Bad Irreligion

Daniel Silliman, in his post “Beyond theodicy, in the days after Sandy Hook,” tries to remind us that people of faith generally responded to the Sandy Hook killings in other ways than by turning the victims into messages from a vengeful God. After collecting statements from Christians other than Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer, Silliman offers his own faith-inspired perspective:

Still, the only place to start, the only acceptably human place to start, with any theological response [to] dead children, has to be in mourning. Has to be in solidarity with the suffering. Unlike those who rush to God’s defense, and in doing make claims for the divine rationality of such irrationality, the Godly sense of such violence, most of the ministers wrestling with how to respond to the sort of overwhelming despair that comes with such tragedies did try to start with empathy, whether that was enough or not.

As for the aforementioned Huckabee and Fischer, Silliman links one article each, but my attention was drawn to the one on Huckabee, in part because he is a much more mainstream figure. I think the piece, by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, is the kind of thing that’s just about exactly, or anyway symmetrically, as bad for the liberal left as crank theodicy is for the socially conservative right.

Under the headline “Huckabee blames gays for Newtown massacre,” Williams echoes other left-liberal critics in hurling accusations that are not justified by anything Huckabee actually has said, but mainly, it seems, by where and how he said it, and perhaps by a standing suspicion based on what he represents as a social conservative media figure on Fox News. The justification for the headline appears to be a single sentence from a long monologue that Huckabee also posted on his website, and that was originally spoken in response to a prior round of criticism. Appearing among a series of statements about what “we” have done that, in Huckabee’s view, helps to explain the background for events like the Sandy Hook atrocities, the sentence reads as follows: “We diminish and even hold in contempt the natural family of a father and mother creating and then responsibly raising the next generation and then express dismay that kids feel no real connection to their families or even the concept of a family.”

Huckabee nowhere mentions “gays,” either in the above statement or anywhere else, and he has already stated his belief that to blame the Sandy Hook killings or any isolated event on particular social or religious failings would be “ludicrous and simplistic.” He is instead trying to support a criticizable but in itself rather innocuous claim about the “shift” from a “God-centered culture to a self-centered culture,” but for Williams the sentence apparently counts as a classic dog-whistle. She proceeds to several paragraphs on Huckabee’s “grotesque and hateful… appalling smear,” and finally poses a a more general question: “[I]f he’s even remotely correct that we’ve all been so great at ordering God out of American life, what in hell do we have to do to successfully exile Mike Huckabee as well?”

I suppose I may be faulted for being too naively forgiving toward Huckabee, but I find Williams’ attack on him to be both excessive and un-serious. It may also miss a chance to turn his actually expressed sentiments against his politics, something I’d find a lot more interesting than pretending he said all of the crudely awful things a polemicist with a column to fill up might wish he’d said.

Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

5 comments on “Bad Irreligion

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  1. Please, Please, Please tell me why Evanglicals don’t walk the talk? I have read so much hatred spweed forth from people who claim to be Christian that it is giving that term a bad name. What has happened to the two Golden rules: Love thy neighbor as thyself and Love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart. How can such diatribes be spoken and written by people who believe in Christ? Why do they draw near to God with their mouths but their hearts are far from him?? Please tell me why any Christian would not support a man with integrity, morals, love of country, etc. such as Mitt Romney? Please explain it to me as you would a child because I am sincerely asking and the answer should be pretty simple right?

    • I’m a little confused by the comment, Ayoo. Does your larger point have to do with Romney, or does that statement about Romney have a typo. I had actually thought you were going to lead up to Obama?

      I’m not good at speaking to adults as though they are children. Many of the children I’ve known have liked being taken seriously, especially the toddlers. I’m also not sure to whom you’re attributing the “diatribe” – Fischer? Huckabee? Williams? No group as large as American evangelicals is monolithic. I know evangelical Obama supporters, for example, and they may be put off by the ridicule, suspicion, and outright hatred directed at figures like Huckabee, about whom they may have their own reservations. It’s clear from a lot of commentary and dialogue that I observe that many self-styled seculars don’t understand the first thing about many Christians. When some political Christian figure makes some statement on an issue, like gun control, whose content you might think many leftists and liberals would agree with – for instance that gun violence reflects larger problems in society, i.e., is in some large part a social problem – instead they get a chorus of accusations, often decorated with truly childish assertions regarding religion or belief in God, Sunday school smart-alecky can-God-make-a-rock-he-can’t-pick-up? level stuff put forward as though it’s sophisticated, and as though religious people have never in their lives experienced a doubt, heard a criticism, or thought over a thought.

  2. Well it’s in bad faith, to read Huckabee that way, but then it’s in keeping with calls to declare the NRA and the Tea Party, terrorist organizations,

  3. The real rejoinder, and I’m treading a little theological, and not theodical, is from John 10;10, the thief, (and you know who he is) comes only to steal, kill and destroy, (God is not involved in this matter)

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

Comment →

Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

Comment →

[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins