Religion in Politics: A Theory


Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

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230 Responses

  1. Avatar Katherine says:

    This is an exceptional post. If you’re suggesting that Jim Wallis is one of those who follows “ideological religion” rather than dispositional religion, though, I think you’re doing him a disservice.

    And I have to wonder how much common ground there really is. I find it hard to listen to the religious right without wondering whether they really are reading the same Bible that I am.

    [Christians] can all agree that they are called to compassion for the world’s weak, poor, sick, and hungry. Though their faith does not provide simple policy solutions, it demands that they be disposed towards ministering to the needy…Whatever else it means to have a Christian view of politics, it can’t mean prioritizing revenge over compassion. It can’t mean privileging human pride or selfishness. It can’t include fetishizing hatred or celebrating the killing of our enemies.

    And if these were the ideals supported by the rhetoric of the religious right, I’d agree that we can agree on values while disagreeing on policy solutions. But they’re not. Conservative Christians are the segment of American society most likely to support torture. Members and supporters religious right frequently portray the poor as parasites rather than people, illegal immigrants as some kind of plague rather than human beings. They treat war cavalierly, as though we are righteous simply by virtue of our existence, and our enemies self-evidently and uncomplicatedly evil. Many who most loudly declare themselves Christians and protectors of Christian values are hateful and vicious towards their political opponents. This doesn’t apply to all conservative Christians, but the most prominent ones, the ones in positions of power (whether political or media) behave in this way more often than not. And that’s what disturbs me – not that they’ve got different political positions for me, but that they’ve taken my religion and twisted it inside-out and turned it into a vehicle for violence and hatred and contempt.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Katherine says:

      And I have to wonder how much common ground there really is. I find it hard to listen to the religious right without wondering whether they really are reading the same Bible that I am.

      There’s a lot to find in the Bible – it’s a pretty long book. But yes, it is very difficult to listen to some of the discussions as I’ve continued analyzing and cataloguing right wing radio and to wonder why it is they emphasize certain passages above others and seem to ignore entire stories to fit their agenda.

      I really don’t have much to add to your comment other than a +1.Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to M.A. says:

        It’s always felt to me like Conservatives like the Old Testament better than the New, and vice-versa for Liberals. Although as Blaise notes below, even that sort of division would be based upon a shallow reading by both sides of the aisle.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Rod says:

          That’s certainly an interesting point to consider, but it makes me wonder how – if conservatism is based on the old testament – there can be such an overwhelming liberal stance in Jewish politics.

          If the conservatives had their way, Israel would be hell. Instead Israel has freedom of speech, equal rights for all religions, full LGBT rights. They even offer specific sanctuary visas to gay Palestinian youths fearful for their lives if they stay in the territories.

          How do you get all that from the OT and still wind up with American conservatives fetishizing it as they do?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Katherine says:

      “Conservative Christians are the segment of American society most likely to support torture.”

      Congratulations, you’ve successfully argued that Barack Obama is a conservative christian.Report

      • Avatar Boring in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Congratulations on writing an insightful and interesting contribution to the discussion.

        Snerk. I couldn’t even keep a straight face trying to type that. Maybe you could try not dragging the conversation down into trolling one day?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Boring says:

          I presented a response that used as much time and effort as the post I replied to deserved, because that was just the same old Republicans Are A Bunch Of Fuckers post that we see every time someone discusses morality.Report

          • Avatar Jeff in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Maybe if Republicans stopped being a Bunch of Fishers (comment policy, right?), we wouldn’t be having these posts.

            At least TVD puts some effort into his tribalism.Report

          • Avatar Katherine in reply to DensityDuck says:

            If Republicans are going to claim morality and then design their political rhetoric and appeal around ideas that are fundamentally anti-Christian – around the idea that some people are irredeemably evil, that we have the right to return evil for evil, that one’s merit is reduced by having a thinner pocketbook, then as a Christian I have the responsibility to call them on it. I am not putting their positions on same-sex marriage and abortion on trial here; on the latter, I’m closer to their side.

            And you responded with a blatantly logical fallacy that also managed to be incorrect. Rest assured, I am far from satisfied with Mr. Obama, and his failure to bring torturers to justice or to bring to light the abuses hidden during the previous administration is a significant part of that. It doesn’t change the fact that when the group that most strongly defines itself and its voting patterns in terms of Christianity is the most favourable towards torture, something has gotten severely twisted around and needs to be straightened out. I will not silently watch my religion used to do the devil’s work.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Obama supports indefinite detention, military tribunals, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, national security letters, and the assassination of U.S. citizens abroad. He also opposes war crimes trials for the perpetrators of torture. He does not, however, support torture itself. (This is what progressives call “progress.”)

        So…. if you were at all basing your own personal support for torture on the belief that you just had to, lest you be thought wussier than Obama: It’s okay, you can give a little. At least on this one point.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          I’m assuming the “your own personal” is actually general, here, not meant for me specifically, because I don’t recall advocating torture anywhere.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

            I didn’t recall whether you had supported torture or not. Hence the conditional. Your comment of 12:26 is still incorrect in its logic, however. Consider:

            –Christian conservatives are the group most likely to oppose abortion.
            –Osama bin Laden opposed abortion.
            –Osama bin Laden was a Christian Conservative.

            …is of an identical type.

            Setting aside the probabilistic aspect of the claim (the “most likely” bit, which you seemed yourself to prefer to drop), we’re left with a commutation of conditionals. Which is logically invalid.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          (This is what progressives call “progress.”)

          Rather, it’s half a loaf. Do you prefer Mr. “Tried and failed to close Guantanamo” or Mr. “Double Guantanamo”?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            More accurately, I prefer Mr. “Dinked Around Pretending to Try to Close Guantanamo While Waiting For Congress to Prohibit Him From Doing So” to Mr. “Double Guantanamo.” Kind of the way I prefer a punch in the nose to a punch in the nads.

            (To be fair to the President, I will say this: When president-elects take the oath and walk into the Oval Office, they immediately get snowballed by priorities they don’t choose but can’t ignore. I hesitate to criticize presidents for not being able to follow through on non-critical policy initiatives (like Bush II being unable to find attention-time to follow through on his initiatives with Mexico in the wake of 9/11). So I find Obama’s relative inaction on Gitmo far less troubling than his staunch determination to prevent anyone from being prosecuted for torture.)Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

              Or his refusal to even slow down the War on Some Drugs. I’d vote for a serious candidate who would address these issues as priorities, but I don’t see one. (Ron Paul isn’t serious in my book.) Of course, I’d also want a real investigation of fraud and malfeasance on Wall Street.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Ugh, yeah, the war on drugs, too. I find the Wall St. issue less pressing, personally, but I have no qualms with an investigation. If there’s actual fraud and malfeasance, by all means let’s uncover and prosecute it. I suspect there’s less to find than people suspect there is, but certainly let’s find it. And the very act of doing so might weaken the connection between Wall St. and Capitol Hill, which I’d certainly raise a toast to.Report

  2. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    Amy Sullivan apparently never heard of William Jennings Bryan and the religious left more than a century ago. The Catholic Worker Movement. History didn’t start with Jerry Falwell.

    Never heard of black churches’ role in the CRM? All of a sudden religion in public life is bad when it doesn’t vote the right way, is all.

    Quoting NPR’s eminent theologian and entertainer Garrison Keillor doesn’t add much heft here either. As for the Sessions’ problems of growing Christianity if its message conflicts with a “moralistic therapeutic deism,” it’s the Jesus-as-Barney the Dinosaur sects that are dying off as superfluous. This whole argument is based on conventional wisdom several decades old.

    BTW, the timing of the Amy Sullivan article borders on the bizarre because at this very moment, the political shoe is on the other foot. Could be nothing, could be something.

    • If you get a chance to read Sullivan’s article, you’ll find she does mention the religious bases of the Civil Rights Movement, and that the main focus of her article is the years since the 1970s, well outside of WJB’s godly liberality.Report

      • I skimmed it, admittedly, Pierre. She skimmed over it, you’ll admit. It defeats her argument. Truth is, leftist Christianity was fine; it’s the Right version that’s the problem. Indeed even the black churches’ consternation at Obama’s support for gay marriage is the real story today in 2012. Her narrative is so last century.Report

        • I really don’t think it defeats her argument, assuming her argument is “since the 1970s or so the religious right has tried to monopolize what it meant to be religious, and now the left is trying to do so, too, and is now being successful at doing so.”

