Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Religion (and Politics) Stories in the News: Evangelicals, White Supremacist Marches, Callista Gingrich, Knights of Columbus, Jim Bakker and Antichrist

Some things I have been reading/listening to/sharing in the past few days, which may interest many of you:

In the video above, John Fugelsang tells Joy Reid that the mentality driving bogus claims of white Christians about being persecuted in America today is the following:

If you get yours, something is being taken from me. This whole notion that equal rights for someone else, I will call special rights for someone else, leads directly to this. 
I don't mind a government based on Christian values if we're going by the values of Christ as laid out in Matthew 25, for individuals and nations. You take care of the poor, you take care of the sick, you're kind to those in prison. We don't have that called for here. 
We've actually got a society where a reality show landlord gets to have the nuclear codes, because he convinced a lot of nice conservative people that he cared about abortion, which he does not. As a result, we see a guy who actually paid $25 million for education fraud for ripping off tax-paying Americans invited to speak at a university. 
Right now irony is hanging itself in a cheap hotel.

Tim Rymel, "Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?":

The 2016 election demonstrated an especially high level of insincerity, shamelessness, poor judgment and pathological egocentricity among Christian evangelicals. James Dobson, who once said of Bill Clinton, "Character does matter. You can't run a family, let alone a country without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world," and then said of Donald Trump, "I'm not under any illusions that he is an outstanding moral example. It's a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief."
The evangelical Christian message is loud and clear. They care for no one but themselves. Their devotion is to the version of Christianity they have created, which calls for ruthless abandonment of immigrants, women, children – even their own – and anyone else who doesn't fall in line with their message. Social justice, which is mentioned in Bible verses over two thousand times, has been replaced with hardline political ideology. Principle over people. Indifference over involvement. Judgment over generosity.

Chris Stroop, "Educated Evangelicals, Academic Achievement, and Trumpism: On the Tensions in Valuing Education in an Anti-Intellectual Subculture":

Fundamentalists force an inhumane choice on reflective, empathetic individuals who grow up in their enclave communities: assent that 2 + 2 = 5, or, if you can’t, shut up about it or leave. Conservative Evangelicalism is a variety of Christian fundamentalism, and, make no mistake, the data tells us with overwhelming clarity that (apart from the "special demographic" of Vladimir Putin, Mitch McConnell, and James Comey), white Evangelicals are the one demographic most responsible for electing the most patently unqualified and dangerously demagogic president in modern American history. I am often asked how they could vote for someone so impious, which is a question I've addressed multiple times, generally referring to white Evangelical subculture’s pervasive authoritarianism and its politics of Providentialism (which can lead them to conclude that God can use Trump as a "vessel" despite his imperfections). 
Perhaps a more interesting, or at least less frequently addressed, question, is how Evangelicals could vote for a candidate so manifestly, indeed flamboyantly, incompetent. But the two questions are very much of a piece, and the answers will take us down similar paths. Authoritarianism in power is always accompanied by anti-intellectualism, pseudo-intellectualism, and post-truth conditions. Fundamentalism is authoritarian by definition–it accepts a vision of "the Truth" that is sacrosanct, unquestionable, and, when found to be incompatible with reality, protected through the generation of "alternative facts," which themselves become unassailable truths within the enclave community that is built up to sustain the fundamentalism in question.


If this sounds a lot like America's current (illegitimate) president, it should. Both conservative Evangelicals and the reality-TV-star-in-chief are insecure and defensive. Both cling to demonstrably false views. Both feel aggrieved, since they believe their "alternative facts" deserve a hearing on par with actual facts. What this serves to do, of course, is to create a situation in which there are no generally agreed upon facts, leaving "facts" to be determined by power. And because they are so invested in being right, they are willing to use coercion to force their fake "facts" on others.

Touré, "When Will the GOP Finally Wake Up to President Trump?": 

[T]he gains Black Americans have made over the past several decades are very threatening for a lot of white people. They see it as a loss. That's why you can always expect any gain, like the election of Barack Obama, to be followed by a backlash, like Trump. The study also unveils how many whites now feel racism is more directed at them than at people in oppressed communities. It's a dangerous situation when white people feel like whiteness is becoming undervalued and even stigmatized. 
Blacks seemed to be surging ahead, taking their power. Within a few decades America will be a minority-majority country and then what? Taco trucks on every corner? If you were feeling like you don't recognize America because of the Black president and the trans folks on TV and Black Lives Matter and Central American kids streaming over the border and gays teaching in the schools and whiteness slowly losing power… 
In that world, Trump restores whiteness to the throne of supremacy. He is an avatar for white privilege unapologetically asserting itself. He's like the human example of pissing on your territory to make sure the other animals know it's yours. He is making whiteness great again. And for that they’ll love him forever.

Laura Vozella, "White Nationalist Richard Spencer Leads Torch-Bearing Protesters Defending Lee Statue":

"What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced," Spencer said at an afternoon protest, the first of two rallies he led in the town where he once attended the University of Virginia. 
At the second rally, dozens of torch-bearing protesters gathered in a city park Saturday evening and chanted "You will not replace us" and "Russia is our friend," local television footage shows.

