9 years ago: Progressive evangelicals

March 24, 2004, on this blog: Progressive evangelicals

6. Abortion politics is a central issue for most evangelicals, but not necessarily a litmus test.

… Abortion raises serious moral qualms for most evangelicals — but that does not mean they demand, or even are comfortable with, a starkly anti-abortion political agenda. What they require from political leaders more than anything else on this issue is the sense that those leaders view this issue with moral seriousness. Bill Clinton’s formula — “safe, legal and rare” — won over many evangelical voters. That could still be a winning formula for Democratic candidates.

(Note that the abortion rate among evangelical Christians is indistinguishable from the abortion rate of the rest of the population. That may tell us more about likely actual voting behavior than any issue-oriented polling does.)

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  • The central problem with sin-based belief systems is how one has to press harder and harder on that button. When you come from a place that equates effort with holiness, you get people focusing on whether they are struggling enough… and so, they must come up with new ways to “sin.”

    Being a good person gets harder and harder, and no complaints! It’s supposed to be soooooooooo difficult.

    I am in a spiritual orientation which teaches that feeling good — about helping others, enjoying congenial company, and fulfilling the needs of my body and mind — is actually a guide to proper living.

    And so it becomes.

  • Humans are inherently shortcut-takers. It should be simple and easy to live a lfe without sinning, but because some people seem to equate effort with the results obtained, it’s these folks that end up putting the kibosh on simple rules that don’t take much work to follow.

  • Darakou

    Hence the obsession with sexual sin, it’s the easiest, softest target, and you don’t have to do anything. Just DON’T do certain things.

  • Dash1

    That’s an interesting observation, but it assumes that all sins are sins of commission, and that most of them are things we don’t want to do. As Passover begins tomorrow, Jews will be reminded that they should have empathy with those who are getting the exceedingly short end of the stick, as they were themselves (so it says) slaves in the land of Egypt.

    And it’s still hard not to do things that we shouldn’t do, e.g., yelling at your kid when he interrupts you for the nth time while you’re trying to get work done.

  • That being said, the “don’t”s shouldn’t be impossible either. Like telling people not to have sex outside of very stringent criteria is not really fair or realistic, when a more flexible sexual ethos (which has been described elsewhere on Slacktivist) would be easier to follow and be fairer for all concerned. But such an ethos wouldn’t require as much effort-against-sin, so … what can I say, haters gonna hate. :P

  • Easier? Really? Personally, I’d say “don’t have sex of any kind until you are married to someone of the opposite gender and then have sex only with them” is fairly easy, compared to “make sure that you are always treating your sexual partners with respect, understanding, and thoughtfulness”. The first way, you have a really clear-cut knowledge of if you’ve done it or not; the second way, you will always be striving to do better.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Insert Harry Potter quote about right v easy.

  • Hi, let’s ignore QUILTBAG people TYVM

  • Insert note about QUILTBAG people.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Come on. It’s Deird. You know she’s all for QUILTBAG rights.

  • They do. That’s part of what makes it so darned easy.

  • That was kind of my point. It’s very easy to have simple rules if you ignore reality.

  • The binary of the choice is:

    1. Follow a sexual-ethic doctrine that is impossible to follow for a QUILTBAG person particularly a L or a G
    2. Follow a more reasonable sexual-ethic doctrine.

    A QUILTBAG person would figure 2 to be easier than 1 in contradiction to Deird’s assertion fo what is easy

  • I dunno, “If you ever find yourself wanting to have sex, don’t,” is still easier than pretty much any form of making the decision that it’s a good idea to have sex with someone and also determining that they’re on the same page as you are.

  • banancat

    Personally, I’d say “don’t have sex of any kind until you are married to
    someone of the opposite gender and then have sex only with them” is
    fairly easy

    I disagree. I don’t find this easy at all. Maybe if I had been married at 14, it would have been easy at the time, but the odds of finding someone I’d be compatible with for life at such a young age are slim to nil.

    OTOH, treating people with respect, understanding, and thoughtfulness is not difficult at all when I try to treat everyone that way, which is simply part of growing up. Maybe if conservatives tried caring about people, they wouldn’t have such a tough time of doing it within sexual relationships too.

  • I dunno. “Easy” is a tricky word.

    In the short term, letting stuff pile up wherever I put it is easier than keeping my desk organized. In the long term, keeping my desk organized is easier than just letting stuff pile up wherever I put it.

    Saying ‘don’t have sex’ is easier than describing how to have sex in a responsible way, that’s certainly true. But is living a celibate life easier than living a sexually responsible* life? I’m not so sure.

    * – I don’t mean to suggest that celibacy is necessarily sexually irresponsible — it isn’t. But what you seem to be suggesting is choosing celibacy as a way of avoiding the need for sexual responsibility.

  • Clearly, my use of “easy” is throwing people off. I’m not saying it’s an easy ethic to follow – I’m saying it’s an easy ethic to have. A sexual ethic of “married-to-opposite-gender: good, otherwise: bad” is very easy – because it makes every situation a clear-cut good or bad. It’s easy to determine whether you’re doing the right thing or not.

    Whereas, a better sexual ethic is going to be far more complicated to navigate. For every situation, the good or bad will be partially determined by “Hmm… it depends… what’s your partner’s reaction to this?” Which is complicated. It’s hard. (And still way better.)

  • (See above re my use of the word easy.)

  • I guess my question becomes: if I adopt the sexual ethic we’re calling “easy” here, what else in my life becomes more complicated? If I instead adopt the sexual ethic that’s instead hard and complicated, what else in my life becomes easier?

    Sometimes the harder rule to follow is an easier way to live my life.

    And given how much in my life became easier as a consequence of a relationship I could not have preserved under the “easier” sexual ethic, it’s not clear to me that the “easier” ethic is easier to have.

  • Might be just my experience, but: Practitioners of the “easy” ethics seem not to be people who put much thought into abstract, indirect or long-term consequences of their beliefs.

  • That’s my experience, as well. But I also haven’t found that not thinking about difficult things in life makes life any easier.

  • It might help one forget how often such difficulties arise, though, or whether they’re likely to arise again in the future. Plus, someone in the evangelical bubble is liable to take such complications as proof that they’re doing it right…

  • MaryKaye

    xkcd had something to say about this (let’s see if I can make a link):

    xkcd 592

    (if I can’t, it’s number 592 “Drama”.)

  • Jeff

    “Note that the abortion rate among evangelical Christians is indistinguishable from the abortion rate of the rest of the population.”

    What is your source for this claim? According to a 2010 Guttmacher Institute study, (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/US-Abortion-Patients.pdf), self-identified Protestants account for a higher net number of abortions than other groups, but there are also more people that self-identify as protestants than other religious affiliations, so the actual index (i.e., percentage of abortions divided by percentage of the population) is lower for protestants than any other group. And, of those protestants, 13% reported attending religious services weekly, while /73%/ reported attending services less than once per month, or never. So at the risk of committing a “No True Scotsman” argument, it seems plausible that people who self-identify as protestants or Evangelicals in an abortion survey may not really be fully analogous with those evil, hypocritical white evangelicals.
    This, of course, is not to say that evangelical hypocrisy is tolerable, as long as it’s just a little bit. But if you’re determined to make evangelicals look bad, you could at least pay them the compliment of getting your facts straight.