Monday, November 28, 2022

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

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When Ideology Trumps Empathy

From Heather Mac Donald, at City Journal, "Progressives profess to care deeply about inner-city black Americans, but their voting patterns suggest otherwise."


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Frank Dikötter, China After Mao

At Amazon, Frank Dikötter, China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower.

Political Demonstrations in Open-Carry States Favor Right-Wing Viewpoints

Seems like an obvious point, since open-carry states are more likely to lean right than non-open carry states, so the New York Times has got something of a tautology going on here.

But in any case, here, "At Protests, Guns Are Doing the Talking":

Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.

“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tenn., where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an L.G.B.T.Q. event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”

A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.

The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.

Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors like the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa

Republican politicians are generally more tolerant of openly armed supporters than are Democrats, who are more likely to be on the opposing side of people with guns, the records suggest. In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”

Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns. Democratic politicians were identified at only two protests taking the same view as those armed.

Sometimes, the Republican officials carried weapons: Robert Sutherland, a Washington state representative, wore a pistol on his hip while protesting Covid-19 restrictions in Olympia in 2020. “Governor,” he said, speaking to a crowd, “you send men with guns after us for going fishing. We’ll see what a revolution looks like.”

The occasional appearance of armed civilians at demonstrations or governmental functions is not new. In the 1960s, the Black Panthers displayed guns in public when protesting police brutality. Militia groups, sometimes armed, rallied against federal agents involved in violent standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco in the 1990s.

But the frequency of these incidents exploded in 2020, with conservative pushback against public health measures to fight the coronavirus and response to the sometimes violent rallies after the murder of George Floyd. Today, in some parts of the country with permissive gun laws, it is not unusual to see people with handguns or military-style rifles at all types of protests.

For instance, at least 14 such incidents have occurred in and around Dallas and Phoenix since May, including outside an F.B.I. field office to condemn the search of Mr. Trump’s home and, elsewhere, in support of abortion rights. In New York and Washington, where gun laws are strict, there were no

Many conservatives and gun-rights advocates envision virtually no limits. When Democrats in Colorado and Washington State passed laws this year prohibiting firearms at polling places and government meetings, Republicans voted against them. Indeed, those bills were the exception.

Attempts by Democrats to impose limits in other states have mostly failed, and some form of open carry without a permit is now legal in 38 states, a number that is likely to expand as legislation advances in several more. In Michigan, where a Tea Party group recently advertised poll-watcher training using a photo of armed men in camouflage, judges have rejected efforts to prohibit guns at voting locations.

Gun rights advocates assert that banning guns from protests would violate the right to carry firearms for self-defense. Jordan Stein, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America, pointed to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager acquitted last year in the shooting of three people during a chaotic demonstration in Kenosha, Wis., where he had walked the streets with a military-style rifle.

“At a time when protests often devolve into riots, honest people need a means to protect themselves,” he said.

Two Strains of Christian Nationalism

A very interesting Twitter thread:

There are two primary strains of right-wing Christian Nationalism in America at the moment. 🧵

1) the most extensive, called Seven Mountains theology, bubbled up from independent charismatic entrepreneurs like Lance Wallnau. They rely on a novel interpretation of obscure biblical passages in Isaiah & Revelation that call for reclaiming 7 mountains of Christian social control, from government through education. If they succeed, then God will bless America. If they fail, then apocalypse now.

They have gone further and anointed Donald Trump as a messianic figure--what theologians call christological typology--and linked him to the biblical Persian King Cyrus, a pagan who protected the Israelites and fulfilled prophecy. I call these people "entrepreneurs" quite literally. Lance Wallnau sold $45 "prayer coins" superimposing Trump's face over Cyrus's.

You might call this a "grift," though that assumes that Wallnau isn't sincere and is just flogging goods in the metaphorical temple square.

7 Mountains rhetoric is widespread, with political operatives like Charlie Kirk and Michael Flynn using the language at their God & Country tours of megachurches.

2) But while 7 Mountains might be the most prominent Christian Nationalist variant, there is also version percolating out of theologically reformed Presbyterian and Baptist circles.

This book in particular has been getting attention on Twitter. [The Case for Christian Nationalism.]

It's not a good book--see @BrianGMattson on its demerits--but it's notable b/c it attempts to give an intellectual foundation to a movement that has been easy to ridicule as one step removed from snake handling. They're Claremont-ing, in other words.

The book is from Canon Press, which began as the vanity press for Douglas Wilson, a neo-Confederate Lost Cause apologist. (It's no accident that the author, Wolfe, has himself questioned interracial marriage.) This version of Christian Nationalism has deeper, hateful roots.

Although the theology is very different from 7 Mountains CN, this alt-Reformational CN is similar in this core regard:

Whether by rediscovery or invention, both are surfacing novel theological justifications for culture war politics rooted in Christian cultural status anxiety.

