How Elizabeth Warren Made Christian Culture Warriors Lose Their Minds (This Time)

How Elizabeth Warren Made Christian Culture Warriors Lose Their Minds (This Time) October 12, 2019

Stop the presses! This was too hilarious not to share. I’ve said it many times before: Christian culture warriors wither like hothouse flowers in winter in the face of mockery. Indeed, mockery just destroys them! And they are exquisitely sensitive to its presence. So yeah, culture warriors are losing their poor little minds lately over something Senator Elizabeth Warren said yesterday in a town hall. Today, I’ll show you how Senator Warren stomped all over these self-appointed guardians of America’s purity and honor, and how they’re responding to that mockery.

kitten crouching under rug
(Mikhail Vasilyev.)

If you guessed “…with as little dignity and accuracy and as much antiprocess as humanly possible,” you’d be right.

What Went Down.

Yesterday (Friday), the news media giant CNN held an LGBTQ Town Hall in Los Angeles. There, the current Democratic presidential hopefuls took the stage. They answered questions from their audience regarding LGBTQ issues. The topics included hate crimes, healthcare coverage, immigration, national and foreign policy, and so on all the way to suicide prevention.

Pretty much all of it gave culture warriors the vapors, I’m sure. But one definitive moment in the town hall occurred during Senator Elizabeth Warren’s time at the microphone.

Morgan Cox, a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors, asked her what she’d say to someone who told her they were “old-fashioned” and thought marriage should only be reserved for one man and one woman. She replied,

“I’m going to assume it is a guy who said that,” Warren started. “And I’m going to say, ‘Well, then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.'” She then paused and shrugged before finishing her joke — “Assuming you can find one” — with a deadpan delivery that sent the crowd into loud applause.

OMG THE FAILTRAIN HAS REACHED OUCHTOWN, population Jesus Bigots!

Senator Warren not only issued a sound-bite nobody’ll forget anytime soon, but she also mocked bigots-for-Jesus so hard they’ll need to see urgent care about that burn.

Or maybe some nice, soothing triazide cream?

What Mockery Means to Culture Warriors.

Culture warriors belong to that huge branch of Christianity I’ve dubbed toxic Christians. And toxic Christians are authoritarians to the core. And that means that their entire lives revolve around the gaining and guarding of personal power. Rigid control of their environment and resistance to change represent the only real ways that they can find peace and a sense of safety and security. But those good feelings are fleeting at best. At any moment, an authoritarian might detect a challenge to the power they’ve amassed.

Thus, authoritarians spend their lives on high alert for any sign that their power has waned at all. If they see any such sign, their response is guaranteed to be a brutal and over-the-top one. They must ensure that whoever raises such a challenge can never even think about doing it ever again.

If you ever wondered why authoritarian Christians see nothing whatsoever wrong with the idea of an eternity of torture handed down as a punishment for someone who committed a mere lifetime’s worth of almost-entirely-victimless offenses, that’s why. It’s also why such Christians are so comfortable with issuing threats along those same lines to those rejecting their control-grabs.

Mockery, though, represents a kick to the teeth and a raised middle finger to authoritarians.

It shows them that their declared enemies don’t take them seriously. That’s bad enough as it is! But worse than that, mocked authoritarians know that the people mocking them don’t fear their retaliation at all. That’s serious business indeed to people whose entire sense of safety rests in being able to viciously retaliate against challengers.

Maybe the Worst Part of the Burn.

So when Senator Elizabeth Warren made her joke, toxic Christians took it as a gauntlet hurled at them with full force from a futuristic cannon. She’d not only insulted their entire culture war, but she’d shown that she didn’t care one little bit about what they’d say in response.

Maybe worst of all, she’d implied that bigots-for-Jesus might have trouble attracting mates with that kind of worldview.

It’s not a bad assumption to make, either. The divorce rate of these Christians looks awful compared to those of any other religious group (especially that of atheists). The more seriously any Christians take the culture wars, the worse they fare in relationships. Simply living in an area top-heavy with these culture warriors impacts a couple’s chances of divorce.

