Browsing the blog archives for June, 2014.


Holy Corporation

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Obama Administration

I’m seeing news flashes that SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, 5-4. I am unhappy but not surprised. I’m sitting on some deadlines and cannot take time to comment, but discuss among yourselves.

Update:

Unbelievable.

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First Annual Convention of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club

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Feminism, Women's Issues

This weekend the International Conference on Men’s Issues was held in a VFW hall in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. It was originally going to be at the DoubleTree Hilton in Detroit, but some feminist groups protested and the terrorized He-Men chose to move the venue, adding that they had sold too many tickets to remain at the DoubleTree. The surplus of ticket-buyers apparently couldn’t find the VFW hall, however, because by all accounts only about 100 guys showed up.

I direct your attention to what TBogg wrote about it. He nails them pretty darn well. But I have a little more to say.

Like BooMan, I am prepared to acknowledge and address systemic bias wherever it might be found. However, as BooMan says, the He-Men seem less interested in actually doing something about these alleged systemic biases than in expressing hatred for women, particularly feminists. I’ve run into this with these guys many times before. Whatever their cause du jour, they are incapable of rational, productive discussion about it because within seconds they will turn the conversation around to how those evil women hate them because they are men and how feminists are destroying manhood and America and western civilization generally. It’s all they really want to talk about.

I do think there are factors in our society and culture that impact men in harmful ways and which need to be addressed. But these trends had been written about long before second-wave feminism emerged in the 1960s. Back in the late 1940s, for example, Joseph Campbell wrote some interesting stuff about how industrial-age culture had alienated men from their families and made them more emotionally infantile and brutish.

The post-World War II era really did lock both men and women in tightly confined gender-role boxes that restricted their emotional and personal growth and perpetrated a weirdly adolescent view of sex, as exemplified by Playboy magazine and the auxiliary clubs and bunnies. In the 1960s women rebelled, but men, on the whole, did not. Individual men grew out of it, but men collectively never had the cathartic consciousness-raising moment when they perceived the confinements of the box they’d been shoved into.

I see the He-Men as guys locked tightly inside a conceptual box — the box of who they think they are and how they think life should be — that is out of sync with what’s going on in our culture generally. And they feel great unease about this, no doubt. But instead of confronting what’s really wrong they hunker down and scapegoat “feminism” as the source of their unease. Most “men’s movements” that have emerged in the 50 years since Betty Friedan wrote The Feminist Mystique have been reactionary attempts to reinforce the box, when what they really need to do to be happy is break out of the damn thing.

And I don’t know of any way to reach them; they’re too invested in their collective fantasy to accept help. I only ask that the majority of men who have outgrown the box to more frequently stand up to the He-Men and say, no. This is not who we are. This is not what manhood is. Maybe fewer younger men will get sucked into it.

I also want to address the women speakers at the conference. TBogg wrote of one:

Surprisingly, many of the speakers at Manstock, were women who were there to validate the attendees worst fears…. for a modest speaking fee:

Dr. Tara Palmatier, a men’s rights activist who advertises herself as a “shrink for men,” explained that “feminism has evolved from the radical notion that women are people, to the radical notion that women are superior.”
She diagnosed some women with what she called “golden uterus syndrome,” which she explained as what happens when a mother will “fleece your ex-husband in divorce court and take assets you didn’t earn, you deserve it, take that bastard to the cleaners, force a man into fatherhood with an accidental pregnancy, hey, if he wouldn’t commit, sometimes you gotta push him into it.”

So, instead of fleecing “your ex-husband in divorce court and take assets you didn’t earn,” Palmatier fleeces men by telling them that their problem is not their own shortcomings. Nope, it all on their ex-wives. That’ll be $220 please, same time next week?

Yeah, there always will be people who will exploit the pain of others to make money. But women do occasionally exhibit what I call the “Daddy’s Good Girl” syndrome. It’s basically a strategy to gain the approval of men by giving them whatever they want and being whomever men want them to be. Show me a “Daddy’s Good Girl” and I will show you someone who is desperately and neurotically needy. Tara Palmatier sounds like one, although she may be just an old-fashioned grifter, of course.

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Would He Mind If I Called Him Stupid?

