Evangelicalism and ‘time wasted in disabuse’

Evangelicalism and ‘time wasted in disabuse’ July 26, 2012

Ta-Nehisi Coates is discussing an unrelated topic here, but his analogy captures the frustration with the evangelical subculture that caused me to leave my work in that world 12 years ago:

Consider this: what if you were a medievalist and the majority of your public simply refused to accept that Charlemagne ever existed. Indeed, what if they felt their prosperity was contingent on not acknowledging it. And thus all your medievalist friends spent a great deal of time proving that Charlemagne did exist.

Think about all the other interesting questions you might never get to ask, because you were spending all your energy in refutation of myth. And this would be frustrating because surely you had true questions, questions which you actually didn’t have answers for. But every time you presented your work before an audience you felt called back to 800 AD all over again.

I think about how the climate scientist, or the evolutionary biologist living in Tennessee must feel, and I find some sympathy. So much of black intellectual life is wasted in disabuse, in explaining yourself to other people, as opposed to yourself.

Yes. I walked away from the career I was building as a card-carrying member of the Evangelical Press Association because so much of my time was “wasted in disabuse.” And because one could never, ever, advance beyond Step 1 and Square 1. Every time you tried to move beyond that in the direction of Step 2 or Square 2, “you felt called back to 800 AD all over again.”

* * * * * * * * *

Jamelle Bouie says that Rick Warren’s “reactionary moralism — and willingness to pander to the prejudices of well-off suburbanites — is emblematic of what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.”

That seems a bit harsh. I respect Jamelle Bouie and I don’t want to seem overly critical in my response here, but I think this kind of sweeping, unqualified criticism is uncalled for and inappropriate.

Sometimes one needs to just take a step back and cool down so that one is able to provide a more level-headed and accurate assessment.

So let me disagree with Bouie’s statement here and instead say this: Rick Warren’s reactionary moralism and willingness to pander to the prejudices of well-off suburbanites is emblematic of some of what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.

* * * * * * * * *

Two upsetting things in this story from the Associated Baptist Press: “Church expelled after affirming gays.”

An American Baptist church in Ohio has been excommunicated from its association and state region after going on record as welcoming and affirming gays.

Tommy Faris, pastor of University Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, said the church has received a letter from the Columbus Baptist Association informing them they have been removed from fellowship. Since congregations affiliate with the American Baptist Churches of Ohio through their association, he said, the decision effectively expels University from that group as well.

A past issue of the church newsletter indicated that members of the congregation knew it might result in separation from the association and region when they voted Oct. 30, 2011, to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, an organization of about 75 mostly American Baptist churches that extend full membership to persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

First: Dismaying to learn that most Baptists in Ohio’s capital are anti-gay. That doesn’t reflect well on those Baptists or on Ohio.

Second: Disappointing to see that ABP thinks Baptists can be “excommunicated.” How is that supposed to work, exactly? Does the Baptist pope proclaim that they can no longer receive the Baptist Eucharist?

* * * * * * * * *

The official position of the evangelical tribe is that the Affordable Care Act is bad. This is the official position of the evangelical tribe because this is the official position of the Republican Party.

It is not, however, a unanimous position among evangelicals. Some of them, it turns out, are not wealthy and healthy. And if you’re not both wealthy and healthy, then the Affordable Care Act starts to look like a Very Good Thing — even to a conservative evangelical.

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  • Wingedwyrm

    I read some of the responses on the page of Scheller’s article.  One person said that he heard, from that article, that she wanted other people to pay for her healthcare.  Even when pressed, face first, into the real life, guilt-free, and unambiguous need for assistance of some sort, he saw only someone who wanted something.

    He didn’t see the story that said that anybody, even those who make all the right decisions, espcieally those who make all the right decisions under right-wing ideology, can be in this need, he only saw someone asking something from him, even when all that was being asked for was a lack of demonization.  He couldn’t bring himself to provide even that much.

