Socialist progressive atheists are more Christian than capitalist regressive bible-thumpers


Katha Pollit tells it like it is. I’m also tired of all the news stories that tell us that we have to empathize with Trump voters, that it’s our fault that Trump won, that gosh, this dumbass who voted for a racist psychopath is just a down-home salt-of-the-earth fella. We know all that. But really, it’s time to stop the one-sided efforts to humanize people who dehumanize the rest of us.

But here’s my question: Who is telling the Tea Partiers and Trump voters to empathize with the rest of us? Why is it all one way? Hochschild’s subjects have plenty of demeaning preconceptions about liberals and blue-staters—that distant land of hippies, feminazis, and freeloaders of all kinds. Nor do they seem to have much interest in climbing the empathy wall, given that they voted for a racist misogynist who wants to throw 11 million people out of the country and ban people from our shores on the basis of religion (as he keeps admitting on Twitter, even as his administration argues in court that Islam has nothing to do with it). Furthermore, they are the ones who won, despite having almost 3 million fewer votes. Thanks to the founding fathers, red-staters have outsize power in both the Senate and the Electoral College, and with great power comes great responsibility. So shouldn’t they be trying to figure out the strange polyglot population they now dominate from their strongholds in the South and Midwest? What about their stereotypes? How respectful or empathetic is the belief of millions of Trump voters, as established in polls and surveys, that women are more privileged than men, that increasing racial diversity in America is bad for the country, that the travel ban is necessary for national security? How realistic is the conviction, widespread among Trump supporters, that Hillary Clinton is a murderer, President Obama is a Kenyan communist and secret Muslim, and the plain-red cups that Starbucks uses at Christmastime are an insult to Christians? One of Hochschild’s subjects complains that “liberal commentators” refer to people like him as a “redneck.” I’ve listened to liberal commentators for decades and have never heard one use this word. But say it happened once or twice. “Feminazi” went straight from Rush Limbaugh’s mouth to general parlance. One of Hochschild’s most charming subjects, a gospel singer and preacher’s wife, uses it like a normal word. Equating women who want their rights with the genocidal murder of millions? How is that not a vile insult?

Somehow, the idea that the tolerant side is the side that tolerates Nazis annoys me.

I’m also tired of people who preach their goodness (because God) but don’t practice it. In particular, the Ryanesque theology that equates Jesus Christ with Ayn Rand. Capitalist Christianity has gone down an evil path.

These statements from Arrington and Marshall are rooted in the same religious idea: that the poor and sick — or at least a subset thereof — supposedly deserve their plight, and healthy and more financially secure Americans shouldn’t be forced to care for them.

This theology has incensed many progressive Christians of late, but it didn’t appear overnight. It’s the result of a decades-long campaign by conservative lawmakers, intellectuals, and theologians to craft a theology that rejects longstanding Christian understandings of society’s needy.

But they love Jesus! Therefore we’re supposed to sympathize with them. That’s the game skin-deep Christian exploiters have been playing for centuries.

Comments

  1. A Masked Avenger says

    But really, it’s time to stop the one-sided efforts to humanize people who dehumanize the rest of us.

    Obviously, one shouldn’t cuddle a man-eating tiger — although the best way to conciliate a tiger is indeed to allow oneself to be eaten.

    But there’s a reason I advocate against dehumanizing them. Two, actually. The first is that dehumanizing others is inherently corrosive; the class of üntermenschen tends to expand until we find, belatedly, that we’ve become what we hate.

    The second is illustrated nicely by the rash of zombie movies and novels we’ve seen of late. Zombies aren’t human: they’re disgusting corpses that were once human, but no more. They’re impervious to reason, and incapable of being reasoned with. They want only to kill the living, and won’t stop until they’re shot in the head. They’re the purest illustration of the other. They’re what soldiers are taught to see when they confront the enemy. And it needs to be stressed that there is only one thing that can be done with a zombie: shoot it in the head.