          That argument, assuming I represent it correctly, has problems of its own, some of which Conor pointed out, and some of which has been pointed out by other commenters here who suggest that even since the 1970s, the left has invoked, sometimes with success, religious justifications. But is is not “defeated” by the CRM or by WJB. In fact, even if she’s arguing that leftist Christianity is okay and rightist Christianity is not–and she seems to believe that even if that’s not her central argument–the fact that the CRM or WJB used religion doesn’t “defeat” her value judgments of either kind of Christianity.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The Bible will serve everyone’s purposes, provided it’s sliced thinly enough. The totality of the Bible will never serve the politicians’ purposes. All through the Bible, the prophets scold the kings for their wickedness and the kings throw them into pits (Jeremiah) or lop off their heads as political favours (John the Baptist) or crucify them (Jesus Christ).

    Why so botherated by the idea of the Left now wielding the Bible to frame its arguments in terms of the Judeo/Christian ethic? The Right has no monopoly on Leviticus. All through Leviticus and Deuteronomy we see the poor as an integral part of society: “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.” Hardly the stuff of Conservatism, the Books of the Law. Judaism has always enjoined the faithful to the 12 mitzvot of Poverty and the tzedakah of charity. Chief among the meritorious levels of tzedakah is making a poor man self-sufficient, the least meritorious the grudging gift which only serves as a token, only enough to say tzedakah was observed.

    What does the Bible teach about any sin? In summary: that man is sinful. Yet the Bible also teaches that for all man’s sins and trespasses, God yet loves his creation and seeks for Adam hiding in the Garden. Sin is natural, forgiveness is divine. God provided Adam a means of atonement and a promise of a saviour. We shall not be forgiven if we cannot forgive.

    The RAMBAM on the Ten Commandments: they are not to be construed in isolation for they are no less and no more than the rest of the Torah. There is more about forgiveness and rescue and deliverance than there is about sin in the Torah. For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the burden of sin and must now view the world through God’s eyes, a God who forgives, a God who commands us to forgive.

    All this cockamamie nonsense about homosexuality: let those who believe this Mosaic law is correct refrain from being homosexuals. Solves the problem completely.

    Politics cuddles up to Religion, seeking the imprimatur of respectability. Religion cuddles up to Politics, seeking power. In Jesus Christ’s day, the priests grew rich serving political ends. Their chief objection to Jesus was political, not religious. When Pilate the politician said he could find no fault in the man, the priests threatened to tattle on him, saying he was no friend of Caesar. Eventually Pontius Pilate would come to grief trying to suppress the Samaritans and he is lost to history thereafter.

    Thus it is with every attempt to conjoin politics and religion. The story never ends well for anyone concerned. What you call Dispositional Religion does not reveal any shared ground with anyone’s political opponents. Either we accept the Torah and the Bible for what they have to say about the poor and society or we do not. Every attempt to appeal to a coterie of zealots, meekly asking “Can’t we all just get along?” is doomed to failure. Faith is a personal thing, a statement of personal identity. Politics is teamwork, the exercise of power, an effort to find common ground, not with the opposition, but pushing together in the scrum. The rights of man are non-negotiable.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to BlaiseP says:

      All through the Bible, the prophets scold the kings for their wickedness and the kings throw them into pits (Jeremiah) or lop off their heads as political favours (John the Baptist) or crucify them (Jesus Christ).

      With your permission, Blaise, I’d like to keep this, or words to the effect of this, in my quiver of stock examples of why government and religion benefit from being segregated from one another.Report

      • Avatar Matt Huisman in reply to Burt Likko says:

        These are examples of why government needs to stay out of religious business – not the other way around.Report

        • Jeremiah got turned in to Lion Chow.

          John got shortened.

          Jesus got nailed to a stick.

          Seems to me that the commingling of religion and politics worked out very badly for all three of these clerics. Also seems to me they could have chosen paths that allowed them to preach moral reform without tangling with the authorities.


          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I heard of a guy who got turned into a newt. He got better. Now he makes a nice living preaching about space colonies .Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

            Well, that lion chow business was the four young men in the book of Daniel. Jeremiah gets thrown into the pit in Jeremiah 38Report

          • I’m not sure you’re drawing the right lesson from all that, Burt. My old pal Huisman is making a significant point and one that’s missed in this day and age: religion is a threat to secular tyranny and has always been a last line of defense.

            The noise about “theocracy!” is a bad riff. Henry VIII and the state subsumed the church, not the other way around. Today the state subsumes society, of which religion is a significant part. Same tyranny, though.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Religion is no threat to tyranny. The priests and popes and suchlike have always connived with power. Though the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to say “For thine is the power and the glory forever” you can bet your ass on the prelates and popes siding with the powers of this world and the glories thereof and this they have been doing forever.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Heh, heh. Feel free, Burt. I’ve got a zillion where that came from. And people wonder why I’m such a crank about keeping religion out of politics. Cause the Bible tellz me so, not as a commandment, but with examples furnished.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If I am to be a heathen or heretic, I would very much like to be able to study some documents before any given “you need to get right with Jesus” intervention.

    If what I’m arguing against is some deeply felt moral code, I’ve got nothing on my side except, I suppose, time.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Conor, This is an exceptionally well-written and thoughtful post. I wish I could get my mother to read it and think about it.

    I’m not sure I’m in complete agreement, though. I agree with the concepts and what you view as ideal, but as a strategic matter I suspect a strong (revived, perhaps) leftist ideological religion might be the best path forward towards a broad-based dispositional religion. By countering the right’s claims that the Bible mandates policy X with an equally viable claim that it actually mandates policy Y, the essential hollowness of such talk is revealed, leaving the dispositional approach as the only viable one.

    That could be wishful thinking, of course, but sometimes you have to play the opponent’s game to reveal is dangers or weaknesses. And that said, in an ideal world, I rate that solution’s desirability as much less than yours.Report

    • Thanks for the kind words!

      The original draft of this post had a graf that blurred the line between what I was then calling “content-driven religion” and “the religious attitude.” It acknowledged that there can be no religious disposition without a grounding in specific religious content, etc…but I couldn’t find a way to work it into the final draft.Report

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    One might start by saying that everyone has a selective reading of the Bible, left and right. And this is certainly true. But then — what values are being used to make the selections?

    These, and not the Bible, are in command. It strikes me that for both sides, the Bible is a sugar-coating, a means of getting a less ideologically driven or less politically savvy group of voters to identify with a given message.

    Which leads me to conclude we would do better to leave the Bible out entirely, and let both sides make their case using claims about the more fundamental values, for which, in this context, the Bible serves only as a means to an end.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      What Jason K said upthread.

      This is a nice essay. I’m just not sure I can agree that bringing Christian values unfiltered into the left’s political views is a wise move. I think the left – and the right as well, for that matter – ought to argue for certain policies which will broadly align with, but aren’t driven by, religious beliefs. Putting faith and religious beliefs up front and deriving policy from those beliefs seems like a bad way to go. On the other hand, I don’t think that’s necessarily what you’re suggesting. It’s just awfully close.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      It’s funny how discussions about morality and religion end up circling back to the Euthyphro, which was written down centuries before Christianity even existed.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to James K says:

        Christian thought dispatches Euthyphro with ‘natural law’ 1000 years ago if not more.

        Ben Franklin never subscribed to Christian doctrine, never even decided if the Bible is Divine Writ. Yet he read it most every day and was well aware of the Euthyphro problem:

        “Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such, but I entertained an opinion, that, though certain actions might not be bad, because they were forbidden by it, or good, because it commanded them; yet probably these actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered.”

        “And this persuasion [that the Bible is good for you—TVD], with the kind hand of Providence, or some guardian angel, or accidental favourable circumstances and situations, or all together, preserved me through this dangerous time of youth [his deist period, ibid.*], and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in among strangers, remote from the eye and advice of my father, free from any wilful immorality or injustice, that might have been expected from my want of religion. I say wilful, because the instances I have mentioned had something of necessity in them, from my youth, inexperience, and the knavery of others. I had therefore a tolerable character to begin the world with; I valued it properly, and determined to preserve it.”

        *”…I soon became a thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins and Ralph; but each of these having wronged me greatly without the least compunction, and recollecting Keith’s conduct towards me (who was another freethinker), and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful.”

    • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Which leads me to conclude we would do better to leave the Bible out entirely, and let both sides make their case using claims about the more fundamental values, for which, in this context, the Bible serves only as a means to an end.

      Well, there are some political arguments that don’t really stand on their own without the foundation of a purely religious morality. I would expect that one’s attitude towards, say, abortion, would depend primarily upon one’s notion of the “personhood” of the fetus. And the idea that a freshly conjoined zygote is fully the (moral) equivalent of an adult human being has its basis only in mystical and religious values.

      Similarly with attitudes towards homosexuality, or “victimless crime,” or such purely symbolic sanctity issues such as flag-burning. A purely rational approach to these issues would dictate an altogether different set of responses that those that we are used to seeing. But all of these issues are wrapped up in mystical and religious values that can be articulated only, really, in terms of religious values.

