Uniting under the bigotry umbrella

The Christian right’s prejudice against Catholics and Mormons is overshadowed by their prejudice against the “secular liberal agenda”

Uniting under the bigotry umbrella

Rainier Ehrhardt/Reuters

When a good friend of mine told her mother she was gay, her mother’s response was not, “How could you do this to me?” She said, “How could you do this to your father? I knew I shouldn’t have signed you up for softball.” Eventually, though, she made her peace with it. “Okay,” she conceded, “you can have a girlfriend. As long as you find one who’s Jewish.”

So Rachel did. She spurned non-Jewish girls in order to appease her mother, in the process becoming an instant expert in the art of Paradoxical Acceptance: the ability to deflect one prejudice by embracing another one. Her mother’s fear of lesbians was overshadowed by her fear of ham. Rachel dodged the first fear by giving in to the second.

It turns out that modern politics is littered with similarly questionable moral exchanges. And what better place to look for them than everyone’s favourite travelling circus: the Republican primaries—currently under way in the God-fearing Palmetto State of South Carolina.

In the metaphor of Paradoxical Acceptance, Rachel’s mother is the American Christian right—the demographic that the front-running GOP candidates are falling over each other to court in order to win the South Carolina primary. Rachel is, in no particular order, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Gingrich and Santorum are Catholics. Romney is a Mormon. What they are not, unfortunately, is evangelical: the core contingency of the hard Christian right. To finesse their denominational failings, the three candidates have wholeheartedly embraced the exclusionary moral agenda of the evangelical right, to the point where their zeal is indistinguishable from that of, say, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann, both self-described evangelicals. The Christian right’s prejudice against “misguided Christians” (Catholics and Mormons) is overshadowed by their prejudice against the “secular liberal agenda.” The three candidates have protected themselves from the first prejudice by buying into the second.

As a result, religious politicians running for the Republican nomination have united under one bigotry umbrella to relay the following message: we may worship different gods in different ways but don’t worry, we feel the same way about gays, Muslims and the environment (We’re all unapologetically queasy). Mitt Romney, who once claimed to be “better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy,” is now far worse, and Newt Gingrich deeply regrets his past acknowledgement of what establishment evangelicals call the “unproven theory of global warming.” Santorum, of course, has always bought into these things, but his persistent loyalty to the knitted sweater vest may be the most subtle form of evangelical kowtowing ever devised.

The presence of Paradoxical Acceptance in American politics is relatively new. John F. Kennedy was subjected to some of the worst anti-Catholic prejudice and mistrust when he was running for president in the early ’60s, but his strategy in gaining the acceptance of the Protestant majority was entirely secular. His declaration that the “separation of church and state is absolute” (one he made in a speech before 300 clergymen of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960), and his promise that he would never allow government to become “an instrument of any religious group,” made his Protestant critics far less suspicious of his faith, and him in general.

In other words, Kennedy assuaged his potential detractors with promises that he would never inject his religion—or any other—into politics. But today’s Catholic and Mormon front-runners (minus Jon Huntsman, who just dropped out of the race, possibly disqualified for reasons of moderation) have done exactly the opposite. In fact, the only time the GOP candidates agree with one another, besides lambasting President Barack Obama, is when they’re decrying “anti-Christian bigotry” and pushing for socially conservative, faith-based policy initiatives: “don’t ask, don’t tell” and banning abortion among them. The wages of good kowtowing? This past weekend at a Texas convention, Rick Santorum received the coveted endorsement of the evangelical right’s most influential leaders.

For Kennedy’s contemporaries, pluralism and religious diversity were reasons to keep faith and politics separate. But for today’s candidates in the GOP field, diversity is cause for closing the gap completely. You’d think that pluralism in politics—even in the Republican party—would be conducive to progressive policy. But for this group of candidates, it’s conducive to something altogether different: wholesale discrimination and the advancement of a religious agenda, to the detriment of civil liberties.

The U.S. population doesn’t seem to need special reassurances to vote for a Mormon or Catholic as president. And this is a good thing. As Newsweek editor John Avlon points out, “The fact that 56 per cent of Americans now say that the U.S.A. is ready for a Mormon president—and that the prospect of another Catholic president seems literally unremarkable—are welcome signs of evolution as a nation.” It is an evolution, a good one in the larger context. But in the world of Republican leadership politics, this evolution comes at the expense of countless others.


