Menstuff® has compiled information and books on Gay, Bi, and Transgender issues. This section is Robert N. Minor's weekly column featured daily on our homepage. Robert is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org or at E-Mail.

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Why Is the Difference Between a Citizen and a Politician Important Today?

There are fundamental differences between being an American citizen and being a politician. As citizens, we’re to make sure that those we elect to represent us know exactly what our positions are on the issues that affect our lives.

As citizens, it’s not our job to present to the politician a position that’s not fully our own or is a pre-compromised version of it because we think that the compromise is more likely to be turned into legislation.

When we do that, we’re ensuring that politicians do not know what we really think while communicating that we aren’t convinced that our position should matter that much. We’re implying that politicians need not consider our actual stand in the process.

When I pre-compromise, I’m moving toward a position that isn’t mine and actually affirming the opposite of my own view by that very move. I’m communicating that I believe the opposing position is just as worthwhile, so politicians should feel free to move in that direction.

Pre-negotiating one’s needs and wants before expressing them doesn’t help politics, marriages, or even leadership in any organization. It merely means that the other in such relationships, the one for whom we pre-mediate our own positions, will never really know what we think. Our culture especially tells women to pre-compromise.

A citizen, as well, isn’t an uncritical follower of any politician, even those we’ve voted for and probably will again. I don’t expect any politician to agree with me on everything, and must let them know when I agree and don’t. I’m surprised when I have no gripes.

Our job is to keep those who’ve chosen to represent us informed of our views. You can bet that the right-wing will do it incessantly, and the squeaky wheel will get the most grease.

Politicians, though, have deliberately chosen to take on the citizen-paid job of actually working to implement the opinions of those they represent. That will at times require compromise.

Sometimes that compromise will be to incrementally change things. And we’ll know that that is the reason when the politician tells us about their plans for the next step after the success of this increment.

At times the politician must compromise because there are, frankly, different valid and logical ways to do things. Then it’s the politician’s job to explain that to us and answer our questions in a way that looks as if they’re listening and without mere reliance on talking points.

A good politician doesn’t act like an old-fashioned cash register where we push a key and theirs is the automatic response. A good politician – and there are few of these – is a leader who takes the time to explain, arguing that their decision was better than ours and showing us why we should follow their thinking.

But there are also times when nefarious reasons compromise a politician – Is the politician taking a stand based upon whose money dominates their lives? Does the politician not have a core set of values that will make them stand for something, proving they believe it even if they’re willing to lose for it? Has the politician sunk to the lesser goal of merely getting elected and maintaining power? What will the politician gain personally by their position?

All of this means that democracy and representative government is just plain messy. When corporations are in charge, things are clean. When democracy kills you, it’s a mess; when corporations do, it’s all neat and tidy.

It’s the difference between a national chain coffee shop and your local dive. The corporate place is neat and orderly with a limited number of approved psoters and papers nicely displayed. In the local non-corporate establishment, there’s a bit of chaos, disorderliness, and a variety of local notices and publications cluttering the tables and the bulletin boards.

Recognizing all this then, we’re guaranteed to disagree. Social media amplifies that rhetoric.

The key is to keep liberal and progressive movements together, and we’ve not been very good at that. We’ve also learned that Russian cyber-warriors work to exploit us into thinking that what they portray about a candidate and their supporters is reality.

Yes, yes, everyone should know that no candidate is “perfect” – I had problems with positions of both major Democratic presidential candidates and also knew realistically that the Democratic Party nominee was my only practical choice.

And I didn’t frame the discussion ever as “the least bad choice” but in terms of better choices. When we frame it as the former we discourage anyone we’re trying to convince and encourage Republicans. Studies show that the “negative” in campaigns works to keep voters home on Election Day more than to strengthen our side.

But when people complain about a candidate, it’s passive aggressive or worse to label the critic as seeking a “perfect” candidate or requiring a “purity test.” Those responses shut down discussion and split us all. They’re not measured, rational, or helpful.

It’s difficult to just stay on a positive message about the better candidate we support. We take disagreements as personal attacks even though we’re citizens not the politicians who’ve volunteered for the fray.

It’s difficult to admit where our own choice isn’t perfect by admitting we agree with the criticism and yet discussing why we stick with them. No wonder former generations recommended we never discuss politics or religion.

There are also cultural factors that definitely influence people’s criticisms more than people want to admit. Sexism, ageism, classism, white racism, able-bodied-ism, beautyism and others are persistently systemic. But pointing them out can be done a number of ways – some just not helpful.

Our responses to critics tell us more about ourselves and our fears and disappointments. When we get caught up, let’s face it, it becomes hard to listen to critics and to envision what will be needed to move the Party we favor forward.

