Tag Archives: religious right

The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

Legislators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. That bill has now been turfed, but we can probably expect similar moves in the future.

An Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, reveals just how far from the nation’s roots we have traveled on the subject of separating church and state and retaining the nation’s neutrality when it comes to how Americans chose to practice their respective religions.

According to the survey, 34 percent of Americans would favor making Christianity their official state religion while less than half (47 percent) oppose the concept. Thirty-two percent of those polled indicated that they would also favor a constitutional amendment that would make Christianity the official religion of the United States with just over half (52 percent) opposing the notion.

Leaving aside for a second the abject failure of millions of Americans to grasp the most basic precepts of their Constitution, this poll actually provides more questions than answers. Continue reading The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

TunesWeek: ’90s video goes political

Part 2 in a series.

The Reagan/Thatcher years were marked by an utterly bizarre shiny/happy pastel sheen spread liberally across a decidedly apocalyptic doom. Listen to songs like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Forever Young” and “It’s a Mistake” (and watch the videos). The aesthetic seemed to be “we’re all going to die in a nuclear holocaust, of course, but at least we can be alternately romantically beautiful or positively chipper about it.” But at the end of the decade Reagan’s charisma gave way to the cynical years of Bush the Elder. The happy buzz gave way to a mean drunk, and then the hangover set in.

By the early ’90s, the tone of the political landscape had darkened considerably, and a growing anger was mirrored in our music and the videos that accompanied it. Here are some of our favorite examples.

We’ll start with Ministry and their love song to the Bush years, “NWO.”

Meanwhile, Bad Religion turned its attention to the xenophobic, hateful Christianity fueling America’s lurch to the right. (Directed by Gore Verbinski.)

They were dealing the the rise of the right across the pond, too, and Pop Will Eat Itself attacked this new fascism head on in “Ich Bin Ein Auslander.” Few political rants manage to capture the essence of the problem quite as keenly as this track did. I’ve included the lyrics below so you can follow along.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this.
“It can’t happen here”. Oh yeah?
“Take a look around at the cities and the towns.”

See them hunting, creeping, sneaking
Breeding fear and loathing with the lies they’re speaking
The knife, the gun, broken bottle, petrol bomb
There is no future when the past soon come.

And when they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Or laugh through a glass eye as they rape our lives
Trampled underfoot by the right on the rise

[CHORUS}
[s]”You owe us…”….Ich Bin Ein Auslander (x4)
(“You owe us everything”)… Ich Bin Ein Auslander
Welcome to a state where the politics of hate
Shout loud in the crowd “Watch them beat us all down”
There’s a rising tide in the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence

If they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Freedom of expression doesn’t make it alright
Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right

[CHORUS]

Ich Bin Ein Auslander. (x12)

Tim Tebow decides to do the right thing for professional reasons (but reserves the right to do the wrong thing later when nobody is paying attention)

I was reading the Internets today and guess what? – our boy Timmy is back in the news.

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has decided to cancel his appearance at a Dallas church that is led by a pastor, Robert Jeffress, who has been criticized for his remarks about gays and other faiths.

Tebow sent out a series of tweets Thursday announcing his decision:

“While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”

Good for you, Tim. It’s great to hear that you’re genuinely committed to spreading Jesus’s message of love and acceptance, no matter what the circumstances are. Do the right thing, though the world may end. I’m proud of you. I think that….ummm, wait, hold on a second….he what? You’re kidding.

Jeffress told the Associated Press that Tebow told him he would like to speak at First Baptist at some point, but “he needed to avoid controversy right now for personal and professional reasons.”

So….you’ll go speak to the hatemongers as soon as everybody looks the other way for a second? The hell? Can somebody show me where it says in the Bible that you’re supposed to do good works for the Lord as long as it’s professionally expedient? (Hey, maybe this is what was going on with that whole “denied the Lord thrice” thing. I got your back, Jesus, but I got to look out for my family, hear what I’m saying?)

Let’s see if there’s anything else interesting in this article.

Jeffress said Thursday that First Baptist was being mischaracterized as a “hate church,” and that the church’s teachings were consistent with historic Christian beliefs.

Did I miss the part where hate and “historic Christian beliefs” (as interpreted by the likes of the Rev. Jeffress) are mutually exclusive?

“We had planned for him to speak very positively about the difference Jesus Christ had made in his life,” Jeffress said.

