Ignorance Is All in the Family and a Real Sin

7 08 2008

You might remember Snook blogging the giant ball of twine, how its parochial and suspicious-smelling legend became the ultimate uniting force of Identity for its willing-to-belong disciples?

Small towns like big families have great charm, so many virtues. But as Dale observed at his own family reunion this summer, some vile but equally human comparisons are true too:

The same weird dichotomy is present in many of the deeply religious folks I know. . . including some I like so much I could burst . . .[who] in the midst of a perfectly normal conversation. . . suddenly spew bile or rank ignorance — often without changing expression — before turning back to the weather or the casserole.

It’s not a case of some believers being lovely and others being nasty. That I could sort out. It’s much more confusing.

I’ve been shocked (not Nance, apparently!) at the ignorant and racist religious bile being spewed at Barack Obama by supposedly patriotic, conservative, golden-rule Christians, even from homeschool advocates who with stubborn pride clutch their own differences from mainstream society as the ties that bind us in one identity under One Family Name — Homeschooler! — and loudly defend as absolute their right to protection from outsider suspicions based on those differences.

But although Obama is in fact Christian by choice and following a clearly American-centric, politically evangelistic denomination arguably closer to their beliefs and practices than Mitt Romney’s Mormonism or John McCain’s um, post-POW junketing and family-abandoning for the shy young heiress as his child-bride trophy wife? — apparently Christians very much like Obama just can’t bear to believe it, because that could make him one of the family!

So ultimate difference must be found and if not, it must be fabricated. Never mind reality because real Christians don’t need to be able to prove their stories to themselves or each other — collective belief really can create its own reality. (Peter Pan, prisoners of war and the study of situational psychology can prove it.)

That truth thus is more important than other truth; they just need to all believe very hard, whatever story they believe will serve their family insider-group insularity best.

Right now America faces the prospect of somebody different becoming president, and perhaps changing reality. So let’s see. The Lord wouldn’t have given us race if He didn’t want us to use it, right? True Christians must teach children that Obama MUST be a Muslim, a Foreign Other blessedly marked by race as much too different to be trusted, believed or accepted as one of of the family, homogeneous salvation is safe once more!

I listened to two high school teachers bemoaning their “lazy Mexican” students. “It’s like an entire culture of unaccountability,” one said. “And if I say a word about it, I’m a racist!”
The other couldn’t agree more.
“Joo can’t say dat to me, joo ees raceest,” she mocked, and they laughed.

Favorite Daughter was still a child among children when she got a real-world lesson in how this works:

Somebody said that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

. . .“Oh, he totally is,” the conservative chooses this moment to jump in. “And I’d hate to see the day one of them gets elected to the highest office in our country.”

As we all sit there in a mild state of shock, wondering if she really just said what we just heard her say, she barrels on.

“You know, they all want to kill us. It says in their Koran that they have to kill the infidels.”

“No, it does not.” Kikki says definitively. “But – ” the conservative tries to say, but Kikki doesn’t let her get it out. “It does not. That is a load of crap.”

“No, you haven’t seen it,” the conservative says breathlessly. . . “I have seen the section where it says that. They showed it to us in class.”

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18 responses

7 08 2008
Nance Confer

It’s going to be a tough transition for some folks.

Nance

7 08 2008
JJ

And a few of the most deeply deluded might let their beliefs REALLY change their reality, permanently —
“Would-Be Obama Assassin Arrested in Miami”

7 08 2008
JJ

But it’s all just words, right?

7 08 2008
Nance Confer

Are there truly insane people in the world? Yep.

But don’t we all remember a time when it was possible to have a conversation about politics without pandering to the religious right? When government functioned, if not as we wanted it to all the time, at least some of the time? When there was a certain expectation of sanity and reality-based thinking?

There will always be what I think of as fringe elements. But they won’t be running things.

And they will be pissed! And yelp. And make outlandish claims. And fight and claw to get back on top.

But, maybe this time, in 8 years, we can remember why we bothered to look for change this time around. And, if not, at least we’ll get 8 relatively sane years in.

Nance

7 08 2008
JJ

Hey, I’m not convinced yet that the Clintons aren’t ready to make a deal with the devil (or whatever) that would blow up the whole thing and plunge us all right back into the national nightmare . . .

7 08 2008
JJ

Nance, did you know this? With his birthday coming up in a few weeks and all . . .

Jonathan Stein blogs at Mother Jones, “John McCain’s Miserable Record on Hurricane Katrina” . . . “McCain was on Face the Nation on August 28, 2005, as Katrina gathered in the Gulf Coast. He said nothing about it. One day later, when Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, McCain was on a tarmac at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, greeting President Bush with a cake in celebration of McCain’s 69th birthday.”

8 08 2008
Nance Confer

Don’t the Clintons look really peevish at this point? I don’t see how this stance helps their long-term chances of being taken seriously and getting back in the big time.

Nance

8 08 2008
JJ

This is cool:

Dale found a 20-question worldview quiz at beliefnet that helps people understand the real power of story in religion. It matches your answers to different religions and then ranks all the religions by percentage, so you can really “see” where different beliefs fit in the world, AND which ones are really at irreconcilable odds with each other politically.

