What explains elite contempt for Joe Rogan? – System Update with Glenn Greenwald

35:27
great you know there’s just tremendous
35:29
homogeneity now in in american culture
35:32
right
35:32
uh it’s the idea that these are the
35:34
types of people
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who should be both in charge
35:39
of talking about liberal left
35:42
politics and who should really be in
35:44
charge of the country in general there
35:45
are people who right now have cultural
35:46
hegemony in this country
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right um and it’s the idea that these
35:51
people
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are sort of the these are the people who
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embody
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what should be american morality right
35:58
now right these are the people who
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embody what that is and
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should hold the cultural level levers of
36:04
power in the country and who
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should have the power to be speaking on
36:09
uh the important topics of the day
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so that’s sort of what i mean by that
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what is joe what does joe rogan
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lack on that list of
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attributes that people think define
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those who should be
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exerting influence and power over our
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discourse in politics
36:27
well i think what he lacks is i mean
36:30
the most important thing he lacks is
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the um willingness to exclude everyone
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else from the debate who isn’t a part of
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that culture i mean i think that’s
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probably the primary thing that enrages
36:43
them
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is that he i mean one of the reasons why
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his show is so popular is that it’s a
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really powerful cross-pollination
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of ideas of different fields of
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different
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industries people from all these
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different walks of life
36:58
um it’s you know it’s it’s a great
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reflection of internet culture you know
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one of the reasons why the show is so
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popular is that it kind of operates on
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internet time
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right as opposed to you know cable news
37:08
that
37:09
is kind of really slow to pick up on
37:11
things probably because of its older
37:12
demographic whereas
37:14
joe rogan is able to seize on something
37:16
that appeared on a message board
37:17
yesterday right and i mean even if you
37:19
watch his show
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um they’re able to fact that fat check
37:23
themselves in real time right he’s got
37:25
his sidekick there jamie who
37:27
pulls something up to verify whether
37:29
what joe
37:30
what joe just said is totally full of
37:32
i mean that’s not something you’re
37:33
going to see chris hayes do
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or sean hannity do right like that’s
37:37
just not the way it works
37:38
everyone’s online today i mean the
37:41
entire country is essentially getting
37:42
email
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and facebook and all that jazz like why
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bother
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doing it in this particular medium that
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has an inherent time constraint
37:51
well you’re right i mean the internet
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has revolutionized
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politics and in many ways good ways we
37:58
use
37:59
our social media our email list which is
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very large
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we every day we’re sending out stuff and
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other candidates are doing it the same
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way
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but television still has a very
38:07
important role to be playing um and so
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probably it’s it’s partly that uh and
38:12
it’s
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and it’s partly you know his his
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willingness
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to transgress on issues that are
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considered
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sacred right not necessarily obviously
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the big one nowadays is the trans issue
38:25
the transgenderism issue
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he’s willing to talk about that and he’s
38:28
willing to bring in
38:30
um perspectives on it that right now
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liberals are just have
38:34
zero zero tolerance for um and so
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so let me let me let’s stop there for a
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second so
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you know i’m i’m i’m i to kind of
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present what i think would be the
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best or strongest case that a liberal
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would make for why joe rogan ought to be
38:54
regarded
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certainly not as an ally and even as an
38:58
enemy
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and one is the one that you just put
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your finger on so this week there was a
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report in vice
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that employees of sportify which is the
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platform that essentially just paid joe
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rogan
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in excess of 100 million dollars for his
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show exclusively to appear there
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are upset um and it came from
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how they what they described themselves
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as being lgbtq
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a i plus employees
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and allies so not just the lgbtqai plus
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employees but also their allies are
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upset because
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in particular he has had on his show
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number one an author who has argued
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that there are times when young people
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are influenced to believe
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that they have gender dysphoria and to
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even begin
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irreversible transitions when in fact
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they don’t have gender dysphoria because
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of the culture that is encouraging them
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to think that to what
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in other words questioning whether young
40:08
people are being misdiagnosed
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with gender dysphoria who don’t in fact
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have it and there are definitely people
40:14
who
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have said that they have been that
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they’ve gone through that process only
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to realize that
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that wasn’t their issue so that was one
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of the problems is just
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airing an author who did research and
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science
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who said that to some extent people are
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being misdiagnosed
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and then i guess the other one was him
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being an mma fan
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a fighting fan as you alluded to earlier
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questioning whether it’s fair
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to allow uh trans women who
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live their lives uh as biological men
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who went through puberty as biological
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men who developed muscle mass and
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hormones and
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um the entire physiology of a man to
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then
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transition and compete with cis women
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something that people like martina
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navratilova who’s been a long time
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advocate for trans people have asked as
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well and that
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essentially this demonstrates his
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willingness not just to air these
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views but to even kind of wonder them
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himself
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suggests that he’s transphobic which is
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a form of bigotry
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and we ought not to have any kind of
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alliance with
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or support for people who are bigots
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that’s one of the
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cases that is made against joe oregon
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why isn’t that valid
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so i mean it goes to the point that i
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that the question you just asked