This would have been a great speech. If it weren’t for his very, very public displays of piety Tebow would never have played a down in the NFL. To paraphrase Chico Esquela, “Jebus been bery bery good to me.”

What else?

“There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals, you can’t deny that,” Jeffress said in July.

Wait, what? Yes I can.

“And the reason is very clear: Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God’s law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well.”

Which is why our history is so rife with gay serial killers, rapists, Lehman Brothers executives and superchurch pastors.

In a 2011 interview, Jeffress said that Islam and Mormonism were religions that are “heresy from the pit of hell,” and criticized the Roman Catholic Church as “the genius of Satan” and “corrupted” by cults.

And since this sounds like an intramural matter between the good reverend and his fellow Abrahamic religious conservatives, I’m just going to step back and leave it alone.

[Ahem]

We’ve been telling you what Tim Tebow was for a long time here at S&R: an opportunistic, hypocritical self-promoter who can’t play a lick. Between this and the fact that at present the NY Jets don’t want him anymore and can’t seem to find anyone else who does, either, the evidence continues to mount that we’ve been right all along.

An open letter to former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney: STFU

On Sunday, the University of Colorado fired head football coach Jon Embree after two seasons. Reaction has been mixed and at times heated. Some point to the results, noting not only the 4-21 record but also suggesting that the program was actually regressing. Others argued that Embree inherited a dumpster fire from previous coach Dan Hawkins and that it was unrealistic and patently unfair not to give him more than two seasons to turn things around. I personally felt that Embree’s hiring was a mistake in the first place and that he was never likely to succeed, given two years, three years or ten years. That said, I have a long, well-established track record of being wrong about CU and its football coaches, so I’m the furthest thing from an expert opinion here. Suffice it to say that I see both sides of the argument and believe each has merit.

Then yesterday, former coach Bill McCartney, regarded by some in Colorado as the Word of God on football matters, weighed in with an open letter on Embree’s firing. As the man who recruited and coached Embree, an outstanding tight end in his playing days, Coach Mac’s position on the subject surprised no one.

I encouraged [Embree] to pursue coaching. He preceded to build a solid résumé.

Finally, CU hired one of its own. Not only that, but with a pedigree that was exemplary. This guy is good.

To short-circuit a five-year contract before two full years is an indictment of true integrity. Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as utter sincerity, honesty, candor, not artificial, not shallow, no empty promises.

“One of its own.” That was part of the problem, actually – pro-McCartney-era voices “encouraging” the AD into a questionable hire. One local media analyst – the guy I regard as the best and smartest in town, in fact – has really good contacts and insight into the workings of the athletic department at CU; he went so far as to use the word “bully” in describing the process.

The “finally” part is troublesome, too. While Embree might be the first former player hired to the job, the school previously hired a couple of McCartney assistants – fellows named “Neuheisel” and “Barnett” – and those didn’t work out so well, either.

Still, I knew what was coming when I read the word “integrity.” I wasn’t disappointed.

Men and women of Colorado, don’t let this happen. Please weigh in. This is wrong. It undermines the values of the university.

“Values of the university.” Let’s examine this, because the man throwing around all this noble language has a credibility problem.

McCartney’s early years as coach at CU were undistinguished – he only seven games in his first three years, and that third year produced a 1-10 mark. Fine. It’s a university, not an NFL franchise.

His fortunes improved dramatically once he decided to…well, put it this way. He and his staff devoted very little effort to making sure their new recruits were choirboys. Commencing with the 1987 season, his teams won 73 games in eight years, including a mythical (and highly controversial split “national title” in 1990. Meanwhile his players were keeping Boulder law enforcement busy. From 1986-89, for instance, two dozen CU student-athletes were arrested on a variety of charges, including sexual assault.

Mr. Character. And a Man of God® – McCartney is the founder of the Promise Keepers, remember. More on that in a second, but now back to that national championship. It wouldn’t have happened save for one of the worst officiating flubs in major sports history. The ref crew, with CU trying to punch in the winning TD at the end of the game, lost track and allowed Colorado to score on a 5th down play. McCartney – the one quoted above making a big deal out of “integrity,” “sincerity” and “honesty,” of course did the noble thing, right?

Ummm, no.

Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, a former Missouri Tigers player, did little to soothe the controversy. Asked whether he would consider forfeiting the game, McCartney declared that he had considered it but decided against it because “the field was lousy.”

Do as I say, not as I do, I suppose.

What else? Oh, right. Promise Keepers. An organization built on principles of female subservience and homophobia.