      I’m not sure if I’m expressing this very well: but many people consider their holy books to be the codification of their values–I don’t think it’s really possible to exclude these books from our understanding of our own values (though I might often wish that that were the case).Report

      • Aristotle sees the pre-born as having souls. Is he “mystical” or “religious?”

        While it’s true there are religious folks who say “It’s in the Bible, so that’s that,” anybody can outargue fideists, fundies and snakehandlers. There’s more in play than that low-hanging fruit.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

        I would expect that one’s attitude towards, say, abortion, would depend primarily upon one’s notion of the “personhood” of the fetus. And the idea that a freshly conjoined zygote is fully the (moral) equivalent of an adult human being has its basis only in mystical and religious values.

        In that case you need to explain agnostic and atheist opposition to abortion, which does exist. I think for them the argument is that the zygote has potential. And when you multiply the value of an adult by the probability of the zygote reaching adulthood, the moral value is so great that it outweighs–in most, if not all, cases the interests of the mother. Sort of a .01*infinity = infinity idea.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

        I’m not sure if I’m expressing this very well

        You are. Just based on the content of this comment alone I’d say you’re one bad ass motherfisher.Report

  7. Solid post, Conor. I don’t have much to add. Your description of dispositional religion (was that the term?) is pretty much how I approach things, personally.Report

  8. Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

    Christianity is not the common ground on which American civil society is based, nor should it be. Our society is not a rigidly secular one, but it is a religiously pluralistic one, in which people from all faith traditions, or none at all, are or at least should be able to participate in civic life to its fullest extent. Basing a sense of civic identity on such religious belief is not only uncertain in a time of rapidly changing religious allegiance, it is also parochial and jingoistic in excluding a significant portion of the populace already inclined to disenfranchisement from meaningful participation in politics.Report

  9. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Conor’s vision of dispositional religion seems to echo the view that some of the leading founders had that any religion was good, because all (at least all the major ones they were familiar with) had some common moral grounds that they thought of as the true point and value of religion.Report

    • Avatar Rod in reply to James Hanley says:

      And as an atheist I find that… annoying. Like I have to believe in some one or another sky spook to have morals. At least some of our Founders were Deists, which is just about as close to practical Atheism as you can get without actually saying, “There is no God!”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rod says:

        That’s the tricky part of it, no? The claim that religion provides a grounding in shared values is often understood by religious people to mean that without religion, there’d be no values. But it doesn’t really imply that.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

          My mom keeps insisting that we have to raise our unconceived children with religion because, without it, they’ll never have morals. It is frustrating to no end. Apparently whatever morals I do have were solely based on my family’s religion and I will have zero capacity to instill these in my children without referencing Jesus.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

            If you raise your children such that they refrain from stealing, killing, raping, etc. only because they fear Jesus will punish them for doing so, then you will have failed in your duty as a parent to have instilled them with a proper moral compass.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

              Exactly. That reminds me of an argument I frequently made in response to my Christian friends who were worried about me going to hell because I didn’t believe in God or that Jesus was my savior. I used to tell them that God gave me freedom so that my love for Him wouldn’t be coerced. But if I have freedom, I can freely choose to believe that God doesn’t exist, and that Jesus isn’t my savior, and God can’t punish me for that since I’m freely and rationally coming to my own determination.

              Same with stealing, killing, raping, etc.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Unless there’s a catch…Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Stillwater says:


                Or the thought process to completion:
                – God is “perfect”
                – God creates imperfect world
                – God creates imperfect beings
                – God gives imperfect beings “free will” along with various rules, knowing (because He is omnisicent as well as omnipotent) that at some point one or more of the imperfect beings will fail to follow the rules.
                – God commences with Righteous Punishment of the naughty one.

                Conclusion: God is a sadist who deliberately set up a trap for imperfect humans.

                Either that or God was trying out the whole “if you love it, let it go, if it comes back to you, it is yours forever” thing… but either way the suffering caused makes the Big Guy kind of a douche.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to M.A. says:

                Or, potentially, God might be not be interested in making robots which sing his praises all the day long. There are more begged questions in there than I care to go into just now.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “The Quest for St. Aquin,” by Anthony Boucher. Boegiboe, this one’s 4U!


              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                For everybody, I’d say. It’s a wonderful story (and Boucher was a devout Catholic; these issues were very real to him.)Report

              • Boegiboe sent an appreciation for a link to “St. Aquin” [1951] awhile back. I do not know if one needs to be Roman Catholic to be moved by it. I think Ben Franklin [see above] would have found it satisfactory.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rod says:

        Rod–As an agnostic, I fully agree with you about how annoying it was. But it was as good as it got for the time period.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Rod says:

        Rod, I too was taught that some of the Founders were Deists, and upon closer inquiry I have concluded that this is incomplete. Most of the “leading” Founders certainly knew of Deism and flirted with it with varying degrees of attraction throughout their lives, but it would be inaccurate to conclude that because they embraced Deistic ideas or called themselves Deists at various points in their lives, that this was their inflexible and immalleable world view at all times. Ben Franklin is a good example of this; he started out religious, was a Deist for a while, then drifted back into faith by way of Unitarianism. Adams and Jefferson were both willing to look to the teachings of the “Mohammadeans” and “Hindoos” as intellectual exercises and ways to inquire about morality, even if they would never have considered embracing those faiths in toto. Of the leading intellectual and political lights of the Federal Era, Thomas Paine’s non-theism was about the only one that was consistent and unambiguous; of the ones whose names are a bit less prominent than Washington and Madison, some were pretty close to orthodox in their Episcopal Christianity and a very few were even *gasp* Roman Catholic.

        Of course, whatever faiths or doubts the Founders entertained ought not to bind us today, either in the secular or temporal spheres of our existence; nor should we see those zones in which the Founders allowed those spheres to juxtapose as binding upon us in segregating or integrating them today. We must and should make those kinds of decisions for ourselves.Report

        • Avatar Rod in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Still, it puts a lie to the oft-repeated, Conservative Christian, trope that the U.S. is a “Christian” nation or, as our own TVD would put it, our country is founded on Judeo-Christian values. Rather the U.S. was founded on Enlightenment values which put a high premium on freedom of conscience. This is in contrast to European Christendom which featured such freedom-loving traditions like the Inquisition.

          It doesn’t even fit with our National mythology. Remember learning in grade school about the Puritans coming to America for religious freedom? Freedom from who? Muslims? Jews? Buddhists? No, from other Christians. And when they got here they proceeded to establish their own nifty-dandy theocracies where someone like me would have been lucky to merely be run out of town.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rod says:

            Freedom from who? Muslims? Jews? Buddhists? No, from other Christians.

            Well, that about sums up the notion of Christian tolerance. At least as exemplified by organized religions anyway.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rod says:

            From Mark Twain’s speech on the Pilgrims:

            Later ancestors of mine were the Quakers William Robinson, Marmaduke
            Stevenson, et al. Your tribe chased them put of the country for their
            religion’s sake; promised them death if they came back; for your
            ancestors had forsaken the homes they loved, and braved the perils of the
            sea, the implacable climate, and the savage wilderness, to acquire that
            highest and most precious of boons, freedom for every man on this broad
            continent to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience–and
            they were not going to allow a lot of pestiferous Quakers to interfere
            with it. Your ancestors broke forever the chains of political slavery,
            and gave the vote to every man in this wide land, excluding none!–none
            except those who did not belong to the orthodox church. Your ancestors
            –yes, they were a hard lot; but, nevertheless, they gave us religious
            liberty to worship as they required us to worship, and political liberty
            to vote as the church required; and so I the bereft one, I the forlorn
            one, am here to do my best to help you celebrate them right.

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rod says:

            Rod, “Enlightenment values” is an inaccuracy. The term is useless in the American context. Why, you may ask.

            Rather than wait until you ask me on the Fifth of Never, pls allow me to submit that Bill Kristol’s most brilliant parent was not his dad.


    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

      “Conor’s vision of dispositional religion seems to echo the view that some of the leading founders had that any religion was good”

      FWIW, this is an oft repeated mantra that has never passed my sniff test. I have a hard time believing that a group of 18th century men who wouldn’t even discuss the concept of women’s suffrage were really talking about Jews, Muslims and Buddhists when they made the first amendment. I suspect when they spoke of treating “all” religions as “good,” they really meant the Protestants and the Catholics and assumed the odds of, say, a Muslim someday being a Supreme Court Justice or President was so alien as to not need to be addressed.

