Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Religious Right Has Given Christianity a Bad Name

Diana Butler Bass, in her new book Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening , has a succinct paragraph about the effect that the religious right has had on Christianity in America:

There was ample evidence that young adults -- even evangelical ones -- now understood "Christian" to be coterminous with "religious Right" and were leaving churches because of it. In 1985, 26 percent of young adults under twenty-nine claimed to be evangelicals; that number now hovers around 15 percent, while the number of "nones" under twenty-nine has risen from 12 percent to nearly 30 percent. Indeed, most evangelical loss stems from the defection of young people, who increasingly identify Christianity (not just evangelical religion, but Christianity as a whole) as antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, out of touch with reality, overly politicized, insensitive, exclusive, and dull. The old religious Right may have won some cherished political battles, but in the war over the hearts of their youth they surely lost more than they gained. And for American public opinion, conservative evangelical politics may have been the worst marketing campaign for the word "Christian" since the Salem witch trials.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

On Politics and End Times Theology

Bill Moyers recently interviewed Mike Lofgren, author of The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. Lofgren contends that the GOP has become an "apocalyptic cult." Here's an excerpt:
Bill Moyers: Why did you leave the party? You'd been a Republican, what, all your life?

Mike Lofgren: I left the party because it was becoming an apocalyptic cult. Because you cannot govern a country of 310 million people that is the greatest economic power on earth and the greatest military power on earth as if it's a banana republic. You can't govern it with people who think that Obama was born overseas or who believe in all manner of nonsense about climate change. They don't even know, apparently, where babies come from, if we're to believe Todd Akin.

Bill Moyers: What do you mean "apocalyptic cult"?

Mike Lofgren: Well, I mean it literally in some cases. There's a very strong element in evangelical or fundamentalist religion that said the apocalypse is coming. And one sort of sees it subliminally in people like Michele Bachmann when the debt ceiling crisis came to a head and people were warning that we would be downgraded. And if we actually defaulted, we would possibly have to lower our standard of living and credit from abroad could dry up. And her attitude was sort of, "Bring it on. If we're all going to abide in the bosom of the Lord, by and by, it really doesn't matter whether we default."

Bill Moyers: Was that just rhetoric we heard on television?

Mike Lofgren: Oh, that's mainly rhetoric. But I think it does carry over into the mentality of maximalist obstruction, no compromise, because of course when you are with the saints and the opposition is with the sinners, you are doing evil if you compromise.

Bill Moyers: You write that we now have a de facto religious test for public office, notwithstanding that the Constitution says we must not have one. How does this play out?

Mike Lofgren: Well, we saw it in 2008, when a pastor brought Obama and McCain before a live audience and quizzed them about their religiosity. That was Rick Warren. We really don't need that sort of religious test. It's banned in the Constitution. We had it play out last year when some preacher in Texas started criticizing Romney because as a Mormon, this man thought he wasn't a Christian.

Pastor Jeffress: The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult. I think that Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.

Mike Lofgren: The media went off on that for a few days. And as I recall, some of the reporters were badgering the other Republican candidates as to whether they thought Romney was a Christian. So the media actually allowed itself to be used as a tool in this aspect.

Bill Moyers: Candy Crowley kept pressing Herman Cain and, and Michele Bachmann in the primaries on this very issue.