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Jack of Spades

USA liberal / conservative - divide

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I wonder if the divide to progressive/liberal Christians and conservative Christians is actually all that religious in nature? The reason why I'm asking is this observation:


If I talk to a conservative Christian, I can much better predict what they think by being familiar with the party positions and the rhetoric of the Republican party and the conservative political media, than by being familiar with any particular theological tradition. The same with liberal / progressive Christians and the Democratic party and the liberal media. The impression one gets is that the root of the division is actually political in nature, rather than religious or theological.

 

For the record I'm not an American myself, I am a North European with years of interest in everything America. I used to plan to move there etc.

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3 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

I wonder if the divide to progressive/liberal Christians and conservative Christians is actually all that religious in nature? The reason why I'm asking is this observation:


If I talk to a conservative Christian, I can much better predict what they think by being familiar with the party positions and the rhetoric of the Republican party and the conservative political media, than by being familiar with any particular theological tradition. The same with liberal / progressive Christians and the Democratic party and the liberal media. The impression one gets is that the root of the division is actually political in nature, rather than religious or theological.

 

For the record I'm not an American myself, I am a North European with years of interest in everything America. I used to plan to move there etc.

You are correct.  Americans generally decide what they think is politically correct first.  Then they choose a 'religion' which supports their bias.

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13 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

I wonder if the divide to progressive/liberal Christians and conservative Christians is actually all that religious in nature? The reason why I'm asking is this observation:


If I talk to a conservative Christian, I can much better predict what they think by being familiar with the party positions and the rhetoric of the Republican party and the conservative political media, than by being familiar with any particular theological tradition. The same with liberal / progressive Christians and the Democratic party and the liberal media. The impression one gets is that the root of the division is actually political in nature, rather than religious or theological.

 

For the record I'm not an American myself, I am a North European with years of interest in everything America. I used to plan to move there etc.

I don't think it's that black and white but I do agree that the philosophies of the two major parties in the US do tend to have people of a certain mindset align with them (hence why liberal/progressive Christians may be more aligned to Democrats and conservative Christians more aligned with Republicans - but I'm sure that's not a rule).  However I think, particularly in the Republican party's circumstances, that the parties play up to the religious fears and expectations of a certain mindset to garner their support/vote . 

Personally, I think what we call progressive Christians have made their move away from traditional Christianity because they find it lacking in today's world.  That and they find new biblical scholarship challenging long held beliefs.  Of course that doesn't hold true for all types of Christians, but I think PC's have moved away from traditional religion because of these modern developments.  I think this then feeds into their support for the various political positions.  

I'm certain it's not always as clear cut as that, but I think that is a major influence.

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9 hours ago, Burl said:

You are correct.  Americans generally decide what they think is politically correct first.  Then they choose a 'religion' which supports their bias.

So would you say that you have chosen your religion because it supports your bias and level of political correctness?

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1 hour ago, PaulS said:

Personally, I think what we call progressive Christians have made their move away from traditional Christianity because they find it lacking in today's world.  That and they find new biblical scholarship challenging long held beliefs.  Of course that doesn't hold true for all types of Christians, but I think PC's have moved away from traditional religion because of these modern developments.  I think this then feeds into their support for the various political positions.  

 

That's plausible, but is there something to support the idea that the change of heart happens in that order (the religion changes first, then the political views) and not the other way around (politics comes first, then the religion follows)?

 

The reason why I suspect the "politics first" to be the case, is the heavy emphasis on political thought and the correlation between the political and religious topics people are interested in talking about. If I watch the American political media, and then follow religious people on social media, the correlation is obvious. The people seem to get their talking points from the political media and then shoehorn them into their religion. For example, the liberals tend to word their Christian message in a fashion that mimics the Democratic party line, like f.e. "The message of Jesus is to accept everyone regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation." or the conservatives saying stuff like "Christians are not called to live in the political correctness of the world." - again mimicing the rhetoric of the conservative political pundits. 

 

Sidenote 1: To be clear, I'm not trying to address the technical substance of either one of those statements, but rather I'm trying to highlight the fact that the connection to political thought is very obvious and most likely both of the statements simply come from the talking points of the political media. It's highly unlikely that the ideas originate to some kind of a Bible study that somehow independently just happened to end up to an overlapping conclusion with a political message.

Sidenote 2: Both of those are just examples, not attempts at capturing the whole story.

Sidenote 3: I do realize that nothing is that simple and complex cultural phenomenons have multiple simultaneous dimensions but this is a phenomenon that's really hard to miss.

Edited by Jack of Spades

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4 hours ago, PaulS said:

So would you say that you have chosen your religion because it supports your bias and level of political correctness?