    If 63 million Trump voters are beyond the reach of all reason and dialogue; if they are implacably devoted to murdering foreigners outright and killing the rest of us through starvation and denied medical care; if persuasion is useless and impossible; then there’s only one thing to be done. It we don’t exterminate them, they will exterminate us.

    We casually use language that implies that the political process is doomed to futility, that protests are meaningless, that education or persuasion are impossible, without fully appreciating that we’re stating that nothing will end the threat they pose except their extermination.

    Since they also happen to have all the guns, I’d rather not see dialogue scrapped in favor of a shooting war in which the survivors take all. Especially since we know that these people, ignorant as they are and objectionable as their views are, are for the most part dupes of powerful interests that immediately fuck them over — while telling them that it’s OK because it’s much better than the fucking-over they’d get if those others won, and once in a while the powerful interests will even give them a reach-around.

  2. A Masked Avenger says

    Side note:

    Who is telling the Tea Partiers and Trump voters to empathize with the rest of us? Why is it all one way?

    I did, during my deconversion process, until I was kicked out of and banned from those venues.

    But yeah, there’s an inherent lopsidedness when their position is founded on fear of the other. Telling them to go ahead and be conservative, but without the othering, is like telling someone it’s OK to be queer if only they wouldn’t be so gay about it.

  3. says

    a theology that rejects longstanding Christian understandings of society’s needy.

    Bullshit. Yes, it’s all gotten worse, but ” Christian understandings of society’s needy” have been rotten to the core from the beginning, and it’s ridiculous to pretend otherwise. The worst of all charity is christian charity, and the roots of that go all the way back.

  4. markgisleson says

    Respectfully disagree. Look at any Red state/Blue state map. All the economic power is concentrated in the blue areas. The banksters rip off all of us every single working day of the year.

    The tea party types get even on Election Day.

    Don’t focus on the swine they elect. Instead take a harder look at the Dems they reject.

    Republicans win because politically blinkered Democrats refuse to listen to little people unless they say bad racist stuff and then they can’t retweet it enough. The Republican Party is on the rocks but Dems would rather wallow in Identitarian misery than fight back. Yelling insults is not fighting back. Winning in Omaha and Montana would have been great, but Dems are only allowed to run to win if they appeal to suburban Republicans.

    Political experts always seek to understand their foes. Republicans stopped doing this and became unmoored. That was to our advantage but then the Dems followed suit Dems now lose because they refuse to listen. Not to Republicans, not to the Left, not to the 100,000s living as refugees because of neoliberal warmongering.

    Listen to others. Only cowards stick their fingers in their ears and sing the la-la-la I can’t hear you song.

  5. says

    “Who is telling the Tea Partiers and Trump voters to empathize with the rest of us? ”

    But that’s the point. If these people had any empathy, they wouldn’t be Tea Partiers, or Trump voters.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Since the Think Progress article of our esteemed host’s second link does not allow comments, pls permit me to post here what I would have there, from Jack Beatty’s Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900:

    “[Henry Ward] Beecher’s ‘bread and water’ sermon delivered at the height of the [1877 Pittsburgh railroad] strike – ‘Man cannot live by bread alone but the man who cannot live on bread and water is not fit to live’ – was a gargoyle’s version of an orthodoxy taught by economists like Arthur Latham Perry: ‘Political economy has no concern with questions of personal right. . . . The grounds of Economy and morals are independent and incommensurable.’ This orthodoxy, Sidney Fine writes in Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State, was shared by ‘[the majority] of Protestant churchmen.’ ‘It is all right to talk and declaim about the dignity of labor,’ one Protestant journal asserted. ‘But when all has been said of it, what is labor but a matter of barter and sale.’ ‘Be quiet,’ the Reverend W. D. Wilson advised workingmen. ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it, and be content with your wages. God will take care of the rest.’ ‘At bottom,’ Roswell D. Hitchcock of Union Theological Seminary argued, ‘it is an immorality to fight against inequality of condition, which simply corresponds with inequality of endowment.’ … It was one thing for a churchman to air brutalist sentiments in religious journals, another to have them delivered publicly by Henry Ward Beecher, whose pursuit of Mrs. Elizabeth Tilton had lately filled newspaper with salacious culls from the court record… With even [railroad magnate] Tom Scott’s New York World calling his remarks ‘suicidal and the part of a lunatic’; with shouts of ‘Put Beecher on a diet!’ and ‘Hang Beecher!’ winning ovations at labor rallies; with thirty plainclothesmen nestling up to socialites in his pews and an intimidation of detectives occupying the stoop opposite his church to protect him from his notoriety as the meanest man on earth – with all of that, Beecher took to his platform on the second Sunday of the strike to admonish workers: ‘If you are being reduced, go down boldly to poverty.’ Then he left for a two-month vacation in Europe. Beecher put a hideous face on ‘Beecherism.’ Social Darwinism, fleetingly, became unfashionable.