But these same Christians view themselves as prime mate material. It reminds me of that movie review we did a while ago for Christian Mingle: The Extended Infomercial. In it, a young woman joins a Christian dating site. She advertises herself as a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ so she can snag a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ husband. Nobody around her warns her that fundagelical men actually make horrible husbands. And it appears that some women at least are aware of that fact, given that one of last year’s big laugh riots involved Trump staffers whining that nobody in DC wanted to date them:

“Trump supporters swipe left”—meaning “don’t even bother trying”—might be the single most common disclaimer on dating app profiles in Washington.

Senator Warren had offended their sense of superiority, but maybe even worse, she’d offended their men’s self-aggrandizing opinion of their suitability as mates.

So obviously, the “Christian love” had to begin flowing freely from these culture warriors’ blowholes.

Obviously, Polygamy.

Pulpit and Pen is a fundagelical uber-above-alles culture-warrior site that is not above reblogging without permission when it suits them. They decided that Senator Warren had actually promoted polygamy in her quote.

Democrats are playing Warren’s quip this morning as though it were a glorious smackdown of traditional values. And, it is. Unfortunately for Western Civilization, the Democratic frontrunner’s logic also condemned monogamy along with traditional marriage. The word “one” is as important in that sentence as the word “woman.”

Uh, okay?

I mean, I suppose they could, conceivably, completely miss the point in a more dramatic way than this. But Senator Warren did add “…assuming you can find one.” Very obviously, she envisioned her imagined target finding ONE woman to marry.

That doesn’t exactly scream this interpretation, that she advised her imagined bigoted questioner to marry “the right girl, or group of girls, that’s right for him,” to paraphrase the Cat from Red Dwarf. But she probably doesn’t care about making laws about that either.

PS: “Traditional Marriage.”

Besides, it’s hard to imagine anything more “traditional” than polygamy.

The Old Testament itself buries readers in a landslide of polygamous matings. Many cultures practice it even today. So-called “Western Civilization,” a dogwhistle term in culture-warriors’ hands for racist white-nationalism ideals, only more-or-less avoided it by being too new for the notion. But many cultures in the West, including those of Native Americans and some American cult religions, practiced it.

This viral image shows the marriage laws actually outlined in the Bible. (Click to enlarge.)

In truth, the most “Biblical” summation I can give of “traditional marriage” remains:

A divinely-blessed formal union between one man and all the wives, sex slaves, concubines, fraternal widows, and war captives he can support.

Hooray Team Jesus!

Also, gotta love the vilification of polygamy in the modern day. Today, yes, even in so-called “Western civilization,” plenty of people–including TRUE CHRISTIANS™–indulge in consensual polygamy. I love it when toxic Christians announce their own nasty biases. Their view of sex doesn’t revolve around consent. It revolves only around tribal permission, male supremacy, and might-makes-right. Yuck.

However, I thank them for reminding me yet again of why I’m glad to be deconverted.

Ed Stetzer Clutches His Pearls. Again.

Oh, poor widdle Ed Stetzer. For a while, he suffered through a “season of deep lament” over the news of Harry Thomas’ conviction of child molestation. (For many years, Harry Thomas ran a Christian music festival called “Creation Fest/Festival” that Stetzer quite liked as a young sprat. At one time, Thomas was regarded as one of the most influential evangelicals in America.) But enough of that! The world needed him! So he posted a pearl-clutching screech screed about what Senator Warren’s comment meant to him.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly given his past gig with LifeWay in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Stetzer zeroed in on what he saw as The Big Problem Here: her answer defied his tribe’s own redefined version of religious liberty.

See, they don’t think that “religious liberty” means that everybody gets to believe whatever they want, and nobody can force anybody else to put up with or pay for their religious twaddle.

Instead, they think it means that Christians get cultural and legal dominance over everybody else, period. It’s freedom for me, not for thee all the way down to their fishnet stockings and stiletto heels.

When you see a Christian culture warrior talk about religious liberty, mentally translate it to Christian supremacy. That’s what it really means to them.

Ed Stetzer’s Litany of Lies.

