I am in the middle of a ten-part series based on the theory that American white evangelicals have embraced a Pharaoh mindset. In my next post, I will be dealing with Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. In the course of my research, I stumbled across some really helpful stuff.
Mary Barker is a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s campus in Madrid, Spain as well as at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. She is also a product of Utah’s Mormon culture, a socio-religious world she understands intimately.
In this piece written for Religion Dispatches she explains how Mitt Romney’s Mormonism shaped his “severe conservatism” but why his faith also provides a foundation for a merciful vision of American community. The two sides of Mormon spirituality help explain why Utah backed the New Deal and voted Democrat up until the 1950s when the civil rights movement and fear of international communism sparked a retreat into the world of John Birch paranoia that is still evident in the rantings of Glenn Beck.
Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism’s “Other” Legacy
Growing up with Mormon narratives—a two-part memoir and reflection on the good, the very bad, and a dreamed-for future.
By Mary Barker
There are many stories on which a Mormon is raised: narratives of the elect, America and the Constitution, the latter days, and free agency—all of which play a role in Mitt Romney’s “severe” conservatism. The bombshell release of video in which he trumpets his disdain for moochers, and reveals a remarkably casual approach to Middle East politics, all resonate with the Calvinist heritage of Mormon theology, as well as with principal Mormon narratives. But Mormonism also holds the seeds of a decidedly progressive politics—a possible Mormon liberation theology.
Does Romney’s religion matter? It’s a question that has been asked many times this election season. My answer, below, is in two parts, as I journey from End Times theology (the “latter days”) through Mormonism’s radical social and political past.
I grew up at the end of the world. As a Latter-day Saint, I made my debut just before the final curtain. During my youth, rumors circulated about neighbors and boyfriends whose special “patriarchal blessings” prophesied that they would never taste of death. That fairly clearly set the limit on time. The rebellious Sixties just confirmed what the Cold War had already shown us—that we were in a final showdown with evil that would only get worse until the second coming of Jesus which is now. (more…)
By Alan Bean
Just when it appeared that Paul Ryan’s infatuation with Ayn Rand might be garnering the attention it deserves, Todd Akin made his “legitimate rape” remark. Suddenly the Republican National Committee was desperate to get Akin off the stage so he won’t ruin next week’s big show in Tampa.
But the Rand-Ryan connection may soon be staging a comeback. People like Paul Ryan didn’t learn to love the free market by reading hard core economists like Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises or even Milton Friedman; they read novels like Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Stories are far more captivating than stats and pie charts. In the relatively repressed 1950s, Ayn Rand was often a young person’s first brush with the pornographic imagination. (more…)
By Alan Bean
The Christian Century has a fascinating interview with Berkeley Professor David Hollinger who argues that “ecumenical Protestants” (he intentionally avoids the word “liberal”) shifted American culture in positive directions because they were willing to go to the wall on issues like civil rights.
This view conflicts with Ross Douthat’s critique of liberal Christianity, expressed most recently in the New York Times’ Sunday Review that liberal denominations have declined numerically because they are “flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.”
Hollinger disagrees. Ecumenical churches have suffered drastic numerical declines, to be sure, but for all the right reasons:
Ecumenical Protestants were way ahead of the evangelicals in accepting a role for sex beyond procreation and in supporting an expanded role for women in society. The ecumenical Protestants understood full well that the Jim Crow system could not be overturned without the application of state power, rejecting the standard line of Billy Graham and many other evangelicals that racism was an individual sin rather than a civil evil. The ecumenical Protestants developed a capacity for empathic identification with foreign peoples that led them to revise their foreign missionary project, diminishing its culturally imperialist aspects—and that led them, further, to the forefront of ethnoracially pluralist and egalitarian initiatives as carried out by white Americans. The ecumenical Protestants resoundingly renounced the idea that the United States is a Christian nation, while countless evangelical leaders continue to espouse this deeply parochial idea.
It could be that Douthat chooses to focus on the lame aspects of liberal Protestantism while Hollinger celebrates the heroic side of that tradition. Both are certainly part of the mix. The big difference is that Douthat describes Protestant Christians desperately trying to adapt to secular liberalism; Hollinger sees the ecumenical Protestant tradition establishing the foundations for secular liberalism on issues like civil rights, feminism, gay rights and a non-aggressive foreign policy.
Please read both articles and tell us what you think.
By Alan Bean
Theda Skocpol (pronounced “Scotch-poll”) teaches sociology and government at Harvard University, hardly a hotbed of Tea Party conservatism. But this nuanced account of the radicalization of the Republican Party carries her well beyond the breathless hysteria of the liberal blogosphere.
In her quest to understand Tea Party conservatism, Skocpol encounters three distinct movements with a common interest in driving Barack Obama into public life while pushing the Republican Party as far to the right as possible.
At the grassroots level, she finds, Tea Party people tend to be older, white conservatives who have no beef with big government programs like medicare, social security and generous veteran’s benefits; they just hate to see tax dollars squandered on the undeserving: welfare recipients, the undocumented, and losers who sign up for mortgages they can’t afford.
Secondly, there are the elite conservative lobbies and think tanks with a traditional small-government, pro-business agenda that want to slash government spending while eliminating many of the social programs grassroots conservatives endorse.
Finally, these uneasy bed-partners are being lionized and galvinized by an energized conservative punditocracy: FOX news, talk radio, and a growing right wing internet culture. This adoring media attention exaggerates the cohesiveness of the contemporary conservative movement while extending its influence and elevating its stature.
These three expressions of Tea Party activism are at odds on many issues, Skocpol says, but their combined influence is radicalizing the GOP. It is now impossible for a moderate Republican to succeed at the presidential level.
Will the 2012 election be a repeat of 2010, or are different forces at work? Will America elect a movement conservative, or has the GOP veered too far from mainstream America? (more…)
by Melanie Wilmoth
Browsing through the Forbes’ list you will find some of the world’s wealthiest female politicians and celebrities. Although these women gain power through their tremendous social and political capital, are they really “the women who matter most” as Forbes claims? Redmond doesn’t think so:
“The women on the Forbes list are not the ones who matter most. They use their power in the pursuit of profit for themselves and for shareholders to sustain a global system of economic and social inequality.”
Instead, Redmond argues, Forbes (and the rest of the world for that matter) should be praising women who are using their power to fight for social justice and the greater good. As such, Redmond has compiled an alternative list of women who she feels, based on their advocacy efforts and devotion to fighting for equality, should “matter most.”
Redmond’s article offers a thoughtful critique of the value that mainstream America places on politicians and others with obscene amounts of money, and offers thoughts on who should really be considered praiseworthy.
Check out Redmond’s alternative list of powerful women and read the full article below.
The Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women is an obscenely wealthy international sisterhood of politicians, celebrities and billionaires who crashed through the glass ceiling. Forbes describes them as “the women who matter most.”
How is it that Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft, whom Forbes lauds for “announcing the divorce between the brands Oreos and Mac ’N Cheese,” matters most? Deciding the fate of cookies and carbs defines power? (more…)