Evangelicals have a Bryan Fischer problem

Evangelicals have a Bryan Fischer problem November 13, 2012

Here is your semi-regular reminder that Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association is a big honkin’ racist.

If you can’t watch that video, here’s a bit of the transcript:

Hispanics … don’t vote Democrat because of immigration. … It has to do with the fact that they are socialists by nature. They come from Mexico, which is a socialist country. They want big government intervention, they want big government goodies. … Now they want open borders — make no mistake — because they’ve got family and friends that they want to come up and be able to benefit from the plunder of the wealth of the United States, just as they have been able to do.

Fischer manages to cling to semi-respectability as a representative of the religious right and a member of the white evangelical tribe because he checks all the right boxes on the litmus-test questions. He has the tribally correct “stance” on abortion and the expected “stance” on same-sex marriage, so he manages to spout off like the above video/quote without ever being wholly banished, or even being forced to apologize for or to retract such comments.

Much like Dinesh D’Souza, Fischer channels most of his racism into support for the political aims he shares with more “mainstream” evangelicals.

And that causes two problems — two big problems — for those more mainstream evangelicals.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, much like Dinesh D’Souza, is widely embraced by mainstream evangelicals for the way he channels most of his racism into partisan politics in support of their shared political aims.

The first problem for them is that Fischer can’t really be said to be on their side when it comes to abortion and gay marriage. He may vote the same way as they do and seek the same political outcomes, but he undermines the credibility of the “stances” he shares with mainstream evangelicals due to all that “socialists by nature” crap that he can’t help from spewing.

Those mainstream evangelicals can’t reassure themselves by thinking, “Well, at least he’s on our side on abortion and gay marriage,” because any side Bryan Fischer is on gets tainted by the stench coming off that racism. Everything else he says, everything else he advocates, becomes morally suspect.

That means these mainstream evangelical types can’t view Fischer as an ally when it comes to “defending the sanctity of life” or “preserving biblical marriage.” He’s not helping to promote those causes, he’s undermining those causes by linking them to his noxious “they want to … plunder” garbage.

And problem No. 2 is even worse.

Just as everything Bryan Fischer has to say about “biblical values” gets outweighed by everything he has to say about people who aren’t white, so too everything mainstream evangelicals have to say about “biblical values” gets outweighed by everything they haven’t said about people like Bryan Fischer.

Or, put more directly: Until mainstream evangelicals denounce racists and bigots like Bryan Fischer — clearly and unambiguously — they will lack the moral credibility that might make anyone care what they have to say about any other moral issues.


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  • nirrti

    Just as I thought. Should’ve just came right out and named it the “White Family Association”. He and his ilk are just the same old crap covered in candy sprinkles that would’ve made up the White Citizen’s Councils in the 50s and 60s. And in some parts of the South, he would’ve been wearing sheets instead of a shirt and tie.

  • Dantesque17

    Oh, Mexico’s a socialist state which hands out free stuff to its citizenry.  That explains why so many of their citizens are risking death to jump the border into the USA.  Good logic, Fischer.

  • Keulan

    I do not think the word “socialist” means what Bryan Fischer thinks it means.

  • Yeah. In the 1990s (i don’t know if it’s better or worse now) the main component of the social safety net was subsidized tortillas.

    It’s pretty stark when you realize that the only thing the Mexican government felt able to afford besides maybe some token welfare payments, was to try to keep food prices down for the poorest in that country.

    It really seems like right-wing commentators and politicians have wholeheartedly moved into a realm where “brown person” = “wants to be a freeloader” regardless of the veracity of that statement.

  • I hate to say it (and no, that’s not hyperbole, I really do hate to say it), but I’m not even sure a lot of white evangelicals would see what this guy is saying as racist. They’d just think, “he’s saying that different people do things differently and that if we’re not careful, our good way of doing things will be undermined by their bad way.” This racial aspect of it will register unconsciously, but they’d find the idea that this is racist to be absurd. It’s not like he’s saying they are genetically inferior (the standard for what is racist in the minds of a lot of white people). It’s more than a little maddening to try to actually talk with people these days.

  • ReverendRef

    Until mainstream evangelicals denounce racists and bigots like Bryan Fischer — clearly and unambiguously

    That will not happen.  They are too scared of being labeled as heretics.

  • That will not happen.  They are too scared of being labeled as heretics.

