Southern Religion

Iran gives ground

Our attention-eager friends on the Religious Right surely did not anticipate seeing Iran quickly give ground in the face of “weak” President Barak Obama by offering to have its nuclear experts meet with U.S. scientists.

Although they must have known of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s statement last week, echoed today, that “Sanctions are seldom productive but they are sometimes inevitable.” If they knew, you see, our friends were demanding what they had good reason to suspect was in fact inevitable. That’s, well, an easy victory.

As real events proceed apace, however, their hyperventilating open letter begins to look a bit, er, undignified.


September 24, 2009 Posted by | Obama, Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Iran gives ground

Religious Right/Bush health insurance & economic legacy

For the Religious Right, attacking health reform is a source of revival. Actually killing health reform would extend the legacy of George W. Bush, which recently released documents show the Religious Right did so much to create.

The legacy of the president whom the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land likened to Harry Truman includes a growth of 6.6 million in the number of Americans not covered by health insurance. That loss of health insurance coverage hit the middle class hardest, observed Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysts. The loss would have been even larger had there not been an offsetting growth in the number covered by Medicaid and SCHIP, noted Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysts wrote:

The Census Bureau reported [Thursday, Sept. 10] that 46.3 million U.S. residents lacked health insurance in 2008, an increase of 632,000 over the previous year. [1] Nearly 6.6 million more people were uninsured in 2008 than in 2001, when the previous recession hit bottom. The proportion of the population without health insurance climbed to 15.4 percent in 2008, slightly above (but not statistically different from) the 15.3 percent rate in 2007 and considerably above the 14.1 percent figure in 2001.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health care, released Thursday, also suggests a bleak overall Bush economic legacy.

In the last year of the Bush administration “the average dollar income fell to the lowest level since 1997 — a decade’s worth of gains wiped out in one year.”

Bush is the only president in recent history to preside over an income decline through two presidential terms, Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute is reported by The Atlantic to have observed. Bill Clinton (14 per cent), Ronald Reagan (8.1 per cent), and Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford (3.9 per cent) all oversaw increases in median household income.

All of that could be seen as raising questions about the qualifications of Land and the Religious Right to set, through public argument and lobbying, the national course on health reform.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Religious Right/Bush health insurance & economic legacy

Baptist Press -> SBC=GOP

Baptist Press and Richard Land have this week branded the Southern Baptist Convention “Property of the GOP.”

Friday BP published a GOP position piece headline Rep.: Health care plan would lead to abortion increase, based upon undocumented, unproven assertions of Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

The BP story refers to “a new poll released Thursday” without revealing that it is a Public Opinion Strategies poll. Public Opinion Strategies is “a national Republican political and public affairs research firm with its roots in political campaigns.”

Bruce Prescott objects that “the article is part of an ongoing campaign against health care reform by the fundamentalist leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. Central to that campaign was the delivery of more than a million signatures to congress opposing health-care reform. The petitions were delivered by Richard Land, head of the SBC’s wed-to-the-hip-of-the-GOP, tax exempt, political action arm.”

Prescott’s language is too little strident for our taste, and although we cannot defend the statistical assertions in that blog, the campaign he perceives does appear to be under way.

No surprise here, for the Religious Right of which Land is a well-recognized member has is well-understood as a creature of the Republican Party. Indeed, Bush-era White House visitor logs disclosed in response to a request from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington show that Religious Right leaders were frequently in and out. Of course. For as Mark Silk observes:

Their care and feeding has been important to Republican presidents since Reagan, and helps explain their domestication within the GOP.

Are Southern Baptists in general comfortable having the denominational voice raised in coordination with a campaign which included today’s 9/12 march, with all of its sponsoring groups? Some of those groups are remarkably secular and some are somewhat radical.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Politics, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Baptist Press -> SBC=GOP

Rifqa Bary: Family torn apart

Newsweek’s Arian Campo-Flores writes well about Rifqa Bary, the seventeen-year-old who fled from Ohio to Florida, saying she feared her Muslim father would put her to death for converting to Christianity.

Amid the warring accounts on this, one must wonder, why did the Bary family leave their home country for the U.S.?

Newsweek reports in the Sept. 9 story:

Mohamed and Aysha Bary left Sri Lanka in 2000 with their two kids, Rifqa and an older brother, and moved to New York (their third child, a boy, was born in the United States). The reason: concern about Rifqa’s well-being. As a child, she’d fallen on a toy airplane that pierced her right eye. Doctors in Sri Lanka wanted to remove the eye, prompting Mohamed to relocate the whole family so Rifqa could obtain better medical treatment. In the end, her eye was spared, though she can’t see out of it.

There are warring accounts. Does it matter that she’s being represented by John Stemberger, a conservative Christian attorney who was involved in the Terri Schiavo battle and wrote The Terri Schiavo Controversy – Facts, Myths and Christian Perspectives?

Note also that Newsweek goes on to say that the family moved again seeking the same things a great many of us have sought when we moved:

Then, in 2004, Mohamed moved the family again, this time to seek a better public education for the kids. He settled on the Columbus [Ohio] area, which had highly ranked schools. At New Albany High School, Rifqa excelled. She maintained a 3.5 grade-point average and became a member of the cheerleading squad. Mohamed “is so proud of his children,” says Gary Abbott, his closest friend in the U.S. (and a Christian). “He values them more than his own life.”

One need neither trust Right Wing Watch nor disdain The Jawa Report to see here a family torn apart.

By what?

Time in an Aug. 24 article saw A Florida Culture War Circus.

Perhaps. We feel we have, much more to learn, and will return to this.

