Friday, January 04, 2008

The Irony of Evangelicalism

"For many [Iowa] Republican caucus participants, faith was a determining factor. More than eight in 10 Huckabee supporters said they are born again or evangelical Christians, compared to less than half of those who supported his rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. Nearly two-thirds of Huckabee backers also said it was very important that their candidate share their religious beliefs, compared to about one in five of Romney's."

The last sentence above is perhaps the most intriguing and ironic factoid I read about Huckabee's caucus win in Iowa yesterday. What's intriguing is that it is so telling, but why one would want to confess that about themselves, I do not know. What's ironic is that it is perhaps shear opposite of what the first Christians in this country, or at least the writers of the Constitution, thought most conducive for an experiment in freedom.

If I remember my history lessons accurately, Pilgrims ran from the Old World to the New because those in power in the Old World thought exactly like the two-thirds of Huckabee's Iowa caucus supporters. Thus it was that 167 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims religious liberty was enshrined in the Constitution as one of the highest ideals in the land. More than a century and a half could not erase the memory of the damage done to human dignity when a subset of a nation's citizenry believes it is important that those with power share their specific religious beliefs and sensibilities. Yet it has only taken 2 centuries more, plus 20 years to begin to do so. That's, in a word, SCARY.

Those who tout the importance of religious commonality often self-identify as "conservatives." In conservation of what? It can't be in conservation of the founding ideals of this nation. No such ideal existed. At most it's in conservation of the parts of the old that inevitably hold over into the new, but why would one want to hold over the seeds of religious intolerance and possibly even fascism? Perhaps its the conservation of notions of divinely ordained dominion aggrandized by unfortunate misappropriations of biblical imagery used in furtherance of political ends (e.g. America as Reagan's "city on a hill") and validated by a misinterpretation of the biblical commission to "possess the land." I find neither conservatism nor liberalism useful ideological constructs in a global, 21st century, post-modern world. Most of the world that conservatism is trying to conserve and from which liberalism is trying to liberate itself no longer exists, accept in instances where shear stubbornness or abuse of power have preserved it. Nevertheless, if one is going to conserve in a democracy, shouldn't it be the conservation of something that exists for the good of more than just those trying to keep it?

The further irony is that Huckabee presents as a populist. I pray it is an authentic persona. Sure, he has strong religious convictions. Some of his views based upon those convictions sound downright kooky when exploited by the unforgiving hands of an unsympathetic media. Perhaps they are no more kooky than my own (okay, maybe a little more). However, he seems to have reconciled himself to the fact that in a democracy his convictions are not the "one ring to rule them all." He does not seem predisposed to legislate his belief system upon everyone else. Moreover, he expresses believable compassion and actionable concern for those unlike himself, which has not been a trademark of the typical religiously or otherwise motivated conservative.

Don't get me wrong: I don't agree with many of Huckabee's policies (e.g. imigration reform, the war on the Middle East and the bodily autonomy of women). But in Huckabee I find a conservative with motivations beyond his own self-interests. That may be ironic, but it's also refreshing.

21 comments:

  1. The only reason he won in Iowa is because he was pitted against a Mormon... Rural Iowans may still think that Mormons are baby-eating monsters... There's no doubt Romney is the best administrator in the Republican side and he may still get the nomination... I hope he does, so he can get demolished by Obama!

    After reading The Audacity of Hope by Obama, as an SDA, he is my choice. I've had enough of these phony evangelicals who are trying to institute a Theocracy when God never gave them this mandate.

    Obama is the smartest, most articulate and most honest of the candidates and I hope he wins.

    An even better scenario would Obama against Huckabee! An interesting discussion on Obama can be found at http://spectrummagazine.org/

    SDA's for OBAMA in 08!!

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  2. SDA's NOT for Obama!

    - I don't want my taxes raised.
    - I don't want the government mandating my health care.
    - I don't want an increase in the welfare state.
    - I don't want already low morality in this country to be further embraced and encourage
    - I don't want further embracing of law breaking of millions of illegal immigrants.