Uniting under the bigotry umbrella

  1. I just hope they all keep bickering amongst themselves, and stay out of everyone else’s hair.

  2. The more beneficial evolution would be if Americans evolved to a place of equal resistance to presidents of any religion that is based on insufficient evidence.

    A presidential candidate who literally believes they will one day inherit their own planet to govern in god-like fashion displays equally poor judgement and failed reasoning as a presidential candidate who believes the earth is only 6000 years old or one who believes an invisible sky god hears our prayers and responds.

    This kind of clear display of poor judgement and failed reasoning is among the best indicators of a candidate’s potential for decision making and critical thinking.     

    • Are you kidding?  Faith isn’t about judgement or reasoning…. it is about recognizing a power much greater than ourselves, which our culture is not very good at. In fact, we’re conditioned to do the opposite – we worship ourselves.  And celebrities and athletes.  But if logic and evidence are required for you – I suggest looking into the the historicity of the Bible – you’ll find that it is our planet’s most reliable historical document.  And the claims within it?  Try reading Case for Christ, written by Lee Strobel, an ex-atheist who found he couldn’t disprove the Jesus account. :)

      • The Bible was written by man – and the last time I checked we are not infallible.

        • Sure we are fallible. But the Bible was written by man but inspired by God.  :)   And if written solely by man, how do you account for the many documented miracles and prophesies that have happened?  Across thousands of years and several authors, there is consistency and fulfillment of these things – impossible to orchestrate by man.  :)

          • Inspired by a god created by man in his own image. Doubly fallible.

          • You folks are loony.  Please go away with your sky fairies and magic books.

          • Just because something is written in a book doesn’t make it true. 

  3. Why is the left so concerned about anyone wanting to uphold the principles upon which the USA and Canada were founded?

    • You mean the British North America Acts? Or the Declaration of Independence?

  4. you forgot the largest most bigoted cult in the world.. i slam.

    • Only varying degrees of crazy.

  5. RandyH – please, please tell me you do not believe the earth is 6000 years old according to your “most reliable historical document”. it is this belief in a man made entity that has resulted in all the hate, mistrust and murder of millions – progress? any religous based policy will certainly be a step backward for Americans and Humans in all over the earth!

    • Sure I do. Please tell me you don’t believe the earth was randomly born out of chaotic primordial soup millions of year ago leading to intelligent life??  Science cannot even account for the earliest moments of earth’s existence, and the chances that we would evolve the way we have are astronomical.  But, to your point, the mistake you make is blaming God for the perversion of his word and the intention behind it.  Nowhere in the Bible does it teach hate or any of the other things you mention. It simply doesn’t. That evil is from satan. Period.  And, sadly, people acting that way in God’s name are just wrong.

      • “nowhere in the Bible does it teach hate …..”  What Bible are you reading? Exodus is quite simply a story of God inspired, commanded and executed genocide against the peoples of Canaan.  Leviticus teaches hatred of anything that is other, and don’t get me started on mysogony throughout the whole text

        • The problem with this thread is that it should have ended at the point Randy H declared his belief that the earth is 6000 years ago. That immediately disqualifies him from intelligent discourse. No one need reply further.

          As a wise man once said ““If someone disagrees with you all you can do is appeal to scientific
          values and if he doesn’t share those values the conversation is over. If
          someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide
          to prove that they should value it?  If someone doesn’t value logic,
          what logical argument are you going to provide to show the importance of

          We need to accept that some people truly do not value observable reality and are not interested in pursuing evidence-based truth. We should be satisfied to let intelligent discourse pass these people by. There are wonderful discussions and debates to be had by those that do value such things. 

          • Funny, I thought openness to the opinions of others was a sign of intelligence rather than blanket dismissal.  You, like many, have your opinions about evolution because you have been conditioned to think about it from only one perspective – darwinian-evolution.  However, your comment makes it clear that you have not even considered an alternative explanation. Remember, common belief was once that the earth was flat – and I’m sure that anyone who suggested otherwise was met with the same arrogance that you dispense.  And since then there have been many example of lines of scientific thought leading in one direction only to be proved wrong.  I refer you to Dr Walter Veith who taught evolution for years and now teaches a very plausible and science-based marriage of creation and evolutionary theory.  But I bet you’ll just dismiss him as a quack.

