“Evangelicals” 166


My wife’s cousin stayed with us last night on a layover to Uganda that left this morning.  He’s going back for a year or so on his mission to record and help market native music.  This trips comes after only a couple days home from fighting fires in northern California.  He considers himself an “evangelical” and is voting for Barack Obama.

To say I was impressed with his commitment to doing good in the world would be an understatement.  It made me think about a lot of the things over the last week or so around here as democrats continue to push the notion “Jesus Freaks” and other assorted myths about Christians.  The democrats far left wing is totally clueless about the faith-based community beyond the caracitures they saee on TV or in films.

I asked him on the way to the airport this morning what his definition of an evangelical was because so far he goes against every stereotype I had heard.  He looked surprised at the question, as if no one had ever asked, and replied, “We consider ourselves the progressive Christians.”

This statement was a blinding flash of the obvious to me considering all the stuff I have concluded from blogs and the primary results and the feeling at large in America.  Just like “liberals” are ready to take out the “conservatives” without really understanding what those terms mean at the grassroots level, a Witch Hunt is occurring with evangelicals in America.  As if they are all ready and waiting and willing to bring on the Apocalypse.  As if every single one of the millions of evangelicals are like 40 or 50 thousand that can be seen in a televised megachurch service.

Liberals have taken a minority voice with the biggest pulpit and prejudged the entire evangelical community, most of whom are just like my wife’s cousin – humble and charitable and willing to work on what we have in common despite what we might not agree on right now.  He also watched the Rick Warren Saddleback Church broadcast and came away even more committed to getting Barack elected.  Many of his fellow faith-based Americans came away with the same impression.  Most are actually following Jesus’ lead and won’t be the ones screaming from the highest mountain about crazy shit.

The problem with applying a definition to a group of people from the outside is that it might not match the actual definition they have for themselves.  If most “evangelicals” consider themselves to be the Progressive Christians, how is it that the democratic party, before Barack ran, was unable to get their votes?

Think on that Obamadems.  Perhaps it is time for a little of that good ole liberal empathy that we keep hearing so much about.

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166 thoughts on ““Evangelicals”

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Thanks for the kind words. It was just one of those random encounters that allowed me to completely change my definition of a word I had never thought too much about before, except in very derogatory terms.

      As much I as I like to think I have an open mind about these things, “evangelicals” had come to be defined for me by caricatures. Kind of like republicans had become caricatures to me before I decided to get a little more grassroots info on the subject.

      I find that by and large this year has been very humbling for in a lot of ways with regards to many of my long-held belief systems and the way in which I look at the world.

      • benintn

        It’s one issue. One issue only. Abortion. Period. End of story. That’s it. I’m a progressive Evangelical – and I will tell you that this is the one sore spot that the Republicans will continually hammer on until Evangelicals start weeping at the thought of unborn babies being murdered senselessly by those nasty Democrats. Evangelicals I know will tolerate torture, dishonesty, “collateral damage” to the tune of over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, etc. – why? All because they are so fed up with the “extremists” on the liberal side, and so afraid of losing ground on Roe v. Wade.

        • JasonEverettMiller

          I hear you and it was the one thing mentioned last night as being the thing we may need to put aside for now. In my wife’s cousin’s case, he was happy to let the states decide the issue.

          I agree it is an important issue and perhaps the biggest one keeping some evangelicals from going all the way progressive. I think we can at least agree to do everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the short term and hope for a longer term solution when we are sufficiently evolved.

  • nmcvaugh

    Jason,

    The problem with applying a definition to a group of people from the outside is that it might not match the actual definition they have for themselves. If most “evangelicals” consider themselves to be the Progressive Christians, how is it that the democratic party, before Barack ran, was unable to get their votes?

    Indeed, but notice that you seem to be assuming that ‘evangelicals’ are a coherent group. Not all evangelicals consider themselves progressive either.

    In fact, evangelicals currently range across the political spectrum from anarchist to fascist. The current splintering is however becoming more pronounced than it has been in the past, in large part due to the collapse of Russian communism.

    If you’re interested in historical perspectives on the movement, you may want to consider:

    Numbers, R. L. (1992). The Creationists: The evolution of scientific creationism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    As the title suggests, this focuses on biological evolution more than on domestic politics, but gives you a good understanding of the players and groups for the last 160 years or so. Less detailed but more focused on politics is:

    Marsden, G. M. (1980). Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    For a book more focused on the politics of the US, you might enjoy:

    Diamond, S. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

    Which will give you an idea of the politics progressive evangelicals are distinguishing themselves from.

    One which I haven’t gotten around to reading yest is:

    Noll, M. A. (2001). American evangelical Christianity: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    And if you’re interested in something shorter than books, consider the following articles – some popular press, some academic:

    Berlet, C. (2008). Religion and Politics in the United States: Nuances You Should Know. Salon, from http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v17n2/evangelical-demographics.html

    Carpenter, J. A. (1980). Fundamentalist Institutions and the Rise of Evangelical Protestantism, 1929-1942. Church History, 49(1), 62-75.

    Lampman, J. (2005). For Evangelicals, a bid to ‘reclaim America’. Christian Science Monitor, 97(77), 16.

    Luo, M. (2006, April 16, 2006). Evangelicals debate the meaning of ‘Evangelical’. New York Times

    I’d be happy to suggest more if you’re interested in particular issues. As far as the newly emerging progressive evangelical community goes, it’s just now beginning to define itself in relation to more traditional branches, and there hasn’t been much research published on it yet.

    • stillidealistic

      But the point is, you can’t (or rather, shouldn’t) lump them all together. Democrats are traditionally better at accepting people as individuals, rather than accepting the stereotypes, but in the case of Evangelicals, often don’t do that.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I am suggesting that the evangelicals who scream the loudest are in fact the smallest group in that spectrum of Christians. To paint all them, like republicans, with the same brush is intellectually dishonest and something the democrats seem to take great pride in doing this year.

      With the exception of one link to an article in Salon, hardly an objective source of research information, all of your sources are old. Kind of like how democratic worriers keep giving Barack advice based on the paradigms from 4 years ago, when just about everything has changed.

      Kind of like we assume polls are correct when their methodology relies on yesterday’s realities.

      I am suggesting the democrats step away from the bonfire they are building under “evangelical” Christians and throw away the water proof matches they are waving around in their orgy of destructive revenge. I am suggesting that democrats, if they really want to heal this country, start to live up to the myth that more enlightened and humanistic thinking is found on the left.

      Your comment suggests that you, at least, aren’t quite willing to admit that the “evangelical” scare is much like the Y2K scare – paranoid rants based on an incomplete and prejudicial view of the subject at hand. The actual emergency is always much less severe than demagogues would have us believe.

      The only possible exception to this that I can see right now is Climate Change. The rest of our various and sundry Sacred Cows are all marketing ploys to motivate a specific response. In the case of demonizing evangelicals or republicans, it is to provoke continued divisions among those of us who are most alike in order to promote the status quo of a divided nation.

      Americans are much easier to control, by the left or right, if we are always fighting about stupid shit.

      • loki redux

        …the myth that more enlightened and humanistic thinking is found on the left.

        Jason,

        Do you think the more enlightened and humanistic thinking is on the Right?

        • JasonEverettMiller

          I am saying it is a myth that it is found on the left. I think it is not found on the right either. Mostly, I think the more enlightened thinkers in America don’t label themselves that way, left or right, but instead try to find a middle ground for most things.

          • loki redux

            That is namby pamby bullshit and you know it. Ugh, I loved you better when you were someone with conviction. This “All is wonderful in the middle of the road!” crap really grates.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            My convictions is that everything being divided by imaginary division will kill us. That is my conviction on THIS particular issue. I haven’t changed anything with regards to my higher ideals and where I would take this country if anyone bothered to ask.

            However, with regards to religious people in this country, I am admitting that perhaps I was just as guilty as everyone else of confusing definitions of people that I had no real first-hand knowledge of.

        • JasonEverettMiller

          I said thinking, not feeling, but the point being the left is not the exclusive home to those ideas or moral standards. Just because a fringe ideology has dominated the “right” for a long time, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean that’s all the GOP has ever been.

          It was Thomas Jefferson who was responsible for the most enlightened passages of our founding documents. Lincoln gave a speech carved into marble. The first corporate democrat, Woodrow Wilson, beat Teddie Roosevelt by accusing him of being a socialist.

          The most venerated democratic president pushed for programs and policies inspired by his progressive republican uncle.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Study of comparative religions should be fine in school, as long as no one religion dominates the lesson plan.

      The faith-based initiatives changes that Barack wants to make is a great example where churches can assist in solving social problems without pissing off conservatives.

      It is all or nothing thinking on the left that keeps a lot of these issues from finding a rational solution. Which is why Barack is getting a lot of conservative votes this year.

