Friday, November 19, 2004

Clarence Jordan on the Draft

Clarence Jordan has some very entertaining and insightful comments to make about the military draft in an article on the Bruderhof website. Here's a hint of what he says:

How about starting the draft at sixty-five? Looky here, at that age they’re getting ready to retire and they could go at their own expense. We wouldn’t have to pay ‘em—they’re on Social Security, and old-age security, and all like that. They’re on their pensions….

And then another thing, and I noticed this, that the older a man gets, the more belligerent he gets. You listen to these guys talk in Congress. There isn’t anybody who’s more anxious to give the Communists hell than a man who’s too old to deliver it. Now anybody that’s as anxious to deliver some loads to the nether regions as our senior citizens ought not to be denied the privilege of delivering them in person. They wouldn’t even have to be drafted to do it. If given the opportunity, they’d volunteer in droves.

You'll have to read between the lines to discover the values of Christian Democrats.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Christian Right's Secret

Fred Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility, has some good advice for Christian Democrats on his weblog. He reminds us that thinking, talking and reframing issues is not enough. We need to all be busy and involved in hands-on, face-to-face, grassroots efforts to organize and get out the Christian Democratic vote.

Here's a quote from Clarkson's blog:

Progressives and Democrats need to learn from the success of the Christian Right, and make some changes. This can be done in part, by individuals and small groups digging into their own communities -- and figuring out how to be able to deliver more votes in more places next time.

Click here to link to Clarkson's blog.


I need to begin where I left off on my last blog. Yesterday I ended with the words, "Until I read Lakoff's books last week, I did not realize that the patriarchal family was so foundational for conservative politics."

Actually, that's overstating the case a bit. I did have some level of awareness that the patriarchal family was "foundational" to conservative thought and by logical extension to conservative politics. What Lakoff really made clear to me was how the metaphors they use to frame issues resonate down to this foundation. Now that this resonance is in the forefront of my mind, some observations I've made over the years are coming to focus from a new perspective.

Over the past twenty-five years Fundamentalists have taken over and radically redirected every institution and agency of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). From the beginning their goal was to focus the substantial resources of the SBC toward influencing the secular political life of our country. They were using the language (metaphoricity) of "revivalism" in a different context to create a new frame of reference. Here's a link to an article I wrote that talks about these changes:

Identifying the Mainstream of Baptist Life

As the results of the 2004 elections have shown, that objective has been accomplished. My problem, and now -- by extension -- the nation's problem, is that the average Baptist sitting on a pew in his Southern Baptist church is still operating under an old frame of reference. They think a "revival" is a "spiritual" movement when the metaphor and the reality has been reframed to refer to a "political" movement.

Lakoff makes it clear that reporting the facts is insufficient to change most minds. "Frames trump facts," he says. I can vouch for that. I've been reporting the facts to Baptists for more than six years with little effect among Baptists -- though the factual information I share has been well received by Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and others who are facing well organized and amply funded challenges from Fundamentalists within their own denominations.

Now that Lakoff is helping me see to these issues from a new perspective, it is time to start thinking about how we can reframe the issues.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Democratic Family Values

George Lakoff, in his books Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant , demonstrates that the worldviews of conservatives and progressives are distinguished by a network of "radial" metaphors related to the family that form their respective "frames of reference." Lakoff says conservatives frame thought according to a strict father model of parenting. Progressives frame thought according to a nurturing parent model of parenting.

If that is true, and I think Lakoff's thesis is compelling, does this distinction hold among people who share the same faith? Is there a single "Christian" way to view the family that will determine where Christians fit in the spectrum of political thought.

Though Lakoff discovered the frames of references by linguistic research into 'radial' metaphors, conservative linguists familiar with James Dobson's Dare to Discipline quickly pointed Lakoff to Dobson's work. Dobson's thought is based on a patriarchical model of the family that views family life hierarchically as a chain-of-command. This model can easily be supported with texts from scripture and has often been viewed as the only biblical model for the family by many evangelical Christians.

