Smart people saying smart things (4.21.22)

Smart people saying smart things (4.21.22) April 21, 2022

Jemar Tisby, “Trayvon Martin’s Murder and the Death of the Evangelical Racial Reconciliation Movement”

We hosted events, wrote blog posts, shared on social media and networked with prominent Reformed and evangelical leaders nationwide. We had momentum and enthusiastic support even from white Christians. It seemed like this racial reconciliation thing was about to reach even higher levels.

Then they killed Trayvon Martin.

Richard Beck, “Evangelicals and the German Christians: Part 4, On Masculinity, the Military, and Broken Glass”

Again, to say this clearly once more, I’m not suggesting in this series that American evangelicals are Nazis or becoming Nazis. As I’ve stated, such a suggestion is morally and historically irresponsible. Let alone how complex and diverse is the evangelical movement.

But what I am suggesting in this series is that some American evangelicals are heading to a very bad place, and have already arrived there in many cases, a fact that many evangelicals themselves recognize. And if you look at the case of the German Christians you see remarkable parallels in how this situation came about: a neo-pagan drift into nationalism, conspiracy theories, and the embrace of an authoritarian leader. What’s happening within American evangelicalism isn’t new, we’ve seen this before, how a particular toxic cocktail comes to poison the church.

Robyn Pennacchia, “Why Is Disney Hate-Criming Poor Ron DeSantis With Its Gay Agenda?”

Parents technically do have the right to raise their kids to be bigots — no one ever threw April Gaede, the mother of the Prussian Blue twins, in prison for raising her children to be neo-Nazi pop singers. However, when those girls stopped being homeschooled and went to public school, they ended up renouncing the white nationalist beliefs of their mother. The public school had no obligation to allow them to go on believing that the Holocaust never happened, regardless of what their mother believed. In fact, some might even say the school had an obligation to teach the girls that the Holocaust happened and racism is bad, both for their own sake and the sake of other children in the school.

Kaya Oakes, “The Pope, Pets, and Childless Couples”

If the pope has regrets about not having children, ambivalent feelings about it, or is even happy he made that choice, opening up would be a radical act of solidarity that might make room for much more complex and enlightening conversations between those who have children and those who don’t, and enable us to develop language about the ethics of both of our choices, a language less focused on sin and forgiveness and more on mutual human struggle and compassion. Imagine hearing a priest preach about what it means to give up intimate relationships, or hearing bishops talk about the people under their care with the same compassion and understanding a parent ought to show their child. Maybe that kind of openness would mean we could even start to forgive one another for being so judgmental about a decision that is nobody’s business but our own. But that would also require the pope to understand that if he does not need forgiveness for not having children, neither does anyone else.

Sophie Bjork-James, “The Right’s ‘Grooming’ Rhetoric Didn’t Begin With QAnon — You Have to Go Back a Bit Further to Get to the Source”

Describing education about sexual diversity as “grooming” speaks to this evangelical focus on heterosexuality. However, equating exposure to the reality of sexual diversity to the actual experience of sexual abuse serves to both amplify the threat of LGTB rights and to belittle the trauma caused by actual sexual abuse. Not only that, but evidence appears to point to widespread sexual abuse happening within evangelical institutions, often covered up by patriarchal leaders.

In all of my research on evangelical culture in Colorado Springs, including sitting through dozens of sermons, Bible study conversations, and conducting around one hundred interviews, I rarely heard anyone mention the existence or possibility of sexual abuse taking place within the church. The current focus on LGBT “grooming” portrays threats to children as stemming from an imagined other, outside of conservative and evangelical circles, further obscuring the problem of abuse and making it that much harder to address.

Ed Yong, “America Is Zooming Through the Pandemic Panic-Neglect Cycle” (Atlantic link)

All epidemics trigger the same dispiriting cycle. First, panic: As new pathogens emerge, governments throw money, resources, and attention at the threat. Then, neglect: Once the danger dwindles, budgets shrink and memories fade. The world ends up where it started, forced to confront each new disease unprepared and therefore primed for panic. This Sisphyean sequence occurred in the United States after HIV, anthrax, SARS, Ebola, and Zika. It occurred in Republican administrations and Democratic ones. It occurs despite decades of warnings from public-health experts. It has been as inevitable as the passing of day into night.

Even so, it’s not meant to happen this quickly. When I first wrote about the panic-neglect cycle five years ago, I assumed that it would operate on a timescale of years, and that neglect would set in only after the crisis was over. The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed both assumptions. Before every surge has ended, pundits have incorrectly predicted that the current wave would be the last, or claimed that lifesaving measures were never actually necessary. Time and again, neglect has set in within mere months, often before the panic part has been over.

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