    Obama is a wolf in sheep's clothing! Sorry to say that. Sure he is to be commended for all his success. He IS extremely inspirational and proof that America is changing for the better. But his core values, his Democratic values are, at least for me, nowhere near what America needs. And for the record, Huckabee is just as bad, but on the opposite spectrum.

    America needs to go back to its roots. Smaller government. SMALLER GOVERNMENT. More freedom. You ain't gonna get that with Obama.

    SDA's for Romney in 08!

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  3. "armed2win," i appreciate your comment, but i must challenge your assertion. to what point in american political history are you proposing we return?

    america's roots of smaller government are of an aristocratic government, which was perhaps more plutocratic than what we have now.

    from what i've been able to gather over the years, proponents for "smaller" government are seeking less regulation, but we must ask ourselves who has this less regulation historically benefited? further, what have we set in place since then to ensure things would not just revert?

    in addition, i've never heard a "smaller" government advocate make the case for actually spending less money, only the case for spending less money on fellow citizens unlike herself. i've never heard a "smaller" government proponent advocate against the money spent on the things that have accrued to the benefit of himself and the small, but affluent and influential, constituency he represents. i've never seen a "smaller" gov't advocate support the return of land taken from native americans in westward expansion; or the restitution of wealth generated by but denied former slaves and their descendants; or the return of oil revenue and commodity stolen from middle east nations; or a trade policy that does not devalue the wealth of the global south, requiring that western corporations have the right to buy up all a nation's natural resources if that nation wants the right to play on the global stage, but rendering the nation too asset weak to do so. all of these are historic acts of a "large" (in terms of power) and over-reaching american gov't and have cost far more than the aggregate of the social programming ever done in this country. however, advocates for smaller gov't don't traditionally argue for the redress or ceasation of these things, only for exemption from the give-end of the give-and-receive social contract that has made their historic privilege possible.

    i should also mention that, by comparison, america, though still sorely lacking, has never been more "free" for a wider cross-section of people than it is right now. nevertheless, not one treaty with a native american nation has ever been honored by the u.s. just 40 years ago and beyond blacks couldn't vote and were widely subject to domestic terrorism. additionally, 40 years ago there were no legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or physical disability. just over 60 years ago , america had anyone who looked japanese herded into midwestern internment camps indefinitely. white women couldn't vote up to a few decades prior to that. and though it could stomach 100+ years of bringing people of color to america involuntarily, in 1882 america passed its first anti-immigration law against persons of chinese decent, thus canonizing america's historic practice of overwhelmingly and disproportionately favoring european immigration, while closely regulating immigration from nations of color (a practice that has never been redressed and won't be by only sealing the boarders). i won't elaborate on the sad fact that the adventist church has never taken a strong stand against any of these injustices.

    although i can appreciate your nostalgia, "armed2win," i can't in good conscience share it--nor do i believe should anyone else.

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  4. Armed2Win,

    Wow, where have you been in the last 8 years?

    Unless you're a billionaire, tax cuts did zero for economic growth and more money in our pockets... now the country is broke and the economy is in a recession... Go figure...

    Romney couldn't be farther removed from what Christ would do for struggling families in this country, and illegal immigrants who are the working force of this country. He is another millionaire who knows nothing about the difficulties of poor families in America.

    Phony evangelicals and republicans want to eliminate abortion but do nothing to prevent unwanted pregnancies, NOTHING! Ask what Bush did to offer more affordable education to all Americans? More education means better choices...

    Let's ask what FOX, the conservatives' TV channel is doing to push back the wave of immorality in this country? NOthing, they have the same immoral and libertine TV shows as other channels...

    I would say, get to know Obama first, read his works and you'll know what he really stands for.

    So far, the majority of SDAs polled in blogs galore are supporting Obama. YAY!!!

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  5. Melvin, I appreciate where you are coming from. I really do! Please understand where I am coming from. I am of Native American descent. Cherokee to be exact - you know, The Trail of Tears? Let that sink in for a few moments before you assume too much, or presume entirely too much.

    I only wrote what I did to provide a balanced response to what Andre wrote, but had no idea that it would result in a tirade against America and its many (and there are plenty) woes.

    I would love to have somebody at least once, instead of criticizing America's many mistakes (slavery being one of the most heinous), criticize the slave traders in Africa who sold their own country men. Or the Japanese who butchered Manchurians. Or the Chinese government who continually brutalized their own citizenry.