    And… the only thing that surprises me is that there aren’t more such comments.  Once upon a time, this idea that anybody looking for assistance is a bum looking to suckle on the government teat was something that Republicans and Conservatives hid.  Oh, it might have been spoken by Archie Bunker, but anybody looking for legitimacy and a plurality of votes tried to couch their ideology in terms of what was really better for everybody.  It was a thin veil, one you could see through in any light, but it was there for people to at least claim not to outright hate people for being poor.

    The first thing she has to do, if she wants to get people to give her the empathy that she’s looking for, is appologize for lacking it before.  She’s got to be able to admit that she was this guy who, when looking at the stories of people who have a real, serious need for help up, don’t see people, but flaws they superimpose upon them.

    Of course, what I’m really saying is that this conservative with an epiphany needs to appologize for being so conservative.  But, there ya go.

  • See,. if she’d taken the time to lay all that out (maybe some rules regarding how health insurance works, or whatever, precludes being able to use Medicaid, or some reasonable issue thereof), that would be a lot better than just blaming nebulous “bureaucracy” and looking really entitled and kind of silly-assed to readers.

    The other key thing that kind of gets my goat about it, is people like that usually sweep away and dismiss legitimate reasons for refusing to take a job with self-righteous oompah-ing about how someone should be grateful to take a job, ANY job, and slather all that oompah-ing with some thinly veiled contempt implying that they think the job refusee is lying about how serious the conflicts are that prevent them from being able to take job X.

    And then along she comes, when she has to know damn well her political fellow travellers (and maybe she, herself, in the past) tend to be scornful of the idea that people should be able to take jobs that don’t require screwing up their personal lives. Did she think she was going to just slide by without someone (like me) pointing out the hypocrisy involved?

    There’s a story here Alvin Toffler wrote in The Third Wave. He was discussing how the increasing de-massification of society was eroding the “9 to 5” paradigm that dominated Western work rhythms throughout the 20th century, and pointed to an early adoption of “flex time” by some workplaces. In one such workplace, a black woman kept having problems arriving on time and was starting to become the butt of racist jokes because of it.

    When the company instituted flex time and allowed her to come in an hour later, provided she made up the work sometime else, bam! she was on the dot, every single day from then on.


    Because the day care for her child didn’t open early enough for her to safely drop her child off and then go to work on time, but shifting her hours of work allowed her to do it – no problemo.

    The point of this story is that while we can’t know the reasons why people do certain things and not others, the thing that shouldn’t be done (as too many political conservatives are wont to do) is assume that their motives are suspect or illegitimate.

  • Tonio

    he only saw someone asking something from him, even when all that was being asked for was a lack of demonization.  He couldn’t bring himself to provide even that much. 

    the thing that shouldn’t be done (as too many political conservatives are wont to do) is assume that their motives are suspect or illegitimate.

    That’s classic authoritarianism, the idea that humans will in all circumstances try to selfishly skirt rules and thus need to be controlled for their own good. No concept of mutual good, where rules should be designed so that humans can pursue their own happiness without interfering in others’ pursuit of their own happiness. The authoritarian view has obvious appeal for people who have wealth or power or privilege and are anxious about losing them. 

  • The challenge, unfortunately, is that social inertia is promoting more of the authoritarian viewpoint due to ongoing profound economic insecurity. :(

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     This reminds me of a column by Michael Moore quite a while back (It was back when Dick Cheney was in the news a lot, around the time his daughter came out? Sso either 2000 or slightly before) in which he points out that some rightwingers seem to be incapable of having even the slightest empathy for anyone who they don’t have exactly the same problems as.

    Moore’s solution was for religious people to pray for every possible problem to befall them, from loved ones coming out (I think it was Cheney’s daughter and his resulting non-opposition to gay rights that prompted the article), up through sickness and natural disasters, so that they could finally have a little compassion for others.    I’m pretty sure he was joking, but some days it seems like a perfectly good idea, if I believed imprecatory prayer worked….  :-/