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me and the point that i made which is
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that you know
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what makes what makes it what makes joe
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rogan
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seen as not an ally and you know
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what makes him come across as not an
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ally is that he is not
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actively engaged in the culture war
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right i mean what’s so crucial to people
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who are actually
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actively engaged in liberal culture war
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is that you have to be
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actively seen as saying you know this is
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our line and anyone who does not
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um hew to this line is the enemy right
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and if you’re not
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a part if you’re not a part of the
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solution you’re a part of the problem
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essentially
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and so when joe rogan someone like joe
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rogan comes along and says hey there are
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some interesting issues here hey
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let’s talk about this hey there are some
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certain scientific studies
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that immediately raises all the alarms
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in people’s heads
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saying that uh oh this is not one of us
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this is not one of the allies right like
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this isn’t someone who is going
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to be doing the work that we define
42:32
ourselves by
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the work of advancing the culture war
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right and if you’re not advancing the
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culture war
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then you’re as good as the enemy if not
42:42
the enemy is ironic right because like
42:44
george george bush’s
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911 formulation that liberals
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incessantly not just mock but we’re
42:51
very alarmed by was that you know
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every country has a choice you’re with
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us or you’re with the terrorists it’s
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one or the other there’s no middle
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ground if you’re not
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actively supporting what we’re doing
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we’re going to regard you as an
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ally of the terrorists or even one of
43:08
the terrorists and that means that
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for example in the culture war you
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become the enemy not merely by
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advocating against trans rights but
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questioning the premises the science
43:23
behind the implications of these very
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profound social changes
43:27
that a lot of people are advocating
43:29
right and and that’s what you saw from
43:30
this vice article right
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um it was actually a perfect case study
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i mean first of all the headline said
43:37
joe rogan’s transphobic episode or
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something like that or
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transphobic joe rogan you know it
43:43
clearly editorialized before you even
43:45
you didn’t i mean you didn’t even have
43:47
to read the article right like you you
43:48
just read the headline and you know
43:50
exactly what the article is saying
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but beyond that it also completely
43:55
sidestepped the debate as we’re just
43:56
saying now right
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this episode that they’re talking about
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that that’s causing all the drama
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internally and spotify if you watch it
44:04
there’s
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two important things to know about it
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first of all before
44:08
anything happened and again the reason
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why this stuff works so well is because
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no one actually listens to the episodes
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who care involved in this
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in this war right in these battles
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because or they see
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like one minute chosen snippets
44:20
deliberately selected to
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cast it in the responsible light right
44:26
right exactly but so he starts off right
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off the bat and he’s
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and he says this episode is not about
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adults right
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this is not about trans adults we
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completely believe in trans adult rights
44:37
we believe in their identities
44:38
we are completely supportive of them um
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i joe rogan and completely a supporter
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of trans adults right so that’s
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important to set aside
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um because right off the bat you know
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that he’s not talking about
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tran the idea of transgenderism in
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general obviously right
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you can’t i’ve heard him say before i’ve
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heard him say before
45:00
not only do i fully support the complete
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range and panoply of
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robust equal legal rights for trans
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people
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and not only do i believe that they have
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the absolute right to live their lives
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with full and complete dignity and
45:15
liberty
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which is consistent with his overall
45:18
philosophy i’ve heard him say
45:20
i have nothing but love in my heart for
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trans people in fact
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admiration for people who are willing to
45:27
defy societal convention to be
45:29
who they are so it’s almost like even on
45:32
the question of trans issues
45:34
from a liberal perspective he’s way
45:38
ahead of
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the vast majority of where the
45:40
population is in terms of how he talks
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about it
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um so you’re right he he carves out this
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kind of
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you know um territory that he’s saying
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i’m not
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questioning the rights fully of trans
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adults to live a complete and full
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life filled with dignity and love um
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so what is it that that became
46:02
problematic
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so what became problematic is that you
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know the rest of the show
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is devoted to the issue of children
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who you know children teenagers
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people going through adolescence who
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come across the idea of transgenderism
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and think that maybe transgenderism has
46:24
some kind of answers
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for what may be the natural kind of
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patterns and challenges that children go
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through in young age
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um you know normally and also you know
46:36
in these days
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we’re suffering through a mental health
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crisis right one that probably
46:40
even preceded um coded but has just been
46:44
amped up
46:44
greatly during covid right but generally
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the
46:47
the idea and the author of the book who
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i will say you know the the author of
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the book the title
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was a little bit sensationalist and i
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think that’s probably driving a
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little bit you know it’s something like
46:57
they’re coming for our daughters or
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something like that which you know
47:00
listen i if i was advising someone to
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write a book that you want well received
47:03
broadly
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you might do a better job with the title
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but and that’s not and that’s not a book
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written by joe it’s not a book written
47:10
by joe rogan it’s a book written
47:14
not always favorably right he
47:16
interrogated that person on
47:17
a lot of those premises exactly and he
47:20
did and he did do a good job of actually
47:22
kind of talking about the cover and
47:23
saying well why did you go with this
47:24
cover
47:25
and i mean it was he did this job on
47:27
that end actually right
47:28
um but more importantly this entire
47:32
episode was talking about