    What about the countless repressed women in other countries who are raped and murdered for daring to accidentally expose a toe? What about Tibet? I could list many others.

    And about the "nostalgia" - I have no nostalgia about our roots, only the ideas presented! All men being created equal. Being endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I will insist this, we need smaller government - federally, and more state-by-state governing.

    However, I think I will stop here. Why? I could write much more, but this forum is for religious discussion, not political arguments which rarely unite. I can see that there is no point in discussing this, as I sense too much loathing of my point of view.

    May God richly bless you, my friend. I wish you best of luck in the 2008 campaign cycle. I really do.

    More individual autonomy and freedom. After all, that is what my ancestor's had, and Obama will not provide that.

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  6. please don't be offended, "armed2win." the point of my tirade was that there is no safe place to land going back. your views are more than welcome! in fact they are invited.

    i apologize as well if we have seemed to gang up on you. the majority readership of this blog probably tends progressive.

    i was invited to contribute to this blog with the understanding that issues of politics, social justice, culture, etc were matters of faith, so i hope you are also not offended by our conversation regarding them.

    as far as all the ills in the world, i agree they must be addressed too. however, they do not exempt america from redressing her wrongs. for the purposes of this conversation, i was limiting my comments to my immediate sphere of influence and national history, but welcome dialogue about global concerns as well.

    oh, and i definitely know smaller gov't advocates aren't of any particular racial or ethnic descent ;-).

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  7. Genesis 2day,

    I can assure you that I am nowhere even remotely close to a "multi-thousandaire", let alone a billionaire. You had me laughing heartily with that comment. I did get several small checks in the mail signed by G.W.B. For that, I was very grateful and it really helped my family. So playing the typical "class politics" is an old democrat trick to pit people against each other, and to keep repressed peoples down. Doesn't work with me!

    You mentioned abortion and unwanted pregnancies. First, I didn't mention them, and quite frankly, certain politicians advocating a federal ban on abortion are wrong. That should be a state issue, not the federal government.

    Regarding unwanted pregnancies - your argument is weak and baseless. Here is a clue - abstinence! I know, its a novel concept to those who are repressed by big corporations. Quit having sex. Last I checked, you didn't need an education or a political affiliation to figure that out. Reminds me of the phrase, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime..."

    Regarding FoxNews. They are tabloid journalism, by and large, and are extremely myopic in my opinion. The "GOPers" that swear by that channel and no other are weak minded, in my opinion.

    Lastly, Genesis, I HAVE read Obama's positions. Thats why I am not voting for him. I informed myself. And regarding your original comment about billionaires, that is one of the reasons I won't vote for Obama. He advocates taking money from the wealthy by legislation and giving it to the poor. Sounds a lot like socialism. It also sounds good on paper and from the pulpit, but very likely, that tax money will be used for pork-barrel spending on some project not benefiting anyone but lobbyists. I would rather get rich by hard work than charity any day.

    Melvin, thanks for your kind words. I respect you and your opinion. I just hope progressive Adventism, which I am part of, will be open to those with conservative political views and ideas. After all, politics ain't gonna save, regardless of political affiliation. ;-) LOL I just realized I broke my code about not blathering on about politics. Oops....

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  8. i would think the true small gov't advocate would be a Ron Paul supporter. there is a lot i like about him, though i do have serious concern about the emphatic self-interest of some of his proposed policies.

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  9. Actually, by and large, I do really like Ron Paul, but he is not logistically electable (which is very frustrating...) Why? Unfortunately, the establishment in America is too strong (establishment = two party system). Maybe some day!

    I think another good candidate is Fred Thompson, but he is not viable for two reasons: 1. He came in too late, 2 - he has not excited the base due to his laid-back style.

    Currently the conservative base is too enamored by religious convictions/affiliations to remember the 1st amendment, or the entire BIG 10, as far as I am concerned. Thats why I feel Romney won't get elected. He's a Mormon and too many people have a problem with that, hence the recent surge for Huckabee.

    Blew my socks off last night that Hillary won New Hampshire. Wow. Did not see that comin...