So Stetzer subtitles his screed thusly: “We’ve come a long way from a plea for marriage equality.” I suppose he wants everyone to completely forget that his tribe opposed that as well. They fought tooth and nail against marriage equality all the way up to Obergefell and beyond. And they pinned that fight on their redefined “religious liberty.” He’s trying to make it sound like marriage equality was perfectly reasonable, but he and his tribe sure didn’t think so at the time. And they still don’t.

Y’all, see, in this Town Hall he totally wanted “to see where we were as a nation. . . and the need for us all to live together in one democracy.” Here, as well, we’re supposed to forget that that’s the very last vision his tribe endorses. They still dream their Republic of Gilead fever-dreams for America. They don’t want to “live together in one democracy.” Instead, they want to rule a fundagelical theocracy.

He grudgingly acknowledged that LGBTQ people live in fear of violence. He even conceded that yes, Christians need to feel “a deeper sense of compassion and concern” over such declarations. But he completely left out the fact that his tribe of fundagelical Christians are the literal only ones sparking that fear in LGBTQ people and the literal only ones committing that violence against them. I suppose we need to forget that truth as well.

He’s either got a short memory or a long con going here, in my opinion.

The Big Issue Here.

Unlike Pulpit and Pen, Stetzer understood that Senator Warren’s main dig against his tribe involved their suitability as mates:

The audience roared with laughter, further insinuating that any person who held such values is so out of step, bigoted, homophobic, and small minded that he could not find someone who would be willing to marry him.

He correctly doesn’t see that as “the issue” here. However, he incorrectly sees it as this: can his tribe continue to seek the right to discriminate against their tribal enemies in an environment where they are a distinct and laughable regressive minority?

Gosh, they’re not looking to physically remove LGBTQ patrons from a restaurant owned by TRUE CHRISTIANS™. That’s an actual rebuttal from him. No, they just want to deny LGBTQ people products from their shops, as well as denying them the right to marry, to openly serve in our armed forces, and to enjoy the civil liberties that they themselves enjoy. But if somehow some LGBTQ people made it into a culture-warrior-owned restaurant, why gosh, they wouldn’t deny them the right to order from the menu and eat there like they’re regular people.

Except that’s already happened. I see dozens of churches in this nutbar’s little Oklahoma town, many of ’em Baptist, and somehow this egregiously-hateful git stays in business despite his openly racist and bigoted stance.

Also, various culture-warrior-owned business owners still lobby hard for the right to discriminate against various demographics. The entire anti-gay culture war (as well as the anti-abortion one) grew out of that earlier racist moral panic.

Ed Stetzer commits a foul here in moving goalposts like this. He knows damned well what his tribe thinks of serving or associating with their enemies.

But if TRUE CHRISTIANS™ couldn’t speak dishonestly, whenever would they get to speak at all?

Another Culture Warrior Misses the Point.

Rod Dreher, writing for The American Conservative, decided that Senator Warren didn’t answer the question posed to her.

But notice that she did not answer the question. She just mocked the religious belief of the hypothetical questioner, and implied that the reason someone would believe that is because they are a weirdo who can’t find a mate.

That isn’t what she implied at all, in my opinion. I saw her as saying that holding such a viewpoint would make someone less desirable as a mate, not the other way around. That said, I’m sure that less-desirable men do indeed adopt the viewpoint first. My first husband Biff certainly glommed hard onto the complementarian mindset, likely because it granted him the kind of unilateral, totalitarian power he wanted without having to do any work for it. Maybe here, Dreher projects his own secret beliefs about himself onto what Senator Warren actually said. I sure wouldn’t call any complementarian man I’ve ever encountered a catch, mate-wise.

And Senator Warren actually answered the question. The question involved how she’d respond to someone telling her that they’re a regressive loon. She replied with her response: the questioner needed to mind his own damned business. In the same breath, she let the audience know that she wouldn’t allow any Christian’s bigotry to determine rights for other people.

What she offered solidly qualifies as a response. Dreher needs to retake a grade-school class in reading for comprehension.

What she offered just wasn’t what he wanted to hear, so he ignored it. Ya know, like toxic people do.

Half-Correct.