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whether there’s an issue with kids
47:37
that you know kind of exploring
47:39
transgenderism and actually
47:41
moving forward with it when maybe it’s
47:43
not it maybe it’s
47:44
sort of a product of just a tumultuous
47:47
adolescence and maybe
47:49
allowing children to do this and engage
47:51
in this is maybe not the right move
47:53
essentially saying
47:54
maybe these children who think they’re
47:55
trans aren’t actually trans and maybe we
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should be
47:58
engaging the science engaging um
48:02
engaging the experts on this issue to
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kind of sort this out so that
48:06
you know we’re not we’re not kind of
48:09
sending people
48:10
on this path that will sort of you know
48:12
uproot their lives and
48:14
things that they’ll have to undo later
48:16
on and just causing more trauma into
48:18
adulthood right
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it’s a way to argue against that which
48:20
is to say well no we’ve talked to the
48:22
experts and the experts say this isn’t a
48:24
widespread
48:25
issue or when we interrogate these
48:27
children who think they might be trans
48:29
there are real reasons why they think
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they are or you know look into that
48:33
literature
48:33
bring it up bring the experts in and
48:35
actually engage this debate but of
48:37
course that’s not what they’re in for
48:38
right like this that’s not what this is
48:40
about
48:40
this is about immediately kind of
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shutting down the debate
48:44
and saying okay you’re on the you’re not
48:47
you’re not advancing
48:49
the the cause the trans cause and the
48:51
broader culture cause so you’re clearly
48:52
part of the problem you’re not being an
48:54
ally right and that’s why
48:56
this word ally is has become so
48:58
important and this broader kind of
49:00
critical theory culture war
49:02
um dynamic is because this idea of ally
49:07
it’s not just it’s not a it’s not just
49:09
an affirmational
49:11
kind of identity of being an ally but
49:12
it’s a negational identity right what
49:14
it’s saying is that
49:15
if you’re an ally it means you’re
49:17
actually part of this
49:19
right you’re not you’re not someone who
49:21
is just letting it happen or working
49:23
against us if you’re not an ally
49:25
it’s not just that you’re being lazy
49:26
they’re not trying to you know when they
49:28
say you’re not an ally what they’re
49:29
saying is that you’re the enemy
49:31
right yeah you know there’s several
49:32
there’s there’s a couple things really
49:34
interesting to me about that which is
49:36
obviously part of my formative
49:38
experience in
49:39
being politically engaged was being part
49:43
of the gay rights movement
49:44
in the late 80s or even the mid 80s to
49:48
late 80s when i kind of came of age as
49:51
a gay teenager in the reagan years there
49:53
was obviously just like there is against
49:56
trans people now it sustained an
49:57
organized demonization campaign
49:59
right obviously the people who were just
50:02
you know
50:03
close-minded malicious bigots
50:06
were not people that you regarded as
50:08
allies those are people you were willing
50:09
to kind of demonize and scorn but the
50:11
reason why
50:13
that debate ended up being won by
50:16
advocates of
50:17
gay equality was because we were
50:19
constantly searching for ways to
50:22
engage people and to change their minds
50:24
and
50:25
encouraging those questions to be asked
50:27
based on the recognition
50:29
that if you want to usher in very
50:31
profound
50:32
changes to how society functions
50:35
and do so in a way that requires a
50:38
majority to support you
50:40
even though the majority is not um part
50:43
of the group who’s
50:45
on be on whose behalf you’re advocating
50:48
dialogue
50:48
and engagement is crucial and so people
50:51
who want to
50:52
engage and ask questions are are things
50:54
that you’re happy about not people that
50:56
you want to denounce
50:57
the other thing i find so um
51:00
kind of baffling and confounding about
51:03
this
51:04
taboo on asking in particular
51:07
whether or not children or teenagers are
51:11
being
51:12
uh misdiagnosed with gender dysphoria
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for cultural reasons or social reasons
51:17
or because the
51:18
the understanding of it is so
51:19
preliminary um
51:21
aside from the fact that just in general
51:23
you want medicine and science and
51:26
mental health uh professionals always
51:29
asking
51:30
whether misdiagnoses are taking place
51:32
but
51:33
there’s this kind of morality now as i
51:35
know all too well and as people have
51:37
been seeing
51:38
you know it’s kind of made its
51:40
appearance in the alex morse
51:41
scandal where there’s this now
51:44
growing uh orthodoxy among
51:49
in left global politics that if you’re a
51:51
young adult
51:53
23 21 20 you lack the capacity to make
51:58
decisions for yourself that are truly
52:00
consensual about who you want to date
52:02
who you want to have sex with
52:03
frequently people cite neurological
52:06
research that says your brain isn’t
52:07
fully formed
52:09
and that therefore if someone is 28 or
52:11
30 like alex morse was
52:13
he shouldn’t be dating or having sex
52:14
with 21 or 22 year olds even if they say
52:17
they want to
52:18
because 21 and 22 year olds aren’t
52:20
capable of making
52:21
a much a pretty limited choice do i want
52:23
to have sex with this person on this
52:25
particular night or date them and yet
52:27
those same people who say that 21 year
52:30
olds or 20 year olds
52:31
aren’t capable of deciding for
52:33
themselves whether to date an older
52:35
person or whether to have sex with an
52:36
older person
52:37
want to put it off limits whether a 14
52:41
year old or a 15 year old
52:43
is sufficiently mature and has the
52:46
emotional sophistication
52:48
to make permanent life-altering
52:50
decisions about
52:51
what their gender is to the point of
52:53
having surgeries or
52:55
hormonal treatments that will alter
52:57
themselves
52:59
forever um and you know i think that
53:03
um one of the
53:07
kind of uh phenomenon that we’re seeing
53:10
in liberal
53:10
culture increasingly that’s reflected in
53:13
this treatment of joe robin
53:15
rogan as a homophobe not for saying
53:17
anything disparaging
53:19
about trans people or advocating against
53:21
equal rights quite the contrary
53:23
he he he doesn’t do that he advocates
53:26
for rights
53:27
is the idea that simply asking questions
53:29
even in response to things that probably
53:31
ought to be interrogated
53:33
is considered itself almost as bad as
53:37
malice and bigotry itself they’re kind
53:40
of equated
53:41
in a way that just will inherently repel
53:44
people from a political movement that
53:46
says
53:47
that if you have questions you have no
53:49
right to ask them and simply asking them
53:51
makes you a bad person
53:53
right and and the the i think the uh the
53:56
tying
53:56
kind of thread there is that this is
53:59
again it’s it’s about this delineation
54:02
that we have to make between liberal
54:04
politics and liberal culture
54:05
and the culture war um this is very much
54:08
about
54:09
a culture that has de-prioritized
54:12
political outcomes right
54:14
uh we see that with your example that
54:16
you just made
54:17
um with the gay rights movement we also
54:19
saw that with the alex morse campaign
54:20
right
54:21
we saw people who were much more focused
54:24
on maintaining
54:25
the integrity and the purity of the
54:28
battle they’re engaged in culturally
54:30
even at the expense of achieving real
54:33
political outcomes
54:34
right and as you just said you know
54:36
engaging debates is
54:38
is how you actually you know having that
54:41
cross-pollination of ideas
54:42
and and actually persuading people
54:44
actually engaging in persuasion
54:47
um rather than just kind of identifying
54:49
who’s on in my tribe who’s in your tribe
54:51
that’s how you achieve political
54:53
outcomes it was the same with the alex
54:54
morse right where it was
54:56
an allegation was made and we
54:58
immediately have to believe the
54:59
allegation
55:00
not investigate it because if you are a
55:03
you know if you’re a denier or if you
55:05
even hesitate to believe
55:07
what’s happening then you are not
55:09
promoting this broader idea
55:12
that there are victims in the world and
55:14
we’re not
55:15
kind of invested further investing in
55:16
the idea of victimization right
55:19
um victimization is this really core
55:21
concept to this culture where right like
55:23
we have to believe that there are
55:24
victims and we have to always support
55:27
the creation of new categories of
55:28
victimhood and if we don’t and if we’re
55:31
not engaged in that struggle
55:33
then we’re not pushing the culture war
55:34
and again it just shows
55:36
that maintaining the integrity of this
55:38
culture war is far
55:39
more important than even the political
55:41
outcomes and i think there may be some
55:43
very tangible reasons for that i think
55:45
a lot of the people that are engaged in
55:46
this stuff are people who do derive
55:49
power from cult power powerful cultural
55:51
centers right they work in academia
55:54
they work in the media and that’s how
55:55
they exert their power
55:57
over politics and over society because
55:59
again culture is how
56:01
we talk about ideas culture is how
56:04
we mold political ideas and say which
56:07
ideas can connect together which people
56:09
can connect together who can
56:10
hang out with who how cool you know
56:13
culture builds coalitions right
56:16
it builds political coalitions so um
56:19
i think there’s a very real reason why
56:22
people
56:22
are very concerned about maintaining the
56:25
integrity of this liberal culture
56:28
it’s because that’s where they derive
56:30
their power and in fact
56:32
you know they’re i mean it’s not a
56:34
surprise to see especially
56:35
now seeing cultural elites feel so
56:38
disempowered democratically right they
56:40
feel so politically disempowered
56:43
um that they would kind of throw
56:45
themselves completely into this culture
56:47
war because that’s the only place where
56:48
they can exert their power now right
56:50
and that’s why we see these insane sorts
56:53
of um
56:55
kind of concessions to even corporate
56:57
culture where they’re
56:59
so excited to allow corporations to
57:01
censor
57:02
free speech they’re so excited to allow
57:04
hr departments to and you know
57:06
indoctrinate people and run
57:08
programs on people and force people in
57:09
these programs where the people are
57:11
literally denouncing themselves because
57:13
of the way they’re born
57:14
it’s exerting power through culture
57:16
because you can’t do it politically
57:18
anymore politically it’s a lot harder
57:20
you have to get the people on your side
57:21
why would you want to get the people on
57:23
your side that’s a pain in the ass
57:24
so yeah exactly um so
57:28
and and i do think it’s interesting as
57:30
well that
57:31
that this whole concept of whether you
57:33
care about power or not because
57:35
you know i watched i mentioned martina
57:37
navratilova earlier who um
57:40
you know is obviously a person who i pay
57:42
attention to i’ve talked about before
57:44
and written about before how she was my
57:45
childhood hero
57:46
i was working on a film about her and it
57:48
was amazing to watch
57:49
that this person who is like one of the
57:52
main 20th century pioneers
57:54
of feminism she did as much to create
57:58
space for the ability of female athletes
58:01
to compete on equal terms with male
58:03
athletes in terms of money and
58:04
sponsorships and
58:05
corporations is probably anybody except
58:08
for billie jean king
58:09
she had a trans coach in 1883 and was
58:11
defending
58:13
not just lgbts and was one of the few
58:14
openly gay celebrities or athletes of
58:17
that era
58:18
you know all she kind of did was say hey
58:21
i’m kind of confused
58:23
is all you is the only thing you have to
58:25
do to enter