          • all scientific evidence is consistent with evolution. every shred of knowledge confirmed by science fits into the theory properly. it is not the responsibility of the theory (theory like in gravity) to provide the answers to the origin of life on our planet. If we ever find the last remaining answers, all signs point to it fitting perfectly consistent with evolution. you can’t possible be suggesting that genesis provides every solution either, so how are you logically criticizing evolution when the conditions you require of it are not met by your own system. when you look at the facts, all signs point to evolution, and when you look at your subjective understanding of reality, signs point to god. my guess is that your parents instilled in you an emotional connection to religious beliefs and seeing the world through an objective lense is uncomfortable for you. i dont know you very well though.

        • Don’t confuse God’s discipline with teaching.  And the
          “mysogony” you refer to is a bit extreme – but women were certainly
          treated differently in those days – this was obviously a reality of the
          culture, not biblical principle.  There are many heroines in the
          bible.  Not to mention the teachings of Jesus himself – who CHRISTians
          follow – he taught very much about loving others and caring for the less
          fortunate.  Funny how SO many jaded
          secularist ignore that. Sad.

        • misogyny, not mysogony

          never heard of mysogony

      • You really believe that out of the infinite number of worlds in the universe, your god chose this one to make you on and left all the others empty?

        • Actually I do. Current evidence suggests that the observable universe has been expanding away from earth since earth’s creation.  Which could imply that we are at the center of the universe and therefore, meant to be here.

          • You do know that you don’t get to just make stuff up to support whatever it is you wish were true?
            While we are at the centre of “our observable universe” just by the fact that we can observe to the same distance all around us, that is not the same as being the centre of the universe. The fact that everything appears to be going away isn’t remarkable or telling either as everything is going away from everything else as well. The facts that we go around a sun as part of the solar system which itself forms a part of a galaxy with its own centre combined with the fact that the only thing we are at the centre of is the orbit of the moon argue against your implication. Unless of course your universe consists of the Earth and the moon.
            As to the meaning of our astrological positioning, why should there be a meaning? Je suis, j’y reste. Why should it be any more complicated than that?

          • Your
            being ignorant of something doesn’t mean it is “made up”.  First off,
            the observable universe encompasses much more than just our solar system
            and galaxy  – in fact it encompasses all portions of the universe that
            we can, in principle, detect, which is an unfathomable amount of space
            (incorporating countless galaxies – clusters of galaxies in fact). That
            said, if science has detected that the universe has been and is
            expanding away from our point in space since earth’s inception, then it
            is impossible for it to be simultaneously expanding away from another
            point in space as that would mean that it is moving towards us at the
            same time.  And if earth was indeed the birth place of the universe,
            then I, and many others, see that as a sign of intelligent design and a
            creator – not a random accident which is the leading “scientific”

          • Okay let’s put it in a more simple fashion.
            What you claim rests on everything moving away from Earth.
            The planets of our solar system are not moving away from earth and neither are their/our satellites. Also we revolve around our sun, indicating that there is something that is at the centre of our movement. The solar winds move out to the edge of our solar system where they are stopped by incoming forces. These winds are emanate in all directions and do not originate with us, they come from the solar systems centre the sun.
            Some things are not moving away from us so we cannot be at the centre of the universe based on activity in our own solar system. Couple that with the fact that our solar system spirals around the centre of our galaxy and your suggestion becomes even more untenable.

          • randyh

            I applaud you for exposing these people to another perspective divergent from their own – but you have to realize that, as an observant christian, you are a target for the secular haters and the feminists in academia who simply dismiss christianity as a frivolous faith predicated upon a misogynistic text written by (evil) men. I cannot claim to be an observant christian, but I recognize that the war on christianity is part of a larger war on men, the unborn, pre-trudeaupian Canada, WASPs, and conventional western civilization. The people in the vanguard of this assault do tend to be jews, white females, and censorious marxist types who only want their voices to be heard (this is why we have political correctness and speech codes in academia – which only emerged when women and marxists pushed into the academy in appreciable numbers). Shutting down debate, along with ad hominem attacks, are favourite tools of the left and you have to expect this.

            I do not share your literalist interpretation of the bible, but I am glad you are offering a voice (an offending voice) to the dialogue; beware of the haters, though

      • Science cannot account for the earliest moments of the existence of the universe (the formation of the earth is another matter), you are right and they admit it and are working on finding out more about it.
        Religion has no idea about the earliest moments of the existence of the universe either and says goddunit.
        If we’d stuck with goddunit with respect to diseases, how many more folk would have died horribly? Only one approach adds to the discussion, the other stops everything and insists we go no further.
        On a more theological note. Your god created all by your reckoning. then it must have created satan. Passing off the blame for evil onto another of god’s creations really doesn’t solve anything does it?

