Thursday, November 16, 2017

Moore Continuing Evangelical Decline


Evangelicals

Conservative Christianity took another body blow with feeble attempts by Alabama evangelicals to counter charges that Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore was a pedophile.   Moore doesn’t deny dating teenagers while in his 30s; he just says he asked parental permission.  He declined to comment on the now-five women who have come courageously come forward to describe how he harassed them sexually without speaking to their parents first. 

Despite bleats of outrage from the party and from Republican senators, who withdrew endorsements, Moore is still favored to win the Dec. 12 special election.

Moore
Part of the reason is that he is running in a very conservative state where residents spurned the Democratic Party in the 1960s once President John F. Kennedy reversed his party’s long-time pro-racism stance.  The Heart of Dixie is still strongly Republican.

At the same time, Moore is well known, which always helps.  Former Alabama chief justice, he was ousted twice, once when he refused to remove a statue of the 10 Commandments from the courthouse; another time, when he counseled probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriages.,

Notice that Moore won re-election after defying Federal law. 

Jones
In addition, campaigns cost a lot of money, but someone with a reputation, however sordid as Moore, has an advantage over a newcomer or, at least, one less famous.  Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, not exactly a platform for statewide publicity.

He is best known for prosecuting and securing life terms for the two surviving Ku Klux Klan members, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, who blew up a Birmingham church in 1963 and killed four young girls, and securing an indictment against Eric Rudolph, who set off a bomb during 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and is now serving a life sentence.

Not of that will endear Jones to the racists rampant in the Heart of Dixie.

Allkison
However, the main reason Moore has retained endorsements has nothing to do with Jones or even Moore’s undemocratic and stated beliefs that gay people should be killed and Muslims evicted from this country.  They support him because Moore is supposedly one of them.

As the Rev. Mike Allison told the NY Daily News “I still support him.  I'm a Bible-believing Christian, and he is as well,” he said.

Despite reading and writing about the Bible for years, I missed the part in the Holy Book where it’s considered acceptable for adult males to grope teenagers.

Rev. Allison does not stand alone at Moore’s side. Repeated surveys show that evangelicals plan to vote for Moore despite his horrific behavior and abhorrent beliefs.  According to Newsweek, “nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they're now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children …”  In a related poll conducted by the Washington Post, “Thirty-four percent of the supposedly devout Christians said that the allegations made no difference in their support for Moore.”

Again,fundamental views trump both common sense and morals.
Robert Jones

In some ways, evangelicals have a hard choice as they face a serious problem: parishioners are deserting the pews.  Recent studies provide “solid evidence of a new, second wave of white Christian decline that is occurring among white evangelical Protestants just over the last decade in the U.S.,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute and author of The End of White Christian America.

 Among the survey’s chief findings:

  • White Christians, 81 percent of the population in 1976, now account for less than half the public — 43 percent of Americans identify as white Christians, and 30 percent as white Protestants.

  • White Christians are aging. About 1 in 10 white Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants are under 30, compared with one-third of all Hindus and Buddhists. Youth is the lifeblood of any organization.

  • The number of evangelicals fell from 23 percent to 17 percent of the public from 2006 to 2016.
Now, about 25 percent of Americans now identify with no particular religion. 

Evangelicals must decide to support someone as contaminated as Moore or vote for someone like Jones, whose beliefs are not as rigid and who supports such “anathemas” as equal rights and abortion.

As a result, those evangelicals still trying to retain to their battered beliefs are willing to hold their noses and stifle their gag reflex to vote for Moore.  They did the same thing on behalf of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, rightly seeing him as more akin to their beliefs than Hillary Clinton despite his admission of sexual improprieties. 

Ironically, that approach alienates even more Americans who have not sunk evangelicals’ desperate level.

Fortunately, even some evangelicals can’t stomach using votes to support religious views.
Currie

For example, the Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University, wrote in the Huffington Post, “I thought that child abuse was an affront to Christian convictions and our Savior. Jesus said at a time when children were not valued that they should be. It astounds many that any Christian would defend Moore. To do so, you have to replace Bible with the GOP platform.”

