Monday, April 6, 2015

The Christian Right's Worst Nightmare? Black Israelites and Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' Law

Indiana's "religious freedom" law, i.e. a bill designed to legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians under the shield of "religious freedom" has been a source of national controversy. Indiana was ultimately forced by the corporate money wing of the Republican Party to modify its "religious freedom" law with the following amendment:
Specifically, the new language says the RFRA does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, goods, employment, housing or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex or military service.

The proposed language exempts churches or other nonprofit religious organizations — including affiliated schools — from the definition of "provider."
[While it is problematic, and has always seemed to be an affront to the supposed secular values of America as a liberal democracy, tax exempt religious organizations are yet somehow still allowed to violate civil rights laws. This is an ugly pimple that should be popped; stare decisis has to this point protected it from being lanced. It is a blemish that the American body politic will be forced to live with for the foreseeable future.]

The rejection of Indiana's religious hate law is not a total defeat for the culture warriors in the Republican Party.

The Christian Right are not ashamed of their actions: secular resistance emboldens them.  Why? like most fanatics, they are animated by a belief in a mythic narrative of struggle against overwhelming odds that gives further credence to the cause.

No, the American Taliban and ISIS, will pivot and pursue other options in order to further bend and ultimately break the wall separating church and state in the United States.

At the center of the Christian Right's moves in Indiana and elsewhere to use religion as a means of legitimizing hatred and discrimination is an assumption that "they" are "normal" and those "other people" are somehow not. For the Christian Right, to be "American" is to be "white", "Christian", "male", and "straight".

If America is a shining city on the hill, then those who are not included in those two categories are to be distanced from its radiance and ultimately forced out of the community.

Here, whiteness, white supremacy, and white privilege can take many forms. Racism is a flexible template on to which other types of discrimination--such as that against gays and lesbians or some type of Other--can be neatly mapped.

As I discussed on Ring of Fire TV following the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, the Christian Right is unable to imagine themselves being subjected to the type of discrimination that they so desperately desire to inflict on some Other. Ingroup identity when coupled with conservatism, racism, and homophobia, deems that empathy for the outgroup is all but non-existent. This is a logic that on one extreme leads to mild forms of ethnocentrism and on the other end to violence and eliminationist rhetoric.

Street theater, with its direct encounters between individuals who hold opposing ideas, is the beating heart of a healthy democracy. Th clash between different groups and their political ideals in the public sphere also provides many teachable moments.

The Black Hebrew Israelites and their various offshoots have a sincerely held religious belief that white people are evil. Thus, the Black Hebrew Israelites believe in racial separatism and that white people will be subjected to a unique punishment by God for their supposed collective crimes.

How would the Christian Right respond if the Black Hebrew Israelites used Hobby Lobby and the same logic behind Indiana's anti-gay religious freedom laws to discriminate against white people?

Would the Christian Right appeal to the 1968 Supreme Court Piggie Park decision that deems national civil rights laws to be superior to the religious freedom to discriminate based on race?

Would the Christian Right scramble as they combined the Right-wing media's fictions of a "War on Christians" with anti-black animus and racism to make themselves into some type of "double victim" in the Age of Obama?

Either outcome would be both entertaining and instructive: religious hypocrisy and white privilege never fail to provide a good show, even if the outcomes are often disturbing and destructive.


James Scaminaci III, PhD said...

I am surprised no one has commented. Excellent article. I would add to the list of who is privileged--the plutocrats or super rich, however you want to describe them. By exalting the wealthiest, they sacralize the free market as the expression of God. The wealthy deserve to be at the top. Everyone else, especially the poor, deserve to be at the bottom. The market not only determines prices, but human value and morality. And, because the free market expresses God's will or divine plan, any government program that distorts God's free market is evil. Wealth and the rich are at the heart of the Christian Right.

chauncey devega said...

Monday, basketball, Internet weather :)

Although, you have patiently tried to explain it, I still on a fundamental level don't get the relationship between the monied interests and the religious fundies beyond the degree of some overlap of belief and maybe how they can exploit the useful idiots.

kokanee said...

The authoritarian mindset (think rank) is the tie that binds.


When Cults Collide: How Big Sports and CEO Worship Threaten Societies

kokanee said...

My favorite biblical verse:
"The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders of his people, and its princes: For you have eaten up the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses." --Isaiah 3:14, King James 2000 Bible.

James Scaminaci III, PhD said...

I will send you two chapters. They are long and boring. But, they are analytically interactive. Chapter 5: From the 1930s onwards, conservative corporate chieftains paid to have fundamentalist Protestant preachers endorse free market capitalism. That continues up to this very minute. Chapter 6: The Christian Reconstructionists, the most influential strategists of the Christian Right, have built an organizational and ideological structure which links support for free market capitalism with opposition to all manners of pluralism, multiculturalism, and secularism. Thus, I argue in Chapter 5, Thomas Frank is wrong. These conservative Christians are drawn to vote for the GOP because of opposition to abortion or gay rights, and then fooled into tax cuts for the oligarchy. No, the ideological structure of the Christian Right puts these two together. In a very real sense, these conservative Christians are operating under a "false consciousness." See your email.

TaketheMidnightTrain said...

As someone raised in the White Southern Baptist church of the '80's, we believed that God showed his blessing through prosperity. If you became so poor that you had to ask the church for help, it was a sign that you had displeased God in some way. You were expected to show a level of shame and a williness to repent when asking for help.
That is why so many newly-poor Southern Whites feel intense rage and shame as they fall out of the middle class. Interacting with wealthier White Southern Baptists when you are retail or wait staff can be vicious as they assume you have been placed by God in a lower position because you need to learn humility and repent from past sin. Many powerful SB Whites are on a God-given mission to chastise the poor whites just like they continue to chastise the poor blacks. As Gov. Talmadge of GA said during the Depression about poor whites: " Let them starve." This is not just an economic statement. But a Spiritual proclamation.
Until the economy changed, We Southern whites have been able to pretend the advancements of the last 4 generations was because of our Godliness---not because of socialist programs that benefited mostly white people like the New Deal, WIC, pell grants and the federal highway and rural electrification program.
Because being ashamed of your poverty is a sign of spiritual purity in many white Southern churches, it is disconcerting for a SB White to encounter a spiritually joyfull poor Black who seemed unaware that they should be sad and humbled.

lkeke35 said...

But how is this any different from the "divine right of kings, (Is that what it was called?) or rule by divine right? I'm not entirely certain that is an attitude that ever went away.

So, we've had this brief flirtation with a democratic republic, only to attempt to return to the feudal system of vassal slavery?

lkeke35 said...

Have you read Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians? It's very enlightening.

kokanee said...

Thanks - I'm looking forward to reading it! It's made available by the author for free here:

I got interested in authoritarianism when I heard Jonathan Weiler interviewed by Joshua Holland. (Aside: That's how I learned about Chauncey deVega.) One of his papers which caught my interest was this one (skip ahead to p13 for the good stuff):

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