Issues Christians “Like”: Introduction

Several of the planned articles in this series have been posted (though many are in draft stage), but to better tie all the topics together and give an overview, an introductory post seems due. This running post will list related articles, website links and references. As issues remain in the mainstream of public debate, articles might be updated from time to time, so the latest revision date of each article will be noted.

As my apology, articles posted in draft form were expected to be short-term placeholders for more extensive articles being researched. While researching these topics, I discovered there are so many facets and opinions that a single simple article would not be adequate, so feeling overwhelmed by potential scope, the final version was not completed in a timely manner. Upon consideration, it may work better to post key questions and answers unearthed to date as the initial posted version, then allow the debate to continue in the comments section.

Related Articles in Issues Christians “Like” Series

Background, Overview and Purpose

This series was prompted by thoughts about my observations of people within the conservative, evangelical, American Christian worldview bubble, which is the environment that formed many of the perspectives and opinions I formerly embraced. About five years ago, my place in the world was dramatically shifted due to a series of external events that challenged me to reevaluate my assumptions and understanding about everything. By everything, I mean stuff like the existence and nature of God, the fundamental nature of reality, concepts of religion, morality, spirituality, goodness, love, humanness, economic and political systems, legitimacy of governance, authority structures, means of persuasion used to control society…and many others. This began a continuing process of analyzing my thoughts, motives, perspectives, attitudes and actions. I began to realize that many of these had been internalized (usually without thoughtful consideration) by osmosis from family, friends, associates and local culture. In short, I’d spent way too much of my life living on auto-pilot, going with the flow of my proximal environment rather than actively living from a fully conscious awareness of the roots, assumptions and consequences of my worldview and personal value system.

Once this awareness dawned, everything about my world felt unstable, unsafe, unpredictable and unmanageable to me. This triggered another long-term cycle of depression that I still struggle to manage. In looking for answers to both my existential crises and life-long depression, I found that both were linked to early life events and probably to genetic predisposition. But finding workable depression management solutions that enable me to push through the negative impact of both nature and nurture has been slow and difficult. I have not been able to effectively function mentally, emotionally, socially or spiritually for many years, resulting in my inability to work, so the financial impact has been profound as well.

The potential silver lining to chronic unemployment has been more time to think deeply about world issues as well as personal issues. Strangely, there seem to be correlations between the two. Limiting and negative belief systems once held personally have become more widely accepted in American culture and have begun to find expression in the media and the political process. As I challenged my own motives and attitudes, I found my own moral deficits were actually being played out in the public arena by the groups that had influenced me. Looking at how my warped perspectives have negatively impacted my personal life, I realized these same perspectives were warping social attitudes and policies in this country. My reaction to this revelation was astonishment, then panic, then discouragement, depression, helplessness and hopelessness. This is the emotional state that has been the backdrop for many of the posts in this blog, which is why many might have an underlying negative tone. Even this state seems to have potential for a positive outcome. Since I feel that I no longer have much to lose (that I still value), there is less excuse to not become an activist in order to begin to find opportunities to push for positive change in society. This blog is one small step in that direction. It has allowed me to (a) vent (offering short-term emotional release), (b) collect and express thoughts and feelings via the discipline of writing, and (c) research a range of important and complex subjects that were previously of little interest to me. So even if I cannot change the world in any significant degree, the process has begun to change me, so maybe that was the cosmic reason for all of this.

 Observations and Insights

 In recent years I have been paying much closer attention to local, national and world events and the players involved (publicly and privately). Knowing the players and their interest invites a new level of interpretation of new stories and current events that circumvent the intended understanding promoted by reporting and editorial spin. It becomes obvious after a while that some actors in these events will very consistently portray their positions as the opposite of their true views and intentions.