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blogging

Let’s review: “redskins” is a pejorative for “Native Americans,” right? I’ve always understood it to be disrespectful, at least. About the only time I ever heard it used was in films, where the White People had all the dialogue and the “redskins” were extras who were very skilled at falling gracefully out of trees or off their galloping horses whenever the White People shot rifles in their direction. In context, “redskins” never seemed complimentary.

There are some who disagree, saying it is just slang. But most pejoratives were “just slang” until the group who felt disparaged by the slang spoke up about it.

Some guy at the Washington Post writes that it’s just as bad for the military to name helicopters after Native American ethnic groups — Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne — or even people, Black Hawk. “Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished?” he asks.

To which I ask, who’s “we”? Are “we” not all Americans? I don’t keep up with these things, but I know they used to name tanks after generals — Pershing, Sherman, Sheridan. Thinking of Sherman’s march to the sea makes “Sherman” an especially appropriate tank name. They used to name battleships after states. Aircraft carriers are named for Presidents. I know enough about the military to know that the military guys don’t name their “stuff” after people they think are losers. Names are supposed to evoke something that’s, you know, fierce and warrior-ish. I thought it was supposed to be an honor to have some military thingie named after one.

For that matter, Sherman himself was William Tecumseh Sherman. He originally was just Tecumseh Sherman, but his stepfather added the William when Crazy Bill was eight or nine, as I recall.

OK, so if we’re going to assume that any use of an ethnic or tribal name is supposed to be a slur, let’s talk about the Minnesota Vikings or the Boston Celtics. Josh Marshall brought this up a few days ago; I regret I don’t have a link to that. I suppose Vikings aren’t around to object. As a Celtic-American I have no issue with “Celtic” as a team name, however. It could have been worse — the Boston Paddies?

But I could do without the leprechaun mascot. Leprechauns irritate me. Lucky Charms commercials make me cringe. There are all kinds of fierce and warrior-ish characters in Irish history and myth. Why is it always leprechauns?

Anyway — seems to me the name “redskins” is intrinsically belittling. It began as a slur and it’s always been a slur. Just because some people weren’t sensitive to their own racism doesn’t mean it wasn’t a slur. So what about the Kansas City Chiefs? Sometimes “chief” is used as a kind of put-down. But the word also carries a connotation of authority and dominance.

Anyway, the Washington Post guy speaks of the Native American groups/tribes/nations in the past tense, and says, “If the native tribes did not stand a chance, this does not imply lack of resistance or of courage; regardless, it doesn’t much matter in this context. Whatever courage they had, the U.S. military is not heir to it.” Perhaps not, but members of “native tribes” (I’m not sure “tribes” is the right word) are still here and have served in the U.S. military for some time. Do we not need to get past the idea that all institutions belong by default to White People unless stated otherwise?

I may be getting myself in trouble here. This guy quotes Noam Chomsky, “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’ ” But they wouldn’t have, because the military guys don’t name their stuff after people they hold in contempt. They just don’t.

For that matter, not even the Irish want to go into a terrible battle in something called The Cute Little Leprechaun. They want to be in something called The Cú Chulainn or The Fionn mac Cumhaill. Fierce. Warrior-ish. Proud.

Update: The CC Patrol (CC=Conservative Correctness”) are responding to the op-ed as if the author of the Washington Post piece speaks for all liberals. No, dears, it’s one guy, and I don’t know that he speaks for ANY liberals. He doesn’t speak for this one, and I’m not sure how “liberal” the author is himself. In a lot of ways he still seems caught up in the white privilege trap of assuming whiteness as the default norm.

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Buffer Zones Are Gone

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abortion, Supreme Court

SCOTUS has found Massachusetts “buffer zones” around abortion clinics to be unconstitutional. This doesn’t surprise me. I am, however, stunned to learn this was a unanimous decision. Some guy actually is arguing that liberals won.

True, Roberts’s opinion, joined by the court’s four doubtless relieved liberals, struck down the buffer as a violation of the free-speech rights of pro-life activists who seek to converse with women who might be seeking abortions. But the crucial element in the opinion — the one that got the liberals on board and enraged the conservatives — is that Roberts said the law was neutral with respect to the content of speech as well as the viewpoint of the speakers. That conclusion protected the possibility of other laws protecting women seeking abortions that pay more attention to what Roberts said was missing here, namely proof that the law was narrowly tailored. For the liberals, that was enough to get on board.