      As with most of the parts of the first amendment, I think they had and wrote down the exact right idea, even if they themselves were not yet true believers in what those ideas really meant long term.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Now, hold a minute, Tod. It’s not like these guys insisted all men were created equal yet left no mention of the masses of enslaved men and women whose labor our country was built upon…Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

          “yet left no mention of the masses of enslaved men and women”

          They did. They mentioned them as 3/5s.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Oh how silly of me! That is right! The MEN who owned those other MEN, WOMEN, and CHILDREN wanted them to count as MEN, WOMEN, and CHILDREN for tax and representation purposes, but as CHATTLE for all others. Thanks for clearing that up. Hypocrisy eliminated!Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Kazzy says:

              Yeah, that continues to bother me, from a logical point of view.

              Slaves were’t counted as 3/5, they were counted as 0. Their owners got an extra 3/5 bonus per slave owned. The problem wasn’t that 3/5 is less than 1, the problem was that it was a positive number at all.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                The slave owners originally wanted them counted as a full 1, while the non-slave states wanted them to count as 0, hence the idea of the 3/5 “compromise”. It boggles the mind that people… human beings… were talked about in this way. And not in hushed tones in basements. In the goddamn Congress!

                (I will say this gives me a bit of pause as someone who is a cautious supporter of access to abortion… should folks in the future determine conclusively that we ought to consider fetuses as whole people, our debates might look just as silly. But at least there are some qualitative and quantitative differences between embryos/fetuses and babies/kids/people that go beyond “His skin is darker.” Of course, that might just be my preemptive rationalizing…)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                It boggles the mind that people… human beings… were talked about in this way. And not in hushed tones in basements. In the goddamn Congress!

                To be pedantic, in the Federal/Constitutional Convention, not in Congress. What kinds of bad history are you teaching those pre-K kids anyway? 😉Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Whatever will make them atheist liberals, obviously!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                May I suggest the Southern Babtist church?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                (I was wrongly under the impression that the compromise came after the Constitution was finalized and all… I was never much for history… which is kind of sad given that my mother is a history teacher… shhhhh….)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                No, the compromise is in Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution proper (pre-amendments). It’s part of determining states’ representation in the House, and so is part of the larger conflict about representation, in which each state was fighting to assure itself sufficient influence. Just as there was conflict and distrsut between the large-population and small-population states, there was conflict and distrust between the northern and southern states, so just as small states did with the original proposal of both houses having proportional representation,* the southern states indicated their willingness to walk away from agreement if the northern states didn’t count their slaves. Essentially they had the north by the short hairs. From one perspective it’s just classic negotiation technique, and well played by the south. But, yeah, it’s appalling that at the time such a demand had enough legitimacy to be a successful technique. I don’t mean to downplay that.
                *The plan for proportional representation was submitted by Virginia, which just happened to be the largest state by population–far larger than many of the small states (the California of its day)–and so from the small states’ perspective that proposal seemed incredibly self-serving. They just knew it was typical Virginia aggrandizement meant to permanently enshrine it as the dominant force in U.S. politics for evermore. But the proposal was written by Madison, and given his concerns and temperament, that intention seems unlikely. More probably it was just a political miscalculation on his part, brought about by failure to fully consider likely objections to his proposal. It didn’t seem to have been a major issue for him, and he was quite willing to compromise on it to achieve his big picture goal of more strongly unifying the states.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Thanks. I knew the very basic gist of it and the whole equal/proportional representation thing. Just not the timeline of how it all shook out. Glad to know that figuring out exactly how they were going to further exploit the slaves was a prime issue.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Glad to know that figuring out exactly how they were going to further exploit the slaves was a prime issue

                Does it make it better or worse that they never thought of it in terms of exploitation?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                I… don’t… know…

                I’m not sure if there are degrees of horribleness with it comes to slavery. I don’t know that one form or way of thinking about slavery and enslaved people is really better or worse than another.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

                A little worse, I think. You don’t feel like you’re exploiting people if you don’t fully recognize them as human beings.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                But there was a part of them, at least the slave owning states, that had to recognize SOME degree of humanity in them, if they were going to argue that they ought to count for representative and tax purposes. I mean, what was their backup plan… place hats on all their pigs and insist that THEY be counted?Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                The slave owners originally wanted them counted as a full 1, while the non-slave states wanted them to count as 0, hence the idea of the 3/5 “compromise”.

                Poor bargaining on the non-slave states’ part. They should have started with -5 and compromised at -1, depriving South Carolina of any say whatsoever.Report

              • Because it’s Friday, and because I’ve been looking for an excuse to post this, and because we’re on the subject of political compromise, I’m going to finally post this.


              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Is that David Broder’s ghost wearing the ballcap?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Who’s David Broder?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

              To be fair, not all the founders were quite comfortable with that compromise (and it’s known as the 3/5 compromise, rather than the 3/5 clause, for a reason). It was, quite literally, the only way to get the southern states to agree to the Constitution, and the convention delegates were quite concerned they might not have another chance if they failed. That doesn’t mean it’s an ugly compromise, but it’s not clear that refusing the compromise would actually have been a superior outcome.

              But, tying this in with Burt’s M’Culloch post, it is one of the reasons why too much reverence for the Constitution is unwise. It’s a document full of uncomfortable compromises, not a gift from God.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                I won’t pretend to know all the specifics… but if there wasn’t at least one person who stood up and said, “You realize how f’ing crazy this is, right?”, than that is a major black eye on the whole shebang.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m not sure politics is much more than a succession of black eyes, some of which eventually get healed and some which never do.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Politics: Just like boxing only with more corruption! And fewer blacks!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, ouch.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

                FWIW, I would support having half of all new Senate and House candidates being introduced at press conferences by Don King.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                We could get some A-list political comedians to serve as ringside announcers…

                “In this corner… first in your hearts but last in Senate attendance…”
                “And in the other corner… the only Senator to win by default over a dead man…”

                (You can tell just how little I know about our elected officials that I can’t actually make these theoreticals topical…)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kazzy says:

                Nah, WWE announcers.

                The following match is a special “No PACS Allowed” match for the Kennedy Memorial Championship.

                Introducing first, coming to the ring in his Red Truck, from the real American part of Massachusets, he is the reigning champion, “The Model” Scooooooooooooooooot Brooooooooooooown!

                And his opponent, hailing from Indian Reservation in Cambridge, she is “The 99%” Elizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzabeeeeeeeeeeeeeth Warrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrennnnnn!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Dusty Rhodes had one of my favorite comments about the culmination of a wrestling match: “People ah standin’ on toppa they kids!”Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It’s important to remember that as late as the 1960s, it was seen as a radical idea that a Catholic could be President of the United States.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Not all, by any means, but several of them made that claim about religion quite clearly. Here’s what historian Gregg Frazer argued:

        [The founders] believed that the key factor in serving God is living a good and moral life, that promotion of morality is central to the value of religion, and that the morality engendered by religion is indispensable to society. Because virtually all religions promote morality, they believed that most religious traditions are valid and lead to the same God. [2004. “The Political Theology of the American Founding.” Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont Graduate University.]

        Not all the founders, of course, but several key ones were quite clear.

        “Morality or Virtue is the End, Faith only a Means to obtain that End: And if the End be obtained, it is no matter by what means.” [Ben Franklin, “Dialogue Between Two Presbyterians,” in The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations. Ed. James H. Huston. 2005, p.99. Princeton University Press.

        “????? [Juno] was the goddess of honesty, justice, decency, and right … She presided over all oracles, deliberations, and councils. She commanded all mortals to pray to Jupiter for all lawful benefits and blessings. Now, is not this (so far forth) the essence of Christian devotion?” John Adams. “1813. “Letter to Thomas Jefferson.” October 4.”

        “[E]very religion consists of moral precepts, & of dogmas. in the first they all agree. all forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, bear false witness Etc. and these are the articles necessary for the preservation of order, justice, & happiness in society. In their particular dogmas all differ; no two professing the same. These respect vestments, ceremonies, physical opinions, & metaphysical speculations, totally unconnected with morality, & unimportant to the legitimate objects of society…the practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, he has taken care to impress it’s precepts so indelibly on our hearts, that they shall not be effaced by the whimsies of our brain. hence we see good men in all religions, and as many in one as another. [I] think it enough to hold fast to those moral precepts which are of the] essence of Christianity, & of all other religions.” Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to James Fishback, September 1809.”


        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

          Those question marks in front of “Juno” were the Greek spelling. Apparently I needed some special html mojo to make that work.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

          ” [Juno] was the goddess of honesty, justice, decency, and right … She presided over all oracles, deliberations, and councils. She commanded all mortals to pray to Jupiter for all lawful benefits and blessings. Now, is not this (so far forth) the essence of Christian devotion?””

          This is what I meant by my sniff test.

          This looks to me to all the world to be using paganism as a way to make an argument about Christianity, and one that is compelling to boot. But would Adams have been hunky dory with allowing a pagan Governor of Massachusetts, regardless of qualification? I do not claim to know, of course. But the argument that he would just doesn’t pass the sniff test for me personally.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I think Adams would have. Or at least been fine with one as a member of the state legislature.