From a CU podium in 1992, McCartney referred to homosexuality as “an abomination against almighty God” in support of Amendment 2, which prohibited laws protecting gays from discrimination.

Not only did Coach Mac say these hateful things, he did so backed by the CU logo, lending the appearance that the university community agreed with him. Trust me, it didn’t, and he was officially reprimanded for doing so. McCartney was so bad that the school had to adopt official policy prohibiting the kinds of activity he repeatedly engaged in.

All of which leads me back to McCartney’s words in his open letter: “It undermines the values of the university.” And a question: Coach McCartney, what do you know about the “values of the university”? For that matter, what do you know about the values of any university?

In point of fact, everything he stood for, from the recruitment of players who were archetypally unsuited for a university community to his repeated insistence on advocating Old Testament morality in an environment dedicated to progress, intellect and enlightenment, was directly counter to “university principles.”

Dear Coach McCartney: Shut. The fuck. Up. Every time you open your mouth you devalue my degree a little more. You were an embarrassment to the CU community as a coach and when you seize the microphone now all you do is remind us of your hypocrisy and the fundamental corruption of your ideology.

Worse, you taint our opinions of men like Jon Embree. I don’t know much about him as a person, although he struck me as dedicated, hardworking and decent. The more you wrap your forked tongue around his firing, the more I tend to evaluate him in terms of you. In that light, losing his job is only the second-worst thing that’s happened to him this week.

Please. Shut up and go away.

Are Americans becoming less religious? New Pew study says yes and Dawkins is optimistic

Given the course of Campaign 2012, the idea that Americans are trending toward less religion probably sounds ludicrous. But maybe not.

In response to an audience question last night, Richard Dawkins said he’s “optimistic” about the future of religion. (If you’re a religious type, he doesn’t mean that in the way it probably sounds.) He noted that the US is still exceptionally religious when compared with other nations along criteria such as education levels and scientific accomplishments, and he further allowed that we’re not nearly as far along the path toward a truly secular society as he might have expected several decades ago. Still, he says “I’m optimistic in the long term” – pointedly emphasizing long term.

Dawkins, a prominent scientist and intellectual who has authored a number of influential books, including The Selfish GeneThe Extended Phenotype and The God Delusion, was speaking at the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium as part of a US tour promoting his latest book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. This book is intended for younger audiences – in essence, it’s designed to help children understand how science works and to develop the faculties necessary to parse reality from superstition and the various kinds of “magic” that lead them into the sorts of folly afflicting American politics and policy development today. Illustrated by Dave McKeanThe Magic of Reality makes a compelling visual impression, as well, not only highlighting the essential concepts in ways that make them easier to grasp, but at the same time stylistically conjuring a pensive, dramatic sense of the natural world that I imagine will last young readers the rest of their lives.

One hopes Dr. Dawkins is justified in his optimism, and one might also hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the long term to arrive. He made the point judiciously, of course, but while the US ranks far ahead of the rest of the world in many measures of intellectual achievement, we’re also the undisputed leaders of the developed world when it comes to batshit religious crazy. I’ve addressed the “Christian nation” question here a couple of times in the past, and it’s perhaps reminding everyone of some numbers.

  • Polls show the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian ranging as high as 85% or beyond.
  • The president is a Christian…
  • …as is the VP.
  • The Speaker of the House is Catholic…
  • …and the Senate Majority Leader is Mormon.
  • Well over 90% of our Congressional representatives are Christian, with a majority of the remainder being Jewish.
  • The Supreme Court features seven Christians and two Jews.
  • All of our major presidential candidates in both major parties.
  • Almost all of our past presidents; depending on how you count Unitarians, you have to go all the way back to Lincoln (ironically enough, the founder of the GOP) to even find one to debate over;
  • Hell, even sports franchises are starting to build their operations around the evangelical litmus test.
  • It seems unlikely that a similar review of the legislatures and courthouses in the 50 states would reveal too much variation from this overpowering Judeo-Christian norm.

You have to be willfully stupid – and polls suggest that in many places the voting majority is just that – to think that ours is a Christian system of government. However, numbers are numbers, and I don’t think it controversial to say that we are a Christian culture. For better or worse. Mostly worse.

