Protestants & Politics 3/18/21

Equality Act; Israel and end times film; QAnon; Instagram religion; evangelical identity; conservative politics and religion; pastors and transgender; racism; Christian-Muslim relations; black church

News

Black pastors sign letter supporting compromise bill on LGBTQ equality

The faith leaders are advocating for a rival bill called Fairness for All, which would provide broad protections for LGBTQ people and, at the same time, provide exemptions for religious institutions that uphold traditional beliefs about marriage and sexuality. That bill was introduced in the U.S. House last month and is modeled on the “Utah Compromise,” a 2015 state law that strengthened religious freedom and protected LGBTQ people from discrimination. 

The letter was written as part of the AND Campaign, a Christian advocacy group committed to bringing conviction and compassion into the public square. The group is led by Justin Giboney, an Atlanta lawyer and political strategist who was a delegate to the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Convention.

“We want to be clear that we want to embrace and advocate for LGBTQ rights,” Giboney told Religion News Service. “But we have to do it in a more thoughtful manner than the Equality Act does. Religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are not necessarily in conflict. The Utah Compromise and Fairness for All has shown us that.”

Some Faith Leaders Call Equality Act Devastating; For Others, It's God's Will

Faith groups are deeply split over the proposal. Despite large majorities of the U.S. population favoring expanded LGBTQ rights, many faith groups still hold conservative ideas about marriage and sexuality and fear the Equality Act would punish them for adhering to those beliefs. Mainline Protestant denominations and other progressive faith groups have lined up in support of the legislation.

Among those in opposition are the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Coalition for Jewish Values, representing Orthodox rabbis. Together, the groups represent a broad swath of U.S. religious denominations.

"The Equality Act as written actually is devastating to the institutions that I represent," says Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

‘Til Kingdom Come’ examines link between end-times theology and Israel politics

The film, shown in Israel in the fall and now available for streaming in the U.S., shows how the evangelicals’ end-times theology, which sees Israel as playing a major role in Jesus’ final return, has caused them to adopt the settlers’ cause, and how the settlers have encouraged and nurtured the relationship.

Evangelicals see world events — from Israel’s creation in 1948 to Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — as signs of God’s unfolding plan. As Trump’s informal adviser Johnnie Moore says in the film, “We are taught to translate geopolitical reality through the lens of prophecy.”


QAnon

What It’s Like to Pastor QAnon Believers

Pastors learn how to baptize, officiate weddings, and help families mourn a loss. There’s little preparation for helping people you care about dismantle a worldview that cleaves them away from reality. When someone in Kubilus’s own life started spouting conspiracies, “my first instinct was one of anger and frustration and derision” he says. “Eventually I had to figure out that that wasn’t helping anything. That I can be as angry as I wanted to be, but that anger was only making the problem worse.”

On Cross Over Q, Kubilus strikes a delicate balance, clarifying he is not a liberal nor a politics junkie. He doesn’t want to talk on the podcast about abortion or socialized medicine. Kubilus is also not a fan of Donald Trump. He finds his arrogance and “chronically incurious personality to be simply objectionable,” and has little interest in talking about the former president except to the extent that QAnon has centered on the former president.

On his podcast, Kubilus strikes notes of empathy. He understands people wanting to feel they have secret knowledge, that they are taking part in saving the world. He understands it’s easy to get caught up in a grand narrative. “QAnon literally injects transcendental meaning and purpose into the lives of regular folks every day, by convincing people they are central players in a war for the soul of America,” Kubilus has said on his podcast. He recognizes the intoxication people must feel on Twitter and Q message boards as they are encouraged for the conspiratorial connections they make and are told “Hey, this is great. You’re doing good work.”

They’re worried their mom is becoming a conspiracy theorist. She thinks they’re the ones living in a fantasy world.

By the end of the Trump administration, the bounds of their political disagreements had shifted, Laurie recounted, becoming at once more intense and also less about policy and legislation in Washington. They had learned to live with their disagreements over abortion. Now it felt like they were occupying different realities altogether.

Over the course of 2020, amid a presidential election, racial justice protests and a pandemic, the five siblings began to trade increasingly worried text messages and emails about some of the things Claire was saying and posting on Facebook. There were comments they noticed about child trafficking and sacrifice, a key theme of the extremist QAnon ideology. There was her vitriol toward Pope Francis, whom she had referred to as “the anti-Pope.” After Election Day, they took turns pushing back on a stream of disinformation Claire posted online, including the unfounded claim that the CIA murdered U.S. soldiers abroad to help cover up voter fraud.

My Mom Believes In QAnon. I’ve Been Trying To Get Her Out.

When Trump won the nomination, my mom said she was only voting for him because he would appoint Supreme Court judges who might overturn Roe v. Wade.