            I think one thing to keep in mind is just how far out there these statements were for the time. Even if Adams wouldn’t have been comfortable with a pagan governor, he was still explicitly arguing that pagans were morally equal to Christians, and so arguing that they were deserving of religious equality. I think that passes the sniff test for the first standard you promulgated–that of seeing the First Amendment as applicable to non-Christians.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Fantastic post. I have only a few quibbles/additions:

    1. It may be that I live in a fairly liberal metropolis, but my sense is that the Left finding religious justification for their stances on policies is not a new thing; it is simply being pointed out more these days.

    2. It seems that a big difference between the Right and Left’s use of religion is that the Left’s is inherently a weaker tool for binding coalitions. In political spheres, the Left tends to take a more secular “We Just Don’t Know Which Religion Is the Truth” approach, and the Right takes a “Oh Yes We Do” approach. In politics, stories that feature simple Good vs. Evil tend to draw more people to a single point than does musings on what the Holy Spirit might mean to someone.

    3. Past that, I also have a sense that here in America (maybe everywhere?) religion does not inform politics so much as politics informs religion. Take SSM for example. It seems to me that the socio-political opposition to it comes first, and Leviticus is brought in as a character witness to please he court. When people here have argued reasons of faith for outlawing SSM, Jason has oft asked them why they don’t favor outlawing divorce – which scripturally speaking is at least as frowned upon as gay relationships. The response (always some variation of “because”) points to the political and social judgement coming first before the religious one, I think.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      WRT divorce, I believe at least some protestant denominations split from the Catholics on precisely that issue. Church of England is pretty much anything goes, Eastern Orthodox permit remarriage on the basis that the sin’s already committed with damage already done and likelihood of reconciliation small. My understanding of it on most of the evangelical groups is that it’s very group-dependent and has a lot to do with whether you’re a member of a progressive or reactionary faction. For instance, Evangelical Lutherans are permissive of it but want couples to go through counseling to see if the marriage can be saved first and most other Lutheran churches see divorcees as someone to be viewed with compassion and an eye towards healing, while your standard hellfire-and-brimstone evangelical televangelist probably is much more on the ostracism and denounce-the-sinner-forever-damned side of the spectrum.

      Then again, even the Catholics have a rhetorical way around the idea of never sanctioning a true “divorce.”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to M.A. says:

        On paper, sure. But if you look at US divorce statistics, the highest rates (save Jews) are born again Christians, and the areas of the country that have the highest rates are the South and the Midwest – Family Values Central. Which is another reason why I think people choose a socio-political position and use selective scripture to justify that position. (To themselves as well as the world.)Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Well, I think the problem in the South and Midwest isn’t per se, hypocritical based on religiion. Basically, 17 year olds want to have sex. They’ve been drilled through their head that sex before marriage is wrong. So, the solution is get married at 18 and pop out a couple of kids.

          Then, five or six years later, they hate each other, church isn’t as important when they’re both making 9 bucks an hour with no health insurance, so off to divorce court they go.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            Adding to this, those kids are less likely to use protection, so their sinning is more likely to cause the pregnancy that causes the marriage.

            But I am pretty dubious about this:
            church isn’t as important when they’re both making 9 bucks an hour with no health insurance,

            For many people, church provides the community and support people desperately want when they’re struggling. And the whole paradise in heaven, even if you’re struggling on earth thing can be quite a mental comfort for some folks. But I don’t doubt that you’re right in many cases. It would be interesting to know which response is more frequent (if either).Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          I wonder if the single-parent rate follows the same pattern.

          Could it be that people on the coasts – sometimes viewed as more liberal – are just not bothering to get married as much and therefore don’t have to worry about contributing to the divorce rate? Something similar to Quebec?Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to M.A. says:

            I think Jesse may be on to something above. My sister teaches at Oklahoma, and she says it’s pretty common to lose freshman and sophomore female students because they’ve found their husbands. Most of the people I knew from Oregon, on the other hand, got married in their late twenties of thirties. It stands to reason (at least to me) that a marriage of two economically established 30 year-olds has a better chance of succeeding than a marriage of two nineteen year olds, regardless of religious affiliation.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Hmm. There’s also the fact that, well, “religious” or “Christian” has somehow become something of a shorthand for “conservative Christian” or even “conservative fundamentalist or evangelical Christian”.

      Offhand, were I still a member of the quite liberal Lutheran church (or it’s Synod) that I was raised in, I’d find that quite…irritating…and want to push back.

      There have always been large numbers of Christians who are liberals. The bulk of the Democratic party is Christian (it can’t not be, not with current demographics). They just tended not to make a big deal of it, because, well, “why”?

      What would be the point? Politics and religion didn’t mix on that level — it mixed lower, more personal.

      With the advent of the new religious right, the mega-churches and the GOP once more claiming the mantle of One True Christian (or at least that it’s Christians, and Mormons, and whatnot are real Christians, not like those liberal ones)…were I a Christian Democrat?

      Well, I’d probably start shoving the language of God into my politics too, because I’ll be damned if I’d let the GOP — or the conservative christians, or the fundamentalists, or whatnot — claim “Christian” to mean it’s own narrow brand.

      Because it’s not true. You’d think the Democratic party was comprised solely of atheists, Jews, and Muslims (all gay, of course, and probably pedophiles to boot) the way the word “Christian” has been co-opted to a conservative buzzword.Report

    • Avatar Kyle Cupp in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      “In political spheres, the Left tends to take a more secular “We Just Don’t Know Which Religion Is the Truth” approach, and the Right takes a “Oh Yes We Do” approach.”

      I find myself between these two positions. On the one hand, I confess the Catholic faith because I believe it discloses the truth about humanity’s relationship to God. On the other hand, I have zero epistemological certainty that this is the case.Report

  11. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    There have always been social-liberal and social-conservative wings of the christian faith. It’s just that, until recently, Democrat politicians didn’t feel a need to portray themselves as being overtly religious.

    And what happened recently? Oh yeah, a Democrat President said that gay marriage was okay and the Catholic Church should be forced to pay for birth control. Oops. Better make sure all those Baptist (black) and Catholic (chicano) voters remember that it’s their moral duty to vote Democrat in November.Report

    • Avatar Boring in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Yeah, “god forbid” that hospitals or any other BUSINESS, if they happen to have a head who’s Catholic, should have to follow the same rules as any other BUSINESS and respect the medical rights and privacy of their workers who probably aren’t even Catholic.

      But never mind that. We need to get the black guy out of the whites house before he supports human rights yet again. While we’re at it let’s make a few gay jokes and then cast aspersions on “progressives” as if conservatism offers anything other than hatred and abusiveness.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Boring says:

        The issues you raise are a good deal more nuanced than that, even if they are played in simplistic ways on both sides of the aisle.Report

      • Avatar Katherine in reply to Boring says:

        Are Catholic hospitals a business? By which I mean, are they run as for-profit enterprises? Or are they run as charitable religious institutions? I was under the impression it was the latter.Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Katherine says:

          Catholic hospitals are employers, and the insurance rule was aimed at those who employ other people, as opposed to organizations that are made up of say, volunteers.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Liberty60 says:

            But the Archidiocese of New York, and the Freewill Baptist Church of Numnutz, Mississippi, are employers, too, and the insurance rule excluded them, did it not?Report

            • Avatar Jeff in reply to James Hanley says:

              The Catholic hospitals employ non-Catholics. Churches do not. Any secular employee (such as a janitor) might not be excluded — I’m not sure.

              This why framing the issue as a one of “religious freedom” is debatable at best — the hospitals are violating the religious freedom of their non-Catholic employees.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jeff says:

                the hospitals are violating the religious freedom of their non-Catholic employees.

                Not necessarily. A religious college, for example, can require a Muslim faculty member to attend (Christian) chapel. Because employment is seen as a contractual relationship, that type of thing isn’t seen as a violation of religious freedom because the college is a religiously affiliated.

                And there’s no religious freedom claim to having your employer provide you with contraception–that’s not a part of any religious group’s theology or doctrine so far as I know.

                I think that at the present time it’s undetermined whether a Catholic Hospital is, legally, more like a religious college or more like a for-profit business as far as this type of rule goes. This issue was argued pretty vigorously here before (including by me), and none of us (either myself or anyone arguing alongside or against me) had any solid legal references; we all just made analogical arguments, with no supporting legal evidence.

                That is, it’s still an open question.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                And there’s no religious freedom claim to having your employer provide you with contraception–that’s not a part of any religious group’s theology or doctrine so far as I know.

                So the ability to deny someone what would otherwise be their right in law is something you approve of?

                Taking your example of a Muslim faculty member at a “religious college” of some other affiliation, that college still can’t make it a condition of employment that the Muslim skip daily prayer times or work on Eid. Nor can they make him do any more than show up to the christian chapel – they certainly can’t make him profess faith in Christianity to the exclusion of Islam.

