Like most liberals, after seeing Obama’s victory, my first thought was not to that specific event, but rather to the other side of it. This wasn’t because Republicans lost the election – no, it was because this was their last effort. 2012, for them, was not just another election.
You see, the Republican base is shrinking. America’s demographics are shifting – and they are changing into something that does not favor conservatism. This isn’t because of a younger generation’s fear of conservative fiscal policy (else libertarianism wouldn’t be so popular among young voters), but rather because of a new inclusive left in American politics. While the right has failed to connect with minorities and under-privileged Americans, the left has. The exit polls don’t lie: if you don’t fit the spitting image of privilege, you likely voted for Obama in 2012.
This is not just because these groups were strategically targeted – it’s because they were strategically lost by Republicans. For the most part, the Republican long-game has consisted of trying to strengthen their base instead of expanding it. So for the most part, the policies – moral and economic (if you make a distinction between the two) – of the party have been increasingly favorable to white, Christian Americans. A strategic choice made two decades ago – one that had worked for years, but now clearly needs to be thrown out.
But wait, what does Christianity have to do with any of this?
In a word: worldview.
Since Roe v. Wade, American conservative politics have been controlled primarily by moral issues influenced by a “Christian” perspective. The country’s implicit Christianity served as a unifier against the encroachment of “left” (or even moderate) ideals in American politics. I could expand on this idea more, but I’ll leave it at this: in the vacuum created by the end of the Cold War (even in its winding down in the mid-late 80s), right-wing American politics needed a new pillar to support their weight. With the ever-increasing diversification of the Democratic Party, a trend that had started in the mid-20th century, they needed a unifier.
They found it in a double-down on Christianity, specifically of the Evangelical denomination(s) that were exploding due to the inability to comply with a shifting Christian theological paradigm.
For years, the right was able to use abortion as a wedge issue. They were able to corral a sizeable chunk of the populace simply because they identified as Christian. By galvanizing their entire party around abortion, they were able to restructure American politics into a Christian friendly* dualistic binary. If you were Christian, then there was only one choice: theirs. So began the creation of the “Christian” worldview, one which would later be applied to gay marriage and contraception.
They falsely assumed that anyone standing with them was standing completely with them. While they were using abortion as a wedge issue, they never realized that was the case. Republicans (at least the Evangelical Christian ones) did not believe that these people voting on this issue might’ve been doing it for numerous reasons – instead, they simply assumed that by casting a red vote, they were baptizing themselves in a Christian worldview. They believed it to be more lock-and-key than slight wedge that might convince moderates to slide just barely right.
If Republicans stood for Christianity, Democrats (anyone on the left – the leftist spectrum is considerably wider, as the American spectrum is center-right) stood for the opposite, whatever that was. It was set in stone. This was the belief: a Christian core could not fall to the left, because how could any true Christian have leftist beliefs?
All of these things helped create what seemed like a unified Christian worldview in (right) American politics. But it didn’t create a worldview: it created a temporary camp of Evangelicals monopolizing as much of the Abrahamic hold as they could.
Following the election, what I expected to happen didn’t. Instead of licking their wounds and starting to make strategic gains (and finding insight into their demographic problem), Republicans started to claim (and I’m group paraphrasing here) that America had turned away from republicanism – that they’d turned away from Christianity.
Once again, they returned to that Christian dualistic tendency: arranging everything in the binary. This was America dying, because it was becoming European – a place that had tossed off Christianity to turn to 21st century technopaganism. It was Christianity shifting to secularism. There was no way it could be both. There was no way this could be America’s tendency to elect moderates (and keep them in office). It couldn’t be a problem with their candidate. It couldn’t be their relation with the social sciences. It couldn’t be their inability to connect with minorities. It couldn’t be the exclusiveness of the party.
Leftism is relativism. It’s moral decay. It’s handouts. The coalition of the Legion overtook that of the righteous crusader.
Liberty is dead. Justice is dead. The Divine Light handed to America from the heavens had been smothered.
After all, in this Christian mindset, they have to be. Good lost. Evil won.
