mfioretti: religion*

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  1. I interviewed Green about what he learned after spending so much time digging into Bannon’s ideology. He argued that religion is more important to understanding the operative than one might think — that he has an apocalyptic, decline-obsessed worldview and a very real interest in esoteric mystic thinkers.

    But in the end, Green says, what helped both Trump and Bannon rise to prominence in the Republican Party was much more simple and crude: They realized “the power of demonizing immigrants as a way of motivating grassroots voters.”

    This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

    The major elements to it, as far as I’m able to detect, are an antipathy to free trade, a hostility to immigrants both legal and illegal, this kind of misty nostalgia for the white, blue-collar manufacturing economy of the mid-20th century.

    And in terms of foreign policy, there’s a kind of America-first isolationism coupled with what I guess you could describe as Islamophobia. But that isn’t rooted in the Fox News post-9/11 strain of Islamophobia; it’s something much deeper and religiously driven in Bannon that’s been around for a lot longer.

    Bannon also got a lot of attention this year when he said at CPAC that Trump wanted “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” What does that mean? Is that just a Bannon-y catchphrase for mainstream Republican deregulatory policy, or do you interpret it as something different and new?
    Josh Green

    I interpret that as being kinda two things at once. On its face it’s a nod to small-government conservatism — the kind of people who show up at CPAC, that’s their passion.

    On a deeper level with Bannon, I also think part of that is religiously driven. As nutty as it may sound, part of his “Traditionalist” philosophy holds that the rise of the modern nation-state system beginning 500 years ago has built up administrative infrastructures that have taken the place of the traditional and the transcendent. And that is one reason he’s so hostile to outfits like the EU and also outfits like the US government.
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  2. The American social structure, as Sacks notes, was based on biblical categories. There was a political realm, but the heart of society was in the covenantal realm: “marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations.”

    America’s Judeo-Christian ethic celebrated neighborliness over pagan combativeness; humility as the basis of good character, not narcissism. It believed in taking in the stranger because we were all strangers once. It dreamed of universal democracy as the global fulfillment of the providential plan.

    That biblical ethic, embraced by atheists as much as the faithful, is not in great shape these days. As Sacks notes: “Today, one half of America is losing all those covenantal institutions. It’s losing strong marriages and families and communities. It is losing a strong sense of the American narrative. It’s even losing e pluribus unum because today everyone prefers pluribus to unum.…”

    Trump and Bannon have filled the void with their own creed, which is anti-biblical. The American story they tell is not diverse people journeying toward a united future. It’s a zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict. The traits Trump embodies are narcissism, not humility; combativeness, not love;; the sanctification of the rich and blindness toward the poor.

    As other relationships wither, many Americans are making partisanship the basis of their identity — their main political, ethnic and moral attachment. And the polls show that if you want to win a Republican primary these days, you have to embrace the Trump narrative, and not the old biblical one.

    The Republican senators greeted Trump on Capitol Hill and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s. But they know which way the wind is blowing. They gave him a standing ovation.

    Even Alexander Kerensky didn’t abase himself so humiliatingly.

    The people who oppose Trump make a big error: “Let’s Get Togetherism.” This is the belief that if we can only have a civil conversation between red and blue, then everything will be better. But you can’t destroy a moral vision with a process. You need a counter-moral vision.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-11-02)
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  3. “Many diplomatic services throughout Europe and elsewhere are now running courses, literally accelerated courses to make up time on religion,” he said, explaining that political leaders are beginning to recognize that “the world is a very religious place.”

    Increase in religious affiliation worldwide continues to grow around the world, he said, explaining that this fact “brings with it a very big responsibility for believers.”

    “I think we have to take that responsibility very seriously, and make sure that religion is making a positive contribution, and that religion, and if you want to say even the Catholic religion, is a part of the solution and not the problem.”

    Archbishop Gallagher spoke alongside German Cardinal Reinhard Marx at an Oct. 27 press conference on a major conference titled “(Re)Thinking Europe: A Christian Contribution to the Future of the European Project,” taking place in Rome this week, drawing hundreds of high-level European Church and political leaders.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-30)
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  4. Relations between Democrats and religious progressives have been more difficult since 1980, when evangelicals deserted Jimmy Carter — one of their own, whom they had supported in 1976 — for Ronald Reagan.

    As Republicans cemented the Christian right as a cornerstone of the party’s base, Democrats moved in the opposite direction, so intent on separating church and state that they recoiled from courting religious blocs of voters, recalled Gary Hart, the former senator, who grew up in the Church of the Nazarene and graduated from divinity school.

    Interactive Feature | How Have Your Politics and Religion Mixed in Unexpected Ways? We would like to know more about how your religious beliefs have affected your political views and actions — or vice versa.

    During his ill-fated 1988 presidential campaign, Mr. Hart said, he was often asked, “‘Why don’t you talk about your religious background more?’ And the answer was, ‘I don’t want to be seen as pandering for votes.’”

    Issues on which the religious left is at odds with Democratic doctrine include military spending and the death penalty, though the most polarizing is abortion — the main barrier, for many liberal evangelicals and Catholics, to voting as Democrats — as could be seen when the party split recently over whether to endorse an anti-abortion Democrat running for mayor of Omaha.

    Setting abortion aside, political appeals based on religious beliefs continue to carry risk for Democrats, given the growing numbers of Americans who claim no religion: Secular voters overwhelmingly vote Democratic, and younger voters are far more secular than older voters.