Originally I was Roman Catholic because of family tradition.  Then I rejected religion entirely because science and I knew everything and I did not want any cognitive dissonance with my dissipating and degenerate lifestyle.  Then I had a conversion experience where the reality of Jesus was revealed to me, but I could not stomach cultural Christianity.  Then I went to seminary where I found out the Bible actually tells a very different story from the baby food served in most churches.

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10 minutes ago, Burl said:

Originally I was Roman Catholic because of family tradition.  Then I rejected religion entirely because science and I knew everything and I did not want any cognitive dissonance with my dissipating and degenerate lifestyle.  Then I had a conversion experience where the reality of Jesus was revealed to me, but I could not stomach cultural Christianity.  Then I went to seminary where I found out the Bible actually tells a very different story from the baby food served in most churches.

So unlike Americans in general,  you didn't think politically correct first and then choose a 'religion' which supports your bias?

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It was politically correct to me at the time.  

Don't underemphasize the need to conform to social peers or to oversimplify or even ignore difficult and nuanced realities in an effort to claim understanding. 

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20 hours ago, Burl said:

You are correct.  Americans generally decide what they think is politically correct first.  Then they choose a 'religion' which supports their bias.

Evangelical fundamentalist churches are more prone to this than the Protestant mainline in the US.  Mainline Protestants have a variety of political orientations, though genuinely far right politics is extremely rare. 

 

My own denomination's laity are made of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.

Edited by FireDragon76

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2 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

Evangelical fundamentalist churches are more prone to this than the Protestant mainline in the US.  Mainline Protestants have a variety of political orientations, though genuinely far right politics is extremely rare. 

 

My own denomination's laity are made of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.

I meant 'politically correct' in the sense of what would find approval by friends and family.  Should have used a different term like socially acceptable or conforming to extant biases.

Edited by Burl

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2 hours ago, Burl said:

I meant 'politically correct' in the sense of what would find approval by friends and family.  Should have used a different term like socially acceptable or conforming to extant biases.

That makes a little more sense than 'politically correct', but I think you're probably underselling your countrymen if you think the majority of them are so shallow as to change their religious beliefs because it fits in with family and friends (except you of course).

No doubt social acceptance plays a part in religion - I mean I doubt anybody joins or stays with a religion without feeling 'accepted' to some degree into that community!

Yet I see this as a far cry from politics driving their religious beliefs.  No doubt for all of us, the way we see the world both is affected by and affects our religious views.  Perhaps more hand in hand than one or the other being the primary cause.

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7 minutes ago, PaulS said:

That makes a little more sense than 'politically correct', but I think you're probably underselling your countrymen if you think the majority of them are so shallow as to change their religious beliefs because it fits in with family and friends (except you of course).

No doubt social acceptance plays a part in religion - I mean I doubt anybody joins or stays with a religion without feeling 'accepted' to some degree into that community!

Yet I see this as a far cry from politics driving their religious beliefs.  No doubt for all of us, the way we see the world both is affected by and affects our religious views.  Perhaps more hand in hand than one or the other being the primary cause.

The number one predictor is distance from home, but theology is way behind friendships.  And again, I did not mean politics. Poor phrasing on my part.

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14 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

That's plausible, but is there something to support the idea that the change of heart happens in that order (the religion changes first, then the political views) and not the other way around (politics comes first, then the religion follows)?

Well my own experience for one, even though I'm Australian.  My religious views changed because I questioned what I had been taught and found it wanting.  It had nothing to do with political parties driving me a certain way.

I think also if you look at the likes of Donald Trump - it's not his religious views that are driving people to support him but rather his support has been built because he has tapped into what those people want to hear.  The 'forgotten people' who have felt disenfranchised by the 'establishment', now find a supporter for their religious views in him, not the other way around.

14 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

The reason why I suspect the "politics first" to be the case, is the heavy emphasis on political thought and the correlation between the political and religious topics people are interested in talking about. If I watch the American political media, and then follow religious people on social media, the correlation is obvious. The people seem to get their talking points from the political media and then shoehorn them into their religion. For example, the liberals tend to word their Christian message in a fashion that mimics the Democratic party line, like f.e. "The message of Jesus is to accept everyone regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation." or the conservatives saying stuff like "Christians are not called to live in the political correctness of the world." - again mimicing the rhetoric of the conservative political pundits. 

No doubt media drive 'talking points' as you suggest, but I think that is distinctly different from driving beliefs.  Those beliefs already existed it's just that the voices on social media start getting louder simply because the topic was raised in mainstream media.  For instance, I don't support slavery but don't really post anything about it because it's largely irrelevant in my day-to-day.  But if the media started reporting on a slavery issue I'd probably be a little more vocal socially about it  because it'd be a current topic of discussion.