58:26
female professional sports and win all
58:29
the cash
58:30
awards and and prizes and trophies is
58:34
declare yourself a woman or are there
58:35
protocols
58:36
she was really asking earnestly and
58:39
in response she was just mauled um
58:42
with no generosity no kind of
58:46
you know uh consideration for her whole
58:48
history she was just instantly declared
58:50
a bigot the more she tried to defend
58:52
herself
58:53
the worse it got and then eventually
58:55
very soon thereafter she converted
58:57
into a real enemy she emerged two months
58:59
later and wrote this
59:01
article aggressively condemning the idea
59:04
that trans women should be able to
59:06
compete in female athletic and female
59:10
athletics because it the the the kind of
59:13
intolerance for her even asking
59:17
converted her it alienated her converted
59:19
her into an enemy and
59:20
it seems like people who don’t care
59:22
about outcomes are about winning
59:24
really don’t get bothered by that but
59:27
let me just ask you about one
59:28
the kind of the last um
59:32
kind of prong of the case of the liberal
59:34
case against joe rogan i find this one
59:36
really interesting
59:37
too which is you know people say
59:41
okay fine he he liked bernie like tulsi
59:45
um and yet i believe in 2016 if i’m not
59:48
mistaken
59:50
he said that he was voting for trump
59:51
over hillary
59:53
and i’m certain that after saying that
59:56
he
59:56
thought bernie was the best candidate
59:58
and really like tulsi
59:59
he’s now saying i can’t vote for biden i
60:02
probably would vote for trump over biden
60:05
which would is leading ripples to say to
60:07
people like you
60:09
why would we possibly why should we
60:12
possibly regard somebody
60:14
as an ally who is
60:18
saying twice now that they’re going to
60:19
vote for donald trump and i guess like
60:21
an
60:21
ancillary part of that question is you
60:24
know there is this phenomenon of people
60:26
who twice voted
60:27
for barack obama and then voted for
60:29
donald trump in 2016
60:31
not a small number a large number and
60:33
here in brazil
60:34
same thing you know a lot of people who
60:35
voted for bolsonaro in 2018
60:38
were people who voted for the workers
60:40
party four consecutive
60:42
elections so if you’re kind of a
60:44
political junkie who relies on the
60:46
polarization of choose between rachel
60:48
maddow and sean hanovey
60:50
it doesn’t make any sense that somebody
60:52
could do that to say i like bernie
60:54
but i’m gonna vote for trump because you
60:56
have to pick an ideological box
60:58
and joe rogan clearly is a person
61:01
who doesn’t think that way and i think
61:03
there’s like this liberal sense that
61:05
that makes him bizarre when in fact
61:07
i think it makes him pretty common it’s
61:09
one of the reasons why people like him
61:11
because he’s not in one of those boxes
61:13
but what do you say to liberals who
61:15
would make that argument that how can we
61:17
consider somebody supporting
61:19
this authoritarian racist for president
61:22
to be an ally
61:25
well i mean there are two things that
61:26
you you have to kind of
61:29
kind of set the record straight on first
61:31
is that i i’m pretty sure in 2016 he
61:33
voted for gary johnson so he voted for a
61:35
libertarian i don’t think he voted for
61:37
trump in 2016.
61:39
um and in 2020 again he first you know
61:42
supported tulsi
61:43
then he supported bernie um and then
61:46
most recently if you really
61:48
look at his comments it’s not that he’s
61:49
saying he’s endorsing trump but he’s
61:51
saying that
61:52
he would he would vote for trump um
61:55
as a result of the party choosing biden
61:57
because he just doesn’t think biden can
61:59
do the job
62:00
just from a kind of mental age
62:04
decline standpoint so it’s not like the
62:06
most heartfelt support of trump but yeah
62:08
i mean
62:08
let’s set that aside and just say okay
62:10
like he’s willing to vote for trump
62:12
right
62:12
um i mean the idea that you wouldn’t
62:15
want to engage
62:16
someone who is willing to go from the
62:19
most
62:20
liberal the most left candidate in the
62:23
democratic primary and willing to then
62:26
switch over to trump
62:27
i mean you know it’s the argument that
62:29
the left’s been making
62:30
for you know for years now right that
62:33
like
62:33
these this is the is the guy to be
62:36
studying right he’s the one that we can
62:38
kind of crack the code on
62:40
um as for you know why that’s the case
62:43
i think it’s real again it’s really
62:45
threatening i don’t think
62:46
you know i think the democratic
62:48
establishment what i tend to tell people
62:49
is that the democratic establishment
62:52
their main priority is not really to
62:54
actually even win elections
62:56
it’s to keep control of the democratic
62:58
party right like that’s where most of
63:00
their power comes from it’s certainly
63:01
where
63:02
their most reliable source of power
63:04
comes from it’s keeping control of the
63:05
party because as long as you can
63:07
keep control of the party and you keep
63:08
control of the cultural
63:10
um levers of power in the country
63:13
you’re always going to be able to
63:15
command 50
63:16
of the political system you’re always
63:18
going to be able to command
63:20
um you know the entire media apparatus
63:23
that’s devoted to politics right you’re
63:25
good
63:25
or at least half of it right you’re
63:27
going to in control the liberal half
63:29
and so i think it’s i i mean i it’s
63:32
i’m sorry to say but i think it’s a
63:34
really cynical calculation
63:36
that cultural elites and democratic
63:39
party elites are making when they make
63:41
these decisions because when when you
63:43
engage joe rogan
63:45
and you engage his viewers you’re being
63:47
bringing in
63:48
a ton of people who you can’t
63:50
necessarily rely on to keep these clean
63:52
lines of political and cultural
63:54
engagement you’re
63:55
you’re completely blowing up the
63:57
political system you’re you’re blowing
63:59
up the racket
64:00
right and why would you want to do that
64:02
because at the end of the day
64:04
hell trump could get reelected and
64:05
they’d still control the party they can
64:07
still control the other half they’d be
64:10
raising hundreds of millions of dollars
64:12
for their think tanks and therefore you
64:14
know the media institutions and so
64:16
it’s a great racket why would you risk
64:18
that just for
64:19
winning you know the presidency for
64:21
maybe four years eight years
64:22
don’t get me wrong obviously they’d like
64:24
to win that too
64:26
but i don’t think that’s the real game i
64:27
don’t think that’s ever been the real
64:28
game
64:30
we saw that in the uk right where the
64:33
centrists and playwrights and moderates
64:36
who controlled the labor party
64:38
levers of power forever whether they
64:40
were in power out of power
64:42
when they lost control of their own
64:44
party to jeremy corbyn
64:46
they it was very obvious if you’re just
64:48
paying minimal attention but we now know
64:50
from documents that have been leaked and
64:51
reports that have been issued
64:53
they were actively working against the
64:56
labor party they preferred
64:58
to destroy corbyn and retake control
65:01
of the party even if it meant empowering
65:04
the tories and making boris johnson
65:06
prime minister because as you say
65:09
their top priority is ensuring that they
65:11
maintain
65:12
control of their party and secondary
65:15
or even more distantly is actually
65:18
winning elections
65:19
um and you know i think that you know
65:22
it’s like when people ask me why i go on
65:23
tucker carlson i
65:24
can barely even understand the question
65:26
because it’s such an obvious answer
65:28
which is
65:29
because there are four million people
65:30
watching and whatever percentage it is
65:33
that i can reach in any way not
65:34
necessarily change their minds instantly
65:37
but just kind of make them a little more
65:38
open
65:39
to hearing from different people maybe
65:41
get them kind of unsettled about
65:44
who they should be paying attention to
65:46
or introducing some ideas that maybe
65:48
maybe it’s ten percent maybe it’s five
65:50
percent maybe it’s fifteen percent
65:52
why would i ignore that if i actually
65:54
care about outcomes
65:55
to watch you know i i it kind of shocked
65:58
me edward snowden
65:59
uh appeared on rogan’s show for the
66:02
second time this week and so i went back
66:03
to look at what the audience was the
66:05
first time he appeared which is
66:06
about 10 months ago and even though
66:09
edward snowden being edward snowden kind
66:11
of spoke in like a monologue form for
66:13
about
66:14
three hours you know and he was
66:16
obviously remote because he couldn’t
66:18
go to the studio since he’s trapped in
66:19
russia the audience for that
66:22
appearance from edward snowden just on
66:25
youtube never mind all the other
66:26
platforms
66:27
was 15 million people 15 million
66:31
um which is you know four or five times
66:34
the size
66:35
of a primetime cable host even on their
66:37
best night
66:38
and obviously by virtue the fact that
66:40
you watch it that people
66:42
listen to it and can hear him say i
66:44
support tulsi or i support
66:46
bernie obviously there’s huge numbers of
66:48
those
66:49
that audience that are very reachable
66:51
from a liberal perspective
66:53
anybody who says i don’t want to have
66:56
anything to do
66:57
with a show that reaches 15 million
66:59
people
67:00
is somebody to me who’s saying
67:04
i look at politics as about everything
67:06
other than
67:07
winning wielding power and changing the
67:10
world
67:11
right right and they shrouded in moral
67:13
language right they shrouded
67:15
in how could you associate with someone
67:17
like that how could you you’ll be
67:18
tainted by someone like that
67:20
um they shrouded in those things but at
67:22
the end of the day it’s a much more
67:24
cynical calculation it’s
67:25
it’s put forth as some kind of moral
67:28
decr
67:29
declaration but it’s really a cynical
67:31
calculation
67:32
calculation in terms of controlling the
67:33
party in terms of controlling cultural
67:36
power centers
67:37
why would we want to upset that this is
67:40
a great setup
67:41
um and yeah that’s why you see 15
67:43
million people tuning in to edward
67:45
snowden because it completely cult
67:47
cuts across all of these cultural lines
67:50
i mean there aren’t
67:51
you know being interested in edward
67:53
snowden just his story and what he did
67:55
and the cultural and political impact he
67:57
had
67:58
that’s not a liberal or conservative
68:00
idea that’s
68:01
that’s reaching millions of people um
68:03
but that’s just not interesting to
68:05
um what informs the you know the the
68:08
careers and the lifestyles of the people
68:10
that
68:11
sort of hold these both the political
68:13
and cultural
68:14
levers of power in the country yeah so
68:16
yeah so thanks very much for
68:18
for taking the time i i think is a
68:20
really important topic not just
68:22
because it’s important to understand the
68:24
phenomenon of joe rogan although that
68:25
is important there are very few people
68:28
having the kind of cultural
68:30
and political impact that he’s having
68:34
um in a reaching a group of people who
68:38
often tune out politics or who aren’t
68:40
engaged in the traditional ways which
68:42
makes him
68:44
even more important than just the
68:45
numbers alone but i do think too
68:47
the reaction to him tells us a lot about
68:50
how media figures view their position
68:52
how liberals view what their political
68:54
project uh is and so
68:56
um i i think your your analysis on
69:00
twitter and the discussion that we just
69:02
had
69:02
um has really clarified those issues in
69:05
in a really helpful way so thank you so
69:07
much for
69:08
taking the time to talk to me um and i
69:10
hope people will tune into your
69:13
back channel youtube program where
69:14
you’re doing a lot of these kind of
69:15
header docs
69:17
uh discussions with people across a wide
69:20
range of
69:21
ideological and cultural uh belief
69:24
systems so
69:24
thanks very much sean yeah thank you so
69:27
much i enjoyed it
69:36
you