    I find it ironic that a religious tradition which, ostensibly, has no central authority and emphasizes realizing a personal spiritual relationship with the divine (rather than a clergy-ordained relationship with the divine) would have any particular concept of heresy.  

    Yet here we are.  They are plenty of Evangelical who will be kicked from the tribe by their fellows for not matching up on certain political issues, regardless of their shared theology.  The word “heretic” may not be used, but they will use some other term to denote that the person is not “Christian” in their eyes.  

  • Isn’t every other civilized nation on the planet ‘socialist’ by this creep’s standard? You’re hard-pressed to find anyplace that goes out of their way to kick folks when they are down than the good old USA. 

  • @twitter-267362329:disqus 

    I hate to say it (and no, that’s not hyperbole, I really do hate to say
    it), but I’m not even sure a lot of white evangelicals would see what
    this guy is saying as racist. They’d just think, “he’s saying that
    different people do things differently and that if we’re not careful,
    our good way of doing things will be undermined by their bad way.” This
    racial aspect of it will register unconsciously, but they’d find the
    idea that this is racist to be absurd. It’s not like he’s saying they
    are genetically inferior (the standard for what is racist in the minds
    of a lot of white people). It’s more than a little maddening to try to
    actually talk with people these days.

    This is rather the problem with demonstrating the racist component of an argument made by certain members of my family. They insist that they’re not calling black people “lazy” as a racial trait, but that they’re simply pointing out the self-evident fact that generations of welfare-living in the poor black population of New Orleans results in a current generation who see no reason to work because the state will give them everything.

    I suppose I could answer with, “And yet you never make this same complaint about white families who have been in poverty for generations.” I suppose I could answer with “You realize that current rules surrounding unemployment means that if they take the first substandard wage paying job they can find, they’ll actually earn less than the state is currently handing them, thus becoming even less able to take care of their children and keep roofs over their heads? You want to talk about disincentives to work, please, by all means, let’s start with that one.”

    Unfortunately, by the time we get to this point in the conversation, I’m still chipping away at the wrongness of previous statements, e.g. said family member asserting that the huge migration of poor families from New Orleans to Baton Rouge post-Katrina “tanked Baton Rouge’s economy because those people aren’t contributing anything to the system.” Right, because somehow “those people” are grabbing a bunch of free goods on their EBT cards, but are somehow exempt from the basic tendency of an increased population to stimulate an economy by increasing the need for retail, educational, professional, and infrastructural jobs surrounding their basic living activities. Black people below the poverty line are magic that way, you guys.

    Argh my family.

  • Albanaeon

     Pretty sure they are using “socialist” as “not my kind of American”  which is the source of a lot of confusion around here, for sure.

  • Well, it makes sense if you think about it. When a white person is living in poverty, it’s because of Obama’s failed socialistic policies eliminating all the jobs, or because of NAFTA, or illegal immigration, etc. When a black person is living in poverty, it’s because they’re too lazy to take advantage of all the jobs out there. 

    You’re not supposed to think about the conflict between the first two reasons (the one where Obama has destroyed all the jobs, and the one where Obama has apparently created millions of jobs that no one will take because they’re all dependent on the state)> 

  • Amaryllis

    Maybe he’s been reading too many columnists for The Washington Times.

    You will be interested to know that as of last Tuesday the republic is
    dead, a “socialist empire” has been born, and we are now living in a “a
    Franco-German welfare state whose sole purpose is to forge a majority
    political coalition wedded to the Democratic Party. ”

    What, you hadn’t noticed? Me neither.

  • 2-D Man

    I guess a lot’s changed since last Tuesday.

  • histrogeek

     I knew I missed something this week. Does this mean the end of at-will employment and the beginning of mandatory vacations? Because if so, awesome. And I would LOVE to see someone in commentariat tell working Americans that thank Mammon we halted those reforms.

  • Carstonio

    Amazing and infuriating, the talent these folks have for creating new racist dog whistles. What you quoted is simply the old idea that Democrats use welfare to buy the votes of lazy dark-skinned people.

  •  I’m a little bewildered by the fact that they’re attacking the very idea of coalition politics. Isn’t that guaranteed in two-party systems? Each party tries to be everything to as many people as possible, in order to get that 51% (or I suppose it’s now 60%) majority control over the government.

    Both Democrats and Republicans do this. Democrats have labor unions, they have African-Americans, they have college-educated people, etc. Republicans have evangelical Christians, they have the elderly, they have Southern white people.  And to a certain extent both sides pander to these different subgroups in their coalition; or, if you want to be charitable, they look out for the interests of all of the people in their constituency — that is, they do their jobs.

