Day: 2015.04.25

The Politics of Victimhood (Wannabe Wax Wix Mix)

Rick Santorum speaks during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Let us start with Steve Benen, and note that there really is nothing unfamiliar about the situation he describes.

First up from the God Machine this week is an aggressive push from likely Republican presidential candidates to characterize social conservatives as a “victims” of a secular American government.msnbc

If this seems like a cyclical problem, it’s not your imagination. Four years ago, Newt Gingrich delivered one of my favorite quotes of all time, warning that if conservatives “do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America,” his grandchildren might one day live “in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.” The contradiction was apparently lost on him.

Four years later, it’s Rick Santorum reading from a similar script ....

No, really, this is nothing new. But it is worth noting, because in truth it seems somewhat strange that the point doesn’t come up more.

Whether insurrectionist paranoia or craven, misguided, and exploited self-indictment, we should not be surprised; this is no different than pop arguments about how men are the real victims of rape and sexism, or whites the real victims of racism, this is hardly new. It seems like a perverse Munchausen envy, as if societal majorities become jealous at the attention and care shown their victims.

To the other, what about this isn’t self-evident? Benen makes a good point about contradiction; one needs not even make sense in order to gain support among the evangelical crowd, unless, of course, we accept the supremacist notion that they all look the same. After all, if “atheist” means “non-Christian”, then Gingrich’s complaint about a secular atheist society dominated by radical Islamists suddenly makes sense.

And this is sufficient―or, at least, it should be―to make the point about what it is these would-be victims actually fear.

As to the latest? Benen simply notes Rick Santorum lamenting that, “We have now the secular church that is being imposed on this country and anybody that defects is subject to persecution and prosecution.” We might suggest the spattering sputter from the Pennsylvania Republican is complete excrement and he knows it, but that latter is unclear. While it is observable that these elements are pitching tantrums on behalf of supremacism and bigotry, it is not entirely clear that they remain so possessed of their faculties as to be capable of recognizing the problem.

Remember, any bully losing his privilege will lament lost rights.

Evangelical Christian faith is not inherent victimhood, but these people seem to really, really want to suffer. But here’s the thing about human sympathy toward victims of injustice: That sympathy diminishes when you do it to yourseslf.

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Benen, Steve. “This Week in God, 4.25.15”. msnbc. 25 April 2015.

The Countdown: Weekend Edition

Contemplation of Justice

There are a few things here:

The Defense of Marriage Act decision overshadowed another 2013 case―Hollingsworth v. Perry―that could have determined whether states could ban same-sex marriage.

The case concerned a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that barred same-sex couples from marriage. But Roberts, writing for the majority, dismissed the case, holding that the challengers did not have the legal standing to bring it to the court.

The ruling left in place a lower court decision that had invalidated Proposition 8 and thus paved the way for same-sex marriage in California. Roberts’ lesbian cousin, who lives in California, sat in the courtroom during arguments in the Prop 8 case.

Few people predicted that the issue would return so quickly to the Supreme Court, but waves of lower court judges―sometimes citing Windsor―struck down the state bans.

Ariane de Vogue is not wrong. It seemed strange at the time; the Hollingsworth outcome was one of my anti-prophet moments. When the case was selected, I actually told a friend it wouldn’t make sense for the Court to take the case and then punt. And, yet, here we are.

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Prosperity (Devil’s Dollar Edition)

Creflo Dollar, in undated, uncredited photograph.

The thing about Sam Stringer’s report for CNN is mostly the idea of what it takes to get people to pay attention. To wit, there really isn’t anything new about the idea that this is how it goes:

Prosperity gospel pastor Creflo Dollar responded recently to critics of his campaign to buy a very pricey Gulfstream G650.

Dollar noted in a recent address to his congregants that the devil was attempting to discredit him in regards to his campaign seeking $300 from 200,000 people globally to help buy the luxury jet.

In a newly posted five-minute clip on YouTube, the Atlanta-area pastor speaks to his followers at World Changers Church International, tackling his critics and allegations about tithes, his real name and reports alleging members of having to reveal their W2 statuses to come into the church’s sanctuary.

“(The devil thinks) I got to discredit that man before he starts showing people Jesus!” Dollar preaches to loud applause.

“I’m on my sabbatical, and the enemy’s trying to discredit me,” Dollar stated.

Dollar is focused in the video on getting his point across and slams critics of his original request by stating to the people gathered, “I never one time came to you and asked you for a dime for this airplane, did I?”

But in March, Dollar did appeal in a video to “friends from around the world,” soliciting donations to replace his current 1984 Gulfstream G-1159A.

This is not some new phenomenon. Prosperity gospel is the new Calvinism, by which blessed are the wealthy and the greedy.

Christianity Today explains prosperity gospel as―

An aberrant theology that teaches God rewards faith—and hefty tithing—with financial blessings, the prosperity gospel was closely associated with prominent 1980s televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker, and is part and parcel of many of today’s charismatic movements in the Global South. Orthodox Christians wary of prosperity doctrine found a friend in Senator Chuck Grassley, who in 2008 began a thorough vetting of the tax-exempt status of six prominent “health and wealth” leaders, including Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, and Paula White.

Cathleen Falsani, explaining “The Worst Ideas of the Decade” for the Washington Post several years ago, called prosperity gospel―

an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.

The ministries of three televangelists commonly viewed as founders of the prosperity gospel movement – Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Frederick K.C. Price – took hold in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the oldest and best-known proponents of prosperity theology, Oral Roberts – the television faith-healer who in 1987 told his flock that God would call him home if he didn’t raise $8 million in a matter of weeks – died at 91 last week.

But the past decade has seen this pernicious doctrine proliferate in more mainstream circles. Joel Osteen, the 46-year-old head of Lakewood Church in Houston, has a TV ministry that reaches more than 7 million viewers, and his 2004 book “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” has sold millions of copies. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.

As crass as that may sound, Osteen’s version of the prosperity gospel is more gentle (and decidedly less sweaty) than those preached by such co-religionists as Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and the appropriately named Creflo Dollar.

Few theological ideas ring more dissonant with the harmony of orthodox Christianity than a focus on storing up treasures on Earth as a primary goal of faithful living. The gospel of prosperity turns Christianity into a vapid bless-me club, with a doctrine that amounts to little more than spiritual magical thinking: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich.

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