Evangelicals Have Abandoned the Character Test. The Competence Test is Next.

Christian political engagement is about more than an issue checklist.

On April 15, the United States hit a horrifying milestone. It not only crossed 30,000 total COVID-19 deaths, but for the fourth consecutive day, the daily death toll was so high that COVID-19 was the single leading cause of death in the United States. This visualization of the rising death toll is simply horrifying:

At the same time, new reports have emerged demonstrating the president’s incredible reluctance to come to terms with the scale of a crisis that wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen by members of his own administration. And while Trump deserves credit for limiting travel from China in late January, he not only squandered any advantage gained by that move, he actively spread misinformation about the virus throughout the month of February and into March.

Then, when he finally began to acknowledge the scale of the emergency, he went on national television and botched his own primetime address, misstating administration policies and triggering a panic from Americans in Europe who believed—based on the president’s own words—that they would be barred from coming home.

Since that time, his daily press conferences have featured a parade of presidential

Something else happened on April 15—Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the presumptive next president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a man I respect a great deal—spoke from the midst of a ruined economy, soaring death rates, and presidential blundering and said . . . four more years. He declared not only that he’d support Donald Trump in 2020, but that he’ll almost certainly support Republican presidential candidates the rest of his life. Mohler focused on the classic culture war issues—marriage, sexuality, constitutional interpretation, and abortion. He expressed the belief that the “partisan divide had become so great” and Democrats had “swerved so far to the left” on those key issues that he can’t imagine ever voting for a Democratic president. He also claimed that Trump has been “more consistent in pro-life decisions” and consistent in the quality of his judicial nominations than “any president of the United States of any party.”

As he made clear in the video, Mohler has not always supported Trump. In 2016, he was consistent with his denomination’s clear and unequivocal statement about the importance of moral character in public officials. He has now decisively changed course.

In 1998—during Bill Clinton’s second term—the Southern Baptist Convention declared that “tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment” and therefore urged “all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.”

Mohler so clearly recognized the applicability of those words that he said, “If I were to support, much less endorse Donald Trump for president, I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton.” I do wonder if Mohler will apologize. He absolutely should.

Look, I know that for now I’ve lost the character argument. It’s well-established that a great number of white Evangelicals didn’t truly believe the words they wrote, endorsed, and argued in 1998 and for 18 years until the 2016 election. Oh sure, they thought they believed those words. If someone challenged their convictions with a lie detector test, they would have passed with flying colors.

(By the way, I use the term “white Evangelicals” because that’s Trump’s core political constituency. That’s the base that gave him 81 percent support in 2016. The rest of the Evangelical community leans Democratic.)

When C.S. Lewis said “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of very virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality,” he was speaking an important truth. We may think we possess an array of virtues and beliefs, but we don’t really know who we are or what we believe until those virtues and beliefs are put to the test. There is many a man who goes to war thinking himself brave, until the bullets fly. There is many a man who thinks himself faithful to his wife, until the flirtation starts.

There were many men who thought character counted, until a commitment to character contained a real political cost. But that’s the obvious point. I’ve made it countless times before today. White Evangelicals, however, have shrugged it off. “Binary choice,” they say. “Lesser of two evils,” they say—even though those concepts appeared nowhere in the grand moral announcements of the past.

Many millions of Trump-supporting white Evangelicals no longer care about character (though a surprising number are still remarkably unaware of his flaws). That much is clear. But the story now grows darker still. As they’ve abandoned political character tests, they’re also rejecting any meaningful concern for presidential competence.

Listen to Mohler’s announcement, and you’ll hear a narrow political philosophy—one that’s limited to evaluating a party platform on a few, discrete issues. It’s nothing more than a policy checklist. He speaks of religious freedom, LGBT issues, and abortion. 

Yet as the pandemic vividly illustrates (and as 9/11 also highlighted in recent years past), the job of the president extends well beyond the culture war. Indeed, there are times when a president is so bad at other material aspects of his job that he becomes a malignant force in American life, regardless of his positions on white Evangelicals’ highest political priorities.

The role of the people of God in political life is so much more difficult and challenging than merely listing a discrete subset of issues (even when those issues are important!) and supporting anyone who agrees to your list. The prophet Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

This is a difficult, complicated task. We can’t reduce it to a list. In fact, this complexity is one reason why two key communities of churchgoing Americans are dramatically split in their political preferences. Black Christians go to church every bit as much (if not more) than white Evangelicals, yet they reject Trump every bit as much as white Evangelicals embrace him.

Are they less Christian? Or is their experience of the welfare of the national community shaped by history and experience that’s quite different from that of their white Evangelical brothers and sisters? And while that history is complex, it does clearly teach the deadly consequences of hate and the dangers of white populism.

When a president declares that there were “very fine people in a collection of tiki-torch-toting white supremacists, shouldn’t Christians of all colors be gravely concerned? Shouldn’t they be alarmed when the CEO of the president’s campaign and his chief strategist declared just before his ascension to the president’s team that he wanted his publication (Breitbart) to be the “platform” for the racist alt-right? And when a president issues a stream of misinformation about a mortal threat to public health (with one eye on the stock market), is there not cause for accountability?

I could go on and on, but there are Christians in this country – mostly from communities who’ve suffered in the recent past at the hands of malignant government power—who look at Trump and do not see a man who’s concerned for their welfare. What is the white Evangelical obligation to listen to them? To hear their concerns?

The response can’t be the checklist. And when vulnerable Americans suffer mightily from the health and economic consequences of a global pandemic the president minimized, the response can’t be the checklist. White Evangelical leaders owe us a serious argument as to why that checklist trumps character and competence in the leader of the free world.

No one should minimize the difficulty of the job of president of the United States. It’s a fact that a number of democracies have struggled even worse than America to respond to the coronavirus (some have done much better), and economic damage will be felt worldwide. China bears immense blame for our national plight.