Of course, my colleague Otherwise believes that we’re one of the least religious places on earth. At some point he and I need to sit down and discuss our criteria. Perhaps he’s looking at the Muslim world, or perhaps he’s looking at cultures dominated by Catholicism. Fair enough. Or maybe he’s thinking more about the gap between what people report when polled and how they live when the pollster drives away. He grew up in the South like I did, so he’s probably well familiar with a certain breed of Christian – let’s call it the devout son of a bitch. Never misses church, publicly quite upstanding and pious, but at his core he’s just a mean redneck. He’ll say he believes in Jesus, but you’d never know it to watch him.

It’s like the famous singer and comedian, Jim Stafford, once said: Baptists are like cats – you know they’re raising hell, you just can’t catch them at it.

A new study from the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life suggests that perhaps Dawkins (and Otherwise) are right.

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

Note: “religiously unaffiliated” doesn’t mean “atheist” by a long shot.

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

While I don’t care what people believe per se – I’m very 1st Amendmentish in that respect – I care a great deal what people do, and these days ignorant, dingbat theocracy-leaning religious conservatism exerts way too great an influence on the laws that govern our lives. For that reason, the new Pew study, which indicates, at a minimum, a shift away from organized fundamentalism, brings welcome news. Perhaps the single most encouraging bit is the “a third of adults under 30” part – I suppose that’s the “long term” hope that Dawkins is hanging his hat on.

Time will tell. Common sense says that at some point either the pendulum has to swing back the other way a bit, away from reactionary religiosity and neo-medieval conservatism, or the culture will simply explode. Perhaps we tip over into the kinds of full-blown theocracy that more and more Republicans are openly advocating, or we erupt into open and potentially violent conflict to prevent it.

The Pew report suggests that with each passing year America’s clear thinkers regain a little more territory. Let’s hope they, and Dawkins, are right.

Image Credit: Touch Reviews

America gets divorced: crafting a separation agreement

Part two of a series.

In part one, I offered an overview of why I think the time has come to partition America – shake hands, go our separate ways, and let two (at least) groups of people follow their own paths according to their very different values. Today I want to briefly tackle the hard part and present some initial thoughts on key details – where the lines are drawn, how the divorce might be effected, etc. By no means do I regard this post as being definitive. The issues are complex and, like many divorces, the process of separating is likely to incite as much in the way of negative passion as the end stages of the marriage itself did. At best, perhaps I can provide a framework for discussion and begin a productive conversation that leads us all to a better understanding of what we’re facing.

First: The partition should comprise a five-year, free-passage transition. Continue reading America gets divorced: crafting a separation agreement

It’s time for America to get a divorce

Part one of a series.

This past week AlterNet published an interview with Chuck Thompson, author of Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern SecessionIn brief, Thompson argues that the United States has become two very different countries (or perhaps that it was always two very different countries) and that perhaps the time has come to shake hands and go our separate ways.

Thompson makes a compelling argument. Secession is a subject we here at S&R have engaged in the past, primarily within the context of the inequitable distribution of tax revenues (donor states vs. taker states), and it’s perhaps telling that so many of the smartest people I know – rational, clear-headed, educated, progressive-minded, deliberate thinkers all – are more than willing to entertain the idea. Sure, there are plenty of logistical concerns to be considered, but make no mistake – the “South’s gonna do it agin” crowd isn’t the only segment of the population that would be okay parting ways. Continue reading It’s time for America to get a divorce

North Carolina’s Amendment One and America’s youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war

Rachel Held Evans nails it:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

My generation is tired of the culture wars.  Continue reading North Carolina’s Amendment One and America’s youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war

Imagine there’s no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me

Following up on yesterday’s post about how unfair it is when progressives fight fire with fire

One of the architects of the modern conservative boycott movement back in the day was the now-deceased Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the “Moral Majority.” His strategy was simple. Identify those television and radio stations whose programming “promoted” a “liberal agenda” or “secular humanist” values, then leverage the purchasing power of the congregation to bully offenders into changing their programming. Sadly, this brand of thuggery (remember, this is generally the same crowd screeching right now about how “liberals” are “censoring” the “free speech rights” of the richest, most successful, most widely heard man in political talk radio) proved effective enough that it has now become a go-to weapon in the arsenals of interest groups across the partisan spectrum. Continue reading Imagine there’s no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me

Iowa nice, but the caucuses are still a huge problem

Have you seen the vid on Youtube called “Iowa Nice”? If not, let’s start there.

The producer of the video, Scott Siepker, is an Iowa State University grad and host of Iowa Outdoors on Iowa Public Television. Continue reading Iowa nice, but the caucuses are still a huge problem