                Saying “we get to strike out this this and this even for employees who don’t believe what the boss believes” is a really easy slippery slope. What’s next – firing women who are pregnant before marriage? Or who get divorced?

                I suppose in “right to work” states it doesn’t matter, you can enshrine religious bigotry in employment situations all you want as long as you don’t write it down somewhere that could be subpoenaed.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to M.A. says:

                Saying “we get to strike out this this and this even for employees who don’t believe what the boss believes” is a really easy slippery slope. What’s next – firing women who are pregnant before marriage? Or who get divorced?

                You know Arizona recently passed a law that allows employers to ask whether contraceptive coverage is being used for sexual reasons and if so to fire that employee? Yeah, isn’t that great?Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


                What was the bill number, I’d like to see if it is true.Report

              • I believe he’s referring to 2625, but I think the provision he’s talking about was removed before it was signed into law.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                I thought 2625 was when man was barely alive and something something woman survive?Report

              • MA, scanning over the law, and reading some other articles, leads to greater ambiguity. Nob’s paraphrasing of the law doesn’t seem quite accurate, but is a possible consequence. Different people have different interpretation. Critics are arguing that the law is broader than supporters are saying it is.Report

              • “I thought 2625 was when man was barely alive and something something woman survive?”

                I got a chuckle out of this.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Arguments about the broadness of the law are arguments of interpretation and it’s not the first time that supporters of a bill minimized their own publicly stated interpretation of a bill’s language to try to get it passed, nor the first time that supporters of a bill failed to realize how ambiguous or overly broad their wording was.

                My point was that the objectionable clause was not removed from the bill as you had indicated.Report

              • MA, I wasn’t saying anything about the broadness of the definition of religious organization or the broadness of their right not to cover contraception. Rather, I was referring to what employers are allowed to ask about contraceptive coverage being used for sexual reasons, which was Nob’s original comment.

                According to AZCentral, “The bill also was changed to specify that employers could not make workers tell employers the workers’ medical reasons for using contraception other than birth control.”

                I can’t find that change. But it’s a long and textuous bill and I did not read it all the way through. From what I did read, though, it looks like at most it’s employment-at-will status quo and not a particular change. I can’t find anything suggesting expressly that employers can do that, I just found where they took out the provision that expressly said that employers can’t fire someone to using contraception.

                Your quoted portion doesn’t speak one way or the other on that point, only on how broadly “religious employer” is defined.

                [Comment modified for clarity.]Report

          • Avatar Katherine in reply to Liberty60 says:

            That doesn’t answer my question. It’s one thing to ask a business to provide minimum standards of compensation for its employees. It’s another thing to ask a religious charity to provide benefits that are contrary to its principles. I’m willing to go quite a bit further than not requiring them to provide birth control. For all I care, a Catholic charity could employ only Catholics, or a Muslim charity could employ only Muslims. They’d still be providing a public service.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Using “Democrat” as an adjective is so 80s (both era and IQ.)Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to MikeSchilling says:

        “Democratic” has a meaning beyond “member of a political party”.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DensityDuck says:

          No, “democratic” does, but “Democratic” explicitly means member of the Democratic political party.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to DensityDuck says:

          So does “Republican”. And “Federalist”.Report

        • DD did nothing wrong here and it’s wrong to punk him. “Democrat politician” is asinine [so of course Amy Sullivan uses it]. People don’t talk that way, and aurally “Democrat politician [or “president”] is fairly nonsensical.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Do not refer to the party as Democrat. It’s merely DemocratIC. We haven’t had a real Democrat Party since LBJ.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            I’m confused. Sullivan (in the linked piece) correctly used “Democratic” as an adjective and “Democrat” as a noun.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to MikeSchilling says:

              Grammar is a socialist plot.Report

              • Nah. Making a stink over insignificant grammar issues may be one though. On the slime meter for this thread alone, it doesn’t get a sniff of the top ten.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I don’t care whether DD calls Democratic politicians Democrats, socialists, Democommies, or whatever. But, usually patently false grammar in a way to poke at Democrats just makes him look more like a troll on a newspaper comments section instead of an actual intelligent human being.Report

              • Double standard chickenspit, and not even a good argument: “Democrat politician” is univocal and nonpejorative.Report

              • Avatar Jeff in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Don’t Be A Dick” lesson # 27: Call people what they ask to be called (this is the basis of “Political Correctness”).

                We ask to be called “Democratic”, not “Democrat”.

                Don’t be a dick.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I think you’re listening to too much Rush. I never heard anyone use the term in that way until Rush started doing it – as a pejorative – like, what?, ten years ago now?

                Tom, no one other than righties say ‘Democrat politician’.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                In 1984, when a delegate of the Republican platform committee asked unanimous consent to change a platform amendment to read the Democrat Party instead of Democratic Party, Representative Jack Kemp objected, saying that would be “an insult to our Democratic friends” and the committee dropped the proposal. In 1996, the wording throughout the Republican party platform was changed from “Democratic Party” to “Democrat Party

                But what do you expect from the ConstantlyGettingStupider party?Report

              • What’s “Democrat” pejorative for? Answer: nothing. It must be bad because Media Matters says Rush Limabuagh says it. Gimme a break. This is just an excuse to jerk The Duck around.

                “Democrat politician” is univocal and nonpejorative.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Can we all agree then to call TVD Tommie then? After all, that is your name.Report

              • Hell, I call ’em the Stupid Party meself, it’s a common joke.

                As for this chickenspit on The Duck, the day I see this door swing both ways is the day I take y’all seriously on this stuff. Otherwise, it’s a laughable double standard. Some days I can barely stand to read the comments sections, it’s such open season on the right.Report

              • Avatar Jeff in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Can we all agree then to call TVD Tommie then? After all, that is your name.”

                I ‘d like to call him AfTPoSoE (Apologist for The Party of Stupid or Evil, pronounced “Aft-PoeSooeee”) . But that would be a dick thing to do, so I won’t.

                See how it works, Tom?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Democrat politician” is univocal and nonpejorative.

                That’s actually not for you to decide. If they find it pejorative, that settles the issue.

                But if I were your editor, I wouldn’t even get to that stage. I’d change that locution in every instance; it’s ungrammatical.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Ungrammatical, sure. But also incorrect, since “Democratic” is the actual name of the party. It’d be like me calling TVD Lil Tommie Van Dick.

                See how that works Tom? (Hint: It aint your name.)Report

              • I take care that, when referring to the party, referring to it as the Democratic Party, as that is the party’s name. However, when referring to a particular politician that is a Democrat, I am less concerned. If it’s something that’s going to disrupt the conversation, I’ll stick with Democratic. Otherwise, if Democrat internally sounds better to me, I’ll go with that. (Automobile is a noun, but I’ll use it instead of automotive when referring to automobile/automotive transportation.)

                Trying to substitute one for the other as some sort of slam against Democrats is pretty silly. I’ve never understood why it’s effective.Report

              • No, Mr. Stillwater, it doesn’t work, except to prove you’ll stoop to anything for the cheapest of points.

                JasonK, prosaically speaking you’re correct, but it’s not how people talk and the colloquial level is appropriate for comments sections.

                “Democratic party is one of those phony issues out there, but The Duck didn’t write about the party. And for you and the rest, when this taking offense door swings both ways and the sensitivities of the right are treated with equal regard, this issue will be taken seriously.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as willful about defending their pov as you. It’s an admirable trait, to be sure, in certain circumstances. But it has a down side: it can make you look like a fool, too.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Sometimes I really don’t get the threads. Like, 50% of the time Duck says anything it’s for no other reason than to see if he can get away with being a dick to people. And the one time people decide to take him to task is when he makes a salient point, but leaves the -ic off a party name?

                Shep Smith is right. Politics make people weird.Report

              • RTod, he wasn’t even speaking of the Democratic party, a well-known non-issue issue. And yes, Mr. Stillwater this is chickenspit and my objection is along the lines of Tod’s.

                Perhaps you forget that I alone [except for Mr. Noonan and a precious few others] scold people from my own side of the aisle for crossing the line, a line you obliterated with your “example”, making “dick” out of Dyke being one I haven’t heard since high school. Junior high school.

                When the sensitivity door swings both ways around here for both left and right, wake me.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I agree with you: Shep Smith is right that politics is weird. But the issue on the table the grammaticallity of the phrase “Democrat politicians” which Duck used and Tom defends. So at this point it isn’t a political dispute, but a grammatical one. On my view, there are no Democrat politicians, however, there are plenty of wise, concerned and righteous Democratic politicians.