But President Trump was warned and warned and warned. For day after crucial day he chose to mislead Americans about one of the most significant threats to their well-being—to their “welfare”— in the modern history of the United States. He faced a key test, and he did not rise to the moment. And when he failed, he did real damage that even later course corrections could not entirely fix.

And please Christians, do not run back to arguments about “binary choice.” When I walk into the voting booth (or mail in my ballot), I will see more than two names. I’ll also have a choice to write in a name. I will not have to compromise my convictions to cast a vote for president.

If you do, however, want to revert to the language of “binary choice,” we need to examine the larger context. In January the nation faced a different kind of binary choice. It was, quite simply, “Trump or Pence.” When the president was impeached after he clearly attempted to condition vital military aid to an ally on a demand for a politically motivated investigation of a political opponent and on a demand to investigate a bizarre conspiracy theory, white Evangelicals had a decision to make.

They chose Trump.

They chose Trump when they would have certainly sought to impeach and convict a Democrat under similar facts.

In fact, for four long years, when the choice has been between Trump and even the most momentary break with the president for a single news cycle, the overwhelming majority of white Evangelicals—and their political leaders—have spoken loudly and clearly.

It’s Trump. It’s always Trump.

In the fourth year of Donald Trump’s first term, the deal white Evangelicals have struck is now increasingly clear. Their leaders will get unprecedented Oval Office access. They’ll get a few good religious liberty regulations. They’ll get good judges. Those judges will almost certainly issue rulings that protect religious liberty. They might issue rulings that marginally protect life (though the pro-life battle is fought far more in the culture and in the states than in the courts). Those will be important and good things. They are not the only things.

White Evangelicals will have also squandered any argument that character matters in politicians. That means we’ll have more politicians of low character.

White Evangelicals are squandering any argument that they seek to love their enemies. That means we’ll see more hate from America’s bully pulpit.

White Evangelicals are not only squandering any argument that competence matters, they are working hard to try to force more incompetence on their American community. Trump’s impact on the welfare of the American city is increasingly clear. It’s more division. It’s more hate. It’s more incompetence. And now that terrible combination has yielded a series of dreadful errors in the face of a deadly pandemic.

White Evangelicals, one of the most politically powerful religious movements in the entire world, should not use their power to maintain and ultimately renew the authority of one of the most malignant and incompetent politicians ever to hold national office. They shouldn’t, but they will.

One last thing … 

This has been a rather grim newsletter, but authentic religious discourse requires discussing and debating hard questions, and the answers are not always easy or uplifting. I want to end not with a hymn or worship song, but rather something closer to a lament. It’s from one of my favorite artists, Sara Groves, and it speaks to the uncertainty and difficulty of life in a time of vulnerability and loss.

What is a Post-Jesus Christian?

 

Post-Jesus Christians are “Christians” who have decided to postpone following Jesus’s teaching until Jesus returns and ushers in 1000 years of peace.

Post-Jesus Christians hold that Jesus’s teachings do not need to be followed in our present era if they are a hindrance to obtaining the power they fear they need to help usher in the Kingdom of God.

Post-Jesus Christians (privately) hold that Jesus’s teachings are a nice thing to follow when dealing with the in-group of their fellow PJCs but may be disregarded when dealing with non-PJC neighbors.

Prophecy: What God Can Do For You

Post-Jesus Christians talk a lot about about prophecy, and unlike the Biblical Prophets, when they do, they punch down, rather than up:

You will know them by their fruit, because they only have one key message – God is going to “enlarge your tent” and “expand your influence“, he’s going to “give you great favor” and “bless you mightily”.

Later Craig Greenfield writes:

In Biblical times, there were two types of prophets.

  1. Firstly, there were those who feasted at the King’s table because they had been co-opted to speak well of evil leaders (1 Kings 18:19). They were always bringing these smarmy words of favor and influence and prosperity to the king. And the king lapped it up. Like a sucka.
  2. Secondly, there were those who were exiled to the caves, or beheaded (like John the Baptist) because they spoke out about the injustice or immorality of their leaders (1 Kings 18:4). The king didn’t like them very much. He tried to have them knee-capped.

An Inversion of Ben Franklin’s Morality

While many Post-Jesus Christians appeal to a historical “Christian Nation” , Post-Jesus Christians appear to be an inversion of founding father Ben Franklin, who in historian John Fea’s description, wanted to discard Jesus’s Divinity but retain and celebrate his ethical teachings.

Examples:

So what does this look like in practice?

Below are public quotations from prominent Court Evangelicals.  These quotations are less extreme that I would expect to hear in private.  A friend of mine speaks to supporters in private.  He reports that they would (privately) celebrate the stuffing of election ballots in favor of their preferred candidate as a righteous act.

1) Court Evangelical: Anti-Sermon on the Mount


John Fea wrote about a conversation he had with Rob Schenck  for the “Schenck Talks Bonhoeffer” podcast @ 19:27.  Here’s a quote from Schenck talking about a conversation he had with a prominent evangelical at the Trump Inaugural Prayer Service:

I must tell you something of a confession here. I was present at the Trump Inaugural Prayer Service held at the National Cathedral — not the smaller one held  at  Saint John’s Episcopal church across from the white house, but the one following the inauguration at the National Cathedral and I saw one of the notable Evangelicals that you’ve named in in our conversation. One of them, I won’t say which and we had it short exchange and I, I suggested to him that we needed to recalibrate our moral compass and that one way to do that might be to return to The Sermon on the Mount as a reference point. And he very quickly barked back at me. “We don’t have time for that. We have serious work to do.”

2) Jerry Falwell Jr:  Anti-Turn the other cheek

John Fea writes:

We have blogged about Liberty University’s Falkirk Center before.  The more I learn about this center the more I am convinced that it does not represent the teachings of Christianity.   Recently someone on Twitter pointed out this paragraph in the Falkirk Center mission statement:

Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough, and turning the other cheek in our personal relationships with our neighbors as Jesus taught while abdicating our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield is no longer sufficient. There is too much at stake in the battle for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic action and initiative is needed, which is why we just launched the Falkirk Center, a think tank dedicated to restoring and defending American ideals and Judeo-Christian values in all aspects of life.

John Fea’s Update:

Several smart people have suggested that I may have misread Liberty University’s statement.  They have said that the Falkirk Center was not denying that Jesus’s call to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individuals.  Instead, the Falkirk Center is saying that we should not “abdicate” (the key word here) our responsibilities to engage on the “culture battlefield.”

I think this is a fair criticism, and I indeed may have misread the statement.  For that I am sorry.  But I don’t think I want to back away too strongly from what I wrote above.  While several have correctly pointed out that Liberty University is not saying Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” is “insufficient” for individual Christians, the Falkirk Center does seem to be suggesting that it is “insufficient” for culture engagement.