The problem is that the above signifies an America which is drawn in a line: one of which is Christian on one side and left on the other. This flow of belief implies that Christianity is controlled, that it is unified, that it is a total body. That hermeneutics isn’t really a thing – that Biblical scripture is as it is, that one Christianity (Evangelicalism) sits at the top of all of them. This is what the religious right in America has grown to believe – that Christianity is Christianity, and there is nothing more to it than that.
It ignores that it isn’t. That past the belief in Jesus Christ, Christianity is divided.
And so, we get to the title: there is no Christian worldview. Or perhaps, more correctly, there is no unified Christian worldview. There might be an Evangelical worldview, but there is no unified Christian one.
Ask the Anglicans. Or the Pentecostals. Or the Presbyterians. Or even the Unitarian Universalists.
Perhaps, one would argue, that there once was a unified Christian worldview – but I disagree. I don’t think the “Christian worldview” came into political play until the rise of Evangelicalism.
So what’s the point in all this?
Black and white is dying. The Left/Christian divide is dying – for it has never really existed.
For years the American right has invested time, money, and effort into the idea that Christianity is the last bastion of their power. But that’s false. Sure, if you concern yourself with a specific breed of apologetics, Christianity seems unified – but a quick chat with any proper theologian will tell you otherwise.
And this is something that has been obvious to many on the left for years, perhaps because we can see past the dualism presented by the right-defined spectrum. Perhaps, even more than that, we can see the devout Christians among our ranks. The Evangelical Christian worldview that simply assumes Christianity is cannot last simply because it chooses to define us in terms of black or white. It does so because of how it reads scripture. The prior comment about hermeneutics was not just a sly nod – if you truly believe there is only one way to read the Bible then you’re going to transpose that into your worldview, into believing that your way is the only way – and that your way is the way.
You’re going to end up believing, for four years, that your party is galvanized in the same way you are, for there is nothing else. You’re going to believe everyone who is Christian believes as you do, and you’re going to be utterly blindsided when that methodology fails you.
So the takeaway is this: stop blaming your failures on the decline of the Christian worldview, because there is no such thing. There is only your scattered view of belief – and only you share it. It is not unified, and you can no longer create an illusion to the contrary.
People didn’t vote for Obama because their worldview is un-Christian. They did so because you failed to connect with them. Put down the Bible and pick up a demographic study. It’ll do you some good.
* A caveat of sorts here: I’m completely ignoring how problematic it is to assume America is a “Christian nation,” but it’s sort of necessary for this post, else I’d end up rambling for much longer. I also find it problematic that a belief system is rooted within biblical reason in the modern world (unless your name is Kierkegaard), but that’s another post for another time.
[Due to Piki Geek's server crapping the bed, I had to post this here. If you want to see my weekly column, go over here!]
Welcome to the new MMO Update, a weekly column that focuses on Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming. Each week I will discuss an issue or topic relevant to the genre, community, or specific MMOs. Oh, and we’ve moved to Friday. The weekend was just too boring for awesome of this magnitude.
If I’m honest, the MMO genre is pretty divisive. When I first brought up the idea of a weekly MMO column, someone literally threw a tomato at me. Thankfully it missed, but the point still was taken: A lot of people really don’t like MMOs.
The reasons are numerous, but a lot of it boils down to mistakes. The genre has suffered over the years from some pretty hilariously awful screw-ups. While developers are good people who are only trying their best, sometimes they get “good ideas” and run with them, and sometimes that is absolutely infuriating.
Today, I bring you the 4 most absolutely awful MMO blunders. Enjoy.
The meaning behind the name of the industrial/ebm band VNV Nation seemed fitting for today.
“Victory Not Vengeance”
The concept that we should achieve victory, but not for the sake of revenge. Justice, not a thirst for blood. Justice, of course, is not a damnable thing when it is carried out responsibly. When crimes are committed repercussions are natural and necessary to achieve a honorable society.