    The tendencies which Think Progress writer Jack Jenkins – and the Baylor U sociologist Paul Froese he cites – attribute to “a decades-long campaign by conservative lawmakers, intellectuals, and theologians to craft a theology that rejects longstanding Christian understandings of society’s needy” goes way back before the “ascendancy of the Religious Right in the 1970s”, which is as far as they bother to pursue the oligarchy-philia of their long-corrupt creed.

  7. royhilbinger says

    That thinking goes a lot further back than a few decades; it’s hardwired into Calvinist theology, which evolved into modern day Evangelicalism. The theory is god showers his favors on the saved, so you can tell who’s saved and who’s damned by their financial status. That one goes all the way back to colonial days.

  8. robro says

    Caine @ #3

    Christian understandings of society’s needy” have been rotten to the core from the beginning…

    I read a while back someone claiming that the success of the very earliest Christian sects was due to the fact that they accepted anyone, were charitable to anyone without requiring joining the cult, and they were cheap. And by “very earliest” I mean in the first couple of hundred years, well before Christianity became the official Roman religion in the 4th century. I have no if that claim is valid. I do know there were some weird versions (e.g. Donatists) but that was also getting late in the early stages. Is the claim bogus? What’s the evidence?

  9. robro says

    “…became the official Roman religion in the 4th century…” Make that 5th century.

  10. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The one thing I have noticed over my many years, is that Xians are blinded by their faith, so they refuse to look at what Jebus said.
    Like the parable of the good Samaritan, where all peoples are human like us, and the Golden Rule, where you treat everybody, including your enemies, with the same respect you wish to be shown to you.
    Failure, they name is Xian fundies…..

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    robro @ # 9: Make that 5th century.

    No, you had it right the first time: Emperor Theodosius I made Christianism mandatory in 391.

  12. The Mellow Monkey says

    Finally! I haven’t been able to log in for days, just getting an error message every time I tried.

    Caine @ 3

    The worst of all charity is christian charity, and the roots of that go all the way back.

    I had much the same thought. It remains a tool of colonialism to this day, but that’s not an aberration or a perversion of its original purpose. That’s exactly what it’s always been doing.

    Though Christianity popped up draped in a lot of misused Jewish tradition, it never really pretended to follow tzedakah, a righteous duty to give the poor their due by caring for them and aiding them in improving their lives. Which is weird, because most of what is ascribed to Jesus in the Bible about the matter is fairly in line with tzedakah. The levels of charity from the Talmud, from least to most meritorious are:

    Giving begrudgingly
    Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully.
    Giving after being asked
    Giving before being asked
    Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient knows your identity
    Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient doesn’t know your identity
    Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity
    Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant

    But anyone who’s ever been graced with Christian charity has seen something else happen. There is an emphasis on the benefit and transformation for the one doing the giving. For them to be known, for them to know the one they’re giving to, is part of the spiritual process as far as they’re concerned. The transformative power of charity in the Christian tradition has never referred to transforming the one who is receiving the charity, unless the goal is conversion. And that’s where the New Testament did differ from tzedakah. Rather than an obligation to do what’s right, it’s an elevation tactic of the individual and PR for the religion itself. They will know we are Christians by our love, right? But giving through personal connection or through the church–as Christianity has always done–is incredibly ineffective.