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Interview with John Fea, author of BELIEVE ME

07:31
So there was certainly the policy.
07:33
And then on the other hand, you had the character issues.
07:39
That evangelicals would sort of sell their moral authority to speak truth to the world
07:50
for a handful of Supreme Court justices or this or that social or cultural issue; for
07:57
me, the fact that this man had a history of all kinds of . . . involved in the porn industry,
08:05
he was crude, he disrespected women.
08:10
The things he said about his opponents, we could go into specifics about that.
08:18
I’m a believer that there needs to be some kind of moral fabric to a republic in order
08:25
for the republic to work.
08:27
Now, where you find that morality, we could debate that question; I’ve written a little
08:32
about that elsewhere.
08:33
But a moral republic needs some kind of moral leader, some person of character, and he was
08:40
not it.
08:41
And I think you could make an argument against him, not even a Christian argument; he’s just
08:45
not good for America.
08:47
But yet evangelicals were so driven by their culture war.
08:52
Win the culture war, get the justices we need, elect the right guy; this kind of model, “playbook”
08:59
I call it in the book, this playbook for winning the culture that they were willing to overlook
09:05
all the character flaws and that was the second thing of course that bothered me.
09:10
I think it bothered a lot of other evangelicals.
09:12
I think that character issue bothered most evangelicals, whether they voted for Trump
09:17
or not, but ultimately the playbook: how to win the culture wars by electing the right
09:24
justices, the right congressmen, and the right president was so overwhelmingly strong and
09:30
had been so inculcated, so indoctrinated into the way evangelicals today think about politics,
09:38
that I should have seen it coming.
09:42
I should have seen this–if you look at the past 15 years, this was all building up to
09:47
this point.
09:48
Now, I think, I tend to think of this as kind of a last gasp of the old Christian Right;
09:56
I think that most of the people who voted for Trump came of age during the late ’70s
10:03
and ’80s when people like Jerry Falwell and the Christian Right were articulating this
10:08
playbook for how to win the culture for the first time.
10:12
I think the average Trump voter is 57 years old.
10:16
So I do have hope, especially as I look at young people in Christian colleges, like Messiah
10:21
College where I teach, who are much more interested in different kinds of questions related to
10:27
justice and social ills and those kinds of things in terms of how they exercise their faith.
10:32
But I think, I hope this is, I think I see this as a last gasp–I think in the book I
10:39
call it–I occasionally teach a course on the Civil War.
10:44
Some of your viewers might remember the last great engagement of the Battle of Gettysburg:
10:53
Picket’s Charge where the Confederate, Confederacy made one last charge before they were–and
11:00
almost were successful–before they were beat back once and for all.
11:04
Those who know their Civil War history know the war went downhill from that point.
11:10
I hope that’s what happened, that’s what’s gonna happen, that’s what we’re seeing here.
11:16
So, as I look back, I looked at the last 50 years, I saw all of these grievances that
11:26
evangelicals believed were happening, whether they be sexual politics: abortion; the ERA, the
11:36
Women’s Rights movement.
11:38
Evangelicalism has always been a patriarchal culture.
11:45
I think there’s a reaction to that.
11:46
I think there was a reaction to integration, racial integration, desegregation.
11:54
I think there were prayer in public schools, Bible taking out of the public schools, prayer
11:59
removed from public schools.
12:00
I think there’s this perfect storm that emerges in the ’60s and ’70s that prompts people like
Jerry Falwell and others to establish again this kind of political playbook to win the
culture back.
12:14
And Trump proved that, just how powerful that playbook really is and continue–was, and
12:22
continues to be, even to the point that someone like Donald Trump could win.
12:28
Again, I’m writing primarily to evangelicals in this book.
12:33
I think there will be a secondary audience of American religious historians, people who
12:38
are interested in American religion who want to take a peek into what evangelicals are
12:43
talking about.
12:44
I think there’s some good history in the book, though, too.
12:46
One of the things I try to unpack is show how there’s always been a dark side to American
12:52
evangelicalism.
12:55
We can talk about the way in which evangelicals have been on the front lines of anti-slavery,
social justice movements, international poverty relief, all of these kinds of things.
And we need to celebrate that I think; I’m not one of these people, who–I am an evangelical,
so I rejoice that evangelicals are doing these things.
But there’s also a dark side.
Even as someone like Lyman Beecher, who I write about in the third chapter, even as
he is fighting slavery, he’s also one of the leading nativists.
He doesn’t want catholics coming in and undermining his protestant nation.
So this story goes back a long way and I think what Trump does, is he appeals to the worst
side of evangelicalism in its 2, 300-year history.
Every time evangelicals are not representing the true virtues of their faith, where they
13:58
fail, I think Trump seizes on that history.
14:04
This is a history that defended the institution of slavery.
14:07
This is a history that had such certainty about what is true in the fundamentalist movement.
14:16
This is a movement that prevented, didn’t want certain kinds of immigrants coming into
14:20
the country.
14:21
There’s a long history of this.
14:23
I’d like my fellow evangelicals to at least be exposed to that history.
14:29
I think when ordinary evangelicals, lay men and women, think about evangelical history
14:35
they celebrate this providential idea.
14:38
“God is with us!
14:40
God is doing great things through people.”
14:42
And I think that’s important.
14:44
I think God does obviously work in this world and uses people in this world.
14:49
But also the reality of human sin: evangelicals are not immune.
14:55
Obviously!
14:56
If anyone knows better, it’s an evangelical who believes in this conversion experience,
15:03
one’s saved from the consequences of sin, becoming born again or becoming–accepting
15:08
Jesus, or whatever that looks like.
15:12
So, I want them to see there is a darker side to the history that Trump is tapping into.
15:21
Am I going to convince the 81% that they made a wrong decision?
15:28
Most I probably will not, but I do believe there are some fence-sitters out there, people
15:32
who maybe held their nose and voted for Trump.
15:39
Maybe they need to think through exactly, they may be open to thinking through a little
15:43
bit more, in terms of what this man represents and what the policy decisions he is putting
15:49
forth represent.
15:52
And hopefully it will force evangelicals–maybe “force” is too strong a word, but it might
15:55
encourage evangelicals to think more deeply about political engagement.
16:04
And when a politician comes along and says, “Let’s make America great again,” he’s ultimately–or
16:11
she, in this case he–is ultimately making a historical statement.
16:17
So I think evangelicals have to be careful.
16:19
When was America great?
16:22
Let’s go back and think about that.
16:24
What does Trump mean when he says, “Make America great again?”
16:28
And before you start using these evangelical catch-phrases like “reclaim” and “restore”
16:34
and “let’s get back to” and “let’s bring back the way it used to be,” we need to think more
16:44
deeply about what, exactly what it was like back then, how it used to be.
16:49
So I think even if the book forces evangelicals to kind of rethink even their phraseology
16:55
and how they, what they say when they enter the public sphere, public square, I think
17:00
that will be a contribution in some ways.
17:02
I’ll be happy if that happens.
17:06
So I think race plays an important role in this book.
17:11
I think that’s a contribution here.
17:13
There’s a lot of reasons why evangelicals voted for Trump.
17:17
Sexual politics I think is a big one.
17:19
I think race is also an issue.
17:22
There is a certain degree of, still a certain degree of fear among white evangelicals that,
17:30
not only African Americans, but Hispanics; America’s becoming less white, there’s been
17:36
a lot of good sociology written about this lately about the “end of white America.”
17:41
So I think this is, the white evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump, the 81% of white
17:48
evangelicals, are responding to these changes with a sense of fear, with a sense of nostalgia
17:56
for a white world in which they held power.
17:59
So I think this is part of the story, part of the appeal of Donald Trump.
18:06
Let’s try to, when they say, “Let’s make America great again,” you talk to most African Americans,
18:13
the best time to live in America is today.
18:16
They don’t want to go back.
18:18
And I’ve had some great conversations over the years with African American evangelicals
18:22
and worked with them on things and I talk a little bit about that in one of the chapters