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  10. Oh wow! This is proof that "progressive Adventists" can't agree on politics anymore than "fundamentalist adventists" can. Maybe less.

    I so enjoyed reading this string of comments though. And I wish only peace and blessings on all who have posted here and it is not my desire to offend. But I must comment on a few things that armed2win said. You said that instead of criticizing America for thier heinous mistake in slavery we should "criticize the Africans for selling their own countrymen." I'm sorry but that is a classic statement made by people who don't want to really accept the atrocity of slavery in America. Yeah...that's it...let's blame the Africans. When it's a blindingly obvious fact that if it weren't for European colonization which involved extensive African slave trade the Africans wouldn't have had anyone to sell their own countrymen to!

    I also must say that I am shocked that as an SDA (even more as a progressive SDA) you would support Romney who is a Mormon. Do you know what Mormon's believe? I've studied what they believe in detail and there is so much that doesn't really jive. The biggest thing is their belief that Jesus and Satan were brothers in heaven and that when Satan rebelled he and the angels who sided with him were thrown out of heaven, they turned BLACK and landed in Africa. It is a fact that they believe this...although their more progressives may try to deny it. Their fundamentalists will admit that they take real issues with Black people and don't believe that they can be saved in the highest kingdom of heaven (the celestial kingdom). That is just one major issue that I have with the Mormons.

    I know that SDA's, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnessess are often put in the same category by other Christians and so there is a tendency to think amongst ourselves that we are similar. But we should make a real effort to learn about these people and their beliefs, especially before backing one of them for President of the United States.

    In closing I have to say that it saddens me to no end that the Republican party with the great help of the media has most American people believing that Christian = Conservative = Republican and that Heathen = Liberal = Democrat. I refuse to buy that and wish that more people would sincerely look at the issues, and at the candidates and refuse to believe the hype. And we're supposed to be Progressives here. Wouldn't we be offended if someone were to say to us that Traditional = Fundamentalist = Adventist and Progressive = Evangelical = Badventist?

    Sincerely,

    TLJ

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  11. TJL, I did not know that about Mormons, but I also have heard that what you said is a rumor that cannot be substantiated. Apparently Mike Huckabee made an off-hand remark about this Jesus/satan issue. About the fallen angels being turned Black and falling into Africa, I would love to see a reliable source for that. If it is true, what a horrible doctrine to hold. If it is not true, what a horrible lie to propagate.

    Secondly, this whole conversation has turned into something that was not intended, and unfortunately was brought on by one's reaction to something that was entirely political, not social. It has turned into a race-debate, just like what is going on right now in the Democratic Party. That was not my intent, nor will it ever be.

    TJL, the slave trade was horrendous, heinous and insidious. It is a HUGE ABOMINABLE stain for America. I am NOT trying to make excuses, and you twisted my words. I am not trying to blame Africans! Good grief! If you read closely, I was trying to state that the "Blame-America" crowd tends to neglect the atrocities committed by other nations. And in regards to slavery, they never seem to acknowledge the role the Africans had. That is conveniently overlooked and tucked away. It's another example of Historical Revisionism.

    Back to Mormons and Romney. You're double talking here. Does the fact that Romney is a Mormon make him a bad person? Suppose that he does NOT espouse those horrible beliefs that you accuse him of? Many progressive Adventists don't believe in EGW, yet still remain SDAs. Does the title SDA automatically mean they believe in EGW? Do you get the logic?

    I am for Romney, not because of his faith, but because I believe he will lead effectively, and adhere to the U.S Constitution. I don't base my vote on religion, race or ethnicity. I base it entirely on content - political content. Other than that, that is the beauty of America - one can believe anything they wish, even if it is wrong.

    God bless.

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  12. Hello Armed2Win,

    I found this interesting discussion on Romney and Mormonism:

    http://the-rational-inquirer.newsvine.com/_news/2007/05/13/716621-mitt-romney-one-white-mans-massive-burden-mormon-racism

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  13. Andre,

    Interesting link and interesting read. What a terrible belief system!

