Friday, February 17, 2017

End-of-Week Articles on Religion and Politics in Era of Trump: "Communities Devoted to Authoritarian Ideologies Are Grounded in Abuse"

More material on religious issues and politics in the era of Trump, which I've read in the past few days and want to recommend to you:

Ryan T. Woods, "Justification by (Bad) Faith: Evangelical Trump Voters and Public Morality": 

Why did evangelicals revile Clinton? The answer is anchored in history. For those old enough to remember the "Culture Wars" of the 1990s, the residue of antagonism toward the Clintons endured. The First Family then represented a kind of personal metonymy for the erosion of foundational Christian values and the triumph of secular, pluralistic, and morally bankrupt order. In this election, Hillary Clinton still embodied the anxieties of many conservative Christians. Despite enjoying significant cultural and political influence, evangelicals have long perceived themselves as embattled by powers hostile to their convictions. R. Marie Griffith elaborated this premonition as "the fear that they and their values are being displaced by foreign, immigrant, and Muslim forces, as well as by domestic movements such as Black Lives Matter, gay rights, and women's rights and more." Perhaps most concerning to these Christian voters was the vacancy in the Supreme Court created by Justice Scalia's death earlier in the year, and what the appointment made by the new President might portend for abortion rights and religious liberty. To the faithful, the defeat of these causes at the polls signaled divine intervention. Thursday morning following the election, Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, tweeted, "I believe God's hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control."

Chris Stroop, #SpiritualAbuseIs — Join the Conversation on Spiritual Abuse": 

All communities devoted to authoritarian ideologies are grounded in abuse. They practice manipulation and gaslighting in order to keep people in the fold, and the ends easily become the means in the defense of the values and the pursuit of the goals defined by the ideology. America's conservative Evangelical subculture is authoritarian through and through, so it is no wonder that its hardline ideological form of Christianity gives rise to pervasive spiritual abuse. Such authoritarian cultural systems lead to individual community members perpetuating cycles of abuse even if they are essentially kind and caring individuals (many Evangelicals are). 

Kirk Johnson, "Florist Discriminated Against Gay Couple, Washington Supreme Court Rules": 

But in affirming a lower court’s finding, the Supreme Court [of Washington state] said flatly that it agreed with the couple — flowers were not really the point. 
The case, the court said in its 59-page decision, "is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches." And laws, the decision said, can have legitimate social goals. "Public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services," it said. "Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens."


The state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, who argued the case before the high court, said the opinion was both sweeping and precise. 
"Arlene's Flowers is not required to sell wedding flowers," Mr. Ferguson said.  "They are, however, required to sell wedding flowers equally if they choose to sell them." The ruling, he said, sends a clear message that "sexual orientation is a protected class — just like race, just like religion."

Elizabeth Reiner Platt, "What Muslim Ban? A Religious Liberty Hearing in the Trump Era": 

Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the "State of Religious Liberty in America." What was perhaps most striking about the hearing was how dated many of the speeches and arguments felt—as if an Obama-era hearing was being held nearly a month into the Trump administration. . . . 
The witnesses at the hearing included Kim Colby of the Christian Legal Society, Casey Mattox of Alliance Defending Freedom, Hannah Smith of Becket, and Rabbi David Saperstein, who served as United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom under President Obama. 
The first three of these, all from conservative organizations that advocate for broad religious exemptions, pushed a narrative of religious persecution fueled by several fundamental misrepresentations: first, that efforts to combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination, or to provide access to contraception, constitute malicious anti-Christian harassment rather than attempts to expand access to jobs, services, housing, and health care; second, that groups seeking anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice exemptions want merely to "live-and-let-live" when in fact many of these organizations have consistently sought to ban LGBTQ relationships and abortion; and third, that issues around sex, marriage, and reproduction constitute the primary site for religious liberty disputes in the current political climate. 
Sticking to their anti-Obama talking points, the speakers seem not to have grasped that it may become increasingly difficult to claim the mantle of "religious liberty" without speaking out against the Islamophobic rhetoric adopted at the highest levels of government, and the dramatic rise in anti-Muslim hate groups across the country."

Sunnivie Brydum, "If It's Really About 'Religious Freedom,' Why Mention Just One Belief?" 

