Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Anti-gay is a recipe for ecclesiastical decline

This election season has been notable for the resurgence of a particularly vicious and reactionary politics based on conservative Christian viewpoints particularly around women, sex, and LGBT issues. It may play well in certain areas but may have unintended consequences.

From the CS Monitor:
Religious pollsters and demographers have long warned that young people were leaving churches in alarming numbers….What’s been less clear is why they’re leaving.

But according to Notre Dame professor David Campbell and Harvard professor Robert Putnam, the fusion of faith and partisan politics – particularly the conservative type – is at least partly to blame.

“The best evidence indicates that this dramatic generational shift is primarily in reaction to the religious right,” they wrote in the latest Foreign Affairs in an essay titled “God and Caesar in America: Why Mixing Religion and Politics is Bad for Both.” …

Mr. Putnam and Mr. Campbell point to the statistical growth of “nones,” those persons who claim no religious affiliation. This group has historically comprised between 5 and 7 percent of the American population. In the aftermath of the religious right movement in the 1990s, however, the percentage began rising. In the mid-1990s, it reached 12 percent. By 2011, it was at 19 percent. Between 2006 and 2011, the rise in young people aged 18-29 who reported never attending religious services was three times higher than the increase among those over the age of 60.

“In effect, Americans (especially young Americans) who might otherwise attend religious services are saying, ‘Well, if religion is just about conservative politics, then I’m outta here,’” Putnam and Campbell write.
Polls show that a lot of this is over the sexuality issue:
Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
And even the Evangelicals, like the Barna group of pollsters, are finding the same thing. It's not just a US phenomenon either.

Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, sounds the alert from the UK
“The fact that fifty years on [after the decriminalisation of homosexuality] the Church is seen as enemy No 1 of gay people is a disaster, both for our own morale and for our mission to the country. We have become the last refuge of prejudice.”
Hardly Christ-like, is it?

Election-wise, it may still work mainly because young people aren't so good at voting. But long term, this toxic mixture of intolerant religiosity and politics will damage not only the churches themselves, but also the slowly imploding Republican party. After all, neither can survive without the young.

Meanwhile, it remains a vital necessity for the more liberal mainline to push back against the continued identification of the right-wing views as somehow "Christian" and to present themselves as a real alternative, tolerant of doubt, and committed to inclusion rather than judgment-- not only as individuals, but also as institutions.


dr.primrose said...

Good N.Y. Times column on the one-way women are trashed by language in politics, Limbaugh and One-Way Wantonness.

"Hussy. Harlot. Hooker.

"Floozy. Strumpet. Slut.

"When attacking a woman by questioning her sexual mores, there's a smorgasbord of slurs, and you can take your rancid pick. Help me out here: where are the comparable nouns for men? What's a male slut?

"A role model, in some cases. In others, a presidential candidate.

"'Gigolo' doesn't have the acid or currency of 'whore,' and the man with bedpost notches gets compliments. He's a Casanova, a conquistador.

"The lady is a tramp.


"While both men and women are called idiots and puppets and frauds, only women are attacked in terms of suspected (or flat-out hallucinated) licentiousness. And only for women is there such a brimming, insidious thesaurus of accordant pejoratives.

"Decades after the dawn of feminism, despite the best efforts of everyone from Erica Jong to Kim Cattrall, women are still seen through an erotically censorious prism, and promiscuity is still the ultimate putdown.

"It's antediluvian, and it's astonishing. You'd think our imaginations would have evolved, even if our humanity hasn't.

"Anthony Weiner may have been felled by his libido, but the weirdness of its expression and his recklessness were what people mainly balked at. Ditto for John Edwards. No one called them gigolos.

"You could argue that Limbaugh chose the slurs he did for Fluke simply because the context, a debate over contraception, was in part sexual.

"But there are examples aplenty of women being derided as sluts and prostitutes - two of his descriptions of Fluke - when sex is nowhere in the preamble, nowhere in the picture.

"Some involve Limbaugh himself. As Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan noted in a recent editorial for CNN.com, he has referred to female cabinet members as 'sex-retaries.'


"The impulse toward gross sexual caricatures of women is a sick tic without end.

"In 1992 the threat to Bill Clinton's first presidential bid was a 'bimbo eruption.' Note how the slur was assigned to the lubricious co-conspirator, not the lustful (and philandering) candidate.

"Two decades later, Amanda Knox wasn't just an alleged killer but an alleged killer with supposedly kinky sexual habits, the latter presumably shedding light on the former.

"Just before the Hollywood producer and director Brett Ratner was dropped from taking charge of this year's Oscars telecast, he went on a revoltingly sexist tear, saying that he insists that the women he becomes physically intimate with are examined first for transmissible diseases. He separately used an anti-gay epithet. His misogyny struck me as more florid than his homophobia, but if you followed the events closely, you sensed that the homophobia did him in. Only because his victim pool included men as well as women did the water get really hot."

JCF said...

Off-topic MESSAGE FOR ELLIE: did you mean to *close the comments* at The Anchorhold? Because they are!

Counterlight said...

On topic:

I'm becoming more and more convinced that the gay issue, and churches' insistence on maintaining a criminal or pathological status for gays and lesbians will be the death of institutional Christianity, and sooner than anyone expects.
I'm currently fighting my own little battle to deny the right wing the copyright on Christianity that they claim.

JCF said...

And you're doing an EXCELLENT job at it, {{{Doug}}}