                I’m not sure why you don’t see the dispute here. It’s not about politics. It’s about grammar (as Jason K and Mike S mentioned above).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Adding: I imagine DD is laughing his head off that we’re still talking about this nonsense. And rightly so. {{{grumble}}}Report

              • Uhhh, Stillwater, if it this conversation is about grammar, that would actually make it seem extremely, obnoxiously pedantic.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s good, because the conversation is not remotely about grammar.Report

              • Snarky, I did not think it was. I thought it was like “Stop calling the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Southwetern Louisiana when you know they changed their name years ago. It’s dickish and childish.” And not like “car is a noun, so it’s not a car cover it’s an *automotive* cover.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                It’s about grammar in this sense: Tom is suggesting that the phrase “Democrat politician” is grammatically correct and universally accepted. My point is that the phrase is a pejorative – or at least embodies an negative connotation. But the argument doesn’t go anywhere unless I can establish that the phrase he thinks is univocal (?) and part of colloquial English, is, in fact, an artificially constructed corruption of English grammar for the express purpose of denigrating the target.

                So, on the face of it, it’s not about grammar. But since TVD insists that the construction is part of normal English, then the debate really reduces to a grammatical one. I mean, there are any number of ways to show TVD’s a fool on this. I’m just going where they lead.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Why should Tom use the correct nomenclature “Democratic Party” when he can continue to be an obtuse dick?Report

              • I’m with you on the pejorative part, though it’s less to me that “Democrat politician” is incorrect (ie cannot be used as a multiple word noun, car cover or dog collar) the same way that “Democrat Party” is (capitals suggesting official title, and there is nothing with the official name Democrat Party). (I do periodically see Democrat Governor used in the neutral sense, which is grammatically the same and a multiple word noun.)Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Funny the Dems here want to be called by a certain name but didn’t seem to care about respect when Bush was badmouthed but you call the pres Barry and they come out of the woodwork with all this respect talk.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Funny the Dems here want to be called by a certain name”

                Yes! “Rex Bannister” for me, please. Thanks for finally asking. I’ll thank you to to call me that for the rest of the blog.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I thought it was like “Stop calling the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Southwetern Louisiana when you know they changed their name years ago.

                It’s like calling a guy named Fred “Ferd”. After he tells you that he prefers to be called by his real name, you make sure to call him Ferd again. You even go to your Loyal Order of Raccoons meeting, and pass a by-law that all the rest of the Raccoons have to call him Ferd too. When people ask you why you don’t just call him Fred, which happens to be his name, you say “Fred could mean Fred McGriff.” Then you act shocked when people think you’re a jerk.Report

              • My analogy was inexact (though so is yours), but it was the first one that came to mind. I get the “Stop being a jerk” bit. It’s the grammatical part that grated.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Damn dude, what is about the ‘grammatical part’ that grated? That it’s the kind of thing only liberal coastal elites would make a big deal about? Tom is the one who said that “Democrat politician” is a grammatically sound construction, not me. And it isn’t.

                Christ a mighty.Report

              • Still, it’s actually unclear what TVD is saying because he missed an “ic” or two in there. He does refer to an “insignificant grammar issue” and agrees that it is prosaically ungrammatical. He is downplaying the grammar aspect, by my reckoning. To him, colloquial grammar is okay in this forum. I’m inclined to agree, as far as that goes*. Demanding that the grammar be 100% correct is your stance and mocking people who believe differently is Jesse’s, and that’s what grates.

                (I’d add that whether it even is incorrect grammar depends on whether we do or do not accept “Democrat Politician” as a compound noun. I’m not sure how that’s not a subjective call, unless we’re only allowed to use words and compound words that show up in the dictionary.)

                * – Agree with him on the univocal part, disagree with him on the nonpejorative part, disagree with him that “Democratic politicians” is somehow asinine – assuming that’s what he meant to say.Report

              • I can’t believe they’re still litigating this with Aristotle, Ben Franklin and William Jennings Bryan in the house left unaddressed. They’d rather talk about Density Duck and a phantom insult they can’t even explain why it’s an insult.

                Class dismissed.Report

              • For the record, Scott [once again], I don’t think you should call the president “Barry.” If only out of self-interest. It’s not quite as bad as the LoOGer who habitually refers to 43 as “Bush the Dumber,” but it’s still sophomoric.Report

              • And for the record, I stipulate Democratic Party when the party is specifically mentioned, an acknowledgement and courtesy toward that non-issue issue, because I’m a good sport and have already acknowledged infra.

                And when the door swings both ways to object to douchebagging the right with routine petty slights, respect will be earned and owed and reciprocated where now it is only demanded.

                But I think that would cut down on our comment traffic significantly.


              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Aristotle, Ben Franklin, and William Jennings Bryan as housemates is a pretty groovy sitcom premise.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I certainly didn’t coin the term Bush the Dumber. His dad had a clue and he didn’t. That’s beyond discussion. Let’s put this plainly: anyone who says “Democrat Party” is both an ungrammatical and partisan idiot. Nobody but a Republican would say it.

                As for the Duck, he’s about as productive a commenter as a productive cough. For a while there, I had a bit of Scriptmonkey code running so I didn’t have to see his crap but it screwed up the thread formatting. Besides, it’s more fun to bitch slap that jackass so I removed it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                ( to the tune of Johnny Rivers’ Secret Agent Man, though better with the Devo version)

                The wars that he embraces shows he’s blind
                McCain embraces Bush’s evil mind.
                Not too careful of who he’d slay.
                On Iran, it’s bombs away.
                Odds are we won’t live to see tomorrow.

                He’s an… ancient man.
                He’s an… ancient man.
                Who’s worse than the Bush the Dumber?
                The mistaken John McCain.

                credits hereReport

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Ah so that’s what TPoSoE means, that’s been buggin me for weeksReport

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Good God, still pissing and moaning about a phantom ‘ic’? That’s so 2009. Going back a little further: Jefferson’s party was called the “Democratic-Republican” Party. And as one might expect, both current parties can trace their roots, at least in part, back to Jefferson.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Quit acting like “Democrat Party” is anything but dumbassery.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Kolohe, apparently TPoSoE is OK in polite company. The double standard would be appalling if it weren’t so par for the course. Fortunately for the LoOG, the gentlepersons of the right let these routine slights slide or else we’d do nothing else around here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                My analogy was inexact (though so is yours)

                Sure. I was offering another idea, not trying to correct you.Report

              • My comment came out more prickly than I had intended. Sorry about that.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

      ok, so typemessage speak “democrat” doublebad clear.Report

  12. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Conor, this was a delicious post. It calls to mind something that I’d heard a pastor say once. He was asked his opinion of a church that seemed to flirt with what is (perhaps not entirely accurately) known as “dominionism.” I don’t remember exactly what the pastor said, but it was something like: “The United States of America is not the savior of the world. Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ was not an American. Christianity is for everyone in the world, not just Americans.” I wanted to say “Amen!” but then I remembered I’m not a Christian myself. Nevertheless, this seems right to me — if you take Christianity seriously, it transcends nationalism.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko says:

      if you take Christianity seriously, it transcends nationalism.

      Yeah, Marxism, too.Report

      • Avatar Katherine in reply to James Hanley says:

        Do you mean that Marxism transcends nationalism (which, in ideological theory, it certainly does) or that Christianity transcends Marxism?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Katherine says:

          I meant that Marxism, if taken seriously, also transcends nationalism. And the implied inverse, that each is rarely taken seriously by its adherents.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

            There’s a chapter of Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower which is about the Socialist International’s attempt to head off World War I by exhorting the people not to fight. “You, a French worker, have far more in common with a German worker than either of you does with the people telling you to kill each other.” Entirely true, but alas, they got nowhere.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

            To be fair, the Russian Bolsheviks were, in the main, (including Lenin) rather internationalist in their view. It was Stalin that converted the revolutionary fervor to Russian nationalism to consolidate his power (among other parlor tricks he used).

            Most of the other Marxist and Maoist movements and/or insurgencies throughout the world still subscribe to that same transcendence of their moral correctness to this day. (but ironically, the thing they most go on about is international transcending capital and corporations)

            (this is all of course not to say they’re right – they’re not – but they do believe what they do believe and believe it mostly consistently. That’s why Maoist insurgencies tend to be so successful)

            (and really, the idea of ‘America’, maybe better put the ‘myth’ of America, if not the practice, is a bit of work itself that transcends nationalism. The Declaration, of course, started off with what it thought was Universal Truths, even if it ended with a laundry list of specific grievances, some of which quite provincial (and wrong))Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

      As Mike Schilling observes below, the Reds kept trying to tell the workers they were only fighting their fellow workers.