For a decade we’ve been chasing the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, desperately pouring money and lives into a search — presumably for justice. Yesterday, justice was served and Osama Bin Laden was killed at the hands of a US military team. The death of Osama is a symbolic statement more than anything else. A symbol for justice, for the intolerance of hatred and senseless violence.
Of course, that is what it should have meant.
The news has sparked a wave of jingoistic flag-waving unlike any other. People have literally taken to the streets, celebrating the death of another human being. While I understand why this is happening, I can’t feel comfortable with it. Almost as immediately as the news hit the masses, a sense of justice was morphed into a sense of vengeance. It was surreal to watch Phillies fans jump into chants of “U-S-A” at Citizen’s Bank Park. Seeing clips of it, I can’t help but feel as if I don’t recognize these people. Yes, Osama’s death is ultimately a positive — but to embrace it with pure celebration as if the death of a man is equal to winning the World Series? Does that not continue the hatred? This was not a sense of relief — that an enemy had fallen and a symbol of hatred had been buried. It was a zealous, cheerful exuberance.
As a country we have always tried to claim that we are “better than that.” That we are above the enemy. We are a land of justice, a land of freedom and prosperity, not savagery. When videos circulated around the media after 9/11 of people cheering, we judged them as lesser. This, of course, wasn’t because of the hate directed at us (or so we claimed) — it was because of the lack of respect shown to the dead. It was because it was zealotry and intolerance. It was a celebration of the death, something that has no place in a civilized society.
The difference here, is that we see one group as innocent and one group as the enemy. While there is no doubt truth to that statement, the hatred it has the potential to breed is dangerous — if not precisely the goal of Osama in the first place.
A quote from Salon’s David Sirota sums it up best:
This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.
We shouldn’t roll over — and the fight against hatred (and terrorism) is a just one. However, we shouldn’t be consumed by it. We shouldn’t forget that we are fighting to end hatred, not to perpetuate it. The death of Osama should signal images of 9/11 in our minds. We should remember that this man was responsible for killing thousands, yet we should also remember that his death does not bring them back, nor does his death signal the end of terrorism.
In the end, the cycle continues. One man was not terrorism. One man was not an ideal.
I’ll add more to this later. Just wanted to scribble some thoughts down before class.
Apparently the latest buzz word fix for the education problem in this country (and more specifically, this state) is merit pay. While I was already familiar with the system, I decided to do some extra research into it. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about the idea. In fact, I think it is actually a harmful proposal.
Merit pay, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, is basically a system that removes tenure in favor of a pay scale that goes up with some sort of measure of student performance. In other words, teachers get more money if the kids do well on tests.
Straight off the bat, three questions spring to mind:
– Are tests a true measure of student performance?
– What about schools with naturally gifted students?
– How do you judge an untestable class?
To start, multiple-choice standardized tests are a poor way of monitoring student performance on many levels. First of all, if we base educational funding around test taking then all of a sudden classes become about answers and not about questions. Thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are already encouraged to only focus on test material. As I mentioned in a previous post, kids are now learning specific dates instead of the significance behind them. While this material might help them earn an A on a test, it does not help them learn about the world around them.
It is feasible in today’s school system that a child can graduate with a high score and yet be completely clueless to what they’ve “learned.” It is possible to teach to a specific test, giving students only the information they need to pass a test instead of information they need to adequately understand a subject.
Schools with a naturally high level of talented students would also reap the benefits, while those without them would not. Not to mention, it was fully possible to game the system put in place by the NCLB Act. How would merit pay be any different? Talented students are typically placed in high level honors classes — specialized classes that teach additional information to students who enjoy the material. Of course, however, these classes are more challenging and thus students in them typically score lower than those in the regular classes. Likewise, disabled students typically are shifted to courses that help them focus on very specific areas. How is it possible to balance these out within the merit system? If you apply the same scale to everyone, it will favor eliminating honors and special education classes and if you try to weigh the system by giving “merited” teachers the honored classes, won’t you be punishing the teachers — not to mention the students? Even if you give them extra protection or slack at the higher (or lower) levels, isn’t that just pay-scale reinforced tenure, the specific thing merit pay is suppose to replace?
In addition — what about school districts in rich communities that arguably have access to better resources? Wouldn’t these districts be continuously rewarded regardless of teacher performance? I fear that such a system would create a counter-productive revolving door in under-performing, challenging districts yet it would set up an even worse system of tenure in some schools.
Finally, how do you judge a class such as music or creative writing? What about journalism? Or art? Or even physical fitness? Would these classes be turned into cut-and-dry multiple choice classes with all of the unmeasurable creativity sucked out? Or, worse, would they completely disappear?
I’m not quite sure what would happen to them. I worry that they would ultimately be phased out in favor of “testable” classes. After all, addressing this to New Jersey’s system specifically, Governor Christie has already said he wishes for schools to simply build students to find jobs. While I feel that this is one job of our school system, I simply do not think it is the only one. Schools shouldn’t just create worker bees, they should create vibrant, educated citizens that can respond to the world around them in a clear manner. They should be a home for the mind as well as a training ground.
I don’t have the answer for New Jersey’s school system, I’ll freely admit that. I do, however, know that this isn’t the answer. Neither was the butchering of our state’s education budget over the past year.
Merit pay might sound good on paper, but in my mind it is just unquestionably broken in practice. We don’t need another No Child Left Behind fiasco.
The media has been buzzing lately with talk of WikiLeaks and it’s founder, Julian Assange. While the website has been mentioned by the media before with previous releases, it hasn’t been until the recent “Cablegate” leak that they’ve really seen any major attention. With this current leak, they’ve published roughly 500 US diplomatic cables so far, although they have plans to publish many more.
The media jumped on the story immediately — not reported what was actually in the cables, of course, but instead choosing to focus on a very different question: Is Julian Assange a terrorist?
Sound bites have been played on most of the major networks from various personalities. Some quotes focus around Assange being captured, assassinated or otherwise killed.
Yet very few seem to be focusing on the wires themselves. What do they contain? For starters:
…and this is just from me quickly browsing them (basically, surfing their facebook page — not even going to the direct site and sifting through them myself, one by one). Considering an extremely limited amount has been shared with us so far, I’d say that this is pretty significant news, especially to US citizens. Yet most of the “sources” I find regarding the leaks are outside of the border.
Shouldn’t things like an air strike that killed civilians be major news? Shouldn’t the way our diplomats over seas do their job be news?
Instead, we are being “asked” if WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization.
I wonder of the people that say “yes” would’ve said the same about the New York Times? Or if they would’ve considered Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo criminals?
It’s impossible not to draw a comparison between the Pentagon Papers and this leak. While the situations are different, both seemed to highlight government secrets, especially ones that were damning to those with something to lose. The Pentagon Papers pointed out civilian tragedies that were unknown to the American people, along with government dealings that were previously unknown. Cablegate does the same thing — though most of the papers do not directly contain information related to the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.
As anyone who has taken a class in journalism knows, the Supreme Court stood up for Ellsberg, stating that the freedom of the press trumps the secrecy of information when it is relevant. Does the information leaked here not have the same relevance? How about information leaked by WikiLeaks in the past, such as the infamous “collateral murder” video?
We need WikiLeaks because the government sometimes needs a watchdog. I understand the need for secrecy within the military and the government. Lives can be put at risk by some information. In WikiLeaks’ case, though, the information is not threatening lives. I honestly question if it is harming our diplomatic standing in the world. I doubt any other governments thought Americans looked up to them, and I certainly don’t think they expected any of it to be secret.
As citizens, we need to be informed of what is going on within our country. The sort of discourse that has sprung up from these documents certainly makes me wonder. I can’t honestly say that we would have gone to Iraq if an organization like WikiLeaks let loose that the CIA thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
The fact is, quite simply, that information has the ability to make us more informed about the world around us. I would much rather live in a world of free data than one that is suffocated and censored. WikiLeaks is simply a publisher. A tool for the world to better understand itself.
Note: I just sort of wanted to get my opinion out there. I’ll probably add to this soon.