Thursday, November 30, 2017

Roy Moore's Attack on LGBT People at Baptist Church Yesterday: "They Are the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender" Folks Spearheading Resistance to Him — The Narrative Line We Must Not Miss

There is a narrative line in these disparate textual pieces. A narrative line emerges when you put them together, and it's a narrative line essential to spot for anyone trying to understand why the revelations that Roy Moore has preyed sexually on female minors have resulted in more — not less — support for him among white evangelicals in Alabama. This is a narrative line that implicates the 60% of white Catholics who voted for the moral monstrosity now occupying the White House, and the U.S. Catholic bishops who are the pastoral and moral leaders of those Catholics — though neither the bishops nor white Catholics want to admit that they are in any way implicated in this narrative.

Dominique Mosbergen, commenting on a fiery gay-bashing address Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore gave yesterday at Magnolia Springs Baptist church in Theodore, Alabama:

Moore, a former judge, reiterated his denial of these allegations on Wednesday, telling attendees at Magnolia Springs Baptist Church that he didn’t know these women and that their claims were the product of "dirty politics." 
Moore began his speech by listing the conspirators he said are eager to discredit him.
"Who are they? The liberals. They don't want conservative values," Moore said from the church's pulpit. "They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender ... who want to change our culture. They are socialists who want to change our way of life, putting man above God ... They are the Washington establishment. They want to keep everything the same so they don't lose their position, power and prestige."

Lucian K. Truscott IV on the new civil war we Americans have now entered, and why Roy Moore will likely be elected to the Senate by the people of Alabama, nearly half of whom are white evangelical Christians: 

What does all of this amount to? Putting our blacks in their place, that's what. Every time they turn around, black citizens of those Southern states are being reminded who is boss. They're being told they're our blacks, because the Southern political leadership can shove the legacy of slavery in their faces, even while they're denying it in the schools and history books with invented rationales for the Civil War. The maintenance of this fiction, backed up by the arrogant notion that they didn't want "outsiders" coming in and telling them how to write their laws and run their elections, was the heart and soul of the Jim Crow era, the heart and soul of the massive opposition to integration and the Civil Rights Laws of the 1960's. 
And now it is the beating heart and soul of opposition in the South to same-sex marriage, to the rights of transgendered people, even to the right to vote in general. Shelby County v. Holder, the case which defenestrated the Voting Rights Act, originated one county over from Etowah County. Gadsden is its county seat. 
There is a connective tissue between Gadsden, Alabama; Selma, Alabama; Philadelphia, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; and even now Charlottesville, Virginia, where Nazis and Nathan Bedford Forrest’s KKK marched last summer in opposition to taking down Confederate statues. They're saying over and over again, in one way or another: we don't want outsiders telling us what to do with our blacks. We don't want to be told who gets to go in our public restrooms. We don't want to be told that we shouldn't vote for a man just because he's a child molester. It's about our right to self-govern, our right to vote for whoever the hell we want to! 
We are in a new Civil War. They voted for plenty of guys who put on white hoods and burned crosses and more than a few who put nooses around the necks of some of "their" blacks. It's about states' rights all over again. Once it was about the "right" to own slaves. Now it’s about the "right" to vote for a redneck child molester by the name of Roy Moore. 
Which way do you think they’ll vote on December 12? 

David P. Gushee, Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017):

On the political front, Republicans had been attempting to shift the South from Democrat to Republican since the 1960s. The Republicans' "Southern strategy" included both direct and veiled appeals to white discomfort with black gains achieved via the civil rights movement. The more that national Democratic leaders such as Lyndon Johnson threw their support to black civil rights and racial integration, the more the South became ripe for a Republican resurgence. 
Republicans certainly made gains with white Southerners in this way and continue to do so. But millions of white Southerners are, or want to be, devout and faithful Christians. A struggle was set up for the white Southern Christian soul between the racial reconciliation central to the gospel and the sometimes veiled, sometimes open racism central to white, especially Southern, culture. Of course, this struggle is as old as America itself, having become entrenched where slavery was prevalent. We have seen all too often that in the conflict between gospel reconciliation and racism in Southern – even Southern evangelical – contexts, racism wins. 
By the late 1970s, a different strategy was developed on the conservative side, focusing especially on traditionalist Christian discomfort with the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. The culture wars were born, pitting against each other those favoring and those opposing these liberalizing cultural and legal developments. This proved a more appealing agenda for conservative Christian consumption than directly attacking progress in racial integration and black empowerment (pp. 31-2).

Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016):

To understand the post-Obama milieu, it is necessary to understand the "White Christian Strategy," a political tactic employed primarily by the Republican Party beginning with the campaigns of Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon in the mid-1960s and ending with Mitt Romney’s failed presidential run in 2012.  
What I am calling the White Christian Strategy is an outgrowth of the Southern Strategy, a tactic developed by political conservatives and the Republican Party in the mid-1960s to appeal to white southern voters who were angry with the Democratic Party for its support of civil rights. The Southern Strategy picked up momentum through two critical transition moments, one in the 1960s and one in the 1980s, which political scientists Merle and Earl Black identified as the two iterations of the "Great White Switch" (p. 88, citing Merle and Earl Black, The Rise of Southern Republicans [Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2003), p. 4).

And (more from Jones' book The End of White Christian America):

No segment of White Christian America has been more complicit in the nation’s fraught racial history than white evangelical Protestants. And no group of white evangelical Protestants bears more responsibility than Southern Baptists, who comprise the overwhelming majority of white evangelicals, particularly in the states of the former Confederacy (p. 167).

And (yet more from Jones' book The End of White Christian America):

There is evidence that resistance to racial integration helped rouse Christian conservatives around a political agenda in the late 1970s. The historian Randall Balmer contends that evangelicals were generally reluctant to take up the cause of abortion – which remained primarily a Catholic issue well into the 1970s – until it was linked to a broader conservative agenda, one that revolved around resisting the federal government's crackdown on Christian schools that banned interracial dating, like Bob Jones University (pp. 170-1).

And, finally — also from Jones' book:

The Tea Party is animated by a narrative of cultural loss that allows it to function as a continuation of the White Christian Strategy. The Obama presidency provided a unique focal point for many white Christian voters, who already felt as if familiar cultural touchstones were disappearing at every turn. Shifting social norms, declining religious affiliation, changing demographics, and a struggling economy – all were embodied in one powerful symbol: a black man in the White House.  
The appeal of a return to an idealized past can be seen across a number of attitudinal measures. Like white evangelical Protestants, large numbers (70 percent) of Tea Party members agree that American culture and way of life has changed for the worse since the 1950s. A remarkable three quarters (73 percent) of Tea Party members agree with the statement, "Today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities,’"compared to just 45 percent of Americans overall. More than half (55 percent) of Tea Partiers agree that the United States today is a Christian nation – compared to only 39 percent of Americans as a whole (p. 97, citing PRRI, "A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes About Same-sex Marriage and LGBT Issues," February 26, 2014; PRRI, "2014 Pre-Election American Values Survey," September 23, 2014; and PRRI, "Beyond Guns and God," September 20, 2012).

Just in case you miss it: Roy Moore's vicious attack on LGBT people at a Baptist church in Alabama yesterday employs code language full of dog whistles whose ultimate origin is racist. He knows, and his audience knows, precisely what he's saying when he claims that "they" want to change "our" way of life.

In this instance, he's talking about LGBT people — trying to change the subject from his sexual molestaion of minors. But the historical genesis of this language is the determination of slaveholding Southerners not to let "them" — outsiders, Yankees — change "our" way of life.

That rhetoric got recycled during the Civil Rights struggle, when "they" — Yankees, Jews, liberals — were out to get "us" and change "our" way of life by cramming black civil rights down our throats.

It's not in the least accidental that a white Baptist church would host Moore as he ratchets up hate-speech about LGBT people. White evangelical churches, after all, provided fertile rhetorical grounds for the previous attacks on "them" that were overtly racist in origin.

This kind of thing works in Alabama. There always has to be a new "they," a new diabolical enemy coming down the pike, for us unreconstructed white Southern evangelicals. We love to hate an enemy. It's what our Christianity is all about, when all is said and done. And we love to feel righteous when we trample down, vanquish, our enemies as we pretend they are God's enemies, too.

The church sign from Living Way Ministries church in Alabama (in Opelika, I think) was shared on Twitter today by Joe Berkowitz.

No comments: