Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Dangerous Religious Cult?


Yesterday we took a peak at how the GOP is slipping into the status of being a cult rather than a legitimate political party. As I've mentioned before, recently Blue America has partner with an evangelical group, Vote Common Good, a 501 c (4) non-profit organization, which is helping Democratic congressional candidates have a better understanding of evangelical voters. They describe their goal as "an intentional effort to dislodge control of Congress from the Republican Party by engaging religiously-motivated voters, many of whom have reflexively voted Republican in the past but can’t do it any longer with a clean conscience, to vote in the midterm elections in 2018 with a new voting criterion-- the Common Good."

We are helping them put together a national bus tour "that will barnstorm the country for eight weeks, September 6 - November 6, 2018, passionately inviting people to vote for the Common Good." Their plan is to help "motivate current voters and register new voters across the country as we visit 40+ crucial congressional districts, in 25 States, that we believe hold the promise of flipping congress by electing Democratic candidates." They are aiming to connect with 3 kinds of voters:
Disillusioned Republican voters who are hesitant to change party affiliation, but will now vote for the Common Good by electing Democratic candidates, perhaps for the first time in their lives
Voters ho are predisposed to support Democratic candidates and are newly engaged in the political system due the cruelty, dangers, and excesses of the current administration
Long-time Democratic voters who are compelled by their faith and conscience to engage with greater fervor in electoral politics than ever before.
Their team of leaders, who Ted Lieu, Frank Schaefer and I sat down with last month to talk strategy and to get to know each other better, has "spent decades building networks and alliances of the most active and engaged religious leaders and communities across the United States. Along with our robust internet and social media presence consisting of hundreds of thousands of followers, we will have boots-- and tires-- on the ground across the country and skillfully reach voters’ hearts, minds, and hands."
The Trumpism-take-over of the Republican Party is a blatant departure from their principles in order to follow the current President’s approach to life, faith, and politics has been distressing, but has also stirred new and fresh energy among voters across the political spectrum.

People of faith, from all groups, are energized. It is a historical moment for the Christian faith in particular. Many religiously-motivated voters, who have historically voted reflexively Republican, are ready to make a shift that has been a long time in coming. The amount of fear of “the other” (regarding religion, race, science, and media) required to be considered “Evangelical” is now exceeding what thoughtful believers are willing to tolerate in their lives. Our experience leads us to conclude that as many as 5-15% of Evangelical voters, who voted for Trump in 2016, are open to or are actively looking for new ways of believing, belonging, and voting.

They are seeking exits from their former confining categories and searching for new ways of being a religious and political citizen in today’s America. They are in need of an invitation, opportunity, and support to move into new intellectual, emotional, and spiritual positions that reflect true Christian values aligned with Jesus’ actual life and teachings. It is urgent that we develop clear paths for people, who sense the need for a collective Christian political identity not based on fear, and votes for the Common Good. This, paradoxically, will make them feel more Christian--and more American--than they ever did before and will alleviate many of their apprehensions towards voting for Democratic Candidates.
Doug Pagitt is the executive director of VoteCommonGood and he reminded me that "evangelicals are people of great pride and will only change their support for Trump, who they believe God led them to vote for, after all else has failed. And, Trump will continue to disappoint them as he did with separating families. They are going through a religious-style-de-conversion in their relationship with Trump. This is why I like, and use, the metaphor of a cult, it fits the internal struggle. The future politically needs to include candidates who respect and are willing to engage religious voters in style, content and policy."