      Obama is the first democratic president to articulate solutions that don’t require the other side to lose in order for “our” side to win. Zero sum games mean everyone loses.

      • Tankard

        The faith-based initiatives changes that Barack wants to make is a great example where churches can assist in solving social problems without pissing off conservatives.

        It is also a great example of and unconstitutional practice, but I understand that doesn’t bother you or Sen. Obama.

        • stillidealistic

          Tankard, am I missing something? Doesn’t the separation of church and state just say that there can be no “state sponsored” religion? Does it say anywhere that “faith” has to be kept out of anything having to do w/ the government?

          • Lux Umbra Dei

            Hi Still,

            I don’t believe the Framers ever intended that public monies ever be diverted to religious organizations nor that the government of the people ever be the paymaster of church organizations of any stripe.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            They never intended for a standing army either or a huge federal government and weak states. Much of what the Framers intended was dead on arrival before the ink was dry on the Preamble.

          • Tankard

            They never intended for a standing army either or a huge federal government and weak states.

            But they didn’t say “Congress shall pass no law to establish a standing army,” did they? And they didn’t say, “The number of employees in the government of the United States shall be limited be no larger than that of the largest state,” did they?

            But they DID say, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion,” didn’t they?

            The position of “centrist” Democrats seems to be that the Constitution, and particularly the Bill of Rights, has become meaningless. Combined with all of your friends in the Republican Party, that makes a majority. Adieu, rule of law. Au revoir, civil liberties. Allo, authoritarianism.

        • jarrodandlaura

          I dunno. As far as I can tell, what Obama is proposing with regard to faith based initiatives does not run contrary to the establishment clause of the first amendment.

          The establishment clause has generally been interpreted to prohibit 1) the establishment of a national religion by Congress, or 2) the preference of one religion over another or the support of a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose.
          via wiki

          Thus far, I’m not seeing a problem with what he has proposed. However, under the wrong leadership such initiatives can be expanded in ways that defy the constitution. I agree with you there. But it isn’t really feasible to limit and/or define all legislation based on the possibility of eventual wrongdoing.

          • Tankard

            the preference of one religion over another or the support of a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose.

            And giving money to a church doesn’t fall into the category of “preference?”

          • jarrodandlaura

            No. Not when any church/org of any religion/non-religion can receive funds. How is that preference?

            Now, if we want to be really nitpicky we can say that calling the initiative “faith-based” causes problems because it comes across as preferring religions (plural) over other orgs… But in practice, from what Obama has said regarding his plan, there is no such religious preference involved.

          • Tankard

            No. Not when any church/org of any religion/non-religion can receive funds. How is that preference?

            So the Devil Worshippers of America can get funds under your program, Sen. Jarrodandlaura? And you are willing to provide equal funds to the Benign Temple of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

            This is very good news to me, though. My church is building a temple in the woods. We’re going to make it out of candy so that when children get lost in the woods they’ll have something to eat. It will staffed by gay witches who smoke peyote. All we need is about a half-million in taxpayer money. When can we expect the check?

          • jarrodandlaura

            I’m sorry, I seem to have run out of stamps. LOL.

            Anyway, you asked about preference. Developing a criterion for approving applications (from religious orgs or otherwise) shouldn’t be based on beliefs or any related preference so much as how those beliefs, practices, and even history serve the public. As far as devil worshipers, gay witches, and candy temples are concerned… come on now. Does your group really provide social assistance in areas that our govt can condone and, more importantly, see as necessary but is thus far inadequate? And on what scale? I’m curious. Please send me your brochure. 😉

          • Tankard

            Oh, I get it. Not only does the government get to decide which churches get the cash, they also decide which services are to be “condoned.”

            Nope, these are not the preferences you are looking for. Move along.

          • jarrodandlaura

            lol. I knew “condoned” would send off red flags. So I then wrote…

            and, more importantly, see as necessary but is thus far inadequate?

            What you’re basically asking is, ‘are you/we/govt prejudiced enough against certain religions to the point where our judgement when approving applications for govt monies to fund social programs gets clouded and/or muddied by those biases?’ Really, that’s a different dicussion altogether. But, IF my/our answer is ‘yes’ then that shows a character flaw on my part – it says nothing whatsoever about the wonky organization with the wonky beliefs or mission statement that also happens to deliver a much needed and perhaps vital service to a community that the govt seems inept at helping.

          • Tankard

            far as devil worshipers, gay witches, and candy temples are concerned… come on now.

            No preferences here, either. Nope, we’re playing it right down the middle. Any religion can qualify as long as the government approves it.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            Thanks for the hyperbole that does nothing to advance the conversation. If your rhetorical places of worship had proven programs that delivered value to society, then I don’t care what their doctrine is, since that isn’t part of the decision-making process.

          • Lux Umbra Dei

            I think the Framers really were leary of ANY governmental entanglement with religion, either pro, con, or evenhandedly promoting.

            Madison in his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” 1785

            “Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?” [italics mine]

            It is not that a given entanglement seems benign. It is that once one establishes the precedent of entanglement, than one opens the door to all kinds of evils, even if that door be edged open only ever so slowly…..

          • jarrodandlaura

            Honestly, you’re probably right that at least on a personal level, “the Framers really were leery of ANY governmental entanglement with religion.” And for what it’s worth, I’d personally agree. The problem that I have with this argument, however, is that this route takes us down a path of debating the Framers’ intentions vs. what was actually written and inevitably included within our constitution. We’d be veering off into Christian bible territory there… i.e. everyone’s got their own interpretation of what the word could mean rather than just following the words as written.

            And yes, I agree with you (and I think Tankard too) that it could “open the door to all kinds of evils.” But that argument could be made for all sorts of legislation. Ultimately, I’m probably closer to you and Tankard on a personal level, but I also think the Framers’ wisely and purposely left some flexibility here which can – as you point out – be exploited for good, but yes bad as well. Depends on the leadership. But as we all know here, that’s where our responsibility of voting comes in. 😉

          • Lux Umbra Dei

            Well and reasonably said.

            The problem of constitutional interpretation is that there are passages where the Framers spoke imprecisely. The 2nd amendment is one such case, the establishment clause another. Other clauses, less known, have their own ambiguities such as the Emoluments clause and the Takings clause.

            The Scalian project bears similarities to the position of biblical inerrantists. Just look at the text (or so he says). But in actual practice, like the Heller decision he does something different…he goes to the “legislative history” so to speak which is laughable considering his long crusade against precisely that in statutory interpretation.

            So everyone, from living constitutionalists to strict constructionists, all attempt to divine the Founders intentions based on whatever knowledge we have of the assumptions of their age, what specific words meant to contemporary readers, what the writers had to say about issues in other non-constitutional forums, what thinkers affected their own philosophies…

            On the basis of all of this construing, the long dominant interpretation in the latter half of the twentieth century was that the Founders intended a literal separation of religion and government WITH THOSE EXCEPTIONS of customs and practices already in place at the time of writing (such as ministers giving prayers at legislative assemblies, coinage bearing religious mottos, etc.

            The decades-long conservative attack on that position has slowly eroded the absolutism that stare decisis had legitimized. We still have such things as the Lemon test to determine governmental intent, but if Scalia had his way, that too would be cast in the dustbin of the Enlightenment.

            Everyone has to remember the Enlightenment and the long ago bitter battles between the forces that wanted to free the human mind and those that wanted to channel it. We are all the great great grandchildren of those struggles and take our liberties for granted. But oppression is ever-green in the minds of zealots however noble their ultimate intentions.

            Best to continue to stand at the battlements of the Enlightenment and to fight back the forces of ideologies AND religions that would channel the human mind. We know what consequences the principle of entanglement can lead to. So if we are as wise as Madison we will deny the possibility of the consequences by denying the principle. Our whole experience of human nature is that what can be abused, will in the course of time be abused. And there are few forces so strong, or so self-righteous and convinced of their own good, as organized religion.

            In America at least, we should have no governmental involvement, either to aid or suppress, in the affairs of religion.

            Yikes, that was a long one!

          • jarrodandlaura

            Our whole experience of human nature is that what can be abused, will in the course of time be abused.

            So true. But independence comes with a very heavy cost: responsibility for our own actions/future.

            In America at least, we should have no governmental involvement […] in the affairs of religion.

            Part of me wants to agree here. But I can’t, lol. Constitutionally speaking, Obama’s version of a faith-based initiative seems to work well within the generally accepted “intent” of the 1st Amendment.

            But even aside from (or along with) that, progressively speaking, I do wonder whether we do more to further the progressive cause by inviting, encouraging, and even investing in religious and non-religious participation in secular affairs of the type that provide assistance in areas where the govt is inadequate/unable. As has been pointed out in this thread, many religious institutions are notorious for, and in some cases gain a sort of strength from, closing themselves off to all things but themselves. Can we change that? Is the potential reward worth the risk?