    I’m not saying Christian individuals have never done good things, because obviously they have, but there is a pro-Christian racist undercurrent in a lot of the western-framed history that needs to be remembered. Nobody cared for the poor or ever even thought of the concept of a hospital before Christians, they’ll say, while ignoring the deep history of health care facilities across Asia. Anyone who tells you that Christians were unusually charitable and kind and thoughtful and giving and doing good stuff no one else was doing in history is misleading you. Having destroyed numerous socialist Indigenous societies, Christianity doesn’t deserve any special claim to charity.

    But socialist progressive atheists are certainly managing altruism better.

  13. consciousness razor says

    I’m not sure if I should take the title as an insult or as just some bullshit. My understanding is that “more Christian” doesn’t mean better.

    robro:

    I read a while back someone claiming that the success of the very earliest Christian sects was due to the fact that they accepted anyone, were charitable to anyone without requiring joining the cult, and they were cheap.

    I’ll just pass over the other crap for the moment…. They were “cheap”, as in not costing a person much money? It doesn’t cost anything to be an atheist or to believe in gods. So anything above zero is a bit expensive, no?

    Maybe what’s being advertised is that it was a religion that was nearly exclusive to people in the lower classes. Early on, when that was basically the situation, you wouldn’t find those people funding fancy temples, elaborate festivals, etc., as you would’ve seen from the more established religions which had much wider social/political support.

  14. says

    Re: Christian “Charity”

    It’s been my experience that they’ll use any excuse to NOT help. I’ve personally seen people kicked out of meals for the dumbest shit, and I’m not talking about disruptive behaviour, I’m talking someone wore a slightly off-colour shirt and a Christer took offence. I’ve been told to “cover up” my bare shoulders. I’ve been refused help because I specifically requested the altar area be left alone. So much of their “charity” comes with strings attached, and they only help if you really, really “deserve” it, so you best not be queer, trans, pagan, atheist, or support any of those “ungodly” things on their “agenda”.

    Catholics, oddly enough, have been the best I’ve encountered on this front. I get some services through CCS, and not once has anyone had an issue with my religion, my gender identity, or any of my other peculiarities. (Then again, they also contract with the state government and have to follow Da Rulez.)

  15. says

    @1, A Masked Avenger

    I’d rather not see dialogue scrapped in favor of a shooting war in which the survivors take all.

    As I’ve said before, I think the other option that should be considered (when dialogue fails to reach agreement and violence isn’t yet needed) is separation. Don’t forget about that option!

  16. jrkrideau says

    # 15 WMDKitty — Survivor
    Catholics, oddly enough, have been the best I’ve encountered on this front.

    I don’t find this strange. It’s a big religion and far more sophisticated than some weird little fundy church in xxx with 500 bible-clutching members who are sure the bible was originally written in English. Or was that Hungarian?

    Catholics , at least in my experience, are used to people with funny accents and different skin colours or different customs and dress showing up, at least, as visitors. Heck they are often priests or other members of the clergy.

    I’d expect the Catholic Church to be a lot more relaxed with such minor issues as someone’s religion or gender, etc. when it comes to offering social services. Individual Catholics are a different matter but overall the Church and its aid providers are unlikely to discriminate.

  17. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Never understood why the words Jesus spoke (as written in NT) have been completely dismissed, even by those who propagate “WWJD?” memes. Jesus sounds far more “hippie” socialist revolutionary than anyone today. I think Tommy J edited a bible down to only include J quotes and exesized all the narration and commentary to yield the “Jefferson Bible”
    While firmly atheist I strongly support the mythical secular Jesus fellow.
    ————
    The rest is all “paradox of tolerance”

  18. says

    @1, A Masked Avenger

    We casually use language that implies that the political process is doomed to futility, that protests are meaningless, that education or persuasion are impossible, without fully appreciating that we’re stating that nothing will end the threat they pose except their extermination.

    Since they also happen to have all the guns, I’d rather not see dialogue scrapped in favor of a shooting war in which the survivors take all.

    As I’ve said before, I think there is another option to consider (when discussion fails, but before violence is needed) and that is: separation.

