Nel's New Day

September 22, 2019

Evangelicals Killing Christianity in U.S

Christian evangelicals were largely responsible for electing Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in 2016, but their politics are driving people away from organized religion, according to a recent analysis in fivethirtyeight.com. Michele Margolis, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity, said:

“Politics can drive whether you identify with a faith, how strongly you identify with that faith, and how religious you are. And some people on the left are falling away from religion because they see it as so wrapped up with Republican politics.”

In the early 1990s, less than ten percent of people in the U.S. lacked a formal religious affiliation, with liberals having about the same percentage as the general public. Twenty-five years later, almost 25 percent have no affiliation with a religion, and 40 percent of liberals are part of that group. The share of conservatives and moderates with no religion is also rising. By now, most people’s ideology matches their religious identity. The more liberal the person, the less likely to belong to a faith, and vice versa. 

Many religiously unaffiliated still believe in God, but the percentage of liberals who never attend religious services has tripled. Those in the U.S. who say that God exists fell from 53 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2018.

In the past, politics weren’t connected to loss of faith; reasons were a church scandal or the feeling that a religion’s hierarchies or rules were antiquated, restrictive, or irrelevant. Searches into the connection between politics and faith were carefully done because the view that politics can shape religious beliefs can be offensive. Two sociologists, Michael Hout and Claude Fischer, did look beyond conventional demographic and generational shifts to find reasons for changes of falling religious affiliation in the mid-1990s, particularly among liberals. Published in 2002, their results offer the theory that some left-leaning people walked away from religion because of the Christian right’s extensive participation in politics, especially when the white evangelical Protestants became controlling in focusing the GOP platform on sexual morality such as opposition to marriage equality and abortion. 

Exploring that theory, prominent political researchers discovered that people leaving a religious affiliation kept their political identities instead of a growing secular attitude moving them toward the left. One study showed that just reading a news story about a Republican who spoke in a church might cause Democrats to claim they were nonreligious in “an allergic reaction to the mixture of Republican politics and religion,” according to David Campbell, a co-author of the study and political scientist at the University of Notre Dame. The numbers began to increase, and liberals are unlikely to return.

Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that the percentage of liberals who believe that churches and religious organizations positively contribute to society dropped from 49 percent in 2010 to only 33 percent. Only 11 percent of very liberal people say that being Christian is important to what it means to be American, compared to 69 percent of people who identify as very conservative. Liberals are unlikely to return to organized religion as long as conservatives push their fundamentalist religious beliefs into politics.

Surveys also show that secular liberals are more likely than moderates or conservatives to have spouses who aren’t religious. These couples don’t create a structured religion for their children, and the youngest liberals who have always lived in a political Christian right world are the most secular. The fundamentalist Christian power in politics undermines trust in both religion and Christian power in government, making politics more and more divisive.

Evangelical Christian hypocrisy is a strong reason for turning away from religion, and an eight-month investigation into DDT’s supporter Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, reveals him a poster boy for the conservative religion’s double standard that can lead people to leave religious affiliation. University officials described Falwell’s abuse of school’s funds, for example his gift of $1.8 million to Miami poolboy, Giancarlo Granda, for an LGBTQ-friendly Miami Beach hotel. Falwell also sold university property to his young handsome personal trainer Benjamin Crosswhite, providing him the money to buy the property which the university rented back from him. Colleagues have described more deals.

Under Falwell’s direction, the school made big loans to his friends not in the university’s financial interests. Prototype Tourism LLC, a tourism company founded by Josh Oppenheimer, got $200,000 but had trouble paying back the loan. Family friend Robert Moon, who founded Construction Management Associates, Inc., got $750,000 before the university awarded him $130 million in construction contracts at the school with no other bids and sold him university property. In 2012, Falwell turned management of several university properties over to the company that his son, Trey Falwell, formed and that listed its address as that of Jerry Falwell’s and his wife’s home.

A senior university official said:

“We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

Other accusations include photographs of Falwell and his son Trey at the WALL nightclub in Miami Beach while they were drinking alcohol and dancing. Falwell’s university punishes students for drinking alcohol and co-ed dancing. Falwell hired “IT guy” John Gauger to reduce the pictures’ prominence in Google searches. Claims include sending and texting racy photos of his wife to male subordinates and “accidentally” emailing a picture of his wife in a French maid outfit to multiple people. Falwell was overheard hiring DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen to fix blackmail for the photographs, possibly by his pool boy, in a recording of Cohen with Tom Arnold.  