"Religious people," added, "voted for Trump over Clinton in higher percentages than the last four presidential elections. This was true for Protestant and Catholic Christians and true for Jews in all elections other than 2004 and 2012. So, what this says is that it was a religious person issue across the board. He interprets that in two ways:
Clinton was dismal with religious voters, This I believe is key to the future Democratic success, Her campaign believed they did not need religious voters and did no work with them. She buried her own faith and the campaign actively disregarded religious organizers, other than in Black communities. So, it was not only the attraction of Trump but the repulsion of Clinton that was at work. She had the lowest religious support of any Democratic candidate since across the board (except the Jewish vote in 2008) since 2000.
Trump was very well suited for the modern-day evangelical/Pentecostal voter who’s belief in the “person of faith as president” was eroded by both Bush-- a self-avowed Evangelical, and even Obama who’s faith claims were real and constant. These voters concluded that it is better to have a person of no-faith who is a tool for the right policy than a President of faith who was squishy on policy. So, Trump’s promise on particular issues-- Guns; Law and Order, especially on the border; abortion; and most importantly, Israel-- allowed him to be a “biblical archetypal leader” who can do “God’s work” even without faith.
Samir Selmanović is co-chair of VoteCommonGood. This morning he told me that, as a country, "We are entering a post-evangelical America. It is a well armed army and, while still in charge, actually losing the war. Evangelicalism as political entity, has lost its faith in power of God, then its faith in truth, then its faith in love, and now finally their faith in Jesus. Currently, under the siege of negative public opinion which-- as their "mission field" and source of their future believers, since they don't baptize children-- matters greatly. Existentially. They can either come to terms with reality or double down. Historically, groups do not come to terms with reality until their pain touches their physical being. Identity is more powerful. In other words, only those who see their identity tied to the life and teachings of Jesus as different from their American Evangelical identity, will be able to leave behind their violent ways and migrate from fear to faith. Fortunately, there are Evangelicals ready to do so and will do it first in the privacy of their voting boot, and later more publicly."

Bob Lynch is the guy I work with on a day to day basis. He serves as the VoteCommonGood political director. "The recent focus on Evangelical hypocrisy with respect to the immigration debate, gun control, or even The President committing adultery with porn stars continues to miss the larger point," he explained. There is a sizable portion of Evangelical Christians that are no longer comfortable with Donald Trump and the GOP’s policies because they are completely antithetical to the teachings Jesus. The GOP is taking them for granted and the Democrats are ignoring them. These people are already registered voters and have historically participated in midterm elections. They also represent roughly one third of the entire country...
Vote Common Good believes that targeting this segment of the Evangelical population through our network of pastors and influential religious leaders is the quickest and easiest way for Democrats to regain a majority in the House and begin making policy decisions that are in support of the concept of a Common Good that transcends bi-partisanship and also reflects the majority of Americans’ values. We speak their language and we have built in networks to access them.

A small portion of Evangelicals being told it is ok to vote for Democratic candidates by their trusted religious leaders may not be significant in every district but could actually move the needle in some of them.

This doesn’t require moving all of them, it just requires knowing how to reach SOME of them. We can do that and Democrats who choose not to work with us are missing an enormous opportunity.

Barack Obama’s time as a community organizer made him realize how important it was to access church networks. Hillary Clinton chose to lump all Christians in with a basket of “deplorables” and her poll numbers with Evangelicals, despite Hillary being a Methodist, reflect this. This is also a big reason why Donald Trump, a man who checks off every single box of the seven deadly sins on a daily basis, is President and she is not.

As I said earlier, it was DWT-friend, author and film-maker Frank Schaeffer, who first introduced me to VoteComnmonGood. If you've been following his essays, you can easily imagine that he would have something worthwhile to add to a serious look at the Reza Aslan video up top. No one knows more about the history and genesis of the religious right as a movement. "White evangelicals grew up on a theology that trains people to be those who can’t tell the difference between reality and make-believe," he said. "They were already in a cult of willful ignorance. They'd been ready for Trump for decades. They then opted for make-believe again and again with Trump because fantasy is kinder and more malleable than reality. No wonder they embraced Trump’s lies.
White evangelical Trump supporters are now addicted to their ignorance, doubling and tripling down on it, digging in their heels, unwilling to surrender their inner fantasy-land and clinging to fantastical certainties utterly unarmored from any verifiable reality.

Here’s what is at stake in beating back Trump’s supporters’ anti-reality: Our instinct to survive and thrive in the real world is being attacked by the evangelicals’ instinct to dismiss the real world as the enemy of their magical thinking that thrives only by branding facts as ‘fake.’

Evangelical Trump supporters’ dissociation from reality is the enemy of civilization that depends on orienting citizens to a common fact-accepting reality. American civilization circa 2018 is thus fighting an uphill battle against white evangelicals’ tendency to choose make-believe as a self-justification for their well-honed ignorance.

Civilization used to be a bulwark that kept us from rolling faster and faster toward self-justifying ignorance of the kind evangelicals now have perfected in order to believe the unbelievable about everything from the universe, to Trump, to sexuality, to climate change.