14 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

Sidenote 1: To be clear, I'm not trying to address the technical substance of either one of those statements, but rather I'm trying to highlight the fact that the connection to political thought is very obvious and most likely both of the statements simply come from the talking points of the political media. It's highly unlikely that the ideas originate to some kind of a Bible study that somehow independently just happened to end up to an overlapping conclusion with a political message.

I agree with your first sentence but not sure about your next.  Can you give any examples of where you think the media has led religious belief that may assist?

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21 hours ago, PaulS said:

Well my own experience for one, even though I'm Australian.  My religious views changed because I questioned what I had been taught and found it wanting.  It had nothing to do with political parties driving me a certain way.

 

As the thread name suggests, I was talking particularly about the political-religious scene of the US. In the US, very many people appear to identify strongly with either one of the major political parties.

 

21 hours ago, PaulS said:

No doubt media drive 'talking points' as you suggest, but I think that is distinctly different from driving beliefs.  Those beliefs already existed it's just that the voices on social media start getting louder simply because the topic was raised in mainstream media.  For instance, I don't support slavery but don't really post anything about it because it's largely irrelevant in my day-to-day.  But if the media started reporting on a slavery issue I'd probably be a little more vocal socially about it  because it'd be a current topic of discussion.

 

A fair point, that's possible as well.

 

21 hours ago, PaulS said:

Can you give any examples of where you think the media has led religious belief that may assist?

 

I'm going to demonstrate the phenomenon with a more historical example, just to highlight it:

 

The best historical example would be the Christian support for democracy and the concept of freedom of religion. In it's historical roots, democracy was a pagan invention, promoted by deists, atheists etc. while good Christians supported monarchy. Nowadays, the Western Christians more or less universally consider "god-given freedoms" in a democracy to be something of a Christian value to uphold and protect. Do you believe that Christians, during the recent centuries just independently ended up supporting freedom of religion over state religion and democracy over monarchy as a result of a Bible study done in a monastery? I think it's obvious that the political landscape changed, and the religion followed.

 

In the present day US, I have heard many times Evangelicals talk along very anti-environmentalist lines claiming things like "People who worry about the environment do so because they don't believe that God is in control" expressing that environmentalism is a result of lack of faith etc. The idea quite transparently originates to right-wing anti-regulatory, pro "let the market decide" - type of political philosophy, but it has somewhere along the line mutated into something of a religious belief (which imo, has started as a religious excuse, then went on and turned into a belief). Please note that such a belief is by no means a coherent principle, which would be applied across the broad to all issues, just selectively to environmentalism. f.e. the Christians who worry about terrorism are, according to the same people, perfectly fine believers. Maybe because that fear is compatible with the right-wing political agenda...

 

However, in more short periods of time, media and politics tend to drive emphasis, rather than changing core beliefs. But that's how it starts.

Edited by Jack of Spades

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4 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

As the thread name suggests, I was talking particularly about the political-religious scene of the US. In the US, very many people appear to identify strongly with either one of the major political parties.

Which is why I continued on in the next sentence to specifically cite a US example.

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On 8/1/2018 at 9:03 PM, FireDragon76 said:

Evangelical fundamentalist churches are more prone to this than the Protestant mainline in the US.  Mainline Protestants have a variety of political orientations, though genuinely far right politics is extremely rare. 

 

I wonder if the US Evangelical movement should be even considered part of global mainstream Christianity at all, but rather a some kind of a sect. The European versions of the churches that come from a similar theological tradition are far less political. The US Evangelical Church stands out as an outlier. 

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23 minutes ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

I wonder if the US Evangelical movement should be even considered part of global mainstream Christianity at all, but rather a some kind of a sect. The European versions of the churches that come from a similar theological tradition are far less political. The US Evangelical Church stands out as an outlier. 

American religion in the past two or three decades has been exported globally.  Fundamentalists in the US have taken their culture war overseas, particularly into Africa and Russia.  Parts of Australia also have ties to US fundamentalism.

 

American religion owes alot to sects such as the Puritans or Pietists that were either outlawed in their home countries or found social controversy and backlash.   Utopian idealism was very common as well.

Edited by FireDragon76

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3 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

American religion in the past two or three decades has been exported globally.  Fundamentalists in the US have taken their culture war overseas, particularly into Africa and Russia.  Parts of Australia also have ties to US fundamentalism.

 

Sure, the US religion has been exported globally, in fact I grew up in a family that was member in a revival movement with traceable roots to the US evangelicalism (called Viidesläisyys or literally "the fifth" - that family history probably explains some part of my interest in the US culture).