Invariably, both kinds of Christian Nationalist promote a similar political rhetoric steeped in fear of sinister, anti-Christian elites who are conniving to deconvert, degender, derace, and replace God-fearing Americans.

I'll end by noting that as a trained historian of religion & politics, right-wing Christian Nationalism is not a new phenomenon. American history is rife with variants of Christian Nationalism bubbling up, particularly at moments of intense religious & political anxiety.

The classic example is "Parson" Weems, the itinerant traveling book salesman and evangelical minister who concocted soothing fables about the virtuous Christian character of various founding fathers.

It's Weems who gave us Washington and the Cherry Tree, for instance:

It's also Weems who invented the story about George Washington praying at Valley Forge, a myth that I can tell you from personal experience lives on in the form of paintings in many a church lobby today.

Why would Weems spread these myths in the 1820s/30s?

Because Americans in general, and evangelical Americans in particular, were anxious.

They were the 1st post-Revolution generation. The Founders & veterans were dying off. Would the American experiment survive?

In the midst of the tumultuous market revolution, early industrialization, westward expansion, and religious upheaval, what would the future look like??

So entrepreneurs--literally--like Weems wove them comforting tales. Yes, America would survive and thrive as a nation because it was grounded in orthodox, religious faith. The Founders were evangelical Christians just like you.

See, look! Washington even prayed at Valley Forge!

Sidenote: the most famous GW at Valley Forge painting was made in 1975 anticipating the bicentennial by a Mormon painter named Arnold Friberg who studied with Norman Rockwell.

It's a reminder that Mitt Romney wasn't the first (or even the second) Mormon moment!

I mention Mormons as a reminder that there are older non-evangelical versions of Christian Nationalism. Joseph Smith codified American exceptionalism in the Book of Mormon in the same milieu that Parson Weems was operating in. Thus the Missouri Garden of Eden, Mormon ancestors as the ten lost tribes, the Constitution & Declaration of Independence are considered literal sacred scripture, & so on. Mormonism has American Christian Nationalism in its bones.

Friberg's 1975 painting is also a reminder that the seventies were another era of Christian Nationalist resurgence. In 1977 two charismatic Christian Nationalists wrote a book called "The Light and the Glory," which sacralized America's national history.

It spread like wildfire in the new Christian homeschooling movement, through evangelical & pentecostal Christian bookstores, and was just hugely influential. I'd argue it's right up there in terms of internal influence w/ the Chronicles of Narnia & the Scofield Reference Bible.

Again, you can immediately sense the anxiety that underpinned the book's core message. Coming off the sixties counter-cultural revolutions and in the midst of what historians have called the "decade of nightmares" (the seventies), the fear pervades the text. From the intro:

Historians who were themselves confessing Christians tried to tell evangelicals that these were paranoid myths, but they were largely ignored. The odds of finding this book in your church bookstore is infinitesimally lower than finding "The Light and the Glory" on the shelf!

I could talk about other right-wing Christian Nationalists--Rushdoony-ites! Barton and the Wallbuilders!--but I want to end by noting that before you cast the first stone at the more outré varieties, bear in mind that Christian nationalisms are pervasive. When politicians from both parties talk about America being a "city on a hill," borrowing the rhetoric from a Puritan colonist, that's Christian nationalism

When you have a wedding ceremony at the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge, that's ritualistic participation in a form of Christian Nationalism.

If you stop at the "Stonewall Jackson Shrine," you're hearing a ghostly echo of a Christian Nationalist variant that emerged to contest other Christian Nationalisms.

In every case--whether it's one of which you approve or detest--remember that it is very American and very human, to want to sacralize one's political project. It might function as a soothing lie or as a political weapon, but it's always useful.

Thanksgiving With Annie Agar

She's spectacular, on Twitter.

Why Talk of the 'Abrahamic' Faiths is an Ecumenical Farce

From Raymond Ibrahim, at FrontPage Magazine, "Spearheaded by Pope Francis":

What if you had a deceased grandfather whom you were particularly fond of, and out of the blue, a stranger says: “Hey, that’s my grandpa!” Then—lest you think this stranger is somehow trying to ingratiate himself with you—he adds: “And everything you thought you knew about grandpa is wrong! Here, let me tell you what he really said and did throughout his life.” The stranger then proceeds to inform you that much of the good things you had long attributed to your grandfather were, not just false, but the exact opposite of what he is now attributing to your grandfather—much of which you find immensely disturbing.

Would that endear this stranger to you? Every proponent of the so-called “Abrahamic Faiths” apparently thinks so.

I will explain, but first let’s define “Abrahamism”: because the patriarch Abraham is an important figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all three religions, according to this position, share a commonality that should bridge gaps and foster growth between them.

Pope Francis is one of the chief proponents of this view. Speaking of his recent participation at an interfaith conference in Bahrain, he said his purpose was to create “fraternal alliances” with Muslims “in the name of our Father Abraham.”