  19. Holms says

    Who is telling the Tea Partiers and Trump voters to empathize with the rest of us? Why is it all one way?

    It isn’t that no one is telling them to empathise more, it’s that political support is an inherent selection bias, with the empathy concentrated on one side and mostly absent on the other. The mere fact that they are Tea Partiers / Trumpets is itself evidence that they are low on empathy.

    Somehow, the idea that the tolerant side is the side that tolerates Nazis annoys me.

    I don’t think I have seen anyone saying ‘tolerate Nazis’ to mean ‘don’t oppose Nazis’. Just, don’t go around punching them.

  20. consciousness razor says

    As I’ve said before, I think there is another option to consider (when discussion fails, but before violence is needed) and that is: separation.

    What does that mean? There are dense clusters of liberals, mostly in cities, surrounded by more conservative populations. So, we “separate” how? What problem is being addressed, and how would this be a way of resolving it?

    Now I feel like I have to respond to this, from A Masked Avenger:

    But there’s a reason I advocate against dehumanizing them.

    The proposal is that it’s about time they start humanizing us, not that we ought to start dehumanizing them.

    If 63 million Trump voters are beyond the reach of all reason and dialogue; if they are implacably devoted to murdering foreigners outright and killing the rest of us through starvation and denied medical care; if persuasion is useless and impossible; then there’s only one thing to be done.

    False. There are numerous things to do. More people should vote, to start with, because we have a democratic republic, and that makes them responsible for it. If you’ve got more than 63 million other people who are susceptible to reason, then you only need to reason with them. And we do have much more than that number of people, so the odds look pretty fucking good that they’re not all a bunch of hatebags and wingnuts. Of course, we did have the larger number of people on our side last election, and the explanation is that we don’t actually have voting rights for the presidency. So maybe fixing that should go on your to-do list as well.

    It we don’t exterminate them, they will exterminate us.

    Doesn’t follow from what you wrote. They are devoted to doing this and that and the other thing, but that doesn’t imply they succeed.

    So, we prevent that kind of “success,” in any of numerous ways which don’t involve horrific shit like extermination. I don’t see any need to trick ourselves into believing that somehow, deep down, a person is responsive to reasons, despite tons of evidence to the contrary. Certain people in certain situations are evidently not like that. Tough cookies. You move on and do the best you can with what you’ve got. And it seems like we have quite a bit, when you think about it. There are tons of people who want to do the right thing. We’re obviously not always right — to get there, we sometimes need support and guidance and constructive dialogue and occasionally not-so-gentle prodding and pushing and ridicule and so forth — but I think we can get there with enough people, if it’s important enough that we’re willing to actually work for it.

  21. says

    @21, consciousness razor

    What does that mean? There are dense clusters of liberals, mostly in cities, surrounded by more conservative populations. So, we “separate” how? What problem is being addressed, and how would this be a way of resolving it?

    I was responding to a general problem statement, and my response was a general problem solution (one which I see overlooked too often).

    Some familiar real-life examples: fleeing from dangerous countries, Brexit (probably not wise, in this example), safe-spaces, relationship break-ups…

  22. Demeisen says

    Another thing to consider is that these semi-mythical “white rural working-class voters” don’t want empathy, they want deference. It isn’t enough to understand their plight and offer reasoned, workable solutions. They want somebody who’ll tell them that coal/non-automated manufacturing/whatever is going to come back. Somebody who will agree that their beliefs, skin color, orientation, values, etc. are vastly superior to anybody else’s, and should therefore receive preferential treatment in the law. Somebody who will hand out guns and trucks like candy.* When conservative commentators say progressives and liberals need to empathize with these people, the real meaning is they should stop being so darn progressive and liberal.

    *This is another thing urban conservatives call out as condescending, but I have lived among rightists’ beloved “white rural voters” and know how important firearms and motor-vehicles are to them.

  23. DLC says

    I keep telling people — good works are for the doing of them, not for whatever feelings you might get from doing them, and most certainly not because someone’s keeping score. Do good works because you are a good person, not because someone else is needy.

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