Dreher did read the situation half-correct in another way:

The contempt this woman has for traditional Christians could hardly be more clear. Last night’s Town Hall was a clarifying moment, like the Kavanaugh hearings and the Covington Catholic spectacle. They really do despise us, these leading figures on the Left.

Nice redefinition of his flavor of Christianity, eh? They’re not “ravening, frothing-at-the-mouth bigots mindlessly charging in to fight a cynically-engineered culture war to regain their dominance over America.” No, no! They’re traditional Christians, thenkyewverramuch.

Makes them sound almost heartwarmingly benevolent and quaint, doesn’t it? But the reality couldn’t be further from that image.

And it’s not just Democratic leaders who despise them.

To Know ‘Em is to Dislike ‘Em.

Unfortunately for Dreher, it’s not just “these leading figures on the Left” who despise Dreher and his crowd. As one recent study discovered, to know evangelicals is to dislike them.

That finding runs counter to pretty much everything we know about ingroup/outgroup feelings.

Generally speaking, the more people know about a group and the more members of that group they know well, the more they like that group. In fact, every other religious group in the Pew study inspiring that link above runs like that.

But that wisdom turns on its head when it comes to evangelical Christians. The more people know about evangelicalism, the less they like evangelicals.

Gunning for Power.

And that antipathy means that it might be a lot harder for evangelicals to institute their Republic of Gilead fever-dream. Not to go all Godwin, but I feel justified here: the last time a fringe extremist cultlike group gained that kind of power, it was because they got a lot of people on-board with their ideas during a time of enormous economic stress.

(Prohibition came about under strikingly similar circumstances–extremist Christians got a country on board with their viewpoint, then used that popularity to push through an Amendment that quickly went very sour for everyday Americans. The Satanic Panic might even have gained traction in the same way.)

Today, we’ve got the fringe extremist cultlike group, sure, and we’ve got the economic stress, but hopefully we don’t have enough people on-board with culture warriors’ ideas. In the last election, that group required help from at least one other country and more than a little down-home tomfoolery to hijack the election process enough to get their Great Orange Hope into office.

Yes, generally speaking, Americans despise the Religious Right. And those Christians know it. And they don’t care. All they care about is gaining power over us.

Pretending This is Fine.

These three nutbars didn’t need Senator Warren to tell them that nobody likes them. They know already! They’re all staring at a solid decade-long decline (and perhaps even longer, in the case of the SBC). They’ve been wringing their hands for ages over their own growing irrelevance in American society.

For years now, I’ve noticed articles like this one, “Let’s Stop Pretending Christianity Is Actually Relevant, Okay?” These articles all seek to find some magical way in which Christians can bring if not an end to their decline, then at least a bottoming-out of it. And they do it by hinting that this loss of relevance is divine payback, or perhaps an exotic new form of persecution that could only exist in the minds of people suffering from extreme privilege distress. Then, they pretend that this decline is actually awesomesauce in the end. See, now they can really shine forth their Jesus Auras!

Perhaps Senator Warren just brought that dislike home for these three leaders in a way nobody else could have.

Or–more likely–maybe they just wanted to springboard off of her moment by reminding the tribe of what they need to do next to regain power and set about punishing everyone who rejects their control-grabs.

The Culture-Warrior’s Playbook.

In these three Christian leaders’ responses, we behold the Christian culture-warrior playbook for the near future:

I hope their revealed playbook reminds us of how important it is that we vote and keep our voices loud in dissent and protest.

See, evangelicals might be dramatically shrinking in number. But they don’t need a lot of members to make their dreams into reality. That Pew study shows us that inexplicably, maybe about half the country still thinks evangelicals are a nice group.

So they just need a lot of people to allow them to achieve their dreams.

It’s a sobering thought indeed. Their reaction to Senator Warren is funny, yes. But it’s also chilling in a deeper sense. These folks are in it to win it, friends. Don’t ever forget that truth.

They sure won’t.

NEXT UP: LSP! Then, we dive into a classic book to see what happens when a promise of safety goes hideously wrong. See you soon!


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. And she still can't carry a note in a bucket. You can read more about the author here.
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