I was away for the last two weeks getting married out in Ojai, California. If you've never been there, I would recommend packing your bags and getting a jetBlue flight out there right away.
When I stepped back into the office the other day in NYC, the newsroom was all ablaze with anticipation of Michael Moore's new film. I haven't yet seen the flick, but I'm starting to really look forward to it.
A lot of folks are calling it the Passion of the left. That's really interesting. We'll have to do an entry in the near future about the two movies, the passions they represent, and whether or not a majority of Americans can be put into one camp or the other.
The Progressive Capitalist aka Adam Smith (no relation, but the blog title does imply at least a philosophical ancestral link) keeps up an insightful daily reader over on the other coast. A few weeks ago he picked up on the WJI story that has now ascended to NPR. Big stuff, eh?
Anyhow, I'm an alumnus of WJI, a Christian organization, and currently on staff at MTV, not necessarily religiously affiliated. Apparently, this sort of non-sequitur begs an explaination. Adam hints at one, but I don't think the answer is that easy. At least not for me or anyone else I've ever met. I have none of those things on my mind and Adam is kind enough to go out of his way not to assign them to me.
I do find some of the questions he raises really interesting. And I've seen pieces of this puzzle coming together for a few years now.
Adam references a piece in *counter punch which sort of spells it all out. I have a similar story to the author, though not exactly. Similar in that, evangelicals are "my people" and I now live and work in a place that finds such people distasteful. Dissimilar in that, unlike Bageant, I find their common-manness to be much more powerful in determining their actions than any sort of cultic or un-critical other-worldliness.
Adam does a much more succinct job of summing up the issue. He cites Dominionists, Reconstructionists and Rushdoonies, equates them with the evangelical masses, throws in a little "Left Behind" and wraps it up with a glance backwards at the carnage wrought by such folks throughout history.
What's not to love? A religous nut here, an Ashcroft there, add a little hocus pokus and we've got us a genocide.
Poor Adam probably got his hands on some Rushdooney. I know a few Dominionists, Reconstructionists and Rushdoonies personally and those guys are a different bunch. They are however desperatley dissimilar to what you'll encounter at a WJI or 98% of evangelical outposts. The nomenclature may be similar, but I'd put them in a different taxa.
Dominionists et al. are so far from being a "large segment of Christian Fundamentalism" - if Christian fundamentalism encompasses all the folks affiliated with evangelicals or even the mythic religous right - that it boggles the experienced mind. If even 2% of these folks where such, I would be surprised.
So we've got what I think is a boogie man built on two divergent sets of peeps who happen to use similar language. Yet, in my opinion, narry the twain shall meet. Folks who read Tim LeHaye are no more trying to usher in the end times than readers of Harry Potter are attempting to enthrone the Wiccans - which would be far more entertaining if true.
However, I will confess that big numbers, like those of confessing evangelicals, or LeHaye readers, would definitely cause a man to lose sleep if he thought they all read and where brave enough to act on Rushdoony. Yet, the fact that they don't is a mysterious and dubious assertion to many people.
Much like Lebowski, the perception abides. And that could have many reasons. The Columbia Journalism Review just did a really interesting essay that I think begins to answer the question.
But I think that there's another reason a bit further down. While this perception of evangelicals is pretty ubiquitous here in NYC, I've never really seen it so in other places I've lived or frequented; Washington D.C., Chicago, Columbus, Indianapolis, even L.A. I think it has a lot more to do with losing contact or interaction with a whole group of folks. While you have handfuls of evangelicals in the midwest metropoli and D.C., you're pretty hard pressed to find them in the Big Apple.
This is a problem. Although America has ostensibly learned the segregation lesson racially, it seems to be forgetting it ideologically. Ah, the comforts of choice. Seems like these sorts of misrepresentations will only grow unless folks deliberately decide to live and work next door to people they disagree with.
I think that if folks were willing to do that, they may find that they better understand the answer to Adam's assertion that history is "littered with the carnage wrought by [religous fundamentalism]."
Actually it's littered with carnage wrought fairly equally by the religous and the non-religous perps (read Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, etc.) Stanley Fish has written, somewhat convincingly, that there is little difference between the two. It's less us/them and more us/us. People are people. Keep your eye on everybody, yourself and your heroes included.
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy his own heart?