But as citizens, our obligation is always to inform politicians where we stand and expect them to work it out. American historian Howard Zinn put it this way: “When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.”

Why Do Those White Evangelicals Really Love Trump? (Part Three in a Series)

These final two elements of the lens through which those White Evangelicals who continue to support Donald Trump see politics help us understand why they do.

(5) Capitalism. Confidence that the American economic system is divinely sanctioned.

Viewing the Bible and Christianity through the lens of Capitalism isn’t new. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber argued that “the Protestant work ethic” that developed after the Reformation was a force behind the rise of Capitalism.

Prosperity evidenced religious piety. The poor brought their misfortunes on themselves; the fact that people are rich proves God has blessed the wealthy.

American business both promoted and benefited from the rise of Evangelicals. By the 1950s, business lobbies and executives were promoting Evangelical narratives and leaders to counter the regulations of the New Deal and anti-capitalist “Godless Communism.”

American Capitalism became fully a part of the lens of these Evangelicals. This meant ignoring or interpreting unaccommodating Biblical passages.

Jesus’ call in Matthew 19:21 to give all that you have to the poor and follow him couldn’t mean that literally and was not meant for me. He couldn’t really mean what the Gospels tell us he said with “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The Hebrew prophets’ condemnations of loaning money with interest couldn’t apply to America. “Usury” should be interpreted instead as not demanding too much interest.

Evangelists such as Jerry Falwell in his 1980 Listen America! and Evangelical preachers promoted parables such as Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents” claiming that they taught basic Capitalist principles toward life.

With the influence of American New Thought and New Age teachings about prosperity for those who envision it, recent decades saw the rise of the “Prosperity Gospel” and ministers who downplay their harsher theological legaisms to make people feel happy and prosperous. Faithful Evangelicals should be financially secure - and certainly their leaders, like Joel Osteen, are.

Though there are voices in American society warning that the Bible isn’t a good promoter Capitalism, for those who support Trump, Capitalism as the best economic system is a Biblical certainty. That includes its rewards for true believers and punishments for lazy folk who must not truly be Christians.

(6) Anti-Secularism. The State should promote their sectarian Evangelicalism.

Religious movements have affected politics throughout history with ideas ranging from abolition to temperance. Roosevelt’s New Deal embodied the Christian Social Gospel while the civil rights acts of the LBJ era were pressured by the movement heavily inspired by the Black church.

Following World War II, White Evangelicals eschewed politics, believing that God would do his work on governments including bringing their destruction in an Apocalypse. By 1970, Hal Lindsey’s popular The Late Great Planet Earth assured them that God would soon vindicate them.

But cultural and social challenges coupled with mainstream marginalizing of these White Evangelicals as uneducated, backward, and insular, increased the sense of victimization that had historically made them feel like “strangers in a strange land.” Biblical quotations such as “Come out from among them and be ye separate” and hymns such as “This World Is Not My Home, I’m Just A-Passing Through” were soon replaced with using the Bible for political activism.

The New Testament was a hard place to find much more for their relationship to governments than to “render” what was due to Caesar or the Apostle Paul saying: “Obey the authorities.” The places for seeing a model for an Evangelical government were the Israel of their Old Testament and the contentious you-can-interpret-it-any-way-that-works-for-you book of Revelation.

With the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater and the embrace of the Southern strategy, Republicans knew that these White Evangelicals were useful. Pop evangelists rose to the occasion. Movements such as “The Moral Majority,” “Focus on the Family,” and “The Family Research Council” tied the self-concept, survival, and success of the White Evangelical agenda to legislative efforts and subsequent electionary politics.

There was little faith left in waiting around for God to act. Government was to become the means for these White Evangelicals’ vindication.

Candidates must affirm these six elements of their worldview, and politicians and preachers who strayed sexually could be forgiven for “indiscretions” and “sins” if they adhered to those elements. The list of the forgiven became long.

Abortion and equal rights for LGBTQ people became rallying cries. Being “pro-life” became the shorthand litmus test assuring that candidates actually accepted all six of the elements.

They became crucial to Conservatism. Linguist George Lakoff would analyze the mental frame that internalized and politicized them - a “strict father” model that embodied all of six elements in these White Evangelicals’ worldview.

When Donald Trump arrived on the scene, he embodied them. Whether he believed anu or just knew he could get Evangelical votes by espousing them is another question.

And charges of hypocrisy didn’t matter. They’re common in the world of these White Evangelicals and their leaders.

The word “hypocrisy” doesn’t challenge anything about their beliefs. It merely says that an individual didn’t live them perfectly.

And since they believe that we’re all sinners anyway, it merely means that the hypocrite is just another human like them, saved by grace. More important is whether the hypocrite affirms the six elements.

