humans need concrete and particular experiences to learn the ways of love.  We don’t learn to love through abstract philosophy or theology. That’s why Jesus came to show God in human form, revealing a face we could recognize and relate to.
.. it must begin with somehow seeing the divine (ultimate value) in the other. If we really see someone in their fullness, we cannot help but treat them with kindness and compassion.
.. The problem is that the ego likes to assign lesser and greater value based on differences. Until all people everywhere are treated with dignity and respect, we must continue calling attention to imbalances of privilege and power. Arbitrary, artificial hierarchies and discrimination are based on a variety of differences: for example,
- skin color,
- physical or mental ability,
and so on.
.. “Intersectionality” is a rather new concept for most of us to help explain how these attributes overlap. You can be privileged in some areas and not in others. A poor white man has more opportunities for advancement than a poor black man.  A transgender woman of color has an even higher risk of being assaulted than a white heterosexual woman.  Someone without a disability has an easier time finding a job than an equally qualified candidate who has a disability.
.. “admitting one’s privilege can be very difficult,” especially for those who consider themselves tolerant and prefer to not use labels, “calling themselves color-blind, for instance.”
.. When we finally recognize our unearned benefits—at the expense of others—we may feel ashamed and that may lead us to make excuses for ourselves or overly identify with a less privileged aspect of our identity (for example as Jewish or female).
.. We must work to dismantle systems of oppression while at the same time honoring our differences and celebrating our oneness!
This takes a great deal of spiritual maturity. Unity, in fact, is the reconciliation of differences, not the denial of them.
Our differences must first be maintained—and then overcome by the power of love (exactly as in the three persons of the Trinity). We must distinguish and separate things before we can spiritually unite them, usually at cost to ourselves, especially if we are privileged (see Ephesians 2:14-16).
God is a mystery of relationship, and the truest relationship is love. Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them.
In the United States, where fertility has been below replacement for about a decade, the average woman now has 1.77.
.. Perhaps the United States is becoming more like the rest of the industrialized world, where declining birthrates are correlated with a lack of support for working mothers.
.. Developed countries that prioritize gender equality — including Sweden, Norway and France — have higher fertility rates than those that don’t.
.. The world’s lowest fertility rates are in countries that are economically developed but socially conservative, where women have professional opportunities but must shoulder most of the burdens of domestic life.
.. Peter McDonald theorized that if women have educational and employment opportunities nearly equal to those of men, “but these opportunities are severely curtailed by having children, then, on average, women will restrict the number of children that they have
.. in Sweden, women were more likely to have a second child if their male partner took paternity leave with their first child, a proxy for his willingness to share the work of parenting.
.. In Hungary, she told me, couples that shared housework equally had a higher probability of having a second kid.
.. This correlation between feminist social policy and higher fertility is widely recognized throughout the world
.. fertility rates, after reaching a low of around 1.7 children per woman in 1976, rose over the next 30 years, even as Europe’s fertility fell.
.. There were several reasons for this, including substantial levels of Hispanic immigration, a high teen birthrate, and, some speculated, America’s exceptional religiosity.Since then, however, the teen birthrate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low, Americans have become less religious, Hispanic immigration has slowed, and Hispanic fertility rates have declined... rising cost of child care.. If my theory is right, though, it will keep falling unless America invests in paid family leave and subsidized, high-quality child care.. if a shrinking number of workers must support a growing elderly population, even our threadbare social safety net will be strained... survey data shows that women actually desire more kids than they’re having... the “gap between the number of children that women say they want to have (2.7) and the number of children they will probably actually have (1.8) has risen to the highest level in 40 years.”.. One lesson of cratering fertility rates is that in the modern world, patriarchy is maladaptive.
the mission has little to do with what most Americans would call religious freedom. This is just the latest attempt by religious extremists to use the coercive powers of government to secure a privileged position in society for their version of Christianity.
.. The idea behind Project Blitz is to overwhelm state legislatures with bills based on centrally manufactured legislation. “It’s kind of like whack-a-mole for the other side; it’ll drive ‘em crazy that they’ll have to divide their resources out in opposing this,” David Barton
.. more than 70 bills before state legislatures appear to be based on Project Blitz templates or have similar objectives.
