America’s story and moral politics

Real events do happen in the real world, but people can’t help trying to fit them into larger stories.  We love to connect the dots.  Storytelling isn’t some atavistic remnant of our pre-scientific past; it’s how our brains are hardwired…There’s no question facts will play a part in how we rate the deal, but there’s too much input bombarding us to process as data.  What will win the day isn’t the power of facts, but the power of one story or another to feel right – yes, an emotion; we will retroactively find the facts we need to make our path to that feeling seem rational. The public sphere is where competing storylines slug their way out, it’s where politicians, journalists, experts and yakkers connect the dots, find patterns and fashion narratives …When no one knows what comes next, the political advantage goes to the most powerful narrators.  When no one knows how things will end up, the same events can be construed as signposts toward tragedy or triumph…But as we lay odds on those outcomes, it’s useful to recall that the lessons of history are more art than science, and the art is the skill of the storyteller. It’s Important to Know How the Stories We Tell Ourselves — True, or Not– Shape our World… for Better or Worse By Marty Kaplan, AlterNet, November 26, 2013

How the Media and the Elites, Not the Voters, Move the Country to the Right

The Constitution is inherently progressive 

Why Are Americans So Easy to Manipulate and Control? 

Right wing message machine

.…Part of the answer to the enduring quality of such a destructive politics can be found in the lethal combination of money, power and education that the right wing has had a stranglehold on since the early 1970’s and how it has used its influence to develop an institutional infrastructure and ideological apparatus to produce its own intellectuals, disseminate ideas, and eventually control most of the com­manding heights and institutions in which knowledge is produced, circulated and legitimated… one starting point for understand­ing this problem is what has been called the Powell Memo, released on August 23, 1971…The Powell Memo and the Teaching Machines of Right-Wing Extremists by Henry A. Giroux

With the mainstream media in the hands of the mostly conservative wealthy, it’s difficult for average Americans to learn the truth about critical issues…Five Preposterous, Persistent Conservative Myths by Paul Buchheit, Common Dreams, April 2, 2012

How Ayn Rand’s Bizarre Philosophy Made the New Right so Toxic By George Monbiot, The Guardian, posted on Alternet.org, March 7, 2012

The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics

Message wars

…the Right fights harder for its fantasyland than the rest of America does for the real world…. rank-and-file right-wingers were manipulated by an endless series of false narratives. The Republican political pros manipulated the racial resentments of neo-Confederates, the religious zeal of fundamentalist Christians, and the free-market hero worship of Ayn Rand acolytesThat these techniques succeeded in a political system that guaranteed freedom of speech and the press was not only a testament to the skills of Republican operatives like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. It was an indictment of America’s timid Center and the nation’s ineffectual LeftYet, if rational and pragmatic solutions are ever going to be applied to these problems…The country is going to need its conscious inhabitants of the real world to stand up with at least the same determination as the deluded denizens of the made-up world. Of course, this fight will be nasty and unpleasant. It will require resources, patience and toughness. But there is no other answer. Reality must be recovered and protected – if the planet and the children are to be saved. America’s War for Reality by Robert Parry

Even Right-Wingers Become Liberals When They Turn Off Fox News

Moral Politics

“All of the various fields of human inquiry — theology and philosophy and morality and psychology meet rather beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn’t exactly that, it’s the taking of all the sort of great ineffable and trying to make them have some meaning in the actually historical moment on earth in which we live.” Tony Kushner – writer of “Lincoln” interview with Bill Moyers

We live in an anti-political moment, when many people — young people especially — think politics is a low, nasty, corrupt and usually fruitless business. It’s much nobler to do community service or just avoid all that putrid noise…. you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere…Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the public goodpolitics is the best place to develop the highest virtuesWhy We Love Politics By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, November 22, 2012

The Spiritual Crisis Underlying American Politics By John Amodeo, PsychCentral.com, October 14, 2013

America is NOT a Christian nation

America Is Not a Christian Nation and Never Has Been: Why Is the Right Obsessed With Pushing a Revisionist History?

Conservatives Want America to be a “Christian Nation” –  Here’s What Would That Would Actually Look Like 

Religion wars

…Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won’t win until we recognize and deal with that fact…Why Progressives Can’t Ignore Religion By Mike Lux

…The increase in coverage of the religious right’s longterm strategy to transform American culture has led to a number of responses charging “leftists” with fearmongering… Reconstructionists themselves  hold a view of knowledge that says that there are really only two possible worldviews (a biblical one and a humanist one that comes in several varieties) and that both worldview are in a conflict for dominion (so in their view “we” are fighting for it too)…It is not fearmongering, paranoia, or religious bigotry to try to understand their goals and strategies. In fact, it’s irresponsible not to. The Pundits and the Dominionists by Julie Ingersoll

…the history of the progressive movement has shown us, over and over, that there are things that the spiritual community brings to political movements that are essential for success, and can’t easily be replaced with anything else. Religion has been central to the formation of human communities — and to how we approach the future… all successful religions thrive and endure because they offer their adherents a variety of effective community-building, social activism, and change management tools that, taken together, make religion quite possibly the most powerful social change technology humans have ever developed…in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief — and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief — abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice…To our credit, a lot of our best organizers and activists are starting to realize the magnitude of this mistake. We’re paying a lot more attention these days to learning to clearly articulate progressive values, to express ourselves in explicitly moral language, and to put forward more strongly progressive frames, narratives, and future visions to counter the bankrupt conservative worldview that’s brought us to this sorry place in history… If we’re going to overwrite their [right wing] brutal and anti-democratic story of how the world works, the most important step we can take is to tap into the vast reach and deep moral authority of our remaining progressive faith communities, and amplify their voices every way we can.…there’s very little agreement about the nature of God — but a very strong consensus that the act of radical community-making is the most intensely holy and essential work that they do… Progressives of faith have always played a central role in our political victories in the past. It’s time to stop imagining that somehow, we’re going to take the country back without them now. Six Reasons We Can’t Change the Future Without Progressive Religion By Sara Robinson, AlterNet | News Analysis, 09 July 2012 -