Right off the bat, it helps me understand why some red-blooded Christian friends and family seem so alien and ignorant, while others are so thoughtful and dear. Apparently the real worldview clash isn’t in “religion” itself but a sort of animal ignorance that makes backward, dehumanizing beliefs acceptable if not downright compelling. See what you think

Have the heart pills ready when Born-Again Grandma finds out she’s 70 percent Islamic.

It might seem surprising at first that Catholic and Conservative Protestant come out so close, but the differences in the two, like the devil himself, are primarily in the details. The quiz goes after foundational worldview questions, not the piles and piles of minutiae that kept the two at each others’ throats for so many centuries.

But take a look at the gap between conservative Christianity and secular humanism. It’s true that the churched and unchurched share an incredible amount of common ground as human beings, but when it comes to the worldview questions around which the quiz is built, a chasm opens. In the great metaphysical Q&A, my conservative relations and I share between zero and 20 percent.

So while we’re celebrating the humanistic ties that bind us, it doesn’t hurt to recognize the challenge faced by bridge builders on both sides.

Perhaps the most revealing result of the two lists is where mainline-to-liberal Christianity falls on each. I share 59 percent with the average liberal Christian, while our hypothetical conservative Baptist shares 40 percent with the liberal Christian.

Mainline-Liberal Christians have a good deal more in common with secular humanists than they do with Pat Robertson and Benedict XVI. Both humanists and liberal Christians would benefit enormously from recognizing, and building on, this large overlap.

8 08 2008
Nance Confer

Well, we’ve all seen the birthday cake but I didn’t know about McCain’s recent “whatever” remarks.

I don’t think this should encourage too many New Orleans residents:

“That is why we need to go back is to have a conversation about what to do – rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is,” [McCain] said.

Let’s see what Obama has to say about this issue:

http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2008/02/barack_obamas_speech.html

Yes, that’s a bit different. An actual vision, as opposed to “whatever.”

Nance

8 08 2008
NanceConfer

My results:

How did the Belief-O-Matic do? Discuss your results on our message boards.

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (89%)
3. Nontheist (77%)
4. Liberal Quakers (71%)
5. Theravada Buddhism (70%)
6. Neo-Pagan (63%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (56%)
8. Taoism (47%)
9. New Age (44%)
10. Reform Judaism (39%)
11. Mahayana Buddhism (33%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (28%)
13. Sikhism (28%)
14. Scientology (27%)
15. New Thought (25%)
16. Bahá’í Faith (22%)
17. Jainism (21%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (19%)
19. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (17%)
20. Hinduism (17%)
21. Seventh Day Adventist (15%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (12%)
23. Eastern Orthodox (9%)
24. Islam (9%)
25. Orthodox Judaism (9%)
26. Roman Catholic (9%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (5%)

It is cool. 🙂

Nance

8 08 2008
JJ

Dale highlights so much good stuff — here’s a five-minute Obama video, what Dale calls his “unprecedented, jaw-droppingly, hair-blow-backingly brilliant speech” on religion in pluralistic American politics:

So one candidate appears to have read and understood the Constitution and (better yet) to have internalized its implications and its spirit, while the other has apparently read Chuck Colson.

Regardless of Obama’s personal religious beliefs, I find his grasp of this issue incredibly encouraging. I don’t need a president who shares my every view. I would like one with a solid handle on the principles on which the nation is predicated. And if I’m not mistaken, I’ve found one.

8 08 2008
JJ

So for fun, before watching the videos of Obama and McCain, guess which candidate said:

“The dangers of sectarianism are greater than ever. . . and even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?”

And then guess which one stumbled through this Statement of Faith:
“The Number One issue that is in the selection, that people should make a selection of the President of the United States, is will this person carry on in the Judeo-Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment . . .this nation was founded primarily on Christian principled. . .I prefer someone who I know was a solid grounding in my faith. I just feel that MY faith is probably a better spiritual guidance . . .I just feel that that’s an important part of our qualifications to lead.”

and whose campaign then clarified by adding,

“America is a Christian nation and it’s hardly a controversial claim. . .”

and then sent its candidate to Jerry Falwell’s University to personally add: “I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation. . . a nation founded on Christian principles.”

8 08 2008
JJ

I should stay off YouTube! 😉
Apparently it’s not just Constitutional and political confusion but personal religious confusion too

8 08 2008
JJ

And here’s something that relates too. It’s not just McCain who can’t figure out where his religion fits in the world anymore, or even in his own mind:

I’m reading Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody. In it, he explores how technology is changing human interactions—and he shares an interesting example:

In 2007, several conservative parishes of the Episcopal Church in Virginia voted to break away from the American branch of their church. The parishes chose to align themselves with the Nigerian branch of the Episcopal Church—whose views aligned better with theirs.

Shirky argues that this shows a shift in our thinking about how we organize ourselves.

Typically, humans have used geography as the primary factor when determining how to join together with others. Technology has made it possible to align with anyone, however distant, based on like-minded beliefs or other factors.