[T]he irony of demanding protection for a specific set of deeply held religious convictions, while simultaneously suggesting that anti-LGBT discrimination does not occur unless it’s explicitly permitted, is rich. A cursory examination of the language of the vast majority of "religious freedom" bills introduced since the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision reveal the authors' intent to officially privilege a particular perspective of marriage above all others. 
If "religious freedom" bills were, generally speaking, actually about protecting views of marriage that differ from the federal government's definition, they would not consistently, explicitly cite conservative Christian morality in identifying beliefs that deserve to be insulated from government rebuke. But even the most staunch "religious freedom" defenders are unlikely to argue in favor of a fully unfettered exemption for all views about what rightly constitutes a marriage.

In other words, in the view of the white Christians (4 in 5 white evangelicals and 3 in 5 white Catholics and Mormons) who put Donald Trump into the White House, it remains religious freedom for me.

But not for thee.

Unless you're a right-wing white Christian. If you're a Muslim, a non-believer, a Christian who rejects right-wing iterations of the Christian gospels and Jesus, you're out of luck: no religious freedom for thee.

But for me — well, that's a different matter.

Building on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, white evangelical Christians like Barronelle Stutzman, who is a Southern Baptist, want to argue that businesses can have religious convictions and consciences, and that as long as those religious convictions are "sincerely held," it does not matter whether they correspond to reality or not. If business owners happen to believe, contra all sound scientific evidence, that contraceptives are abortifacients, then they should enjoy the "right" to discriminate against female employees — because their believe is "sincerely held." 

 Barronelle Stutzman "sincerely" believes that the bible gives her the "right" to discriminate against a gay couple by denying them goods and services, and she and her legal team claim that horrors will ensue for Christians now that her refusal to provide goods to a gay couple has been declared discriminatory. Religion is being crushed in American society and Christians are being persecuted when Christians who sincerely believe that they have a "right" to discriminate against LGBT human beings are not permitted to do so.

What will see next, for goodness's sake — people who "sincerely believe" on the basis of the bible that goods and services should be withheld from people on the basis of skin color told that, while they are entitled to their "sincerely held" belief, it may not be used as the basis for discriminatory behavior that violates non-discrimination laws?

Kimberly Winston, "Thou Shalt Not Speak Alternative Facts: Religion and Lying": 

Falsehood. Misstatement. Alternative fact. 
All of these are synonyms — euphemisms, for some — for another word: lie. 
These words have been cast around as questions arise about statements President Trump and his administration have made on Russia, his family's business activities and crowd numbers attending his inauguration and subsequent protests. 
What do the Abrahamic religious traditions say? Is lying always wrong, or is it sometimes acceptable to knowingly tell a lie? What are the moral and spiritual consequences of telling a lie? And what is the moral and spiritual fallout of knowingly allowing someone else’s lie to go unchallenged? 
We put those questions to representatives of four Abrahamic traditions.

Brian Tashman, "Pat Robertson: People Who Oppose Trump Are Revolting Against God": 

I have somehow failed to see the news announcement that "God" is made in the image of straight white conservative men like Reverend Robertson, and that Mr. Trump has some connection to that "God."

Patricia Miller, "What's Rome Got to Do with It? Bannon, Burke, and Doutat's 'Trumpian' Pope": 

What’s missing from all these analyses is a sense the inroads far-right Catholic organizations and other conservative "pro-family" groups, have made in European political institutions in recent years. These groups push an explicitly anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, pro-"natural" family agenda in the EU, at the European Commission, and other political bodies. . . . 
These groups are making common cause with far-right political parties, helping to create an institutional framework for the rise of far-right, pro-traditional family nationalism in Europe. In this context, Bannon’s outreach to the Vatican is neither an outlier (which as Dionne and Gehrig assert will likely fail in the face of Francis’ strength and popularity) nor, as Douthat asserts, a sideshow from the issue of how Francis is radically remaking the church. It’s part of a calculated, long-term strategy to link conservative religion to right-wing populism."*

*For the sake of clarity as I excerpt these paragraphs, I have taken the liberty of moving a link to Ross Douthat's article that Patti Miller inserts earlier in her essay.

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