Falwell makes colleagues uncomfortably by incessantly talking about his sex life at work. He called one of his students “emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded” and described the campus police chief “a half-wit and easy to manipulate.” About his former associate athletics director, Falwell wrote, “Only get Kevin involved in something if you want it not to work.”

Liberty officials fear retribution from Falwell and his wife. One school employee said:

“It’s a dictatorship. Nobody craps at the university without Jerry’s approval.”

A high-ranking university official, one of the over two dozen officials who spoke out, said:

“We’re talking about the difference between right and wrong. Not even ‘being a Christian,’ but being a good person, versus people who manipulate the system.”

While not denying the content of the embarrassing emails, Falwell claims that his embarrassing emails were stolen from Liberty University in a “criminal conspiracy” that makes him the target of an “attempted coup.” The FBI doesn’t comment, but cybercrime expert Nick Ackerman called Falwell’s claim “totally insane.”

Falwell is also a prime example of a politically powerful evangelical Christian who’s in the religion business to make money. He slammed David Platt, an evangelical Virginia pastor who apologized for welcoming DDT to his church by saying:  

 “I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God.”

Falwell said that “pastors like [David Platt] need to grow a pair.” He responded to critics by bragging about how much money he made for Liberty University. A former university official called Falwell’s “washing his hands of any responsibility for spiritual life at the university—that was frankly a pretty Trumpian line of commentary.”

John Stoehr, political scientist and journalist, describes white evangelical Christians as sadists for the pleasure they derive from human suffering who they consider as “others.” People of color and members of the LGBTQ community deserve pain, humiliation, and physical abuse because of “divine justice.” Stoehr writes:

“[Sadists] are cruel because being cruel to people deserving cruelty feels good.”

For example, Christian leader Mark Taylor claimed that “patriots” will drag dead high-profile Democratic politicians through the streets if DDT doesn’t mass-arrest them by January.  White evangelicals don’t recognize political legitimacy in “others” because they don’t see them as equal. According to the evangelical Christian “moral compass,” “others” are to be used or abused, cheated and defeated because they aren’t equal.

Led by DDT, most U.S. evangelicals ignore the climate crisis destroying the planet for their descendants. World leaders including UK’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and India’s Narendra Modi are coming to New York City for the UN climate action summit on September 23, but DDT won’t be present. Instead, he booked a room at the UN headquarters to give a speech about religious freedom, hoping to distract from the 60 speeches giving concrete plans to slow the climate crisis around the world. While over 4 million children and adults marched in 163 countries to save the planet, DDT praised Australia for digging coal.

Hypocrisy, Christian control, sadism, and DDT—these are reasons to leave organized religion.

September 17, 2017

When Evangelicals Take Over the Government

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got to the White House with 80 percent of the Christian evangelical vote, and he’s repaid them with multiple appointments from their following. One of these is former Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) who moved into the position of CIA director. He started by using his Christian faith to defeat any other religion. In an early speech, he said that Islamist terrorists will “continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.” God and Christianity continued to be frequent references in his trip report while overseas.

Establishing chaplain services for CIA members was Pompeo’s next move. He consulted with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a guarantee that chaplains will focus only on Christianity. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FRC an anti-gay hate group. CIA employees have registered complaints about Pompeo’s religious pressure with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Its director, Michael Weinstein, said:

“In the intelligence community, we see supervisors wanting to hold Bible studies during duty hours [and] inviting lower-ranking individuals to their homes for Bible studies.”

Weinstein said that agency employees are afraid to be public about their concerns because of retribution of accusations of leaking. Officials’ signing off with “have a blessed day” is “straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale, Weinstein said.

Pompeo raised further concerns with his refusal to honor the CIA’s diversity mandate. He is openly anti-LGBT, even talking about this position on college campuses, and he has become openly angry about questions directed toward  the agency’s commitment to diversity. Pompeo defended DDT’s “many sides” statements about Charlottesville (VA) protesters by claiming that DDT’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”

Recently Pompeo blackmailed Harvard Kennedy School into rescinding its invitation to Chelsea Manning as visiting fellow. The position is not an honorific, but Pompeo could not tolerate the transgender woman being included in the ten selected for this fall. Pompeo canceled his appearance at a Harvard forum in a letter that included:

“I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Two people offering their wisdom as visiting fellows to Harvard are former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who constantly lied for DDT, and former DDT campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who physically attacked protesters at DDT’s rallies. These are two of the people offering their wisdom to Harvard students this fall.