But when my mom picks a side, she digs in and holds the line. Within a year, bolstered by an expanding far-right media ecosystem supplying information about the secular threat, she elevated Trump from a noxious necessity to a decent man who’d made mistakes in the past but found his way, a modern-day Saul. She picked up print copies of the Epoch Times, subscribed to the Judicial Watch newsletter, and stumbled onto YouTube videos claiming to reveal mysteries about the deep state Trump was combatting.

“Trump is not a perfect man,” my mom would text me. “God chose him to serve His purpose. It took a strong character to overcome the slings & arrows of the deep state/cabal.”

Christianity’s Role in Thwarting Conspiracies — And Why it isn’t Working Now

As for solutions to this growing cultural phenomenon, French postulated that “the answer to conspiracy theories in the long term is in many ways building better institutions and building better communities.”

Moreover, as many of these conspiracies are spread online, we, too, must combat them online. When engaging online, we must “as best we can try to model the values that we seek to advance in American public discourse,” French insisted.


Opinion

The Empty Religions of Instagram: How did influencers become our moral authorities?

During the years of the Trump administration, I watched two movements collide: an extremely online mode of social justice activism and the rebranding of diet and beauty culture as wellness and “self care.”

I was once one of those millennials who made politics her religion; I lasted three years as a feminist activist and organizer before I burned out in 2017. That’s when I began noticing how many wellness products and programs were marketed to women in pain, and how the social media industry relies on keeping us outraged and engaged. It’s no wonder we’re seeking relief.


Research

Are We All Evangelicals Now? How The Term Has Grown To Blur Theology And Ideology

There are some religious traditions where Republicans were much more likely to identify as evangelical in 2018 compared to 2008. Mainline Protestant Republicans are 5% more Republican over a ten-year time period and White Catholics had a four-point jump. LDS Republican evangelicals were up four points as well.

There are not a lot of Republicans in the other smaller traditions like Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, but the general trend is all in the same direction: those who identify with the GOP are more apt to also be evangelical today than they were just ten years ago. Thus, there’s some fairly compelling evidence here that the fusion of the Republican party and evangelicalism knows no theological bounds.

“Allergic to religion”: Conservative politics can push people out of the pews, new study shows

Campbell said the findings were dramatic. Just reading the news story, he said, is apparently  “enough to push a sizable number of people away from holding a religious affiliation. That’s one story at one point in time, and we can get that effect. Imagine what happens when people are exposed to hundreds of stories over many, many years. It would only reinforce that idea that religion and the Republican Party go together, and that if you’re not sympathetic to the Republican Party, you don’t want anything to do with religion.”

U.S. Protestant Pastors See Gender Change as Immoral

Among U.S. Protestant pastors, Lifeway Research found 72% say it is morally wrong for an individual to identify with a gender different from the biological sex they were born, including 62% who strongly agree. Around 1 in 7 (14%) disagree, and another 10% do not believe it is a moral issue.


Odd & Ends

White Evangelicalism and Racism in America - A conversation with Robert P. Jones and Anthea Butler

Discussion of my new book "White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, with @PRRI Robert P. Jones and Michele Margolis of the University of Pennsylvania


Events

Asma Uddin and Andrew T. Walker Discuss "The Politics of Vulnerability"

Religious freedom is under threat. Is there a shared future for evangelical Christians and Muslims in America's public square?

Asma Uddin and Andrew T. Walker discuss this topic in light of Uddin's new book, The Politics of Vulnerability: How to Heal Muslim-Christian Relations in a Post-Christian America.

BRING YOUR QUESTIONS! After a brief discussion, we'll be doing Q&A.

Mar 23, 2021 02:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Being Black and Christian in America: The Black Church and New Vistas of Race in the U.S.

Black Church Studies - World Christianity Zoom Panel

The “black church,” in its multiplicity of traditions and expressions, has served as a mobilizing force for reform and a potent channel of Black ideal and aspirations for centuries. The past decade or so, however, has witnessed vigorous debate among African American scholars about its fate and relevance. Eddie Glaude’s 2010 pronouncement that the Black church “is dead” was more sensational than scientific; but it drew attention to growing insularity (exposed in some measure by the global appeal of the Black Lives Matter movement) and the need to reflect afresh on “what it means to be Black and Christian”. From a World Christianity perspective, the browning of both the U.S. and U.S. Christianity through the massive influx of non-white immigrants since the 1965 immigration act—legislation directly influenced by the civil rights movement—presents one of the most compelling reasons for rethinking the “Black church” construct in a global way that infuses it with new life and efficacy. 

In this panel co-sponsored by Candler School of Theology's Black Church Studies and World Christianity programs, renowned church historian, David Daniels III will be joined by Caribbean-American scholar Janice McLean-Farrell (New Brunswick Theological Seminary) and Brazilian scholar Joᾶo Chaves (Hispanic Theological Initiative) to explore the complex issues and new possibilities generated by the intersection of Black identity and Christian witness in a new era.

Apr 8, 2021 05:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)