            I (heavily) lean yes & yes. Though I do have questions about safeguards to protect our government monies from being invested in nonsecular projects. Good points, btw.

          • Lux Umbra Dei

            Its been a pleasure talking these issues with you.

            Just beware that the consequences of making the maxim of your general actions be instrumental concerns (such as you cite above), rather than fixed principles, is that while you gain flexibility, you lose your ability to oppose other forces, more powerful than you, who may arise with very different utilities in mind.

            The Law is to protect us from Pandaemonium, the chaotic congress of opposing interests. If you vitiate the Law to achieve local goods, then you run the risk of greater global evils.

            Remember in Bolt’s play, Man For All Seasons, how Sir Thomas More rounds on his young son-in-law Roper, about the latter’s desire to cut down the laws of England to get at evil? A memorable passage. To the same effect is cutting down the laws to promote one’s vision of the good. We saw that practice in the outgoing administration and much evil arose from their making so free.

            The Constitution is not the ark of all good ideas nor are bad ideas absent from it, but it is our sure shield against tyranny. I oppose faith based initiatives as anti-constitutional and a path that is strewn with roses at the outset, but leads to a place of brambles at the conclusion.

          • Tankard

            I agree with you (and I think Tankard too) that it could “open the door to all kinds of evils.”

            Actually we still disagree. Giving money to churches doesn’t open the door to evil. It IS per se evil. Any money given to a church is money that could have been spent legitimately somewhere else. Oh, and did I mention that it’s unconstitutional? Thought I did.

          • jarrodandlaura

            Oh, and did I mention that it’s unconstitutional? Thought I did.

            And clearly we disagree on that point (at least with respect to Obama’s plan).

            Anyway, we could dance around in circles all week on this issue and we’d only end up standing exactly where we started. Although I do have to say, in this exchange with you, I admittedly feel as if I’ve somehow gone so far left that I’ve managed to go full circle only to seemingly end up on your right.

            When it comes to some group’s religion… I. Don’t. Care. When we’re approving applications for govt monies for social projects (that are completely unrelated to said religion)… I. Do. Care… But only about the merits of the project itself, how that project serves the public, and how we safeguard against said group(s) proselytizing with said project(s).

  • markg8

    Just read a PEW poll which you can find here at TPM that says low education evangelicals have changed a lot since 2004. According to the poll they increasingly think politics and religion shouldn’t mix. Almost to the point where they agree with everyone else. Inexplicably these are the same people who say gay marriage and abortion are very important political issues to them.

    It was completed on 8/10. Since then we’ve seen the pushback on the right over Saddleback.
    My anecdotal experience this past week phonebanking says it’s having an effect. Several people mentioned Obama’s supposed support for “infanticide” as a deal killer.

    The goal for the McCain campaign is not just to kill Obama’s support among those fundies drifting his way but to get them actively in McCain’s campaign, not only voting for him but manning the phones and knocking on doors like they did for Bush. They’re never gonna love McCain the way they loved Bush, it’s too late for him to prove he’s sincerely one of them. The object is to make them view Obama as so unacceptable they’ll smear for McCain. These people don’t scream from the highest mountain about “crazy shit”. They talk with their friends, neighbors and voters on the phone and at front doors with teary eyed, heart felt messages warning of the blood of “murdered babies” on their hands if they vote for Obama.

    Jason for every evangelical like your wife’s cousin my guess is there’s probably two like the ones I’m describing.

    BTW I hate to point this out but anyone who is flying off to Uganda for a year to record and market music doesn’t sound like he’s committing a whole lot of effort to getting Barack elected.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      He has spent the last couple years in Central America and Africa recording and marketing music FOR the native musicians. Teaching them how to use their musical talents to better their lives and their communities. It is also a non-profit venture paid for out of his fire-fighting pay and by small stipends from his church, raised through donations.

      Your ability to jump to conclusions is of Olympic caliber.

      Your “guesses” aside, that doesn’t reflect the data or the votes this year. “Fundies” are a very small (and shrinking) part of the evangelical community. McCain can keep the “fundies” and lose the rest of the evangelicals if he keeps this shit up. Your allegorical story may represent one view of Saddleback, but comments around the web reflect something complete different about Barack’s willingness to engage religious Americans in healing the country.

      They do scream from the highest mountain about crazy shit, Mark. They have the most bandwidth and the most visible followers, but they are the tip of the iceberg of Christianity. They have TV shows and radio networks and magazines, but they are still only catering to a very small, though admittedly vocal, group of Americans.

      You are scared of chimeras that have never existed except in the marketing methods of the neocons when they took over the GOP. Reed and the rest of those clowns turned a couple million “fundies” into the supposed voice and definition that democrats applied to tens of millions of “evangelicals” within the Christian community.

      Your “fundies” are a very small part of that group of the committed Christians who self-identify as evangelicals.

      • markg8

        Jason I’m sure your wife’s cousin does fine and noble work. So do I. I’ve spent most of my free time the last few years trying to get more and better Democrats elected. All I’m saying is his work takes him out of this country where his commitment to getting Obama elected could do some good.

        I’m not jumping to conclusions, I’m citing poll data which sort of supports your argument and citing my own experience which shows that for a lot of evangelicals certain hot button issues are as hot as ever.

        If you have data other than your wife’s cousin’s example I’d like to see it. Maybe you could point me to some sites where I can look up the archives from 4 years ago and see evangelicals who were for Bush then and compare them to see if they’re for Obama now. I’d much rather you be proven right than me.

        They do scream from the highest mountain about crazy shit, Mark. They have the most bandwidth and the most visible followers, but they are the tip of the iceberg of Christianity. They have TV shows and radio networks and magazines, but they are still only catering to a very small, though admittedly vocal, group of Americans.

        If you’re talking about the Pat Dobsons you’re right. I’m talking about the emailers and the neighbors who try to influence their friends, the other 90%.

        You are scared of chimeras that have never existed except in the marketing methods of the neocons when they took over the GOP.

        Those viral marketers still exist. Once again if you have proof they’re working for Obama or at least as ambivalent as they were a few months ago instead of working against him please show it to us.

        Reed and the rest of those clowns turned a couple million “fundies” into the supposed voice and definition that democrats applied to tens of millions of “evangelicals” within the Christian community.

        You act as if we actively try to alienate them. If that means siding with 62% of Americans about women having control of their own bodies instead of the government then there’s not a lot I can do about that. But I think even a lot evangelicals think McCain’s backing insurance payments for Viagra but not birth control is wrong.

        You can check Memeorandum. The rightwing sites have been going nuts over the Obama and McCain appearances at Saddleback. They’re saying Barack’s lying about his support for “infanticide” and using his votes in the Illinois Senate as their “proof”. Those votes show no such thing but this is a big effort to get Christian conservatives fired up against him.

        Just as we hoped fear and loathing of Bush would push the lackluster Kerry over the top in 2004 wingnuts hope fear and loathing of Obama will push the lame McCain into office too.

        • stillidealistic

          Here I am…right in your midst…Evangelical, voted for Bush twice and I’m screamin’ from every mountaintop I can find that Obama is the man I’m voting for and urging others to do the same…

          We’re out here, you just have to pay attention.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            Thank you. You are really the reason I am willing to believe that the propaganda we have been fed about the “right” and “evangelicals” is just as worthless as the clowns feeding it to us.

        • JasonEverettMiller

          Do you think he doesn’t email folks back home? He also just got done spending months fighting fires in Northern California, so he was able to talk to some of his compatriots there.

          Further, this blog has less to do with him and more to do with this obnoxious game we have gotten into this country that keeps us divided over misunderstandings and prejudice.

          I don’t think it does us any good to continue to fight over stupid shit that has no meaning. I am sick of letting the vocal minorities dictate our discussion of every issue.

          There is a huge, silent majority in this country that will elect Barack Obama this year because he believes many of the same things I do.

          • markg8

            I hope you’re right Jason. I spend a lot of time phonebanking and all I can tell you is I’ve gotten pushback this week on “infanticide”. If you have any persuasive arguments I can use against that argument with the hardcore people who think Obama is a baby killer I’d like to hear it.

            All I hear from you is “we’re pushing them away”. I’m not but I have nothing to work with, Obama is pro-choice. I can tell them live births during an abortion are one in a million but I doubt that’s gonna convince them. These are the people who demand that language in the Republican platform make no exception for the life of the mother.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            I don’t think we can win that argument, but I hope to join you this fall on the phones, so if I come up with something I will pass it along. One thing we discussed last night was a need to change the conversation from abortion to less unwanted pregnancies. I think we can agree on that at least.

            But, for this issue at least, I don’t think there are any easy answers.