It’s a time-waster to argue religion with them. Down through history, religions do nothing – it’s what people do with their holy books, institutions, and traditions that has an effect, and that’s done because of this lens.

People cling to religious beliefs for reasons related to prejudices, the influence it provides, egos, beliefs about their culture, and to protect their personal identities.

It’s also a waste of time to dwell on the religious beliefs they regularly tick off looking for some mysterious answer there. It’s the wrong question to ask: “How can they believe this or that and still support X, Y, or Z politician?”

Do they, or do they not embrace instead these six elements of the lens through which these White Evangelicals see the world? That’s what matters.

Why Do Those White Evangelicals Really Love Trump? (Part Two in a Series)

There are six assumptions that make up the key to understanding what those White Evangelicals who voted for and are staying with Donald Trump see when they look at life and the Bible when they claim that they’re righteously following God and that Bible. Part One of this series included the first two. Here are the third and fourth elements:

(3) White supremacy. The white race is blessed and chosen to dominate any other.

Slavery was built into the socio-economic structure of the United States from the beginning, but reactions to Abolition, movements for racial equality, and desegregation were crucial to the mindset of those White Evangelicals supporting Trump, a mindset that was usually stoked by leaders from the South. In 1847, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and the one that dominates Evangelicalism today, the Southern Baptist Convention, split from the Northern Baptists to protect slavery.

Well after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, in 1997, they apologized. But maintaining White privilege was already built into the Evangelicals who would eventually support Trump.

These White Evangelicals reacted especially negatively to the Supreme Court’s 1954 call for desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education. They responded with the creation of their own separate schools and an emphasis on home schooling.

Then came Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that ended prohibitions on interracial marriage. A new kind of segregation was needed in response, this time in the area of marriage. Even today, “sexual purity” movements are not just a reaction to changes in the culture’s sexual mores but also are means by which parents can work to arrange the “right marriages” for their children.

In 1967 Evangelical political leader Jerry Falwell founded a segregation academy in Virginia that was advertised as a “private school for white students.” Bob Jones University excluded black applicants until 1971 but prohibited interracial dating, which led to a Supreme Court decision and ended only in 2000.

After federal civil rights legislative victories during the Johnson administration, Republicans chose a “Southern Strategy” to appeal to white voters against African Americans by playing on White racial resentment of gains of people of color. Code words, urban legends, and bigoted insinuations were useful to appeal to these White Evangelical voters and have been used by Republican candidates since.

Sunday mornings remain “the most segregated hours in this nation.” Yet the White Evangelicals who support Trump fear the loss of their status as the better race.

They were a major bloc that voted for Trump because of their racism. And for them, the Bible thus must still be seen as supporting their Whiteness even if one of their great fears is being accused of racism.

(4) Anti-intellectualism. An open liberal education is a threat to belief.

Religious institutions in the United States were responsible for the beginnings of numerous great American universities and colleges, many of which are now seen as threats to those Evangelicals who support Trump. In 1995, Evangelical historian Mark Noll chronicled the history of Evangelical anti-intellectualism in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, saying, “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

Of course, there’s a long history of “anti-intellectualism” in American society along side liberal educational advances. In 1642, Puritan John Cotton warned: “the more learned and witty you be, the more fit to act for Satan you will be.”

There’s also a long history of the “self-made man,” often a manual laborer, farmer, or cowboy who valued “practical” education, as opposed to book-learning from the liberal arts and sciences. That prejudice is reflected today when educators tell graduates that they are now about to https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/chuck-colson/justice-scalia-we-are-be-fools-christs-sake enter “the real world.”

Using the teaching of evolution as the major excuse, these White Evangelicals sought protection in separate parochial schools and home schooling. They founded their own safe colleges usually in places far from what they considered the temptations of cities or major universities. One, for example, advertised that it was “fifty miles from any known form of sin.”

As part of the rise of 20th century Fundamentalism and again in recent decades reacting to the rise of feminism and other social equality movements, Evangelical denominations even purged their own seminaries to return them to the teaching of doctrines and practices that basically affirmed the six principles outlined here. Of course, the official claim was that their professors were not teaching the Bible correctly or in an acceptable “orthodox” understanding.

As large industries such as the fossil fuel industry began to see that they could use Evangelicals, they created their own “science,” promoted criticism of mainstream research and tied it to various doctrines and social issues they identified as crucial to those who would support Trump. Popularly, Paul’s claim to the Corinthians could be a proud rallying cry: “We are fools for Christ’s sake.”

In 2012 Justice Antonin Scalia, these White Evangelicals’ hero, appealed to this anti-intellectualism at a religious conference to demean those whom he felt challenged his faith:

“God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

These and the other six elements explain why the charge of hypocrisy not only doesn’t affect these White Evangelicals but actually affirms their beliefs to them. In fact, they explain why it’s a waste of time to expect that religious doctrines are the key. They’re subordinate to the worldview represented by all six.

