The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Danny Cardwell's picture

    My Latest for Faithfully Magazine

    When Jerry Falwell Sr. replaced Jim Bakker at his Praise The Lord organization following rape allegations and a hush-money payment to Jessica Hahn, he ultimately refused to defend him. Falwell Sr. publicly described Bakker as "the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history." One generation later, Jerry Falwell Jr. has appeared on every major cable news network to defend the exact same behavior his father condemned...

    Read the rest at:



    Thinking about the children, what we teach them, never more important than today.

    Recently found this Richie Havens classic, Think About the Children, it was not available on any digital download service. He was the lead musician to play at Woodstock.


    It happen to think it's been handled on this front, the kids didn't learn it from their parents but they learned it somewhere, all the stats and charts are here at this article from January The tribe is dying out.

    An example of one of many convincing points in the article:

    As a result, the white evangelical Protestant population in the U.S. has fallen over the past decade, dropping from 23 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2016. But equally troubling for those concerned about the vitality of evangelical Christianity, white evangelical Protestants are aging. Today, 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants are at least 50 years old. In 1987, fewer than half (46 percent) were. The median age of white evangelical Protestants today is 55.

    I think it's a very important point especially when it comes to Trump. Those unhappy with what Trump is doing to their country best look at the reasons any younger people help get him elected rather than worrying about the hypocrisy of a very small and continually shrinking tribe. We're always gonna have a few conservative religious crazies one way or another They are not going to be the problem going forward. I think focusing on them as regards the future is worrying about a battle that's already been won, that demographics will soon make very unimportant. Better off to focus on the main hypocritical thing that seems to be at the core here, that many seem to support Trump because they don't trust "politicians" and "the swamp." That they see Trump swamp and venality and criminality as preferable to previous status quo.

    William Barber is one of the pastors defending real Christianity in 2018

    ​Hope is not lost

    Thanks, Danny.  I like what you wrote.  I know there are progressive evangelical Christians whose values and actions I deeply appreciate, and you're one of them.  We would not have such highly imperfect civil rights protections for people of color in this country as we have without the efforts of evangelical Christians in earlier eras, of a very different sort than now seem so much in evidence.  

    Re evangelicals--just had a dinner conversation with our two college age kids, just home, the night before last.  The subject of evangelicals came up.  I had a law school classmate who was a white evangelical Christian.  He would attempt to talk to fellow law students about his faith tradition in the dorm lounge.  He was also highly respectful of their preferences.  Contrary to some stereotypes of evangelical Christians, once he inferred or was asked to refrain from proselytizing with individuals, he would do so.  A number of other law students ridiculed him and this did nothing but elicit my sympathies for him.  I ended up befriending him.  He walked the Christian walk in my experiences with him.  He was kind, humane, and yes, a highly tolerant and respectful person.  Very smart and interesting as well.    I did not always feel that way about all of my fellow students. 

    The messages I attempted to impart to our kids at dinner the other night were simple ones: prejudice against evangelical Christians you encounter is no more acceptable than prejudice on other bases.  It is blinding.  And it is unjust.  And, you don't have to agree with another person's belief system about religious matters or their politics (which may or may not be relatively similar to yours).  Just treat them on the basis of their actions as you would want to be treated.  I love my wife dearly.  She is prejudiced against evangelicals.  That would probably endear her to some here.  (edit to add: FWIW my wife was raised by a Christian mother and atheist father, enjoys celebrating Christmas, and Easter when the kids were young, but is otherwise non-practicing, and is an atheist).  I want our kids to have an alternative parental example.  They of course will decide in the end how they are going to conduct themselves.           

    From a Jewish person, raised in the reform tradition, relatively lapsed, respectful of others' religious choices, seeking to cultivate/preserve spiritual strength (in this sense I suppose I identify with the "spiritual but not religious" crowd) to act amidst all of the suffering and injustice I see around me.  About which the real Christian faith, as I have always understood it, has so very much to say.

    "Contrary to some stereotypes of evangelical Christians, once he inferred or was asked to refrain from proselytizing with individuals, he would do so..."

    File that under "the banality of decency." 