    I would like to point out that the Adventist Church at one time, and this was a published document with the approval of James and Ellen White, supported by Uriah Smith, believed that blacks were not entirely human, perhaps being an amalgamation of man and beast, such as:

    "wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country, &c" ~(The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, A Manifestation of Spiritual gifts According to the Scripture. BY URIAH SMITH STEAM PRESS OF THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION, BATTLE CREEK, MICH.. 1868)

    So, are we Badventists now, "tjl"? Or Andre, did we as Adventists realize the fallacy, lunacy and deep sinfulness of such beliefs, realizing that ALL peoples are valuable to God? If my memory is correct, very recently, weren't there separate conferences for African Americans in the Adventist church? I think that is wrong. We are all God's children - "red and yellow, black and white..."

    Concerning Romney and Mormons, better late than never. I know for a fact that Romney doesn't espouse the idea that any one black individual or ethnic group is less valuable or savable due to his Bible any more than we believe women should be kept silent based on Paul's writings in Holy Scripture.

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  14. Armed2win,

    Another interesting site to read is http://www.angelfire.com/mo2/blackmormon/homepage.html. It's from a Black Mormon perspective so it tries to include the good and defend Mormonism on one hand, yet it is quite historical on the other. I learned that a Marion Romney was involved in the lifting of "the curse" off of Black people in the 1970's. I wonder if he's related to Mitt? I find it so interesting that the decision was made to plead with God to lift the curse only after it was determined that these white Brazilian men who had been chosen to be priests were of African ancestry! Hmmm, so what if they had been pure European? Would that curse still be on us (if you haven't figured it out by now, I am Black)? Shows that they weren't very informed about Brazil when they went down there to evangelize. The Portuguese brought so many slaves to Brazil that ethnically speaking Brazil is the 2nd largest African country in the world! Only Nigeria has more Blacks than Brazil! And race mixing was common with the Portuguese. I have several Brazilian friends and even the ones who may look white admit that they have some African ancestry in their bloodlines.

    As for the points that you are making about the SDA church and racism: I am well aware of all of what you said. Regional conferences are alive and well in most eastern, southern and mid-western states. Only out here in the west have we not felt the need to separate. It's sad that in those other places separation became (and in some places still remains) a necessity. I strongly believe that racism is something that our church will have to face before Jesus returns. I hope that people are ready!

    As for Mitt Romney, him being a Mormon may or may not make him worse than any other candidate. You say that you know for a fact that he is not a racist. Has he told you this himself? And what wouldn't he say to convinve the public of this being that he's running for president? America needs a candidate who can have sincere acceptance for all and empathy and understanding for the plight of all people. It's hard for me to trust someone who comes from a church that so recently had such beliefs about my race. And I won't even go into the other LDS issues aside from race. And I have asked myself the question, "how would you feel if Romney was an SDA running for president and people had doubts about him because of his beliefs? I'd totally understand it. An SDA wouldn't autmatically get my vote just because, cause I know we've got problems too. He'd have to prove to me where he stood on the issues important to me. So, I guess your point is taken. We should vote considering the issues important to us,to our communities and to society at large; not just considering religion (race, gender). And that's what I'm doing, and that's why Obama has my vote.

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  15. Amen! I am with you in regards to the racism. I am sure the Almighty is waiting and longing with bated breath for His children to all get along and get over it already!

    I am tired of people focusing on their skin color as identity. That tends to divide. Remember, "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart..."

    At the risk of sounding negative and perhaps alienating some (I pray that it does not) - no I did not know you were Black, but that makes no difference to me. You are my fellow "brother in Christ". That's all that matters to me. (That does not mean, however, I cannot or should not empathize or sympathize with your experience.) Nevertheless, we are both the same - sinners in need of Jesus Christ. Anything else pales in comparison.

    God bless you TJL...

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  16. Armed2win,

    This probably won't make a difference to you either but I'm actually your Sister-in-Christ.

    Thanks for your heartfelt words,

    Tamari Lynn Jenkins
    aka: TLJ

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  17. TJL, I almost didn't type "Brother-in-Christ" for the distinct possibility that you might, in fact, be my "Sister-in-Christ"! Please accept my apologies for that oversight. :-)

    I am grateful to discover I have another "Sister-in-Christ". It's good to be a part of the family of God!

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