plumber,’ am believed to be able to hack into any user’s account simply because I’m in IT Services.

  • Carstonio

    The former Jeff Christie is claiming that Obama had the National Weather Service exaggerate the hurricane danger just to sabotage the convention. Even if there were such a move afoot, it could just as easily go the other way. The more airtime the convention gets, the greater chance that it could be a culture-war hatefest worse than in 1992. I would
    think that the Democrats would love for one of the speakers to say
    something so anti-woman that it makes Akin or Ryan look like Betty


    I also liked Carman and Petra.

    And I still listen to DC Talk every once in a while. 

  • The_L1985

    That Jars of Clay song is called “Flood,” not “40 Days.” Just FYI.

  •  If Obama was doing evil with the National Weather Service, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to have them downplay the hurricane danger in the hopes that the convention will be struck by it? That’s much more in line with what they usually accuse him of doing.

  • Tricksterson

    Btw, Someone needs to tell Carman that the “Guido” look went out of fashion a loong time ago, to the extent it was ever in fashion anywhere but Brooklyn, Joisey and Revere Massachusetts

  • VMink

    Hmm.  Clearly I didn’t like it as much as I thought I did!

  • vsm

     He is from Joisey, though.

  • LoneWolf343

     Maybe it has something to do with being a good song.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m beginnibg to think this will be called “The Year The GOP Committed Suicide”

     We should be so lucky. 

  • More like exploded all over the landscape, spewing reproducing spores of intolerance and discord.