What drives evangelical Trump supporters’ magical thinking cultic is self-insulation from hard truths and an appetite for pretending they are “dealing with” political problems by saying, “Only people who don’t believe as we do have those problems! You must become like us or burn forever! Convert!”

Evangelical Trump supporters’ personal burden of inner proof gets lighter and lighter through a vicious cycle. Evangelicals’ theological make-believe magical thinking bolsters their general ignorance which, in turn, liberates them to… indulge in more make-believe magical thinking. As such they are the greatest threat to American civilization we face.


Without white evangelical voters’ support: Trump is just another mobster crook whoremaster con-artist selling gold-plated failure as success to the gullible.

With white evangelical support: Trump is the president of the United States of America, busy tarnishing our country forever.

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At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, lots of space affirming what everyone should already have surmised.

The Nazi party has been a religious cult of hate, greed and fear for only about 50 years. For the century before that they were the religious cult of greed and fear... but mostly greed.

The democratic party was, ACTUALLY, the party of the 'Greater Good' between 1932 and about 1980. This was the case in spite of the fact that the Ds in the south were the party of hate up until about 1966. The PARTY took advantage of the numbers in the south to make this nation great. The irony is that the democrats' "Great Society" reforms, civil rights and voting rights specifically, turned the southern democrats into republican Nazis.

However, the democrap party is also a religious cult of delusional altruism. The PARTY is wholly and irretrievably corrupt. They pander (only) to the poor, workers, women, children, the elderly, minorities and the LGBTQs, but they shall NEVER actually act on those words. Their fidelity in actions belong only to service of the money and this has been true since bill fucking Clinton pushed and signed GLBA et al at the behest of wall street. The result of that, directly, is 2008... and the next one whenever that is.

To worship BOTH those golden calves takes mindless faith in that which is clearly not true... a religious delusional cultism.

So... yes... and yes... Sounds like your "Greater Good" is more than likely a democrap stooge movement rather than a well-intended Christian effort.

But I could be wrong. American Christians are certainly plenty stupid enough to do this. They kill OBGYNs, commit hate crimes against minorities... and they elected cheney, bush and trump after all.

The term 'Greater good' is delusion. If anything it should be called 'lesser bad'. But in a binary world, those are synonyms, right???

still no epiphany?

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing religious about the Ugly Usurper, nor about his followers. Granted, he poses as if he deserves worship, but from what I'm reading, his followers are going to begin to lose faith. He's threatening Harley Davidson, many corporations worry that his trade wars will adversely affect them, and farmers -for whom the Chinese tariffs alone will soon cause a great deal of harm- reportedly are suffering from increased suicide. His tenure as a deity will be one of the shortest ever. His only out is to stage a coup and end what remains of our small-d democratic practices so that the can rule by diktat. There is no way right now to predict how that would turn out, but be certain that a great deal of harm will be done.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:34, you're correct. Hitler endeared himself to the military 'society' in Germany before he moved to become dictator. He also enjoyed many early military successes, which military types always like.

Trump? Our pathetic press doesn't say one way or another what, if anything, he's doing to assimilate the military (or police). But he has hired several former officers for his staff. Some have been sacked, for cause. He's spewed lies about almost all other government agencies and institutions. But I don't remember him throwing shade at the military. And a lot of his staged rallies have been in front of adoring military audiences... so who knows.

His racism and misogyny will play well with police. So he's probably ok there.

Has he done enough to stage a coup with their support? Probably.

Besides, americans are morons and pussies. We sat on our thumbs when cheney/bush staged their supreme court coup. We contemplated our navels when obamanation refused to prosecute bankers and torturers. And, of course, we (kind of) chose the greatest bankers' whore and purveyor of death and misery in hour hemisphere over Bernie and then 'elected' the retarded racist pussy grabber.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the evangelical leaders who have infiltrated the White House are the real danger causing all kinds of damage with pushing Zionist causes and longing to bring on Armageddon so they'll all get "raptured"--evangelicals in my personal experience are some of the most fearful of dying I have ever met, and I was brought up conservative Baptist. Evangelicals need to be rooted out of government entirely, and people should not ever be expecting or encouraged to believe that pols should govern biblically--they can't even ever agree among themselves on biblical interpretations! I am not sure I agree that Vote Common Good is a good idea to be embraced inside the Dem Party.


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