    Still, Hillary Clinton’s snub of even moderate evangelicals in the 2016 presidential race squandered many opportunities to cut into Mr. Trump’s support. Where Barack Obama had worked hard in 2008 to show he would at least listen to evangelicals, Mrs. Clinton rebuffed interview requests from evangelical media outlets and signaled leftward moves on abortion rights that helped many conservative voters overcome their doubts about Mr. Trump.

    “The fact that one party has strategically used and abused religion, while the other has had a habitually allergic and negative response to religion per se, puts our side in a more difficult position in regard to political influence,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical social justice advocate who founded the Sojourners community and magazine in 1971.

    “Most progressive religious leaders I talk to, almost all of them, feel dissed by the left,” he said. “The left is really controlled by a lot of secular fundamentalists.”
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  5. Globally, all major groups had more births than deaths.
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  6. In a July 20 speech at Ninestiles school in Birmingham, the British prime minister, David Cameron, said, “We believe in respecting different faiths but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life. These are British values … Our freedom comes from our Parliamentary democracy.”

    The speech was intended to lay down his administration's strategy for tackling Islamist extremism in the country, but could be construed so as to limit the ability of any religious believer to exercise their freedoms of speech and religion.

    “The government needs to avoid classing anyone who takes their religion or faith seriously, especially Christians, as potentially harmful extremists. Catholics must not be forced to act against their religious conscience either in schools or in the workplaces,” Caroline Farrow, a member of Catholic Voices UK and a columnist for the Catholic Universe newspaper, told CNA July 24.

    She said Cameron, who is leading the anti-extremism push, should remember to protect freedom of speech.

    “He needs to take care that the British way of life does not come to mean that those of a religious persuasion are silenced out of fear.”
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-04-25)
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  7. Can outside sources verify what God believes to be holy? Can anyone verify God’s existence? Can anyone think of more hypothetical questions like this to underscore the point?

    As religious leaders expressed their concerns to The Literalist, The Literalist in turn became increasingly worried about Facebook deciding what is “fake” and “real” news. So The Literalist sent a short note to Facebook headquarters reading, “Now, don’t take this literally, but The Literalist encourages you to let users use reason when it comes to fake news. Satire included.”
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  8. Remember how it was the height of bigotry for religious objectors to decline to participate in a gay wedding? But now it's brave to decline to sell Melania Trump a dress.
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  9. Other factors conspired in the party’s debacle. One in particular haunts me. From the presidential race on down, Democrats adopted a strategy of inclusiveness that excluded a hefty share of Americans and consigned many to a “basket of deplorables” who aren’t all deplorable. Some are hurt. Some are confused.
    Continue reading the main story
    Frank Bruni
    Politics, social issues, education and culture.

    Donald Trump’s Shocking Success
    NOV 9
    Why This Election Terrifies Me
    NOV 5
    Hillary’s Male Tormentors
    NOV 2
    How to Make Sense of College Rankings
    OCT 29
    Comey, Clinton and This Steaming Mess
    OCT 29

    See More »

    Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. A 64-year-old Southern woman not onboard with marriage equality finds herself characterized as a hateful boob. Never mind that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren’t themselves onboard just five short years ago.

    Political correctness has morphed into a moral purity that may feel exhilarating but isn’t remotely tactical. It’s a handmaiden to smugness and sanctimony, undermining its own goals.

    I worry about my and my colleagues’ culpability along these lines. I plan to use greater care in how I talk to and about Americans more culturally conservative than I am. That’s not a surrender of principle or passion. It’s a grown-up acknowledgment that we’re a messy, imperfect species.

    Donald Trump’s victory and some of the, yes, deplorable chants that accompanied it do not mean that a majority of Americans are irredeemable bigots (though too many indeed are). Plenty of Trump voters chose him, reluctantly, to be an agent of disruption, which they craved keenly enough to overlook the rest of him.

    Democrats need to understand that, and they need to move past a complacency for which the Clintons bear considerable blame.

    It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party — its think tanks, its operatives, its donors — for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.

    In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.

    After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”

    Obama, too, contributed to the party’s marginalization. While he threw himself into Hillary Clinton’s campaign, he was, for much of his presidency, politically selfish, devoting less thought and time to the cultivation of the party than he could — and should — have. By design, his brand was not its. Small wonder, then, that its fate diverged from his.
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  10. The suggestion that American women, more than 40 per cent of whom are thought to have voted for Trump, suffer from internalised misogyny: that is, they don’t know their own minds, the poor dears. The hysterical, borderline apocalyptic claims that the world is now infernally screwed because ‘our candidate’, the good, pure person, didn’t get in.

    This response to Trump’s victory reveals why Trump was victorious. Because those who do politics these days — the political establishment, the media, the academy, the celeb set — are so contemptuous of ordinary people, so hateful of the herd, so convinced that the mass of society cannot be trusted to make political decisions, and now those ordinary people have given their response to such top-down sneering and prejudice.

    Oh, the irony of observers denouncing Middle America as a seething hotbed of hatred even as they hatefully libel it a dumb and ugly mob. Having turned America’s ‘left behind’ into the butt of every clever East Coast joke, and the target of every handwringing newspaper article about America’s dark heart and its strange, Bible-toting inhabitants, the political and cultural establishment can’t now be surprised that so many of those people have turned around and said… well, it begins with F and ends with U.

    The respectable set’s allergy to Trump is fundamentally an allergy to the idea of democracy itself. To them, Trump’s rise confirms the folly of asking the ignorant
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