            I just hope that many people, like myself, who are personally against abortion after a certain time-frame but don’t think it needs to be a legal issue as much as a medical one can come to a more rational and logic based way to debate this issue with people who are perhaps a little more militant in that belief.

          • markg8

            As for a time frame in most cases a woman who hasn’t decided whether she wants to have a baby or an abortion before the third trimester imo probably isn’t responsible enough to care for a child in the first place. OTH if woman gets the mumps in the last weeks of pregnancy she could have a horribly deformed child. See no reason why she should have to carry it to term.

            The people who are leading the charge against Obama like this Stanek woman I think her name is do not believe in condoms or any exceptions.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            I think it is a decision between a woman, whomever else she chooses to help her decide, and her doctor. We need the “Morning After” pill that is freely available over the counter as an easy way to never need to make that choice. This country needs to figure out a way to stop dealing in absolutes.

          • stillidealistic

            You might mention that Bush has been in office for nearly 8 years, and there are just as many abortions now as there were before he came into office. You might mention that one issue voters are always sacrificing fabulous candidates in all the other areas of concern. You might mention that john McCain supports stem cell research, so, since he says life begins at conception, he advocates experimenting on human babies…

  • nmcvaugh

    With the exception of one link to an article in Salon, hardly an objective source of research information, all of your sources are old. Kind of like how democratic worriers keep giving Barack advice based on the paradigms from 4 years ago, when just about everything has changed.

    Yes, most of the older books are histories which don’t go up to the present. As I said, not much research has been done yet on the emerging progressive evangelical movement.

    But if they’re too old for you, perhaps you could suggest something more recent?

    Your comment suggests that you, at least, aren’t quite willing to admit that the “evangelical” scare is much like the Y2K scare – paranoid rants based on an incomplete and prejudicial view of the subject at hand. The actual emergency is always much less severe than demagogues would have us believe.

    Well, having wasted 9 months on the Y2K scare, I’ll admit that I’m at a loss to understand this comparison – could you be a bit more specific how my comment is like a paranoid rant based on incomplete and prejudiced views? Perhaps quoting the comment to which you are referring?

    So far as lumping all evangelicals together, I wasn’t trying to do so, and apologize if you have that impression. I was simply trying to give you a set of well researched books and some academic and popular articles which bear on the topic you brought up. But if you find that offensive, my apologies. Perhaps you could clarify what I should have said?

    • JasonEverettMiller

      It was a waste of time. That is my point. Everyone said that Y2K is going to destroy the Internet and information technology. It didn’t and neither will a small subset of Christians detroy America.

      If you didn’t mean to trot out a long list of older materials that have no modern context as a way to refute my claim that evangelicals are much more diverse and progressive group (especially for those under the age of 40) than democrats give them credit for, then I am sorry.

      You response seemed to indicate that you disagreed with my main premise and wanted to “educate” me on what the truth of the matter was.

      • loki redux

        Jason,

        I have to say… you are responding to nmcvaugh as if he were me! Which I would undertstand if he were being as obnoxious and immature as I usually am. He has given you several reasoned thoughtful non-shrill responses that were also nonconfrontational and helpful And you are pushing back like well, dare I say, an “evangelical.” Sort of a “don’t bother me with the facts” attitude. I wonder why this is?

        Show some respect… yes, I know that’s ironic coming from me. But nevertheless…

  • nmcvaugh

    If you didn’t mean to trot out a long list of older materials that have no modern context as a way to refute my claim that evangelicals are much more diverse and progressive group (especially for those under the age of 40) than democrats give them credit for, then I am sorry.

    No, I meant to trot out a list of the history of evangelicals in the US because I feel that studying the actual history gives a better feel for the nuance than belittling generalizations. However, I find it interesting that you seem to feel that the ‘modern context’ of evangelicals has no connection with prior history. Your loss.

    As for your claim that evangelicals are more diverse and progressive, I agree. Which is why I found it surprising when you said

    The problem with applying a definition to a group of people from the outside is that it might not match the actual definition they have for themselves.

    By using the words ‘group’, ‘people’ and ‘themselves’, you seem to be making evangelicals into a more monolithic and uniform group than they actually are. In short, you seem to be proposing a new definition for evangelical that defines them as progressive based on one individual’s perspective.

    What I was trying to educate you on was the variety of opinions and views that evangelicals hold. I’ll avoid this mistake in the future.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I guess my main point was that our “understanding” of this group was based on prejudice and misinformation. I didn’t want to debate the history of the “evangelical” movement because those definitions change constantly.

      It’s like democrats being considered “progressive” all these years and were anything but progressive. The likes to blame republicans and Christians for what ails us, but the democrats have been every bit as culpable and responsible for our downfall as the republicans.

      We have a broken federal government. It was fractured some 40 years ago and hasn’t been repaired yet. We are receiving a bipartisan fucking from our “representatives” in Washington

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I guess my main point was that our “understanding” of this group was based on prejudice and misinformation. I didn’t want to debate the history of the “evangelical” movement because those definitions change constantly.

      It’s like democrats being considered “progressive” all these years and were anything but progressive. The likes to blame republicans and Christians for what ails us, but the democrats have been every bit as culpable and responsible for our downfall as the republicans.

      We have a broken federal government. It was fractured some 40 years ago and hasn’t been repaired yet. We are receiving a bipartisan fucking from our “representatives” in Washington.

      I apologized up above if I misinterpreted the tone or point of your comment. It seemed to be dismissive in a way that got my dander up.

  • MsJoanne

    Yes, there are good Christians. Those are the real people in the world.

    When you cross vocal Christians with politics, you get homo hating, woman-bashing, killing in war is good – fetus first, prison for all hypocrites.

    • stillidealistic

      “vocal Christians with politics…” even here a generalization…remember me? Resident Evangelical? Not all of us are one or two issue voters, not all of us bash. Statistically, its improbable I’m the only one…

    • indythink

      The problem is that the media likes to report controversial things. If someone is speaking about love, tolerance, helping one’s neighbor, that isn’t “newsworthy”. Batshit crazy conspiracy theories and out-of-mainstream self-righteous pronouncements are news.

      There are plenty of Christian leaders out there addressing poverty as a moral issue, like Jim Wallis and Ron Sider and Rick Warren, but they don’t get the press. As an evangelical I am aware of a huge range of opinions within our subgroup, but in the mainstream press I only hear the wackos get the microphone.

      The good news is that the spectrum of opinions largely falls along generational lines, so as the younger folks gain visibility (Rob Bell, Jay Bakker) and the older folks like Falwell and Robertson and Dobson shuffle off this mortal coil, the tone will change. Most young evangelicals are concerned with acting like Jesus did, with humility and unabashed acceptance of the outsiders, whereas older evangelicals are concerned with having the right belief system, drawing arbitrary lines in the sand.

      • JasonEverettMiller

        Exactly right. That is really the main point of my blog. We have been convinced to stand on either side of an imaginary ideological divide and fire away at each other while the thieves in Washington loot the country.

        • laurajordan

          I share this opinion. It’s too bad American voters allow this stuff to distract us from the enormous number of subjects most people in this left-right construct agree on.

    • artappraiser

      When you cross vocal Christians with politics, you get homo hating, woman-bashing, killing in war is good – fetus first, prison for all hypocrites.

      You do realize that Barack Obama doesn’t agree with you?

      You’ve read his speech to the evangelical community at the Call to Renewal Conference?

      http://obama.senate.gov/podcast/060628-call_to_renewal_1/

      Also I presume you are aware that Pentecostal preacher Lee Daughtry, who has been in charge of “Faith in Action outreach to religious for the DNC since 2005, has charge of planning the entire Democratic convention?

      In her positions as Dean’s top aid and the convention’s top official, Daughtry….is leading the Democratic Party’s new mission to make religious believers — particularly ardent Christian believers — view the party and its candidates as receptive to, and often impelled by, the dictates of faith. She sparked this crusade, both to transfigure the party’s image as predominantly secular and to take enough votes from the Republicans to win this year’s presidential election, in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s 2004 defeat of John Kerry. And in her vocation as a Pentecostal pastor she stands for faith in an extreme form. There is nothing equivocal about her belief. Hers is a religion not only of divine healing but of talking in tongues….

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/magazine/20minister-t.html

  • brantlamb

    “He has spent the last couple years in Central America and Africa recording and marketing music FOR the native musicians. Teaching them how to use their musical talents to better their lives and their communities. It is also a non-profit venture paid for out of his fire-fighting pay and by small stipends from his church, raised through donations.

    Your ability to jump to conclusions is of Olympic caliber.”

    So is yours. You have based your opinion of what opinion all progressives have based on what you have read in particular places (no large scale polling, is there?) and your conversation with one, count him, one, progressive evangelical. Not exactly scientific.

    It certainly seems that you’ve engaged in exactly the assumptive stereotyping that you complain of, and anti-stereotyping without facts to back it up.