Cabinet members are also determined to turn the United States into a theocracy. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is determined to destroy public education and move all students into private religious schools at taxpayers’ expense. A few months before he became attorney general, Jeff Sessions said that the constitution allows states to “establish a religion.” Other Cabinet members such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry have joined DeVos and VP Mike Pence in sponsoring weekly bible study classes at the White House. Pastor and leader Ralph Drollinger is part of conservative Capitol Ministries, with the goal to “evangelize elected officials and lead them toward maturity in Christ,” and has set up biblical ministries in state capitols across the country as well as in the House of Representatives. A climate-change denier and ferociously anti-LGBT, Drollinger believes that mothers who work while leaving children at home are sinful and Catholicism is the “world’s largest false religion.”

While Oklahoma AG, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt fought to keep a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol that the state Supreme Court ordered removed in 2015. Tom Price, Health and Human Services director, is an anti-reproductive-choice zealot.

DDT wants transgender people out of the military. Are non-Christians next? U.S. Air Force chaplain Sonny Hernandez claims that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members’ right to practice other faiths. He “ministers” to thousands of military members at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio by telling them they rely on Christ, not the Constitution:

“Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

Hernandez ignores the oath that all members of the U.S. military, including military chaplains, take when they sign up for the Armed Services:

“I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’

Hernandez is not alone. Noncommissioned officers at one Air Force base reported that their superiors told them Trump would make it USAF policy that in order for “disbelieving Jews” to be allowed into the USAF or be deemed fit for promotions, they would have to show via objectively established behavior that they were at least honestly “considering the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The wife of a combat-decorated Muslim U.S. Naval officer was surrounded with her children in the commissary before being spat on and accused of not being a “true American and being a spy and a terrorist.” Army Major General Julie Bentz, spoke at the 56th Annual Kansas Prayer Breakfast and stated:

“But my greatest privilege is standing in front of my king and my God, carrying every member of my organization to his throne and asking for his protection, his mercy, his love on each of them and their families and whatever are their concerns and burdens of the day.

Complaints, doubled since DDT’s election, are going to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) because targets fear retaliation by going through their chain of command. Approximately 84 percent of military chaplains, and about one-third of these are fundamentalists who believe they don’t need to conform to the U.S. Constitution, Department of Defense directives, or law. DDT is increasingly seen as a savior for them, especially with his selections of evangelicals for vice-president and at least nine Cabinet members. De-frocked, ex-felon Jim Bakker, back to televangelizing, said that criticism of DDT is “satanic,” that critics are channeling the spirit of the Antichrist.

On the campaign trail, DDT promised to do away with “political correctness”—his term for the U.S. Constitution—and put Christianity back into the military.

The House also supports DDT’s Christian agenda. Hidden within the $1.2 trillion spending bill passed in mid-September by a 211-198 vote is a provision partially blocking the tax code prohibiting places of worship from endorsing political candidates. It stops funding IRS attempts to penalize churches violating tax law in these endorsements by mandating that any funds enforcing this law requires agents to notify two congressional committees, wait 90 days, and then get IRS commissioner permission. At this time, the existing law is rarely enforced but much discussed in churches. The provision doesn’t apply to nonprofits that are not faith based. If the Senate agrees, the law would transform tax-exempt churches into Super PACs.

Seventy-one percent of people, including majorities among white evangelicals, are opposed to church’s endorsing candidates, and some faith-based groups have strongly lobbied against the idea. A letter from 4,000 faith leaders against the endorsement of candidates read in part:

“Changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship. We must not allow our sacred spaces to be transformed into spaces used to endorse or oppose political candidates.”

The Senate went the opposite direction from the House when the Appropriations Committee moved to reinstate funding for the UN  Population Fund and overturn the global gag rule, known as the Mexico City Policy, a longstanding GOP policy forbidding U.S. support for international health organizations that offer or discuss abortion services. Those denied resources including family planning funding, nutrition, child health, and disease control. Two GOP female senators voted for the bans removal and Democratic Joe Manchin (WV) wanted to keep the ban.

Christianity is the U.S. majority religion and have the greatest privileges, but white evangelical Christians suffer from a massive persecution complex. They think that they face more discrimination than blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, atheists, or Jews, a belief reinforced by their bible. The book they use for worship tells them that they will be hated, flogged, persecuted, excluded, insulted, rejected, and imprisoned. They will suffer from others’ jealousy, conspiracies, hardship, famine, danger, and deception. People striving to be superior have learned that the way to the top is claiming to be a victim—something that is a constant from the minority of Christian conservatives who increasingly take rights from others in the nation. The more than non-evangelicals fight for equality, the more than these Christians oppress anyone not in their tribe.

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