Apologies to the dearly departed Walt Kelly and Pogo, but I keep coming back to that line as the best title for this post.
It’s all I can do these days to get even the tiniest, most miniscule toehold on an understanding of what motivates the Religious Right. Do I know that they’re deluded? Yes. Is their agenda dangerous? Yes. Am I over-reacting? Sadly, no. [Hey, go visit Sadly, no! A great blog.] Do I know why millions of people in this country support a course of action that is turning the US into a fascist state? Not a #ucking clue.
Read this post, found by the wonderful Norwegianity, and maybe begin to get a glimmer of understanding.
I get very antsy when I see this entire election outcome being blamed on radical conservatism or on ignorance or stupidity.
Because really when people talk about “radical” conservativism, what they really mean is Southern conservativism, specifically the kind that originated in the Southern Baptist church in the late 70′s/early 80′s. And that makes me unhappy.
I am an ex-Southern conservative. You can say, ‘oh, Aja, you’re nothing like them,’ but I am. I see my Southern Baptist upbringing in myself in countless ways every day. All the things that people claim to love about me are things that spring directly from a very strong Christian, faith-based childhood. I may not have read the bible every day but I know my sunday school stories, and I never ever doubted as a child that, yes, Jesus loved me. I seek forgiveness everywhere, forgive whenever I can, and still struggle with not having forgiveness from certain people for things I have done, because forgiveness is a cornerstone of my background–as are a really detrimental leaning towards submissiveness, a penchant for fried chicken, and a really annoying reflex tendency to see bad things and think ‘ack, end of the world!’
I’ve already said all I can ever say about Southern culture and Southern life here and here. But there seems to be a need to say more about Southern conservativism and why it has spread through the country the way it has.
It starts with the fact that we as conservative Christians are taught to see America as our land. I mean, you guys in Europe and the loonies on the East and West Coasts think the Founding Fathers died to bring us religious freedom. They so did not. They died to give new Christianity a place where it could flourish. And if you think that Catholicism was flourishing perfectly fine before that, thank you, then you don’t understand conservative Christianity. See, I grew up being taught that Catholicism was almost-sort-of-not-quite-but-we-won’t-ta
lk-about-it cult. Really. Lots of Southern Baptists believe Catholicism is a cult, despite the fact that it is the largest practiced religion in the world. If you understand that we can believe that about Catholicism then maybe you can understand that American Conservative Christian values don’t necessarily fit into any kind of historical, cultural, or anthropological perspective. They never really have.
Conservative Christians are taught all our lives that we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare. When I was in 6th grade I read a book called This Present Darkness by novelist Frank Peretti, who really kicked off the Christian fantasy genre and preceded those awful Left Behind guys by like 10 years. I read this book and went around fancying that I saw angels around me, fighting demons everywhere, a great heavenly host doing battle with unseen forces of darkness. And I can’t really explain to anybody who isn’t familiar with conservative Christianity, but we are taught that this is real. Demons? Real. Angelic warfare? Real. That passage in Ephesians about putting on the full armor of God? We take that seriously. We take everything Paul said seriously, actually. Way, way, way too seriously, but the reason we take it so seriously is because Paul has this way of delineating Christianity as a practice so that you can live it out very easily. He basically teaches Christians that they are to live every day as though they are battling persecution. Paul is the classic propagator of the Us/Them mentality. Them is the World. The World is evil and sinful and wants to persecute Us. It is Our job as Conservative Christians to don our armor and wage war against the World.
When you grow up being raised in this environment, whether you give it any credence or not, what starts to happen is that you see things very easily in terms of whether they fit into the “Us” category or the “World” category. Since, um, most things fall into the World category, it gets very easy to compartmentalize in your head, and to, for example, start thinking, “the media is a tool of Satan, I shouldn’t believe what people are telling me.” And even if you don’t think “TOOL OF SATAN!!!!” every time you hear the media, if you’ve heard other people around you and in your church say it enough, even subconsciously you start doubting the media. How this plays out is that you begin to filter your environment as a conservative christian based on what you can easily categorize. Once you have identified, say, George Bush, as one of Us, it’s much easier to disregard negative news about him because the Media is one of Them, and the two things can be easily canceled out in your mind.
In the South, the tendency to categorize things, combined with the fact that we are taught to expect persecution as a Christian people, has led us to segregate, commit acts of racism and intolerance, and to be very, very suspicious of anyone from the North or the West, because all of you are part of the World.
Conservative beliefs do not spread because of ignorance. You must understand this. Conservative beliefs spread because of a need in the conservative church to emphasize that if you are not fighting, you are losing the battle for spiritual warfare. And until you have been out there battling the forces of evil you don’t really understand how every day events can be magnified to fit into a larger picture of a tapestry of events being orchestrated by Jesus to lead us on to a higher victory.
Read the whole thing here. Well worth the time in insights gained. The point seems to be that the enemy is NOT us; but try telling that to one of these folks. Scary scary scary.