So my question is this: Will we eventually see similar changes based on the ways people think about schools?

Right now, in the public school sector, most people send their students to schools based on geography. You go to the building that is closest to you, whether you are satisfied with that building or not.

Is it possible that technology may change all of that and allow families to select schools based on design and ideas that best represent their personal preferences and values instead of choosing schools based on physical location?

8 08 2008
Deanne

I like how Nance describes many of these intentionally ignorant people – the “fringe element”. It reassures me, because I’d hate to think that the “fringe” was actually the majority!

That quiz was quite interesting! I’d say that it rang pretty true for me, and reinforced my belief (LOL) that most religions have at their basis the priorities of loving others and the world. I think that’s how I can score so high on apparently different religions like Islam and Buddism. I also thought it was pretty predictable that I scored high in Catholicism, and my good friend Nance had Catholicism near the bottom of her results. I think we’ve built “bridge” you mentioned JJ. 😉

Anyway, here are my results FWIW:

1. Orthodox Quaker (100%)
2. Eastern Orthodox (87%)
3. Roman Catholic (87%)
4. Seventh Day Adventist (86%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (84%)
6. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (80%)
7. Liberal Quakers (75%)
8. Orthodox Judaism (68%)
9. Bahá’í Faith (67%)
10. Hinduism (65%)
11. Islam (60%)
12. Sikhism (59%)
13. Unitarian Universalism (58%)
14. Reform Judaism (50%)
15. Jainism (50%)
16. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (46%)
17. Jehovah’s Witness (42%)
18. Mahayana Buddhism (42%)
19. Theravada Buddhism (42%)
20. Neo-Pagan (40%)
21. New Age (35%)
22. Secular Humanism (29%)
23. Taoism (29%)
24. Scientology (22%)
25. New Thought (21%)
26. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (19%)
27. Nontheist (18%)

8 08 2008
JJ

Hi D —
you of course, are among my thoughtful and dear Christian friends and family! 🙂

8 08 2008
Nance Confer

Deanne – the woman who gives me “faith” in bridge building. 🙂

Orthodox Quaker???

Nance

10 08 2008
JJ

Here’s a religious journalist I respect on Obama versus both his biggest rivals McCain and Hillary Clinton, supposedly so red-blooded, white-breaded, blue-collared protestant that their camps can safely excoriate Obama for Reverend Wright without receiving the golden rule slapbacks they so richly deserve (much less being called upon to turn their other cheeks for more.)

Jeff Sharlet wrote about Rev.Wright as the most American, most centrist/mainstream and least influential (thus least problematic) of the three major candidates’ minister “problems” — read with an open mind, this gave me new ways to understand the real power of story in targeting only Wright (Obama) while giving McCain-Hagee and Clinton-Coe a that’s-fine, never-mind free pass:

. . .Lost in the hysteria over Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s remarks is the fact that the current race offers a rare snapshot of the three great strands of American political religion.

It’s ironic that Wright occupies center stage, since, in the twenty-first century, his is by far the weakest of these–a progressive Christianity which stretches from the Social Gospel to black liberation theology, a big tent of liberal and left religion that’s not very crowded anymore.

John McCain’s problem pastor, a Texas pulpit-pounder named John Hagee, stands in for a more familiar faith: populist fundamentalism, a crowd-pleasing mix of hellfire and the kind of prosperity preaching that encourages followers to ante up to the Lord in both spirit and dollars.

And then there’s Hillary Clinton’s religion: the third strand of political faith, the least understood and arguably the most powerful…
[and] Hillary’s connection to Doug Coe, the aging head of “The Family” or “The Fellowship,” a low-profile but influential group of establishmentarian, theological conservatives in Washington. How controversial is Coe? This NBC report on Hillary’s Family ties includes video of Coe preaching on the leadership lessons to be found in the friendship of Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels.

Coe’s not some kind of crypto-Nazi; he’s an admirer of strength, Christ’s greatest virtue in his teaching, and sees it best exemplified in strongmen.

. . .But despite NBC’s amplification and articles in Mother Jones and The New Republic, that story never got traction. Nor did the Hagee story in any serious way, until blogger Bruce Wilson put the kibosh on Hagee with his audio of a Hagee sermon praising… Hitler. (What is it with Hitler? The Christian Right needs a course in metaphors, not miracles.)

Even then, it was a minor story, and McCain and Hagee were allowed to part ways with no real damage done.
But Wright — the press could not let that pass.

Hagee’s sphere of influence includes a couple million fans who are as hungry for war with Iran as John McCain.

Doug Coe, whom Hillary calls a “genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide,” has long played the role of matchmaker between foreign dictators and American power, from Asia’s worst strongman of the late 20th century, Suharto, to Somalia’s lunatic nation-killer Siad Barre, to the death squad leaders of Central America . . .

Jeremiah Wright? He has a working and middle class church in Chicago. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he’s not a major player in the power politics of religion.

And yet, the press made him one, only to smack him down. He filled a role they recognized: “angry black man.”

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