.. allows adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of their own religious beliefs. Others, such as a Minnesota bill that would allow public schools to post “In God We Trust” signs on their walls
.. The first category consists of symbolic gestures, like resolutions to emblazon the motto “In God We Trust” on as many moving objects as possible (like, say, police cars).
Critics of such symbolic gestures often argue that they act as gateways to more extensive forms of state involvement in religion. It turns out that the Christian right agrees with them.
“They’re going to be things that people yell at, but they will help move the ball down the court,” Mr. Barton said in the conference call.
“White Democrats will desert their party in droves the minute it becomes a black party.”
Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority, 1969
Thirty years ago, archconservative Rick Perry was a Democrat and liberal icon Elizabeth Warren was a Republican. Back then there were a few Republican Congressmen and Senators from Southern states, but state and local politics in the South was still dominated by Democrats. By 2014 that had changed entirely as the last of the Deep South states completed their transition from single-party Democratic rule to single party rule under Republicans.
.. Analysts often explain the great exodus of Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party by referencing the Southern Strategy, a cynical campaign ploy supposedly executed by Richard Nixon in his ’68 and ’72 Presidential campaigns, but that explanation falls flat. Though the Southern backlash against the Civil Rights Acts showed up immediately at the top of the ticket, Republicans farther down the ballot gained very little ground in the South between ’68 and ’84. Democrats there occasionally chose Republican candidates for positions in Washington, but they stuck with Democrats for local offices.
.. Crediting the Nixon campaign with the flight of Southern conservatives from the Democratic Party dismisses the role Southerners themselves played in that transformation. In fact, Republicans had very little organizational infrastructure on the ground in the South before 1980
.. The flight of the Dixiecrats was ultimately conceived, planned, and executed by Southerners themselves, largely independent of, and sometimes at odds with, existing Republican leadership. It was a move that had less to do with politicos than with pastors.
.. Southern churches, warped by generations of theological evolution necessary to accommodate slavery and segregation, were all too willing to offer their political assistance to a white nationalist program.
.. Forget about Goldwater, Nixon or Reagan. No one played as much of a role in turning the South red as the leaders of the Southern Baptist Church.
.. When you’ve lost the ability to mobilize supporters based on race, religion will serve as a capable proxy.
.. What was lost under the banner of “segregation forever” has been tenuously preserved through a continuing “culture war.”
.. Religion is endlessly pliable. So long as pastors or priests (or in this case, televangelists) are willing to apply their theological creativity to serve political demands, religious institutions can be bent to advance any policy goal.
.. The Southern Baptist Church was organized specifically to protect slavery and white supremacy from the influence of their brethren in the North, a role that has never ceased to distort its identity, beliefs and practices.
.. In a passage that managed to avoid explicit racism, he described what would become the primary political weapon of the culture wars:
Don’t force me by law, by statute, by Supreme Court decision…to cross over in those intimate things where I don’t want to go. Let me build my life. Let me have my church. Let me have my school. Let me have my friends. Let me have my home. Let me have my family. And what you give to me, give to every man in America and keep it like our glorious forefathers made – a land of the free and the home of the brave.
.. Long after the battle over whites’ only bathrooms had been lost, evangelical communities in Houston or Charlotte can continue the war over a “bathroom bill” using a rhetorical structure Criswell and others built.
.. He had constructed a strangely circular, quasi-libertarian argument in which a right to oppress others becomes a fundamental right born of a religious imperative, protected by the First Amendment.
.. A generation later you might hear Southern Baptists mention that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist minister. They are less likely to explain that King was not permitted to worship in a Southern Baptist Church. African-American Baptists had their own parallel institutions, a structure that continues today.
.. However, in public Graham was careful to keep a safe distance and avoided the kind of open displays of sympathy for civil rights that might have complicated his career.
.. King was once invited to speak at a Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville in 1961. Churches responded with a powerful backlash, slashing the seminary’s donations so steeply that it was forced to apologize for the move. Henlee Barnette, the Baptist professor responsible for King’s invitation at the seminary, nearly lost his job and became something of an outcast, a status he would retain until he was finally pressured to retire from teaching in 1977.