I’m reading that Don Scalia is furious with the majority opinion, which apparently stopped short of declaring open season on abortion providers.

I haven’t had time to wrap my head around this. However, I do think that if the anti-abortion “protesters” were handled like the public nuisances, dangerous bullies and sometimes terrorists they actually are, we wouldn’t need “buffer zones.” As I wrote in my book,

Let’s try a thought experiment: Let’s say a number of people decide that banks are evil. This group then targets banks to picket. But they don’t stop with picketing. They chain themselves to doors. They try to stop bank customers from entering. They yell at people to keep their money at home and not let it mingle with the infernal financial system. They set up websites displaying photos and names of bank employees and where they live, hinting that maybe somebody could just eliminate these people. Banks are vandalized and even bombed. Some bank managers are assassinated.

Now, how many nanoseconds would pass before law enforcement and the FBI call this movement domestic terrorism and shut it down? No one outside the anti-bank cult would stand for this. But when the context involves women, sex, and religion instead of money and business, somehow, it’s different.

It’s only because the well-being and concerns of women are not taken seriously that the buffer zones were necessary.

See also “Do what we tell you to do, or we will kill you” and an extended excerpt from my book here.

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Why the Tea Party Is Doomed, and Why It Won’t Go Away

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Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The baggers continue to demonstrate why they will always and forever be a movement of bigoted, white bitter-enders.

As the dust settles on the recent Cochran-McDaniel Mississippi Senate primary, those looking at the data say that it appears African-American voters gave Cochran the victory. This does not surprise me; you could see it coming as soon as the baggers announced they were sending “poll watchers” to keep an eye on those sneaky Mississippi (and mostly black) Democrats.

And it didn’t hurt Cochran that McDaniel’s self-promotion sales pitch is well-larded with racist dog whistles.

Take these clips from his radio show, circa 2006, where he mocked complaints of racism, railed against hip-hop as a “morally bankrupt” culture that “values prison more than college,” and promised to stop paying taxes if reparations were ever passed: “How you gonna make me pay for something that I had nothing to do with? How you gonna do that to me? I don’t get it.”

As a state senator, McDaniel has spoken to gatherings of the Sons of Confederate Veterans—a neo-Confederate group that promotes present-day secessionists—and delivered the keynote to a SCV event last fall. Indeed, his rhetoric decries the rise of a “new America” and pines for days of old. “There are millions of us who feel like strangers in this land, an older America passing away, a new America rising to take its place,” he said in a speech after the June 3 election. “We recoil from that culture. It’s foreign to us. It’s alien to us. … It’s time to stand and fight. It’s time to defend our way of life again.”

His voters get the message, lashing out against those people who siphon dollars from hard-working Americans. Here’s the Times with more:

Still apparently insensitive to what the phrase “poll watchers” stirs in the hearts of African Americans, and still apparently not realizing that black voters heard those dog whistles, too, the baggers and their spokesmouths are blaming the loss on the ignorance of African American voters.

I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past few days, ‘Uncle Toms for Thad’? Because I thought it was the worst thing you could do as an African American, vote for a Republican. The worst thing you could do,” Limbaugh said on Wednesday. “But somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy. And why? Because they were told Thad’s done a lot for black people in Mississippi. Must be the first time they were told that.”

It’s like Rush thinks “they” live in a separate media universe and aren’t seeing exactly the same news and advertising as “us.”

And many on the Right are blaming a flier proclaiming that “The Tea Party intends to stop blacks from voting on Tuesday.” I don’t know who printed and distributed said flier, but I suspect it was superfluous. The announcement from the baggers that they were sending “poll watchers” proclaimed the same message, loudly and clearly.

McDaniel still has not conceded, I don’t think, and plans to “investigate” the votes. He “knows” many of those “crossover” Democrats voted illegally? And how would he know this? Ed Kilgore explains:

How do we know these are “crossover” voters, since there’s no party registration? Because they are African-Americans! Can’t have African-Americans voting in our White Man’s Primary, can we?

That’s right; there is no party registration in Mississippi. People are just registered voters, not registered Republicans or Democrats. So, strictly speaking, there can be no “crossover” voting unless you assume one can tell what party a person “belongs” to some other way. Like, maybe, race.