18:26
of the book about this idea that we are somehow a Christian nation that we have to get back to.
18:35
No African American wants to get back to when we were supposedly a “Christian nation.”
18:40
So I think this appeal–and again, you see it in the history.
18:44
Whenever there is some kind of significant cultural change, whether it be religion, race;
18:51
I mean, I’m half Italian.
18:53
When my Italian family came over, they were of a “different race.”
18:58
They were southern Europeans.
19:00
They weren’t WASPs.
19:01
So this same kind of racial rhetoric, as well as the anti-catholic rhetoric.
19:07
Whenever there’s a cultural demographic change in society, largely through immigration, or
19:14
some kind of slave rebellion where the slaves are threatening to overthrow the racial hierarchy
19:19
of the South, sadly, evangelicals are always at the front of that resistance.
19:28
Mostly white, middle class evangelicals.
19:30
I think that’s what you’re seeing again now.
19:32
Our culture is changing.
19:34
We’re becoming less white, we’re becoming more religiously diverse.
19:38
I think the 1965 Immigration Act which allowed non-Western men and women into this country.
19:45
They brought their religions with them, they brought their culture with them.
19:50
And I think Donald Trump stepped in and said, in a very conservative, populist way–which
19:55
we’ve seen throughout American history, maybe most recently Pat Buchanan, but there were
19:59
others in the 20th Century–and said, “We are going to make you happy again.
20:07
We’re gonna give you the kind of world that you once knew as a kid.
20:11
We’re gonna make America great again.”
20:14
And I think that is very much tied into these racial, cultural, ethnic changes.
20:20
For a long time, evangelicals have been, if not leading, very much at the forefront of
20:28
racism in America.
20:31
I would argue historically–really more as an evangelical, I would argue–it’s a failure
20:40
of their, it’s a failure of faith.
20:44
I think evangelicals have these resources, all Christians have these resources: the dignity
20:49
of all human beings.
20:53
I think it’s most important, but also evangelicalism specifically…
21:00
I remember hearing Mark Galli, the editor of Christianity Today, talking about all these
21:06
Christian scholars that appeal to the Imago Dei which is we’ve been created in the image
21:11
of God, and thus everybody has dignity, everybody has worth: racism is not an option as a result
21:19
of that, if everybody has dignity.
21:21
And there were people in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries who were making these arguments,
21:27
so it’s not as if I’m sort of taking my 21st Century view on this and superimposing it
21:33
on the past.
21:34
There are others who were more consistent on this.
21:36
But Galli said for evangelicals, it even goes deeper than just the Imago Dei, or it’s more
21:42
thorough than that, in the sense that, if we believe Jesus died on the cross for our
21:49
sins, redemption, all human beings are worthy of redemption in God’s eyes regardless of
21:56
gender, race, class, and so forth.
21:59
So it moves even beyond just the creation to the redemption.
22:04
So I think evangelicals have an amazing set of resources in their faith to be able to
22:10
overcome these racial problems and, for a variety of reasons, they’ve failed to do it
22:18
because I think they’re overcome by fear in many ways.
22:23
They’re overcome by–and this deeply rooted idea that somehow we are an exceptional nation,
22:30
God has blessed us above other nations, that we are a new Israel.
22:35
In some ways evangelicals still believe they’re in this kind of contractual relationship with
22:41
God–Americans are–Evangelicals believe if we don’t keep a pure Christian nation we’re
22:50
gonna lose God’s favor in some ways.
22:56
So I think all of those really bad historical assumptions and theological assumptions–fear,
23:06
I don’t think–I love the Marilyn Robinson quote: “fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”
23:12
So there’s these kinds of psychological, theological errors, historical errors that get in the
23:22
way of us living out our faith with a sense of hope, with a sense of equality, with a
23:29
sense of what Martin Luther King called the “beloved community.”
23:34
I think there’s gonna be a lot of people, and there have been a lot of people who after
23:37
the election of Donald Trump–you know, I was close to this as well; I would even argue
23:41
at one point that I was there maybe for a few days.
23:44
I tended to work out my, what’s the word, angst or whatever about this kind of publicly,
23:51
so, if you follow the paper trail: two days after the election I’m saying, “Here’s what I’m still
23:59
thankful for!”
24:00
So, I’m still–I just gave a talk last week to the board of trustees of a Christian college,
24:07
and they gave me the assignment.
24:09
The assignment was this: What positive role has evangelicalism played in American history?
24:19
You know, that’s a tough question for a historian.
24:23
Especially after the previous question I answered about the dark side of evangelicalism.
24:29
That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to speak in moral categories, “It’s good” or
24:34
“bad;” no, this is what happened, and you guys parse it out.
24:38
But, I respect the people who have decided to leave evangelicalism.
24:43
A lot of my friends have, and people who–or at least, rejected the label, let’s put it
24:48
that way–some of my unofficial mentors have said it’s not useful anymore; let’s use the
24:57
term “evangelical” or “evangelicalism” to describe a historical movement, phenomenon,
25:04
but it’s become so politicized.
25:06
So you also have the examples of Princeton’s Evangelical Fellowship, their student group;
25:14
they took “Evangelical” out of their name.
25:17
You see a lot of big megachurches–and I think this happened before Trump, but they’re removing
25:22
the term “evangelical” because it has such political connotations.
25:27
I respect that; for me . . . and it’s really through a lot of discussions with my editor David Bratt
25:35
on this; he convinced me that I’m actually in the process of defending the term in this
25:42
book.
25:43
I’m not willing to let it go to the politician, to the court evangelicals, or the 81%.
25:54
I think there’s something about “evangelical,” the word, the good news, the gospel, the authority
26:01
of the Scriptures, the cross, that’s worth defending, and worth saving from the way it’s
26:11
been so politicized.
26:13
So I think when you read this book, I think you’ll still see me kind of struggling with
26:17
this a little bit because I’ve always been a very uneasy evangelical since I converted,
26:24
I would say “got saved” at age 16.
26:28
I’ve always been uneasy because I was formed in another religious tradition that also had
26:32
a profound effect on my moral formation and upbringing.
26:36
But,
26:39
while I remain uneasy with evangelicalism, I’m not willing to go all the way and say
26:48
I’m not going to identify with that term.
26:50
I think, I often find myself, since the election–as much as I’m a critic of what the 81% did by
27:00
voting for Trump, I get, the hairs on my arm raise, too, when I hear secular liberals
27:10
trashing evangelicals.
27:13
I want to say, “No!”
27:15
I get angry, too, at the kind of assault on evangelicals.
27:19
A perfect example of this is after the death of Billy Graham.
27:24
My natural instinct was to say this man lived a–he had flaws, we all have flaws; he could
27:31
have maybe done more in certain areas, but this man lived an honorable, God-fearing life as
27:37
I understood it.
27:38
Again, he had his slip-ups.
27:39
I actually write about some of his slip-ups in the book.
27:43
But I just thought the sort of secular liberal–whatever you want to call it–the anti-evangelical
27:50
assault on Billy Graham in some popular pieces was just way over the top.
27:56
And they were making criticisms that no right-minded historian would make.
28:02
Talk about the right and wrong sides of history and Graham was on the wrong side, and these
28:07
were people, a lot of them actually were former evangelicals with axes to grind, I’ll say
28:13
that publicly I think, you know who you are!
28:18
But, what fascinates me is someone needs to do a study of how the election of Donald Trump
28:30
influenced obituaries and other popular op-eds and stuff of Billy Graham.
28:38
Because some people are just connecting Graham to the court evangelicals and there’s some
28:41
truth to that, but the venom in a lot of pieces on Graham really got under my skin and that’s
28:52
maybe saying more about me than them, I don’t know, but that’s an example of where I will. . .
29:00
people are going to think I’m enemy number one after, public enemy number one after they read this
29:05
book, but I just want to affirm that I remain an evangelical.
29:10
I still believe in those things that evangelicals believe in and I’m always going to be a critic, too.
29:21
Insider/outsider kind of thing.
29:24
For those who left evangelicalism, or at least don’t want to associate with the term, I respect
29:28
that; I’m not going to try to write another book to win you back, and I think that’s a
29:35
fair position to take.
29:37
I’m just not going to take, I’m not one to take that position.