    Are all evangelicals foam-at-the-mouth Apocolypse junkies? No. Are all evangelicals progressives? I know some aren’t. Your premise needs much better substantiation.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I am saying that many democrats I read on this site and elsewhere don’t know what they are talking about. That they have confused “evangelical” with “fundamentalist” and it colors all of their interactions with the “right” side of this country. I am saying that a basic misunderstanding based on prejudice is what keeps us from healing this country and implementing progressive solutions. Don’t conflate what I am saying with condemnation of anything but the way this country is divided over imaginary differences.

        • JasonEverettMiller

          Specifically you, just to name one, but there are plenty of comments all over “liberal” blogs. Your last blog was all about how Jesus Freaks and Evangelicals are ruining the country. I am being much more charitable in my language than you were.

  • BevD

    I don’t think anyone was calling for a wholesale condemnation of evangelicals. The point was that no candidate for office should have to pass some sort of religious test for office. If Rick Warren wants to politick, then let him resign his ministry, but don’t use the pulpit to further his political agenda. I’m not speaking for Loki, but I believe we’re both sick of it.

    • laurajordan

      BevD,

      I agree with everything you say in your comment. But I think you have a clarity of understanding on this subject that others here lack.

      As a very politically progressive Christian, I have to say that I believe I understand Jason’s thinking here, and I think there’s a valid message: people who identify themselves as Democrats and progressives would be wise to strive to be less reflexively defensive when religion is discussed. A careful and thoughtful discussion, employing empathy rather than the usual reflexive, rejecting verbal volleying, would be productive and satisfying–and may yield strategic advantages. Really understanding your “enemy” helps you identify what motivates them and may give insight as to how to win them over to your “side,” right?

      • BevD

        Laura, I do understand Jason’s argument and I agree with it. I do think, however, that if these churches want to influence and further political agendas, then they should give up their tax exempt status, which they enjoy specifically because they are supposed to be separate from politics and join the rest of the country’s citizens in supporting it.

        Why should they define and direct any election when they offer no tax revenues?

        • JasonEverettMiller

          Totally agree with this, whether churches get political or not. Tax exempt status is only warranted for those monies spent on solving social ills. All other church revenue should be taxed as income.

  • randy marsh

    Of course no candidate should have to pass some sort of religious test. It’s unconstitutional. However, there’s nothing wrong if candidates want to freely attend any forum they wish. The constitution is pretty clear on freedom of speech and religion, and there’s nothing wrong with candidates focusing on certain parts of the electorate.

    Would you object to a forum hosted by a union? By a media group? By planned parenthood? The whole antagonism towards anything religious in public life is befuddling.

    • laurajordan

      I don’t think Bev is calling for any kind of legal restriction to what Rick Warren was doing (right, Bev?), but I agree with her view that, within our current political culture, it’s ridiculous for candidates to find it necessary to reassure any religious group that they’re “okay”.

      That this situation exists in our public discussion of politics is depressing and dangerous, and it’s good to speak out about it.

      • BevD

        Right, outside the pulpit and church Rick Warren can say what he pleases and talk to whom he chooses. What I object to is the pilgrimage every election to the various churches proclaiming religious affiliations. I also object to religions influencing elections when they are exempt from taxes for the specific purpose of keeping them separate from politics.

      • stillidealistic

        Let’s face it…like it or not, our country was founded by people who believed in God. In fact, if I’m remembering correctly, there’s a saying of Thomas Jefferson’s inside his monument that our form of government was designed to govern a God-fearing people. And I have to agree w/ that. I don’t think our forefathers foresaw a time when God would be as pushed aside in our daily lives as He is today. A lot of what we are grappling w/ in this post comes as a result of that.

        All in all, I think the efforts being made here to come to some common ground are wonderful. Its just what Obama is trying to do with the whole country. Common ground. If we can’t find it, we’re doomed to more years of NOTHING GETTING DONE, no matter who is in office.

        I believe he went to Saddleback because it is a very influential church, and he will be the president of all of us. He was trying to show the Christian community that he is not the scary guy he is being painted as being. His going there was a stroke of genius. It would have been easier to not go. But if he calmed some fears it was worth it.

        • Tankard

          Let’s face it…like it or not, our country was founded by people who believed in God.

          Let’s face it…like it or not, our country was founded by SOME people who believed in God. Most of the most prominent of them, however, did not believe as Christians do now, and I can’t think of a single one who claimed to be “born again.” That peculiar affliction and the bizarre “rapture” pipe-dream seem to have been handed down my Jesus (or at least to have received his undivided attention) sometime in late 20th century America.

          I don’t think our forefathers foresaw a time when God would be as pushed aside in our daily lives as He is today.

          Pushed aside? Are you friggin’ delusional or what?!?!?!?! Forty-five percent of Americans not only believe in The Invisible Superman in the Sky, they believe he put billion-year-old fossils into a 10,000 year-old Earth just to tease us. In most of this country, an atheist would lose the vote to a child molester. Convicted felons who get reborn in prison get national radio shows. More people have read the gory Left Behind series of books than the Constitution, the Federalist papers, and The Pet Goat combined. Our money has god on it. Our kids are required to praise god in school when they pledge allegience to the flag. People send money to Pat Robertson instead of eating.

          Christians complain about being persecuted when they dominate almost every political and social institution in this country. These are the same people who gleefully consign my soul to burn in Hell for eternity because I have a problem with the idea that incest is alright as long as only religious icons are practicing it.

          No, the United States is absolutely besotted with religion in a way that would have set the Founders’ heads spinning.

          • stillidealistic

            Tankard, you think I’m delusional for being a Believer, so why ask? 🙂

            45%? I would be curious to know what that percentage was back then. I’d be willing to bet it was much higher.

            “These are the same people who gleefully consign my soul to burn in Hell for eternity because I have a problem with the idea that incest is alright as long as only religious icons are practicing it.”

            This is over the top even for you, Tank…I suppose its possible that some people who call themselves Christians might be gleeful over another person burning in Hell, but they aren’t really Christians. But any Christian thinking incest is okay? Regardless of who is doing it?

            I have a great deal of admiration for you. I agree with you on a point or two here and there. I don’t look down on you, or wish you ill in any way shape or form. I enjoy our bantering, and look forward to doing a lot of it. There are just some things we will always disagree on, and this is one of them.

          • Tankard

            I would be curious to know what that percentage was back then. I’d be willing to bet it was much higher.

            Back when?

            some people who call themselves Christians might be gleeful over another person burning in Hell, but they aren’t really Christians.

            Those Christians would say you’re not really a Christian.

            But any Christian thinking incest is okay? Regardless of who is doing it?

            You don’t read the Bible much, do you?

          • JasonEverettMiller

            The logical fallacy in the basis of this argument is that “born again” and “rapture-oriented” are part of the same experience. That is clearly not the case given the vast majority of modern Christians and what they say with regards to their faith. That seems to be confirmed by the evangelical comments on this blog as well.

            Born again doesn’t necessarily mean what you are saying it means, though I shared that thought until I had a chance to get under the surface in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

            Born again seems to mean born again with the start of an understanding of what Jesus was getting at with his Sermon on the Mount. What I am coming to understand is that they feel born again with the knowledge that the message of Jesus’ life isn’t necessarily what was handed down from the First Council of Nicaea and practiced for the last 1,700 years.

            My agnostic’s view of Christianity in America was totally wrong in all the most important ways, whether or not I agree with the core foundations of their faith. That is really what I am hear to say, though it turned into a debate about Church and State and abortion and all the other outlier issues that get wrapped up in this discussion.

  • Smiley

    Can’t point to the objective, scientific study, because I’ve forgotten the exact source, but I do recall a survey that came out several years ago that indicated that the person standing in the pulpit of evangelical churches is typically quite a bit more conservative than the people sitting in the pews, whereas the person standing in the pulpit of mainline churches is typically quite a bit more liberal than those in the pews. It goes a long way to explaining why the visible face of evangelicals end up being quite conservative figures like Pat Robertson and James Dobson and Jerry Falwell while the visible face of mainline churches are much more progressive voices like Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis.

    For evidence to support the claim made by Jason and others above that evangelicals are not a monolithic voting block, we need look no further than voting records over the past twenty years. Clinton managed to get more than a third of evangelical voters in both 1992 and 1996, while Kerry couldn’t pull in more than a fifth in 2004. If done correctly, I believe Obama could increase that 35% up to 40% — he’s not going to negate the evangelical vote, but at least it wouldn’t hurt him too badly.

    It’d be especially interesting to find out what the evangelical vote was for Jimmy Carter in 1976, arguably our only ‘evangelical’ president ever. I imagine he received a majority of white evangelicals as a Democratic candidate. I’d be a bit surprised if they were collecting that info back then. though.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Great points. I have a hard time believing any statistics these days given how they collect that information, but I think your point about Carter is one that is important. I think he is far more reflective of the majority of evangelicals. Fundamentalist and Evangelical are not synonymous terms, yet somehow they have become that way on the far left.