Demographic projections tell us that a “white people’s party” is not politically sustainable in the U.S. except in the short term. So we can watch these guys and note how utterly insensitive and purely clueless they are about how they come across to anyone who isn’t them. And we can look at their string of mostly failed election campaigns and assume they can’t keep this up.

However, we’ve had these “populist” right-wing reactionary movements in the U.S. pretty much all along. Over the years they’ve given themselves different names and sometimes vary the specific issues they care about. But, like the phoenix, they keep rising from the ashes.

We use the term repressive populist movement to describe a populist movement that combines antielite scapegoating (discussed below) with efforts to maintain or intensify systems of social privilege and power. Repressive populist movements are fueled in large part by people’s grievances against their own oppression but they deflect popular discontent away from positive social change by targeting only small sections of the elite or groups falsely identified with the elite, and especially by channeling most anger against oppressed or marginalized groups that offer more vulnerable targets.

Right-wing populist movements are a subset of repressive populist movements. A right-wing populist movement, as we use the term, is a repressive populist movement motivated or defined centrally by a backlash against liberation movements, social reform, or revolution. This does not mean that right-wing populism’s goals are only defensive or reactive, but rather that its growth is fueled in a central way by fears of the Left and its political gains.

The first U.S. populist movement we would unequivocally describe as right wing was the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, which was a counterrevolutionary backlash against the overthrow of slavery and Black people’s mass mobilization and empowerment in the post-Civil War South. Earlier repressive populist movements paved the way for right-wing populism, but did not have this same backlash quality as a central feature. [Adapted from Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press]

The Tea Party brand may fade from view eventually, but the movement is not going away.

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Not With a Bag

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Obama Administration, Republican Party

Bagger candidate Chris McDaniel is refusing to concede to incumbent Thad Cochran, who narrowly won the Senate primary in Mississippi yesterday. McDaniel supporters are considering legal challenges to the election as well as a write-in campaign.

I don’t think we know for certain that Democrats voting in the Republican primary (which is legal in Mississippi, as long as they hadn’t voted in the Dem primary) gave Cochran the victory, although many appear to assume it did. If it did, we may learn that African Americans were incentivized to vote more by news of teabagger poll watchers than any love for Cochran. One suspects such voters will abandon Cochran in November.

Conservative public intellectuals such as Sarah Palin and Erick Erickson have sads. Palin asks why there is a Republican Party at all, if Cochran could win an election by acting “like a Democrat.” Studmuffin Erickson writes,

… this becomes a longer term problem for the Republican Party. Its core activists hate its leadership more and more. But its leadership are dependent more and more on large check writers to keep their power. Those large check writers are further and further removed from the interests of both the base of the party and Main Street. So to keep power, the GOP focuses more and more on a smaller and smaller band of puppeteers to keep their marionettes upright. At some point there will be more people with knives out to cut the strings than there will be puppeteers with checkbooks. And at some point those people with knives become more intent on cutting the strings than taking the place of the marionettes.

Wow, you might assume Erick Son of Erick was a big supporter of campaign finance reform. I suspect you’d be wrong, though. He continues,

Unfortunately for the Republican Party the fight continues. And as grassroots activists feel further and further removed and alienated from the party, it will become harder and harder to win. The slaughter the GOP will inflict on the Democrats in November will be a bandaid of built in momentum. When the GOP inevitably caves on repealing Obamacare, opting instead to reform it in favor of their donors’ interests, we may just see an irreparable split. Then, and even worse, if party leaders and party base voters cannot reconcile themselves to a common candidate in 2016, God help us.

I continue to oppose a third party. I’m just not sure what the Republican Party really stands for any more other than telling Obama no and telling our own corporate interests yes. That’s not much of a platform.

That last paragraph is likely to earn Erickson a visit from Men in Black to persuade him that what he really saw was the planet Venus.

See also an explanation of what the hell is the difference between the baggers and the GOP, considering their stated positions line up pretty neatly. Also, too, Dave Weigel.

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Faux Patriot Games

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Obama Administration

Today is the runoff primary between the way-too-conservative Thad Cochran and the genuinely odious bagger Chris McDaniel. Several bagger groups sent “poll watchers,” to Mississippi after Cochran attempted to appeal to Democrats to “cross over” and vote in the Republican primary. This is legal in Mississippi as long as the individual hasn’t already voted in a primary.