 

What I meant was, the US Evangelicalism seems to have become so political and so filled with political "Americanism" that it's not probably the kind of a thing too many people abroad would be very welcoming of. It's practically the same situation as with the Russian Orthodox church. Why would someone in say, Germany, want to convert to a religion that's filled with Russian nationalism? If not as a political pro-Russia statement

 

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7 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

I wonder if the US Evangelical movement should be even considered part of global mainstream Christianity at all, but rather a some kind of a sect. The European versions of the churches that come from a similar theological tradition are far less political. The US Evangelical Church stands out as an outlier. 

Sorta kinda.  The descriptor 'Evangelical' was used to describe a particular church polity where everything was owned and directed by a single pastor.  Billy Graham is the prime example.  No conciliarity with other churches, no particular common education.  Many will not accept baptisms not performed by their worship leaders. 

Contrast with magisterial churches which have a top-down hierarchy or the communal churches where the community runs the churchnand hires the pastor for a salary.  

Because every Evangelical church is unique and unsupervised , they vary widely in theolgical accuracy and preaching style.  

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3 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

Sure, the US religion has been exported globally, in fact I grew up in a family that was member in a revival movement with traceable roots to the US evangelicalism (called Viidesläisyys or literally "the fifth" - that family history probably explains some part of my interest in the US culture).

 

What I meant was, the US Evangelicalism seems to have become so political and so filled with political "Americanism" that it's not probably the kind of a thing too many people abroad would be very welcoming of. It's practically the same situation as with the Russian Orthodox church. Why would someone in say, Germany, want to convert to a religion that's filled with Russian nationalism? If not as a political pro-Russia statement

 

That's one reason American Evangelical missionaries are so distressed by the rise of their religion being linked to nationalism and racism/xenophobia, as it was in the past decade.   On the one hand, their religious base at home is pleased but it hurts the reputation of missionaries overseas.

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16 minutes ago, Burl said:

Sorta kinda.  The descriptor 'Evangelical' was used to describe a particular church polity where everything was owned and directed by a single pastor.  Billy Graham is the prime example.  No conciliarity with other churches, no particular common education.  Many will not accept baptisms not performed by their worship leaders. 

Contrast with magisterial churches which have a top-down hierarchy or the communal churches where the community runs the churchnand hires the pastor for a salary.  

Because every Evangelical church is unique and unsupervised , they vary widely in theolgical accuracy and preaching style.  

That's a good observation.  Even in religious denominations that don't have the church owned by the pastor, American Evangelicals typically will have an authoritarian, personality-driven leadership style rather than consensual or communal decision-making.  This goes back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when this type of religion became dominated by personalities.

Edited by FireDragon76

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31 minutes ago, FireDragon76 said:

That's a good observation.  Even in religious denominations that don't have the church owned by the pastor, American Evangelicals typically will have an authoritarian, personality-driven leadership style rather than consensual or communal decision-making.  This goes back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when this type of religion became dominated by personalities.

Further back to the C18 and the circuit riders on the American frontier.  Also why the US is the place Darbyism and uneducated preachers took root.

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5 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

That's one reason American Evangelical missionaries are so distressed by the rise of their religion being linked to nationalism and racism/xenophobia, as it was in the past decade.   On the one hand, their religious base at home is pleased but it hurts the reputation of missionaries overseas.

 

It annoys me when people treat their churches being overtaken by nationalism and racism as a mere image management problem. One could as well treat it as a case of "By their fruit you know them." I think there has to be something profoundly wrong with the movement to begin with, if it so easily falls into such destructive ideologies. Maybe the Evangelical movement was shallow and empty to begin with and the nationalism just filled the vacuum? 

 

On a personal level, I consider such public failures welcome warning signs to stay away from such religious movements (The Catholic Church and Evangelicalism being the prime examples). In my experience and knowledge, religious movements going wrong like that is almost never a case of "good people lapsing" but rather such failures are cases of deeply rooted spiritual and moral corruption being revealed by the public failure. Bad fruits come from a bad tree.

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7 hours ago, Burl said:

Further back to the C18 and the circuit riders on the American frontier.  Also why the US is the place Darbyism and uneducated preachers took root.

Darbyism/Dispensationalism is also salient, and explains America's bizarre foreign policy in the middle east, as well as the relative disregard for social justice in American Evangelicalism.   I actually think its more pernicious than the fights against evolution.

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An outstanding resource on the American circuit rider period is The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright.  Thrilling, true story of a Methodist circuit rider in the Wild West.  Required reading for male study groups imo.

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