    Italian historian Sergio Luzzatto used that 'other' kind of banality (banality of evil Hannah Arendt) in his book, Primo Levi's Resistance. He was describing contrasting testimony in a post-war trial of an Italian collaborator of the SS ruled Italian Social Republic.

    you bring memories back of my youth when no one knew of any obnoxiously proselytizing conservative Christians, that type was quite rare, rather, they were most often liberal hippie types and were derisively called "Jesus freaks".

     Luzzatto is making a deeper point on human nature.

     In his book, an historical work on the crimes and final collapse of Italian fascism, he notes that Arendt's 'banality' can be two sided, a seemingly decent common person can be recruited into state sponsored crimes against humanity,  and in the linked case in his book, an essentially evil collaborator can at times show common decency. 

    and I think this is different from that, Arendt  on that, she's talking about the average ordinary everyday man who can end up being evil without being part of the actual brainwashed cult or tribe.She's making a point about someone with the supposed thing called common sense, someone not caught up in dreams of a cultish tribe (like Nazism or End Times Rapture Christians or Rebbe Schneerson fans or Jim & Tammy Bakker fans or L.Ron Hubbard...) can still be evil.

    Arendt was talking about a straight up Nazi in that book. Her observation about how "ordinary" he was is that "brainwashing" is a separate activity from establishment politics that encourage people to adopt prevalent social norms. She was militating against a desire to combine qualities, not putting forward a general theory of why what happened happened.
    Her efforts to make distinctions on these matters is parallel to her efforts to distinguish antisemitism from racial hatred per se. That sort of thing requires a theory to even express. It is not presented as a complete explanation.

    I very much admire your goal in teaching your children and trying to counter your wife's influences, American Dreamer. Must be tough for you. Tolerance of the other over there in that weird tribe with those strange beliefs, this is how this country was born. Quakers in Penns., Jews in New York, Catholics in Maryland.... our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. Keep up the good work, try not to cause a war.

    I don't think of it as tough for me, just part of trying to do as good a job as I can preparing them for the world they are entering more deeply by the year.  They need to know how to protect themselves as all of us do, of course, but I want them to be limited as little as possible by unfounded fears and prejudices towards people who are different from them.  To the degree they are so limited, this will limit the richness and quality of their lives as I see it. 

    At any rate, that is the thinking.  To paraphrase my late grandmother, we are all works in progress (at best), present company very much included. 

    Many other among my better half's influences on them will probably leave our kids much better off.  

    And then, of course, there are the ways in which parental wonderfulness somehow, inexplicably, does not get passed along to our kids.  wink  But I won't go there.  Writing this makes me think of one of the Progressive or GEICO insurance commercials on TV these days where the tag line is something like "Progressive can't keep you from becoming your parents.  But we can save you money on car insurance."  

    I've noted a bit of an uptick in attention to understanding and trying to deal with consequences of tribalism in recent years.  Amy Chua's Political Tribes and Joshua Greene's Moral Tribes are two works that have come out on this topic.  It comes up in stuff I read on identity politics as well, for example, We Who are Dark by Tommie Shelby (he co-edited the book on MLK To Shape a New World, that you mentioned, rmrd0000).  



    You keep expanding my reading list. Thanks.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on this article and share your perspective. We have to call out what's happening .

    Well Dreamer, I wonder what kind of evangelical your friend was, because they're not all the same. Most are astonishingly irrational. How one deals with the irrational is a sticky proposition. Some times ridicule is the appropriate response. Sometimes irrational people are so ridiculous it's hard not to laugh. That's not ridicule, it's a spontaneous respond to "stupid humor." The type of humor Steve Martin was famous for.

    It's not prejudice to laugh at ridiculous things. Your friend decided to come into a public space and announce his desire to discuss the subject of his beliefs. Fine and dandy if he wants to do that here, there, or anywhere. I'm up for a debate on almost any subject almost anytime. But you should expect to defend them with rational arguments and to be challenged on your bullshit. That's not prejudice. Some people believe Elvis is still alive, others think Jim Morrison is. If they decide to come into a public space and attempt to convince others to ask for proof or at least a convincing argument isn't anti-Elvis prejudice. It's not prejudice to laugh at their answers. With most evangelicals laughter is an involuntary response. The anger comes later when they attempt to base public policy on their irrational beliefs.




    Well Dreamer, I wonder what kind of evangelical your friend was, because they're not all the same

    Yes, that was the point I was trying to make.  