  • Suedehead

    I’ve never actually understood the term “evangelical” in a political sense. This word has come up a lot in the last few election cycles and I believe some fringe characters have adopted it to represent one monolithic group that doesn’t even exist. That’s why I actually think Obama was smart to go to Warren’s forum. I think he is smart to play up his Christian background. And I think he’s smart to compete for every vote.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Exactly. It just one more way that the Powers Who Be have kept us divided rather than working toward common solutions. I think Barack is doing as well as he is because he hasn’t taken the typical democratic approach to discussing religion.

  • BrookJolley

    Would you object to a forum hosted by a union? By a media group? By planned parenthood? The whole antagonism towards anything religious in public life is befuddling.

    I wouldn’t object to any of them, but I wouldn’t take any of them more seriously than that right wing nutjob psuedo-debate. I also would not say that it was a good idea to appear on any of them. I don’t think anyone is trying to say the candiates aren’t free to pander under the constitution, they’re just saying its unnecessary and does not serve any real purpose. The most offensive thing about that “forum” was that they gave it time on the major networks and basically granted it undeserved legitimacy. Debates are supposed to be neutral forums, to see what each canidates views are. The MSM is giving a right wing fringe group the appearance of mainstream appeal.

    All Politics is ultimately local. Political canidates tread on uncertain ground when they start giving political importance to the ministers who hold local influence they could not dream of holding. I am sure there are progressive christians, but in a large segment of the nation they are NOT the majority. They are absolutely not the majority of the leadership of these orginizations. If Obama wants these people to talk to their minister, as he did, he might as well concede those areas now. It is not the flock that is corrupt, it is their shephards. I do not understand the supposed value of reaching out to the leadership of this corrupt segment of the population, when it appears it would be a lot easier to go around them. It definately sends the wrong message to appear on their “show” and make them appear legitimate.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I disagree with you on this one. I think the vast majority of Americans, regardless of religion, are progressive.

      Hell, up until very recently, the leadership of the democratic party was the DLC and firmly in the pocket of corporate America. Does that mean democrats became less progressive? No, it means they let their leaders do shit that they never held them accountable for.

      By and large, this comment simply points to a history of prejudice as justification for current prejudice.

  • S. E. England

    Great points, Smiley and Suedehead. I became evangelical when I lived in New Orleans and belonged to a (mostly) socially progressive black church. I was older than Obama at the time but I understand his religious experience pretty well–the walk to the alter, bible study etc.. Look, literally, evangelical means someone who believes in the good news of Jesus, and if used in this sense it should mean someone who takes the gospels and the word and works of Jesus as a guide for living life. It does not mean someone who has all these manipulable knee jerk beliefs (which are the direct opposite of the teachings of Jesus). A special shout out for mentioning Tony Campolo (YouTube him) and Jim Wallis (Google Sojourner). Now that I live in New York City I’m around many for whom the term “evangelical” evokes fear and disdain. Just plain ignorance and prejudice folks.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      This was also what helped me to come to a new understanding of the term as an agnostic, was to hear directly from somehow who identifies himself as “evangelical” what that meant.

      The more I read about Christianity in America, I think the caricature we’ve been fed was well done, because it played to all the secular fears. Same thing on the other side of the equation – agnostics/atheists are all out to make America into a Hedonism resort with hot and cold running abortions.

      Neither is correct, but it makes for “great” television.

  • witty1

    Nice post.

    I happen to think the stereotype of Evangelicals has more to do with a generational gap.

    It’s nearly impossible for the younger generation of Evangelicals to deny certain realities in this information age.

    I think the fact that McCain doesn’t use the internet – at all – speaks volumes here.

    Frankly I’m disgusted and deeply disappointed in the extreme bias against Mitt Romney by certain evangelicals for his Mormonism. I too think this is generational.

    I was raised Catholic, but I’ve always been an atheist – I was taught that Mormons are kooky but evangelicals (formerly called televangelists) are con-artists.

    I grew up in an area with a large proportion of Mormons and I found them to be genuine, private about their faith and tight-lipped about their judgment towards others. The proverbial glass house thing. My being Catholic or an atheist never factored into my friendship with Mormons – I’ve had the opposite experience with Evangelicals. If you don’t run in their ‘prayer-circle’ you aren’t qualified to associate with them.

    The Evangelical brand has earned a reputation of extreme judgment and exclusion – I think the only way to shed this is through real-world experience – like that of your wife’s cousin.

    Words are only as meaningful as the deeds they produce – kudos for him for forming a worldview around his personal experience.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Totally. His parents have many prejudices you speak of, just as my firmly atheist folks can be the same way sometimes. I think you are right that it is generational.

      As a Gen Xer, I still find some old habits dying hard that don’t seem to be a handicap even one level down in Gen Y. I am hopeful that the general trend in America is one towards reconciliation and healing with the generations currently coming up.

    • stillidealistic

      There have been a number of religious threads here the last couple of weeks. On one of them I mentioned that sometimes Christians can be the worst ambassadors for Christ…

      It makes me sad that we are seen so negatively, but I know that much of that we bring on ourselves. I don’t see myself as being better than anyone, in fact my relationship w/ Christ teaches me that I am pretty much nothing without Him, I’ve got nothing to feel all hot about…I rarely hang out with my “prayer circle.” Some of my very best friends are not Christians. I don’t look down on them at all. I do pray for them, but I don’t preach to them. I’m sorry your experience has been so different.

  • destor23

    The problem isn’t evangelicals so far as I’m concerned. It’s that we live in a society that’s basically so bigoted against atheists and even agnostics that they can’t even run credible national campaigns. For the most part, every credible candidate has to claim some sort of faith and usually only a Christian faith is acceptable.

    I guess I’m less concerned about liberals, especially secular liberals generalizing about Christians than I am about a Christian majority that has basically oppressed people who don’t believe in magical deities.

    • witty1

      That’s my concern too.

      I’m an atheist – I love my country, I feel beyond fortunate to have been born here.

      I would have a hard time even getting elected to a minor city commission because of my atheism. The problem is – you can’t escape mentioning it.

      I’ve found that a lot of the born-again crowd really fishes for some declaration of another’s faith or lack of it.

      I don’t wear my atheism on my sleeve (or my bumper) but I refuse to lie when I’m asked about a faith association. Sometimes I equivocate and merely say “I don’t attend church”.

      I continue to contribute to the Catholic church that my dad attends – because they care for my dad in my absence, and he’s devout. I’ve told them I’m an atheist and they aren’t offended. I still have coffee and donuts after mass and they have really witty comments that segue my atheism to their faith – it’s actually fun and informative.

      I’m stunned and confused about the offense some Evangelicals take when I mention I’m an atheist.

      How does my atheism threaten their faith?

      Rhetorical question of course.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I am an agnostic and this blog isn’t about catering to evangelicals or Christians. I am only saying that we may have mislabeled a whole group of Christians based on an incomplete understanding of who they are and what they think is important. I am hoping to point out that we may have more in common than we have been led to believe. Otherwise, I agree with you. Many of those things frustrate the hell out of me as well.

  • loki redux

    From Jason: To paint all them, like republicans, with the same brush is intellectually dishonest and something the democrats seem to take great pride in doing this year.

    Hmmm…. OK…

    Also from Jason: as democrats continue to push the notion “Jesus Freaks” and other assorted myths about Christians.

    The deomcrats far left wing is totally clueless about the faith-based community beyond the caracitures they saee on TV or in films.

    I am suggesting the democrats step away from the bonfire they are building under “evangelical” Christians

    …and definition that democrats applied to tens of millions of “evangelicals” within the Christian community

    Yeah, painting with a broad brush… that’s bad! Heh-heh…

    • witty1

      Here’s a humdinger.

      I’m a Republican Atheist. I think George W. Bush is the biggest boob ever born – I think he cares deeply about our country but lacks the intellect and talent to govern it.

      Republicanism shouldn’t be the fast track program for failing upwards.

      I’m also the kind of Republican that truly believes in personal accountability – which means ousting the Republicans that have done such a shitty job representing the party.

      Put another way – I’m the parent that would turn my own kids in for committing a crime.

      My ethics trump my political leanings every time.

      The Republican party rejects my vote because it isn’t cast with a prayer – therefore they don’t deserve it.

      In my neck of the woods Republicans get elected without the shout-out to Jesus. Yes, it can be done.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      The democrats have been painting with that brush for decades. Democrats who are patient and understanding with evangelicals or republicans are the exception and not the rule. Most are called Independents these days.

  • laurajordan

    Thanks for this post, Jason.