    Where the Romney campaign’s strategy in 2012 gets interesting is that he seemed to reject this pandering approach. Don’t get me wrong — he definitely pandered, but he focused his approach to as narrow a group as he possibly could. It’s almost like anti-coalition building — he tried his best

    First, he wrote off 47% of the population right off the bat. Why? No reason. Republicans have often expressed a disdain for the poor (“welfare queens”) but even Reagan never tried to suggest that they were almost 50% of the voting electorate; why would he want to embiggen his opposition like that?

    Then he nearly fumbled seniors with the Ryan pick; he did still get a majority of them but his lead could have been much bigger (especially in Florida) if he wasn’t obviously threatening Medicare. Then he started palling around with morons like Trump, Akin, and Mourdock, and letting people run around with that voter ID/voter suppression thing pushing away conservative women and minorities while at the same riling up everyone else.

    It’s startling, the contrast between this and Bush. I don’t think there are that many big differences between Bush and Romney on policy, but Bush never went around actually telling people that he doesn’t want their vote.

  • Excuse me, Mr Fischer? When my family came to the US from Mexico in the mid 1860s, Mexico was a *monarchy*. 

  • Republicans have evangelical Christians, they have the elderly, they have Southern white people.

    Yes, but that coalition seems to be too diverse for their taste; they’re working pretty hard at reducing it only to the three-way overlap in their Venn diagram: elderly Southern white evangelical Christians.  Oh, and millionaires and billionaires, of course; they’re welcome in the party regardless of age, race, color or creed.

  • Carstonio

     You’re right that their position amounts to a rejection of coalition politics. I doubt that they see it that way. I suspect it’s just the offspring of an unholy union between the siblings of the Just World Fallacy, economic entitlement and racial entitlement. They’ve reached the point where the only way to pander to their base is to write off everyone else.

  • Ygorbla

    Matthew 7:3 is oddly unpopular with Evangelicals nowadays.

  • The weird thing is though, that Romney famously said that he was willing to do whatever it took to get to 50.1%. He explicitly says that he is willing to reach out and work with people who agree with him on many but not all issues and are willing to lend him their support. His decision, later in the game, to go back on that and weed out potential voters for not meeting that absurd purity test makes no sense to me. There are probably millions of low-income social conservatives running around out there — why tell them to jump off a cliff? It’s not like their vote, in the end, is worth less than a billionaire’s?

  • Carstonio

    Keep in mind that Romney was first and foremost a panderer in this campaign.  He told the $50,000-a-plate crowd one thing behind what he thought were closed doors, and another thing to the general public. These messages were two variations on the theme of mooching, with a stronger Just World emphasis for the first group and a stronger racial subtext for the second. No apparent shame in throwing the low-income social conservatives under the bus to flatter the high-income economic conservatives. Despite his northern origins, Romney campaigned like a Southern oligarch during Jim Crow, using racial fears to win the support of poor whites for policies that keeping them poor.

  • I personally find the “reverse” aspect of racism interesting here.  Not ‘reverse racism mind you, but rather the way that this man who clearly knows nothing about Mexico  believes that being a White man makes whatever happens to come out of his mouth automatically authoritative.   Seems to be a primary conceit behind a great deal of right-wing what-the-fuckery. 

  • Turcano

    Actually that makes it worse.  A religious tradition with a central authority can use that authority to keep the rank-and-file in line, but without one the creed must pull double duty.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think the point was, traditions that claim to emphasize the personal over the communal and yet end up with strong communal pressure to much of anything, something’s gone wrong with the application of what they say they believe.

  • Lliira

    I think it’s very sweet that Fred thinks most white Evangelicals aren’t racist. Completely wrong, but sweet.

  • That, and I think that a lot of these evangelical churches have their own mini-popes that, if anything, exercise even more authority (over a smaller number of people) because they live and work so closely to their congregations. These mini-popes (Falwell, Robertson, LaHaye, etc.) wield as much power over their congregations as the Pope is supposed to over the entire Catholic body.

    That’s why so many US Catholics can be cool with contraception even though the Pope (who is a-a-a-a-a-a-a-all the way in Rome) is vehemently opposed. It’s also why the priests and nuns that work here wield so much influence over the way things are done in each individual parish — it’s much easier to exercise control when you’re physically close to who/what you’re trying to control.

