Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Tuesday stuff

More stuff about religion that I was hipped to by The Revealer. Shield your eyes.

The New Pantagruel is a webmag about religion and culture. (Pantagruel is a Rabelais allusion; damned if I know what it means beyond that.) The slant is definitely conservative, but conservative in the best sense (i.e. respect tradition and “do no harm”) and hard to pigeonhole. I was only familiar with “the culture of life” as a catchphrase used by Bush and other pro-life figures, but the New Pantagruel actually fleshes it out as a political/cultural platform. It includes opposition to the death penalty, concern for systemic poverty, and other positions that you’d normally put in the Democratic column.

This piece is a roundtable discussion of the November elections, whose participants really wrestle with which candidate, if any, might earn the culture-of-life vote (Bush obviously wins on abortion, Kerry wins on everything else). My question is whether abortion has to be THE culture-of-life issue or just one of many. (Again, what makes the life of a fetus intrinsically more worthy than that of post-born humans with flaws and actual experiences?) But it’s an informative dialogue. And if you think all Ralph Nader sympathizers are/were post-Woodstock acid casualties, here is evidence to the contrary.

A writer at Daily Kos looks at the growth of the Christian Right somewhat the way I do: as a triumph of propaganda and organization, rather than a spontaneous growth of faith. He talks about the growth of Christian media, including radio stations, overcoming the usual fractiousness among different denominations and traditions:

Furthermore, thanks to companies like Clear Channel, Christians across the country are being exposed to exactly the same political rhetoric. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" is carried on virtually every Christian radio station across the country, as are many other such programs. And while the protestant wing of Christianity is hopelessly fragmented into thousands of denominations and sects, Christians feel a sense of unity here. The idea here is: We may disagree about the proper way to baptize someone, but at least we can "all" agree on some certain core points. And although Christianity. Inc. is careful to never articulate these clearly, these are the core points around which it is organized. There is no doctrine on "Spirit 95", our local Christian radio station. Instead there are platitudes, feel-good (i.e. non-controversial) Bible verses, and praise songs. Consequently, through this tendency to avoid anything controversial, there is very little discussion of Christianity itself at all! This happens at the local level. But these stations also play the national-level shows distributed across the country. Because of this, there is a hidden implication that the topics discussed by the likes of the Dobsons and the Robertsons must be part of the "safe" topics that we (apparently) "all agree upon".

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