Next month: Part Three with the final two of the six key elements of the lens that explains their support for religious and political leaders even if they’re hypocrites.

What Now? Part Two: It’s Not Either/Or: Let’s Face Race and Everything

The fact that our president-elect appealed to both class and race in this election is beyond any doubt – it’s all on video. Yet, there are those who want to defend him as if the way he used race is somehow separate from the question of whether or not he really is a racist.

They’re really defending themselves – they don’t want to admit that they’d vote for an open racist. They don’t want to accept their personal responsibility for the resulting rise in crimes against Muslims, people of color, and LGBT people that has followed the permission their chosen candidate has thereby given for people to act as open bigots.

They’d prefer to deny that they themselves hold enough racism to give someone who appeals to white racism a pass, as if playing on racism, xenophobia, and homophobia isn’t important to them. They don’t want to think of how their votes evidence their lack of empathy for anyone but themselves.

Both class and race figured at a basic level in the rise of this president-elect who lost the popular count by over 2.8 million votes. That loss is a point we’ll always need to remember – of the Americans who voted and whose votes were counted, over 50% did not support his campaign. To the majority, he’s a loser and his campaign strategy was offensive and embarrassing.

The election post-mortem, however, has included debates about the relative importance of racism and classism in its outcome, as if these don’t support each other. The phrase “identity politics” has been used quite broadly as if whatever it refers to is a negative thing.

So how do we work through all this to move beyond this election?

When one works from a scarcity model of life – a model that supports the worst elements of capitalism, by the way – it’s easy to fear that attention to another issue will take it away from my issue. It’s a mindset that there’s not enough attention to go around.

In addition, this scarcity mindset suppresses the facts that all oppressions are related and that ending all of them is necessary. I cannot isolate my issue from any other.

It misses the point that any oppression will not die out until all the others also disappear. Oppression is an approach to life, a way of thinking, a frame that looks for a victim, and a fallback for a failing culture to scapegoat an “other.”

The scarcity model also obscures the fact that oppression is more than just prejudice. It’s prejudice plus power: the ability to effectively promote or prevent movement and change.

As such, what we’re fighting must be viewed not as just individual prejudice but systemic problems. Racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. are promoted by the institutions of our society that need to preserve the status quo and how those institutions play off each other – that’s “the system.”

And – here’s something we’d rather deny – because the problem is systemic, every one of us, no matter what demographic we identify with and whether we want to admit it or not, has been taught racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, able-bodyism, and others. When someone says, for example, “I am not a racist,” they miss the deeper point – we all have been taught to be racist; the issue really is: are we working on it in ourselves and society.

Because they’re all related, then, and we’re a part of all of it no matter how far we’ve come, the second challenging, hard-to-face necessity emphasized in this series is that we need to reject denial, complaining, and guilt feelings to think in terms of building coalitions. We no longer can afford one-issue movements.

We begin by understanding that what initially appears not to be “my issue” is really my issue. It’s not just that we all have one common humanity whose feelings, desires, prayers, and hopes we share (If we think about it, what people pray for around the world no matter what their religion are the same things all people and their families worry about.).

We are not fighting a good charitable fight because some other group of pitiful people needs us to save them – that’s patronizing and disempowering for them. Instead, we need to learn how each of the isms hurts us, limits us, and boxes us in.

How does white racism separate those who identify as white from their full humanity? Read: Thandeka’s Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America.

How does the oppression of LGBT people limit the potential humanity of those who identify as straight? Read: Robert N, Minor, Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human.

Racism, LGBT discrimination, able-body-ism, classism, environmental degradation and others must end, I must be convinced, for my own good – and other people will benefit.

Next, we take a hard look at our lives, our friends, the circles we move in, who we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with in our chosen justice work, and where our comfortable interactions are. What we will often find is that naturally our circles are those that we’ve felt safe in and thus often they consist of the same demographics as us. Given the nature of the oppressions around us, that’s exactly how the system expects us to live.

Coalition building does not mean that an organization does “outreach” to those it has not included. It means building long-term relationships that grow to share trust and understanding.

It means all partners over time becoming convinced that the others are there for them when they have a fight for justice on their hands. No one needs to look around at the last minute wondering who’ll be there for them.

And it means listening to find out what the needs of those outside our demographic are, letting them take the lead in their fights but standing as allies, believing that what they say about their experience is true, asking how to be supportive, listening to their hurts, and not walking away when the going gets tough. It’s hard, but necessary, stuff.

© 2018 Robert N. Minor

Other Issues, Books, Resources

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org


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