  • Lliira

    It’s not like their vote, in the end, is worth less than a billionaire’s?

    Poor people don’t have money for a campaign. The Democratic Party apparently bought into the idea that whoever’s campaign has the most money inevitably wins, if my inbox until I told them to stop sending me stuff was any indication. Considering the Republican millionaires who are ticked off that they weren’t able to buy a new president, like Romney told them they would, I’d bet their inboxes looked similar, and a flood of e-mails was the least of it. And, having been able to buy absolutely everything else they wanted in their lives, including a semblance of what they think is romantic love from a faithful (probably) spouse, they believed it. And the Democratic Party kept asking me for $3 — these individuals forked over hundreds of thousands.

  • Tricksterson

    His description might have been fairly valid fifty oor sixty years ago but Mexico has changed a lot since then.  Of  course Fischer is stuck in the Fifites (Maybe even the 1850s) so this makes sense.

  • That’s true, and that’s a foolish idea. The reason political campaigns need money is to spend to get votes through… well… campaigning. Simply accumulating a gigantic war chest is less than useless if it’s not spent on ads, research, canvassing, voter registration drives, etc. It’s the equivalent of a corporation that has a massive IPO and raises a million dollars, then just deposits all of the cash into a checking account and sends everyone home. It’s great that they have the money, but if they’re not spending it on something that generates profits they’re little better off than if they had done nothing at all.
    It’s all about the bottom line. For some reason, our uber-capitalist friends forgot that.

  • Dorium’s Head

    Socialist by nature? I am sure that Montezuma and Cortes would have been interested to hear that.

  • As a member of a minority group treated particularly poorly be religions – not just christianity – I have to fight against my own prejudice and bias when it comes to matters of faith. So with that disclaimer, I’ll give you my honest view from here in Australia.

    Most christians – be they evangelicals, catholics, quakers – are pretty decent people. If they have human failings, well, so do we all, myself included.


    They are subject to partisanship in the USA that blinds them to what the vocal part of their religion is saying. The part that makes the noise. The part that legislators hear. The part that, due to its very fanaticism and commitment to extreme views, holds power out of all proportion to its size within the christian congregation. The part that has increasingly become the public face of christianity to outsiders.

    With respect, the AFA may be a fringe minority, but it’s that fringe that you have allowed to speak in the name of Jesus, as representing your views. And you vote for politicians who listen to them, and implement legislation based on those views, because that’s all they hear coming from you.

    I’ve seen it time and time again in meetings at local levels discussing basic human rights. The “moral majority”, if I can call you that, the sane, the non-racist, the moderately decent, the merely human, stay at home, while these fonts of hatred, spite, malice and ignorance speak for you.

    Recently, a school board voted unanimously  to do something very important. To allow a pupil of my minority group to be permitted to use school toilets. They’d been forbidden to, had to go to a restroom at a nearby service station instead.

    This was a great victory for us, to recognise us as sub-human, but still with some rights others take for granted.

    The AFA and its affiliates jumped in with such force, and led such a scare campaign that terrified many parents, that not only did the board unanimously reverse its decision, but only narrowly voted not to fire the school administrator who’d put it before them.

    This is the only face of christianity we see. And yes, we cannot help but blame those who by neglecting their responsibilities, allow the Bryan Fishers of the world to dictate policy – because your silence is effective consent.

  • The “moral majority”, if I can call you that

    Unfortunately it’s a phrase that got co-opted by the Falwells and their ilk back in the 80s so many Americans won’t immediately think of the literal meaning of those words; as the joke goes, the “Moral Majority” is neither.

  • Jenora Feuer

    Anybody who follows ‘Dispatches from the Culture Wars’ from the Blogroll here knows that Ed Brayton has what he calls the ‘Bryan Fischer award’.  To quote Ed:

    The Bryan Fischer award is given to those who show a staggering lack of
    self-awareness, who accuse their opponents of engaging in their own
    worst behaviors.

    The entry from the 13th was for Karl Rove, for his accusation that Obama won the election by voter suppression…

  • Eric B

    No way.  They love that verse.  They’ll even tell you to stop worrying about the speck in their eye . . . 

  • Ygorbla

    Yeah, that verse is sort of dangerous, in a way, since it’s so easy to interpret it in a convenient fashion — everyone thinks it’s a speck in their own eye and a log in everyone else’s.