      My grandfather brought back a German belt buckle from WW1. “Gott Mit Uns” it read, God with us. The Nazis put the same motto on their own belt buckles. Anyone can say God is on his side. Lincoln observed when a gaggle of ministers said they had word from On High that God favoured the Union was “I am not at all concerned about that…. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”

      Fact is, this is not a Christian nation. It never was and it never ought to be a Christian nation. The reason there are so many Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus, yep, and atheists, too, is because we aren’t. We’re a secular nation, where we can think for ourselves.Report

    • Avatar Kyle Cupp in reply to Burt Likko says:

      “Nevertheless, this seems right to me — if you take Christianity seriously, it transcends nationalism.”

      Unfortunately, too many Christians have tried to baptize nationalism and give a religious reading to American exceptionalism.Report

  13. Avatar Jeff says:

    “the Right gets Leviticus”

    The Right wants to “cherry-pick” Leviticus: Tattoos and shell-fish are fine, icky gay sex is not.

    I personally clump the Bible into several parts: Old Testament, Gospels, Acts (which I usually include as part of the Gospels), the letters of Paul, the letters of the Not-Pauls, and Revelation. If we just take the words and deeds of Christ (the Gospels and sort-of Acts), we have a very left-wing socialist.

    The Slacktivist blog I’ve mentioned from time to time is a good place to start for evangelical liberalism.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jeff says:

      I can’t remember that guys name – is it Fred Clark? – but he’s a great writer, an original thinker. I used to read it regularly.Report

      • Avatar Jeff in reply to Stillwater says:

        Fred Clark is his name. It’s a fun blog, and the comment section is as much fun, if not more, as the one here.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jeff says:

          I never commented but did read thru them on posts that struck me as particularly interesting. Lots of smart, articulate, funny people in pen over there. And lots of old connections it seems. People who’ve been commenting together for years, which is always nice to see. I actually lost track of him when the old Skacktivist cite closed down. So this is a good reminder to check him out again.Report

          • Avatar Jeff in reply to Stillwater says:

            Until I started reading Slactivist, I had no idea that there were liberal ecangelicals. I had thought that they were all of the Jerry Falwell mold (“mold” as in the stuff that grows on months-old food in th back of the fridge). It was refreshing to “meet” one who had the same political / social beliefs as myself.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jeff says:

              Definitely. I mean, I’m not a Christian, but it’s very refreshing for me to see an evangelical Christian theology which is inclusive, and modern, and flexible. There is a lot of allure in that to me. But I don’t think very many people could pull it off the way Fred does. He’s just a master at seeing the subtleties of where other people’s thinking is wrong and presenting an alternative view. And he does it in such a gentle way.

              This is turning into a Fred Clark love fest, isn’t it?Report

    • Avatar Katherine in reply to Jeff says:

      Leviticus is also the one that mandates complete redistribution of land every 50 years, on the basis that the things we possess are the gifts of God and not won solely by our own merit.

      And I believe we should take all of the Bible seriously. The Old Testament is there for a reason. I also expect that most Christians find Paul a more compelling source on whether homosexuality is acceptable than Leviticus; I generally consider liberal comments focusing on Leviticus as the sole or main reason for Christian opposition to homosexuality as strawmanning.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Katherine says:

        I think that confuses what non-Christians are trying to do when they cite Leviticus in any event. Leviticus is filled with a bunch of stuff that’s either irrational, or ridiculous, or just plain rejected. So the appeal to Leviticus is to demonstrate that the bible isn’t a coherent story.

        That’s about it, really.Report

      • Avatar M.A. in reply to Katherine says:

        Leviticus also demands the forgiveness of all debts when the Jubilee year swings around.

        The tattoo thing is priceless.

        Of course, just managing to translate from the Hebrew correctly is difficult enough without people twisting the wording.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to M.A. says:

          There’s a difference between the injunctions of Mosaic Law and those of natural law. Keeping kosher is dispensed with in Acts of the Apostles, but the wickedness of child sacrifice, a common sin among the damned pagan peoples of the Old Testament.

          Now there is a theological argument that the Torah’s injunctions against homosexuality are of Mosaic ritual law and therefore not banned in Christianity. The counterargument is that paul the Apostle doesn’t seem to be an LGBT in the epistles.

          As for abortion, the Biblical evidence against it is spotty. The modern Christian opposition is therefore far more rooted in moral reasoning, and one can get there via Aristotle [see above].

          In fact, that the modern Christian opposition to abortion is rooted far more in moral reasoning than “Euthyphro” type scriptural authority is an obstacle top those who wish to dismiss the anti-abortion position as mere fideism, i.e., “superstition.”Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Good old Saul was a Roman first, and probably participated in whatever they had to offer even before he went around hunting Christians.

            And of course, nothing in the Bible gives us the remotest idea of the sex lives of most of the people in it, especially the New Testament stuff. Even when the OT gets round to it, it’s usually just a list of begats or a story of how someone went blind from rubbing one out behind the tents.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to M.A. says:

              Saul/Paul called himself a Jew first. I am amused by folks who would tell of “nothing in the Bible gives us the remotest idea of the sex lives of most of the people in it”. The Bible is replete with sex.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Saul was a full Roman citizen, else he’d not have been able to appeal to Caesar for his sentencing.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to M.A. says:

                Saul was born a Jew. Philippians 3. His Roman citizenship is only mentioned by others.

                As for “full”, Saul would not have gone very far up the hierarchy of Roman citizenship. He would at best have been jus gentium, which was a default. This business about appealing to Caesar, anyone could do so and routinely did. All he asked for was a change of venue.Report

  14. Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

    So awaits a tattooed, shrimp-eating gay person in the afterlife?Report

  15. Avatar Robert Hagedorn says:

    Google First Scandal.Report

  16. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    “Dispositional religion” may not be the prettiest of terms, but it’s about as accurate as you can get for what you’re describing, so you don’t, in my opinion, need a better term. Perhaps another way to frame it, though, is religion as a virtue, a habitual disposition or way of being toward the sacred and toward the world. As a virtue, religion has to be learned and continually practiced. Ideological adherence doesn’t cut it. Indeed, I’d say that ideological religionists often tend to be very bad at exercising and growing in this particular virtue.Report

  17. Politics is the means by which a civilized peoples decides how its resources are divided. Through the political process tangible benefits are conferred: rights of way, records of ownership, zoning regulation, mining rights are but a few examples. Even though the segment of the citizenry who both understand the true nature of politics and directly benefit from it is small political majorities must be constructed primarily from folks who benefit little or not at all from the process. Conservatives have mastered the art of getting voters to vote against their interest “in the name of Jesus”. They offer up public policy that serve the interest of the wealthy and influential and construct platitudes laced with bible speak for the unwashed to repeat among themselves. While well connected opportunist use the political process to drill for gas, make risky bets with the tax payer as a backstop, gouge consumers and construct barriers to competition conservatives feed their lesser tribesmen heaping helpings of family values and free market God fearin pablum.

    I’ll allow that there are some who bring their religion to politics as part of a principled stance on abortion or gay marriage. To them I would say you are wasting your time. Look, there will never be a time when abortion will be universally illegal in this country. Far too many of your fellow countrymen want access to them. With this being the case the best you’ll get from politics is feel good legislation e.g., some unconstitutional restriction on abortion with a permit for Exxon to place a gas rig in your back yard as a amendment. You are being played. No one will ever build an abortion clinic in a Mennonite community but if a Mennonite women wants an abortion and can make it ti New York City she’ll be able to get to one, this will ever be the case.

    As a liberal I have no use for religion in my politics and I have even less use for voters who are susceptible to the religio-political ruse. Politics is about mammon period. I want people who clearly understand this on my team.Report

  18. Avatar dhex says:

    “They do not expect that religion provides specific and conclusive solutions to political problems, but they shape their attitude towards human social life in reference to their faith.”

    it really does seem to me that the second path is merely a longer – and perhaps more nuanced depending on the person invoking it – version of the first tactic. instead of “the bible says [preferred policy is awesome]” it’s “my understanding of my faith tells me [preferred policy is awesome]”. six a one and a whatnot.Report

  19. Avatar maff says:

    Your formulation sounds very similar to that of the French philosopher Pierre Hadot in “Philosophy as a Way of Life.” Theorists of religious practice since the Enlightenment also have useful variations on this idea.Report

  20. Avatar J.L. Wall says:

    Very interesting stuff Conor — meshes interestingly with a lot of my side reading at the moment. I’m about to head off to the library for the day so I don’t have time to really figure out thoughts for response, but, quickly:

    1) I, of course, kept trying to figure out how this argument intersects with Judaism’s view of itself re: politics. It isn’t fond of politics, but IS fond of both judging and being-in/acting in history.

    2) I read through most of Marilynne Robinson’s most recent collection of essays (WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I READ BOOKS — perhaps my favorite of titles, polemical or not) where her defenses of Calvin and the Old Testament takes what I THINK is a similar tack. Or at least one in conversation with yours.Report