.. In 1967, Mississippi began offering tuition grants to white students allowing them to attend private segregated schools.
.. Battles over the status of these institutions reached a climax when the Carter Administration in 1978 signaled its intention to press for their desegregation.
.. Televangelist Jerry Falwell would unite with a broader group of politically connected conservatives to form the Moral Majority in 1979. His partner in the effort, Paul Weyrich, made clear that it was the schools issue that launched the organization, an emphasis reflected in chain events across the 1980 Presidential campaign.
.. The Southern Baptist Convention expressed support for laws liberalizing abortion access in 1971. Criswell himself expressed support for the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe, taking the traditional theological position that life began at birth, not conception. The denomination did not adopt a firm pro-life stance until 1980.
.. In August of 1980, Criswell and other Southern Baptist leaders hosted Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan for a rally in Dallas. Reagan in his speech never used the word “abortion,” but he enthusiastically and explicitly supported the ministers’ position on protecting private religious schools. That was what they needed to hear.
.. The new President would not forget their support. Less than a year into his Administration, Reagan officials pressed the IRS to drop its campaign to desegregate private schools.
.. in 1981, Reagan advisor Lee Atwater let down his guard, laying bare the racial logic behind the Republican campaigns in the South:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “N…r, n…r, n…r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n…r”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N…r, n…r.”
For decades, men like Atwater had been searching for the perfect “abstract” phrasing, a magic political dog whistle that could communicate that “N…r, n…r” message behind a veneer of respectable language.
.. It was religious leaders in the South who solved the puzzle on Republicans’ behalf, converting white angst over lost cultural supremacy into a fresh language of piety and “religious liberty.”
.. By the late 80’s religious activists like Stephen Hotze in Houston were beginning to cut out the middleman, going around pastors to recruit political warriors in the pews. Hotze circulated a professionally rendered video in 1990, called “Restoring America,”that included step-by-step instructions for taking control of Republican precinct and county organizations. Religious nationalists began to purge traditional Republicans from the region’s few GOP institutions.
.. A young Texas legislator, Rick Perry, spent much of 1988 campaigning for his fellow Southern Democrat, Al Gore.
.. Moore criticized those who stirred up hatred against refugees and ignored matters of racial justice. He drew sharp criticism when he denounced the Confederate Flag, explaining, “The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.”
.. Moore drew the obvious comparison last year between Trump and Bill Clinton
.. As religious leaders lined up solidly behind Trump last fall, Moore commented, “The religious right turns out to be the people the religious right warned us about.”
.. In the end, evangelical voters backed Donald Trump by a steeper margin than their support for Romney in ‘12.
.. Today, W.A. Criswell’s Dallas megachurch is pastored by Robert Jeffress
.. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, retooled the ministry he inherited, turning it into something a civil rights era segregationist could love without reservation. Graham, who earns more than $800,000 a year as the head of his inherited charity, has made anti-Muslim rhetoric a centerpiece of his public profile and ministry.
.. Graham explained that black people can solve the problem of police violence if they teach their children “respect for authority and obedience.”
.. For Jeffress, the heir to W.A. Criswell’s pulpit, to champion an effort to silence Moore, reflects the powerful persistence of an unacknowledged past. After being pressed into an apology for his “unnecessarily harsh” criticisms, Moore has been allowed to keep his job – for now.
.. Public perception that a “Southern strategy” conceived and initiated by clever Republicans turned the South red is worse than false. By deflecting responsibility onto some shadowy “other” it blocks us from reckoning with the past or changing our future.
.. A refusal to honestly confront our past leaves us to repeat our mistakes over and over again.
.. Texas House member Rick Perry was taking a chance in 1989, when he decided to leave the Democratic Party to become a Republican. He leaned heavily on the emerging religious right and their campaign to convert the state’s Democratic majority. His efforts were richly rewarded. Baptist mega-pastor Robert Jeffress was a major supporter along with other evangelical leaders. Now Perry, after becoming the longest-serving governor in Texas history, sits in Donald Trump’s cabinet as the Secretary of Energy.