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Cultural, Law, Religion | , | 1 Comment

Christian talk radio petitions vs. scientific polls

BP News made itself a stenographer for the National Center for Policy Analysis/ Salem Radio Network (SRN) health reform petitions stunt, which through theatrical delivery hours before Obama’s health-care speech labors to create the impression that there is massive opposition to health reform.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and an SRN host, said of the alleged 1.3-million signatures:

This petition is indicative of a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest against a government takeover of the American health care system. Anyone who doubts the strength and vitality of this movement needs only have attended one of the thousands of town hall meetings to know that this is real.

Or perhaps those with doubts have read the available public opinion polls, which reveal no “grass roots eruption” or even majority opposition to health reform, except among the wealthy.

A new Gallup Poll, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 2, Americans divided over how their representatives should vote. One quarter of those surveyed said they had not made a decision.

Gallup in its scientific poll found a majority against health care reform was found only among upper-income Americans — a direct contradiction of Land’s argument. Specifically:

A slight majority of upper-income Americans want their representative to vote against healthcare reform. Middle-income Americans are divided on the question while lower-income Americans are more supportive than opposed.

Moreover, Nate Silver today concluded that public option enjoys majority support in most Blue Dog Democrat districts.

Given the scientific polling data and expert analysis, it is unreasonable to accept professionally-promoted petitions which are “signed” online by clicking an eagle icon and filling out an online form as “a spontaneous grass roots eruption of protest.”

September 9, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion, SBC | , , | 2 Comments

Want to be used again?

Baptist writer Bruce Gourley traces the history of Southern reactionary conservatism back to Civil War opposition to the abolition of slavery, and finds those sentiments reignited in the opposition to health care reform:

The white anger over Obama’s presidency and health care reform, in the words of protesters, ultimately rests in claims that the federal government is plotting to take away their freedoms and liberties. Video clips of this month’s town hall meetings across the nation include angry senior citizens living on socialized medicine (Medicare) ranting against … socialized medicine. The video clips also reveal claims that the government “outlawed prayer and legalized abortion” and now wants to take away the right to decide one’s own health care, and “we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

The social engineers who are exploiting those old grievances know they’re trafficking in untruths.

Like Ralph Reed, who used Christian conservatives in his promotion of Indian gaming interests and other causes, these groups want to use Christian conservatives for their own purposes.

Reed was out beating the drum again last week, singing what for him is a lucrative old song.

How eager are you to be used, again?

August 22, 2009 Posted by | Health, Law, Medical Care, Politics, Religion | , , , , | 2 Comments

Christian/’Nones’ polarization at hand

Christians are in decline; “nones” ascendant, found the American Religious Identification Survey. Whither polarization?

Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, writes for

The irony, though, is that even as the country becomes more secular, American politics are likely to remain shot through with aggressive piety. What we’re seeing is not a northern European-style mellowing, but an increasing polarisation. In his recent book Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman described the secularised countries of Scandinavia as places where religion is regarded with “benign indifference”. There’s consensus instead of culture war. That’s not what’s happening in the United States. Instead, the centre is falling out.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Christianity is losing ground in the United States, but evangelical Christianity is not. Just over a third of Americans are still born-again. Meanwhile, the mainline churches, beacons of progressive, rationalistic faith – the kind that could potentially act as a bridge between religious and non-religious Americans – are shrinking. “These trends … suggest a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more ‘evangelical’ outlook among Christians,” write the report’s authors.

Peace is not at hand.

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Christian/’Nones’ polarization at hand

‘Unraveling’ Religious Right?

The Religious Right, which failed to secure a new name last month, failed this week in its all-out drive to derail approval of David Ogden for Deputy Attorney General. Even the Family Research Council [.pdf] joined in making Ogden a score-keeping case.

As the results rolled in, however, Focus on the Family was reduced to bemoaning massive voter opposition ignored. Ogden was confirmed by the senate, 62-28, with (according to the roll call) nine Republicans — among them John McCain — voting with the majority.

This is the most recent in a parade of such failures dating back at least to James Dobson’s pledgeBefore God” (unpledged with a resulting sit-in at Focus HQ by American RTL Action) opposition to McCain. So much has followed, including the fractured coalition’s signal failure to get its Republican National Committee chairman of choice, its inability to spin up blocking opposition to Kathleen Sebelius’ Health and Human Services nomination, and now the Ogden drubbing.

The Religious Right should keep pitching for that new name. Something descriptive of events since before Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission helped push Sarah Palin into the vice presidential lime light. No need to turn for advice to Frank Schaeffer (who helped found the Religious Right). Perhaps a simple name, which includes the word Unraveling, will do.

March 14, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on ‘Unraveling’ Religious Right?

Porn study or study porn?

You read the New Scientist porn study [.pdf] story? They wrongly found meaningful right-wingedness in porn consumption patterns. Molly rightly ran a GetReligion debunking of story and study. Good, even though her analysis was more about how some writers don’t get math than about how the press doesn’t GetReligion. As her illustration (at left) indicates.

Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steve Waldman does not appear to us to have read Molly before he wrote. For, you see, he speculated about the meaning of porn consumption patterns among church-goers, about which the study data tells us essentially nothing (which is also the principal significance of the study’s other findings).

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Economy, Religion, Science | , | Comments Off on Porn study or study porn?

Really: Why not ‘Religious Right’ anymore?

The Revealer gets right to the moral core of the Religious Right’s long-faced bid to rename itself:

The more important fault line that’s cracking the credibility of such complaints is historical. In 1942, a group of fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christians, concerned that that label was restricting their political influence by associating them with uncouth militants, organized as the National Association of Evangelicals. “Evangelical” was to be the new catch-all for theologically and politically conservative Christians. Of course, it’s come to mean more than that, but the principle — when ashamed, re-frame — remains the same.

Read it all here.

February 15, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Politics, Religion | , , , | 2 Comments