    • Please Pman25 but if you think all this marvelous creation just happened by chance and the preassummed millions of years of evolving, you are just not thinking but going along with the mindless evolution theory sheep. There is an enormous of sound scientific evidence for a young earth if you just wanted to really check it out. 

  6. Get a life people!  The bible is a fairy tale and the notion of a higher power is simply ludacris.

    • You’re right but check your spelling before you post so as to not lose credibility for your views.

    • wasn’t ludacris a rapper?

      must be another product of the canadian education system

  7. What a biased article.  He talks about the “Christian right’s prejudice against Catholics and Mormons”.
    The author must be exceedingly ignorant if he is not aware that in many countries in this world the Muslims are killing the Christians.   

    • That’s pretty trenchant criticism from somebody who evidently can’t even discern the gender of the author (named Emma) whose article he is attacking.

    • That has nothing to do with the election, she isn’t ignorant for not including that in her article because that is irrelevant to the issues she is addressing. even so, how does your point contradict any conclusion she has reached?

  8. I hope Miss Teitel is not angling to become a 21st century Julius Streicher, and that Maclean’s is not trying to become the Der Sturmer of the anti-Christian cohort, because that would be unfortunate. 

    • I agree, no respectable magazine should single out only Christianity for its intolerance, prejudices, atrocities, intellectual infancy, and perverse moral framework. The vast majority of organized religions are equally perverse, every bit as offensive, just as devoid of evidence  and nearly as intolerant.

      All religions should be challenged, exposed and where appropriate, ridiculed equally.      

      • Or you know, you could actually be of benefit to society, instead of a douche who insults his neighbours and fellow citizens.

        • There is little that benefits society more than elevating the intellectual discourse and capacity for reason. Anything that moves us away from the intellectual dishonesty of religion does just that. 

        •  yeah cos you wouldn’t insult your neighbours and fellow citizens would you?
          douche is now a term of affection I take it.

  9. Insightful points well put.  I particularly appreciate the observation of how different are the attitudes of the electorate (particularly those leaning conservative) compared to Kennedy’s time.

  10. Right!  These social conservatives are all bigoted against gays, Catholics, and the environment!  Even the devout Catholic ones, like me.  And the gay devout Catholic ones, like Steve Gershom.  And the bartender ones!  “Sorry, we don’t serve trees in here.” (?)

    I love how Kennedy assuaged the concerns of those nutbar evangelical rightwingers by emphasizing the separation of Church and State.  I guess that’s why the current crop of Catholics/Mormons are doing the same thing by eschewing any form of “faith-based initiatives”!  These lunatic bigots sure are clever!

    I just don’t quite understand how some of these things resolve to quixotic religious ignorance.  Obviously they do, of course, because there can never be any motive for social conservatives beyond their deep-rooted hatred of science, gays, trees, and non-pregnant people.  Religion makes people so narrow-minded!  It’s like they aren’t even capable of exploring the motivation for opinions beyond their own!

    •  Gaunilon, I don’t know if this is permitted on Macleans website, but there is an organization called the Trinity Foundation, at www,trinityfi.org/, that monitors the , …ahem…..prosperity of conservative Christian leaders in the US. (I’m a Canadian who has lived stateside for a number of years.) The profit margins are astounding. If you can whip fear into people with little knowledge of the world outside their own county; about the universal angst of human beings over an afterlife; they will throw money at you.

  11. The msm just can’t help itself. One “religion”‘ more of a death cult than anything else, causes more death and mayhem than all others combined but the msm just has to rag on Christians.

    • They don`t have the guts to say much about that particular religion.  They only have the “courage“ to attack Christianity or just religion in general because they know it`s safe and fashionable.  Keep in mind that you are under no obligation to subsidize fashionable garbage like this.  

  12. So in other words, the author so strongly believes that conservative evangelicals are bigots, that even the fact that they are voting en masse for a Mormon and two Catholics (and not Ron Paul, the only protestant in the race) is irrelevant to that belief. Huh, sounds like the fundies aren’t the only ones taking a position rooted in faith. 

  13. One can only hope that, Darwin being correct, the religious   fundamentalists of all sorts and  all nations are on track for extinction.  Before they make us all extinct.

  14. In the United States, it has always been persecuted religious minorities who have called for the separation of church and state. Once they are in the majority, they want the church to become the state and the state to become the church. 