And it’s also the case that in Mississippi, a “Democratic voter” is likely going to be African American.

Mississippi officials say they will be watching the polls, and that outside groups have no authority to appoint themselves “poll watchers.” The NAACP is sending poll watcher watchers. It’s a wonder nobody’s been killed. The day is not yet over, of course.

Speaking of voter fraud, a Wisconsin man has broken all records:

“During 2011 and 2012, the defendant, Robert Monroe, became especially focused upon political issues and causes, including especially the recall elections,” the complaint asserts in its introduction.

WisPolitics.com reported the investigation into Monroe’s multiple voting last week after Milwaukee County Judge J.D. Watts ordered the records related to a secret John Doe investigation be made public after the investigation was closed.

According to those records, Monroe was considered by investigators to be the most prolific multiple voter in memory. He was a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker and state Sen. Alberta Darling, both Republicans, and allegedly cast five ballots in the June 2012 election in which Walker survived a recall challenge.

According to the John Doe records, Monroe claimed to have a form of temporary amnesia and did not recall the election day events when confronted by investigators.

For more gotcha news, see also:

Early last year, Wall Street traders somehow found out that the Obama administration planned to make a policy change to Medicare before the news was even announced.

The flurry of stock trades in major health care companies that followed has since caught the eye of federal law enforcement as well as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has made investigating the matter one of his pet projects on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. In his search, Grassley has gone as far as to cast suspicion on the Obama administration as the source of the leak.

But in a twist, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that federal regulators and law enforcement officials have now focused their attention on a Republican health policy staffer in the House. A lawsuit filed on Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, first reported by the Journal, said investigators believe the staffer “may have been” the source of the leak. It also sought to force the staffer to turn over records to investigators, something he and the committee have reportedly refused to do despite being handed subpoenas.

Now that the investigation is looking at Republicans, it has suddenly become an example of government overreach and a violation of somebody’s free speech rights.

Update: The Mississippi race is being called for Cochran. Looks like African-American voters spared us all from having that odious McDaniel in the Senate.

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Facts Versus Conservatism

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

To one extent or another we all live in a bubble of psychological projection and confirmation bias that we mistake as “reality.” As I wrote in My Book, no one can begin to be rational until he perceives his own irrationality. Otherwise he’s just pretending.

I’ve seen people all along the political spectrum utterly lost in their own projections. But if you’re looking at prominent voices for progressivism and conservatism — popular books, websites, the handful of columnists and politicians we actually respect — most of the time the voices on the Left are at least trying to tether opinion to some form of objectively verifiable data or real-world circumstance. If a right-wing figure is criticized on the Left, most of the time — I believe I know of some exceptions but most of the time — the criticism is founded on information in the public record, something that has been documented the subject really did or really said.

The Right, on the whole, knows no such restraint. Entire libraries could be filled by books written by wingnut authors that are filled with nothing but rumors and invective they’ve copied and pasted from each other. Peggy Noonan, for example, is a master of this genre; her The Case Against Hillary Clinton contains entire chapters and long “quotes” of Clinton pulled entirely from Noonan’s imagination, as Noonan herself admits. It’s apparent Noonan believes that if she imagines something to be true, that it must be true, and made-up “facts” in support of her point of view are perfectly acceptable “proof” that she knows what she is talking about.

You might remember the way David Brock, once a fair-haired darling of the Right, had a crisis of faith while writing what was supposed to be a “hit” book on Hillary Clinton. He realized that much of his earlier work — on Anita Hill and on “Troopergate” — had been based on information he had been given by right-wing colleagues, but had not personally corroborated, and which he later realized were y all expedient lies. He decided to not write anything about HRC that he couldn’t personally corroborate, and the result wasn’t even close to the red-meat buffet he’d been commissioned to write. That, and his emergence from the closet, made him persona non grata on the Right.

But nothing brings out the right-wing Muse more than Hillary Clinton, and now that she’s apparently planning to campaign for the 2016 presidential nomination expect a new round of Hillary Hit Lit. Seriously, hoard every exclamation point you can find before they’re used up.

