Friday, May 4, 2018

In the News: "Religious Freedom" and "Right" to Discriminate; Roots of Evangelicals' Idolization of Trump; Shifting Religious Landscape re: LGBT Rights; SBC and Misogyny

Religion-themed news from the past several days that has caught my eye, and which I'd like to share with you:

Jim Newell, "Trump Answers Prayers: With the help of Mitch McConnell, the Trump administration is giving religious leaders exactly what they want":

Just before the White House began its celebration of National Prayer Day on Thursday morning, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was recording a live shot about the revelation that President Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for $130,000 in hush money paid to the porn actress Stormy Daniels. You can see in the clip that some faithful attendees didn’t care for Collins' hit, and one later told her she was "pitiful and disgusting."
Trump, meanwhile, dutifully performed his impression of a man who cares about God. … 
Days like today, in which the president tries to deliver a stilted speech on faith while the entire news world is focused on the hush money he paid to a porn actress, provide an opportunity to re-examine the question of why the religious right is so devoted to Donald Trump. 
But its really a silly question, if the tiresome point is just that it’s full of hypocrites, which it usually is. In fact, there's a great answer for why the religious right is fawning over Trump: because it's shrewd.

No, religious freedom is the mask worn by Faith-Based 3.0. What’s going on behind the mask is actually the opposite. . . . 
What the new Initiative does, in short, is allow faith-based social service providers to use government funds to impose their religious mission on recipients who want no part of it. Where Obama ensured religious freedom, Trump creates religious establishments.

Alex Vandermaas-Peeler, Daniel Cox, PhD, Molly Fisch-Friedman, Rob Griffin, Robert P. Jones, "Emerging Consensus on LGBT Issues: Findings From the 2017 American Values Atlas":

Declining Religious Resistance 
Most religious groups in the U.S. now support same-sex marriage, including overwhelming majorities of Unitarians (97%), Buddhists (80%), the religiously unaffiliated (80%), Jewish Americans (77%), and Hindus (75%). Roughly two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (67%), white Catholics (66%), Orthodox Christians (66%), and Hispanic Catholics (65%) also favor same-sex marriage. A slim majority of Muslims (51%) favor same-sex marriage, but only 34% are opposed; 15% offer no opinion on this issue. 
Over the last five years, opposition to same-sex marriage among nonwhite Protestants has dropped considerably. Most notably, black Protestants have moved from solid opposition to a plurality of support for same-sex marriage. In 2013, nearly six in ten (57%) black Protestants opposed same-sex marriage.4 Today just 43% oppose it, compared to nearly half (48%) who support it. Hispanic Protestants have moved from solid opposition to same-sex marriage to being divided over the policy. In 2013, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Hispanic Protestants opposed same-sex marriage. Today, 43% favor the policy, compared to 45% who oppose it and 13% who offer no opinion. 
Opposition to same-sex marriage is now confined to a few of the most conservative Christian religious traditions. Only about one-third (34%) of white evangelical Protestants support same-sex marriage today, while nearly six in ten (58%) are opposed, including 30% who are strongly opposed. And just 40% of Mormons support same-sex marriage, compared to 53% who are opposed. Jehovah’s Witnesses, a racially mixed religious group, are the exception. Just 13% support the policy, compared to 63% who oppose it. However, nearly one-quarter (24%) of Jehovah’s Witnesses express no opinion on this issue. . . . 
Only Mormons and White Evangelicals Support  Religiously Based Service Refusals 
Most religious groups do not believe small business owners should be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian people for religious reasons. Nearly nine in ten (86%) Unitarians and at least seven in ten Buddhists (73%), unaffiliated Americans (72%), and Jewish Americans (70%) oppose such a policy. And roughly two-thirds (65%) of black Protestants and about six in ten white mainline Protestants (60%), Hispanic Catholics (60%), white Catholics (59%), and Muslims (59%) also reject a policy allowing religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people. Majorities of Orthodox Christians (57%), Hindus (56%), and Hispanic Protestants (55%) are also opposed to the policy. 
Only two major religious groups believe small business owners in their state should be allowed to refuse service to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds—white evangelical Protestants and Mormons. Notably, they support this position at the same rate—53%.

The Southern Baptist Convention as it presently exists was shaped and molded, guided and led by these men [Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson] and by people who admired these men. One of those men stands accused of being a long-time sexual predator, the other has revealed himself as someone who views women as property. 
It is theoretically imaginable that their views did not in any way influence their shaping and reshaping of the denomination, but that seems highly unlikely. 
It is theoretically imaginable that the anti-hermeneutic of "inerrancy" that they championed is not in any way related to or responsible for their indefensible views, and that those views have not in any way shaped their use, advocacy for, or implementation of that hermeneutic. But that also seems highly unlikely. 
If both of those highly unlikely theoretical possibilities is true, then it might also be theoretically imaginable that nothing else needs to be done beyond what Stetzer calls for. Let these founding fathers of the contemporary SBC quietly slip off stage and the problem will be solved. But now we are in a realm of exponential unlikelihoods. 
It seems likelier, I think, that the Southern Baptist Convention has a great deal of undoing to do. And that its current leaders, and current ideas about leadership, render it incapable of doing that.

The problem is that biblical inerrancy is a toxic straightjacket that prevents Christians from being compassionate, reasonable people who love the way Jesus would want us to love.

LGBT teachers in Catholic schools have been fired because of their sexual orientation. We don’t fire Catholic school teachers who are single and living together before they’re married, which is also against church teachings. How many teachers are in that situation? Nor do we fire teachers who are divorced and remarried without an annulment. Nor do we fire teachers who use birth control. 
The selectivity of focus on LGBT people and their sexual morality is, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sign of "unjust discrimination." We choose to overlook some of the other matters because we've accommodated those situations. But somehow the LGBT person is seen as the greatest and the worst and the only sinner in the church now.

More than two-thirds of white evangelicals prefer Trump over any other Republican. And I don’t think that’s because they love golf
So what is it that this landslide-majority of white evangelicals admires about Donald Trump personally? What is it that sets him apart from and above all the rest of his Republican contemporaries? 
For the answer to that, let’s turn to Nancy D. Wadsworth's Vox piece, helpfully titled, "The racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump." Wadsworth suggests that perhaps one reason that a large portion of white evangelicals enthusiastically support a white nationalist and white supremacist president is because — for centuries — a large portion of white evangelicals have always supported white nationalism and white supremacy.

And here's more from Nancy Wadsworth's excellent essay in addition to what I shared from it several days ago — "The racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump": 

On the question of chattel slavery, evangelicals do not just appear as the abolitionists Gerson cites approvingly. The institution had millions of champions among conservative Christians who drew on scripture and Curse of Ham theology to defend white supremacy and black subordination. Gerson fails to mention that every major evangelical denomination split along regional lines based on divisions over the slavery question. In fact, the vast bulk of Southern white evangelicals defended slavery, clung to the Lost Cause, fought Reconstruction, and designed and defended Jim Crow. 
As the Kentucky General Baptist Association put it, in 1860: 
"Among the white race in the Southern States there is no difference of opinion upon this subject: all are united in the opinion in reference to the political, intellectual, and social inequality between the colored people and the white races. And the people of our Commonwealth generally feel that the present condition of the colored race in this country accords both with the Word and the providence of God." 
The Southern Baptist Convention was in fact created in defense of slavery, and in 1947 most southern state conventions of the SBC refused to support a moderately worded "charter of race relations" that supported desegregation efforts.

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