…historian Garry Wills details the intertwined histories of “Enlightenment religion” and American evangelicalism…Wills shows how Jefferson and Madison led in developing the principle of church-state separation, our country’s unique contribution to political theory and practice, which is enshrined in the Constitution,…This is a story also well told by UU ministers Forrest Church and Gary Kowalski in recent books So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State (Harcourt, 2007) and Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America’s Founding Fathers (BlueBridge, 2008), and Frederick S. Lane in The Court and the Cross: The Religious Right’s Crusade to Reshape the Supreme Court (Beacon, 2008)…Wills concludes with a section on “the Karl Rove Era” and the faith-based government of George W. Bush. [Karl] Rove’s “real skill lay in finding how to use religion as a political tool,” making the executive branch “more openly and avowedly religious than it had ever been.” Ironically, he notes, Rove has “no discernible religious beliefs himself.”…His book’s importance lies in its clear refutation of the “Christian nation” idea that many theological conservatives and would-be theocrats have been pushing for well over a century. In Head and Heart: A History of Christianity in America, Reason for alarm — Books about reason in religion, environmentalism, and U.S. culture. By Edd Doerr, UU World, Winter 2008

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America

Why We Must Reclaim The Bible From Fundamentalists

The Bible is a Good Book, But God Didn’t Write It

The Spiritual and Political Warfare of the New Religious Right

Right wing religious extremism

…The Republican Party is no longer a political party—it’s a full-fledged religious movement. The political ideology fueling this movement is religious to the core; and while it might be easi­est to label the religious element “Christian,” that designation is too broad and generous for the true complexities at work here…Republicanity is a culture that merges politics and religion…and unashamedly and unreservedly blows apart the longed-for “wall of separation” keeping the two spheres separate. Now more than ever the case can be made that our pol­i­tics are a form of reli­gion and that reli­gion is the new politics. ‘Republicanity’—The GOP Transformation is Nearly Complete By Gary Laderman

… what I’m willing to do, which the mainstream church is not, is to denounce the Christian right as Christian heretics…what they have done is acculturate the worst aspects of American imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism, and violence and bigotry into the Christian religion… I think the great failure of the liberal tradition that I come out of is they were too frightened and too timid to stand up. I don’t know why they spent all the years in seminary if they didn’t realize that when they walked out the door they were going to have to fight for it. And they didn’t fight for it. Chris Hedges on Christian Heretics, Truthdig.com, Nov 2, 2013 -

How the Unholy Alliance Between the Christian Right and Wall Street Is ‘Crucifying America’

American Theocracy — Clear and Present Dangers by Alan Brinkley, March 20, 2006 by the New York Times

Progressive and secular spirituality

… the rise of secular spirituality in this country, a liberated set of values that exists largely outside organized religion… Religion was hijacked for political gain by the right wing beginning as far back as the Nixon era, yet there is a much stronger current of secular spirituality running through our history.….secular spirituality…Nothing about secular spirituality is radical. Most of its principles are articles of belief for millions of average Americans who have largely been shut out of politics for eight years.… But secular spirituality isn’t limited to the left or the progressive movement in general. It is a national phenomenon, one that will swell steadily in the coming years, particularly among the young. Born after the divisive culture wars that gave the right wing its main chance, the younger generations yearn for new values.…Nothing less than spiritual renewal is needed across the board… Obama And the Rise of Secular Spirituality by Deepak Chopra and Dave Stewart, Beliefnet.com, January 18, 2009

…Spiritual Left did not, of course, originate with the 60s.…it dates back at least to 1838, when Emerson and other Transcendentalists began their quest for a path “away from the old ‘religions of authority’ into a new ‘religion of the spirit.’”…sought a first-hand experience of the divine grounded in nature and community rather than institutionalized dogma. Rooted deep in the grain of American culture, the Spiritual Left has long acted as the progressive conscience of the nation, championing as it did from its very beginning unpopular causes like abolition and women’s rights…
While many in the Spiritual Left are politically active, many others eschew direct participation in the Political Left because it remains locked in a destructive cycle of conflict with the Political Right…
Amorphous and anti-authoritarian, the Spiritual Left is perhaps best defined as a borderless association of leaders. Free thinkers and independent seekers of spirituality beyond dogma, its members engage in–and disengage from–political activism as a matter of personal conviction, not ordained groupthink…The Political Left will need to return to the moral high ground of progressive American thought and give voice to the American conscience of compassion if it is to recapture the imagination and heart of its spiritual counterpart. It has to want to change the world for the better, not just get elected… Idealism, Conscience And The Spiritual Left by William Horden, Huffington Post, March 1, 2010

Susan Jacoby on Secularism and Free Thinking, Moyers and Company, March 1, 2013

America’s Soul

There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the over­all well-being of a nation’s inner core. America’s soul is in a fragile state. It has suffered severe violations over the course of this past decade and to lesser degrees, in previous decades…A conscious effort to “dumb down” the education of this nation qualifies as a crime against the soul of America.…I deeply believe the soul of our nation can’t take much more of their strategy of deliberate division against the peo­ple of their own nation. That is a true crime — and perhaps their greatest crime — against the soul of this great nation. Crimes Against the Soul of Amer­ica by Caroline Myss 

Comments are closed.