Summary: The dream of Western civilization is the ascent from the darkness into the light, of improvement by each generation. For two centuries America has overcome (slowly) the ugly parts of our inheritance from the Founders. Civil rights for Blacks, women, gays. Shifting from imperialism to building a new world order after WWII based on our ideals. Creating a large middle class and a society with high social mobility. The Boomers have reversed this process in America. The new Conservative coalition of evangelicals, libertarians, and the Tea Party promises to accelerate this change. Here we benchmark the New America with the values of the Christian part of its ruling coalition.
Looking at the news, perhaps the question should be “how many Christians live in America?” Perhaps not many.
- Boosting the fortunes of the 1%
- Making our prisons a Hell on Earth
- How the faithful voted
- For More Information
Our increasing military presence — now expanding into Africa — both results from and drives our involvement in local wars, usually insurgencies against governments of some combination of corrupt, brutal, and tyrannical (that doesn’t imply the insurgents are better, of course). We justify these by pointing to 9-11, an attack by a transnational terrorist group (unlike the local insurgencies we fight), who staged the attack in order to involve us in these foreign wars.
So we have killed tens of thousands, and the resulting destruction (in which we played a part) has killed hundreds of thousands and plunged nations into ruin. We’ve brought down secular regimes with strong women’s rights in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya (Syria in progress), catapulting their women back centuries in time.
I doubt the Prince of Peace would approve.
It’s quite popular in America (so we’ll be doing more of it), making a mockery of our claim to be a “government of laws, not men“. It’s probably been of little use (no, we’ve not used it to defuse a “ticking time bomb”). Even if torture had “worked”, I doubt Jesus would approve.
(3) Boosting the fortunes of the 1%
… at the expense of the bottom 80%
We’ll always have the poor among us (Mark 14:7, Matthew 26:11). I doubt He advocated making more of them.
On the other hand, He favored caring for the poor, so I wonder what he thinks of the Right’s war to repeal ObamaCare’s giving the working poor access to affordable health care?
(4) Making our prisons a Hell on Earth
Our “city on a Hill” has a remarkably ugly prison system. Overcrowded, violent, with rape an accepted part of the process. To this day I recall my shock at watching the Walker Texas Ranger episode “Division Street” (originally aired 3 February 2001), in which ex-cons tell young kids about jail in Texas: “After a week — after one day — six feet under ain’t gonna look so bad. In prison you ain’t nothing but little girls. Fresh meat, baby. ” Many studies prove the truth of his words. They are especially poignant in a show that so often mentions God and Jesus, about a State run by evangelicals and other church-going (but not necessarily God-fearing) folk.
Such references have become commonplace on our screens. We calmly watch police interrogations in which witnesses are threatened with overnight stays in jail — closeted with violent men, and certain anal rape. Entertainment in America. The Founders hoped for better from us, as in one of their favorite descriptions of their dream:
For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword though the world.
— John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity (1630)
(5) Politics and Religion: how the faithful vote
We are the developed nation with the largest fraction of libertarians and devout Christians. They, along with the self-professed “Tea Party”, have formed a political coalition that has begun to re-shape America — working (oddly) in the interests of the 1%. The relationship between these groups has been well-researched, but remains poorly understood by the public.
(a) “Inside the GOP: focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans“, Democracy Corps, 3 October 2013
(b) “2013 American Values Survey: In Search of Libertarians in America“, Public Religion Research Institute, 29 October 2013
(c) Also see these polls:
- “Church Attendance and Party Identification“, Gallup, 18 May 2005 — “Frequency of church attendance strongly related to partisanhip”. More = GOP partisanship.
- “How the Faithful Voted: 2014 Preliminary Analysis“, Pew Research, 5 November 2014
For More Information
See this afternoon’s follow-up post: The polls tell us America is a Christian nation, with a Republican, Creationist, pro-torture heartland.
Other posts about Christianity:
- Should we fear that religion whose believers have killed so many people?, 4 August 2010
- Wisdom of Rush Limbaugh: Are *YOU* a good Christian, like Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army?, 16 October 2011 — If Obama’s against them, Rush is for them.
- God and the Tea Party Movement, 30 March 2012
- The difference between Christianity & Libertarianism marks a line between America & the New America, 11 February 2013
- Is America a Christian nation?, 19 December 2014
- The polls tell us America is a Christian nation, with a Republican, Creationist, pro-torture heartland, 19 December 2014