    My friend may well have held some irrational beliefs, as probably most of us do about one matter or another.  In our conversations he did not say things which struck me as irrational at all.  We talked very little about religion.  This was a long time ago--either I had already decided I wasn't interested in going there, or else based on a few things I may have heard him say I decided early on that I wasn't interested in further discussions on that topic, and he got the message. 

    He was preparing to be a patent lawyer.  He had good knowledge about, and much respect for, science and for people who did stuff with it. 

    His parents were missionaries in the Middle East.  He may have felt pressured into evangelical efforts by his parents although he did not suggest or hint at that in our conversations, nor did I ask him.  He was somewhat tentative in his evangelizing efforts with fellow students.  Perhaps he sensed he was likely to be met with reactions along lines of...the reactions he was met with.  He had a relatively shy, introverted personality.    

    My impression was that on engaging other students he was not citing the Bible.  If his own beliefs and arguments were biblically centered or grounded, he probably knew better than to believe that source would be persuasive with that crowd.  But I don't know this.  I did not participate in those lounge debates as I was not interested.  He never cited the Bible in conversations about ethical or public policy issues with me, understanding that to a non-fundamentalist like me, this was not going to be effective and might be counter-productive.  

    I did not ask him if he considered himself a fundamentalist as well as an evangelical.  Probably yes, was my sense.  He was learning how to interpret secular texts in alternative ways in his studies and certainly had the ability to do the same with the Bible so as to embrace conclusions that felt right to him and reject ones that didn't. 

    Unlike many of our fellow students, some of whom probably already had it in their heads at that point that they were likely to run for office down the road, he was not at all a political person.  I never had any sense he was going to run for and perhaps win office and use his position to urge or try to coerce others to live by his interpretation of the Bible using his interpretation of the Bible as his justification.  If I had any such sense, I can't imagine that I would have wanted to befriend him.  My own views on the role of religion in public life were unconsidered and I had done little or no reading to speak of on that topic at that time.  I don't recall any conversations we had on that subject.     

    ocean-kat, one other thing: re laughing at ridiculous things.  

    Just a personal habit I have for the most part adopted, I suppose, but I usually do not laugh at other people when I disagree with something they are saying, including when I think what they are saying is ridiculous.  (I treat something I write to someone on the internet the same as something I would or would not say to that person if we were speaking FTF.)

    My experience is that many people, not just online (and folks here seem to me to understand this more so than at many other sites on the web where the degree of incivility is severe and people can be horrible to one another), seem to have difficulty distinguishing between laughing at what they have said, versus laughing at, and perhaps ridiculing, them. 

    I don't like to leave other people with a feeling of being ridiculed or demeaned.  A major exception is with some things that I write online about public figures which are meant in some instances to ridicule, all fair game as I see it.  But by and large, I try to avoid treating other people in ways they may well experience as demeaning, feeling as though there is far too much incivility, disrespect and much worse in the way I see people interacting with one another.  I don't want to contribute to that. 

    And frankly, in my experiences, ridiculing other people with different views from mine does not appear to work often.  Although granted it is difficult to tell what modes work because usually the other person does not tell you you won them over, in that moment.  They may be especially unlikely to do so if they feel you don't respect them.

    If I am engaged in a conversation (verbal or online) with someone and they say something I disagree with, and I decide that I am going to communicate that I disagree with them, one question for me is usually how am I going to disagree with them in a respectful way.  I usually find myself wanting to maximize the chances of some sort of non-hostile exchange (maybe even one that feels productive in some way) that doesn't just leave us disliking one another or worse.

    Once, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a US congressional committee.  That sometimes left me feeling as though I was in a Star Wars bar scene.  In that sort of setting it was in the air that one might not want to burn bridges with another one might otherwise possibly find some common ground with down the road.  In politics they say there are no permanent allies or permanent enemies.  At least that was something that used to be said.  Gingrich and "politics is war by other means" had not yet arrived on the scene.  This was in the late 1980s.  It was a valued civics lesson, being in that Star Wars bar.     

    That's just me, though.

    Bishop Michael Curry and other Christian participated in a march past the White House. The March is part of a movement to “Recuse Jesus” from the wingnuts

    Curry is referenced in this Wednesday, 5/23 WaPo E.J. Dionne, Jr. piece, "Christian leaders call out the heresy of Trumpism":



    Latest Comments