Friday, June 09, 2006


I was mildly amused last night by Penn and Teller's bit on the bible, although after, it seemed a bit derivative. This morning, again with a dearth of items on which to post, and the work muses going strong, I came across this bit at the Evangelical Outpost:

Not So Crazy -- Recently I stumbled across a post by liberal blogger Ezra Klein that gives me hope for the future of blogospheric political discourse:

We in the blogs experience the Religious Right as a political force, waxing crazy on abortion and gays and modernity. But the believers powering that force don't experience it as a political venture at all. They experience it through community, or sermons on forgiveness, or charity, or neighbors. We look at the Christian Right and see crazy because, when we see them on Crooks and Liars or Kos or The Daily Show, they're acting nuts. But we're not watching the world's most representative snippets. The excesses exist, but were the bulk of these ministries not palatable and relevant to the everyday experiences of lower middle-class Americans, they wouldn't have the political relevancy that's forced us to perk up and notice. Darksyde says his theistic acquaintances seem normal. It's a pretty good bet that, to them, the Christian Right seems normal too.

Read the rest. If only the world had more Ezra Kleins and fewer Ann Coulters.

In this instance Carter - & Klein- are largely right, although I'm not sure if Carter would have put the link from Ezra in if he saw the update:

They offer community, guidance, advice, charity, social capital, entertainment, and even the occasional shot at transcendence. And in return, their member's trust their politics. That's the conveyor at work -- but since we see only the politics, we just end up bewildered by how so many could support such a vicious movement. The movement, mostly, is not vicious, and the politics are a tiny part of the whole. And that's why it's dangerous -- because the politics gain legitimacy through primarily non-political ends, they're thus almost invulnerable to attacks coming from the political sphere. Pat Robertson can say something crazy and then move onto the recipe, and if the recipe is sound, the craziness of a moment before is legitimated, or at least forgotten.

It would be condemned as outragous simply to point out that the Nazi Party, the Communist Party, the Nation of Islam, and quite a few other groups function the same way.

Notice in the above I said Klein and Carter largely right. I have to point out how these groups go about recruiting: their first priority is to actively seek out impressionable people (children, even children who are not their own - see "Good News Clubs," ), people who are under stress (students at colleges and universities, especially immigrant students, people who are at the business end of the legal system, homeless people), etc.

And the first thing they do do to the stressed out is help them.

But is this normal? Is it normal to do so when there's a quid pro quo of enduring a religious conversion pitch? Is it moral?

I became a Buddhist because the bromides of Christianity led me to abandon them, and because the methods of Buddhism were more immediately useful. (As an example, consider this, and compare and contrast with whatever equivalent you can find in the Christian bible. )

I agree with Ezra Klein that to the right wing Christians, the charity, the love, the forgiveness and community seems very attractive, but that is precisely because charity, love, forgiveness, and community are so rare in the community at large, because we are all divided into us and them. The mirror-image problem for conservative Christians is that they do not grasp that outside of their circles, there can be community, love, forgiveness, and this is aided and abetted by their doctrine.

The key to that is to transcend the bounds of self and other, us and them. But inherently dualistic (or rigidly monistic) doctrines will not be of much benefit in that mission.

Until then, I cannot say that I find such extreme dualism on the conservative Christian side in any way "normal," except as yet another instance of the abundance of delusion that comes to our existence.

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