Tag Archives: Evangelicals

Prayers don’t work even if you are Governor Rick Perry

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Texas Governor Rick Perry praying he can winTexas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, announced his intention to run for President of the United States. His overt religious views are a big concern. He recently hosted a prayer event in Houston’s Reliant Stadium that included major religious right groups like the American Family Association, people like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and others. He has called on prayer to solve Texas’ drought and also for our current nationwide economic problems. It hasn’t worked yet.
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Skye Jethani teaches us how to marginalize minorities

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Skye Jethani is an ordained pastor and author who wrote a recent article on Huffington Post titled “What Evangelicals and Atheists Have in Common” that shows us how a Christian apologist can marginalize atheists or other religious minorities and frame a “concern” into a positive spin about one’s own religion.

Jethani gets right to the point:

For example, some within New Atheism are proselytizing their beliefs with the fervor, and in come cases anger, more often associated with evangelicals. From an international ad campaign on buses dismissing belief in God, to rallies at universities inviting students to exchange their Bibles for pornography, atheists are no longer content with a live-and-let-live approach to those adhering to religion. Instead, they are actively trying to convert (or is the word un-convert?) the masses.

What Evangelicals and Atheists Have in Common

He forwards a false notion that atheists not remaining the submissive quiet doormats he is use to is some how “new”. He also believes that atheists speaking out and using some of the same techniques that Christian believers use to advance their religion is some how against our atheist beliefs.

Christians like Skye Jethani typically miss the forest for the trees and that is understandable when one is in the dominate religion in the country. It is much like how many white men never seem to understand how their male privilege hurts women and other minorities in society. When one is on “top” it is hard to see or understand those under you.

To me Jethani’s remarks are just like if he had said “look at those black people using advertising and publicity stunts to get noticed. Who do they think they are?”

In another part of his essay he complains about Christopher Hitchens’ fiery comments about religion – which again isn’t new. Jethani tries again to draw a false parallel with loud mouth evangelicals:

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, one evangelical leader made the following statement, for which he subsequently apologized:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this happen.”

Sadly, these kinds of judgments are not uncommon. Other church leaders made similar remarks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and following the earthquake in Haiti. Presumably, according to the logic within these proclamations, the way to prevent terrorist attacks and natural disasters in one’s country is by earning the Almighty’s affection and protection through moral behavior, adherence to prayer, traditional family values, and frequent worship.

While I applaud the effort to acknowledge that some on his side are butt-heads, notice how Jethani doesn’t NAME the person who said any of the nasty things he complains about? He is quick to point the finger at Hitchens and Richard Dawkins but when it comes to naming those on the evangelical side Jethani is mum.

Any atheist who is worth their salt KNOWS who said the quote Jethani mentions and not naming the guy is an effort – as happens most often when direct names aren’t used – to minimize what was said.

What really is new about these so-called “New Atheists” is we are finally tired of the expectation that we remain silent and deferential to Christian privilege. It isn’t harming Christians to point out their privilege and we get tired of their constant whining about being a victim.

If and when people like Skye Jethani start calling out their brothers and sisters and stop rationalizing their privilege then maybe we atheists won’t seem so loud and hurtful to them.

An evangelical spin

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Walter Russell Mead writes, in a recent article in the Atlantic, that “America’s evangelicals are growing more moderate— and more powerful” in American politics. He opens the article talking about Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” and how it highlights the path American evangelicals are headed these days by comparing religion in Britain at the time of his book.

Mead says:

Smith observed a relationship between these revivals and the process that we now call urbanization. Young people, arriving in cities in search of work, faced new opportunities and temptations without the structure that village life—with its communities of relatives and others that watched and guided young people—had provided. “A single week’s thoughtlessness and dissipation is often sufficient to undo a poor workman forever,” wrote Smith about life in London. But the city’s small sectarian religious congregations gave rural immigrants a social-support network and a moral code that could keep them on the straight and narrow as they built new lives. These movements were a response to the dislocations of modernity; there was no reason to expect them to fade away.

Yet in the teeming religious marketplace of Britain’s cities, Smith also saw pressures that would limit the political impact of religious beliefs and prevent theocracy. With so many competing denominations, he noted, religious leaders could acquire political influence only by finding allies outside their own version of the faith—and the process of forming those alliances would drive them toward agendas that could appeal to a wider, multi-faith audience. To be politically significant, he wrote, religious extremists had to move toward broader and necessarily more-moderate coalitions. Their entry into politics would, itself, moderate them.

Born Again: America’s evangelicals are growing more moderate— and more powerful

I agree that freedom of religion leads to a “free market” of religion and that creates market pressure but I don’t believe that evangelicals are growing more moderate or more powerful. It isn’t the free market reducing their power, it is the gross abuse of that power that causes a backlash.

There have been cycles of religious revivals over the past couple of hundred years. There have been at least four Great Awakenings where religion became popular and more influential in politics. Some results of this influence was the abolition movement, labor reform, prohibition, and even the land mark church and state rulings in the 1960’s – where the special status in government of the Protestant religion was eliminated as result of their attempt to pass laws at the expense of Catholics.

The main thread of these awakenings was religious people attempting to do what Mead details as favoring “absolute moral codes, conservative interpretations of religious doctrines, and political activism to enact their values into law.” And such needs haven’t been moderated only reduced for a time before the next awakening when it seems evangelicals go too far as seems to be happening recently.

The 1980’s were a very scary time for supporters of church and state separation as is the current the President Bush administration. I feel that the influence of the evangelicals will be reduced with the new administration.

There maybe non-denominational mega-churches sprouting every where but the silence of their members toward the abuse of politics by the religious right is telling.

Tom Brokaw looks inside Christian Evangelicals

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screencap of Tom Brokaw interviewing Pastor Ted Haggard
Tom Brokaw interviewing Pastor Ted Haggard during NBC news special

Friday night I was surfing TV and came across the end of a special program on NBC hosted by Tom Brokaw called “In God they trust: NBC’s Tom Brokaw goes inside the world of Christian Evangelicals”.
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