Even so, Abrahamism is hardly limited to octogenarian theologians; it’s entrenched in mainstream American discourse. Thus, even the Huffington Post (rather ludicrously) claims that “Muhammad clearly rejected elitism and racism and demanded that Muslims see their Abrahamic brothers and sisters as equals before God.” In fact, Muhammad and his Allah called for perpetual war on Christians and Jews, until they either embraced Islam or lived in humbled submission to their Muslim conquerors (Koran 9:29).

That, of course, did not stop former Secretary of State John Kerry from beating on a mosque drum and calling Muslims to prayer during his visit to Indonesia—before gushing: “It has been a special honor to visit this remarkable place of worship. We are all bound to one God and the Abrahamic faiths tie us together in love for our fellow man and honor for the same God.”

After a Muslim from an Oklahoma City mosque decapitated a woman, “an official from Washington D.C. flew in to Oklahoma to present a special thank you to the Muslim congregation,” lest they feel too guilty over their coreligionist’s actions. He read them a message from former President Barack Obama: “Your service is a powerful example of the powerful roots of the Abrahamic faiths and how our communities can come together with shared peace with dignity and a sense of justice.”

Needless to say, Obama himself has often spoken of “the shared Abrahamic roots of three of the world’s major religions.”

Meanwhile, few people seem to have given this Abrahamic business much thought: How is one people’s appropriation of another people’s heritage—which is precisely what Abrahamism is all about—supposed to help the two peoples get along?

For starters, Islam does not represent biblical characters the way they are presented in the Bible, the oldest book in existence that mentions them. Christians accept the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, as it is. They do not add, take away, or distort the accounts of the patriarchs that Jews also rely on.

Conversely, while also relying on the figures of the Old and New Testaments—primarily for the weight of antiquity and authority attached to their names—Islam completely recasts them to fit its own agendas.

One need only look to the topic at hand for proof: Abraham.

Jews and Christians focus on different aspects of Abraham—the former see him as their patriarch in the flesh, the latter as their patriarch in faith or in spirit (e.g., Gal 3:6)—but they both rely on the same verbatim account of Abraham as found in Genesis.

In the Muslim account, however, not only does Abraham (Ibrahim) quit his country on God’s promise that he will make him “a great nation” (Gen. 12), but he exemplifies the hate Muslims are obligated to have for all non-Muslims: “You have a good example in Abraham and those who followed him,” Allah informs Muslims in Koran 60:4; “for they said to their people, ‘We disown you and the idols that you worship besides Allah. We renounce you: enmity and hate shall reign between us until you believe in Allah alone.’”

In fact, Koran 60:4 is the cornerstone verse that all “radical” Muslims—from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State—cite as proof that Muslims “must be hostile to the infidel—even if he is liberal and kind to you” (to quote the revered Sheikh Ibn Taymiyya, The Al-Qaeda Reader, p. 84).

Thus, immediately after quoting 60:4, Osama bin Laden once wrote:

So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility, and an internal hate from the heart. And this fierce hostility—that is, battle—ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [a dhimmi], or if the Muslims are [at that point in time] weak and incapable [of spreading sharia law to the world]. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the hearts, this is great apostasy [The Al-Qaeda Reader, p. 43].

Such is the mutilation Patriarch Abraham has undergone in Islam. Not only is he not a source of commonality between Muslims on the one hand and Jews and Christians on the other; he is the chief figure to justify “enmity and hate … between us until you believe in Allah alone.”

Islam’s appropriation of Abraham has led to other, more concrete problems, of the sort one can expect when a stranger appears and says that the home you live in was actually bequeathed to him by your supposedly “shared” grandfather. Although the Jews claimed the Holy Land as their birthright for well over a millennium before Muhammad and Islam came along, Jerusalem is now special to Muslims partially because they also claim Abraham and other biblical figures.

As a result, statements like the following from mainline Christian groups such as the Presbyterian Church USA are common: “[PCUSA] strongly condemns the U.S. President’s [Trump’s] decision to single out Jerusalem as a Jewish capital. Jerusalem is the spiritual heart of three Abrahamic faiths …”

The Muslim appropriation and mutilation of revered biblical figures is a source of problems, not solutions. When, as another example, Islam’s Jesus—Isa—returns, he will smash all crosses (because they signify His death and resurrection, which Islam vehemently denies), abrogate the jizya (or dhimmi status, meaning Christians must either become Muslim or die) and slaughter all the pigs to boot. Again, not exactly a great shared source of “commonality” for Christians and Muslims.

It is only the secular mindset, which cannot comprehend beyond the surface fact that three religions claim the same figures—and so they must all eventually “be friends”—that does not and never will get it. All the more shame, then, that supposed Christian leaders, such as Pope Francis, rely on such “logic.”