For example, political parties will make pronouncements about their legislative and governance objectives that are completely false and only publicized as brazen attempts to deceive the general public. They attack others for the very things they are doing or intending to do, and attribute their own motives to their opponents. (This brings to mind the biblical condemnation of those who call good evil and evil good.) Ironically, those most likely to be taken in by this duplicity seem to be those of faith and high morals (or who at least think they are) who preferentially want to believe in the goodness and truthfulness of those who agree with them. To be fair, we all tend to believe in the virtuosity of those who think and believe like us, which is why salesmen and politicians work so hard to find out our perspectives so they can pretend to share them in order to influence us.

Recently, when I hear something I instinctively want to agree with, I have been trying to ask myself what idea or motive this message targets and why might it appeal to me. Equally enlightening is noticing messages that invoke anger or righteous indignation, since these reveal emotional hot buttons that might be used to disguise manipulative emotional appeals. Emotional appeals bypass our rational analytical mind, so they are used very effectively to invoke a response or incite action without thoughtful conscious intention by the target audience.

This is one of the gripes about the pro-life/anti-abortion movement which uses emotional appeals to gain sympathy for the cause. Many will attend the demonstrations to carry signs and recite chants, but if drawn into a discussion with those who earnestly seek well thought out positions based on facts, they have little to offer. That is a legitimate criticism for proponents of all the topics in this series. All these positions rely on appeals to emotion, but lack a definitive moral case, even as they claim to be supported by (their own interpretation of) the Bible. This leaves the advocates of these positions wide open to (legitimate) accusations of moral duplicity and hypocrisy, which collaterally impugns the Bible (of God) as the moral authority behind them. Better that they should leave the Bible out of the discussion entirely than try to coerce others into complicity with their own narrow special interests within the larger “culture wars”.

 On a personal note, some of these articles were written while I was feeling angry about being betrayed by the messengers of my earlier belief systems. So, yes they may be a bit raw, but my pain reflects how others also feel about being misled or abandoned by those who portray these positions as moral while using them to batter and abuse those affected by them. From that point of view, the emotional edge brings a real and valuable intensity to the writing.

Random Thoughts

Some of the ideas that came to front of mind while writing these articles.

  • Most of these “favored” moral positions are scarcely mentioned in the Bible, or are wide open to varied interpretations, or are not mentioned in the Bible at all. Calling them “biblical” is a smokescreen to hide the true intentions and objectives of their supporters and advocates.
  • Why were these specific issues embraced so tightly by modern American Christians?
    • My favorite theory is that they are basically throw-away issues that do not affect the majority of middle class religious people who espouse them. Expressed variously:
      1. These positions are easy to hold aloft as “standards of righteousness” for others while requiring no real effort for compliance by advocates and defenders.
      2. Self-righteous folks get an easy pass to feel morally superior to “those evil people who do BAD things.”
      3. They can self-attribute moral “extra credit” for abstaining from activities that they are not really inclined to do anyway due to their group social conditioning.
  • When social issues are based on practices that “morally superior” advocates already do, perhaps they are motivated to have others to join them in doing the same to expand the population within their worldview bubble. Finding others who agree with them helps offset the insecurity of decreased social acceptance (in a secular society) of their self-limiting beliefs. This is also an explanation for the exaltation of celebrities or powerful people who publicly agree with their beliefs – these endorsement appear to give credibility to their views.
  • Finally, perhaps these fine upstanding folks want others to give them something they are not rightly due (like subsidies and tax breaks for religious and charitable groups), since doing so would impose on legitimate rights of others. But, feeling so “special” to God (and persecuted by men), they believe themselves worthy of special privilege from others around them.
  • Oh, yeah, one more. Some positions are nothing more than moralistic smokescreens for outright bigotry and hatred. Witness the campaign rehetoric of politicians and (rabidly expressed) opinions of their supporters as evidence.

Revision History

  • [February 2, 2017] Initial release.
  • [February 22, 2017] Extensively edited for clarity.
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About Hoosedwhut

Engineer - by education, training, and career experience. Philosopher - by inclination and choice. Amateur psychologist - by instinct and necessity. Amateur theologian - by birth into two distinct worlds...
This entry was posted in Politics and Social Issues, Religion, Things Christians "Like". Bookmark the permalink.

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