In response to NBC News coverage of this white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday night, Tyler Burns tweets,

Jason Horowitz, "Trump to Nominate Callista Gingrich as Vatican Ambassador":

Less than two weeks before a potentially tense and diplomatically delicate meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, President Trump has apparently settled on nominating Callista Gingrich, the wife of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, as the United States ambassador to the Holy See, according to two people close to the president.

Ed Mazza, "Callista Gingrich Reportedly To Become Ambassador To The Vatican": 

The two married in 2000, less than a year after Newt divorced his second wife, Marianne, who later told the Washington Post that her then-husband had asked for an open marriage. She refused.  
It was later revealed that Newt Gingrich and Callista Bisek, then a congressional aide, had engaged in a six-year affair. During part of that time, Gingrich was leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Not to be forgotten: Pope Francis would not accept the nomination of Laurent Stefanini as French ambassador to the Vatican because Stefanini is gay, and open about that.

Callista's six-year adultery with thrice-married Newt Gingrich ended his second marriage, according to her own testimony in his 1999 divorce proceedings. This was Newt's second wife Marianne Ginther, who once asked him how he could go and give speeches about the sanctity of the family and how the gays undermine that sanctity when he was committing adultery — as he had done with her when he was married to first wife Jackie Battley, whom he informed he was leaving her when she was in the hospital recovering from surgery for cancer.

Tom Roberts, "Knights of Columbus' Financial Forms Show Wealth, Influence":

Between 2010 and 2014, according to earlier NCR reporting, the Knights spent more than $1.4 million to sponsor Catholic bishops attending medical ethics workshops that included speakers opposing homosexuality, same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting. Presentations included psychologically discredited claims that people who identify as gay or transgender can be 'cured' through counseling and can become heterosexual. 
The anti-gay training for bishops is coordinated by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, according to a 2014 report in NCR by Nicole Sotelo. The center is another organization that receives Knights of Columbus support. In 2014, it received $250,000; in 2015, $300,617. . . . 
[W]hen the issue of AIDS first surfaced, [Supreme Knight Carl] Anderson differed with then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on how to speak of the disease. Anderson wanted the government to use language that contained moral judgments about those afflicted. According to Koop's autobiography, Anderson also wanted the surgeon general to say that "all Americans [not most Americans, as Koop maintained] are opposed to homosexuality, promiscuity of any kind and prostitution." Koop wrote that Anderson 'did not seem to understand that I could not say it because it was not true."

Mark Silk, "Knights of Columbus, Cash Cow of the Catholic Right":

It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that KofC is no pillar of progressive Catholicism. And during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a case could be made that it was just going with the Church’s conservative flow. But that’s no longer the case. 
To say that the organization has not adjusted to the new agenda of Pope Francis would be an understatement. Under the 17-year leadership of Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms and leading social conservative inside the Reagan Administration, KofC could care less about climate change. Immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are not its concern. 
But the Knights do take care of their friends in high places. In 2015, the archdiocese of Philadelphia got $1.5 million in "general support" and the archdiocese of Baltimore got $435,000 for "various programs." The archbishops in question, Charles Chaput and William Lori, are leading recusants from the Franciscan program in the American hierarchy. 
The Franciscan program, by the way, takes a dim view of overpaid Catholic leaders. In 2014, Carl Anderson pulled down $2.29 million — a figure that dropped by nearly $1 million in 2015, but still a pretty cool sum for the Supreme Knight. Meanwhile, five other KofC officials have been earning well north of half a million a year.

Emily McFarlan Miller reports in an article entitled "Women Bloggers Spawn an Evangelical 'Crisis of Authority'" that there's consternation in evangelical circles as more and more women speak publicly on blogs about what they think Christianity is all about. This leads, Reverend Tish Harrison Warren declares, to a "crisis of authority." My take on this discussion:

Totally crazy straight (or "straight") white men can misrepresent Christianity in the public square, and nary peep about a "crisis of authority." But let Christian women start blogging and representing Christianity in the public square, and suddenly we have a "crisis of authority." Who knows what Christianity means any longer, and where to find its official voice?, people are asking now that more and more Christian women speak out on blogs.

The same mouths have been totally silent while totally crazy Jim Bakker, totally crazy Gordon Klingenschmitt, off the wall crazy Pat Robertson, and countless others including totally hateful Franklin Graham and totally slimy Jerry Falwell Jr. represent "the" Christian voice in the public square.


Finally, I love Ed Mazza's summary as he ends his report, "Jim Bakker: Making Fun Of Trump Is The 'Spirit Of The Antichrist'":

Bakker had a popular ― and lucrative ― TV ministry in the 1980s, but resigned in shame after a sex scandal. He eventually did five years in prison for fraud.

FUN FACT: People screaming that other folks are Antichrist because they don't buy the claim that morally bankrupt tinpot dictators are "anointed by God" usually turn out to be horsemanure of the Apocalypse themselves.

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