    That’s what happened in colonial Massachussets. The Pilgrims came seeking religious freedom and then denied it to everybody else. 

    • Has anything much happened since the Pilgrims?  Are you aware that Roman Catholics, Jews and others flocked to the majority-Protestant U.S. by the thousands in the 19th and 20th centruries and were able to live in peace and prosperity?   

  15. Articles like this bother me both for their ignorance and their bigotry.

    Though I’m an agnostic, my parents are both evangelicals and I was raised in an evangelical household. I’m well versed in doctrine and know what general evangelical beliefs are and aren’t, and in this case Ms.Teitel definitely misrepresents them.

    In the first place she doesn’t understand what the appellation evangelical means, conflating it with some types of conservative fundamentalism and Dispensationalism. She also doesn’t realize that far from being at odds with Roman Catholicism, the Evangelical Roman Catholic movement is one of the fastest growing movements within the Catholic church today.
    And as for left vs right in the states she may want to remember that Jimmy Carter and Al Gore are both Evangelical Christians, particularly President Carter who credits his faith for his commitment to social justice.
     Rather than relying on scaremongers and Dawkinite pamphleteering sites for theological primers, she should actually do some research on the movement and it’s varied beliefs before issuing forth her anathemas.

    Lately the cheap demagoguery and demonization spouted against millions of Canadians and Americans by media pseudo-secularists because of their faith, is beginning cause me concern.
    I expected better than this from Macleans.

    • As one who has lived in both countries, I am an expert in nothing. But I wonder if you’re not misunderstanding the drift in the article. I’ve seen actions & rhetoric from US conservative Christians ( evangelicals) that I simply could not imagine occurring here. Apart from the similarity of beliefs; I’ve seen organized campaigns with the intentional use of lies, slander & defamation to further an agenda. By ‘they’, I’m not saying all; or most, are like that; but those that are so unethical, are usually very involved with social & political issues.It’s a mindset that goes back to the earliest days of America. A good example (Library of Congress), is the history of the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock fame. Yes, they did indeed flee Britain seeking the freedom to practice their own beliefs.And, they found that freedom in Holland.But they also found across the board freedom of religion for all faiths, & they were not about to tolerate this. …..plus ca change……

    • Media pseudo-secularists like the late Christopher Hitchens are nothing but propagandists worthy of Joseph Gobbels.  Like Hitchens, many of them are Marxist by intellectual background and they want to demonize Christianity because it’s a philosophy that does not harmonize with Marxism.  They’re not attacking Christianity because they think it’s in the way of the greater good.  They attack Christianity because it’s a barrier to implementation of their own Marxist philosophy.  They conveniently omit that in the relatively short time it has been with us, Marxism has been the world’s bloodiest and most violent philosophy.  Most of the leading mass murderers of the 20th century from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot have been Marxists or pseudo-Marxists. That number also includes Hitler’s National Socialists.who were very eager to undermine Germany’s Christian denominations and replace them with a kind of neo-paganism.

  16. According to the God I’m familiar with the evangelicals are all going to hell.  Have none of them read the new testament?

  17. The writer of this article is nothing more than a
    fashionable airhead, who knows how to regurgitate the current Left-Liberal
    talking points. Where are the ideal non-religious societies? China? North
    Korea? Are they known for their tolerance? Is it safe to be gay there? The
    actual fact is that majority Christian countries tend to be freer and more
    tolerant than countries where another religion is practiced or officially
    atheistic societies. Even in the areas where Christians are most adamant in
    opposing gay marriage such as the southern U.S., you would still be a million
    times safer to be openly gay than in any Marxist or majority-Islamic nation. Is
    India particularly tolerant of gays? Japan? Christianity, however, is the
    “established” religion in the West and is seen as being in the way of
    the Marxist agenda and thus is singled out for special abuse. How can Maclean’s
    print vile fact-free propaganda like this? I only buy Maclean’s once in a while
    and it’s not to read fashionable pseudo-Marxist hate propaganda. If this is what
    Maclean’s has turned into, it can stay on the shelf.

  18. what do you mean by the knitted sweater vest analogy

  19. Dear Emma: When I read your writing, it gives me hope. I wasn’t sure if I should send a fan letter to you, or to Macleans, but when I read this latest piece I decided it didn’t matter – it just had to happen. Your insightful, tight, clever writing is just a complete pleasure from start to finish. Congratulations to the magazine for landing you.

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