The newest entry to the Hit Lit parade is Blood Feud by Edward Klein, being excerpted in the New York Post. It is reviewed by Betty Cracker as a “steaming load of anonymously sourced horseshit” and Steve M as “a bad pulp novel, disguised as non-fiction, made up exclusively of right-wing gossip, right-wing talking points, and right-wing punch lines.” Typically of the genre, the book is made up of quotes from conversations the author couldn’t possibly have heard and dialogue that is credible only if you believe the Clintons and Obamas routinely pepper their dialogue with terms they read at NewsMax.

It may be that relatively few people will read Klein’s book. But the real purpose of such books is not to be read, but to be cited. Wingnuts on radio and television can just say “Edward Klein wrote in his book …” and repeat the lies, knowing that their hamster-headed audience will assume it must be true, because it’s in a book.

I’m sure if we looked we could find claims made in books popular on the Left that turned out not to be true. Sometimes even careful researchers get bum information and believe it. But I’m not aware of any leftie publisher or interest group knowingly fabricating lies and packaging them to be inserted into our national political dialogue.

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The Whole World Is Watching

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Obama Administration

… Portugal v. U.S. in the World Cup. In case anyone does visit, here are some links —

Why We’re Screwed, Reason #874: We import our own fish.

Two-Parent Households Can Be Lethal. I’m bookmarking this one to share with members of the He Man Women-Hater’s Club who whine that men can’t catch a break from judges in custody hearings.

Rand Paul: Blame Dick Cheney for Iraq violence, not Obama. Make of that what you will.

The Corporate Daddy

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Faithless Faith

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Religion, Republican Party

The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Washington DC ends today. An annual event, this year’s shindig turned into a contest over which potential 2016 Republican presidential nominee could blow the loudest dog whistles.

The biggest headlines from the event so far told us that some genius put Obama bobblehead dolls in the men’s urinals. And the speeches seemed to be on about the same intellectual level. One speaker after another declared unquestioning loyalty to the Coalition’s dogmas: abortion must be criminalized, same-sex marriage must be stopped, Barack Obama is evil incarnate, and Christians must be restored to their rightful place as the dominant tribe of the U.S.

[Update: And what else is there to say but … Ralph Reed?]

There were reports a few meek voices spoke up to suggest the attendees ought to recognize America’s religious diversity, but it seems they were mostly shouted down.

Groupthink just doesn’t look like “freedom” to me, no matter how many “don’t tread on me” T-shirts one may spot in the herd. It also seems to me that the attendees espouse a peculiarly faithless faith.

This faithless faith rests on the proposition that the reality of God depends on a literal interpretation of scripture. If evolution is true, for example, then God is not real. It’s a faith with conditions.

And for all their expressed devotion to the Bible, their “God” seems more to be based largely on their own projections. He all-too-perfectly reflects and confirms their fears, biases, resentments and various social and psychological pathologies.

I wonder what they’d do if Jesus himself materialized at the conference and said, you know, you’ve got God all wrong, and you’ve entirely missed the point of everything I taught. I bet some of them would boo their Lord and Redeemer off the stage.

Their real faith isn’t in God, or even the Bible. It’s in their fears, biases, resentments and various social and psychological pathologies, which they cling to the way someone cast into an ocean might cling to anything that floats.

It’s through those fears, etc., that they define themselves and make sense of the world. It’s the conceptual box they live in. Whatever is outside the box terrifies them, because if the box is destroyed the “me” they’ve always believed in and the world they’ve constructed in their heads would disappear.

This isn’t freedom, and it isn’t faith, either. As I wrote in my book, Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World,

The notion that Christianity is mostly about arranging one’s mental furniture in accord with a belief system would have been alien to most of the great Christian theologians of history. “Faith” to early Christian theologians — and many recent ones, for that matter — was not at all a synonym for belief. It was more about love of or trust in a God whose nature and opinions were beyond human understanding. To declare you know what God thinks about anything, including which politicians he supports, would have been blasphemy to them.

It’s possible to have great religious faith with no God-object at all (see, for example, Buddhism). Genuine faith does not demand the world conform to one’s belief system; just the opposite. According to many great theologians, genuine faith requires trust, compassion for others, and sometimes self-sacrifice. Not a lot of that on display at the “Faith and Freedom” conference.

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