Accepting Dr. Currie’s contention won’t save evangelicals, but it does serve as a lifeline for those who want to retain their beliefs without surrendering their moral standards.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  A recent book, Passover in Prison, details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.









 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Marching Back to the 1920s




Welcome to the 1920s – again.

It may be the 21st century, but American society is awash in nostalgia, virtually duplicating events that occurred close to 100 years ago.  Then, misguided zealotry led to the 18th Amendment to ban the sale of alcohol along with efforts to control immigration.  At the same time, society was pushing cultural boundaries that disturbed and outraged the older generation.

Sound familiar?

1920s anti-business cartoon
The parallels are striking.

Economically, the Roaring 20s were an era of high profits and emphasis on capitalism.  Buoyed by America’s new position as the world’s greatest economy after World War I, businesses expanded at a rapid pace. The stock market soared, reaching record highs.  Republican leaders sought limited regulation and rolled back any efforts to rein in unbridled growth as the masses muttered against the wealthy.  The same thing is happening now.

In the 1920s, conservatives pushed back against science, passing laws preventing the teaching of evolution.  The famed Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925 was the climactic event of the decade.  Climate change is the buzzword these days, with conservatives like Gov. Rock Scott of Florida banning the use of the term while President Donald Trump now leads the chorus of deniers.  As president, George W. Bush even had reports altered to match his mistaken anti-Climate Change views.

Evolution hasn’t lost its ability to enrage either, despite all the accumulated evidence in its support.  Legal efforts to force students to learn the Bible-based creationism have failed so far, but not through lack of effort. 
Immigrants in the 1920s

Back in the 1920s, the anti-immigrant movement was so strong that, in 1924, Congress passed the first immigration laws limiting newcomers.  Media and books were filled with outrage against the immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, calling them "lazy" and "dirty."

The current unwarranted complaints about Hispanic immigrants could be taken directly from diatribes against European immigrants in the 1920s.  The law served as a wall against the millions hoping to relocate here in the same way the Trump wall would.

Too short?
In the 1920s, women began to feel more liberated.  They demonstrated their independence by wearing shorter skirts, bobbing hair, and becoming more uninhibited in their behavior.  Jazz soared in popularity with its wilder “jungle” beats, according to opponents.

Today hip hop and its spinoffs bear the brunt of criticism.  Women, too, are being attacked for taking any kind of aggressive stance or seeking increased independence.  Hillary Clinton suffered because of such an attitude in her 2016 presidential campaign.

The conflicts in society encouraged bigots in the 1920s.  The Ku Klux Klan was revived, leading to riots in Indiana at Notre Dame University against the hate group.  Anarchists were the terrorists then, but Neo-Nazis today would feel right at home in the 1920s. Communism, too, was a widespread target then, although not as much these days with the fall of the Soviet Union.  Nevertheless, the far-right John Birch Society still spews its animus.  Anti-Semitism was particularly strong in the 1920s as well, matching the rise in that form of hatred endured now.
Police with a suspect

Racism was more overt then, but just as prevalent.  For example, Flo Ziegfeld, producer of the Broadway hit Showboat, delayed production because of his fear of a backlash from its anti-racism message.  Race riots were not uncommon as well as murder.  Such shameful behavior still debases our society today, typified by police shootings of black suspects.

The presidents then, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, either acquiesced to the bubbling animosities or did not nothing to discourage them.  Today, Trump is even more enthusiastic and less restrained.

Given the parallels, it’s interesting to see the results. 
Common Depression sight

The 1920s ended in a deep depression that scarred a generation before forcing the survivors into the maelstrom of World War II.  That, in turn, led to more progressive policies about race while reducing religious interference into daily life and increasing the emphasis on scientific study.  By the 1960s, society became freer as women took more control of their own lives.

The older generation today looks back on those days with a sigh.  However, instead of trying to revert to an 1960s era, which saw the passing of the Voting Rights Act and anti-discrimination laws and encouraged freedom of expression, they are reaching back to an earlier time when hatred predominated.

The results are likely to be similar and just as awful.

Once was enough, thank you.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University.   He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  A recent book, Passover in Prison, which details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.