    It sounds like you have been challenging a lot of your preconceptions lately. I admire your apparent interest in delving beyond stereotypes to better understand the real people who wear these labels that get stereotyped. So few people seem to be able or willing to do that.

    I don’t identify myself as an Evangelical, but I do have Christian faith. I have encountered the mindset you describe among Democrats and progressive-minded people, and it’s frustrating. It’s a problem that spans the whole political spectrum: just as there is a reflexive, uninformed strain of prejudice against secular Americans among members of the right; there is also a reflexive, uninformed strain of prejudice against Christians among members of the left. What’s lacking in both cases is a real understanding of the people in those groups and their concerns. They’re just the other.

    By the way, Jimmy Carter, a hugely imperfect human whom I greatly admire for his sincere compassion, generosity, and courage, identifies himself as an Evangelical Christian. We might remind Democrats and progressives to spend some time considering that.

    • loki redux

      For Laura and Jason…

      Let me let you in on a little secret. (And I might be going out on a limb here by speaking for a few others, but I don’t think so)

      People like destor, BevD, nmcvaugh (it appears), Ben, myself and a few others in these pages have long known the difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists. We know Jimmy Carter defines himself as an evangelical. We know not all christians are nutjobs crashing funerals or bombing clinics. If our language (OK now I’m speaking only for me) is harsh sometimes and words like Jesus Freak is tossed around… there is a reason for this. Be it for emphasis or snark or irony or whatever. You really should go over the edge and think we have no understanding. We did not come to our worldview without experience and thought. We know what religion is. And what it isn’t. We know Democrats and Republicans are religious and non-religious.

      It now appears that you and Jason are the ones painting with the insanely large brush and don’t realize the hypocrisy of it.

      Jason said this above: “I am only saying that we may have mislabeled a whole group of Christians based on an incomplete understanding of who they are and what they think is important. “

      To which I fell like saying, Who’s “we” kimosabe? I’m glad Jason is getting enlightened, but it’s beginning to sound like someone who has just quit smoking and now is going on a tear warning everyone of the horrors of smoking. We get it…. and have for some time. Our (my) misunderstood commentaries in here notwithstanding.

      • JasonEverettMiller

        Based on many comments on “liberal” blogs (this one included) I don’t think they get it at all, your protestations aside. The people you mention made comments that clearly don’t “get it” even now. I am not the only person who has reached some personal growth and understanding this election years.

        You seem pathologically resistant anything resembling a reconciliation with the “right” even though that is exactly what we must do to survive and fix all the various things that need fixing. The “left” is not enough to get it done alone.

      • laurajordan

        It now appears that you and Jason are the ones painting with the insanely large brush and don’t realize the hypocrisy of it.

        Mmmm…well, it’s not my intent to use broad strokes. In fact, what I (quite carefully, IMO) said was that there are strains of prejudice among members of both the left and right. That’s hardly all-inclusive language. I am sincerely trying to avoid the hypocrisy you accuse me of, and I don’t think your charge is fair.

        In order to have genuinely thoughtful conversation among secular and Christian voters (which, I think, is the goal Jason is striving for), I think it’s important to avoid using inflammatory language (like “Jesus Freaks”) because it tends to evoke reflexive, defensive responses and generate unnecessary conflict. A subject like this one — the appropriate relationship between religion and politics — deserves earnest discussion that’s free from the (unnecessary, IMO) conflicts that misunderstandings, fed by stereotyping, create.

        I am not trying to be self-righteous or accusatory, Loki, and I’m glad you do understand that there are Christians who aren’t “nutjobs.” However, with rare exceptions, your word choices have implied to me a contempt of Christians in general, so it has been difficult for me to discern the nuance you accuse me of missing.

        • loki redux

          Well, fine. Next time I say all Christians are nutjobs please be sure to rebuke me.

          In the mean time I do see you said “strain” above. So I probably should not have taken your last sentence so literally. Fair enough?

          • laurajordan

            Dang. I’m trying to engage you in a less testy conversation, Loki, because I believe we’re political allies.

          • laurajordan

            Sheesh! I get it. Testy is your default tone. And sometimes vexing. And snide.

            I’ll try to remember your default tone and your blogger’s Tourette’s from now on, Loki.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Thanks for the kind words, Laura, life has been very wierd lately, but in a good way.

      We talked about Jimmy Carter last night as well. A super duper progressive who is also self-identified evangelical. I think Carter is far more reflective of the majority of evangelicals than the boisterous pulpit pounders most dems think of when they think of Christians.

      Mostly, I am tired of Americans doing “their” job for them – they being the system trying to keep this country under thumb by keeping us at each others throats.

      • witty1

        Being an atheist – I think having an omnipresent imaginary friend is bizarre.

        I think what separates the progressive Christians from the fundamentalism is the code speak.

        Progressives don’t interject ‘God’ into a conversation unless it is in reference to their personal faith experience.

        Fundamentals interject ‘God’ into everything – and by doing so – cheapen the meaning, in my humble opinion.

        That’s what struck me the most about Rick Warren’s faith forum.

        Obama referred to God as it pertained to him, and him alone.

        McCain used wide sweeping references to God insinuating that his beliefs applied to everyone – regardless of an individuals personal belief.

        I’m never weird-ed out about discussions of God as long as the speaker is clear about the personal application.

        I get enormously creeped out when God is used as a bludgeon to force others to conform.

        Example: “I will pray for you” vs. “God will punish you… you will be judged”.

        I am enormously flattered and grateful when someone says they will pray for me (be it a death in the family or other hardship). It means they are thinking of me and plan to set aside time to think about me more.

        I am annoyed but not offended when someone says they will pray for my salvation – I understand that this is THEIR calling, they are compelled to do so – but the insinuation is that they are judging my so-called damnation.

        Evangelicals wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for all the evangelizing.

        • laurajordan

          I get enormously creeped out when God is used as a bludgeon to force others to conform.

          I’m Christian and I agree with this wholeheartely. It’s absolutely absurd to try to ram faith down the throats of people who tell you they don’t want it.

          In my opinion, spiritual faith is there to be a comfort and guide for the things we mortals encounter in a world that’s both spiritual and physical. (Well, that was the main message of Jesus, anyway.) Using religion in a way that generates a hostile response to spiritual faith is antithetical to that purpose. Crazy!

        • stillidealistic

          I would disagree only slightly in that if, your belief is that w/o a personal relationship w/ Christ you cannot return to live with the Father, if you care about someone, it pains you to think of that person not getting to live w/ you for eternity. I don’t think it is so much looking down on them or judging them as it is wishing for them what we feel like we have…I’m sure I could have said that better, but I hope you know what I mean.

  • roo_P

    With respect, perhaps you ought to just come up with a new term instead of “evangelicals,” just to avoid any confusion? It would be a lot more productive to just say that you are “prevangelicals” or whatever and get on with the issues instead of wasting time arguing about who can and cannot be called an “evangelical.”

    I mean, you still suffer from a pervasive, moderately debilitating psychosis but at least being progressive and religious is better than conservative and religious.

    • randy marsh

      “I mean, you still suffer from a pervasive, moderately debilitating psychosis but at least being progressive and religious is better than conservative and religious.”

      LOL, well thanks, although I’m more a middle-of-the-road psychotic. However, many of the greatest scientists and thinkers in history have been Christians as well, so I’m in pretty good company. I’ve tried on atheism before, but it’s just too illogical. Agnosticism – there’s logic in that. But atheism…the very fact that you as a human can consider the subject tends to cast doubt on your conclusions imho.

      • roo_P

        “Atheism” is “the absence of a belief in a deity.” Nothing more, nothing less. Those who claim it is anything more.. well, just think of them to us the religious conservatives are to you.

      • Tankard

        Actually, it’s not the least bit uncommon for extremely intelligent people to be psychotic. So those “Christian scientists” you cite could easily be both outstanding scientists and as crazy as, well, as Jason.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      I am not religious at all. I just had a bit of an epiphany with regards to our more religious citizens. I am not quibbling with semantics. I am suggesting that whatever you call them, the left has a skewed vision of who they are and what si important to them. No more, no less.

  • randy marsh

    “Evangelicals wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for all the evangelizing.”

    I’m a Christian myself, but it bothers me when other Christians say to non-believers “I will pray for your salvation” etc. It sounds very condescending. I never try to force my views on others. Almost none of my friends are Christians, but a few have come to Christ simply because they’re interested in what I “have” and start to ask me about my beliefs, etc.

    The thing is, a large number of Christians believe in hell as a literal place of torment (as opposed to simply the grave, which is the correct translation) and so they honestly are trying to save you from something they think is horrible. In an odd way, it simply means they really care about you, enough even to go out of their comfort zone to possibly offend you.

    Not my style (I believe in a future kindgom of God and eternal life vs. death – the God I know (“God is LOVE”) would never send anyone to an eternal torment), BUT if you understand where many are coming from, it’s understandable…

    …and yes, there is quite a bit of hate and intolerance among some segments of fundamentalism, but that is a very small vocal minority, and most Christians are awesome people imo.

  • witty1

    Just to bring this full-circle =-)

    Like Obama says, instead of focusing on our differences – we should focus on what we have in common.

    It seems the golden rule – “treat others as you would have them treat you” – transcends belief and non-belief. It certainly does in this thread. Thanks to Laura and Randy – I think we have far more in common than we have differences.

    I think it’s a complete distortion to say atheists don’t believe in anything larger themselves.

    I believe in something much greater than myself – the collective goodwill of all people – I also happen to think that collective goodwill is far more powerful than any “God”.

    I understand fully that those that carry a belief in “God” switch the two. Their “God” is more powerful than any collective human endeavor.

    • stillidealistic

      BINGO! That sums up the bottom line pretty darn well…let’s focus on those things we can agree on, and right now, that’s getting Obama elected.

      We’ll work on the rest of it later! 🙂

    • Tankard

      Like Obama says, instead of focusing on our differences – we should focus on what we have in common.

      You mean things like the Constitution? No, that couldn’t be it. He doesn’t believe in it.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Exactly right. I believe that we are all “God” in our collective consciousness. That “God” is our shared experience of creating reality as we live our lives and make individual decisions.

      It isn’t an understanding driven by any book, though many inform it. Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason being my personal favorite.

      This entire blog is all about the Golden Rule. It was recognizing a prejudiced view of people I had never met because of the lies I had been fed via many channels.

      I am not religious at all. Barely “agnostic” in fact and skeptical of all labels. But, for those who identify themselves with certain labels, I thought it was a great answer to a question I had never thought to ask of an “evangelical” Christian before.

  • artappraiser

    Amazes me to see some of the same clueless arguments on this thread as when teh liberal blogosphere erupted in “outrage” over Obama’s Call to Renewal speech in June 2006 (comments on this old TPMCafe thread one example of many.)

    Really, it amazes me. They keep telling me that the blogosphere is a great edjumacation tool, but I keep seeing evidence to the contrary. Rather, sometimes it seems it is merely a chance to keep arguing over the same stuff, with the same exact arguments, like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Oh, the user names change, but the p.o.v. are the same tired stuff, as if our children on teh innertubes are not learnin’ anything…

    How can I put it simply? Some need to get their heads around this: Al Gore and Jimmy Carter are bonafide examples of “evangelicals,” having publicly testified to having “born again” experiences. So are a very large sector of voting people of color who are also regular churchgoers. Lots of these evangelicals of color have been voting Democratic for decades. Granted, a lot of them seem to like Democratic politicians with a social conservative bent, but they are a significant part of the Democratic “base.” Yes, believe it or not, many social conservatives already vote Democratic and have been doing so for a long time. (Can I dare say more on the believe it or not front–for one example, many blacks and Latinos are both religious and homophobic, not just people with blond hair and blue eyes. And OMG! Many Latinos are Catholic, don’t like abortion, and still vote Democratic.)

    Personally, I find a lot of the old arguments on this issue tiresome. What I personally think is that the Dem party in their recent marketing ploys–

    http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2006/06/28/obama_religion_and_the_blog_re/

    is coming way way too late to a game that is waning and nearly over. I think a lot of highly religious people have “been there done that” and that the new trend among religious groups will be a high receptivity to stronger promotion of separation of church and state. It’s not a bad idea for Obama to pander to this kind of mentality, as it still exists, and you can pick up some important votes that way.

    But for the Dem party to be working on this as a long term tactic, I think that’s dumb, I see a movement back to religious conviction being private and separate from politics. I fear they are going to look both phony and old fashioned by moving in this direction. Clue: those that have really studied Rick Warren, like Obama, know that he is not the same thing as Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, not at all. The megachurch movement in this country is quite different from the right wing fundamentalism politickers of the past. And to me, that in itself shows a trend developing, one that’s very “cafeteria Christian.”

    • witty1

      Except Rick Warren singles out atheists as evil and responsible for evil.

      He likes to pander to religions “other” than Christianity but consistently repeats that atheism is the root of evil.

      Other than that I think Rick is on the right track – a ‘believer’ I can believe in.

      Until these megachurches stop gobbling up assets and cash and find a way to pray together without gobbling up resources set aside for that specific purpose – I don’t have a lot of respect for them.

      It’s the difference between driving a Lexus or a Datsun – they each get you to the destination – the difference is who you are trying to impress on your way there.

      • JasonEverettMiller

        Hence Bev’s excellent suggestion of no more tax-exemption for churches. Which I offered an amendment to allow non-profit status for social programs only, all other church revenue would be taxed as a corporation. It’s like letting Broadway shows be tax free. That will get me in trouble. :O)

        • BevD

          Wait, wait, wait. I didn’t say no tax exemptions for churches, although I am persuaded that it might be time, my point was that they give up their right to participate in politics by taking the exemption. That’s the deal they made.

          • witty1

            That’s the way I have always understood the exemption.

            In my city there is a local property tax exemption for seniors – up to a point – I believe up to $250k in appraised value.

            There seems to be no limit to the exemptions churches qualify for.

            I’m willing to negotiate though – perhaps if each church was transformed into a homeless shelter every single night of the entire year – then they can engage in political campaign activity.

            Just an idea though.

          • BevD

            And a good thought, too. While you can’t have taxation without representation, you also can’t have representation without taxation. Pay to play, so to speak…

          • witty1

            Couldn’t have said it better.

            I hate to corporate bash (I run a corporation) but if the uber-anti-gov’t types (i.e. Grover Norquist) finally get their way – won’t corporations have gotten the maximum representation with no taxation?

            My Corporate Ethics dictate that I should feel very fortunate to have the laws and regulations that PROTECT my company – and taxes are the cost of that protection.

          • JasonEverettMiller

            I agree with everything from here on up in this particular root of the comment tree.

    • laurajordan

      …I see a movement back to religious conviction being private and separate from politics.

      I’m not sure where or why you see movement, but I certainly hope you’re right.

  • BevD

    I believe that the POINT Loki was making, whether you agree with her characterization of Rick Warren or not, is that Obama made a mistake in going to Saddleback Church for the stupid questions – “define rich, do you believe in stem cell research, are you for abortion” asked by a pastor in a religious institution and in a forum in which he did not do well. I myself, do not think that Obama performs well in that kind of venue. Politics should be kept separate from religion for the very reason that Lux Umbrei brought to our attention – there is never any clear stopping point. Let me add, that I also don’t like politicians visiting black churches or synagogues either.

    Both Loki and I understand that fighting christians is a dauntless task, afterall, there are only a few thousand lions left in the world and a billion christians…just kidding.

  • ericf

    I’ve got news for you Jason. You did exactly what you accuse the “far left” of doing: “The deomcrats far left wing is totally clueless about the faith-based community beyond the caracitures they saee on TV or in films.”

    Um, Jason, apparently a lot of the far left ARE Christian. A lot of the far left were Christians, so we (I suspect I fit your definition) knew it from the inside. The idea that the far left knows nothing but caricatures shows you know as little about the people you bash as you accuse them of knowing about Christians.

    Just because your cousin’s progressiveness surprised you hardly means it would surprise anyone else, no more than going off religion means no longer understanding it. May I suggest you need to work on your own caricatures.

    • JasonEverettMiller

      Of course I am speaking the secular far left and not the ones who self-identify as Christian. The secular dems right here on this blog obviously view most things that have to do with religion with inherent skepticism. I used to do it myself.

      I am not even necessarily saying it is unjustified or doesn’t make sense. I am simply pointing out an epiphany, for me, that included the recognition of prejudice before unseen.

      That many dems don’t think they suffer form the same prejudices is obvious, even as they accuse “born again” Christians of being rapture-oriented, despite all evidence to the contrary.

      A petard doesn’t have to be that long to be an effective hanging device.

  • stillidealistic

    Tankard, you think I’m delusional for being a Believer, so why ask? 🙂

    45%? I would be curious to know what that percentage was back then. I’d be willing to bet it was much higher.

    “These are the same people who gleefully consign my soul to burn in Hell for eternity because I have a problem with the idea that incest is alright as long as only religious icons are practicing it.”

    This is over the top even for you, Tank…I suppose its possible that some people who call themselves Christians might be gleeful over another person burning in Hell, but they aren’t really Christians. But any Christian thinking incest is okay? Regardless of who is doing it?

    I have a great deal of admiration for you. I agree with you on a point or two here and there. I don’t look down on you, or wish you ill in any way shape or form. I enjoy our bantering, and look forward to doing a lot of it. There are just some things we will always disagree on, and this is one of them.