Recently, however, the biblical credentials for the patriarchal chain-of-command model of the family began to be questioned when some conservative, evangelical scholars trained in textual criticism discovered that the oldest, therefore most authentic, texts of Paul's letter to the Ephesians demonstrated that the Apostle was undermining the family hierarchy and breaking the chain-of-command by advocating a more egalitarian, mutually-submissive relation between husbands and wives. Those findings proved so unsettling that Southern Baptists made it an article of faith to believe that wives must be "graciously submissive" to their husbands and then terminated all tenured professors, career missionaries, denominational executives, etc. who publicly disagreed.

I've been trying to educate and inform Southern Baptists about these matters for years. Here are some links to articles about biblical family relations that I have written over the years:

The Christian Family: Mutual Submission or Chain of Command?

Dead "Head" Leads SBC Family

Until I read Lakoff's books last week, I did not realize that the patriarchal family was so foundational for conservative politics.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Would God Choose Bush?

Beliefnet has posted a story asking "Did God Choose Bush?" and quoting evangelicals who believe that God intervened to secure Bush's election. Among those quoted is Richard Land who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission which is best described as a Republican Political Action Committee. Here's what Land is quoted as saying:
Richard Land, a leading Southern Baptist who participates in a weekly strategy call between the White House and evangelical leaders put it this way: “Whoever won, it would have been God’s will.” But because Bush won, Land told Beliefnet, God has clearly shown America his blessings. If Kerry had won, it would have proved God was cursing the United States. “The Bible says godly leadership is a sign of God’s blessings and a lack of godly leadership is a sign of God’s judgment. I don’t see Kerry as a godly leader.”

A Kerry win would have been proof of God's curse? What greater curse can befall a people than to have a leader whose relatives and followers rig elections for them, who distorts the truth to lead his nation into war, who shifts the burden of government from the wealthy to the poor, and who lacks the humility to admit that he can make a mistake?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

On Getting Religion

Since the presidential election there have been a number of articles telling Democrats that they need to "get religion." Two of the most widely circulated are Nicholas Kristof's Op-Ed "Time to Get Religion" published in the New York Times on Nov. 6th and Mort Kondrake's commentary "Democrats Need to 'Get Religion.' It's not Scary" published at the Real Clear Politics website on Nov. 10th.

Having been both a religious person and a Democrat for more than 35 years, I find such advice puzzling. It presumes there is validity to the caricature that right-wing Republicans have drawn of Democrats.

Correctives to this caricature have long been available for anyone interested in giving a fair appraisal of the depth of faith among Democrats. My favorite source for Democratic political religiosity is Carlos Stouffer's Jesus Politics blog.

Still, that religion has suddenly become a hot topic in Democratic circles cannot be denied. One of the more interesting new discussions is being led by Scott Jones at the Coalition for a New America blog.

I am adding my voice to the mix because I am alarmed at the fatuity of some of the advice being given. A good example of the bad advice that I am talking about is in the essay by Nicholas Kristof that was published in the New York Times. Kristof gives Democrats four suggestions. Here's his first suggestion:

Don't be afraid of religion. Offer government support for faith-based programs to aid the homeless, prisoners and AIDS victims. And argue theology with Republicans; there's much more biblical ammunition to support liberals than conservatives.

Democrats like myself are not afraid of religion and we aren't afraid to argue theology with the religious right. In fact, we've been doing it for years. What we fear is the fusion of religion with politics and the union of church and state. This is precisely what Kristof is advocating when he suggests that Democrats up the ante Republicans are offering in faith-based bribes to get the support of religious voters.

Kristof needs to read the blog that I wrote for Mainstream Baptists on "Faith-Based Initiatives: Easy Money and Loose Accountability" (8-4-04 -- you'll have to scroll down a ways) and my speech for Americans United about "Politicizing Churches is Bad for Both Church and State."

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