Uh-huh …

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Red state / Blue state

It’s well documented that every social– and family pathology that has ever been given a name is most acute where the churches are strongest. Teen pregnancy, drug abuse, family violence … all are most intense in the Bible Belt; evangelicals, specifically, have the highest divorce rate in the country.

This is a direct consequence of Christianity’s corrupt, anti-life conception of the good — self-annihilation, because the self is depraved and evil. Christianity tells men they were born no damn good, that they can never be any damn good, that their every desire and interest and decision is animated by evil. All of life then becomes a long train of pretensions and pious subterfuges aimed at concealing — literally — guilty pleasures: a cold beer when the yardwork is done, sex without the aim of procreation, intellectual discovery.

Seriously: Is it any wonder that lots and lots of people are grievously screwed-up in a subculture which believes that the bald fact of one’s own existence is an affront to the cosmos itself?

A column by Nicholas Kristof in today’s New York Times takes a look at the malignant effect of this on the formation of culture and voting patterns.

Kristof points toward a study of all this that I’ve already downloaded and will read over the next few days, so I’ll be discussing this more sometime soon. Meantime, go read the column; he’s pointing toward something important about America’s dysfunction.

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Back in the ol’ hometown, ctd

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A matter of perspective

America’s best-selling book genre is romance and, with only minor variations, all romance novels have the exact same plot:

  • Spunky Nicegirl’s life undergoes some kind of change that puts her at a disadvantage. Celt warriors kill her family and take her away to be a scullery maid; a wicked aunt sells her into frontier bondage to a lout; an office scandal unfairly ends her career and she is forced to move to a small waterfront town in New England to start over, where she meets haughty and insufferable Strongand Inscrutable.

  • Strongand Inscrutable roughly takes his pleasure with Spunky Nicegirl, then swaggers off to visit mayhem upon some bad guys.

  • Spunky Nicegirl hates Strongand Inscrutable.

  • It happens again. Spunky Nicegirl is furious. DAMN!! the fates that she needs Strongand Inscrutable’s help!!

  • Strongand Inscrutable again takes summary pleasure with Spunky Nicegirl, grudgingly allows that she may not be the most insufferable woman who has ever lived — he can’t decide, a rare moment of human uncertainty — then swaggers away and, at long and tedious last, vanquishes the bad guys.

  • Strongand Inscrutable and Spunky Nicegirl live happily ever after.

I’m thinking about these things as we enter the umpteenth day of the rolling chaos that is the #MeToo movement. I’ve lost track of all the men who have been accused, and all the victim accounts I’ve watched on television. Some are shocking, some are merely crass and juvenile and some, honestly, sound mostly like peevishness at not being treated like a little princess.

I’d put 32-year old Roy Moore’s behavior with a 14-year old girl in the shocking category; I’d put Al Franken’s behavior with a peer in the crass and juvenile category.

As the popularity of romance novels tells us, the indignant news ladies at CNN are not representative of all contemporary American women, and I suspect not even a majority. The problem is that we aren’t talking here about air pollution, about matters susceptible of objective measurement and determination; we’re talking about the vagaries of individual boundaries, the cultural background of both the men and women involved, and their private reads of the chemistry between them. Which is not to deny that some men are simply predators who ought to be shunned, or to deny that many women have legitimate grievances; I want merely to point out that relations between men and women are more complicated than a simple good/evil checklist.

And I’m glad I’m married and not dating nowadays.

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You-read-it-here-first department, ctd

As the world gapes in wonder at the extraordinary devotion Roy Moore seems to inspire in some people, the word du jour appears to be ‘tribalism’ — the stubborn, unreasoning, damn-the-torpedoes allegiance to a group that so often drives mean-spiritedness toward the … other.

High time. I was talking about the role of tribal identity a long time ago. Here, for instance:

Mohler and Moore are struggling to enforce a meaningless distinction, hewing to evangelicalism as a theological stance while sniffing piously at the doomed and dying culture in which it is embedded and from which it draws its strength — chiefly (though of course not exclusively) the racist, anti-intellectual, anti-modernity, misogynistic, south. I am not kidding y’all: That sweet old lady who hasn’t missed a Sunday since that glorious day she was saved 60-years ago once delivered picnic-baskets of sandwiches to the menfolk who stood at roadside and threw rocks at the civil rights marchers — and she doesn’t know bupkus about what’s in the Bible, or what ‘evangelical’ means theologically. What she knows is that the world is changing, that the culture of her community, even her church, is changing, and in a way that she doesn’t like — and that it’s all the fault of those uppity dark people who don’t even speak good American half the time, and those sluts who went to college, and those snooty smarty-pants perfessers, and those newspaper people, and those gay people who want to get married and adopt kids and be a family.

Soon afterward, Albert the Pious published on his Web site an essay including this astonishing passage:

Will Southern Baptists embrace an identity that is more theological than tribal? The older I get the more I recognize the value of the tribal inheritance I received as a young boy. This is why I phrased the question “more theological than tribal” rather than “theological instead of tribal.” In fact, I believe it is impossible to survive as a community of conviction without having a certain amount of tribal identity. But, as many young Southern Baptists now realize, tribal identity is not enough. Tribal identity alone will eventually give way to theological accommodation. Our identity must be more theological than tribal, and that requires a change in the logic of the Southern Baptist Convention, certainly a change from the logic employed during the middle and late decades of the twentieth century.

About which I said this:

I guarantee you: Southern Baptists are not going to get more theological. What is going to happen is that their hateful culture, their tribe, is going to grow more malice-eaten and subterranean.

Which is exactly what is happening in Alabama, and is happening all over the world, as the degradation that inheres in the Abrahamic faiths is rejected.

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