Staturday: The Religious Left

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What I’m Listening

The Benito Juárez Experience #16 Trinity Lutheran v. Comer Luciano and I talk about the recently decided SCOTUS case with Utica College political science professor Dr. Daniel Tagliarina, an expert on the Supreme Court and an old graduate school pal.

Resist Podcast #20 The Importance of Local Political Involvement and more with Sean Omar Rivera Danielle Muscato continues her interviews from the Secular Student Alliance conference, this time with student leader Sean Omar Rivera about the importance of local political involvement.

Code Switch #71 The U.S. Census and Our Sense of Us Great show about the importance of the U.S. Census. Gene Demby & Shareen Marisol Meraji interview former Census Director John Thompson. Also, Professor Cristina Mora talks about how the term Hispanic became a thing.

No Jargon #93: Melting Pot, Boiling Pot Hazelton, PA enacted Trumpian immigration ordinances before Trumpism was a thing. Avi Green interviews University of Washington professor Dr. René Flores who found that stirring anti-immigrant fears of criminality led to criminality indeed…against immigrants.

The Benito Juárez Experience #16: Trinity Lutheran

This week Luciano and I discuss the recently decided SCOTUS case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. We debate the merits of the case, discuss the nuanced differences in opinion between justices, and wonder what's next in church-state jurisprudence with Utica College political science professor Daniel Tagliarina.

Links

The Benito Juárez Experience #16: Trinity Lutheran

Trinity Lutheran v. Comer Opinion

A Major Church-State Ruling That Shouldn't Have Happened (Garrett Epstein, The Atlantic)

Written by Professor Tagliarina

Free Exercise on the Playground

How Roberts Blurs Church and State in Trinity Lutheran Case

Various Interpretations of First Amendment in Trinity Lutheran Case

Theology Over Politics

Daniel Schultz has a very good piece in Religion Dispatches on the main weakness of the so-called religious left. As Schultz puts it:

[Rev. Dr. William] Barber wants Christians to decide which side they’re on: that of the rich and powerful, or the poor, in whose corner God stands. This sort of appeal to the authority of scripture is well-used by both the religious left and right. It’s what Christians think they should do when sorting through options: Come, let us reason together by interpreting the word of God.

But as he further argues, this strategy doesn't work for two reasons. First, it requires "a shared understanding of the Christian responsibility to the poor." Second, because it also requires "a shared identity as Christians."

This understanding of Christianity is problematic, particularly for someone in the religious left. Contrary to the religious right, that is essentially a Christian movement with some conservative Jews in the mix, the religious left is a multi-faith coalition. Sure, the vast majority of those are Christian, but minority religions are better represented than in their right-wing counterpart. If the concern for the poor is primarily a Christian thing, then where does that leave their fellow travelers in the movement who don't happen to be Christian.

Their diversity makes for a shaky coalition, something that Mark Silk has argued before, because they are unwilling to use the tools of partisanship to achieve political victories. Luciano Gonzalez and I expand on why this phobia of partisanship is the major weakness of the religious left in episode 12 of The Benito Juárez Experience. In his Religion Dispatches piece Schultz further argues that

When liberals appeal to a shared religious identity to guide policy decisions, then, the argument becomes about the faith, not the policy. Jim Wallis has been talking about all the scripture passages concerning the poor for like 40 years, and it hasn’t changed much of anything, because conservatives don’t understand the priorities the same way.

He is right, right-wing religious leaders baptize policies as Christian after the fact, not the other way around. If you debate how a Christian policy would look like you could keep arguing forever with nothing to show as an outcome. Bragging about holding the high moral ground may be nice but doesn't change the desperate situation many Americans live in. Holding power and the ability to change that reality is much better, but to many on the left -particularly religious figures- power is something to fear rather than embrace.

What I’m Reading…

Can we just stop fantasizing about the South winning the Civil War? (Sean O'Neal The A.V.Club)A new alternate-reality show wonders what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War. If black people need to get over slavery, shouldn't white people get over the Civil War (or the Nazis, for what is worth).

Democrats Are Trying to Win the 2018 Midterms in All the Wrong Ways (Steve Phillips The Nation) White working class obsession among Democratic Party leaders has not reached its peak yet. Phillips shows why they are wrong about the strategy to bring back WWC voters, when they need to make sure the working class voters they do have (and who are not white) don't stay home come election time.

We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy (Jeet Heer The New Republic) If you haven't seen the Coen Bros brilliant "Burn After Reading" you should. They may be suing the Trumps soon over copyright issues.

You Keep Using That Word… (Sincere Kirabo The Humanist) A very meta piece in which he reviews James Croft's review of Anthony Pinn's latest book. All are an excellent read about how humanism can become the greatest force of good in American politics. My words, not theirs.

What I’m Listening…

The Benito Juárez Experience #15: "America Last"Luciano and I discuss the decline of good will toward the United States as a consequence of the Trump presidency.

Ben Franklin's World #144: "Robert Parkinson, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution" Amazing interview of a new book on how colonists in the original 13 used media to create a distinct American identity, one that was defined as exclusively white.

Latino USA #1730: "The Stolen Child" Very powerful episode about the consequences of authoritarianism with a story on the case of one of the children of the disappeared during the Argentinian Dirty War.

The Weeds: "A deep dive on basic income" I've been thinking about basic income as a policy for a while and this long-ish episode gives a good primer on Dylan Matthews very long Vox article on the subject.

In the Thick #72: Will the Real Democrats Please Stand Up?: If you liked our Benito Juárez z Experience episode 13 about Democrats in the age of Trump, you will like this discussion.

La Voz del Centro #752: "El concepto de americanización en las primeras tres décadas del Siglo XX" [In SPANISH] Historical discussion about how the U.S. government and civil society organizations shaped the policy of forcing Puerto Rican's to become "Americans" in the aftermath of the 1898 invasion.

Homophobia and the Secular Boom

Phil Zuckerman discusses a new study of college freshmen and their views on same-sex relationships as an explanation for their increasing secularism.

Simply put: Younger Americans are the least homophobic generation in our nation’s history, with a clear majority of millennials being accepting and affirming of homosexuality. And what do they see? That most major religions condemn homosexuality as sinful and wrong. Given this situation, these anti-gay and anti-lesbian religions are losing members in record numbers. Younger Americans are simply walking away from beliefs and institutions that they see as intolerant, unloving, and immoral.

There's some truth to this. In 2014, PRRI released "A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues" and the poll found that…

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. More than 7-in-10 Americans who have disaffiliated from their childhood religion report that was not too important (17%) or not at all important as a factor (54%).

However, I think that religion-based homophobia is just a gateway to secularism. It is the way in which many young people start questioning the tenets of their religion when they encounter LGBTQ individuals and realize they are (GASP!) human. From there, I think there's a snowballing process of questioning other teachings and, ultimately, abandoning identification. This is why membership among liberal religious groups is not blossoming despite increasing acceptance of homosexuality. Young people realize that they don't need religion, no matter how hip and abstract you want to make it.

The Benito Juárez Experience #15 (America Last)

This week Luciano discusses how the world view’s America in the Trump era looking at a recent Pew Global poll conducted around the G20 meeting where Trump ranks last among the 4 main leaders of the G20 (China, Germany, Russia) in terms of confidence. Juhem analyzes some of the global public opinion while also finding time to discuss global First Ladies.
Download this episode (right click and save)

Related Links

U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership (Pew Global Attitudes & Trends)

Tracking U.S. favorability and confidence in the U.S. president, 2002 to 2017 (Interactive Chart by Pew Global)

First Lady Incidents

Poland (Vanity Fair)

Japan (The Hill)

USA (Boston Globe)

Lack of Diversity Among Capitol Hill Unpaid Interns

A recent report in WAMU, the DC NPR station out of American University, explored the widespread use of unpaid interns in the halls of Congress. This is an issue I have often brought up in conversations with friends here inside the beltway.

The DC area is very expensive to live in and most people here are not native to the area. This means that to come and work for free you either need some startup resources (often parental help) or make ends meet some other way. This method has consequences, eloquently put by one of those interns.

One result of offering only unpaid positions, Vera said, is a noticeable lack of diversity within the intern pool.

“There’s a reason why, if you walk around the halls, all the interns look like me,” said Anthony Eliopoulos, a current House intern from Ohio. Eliopoulos, who describes himself as “a white, straight male,” said the financial strain caused by unpaid internships means that other well-qualified young people can’t make it to Washington, like he did.

But Eliopoulos didn’t get to D.C. on luck alone. To afford his time away from home, he saved up the money he earned from completing basic training with the Ohio National Guard. He also was able to live rent-free with family in Maryland. Even with all the planning and outside support, he said the costs of parking, Metro, food, and business clothes added up quickly in a city as expensive as Washington.

Unpaid public service warps the view of what public service means. Right now the children of the dominant classes use it as a stepping stone to find more lucrative work in the lobbying industry or helps perpetuate a power elite in political parties. It will ensure that as more people country continue to descend into poverty the ruling class remains insulated from it. And that's not good for democracy.