American Christianity and Conservatism

Andrew Sullivan strikes at Sarah Palin’s glib, despicable remark that “Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists” — to which her audience cheered — with this post:

Sarah Palin: Anti-Christian

It reveals that vast swathes of American Christianity are objectively anti-Christian, even pagan, in their support for this barbarism. … In the best recent polling on the question, 62 percent of white evangelical “Christians” back torture as often or sometimes justified, with only 16 percent holding the orthodox position that it is never justified. Now compare those numbers with Americans who are unaffiliated with any religion: the number in that demographic is 40 percent in favor in some or many cases, and 26 percent against it in all circumstances. Is this a function of wayward and uncommitted Christians? Nope. Support for torture is highest among those who attend church at least weekly and lowest for those who rarely or never go to church. In America, torture is a Christian value. And some people wonder why I prefer to term “Christianist” to describe these people.

It seems to me, moreover, that torture is a far graver evil, even for orthodox theologians, than non-procreative or non-marital sex. And yet today’s Christianists are obsessed about the latter and not just indifferent to the former, but actually in favor of it. It’s this twisted set of priorities, this exquisitely misplaced set of fears, and this utter ignorance of even basic Christian teaching that reveals all that’s so terribly wrong with American Christianity. It has become its own nemesis.


Second, Paul Krugman’s take on why conservatives (some of whom call themselves ‘patriots’) are rallying behind racist lawbreaker Cliven Bundy.

Paul Krugman: High Plains Moochers
Salon: Paul Krugman: Cliven Bundy is proof conservatives are dumber than ever

From the latter:

But that day, Krugman says, is over: “[T]oday’s conservative leaders were raised on Ayn Rand’s novels and Ronald Reagan’s speeches … They insist that the rights of private property are absolute, and that government is always the problem, never the solution.”

The trouble is that such beliefs are fundamentally indefensible in the modern world, which is rife with what economists call externalities — costs that private actions impose on others, but which people have no financial incentive to avoid. You might want, for example, to declare that what a farmer does on his own land is entirely his own business; but what if he uses pesticides that contaminate the water supply, or antibiotics that speed the evolution of drug-resistant microbes? You might want to declare that government intervention never helps; but who else can deal with such problems?

Well, one answer is denial — insistence that such problems aren’t real, that they’re invented by elitists who want to take away our freedom. And along with this anti-intellectualism goes a general dumbing-down, an exaltation of supposedly ordinary folks who don’t hold with this kind of stuff. Think of it as the right’s duck-dynastic moment.

Coincidentally, blogger Adam Lee read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (a book I’ve never attempted to read) and wrote an article called 10 Things I Learned About the World from Ayn Rand’s Insane “Atlas Shrugged’. The 10 things:

1. All evil people are unattractive; all good and trustworthy people are handsome.
2. The mark of a great businessman is that he sneers at the idea of public safety.
3. Bad guys get their way through democracy; good guys get their way through violence.
4. The government has never invented anything or done any good for anyone.
5. Violent jealousy and degradation are signs of true love.
6. All natural resources are limitless.
7. Pollution and advertisements are beautiful; pristine wilderness is ugly and useless.
8. Crime doesn’t exist, even in areas of extreme poverty.
9. The only thing that matters in life is how good you are at making money.
10. Smoking is good for you.

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