Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hate and religion in America

Stephen Shoemaker, former senior minister at Myers Park Baptist Church, writes a thought-provoking piece for the Observer about the link between religion and hate speech in America. We think it should inspire all of us to examine how we choose to participate in civic discourse. What do you think? Shoemaker is now teaching at Johnson C. Smith University and Davidson College, and is Theologian in Residence at Queens University.

Special to the Observer
“Men never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Pascal, Pensees, 894.

Recently, I saw a “hate map” of the U.S. based on Twitter communications. I almost shuddered when I saw it because it appeared almost identical to the “church attendance” maps I had seen over the years. So I looked up a recent U.S. church attendance map, and there it was. A terrible correspondence between hate-speech and religion.

What are we to think? Does religion create hatred? Sometimes, when hatred becomes part of the fabric of a particular religious group or sub-group. More often, I think, it reinforces the hate that is already there, an accelerant on the fires of human passions.

If you look at the hate map, it corresponds to what is sometimes called the “Bible Belt” in America: the South and the church-going Midwest, along with other hot spots of hate and religion around the country.

One of the dangers of Bible Belt Christianity is its pride in its “literal interpretation” of scripture. But the literalists often pick and choose which verses they use, often to bolster the self and to belittle others, ignoring Jesus’ words that the true purpose of religion (and its scriptures) is the increase in the love of God and neighbor. All religious people pick and choose. Jesus picked and chose. Christian denominations are often begun by innovations in how they pick and choose. The question is, to what end do we choose and by what overarching set of principles?

Moreover, literal interpretation of scripture is often devoid of any self-criticism. It does not ask: Could I the interpreter be interpreting the scripture wrongly? It goes by the bumper-sticker: “The Bible Says It, I Believe it, That Settles It.” Neither life nor religion is generally that easy. What results is a smug and all too easy application of the Bible to matters at hand.

Hate is magnified when religion is added, and further magnified when it becomes group hate and group think. Evil is done completely and cheerfully. Watch the smiles.

However, religion can also be a powerful resource for kindness, tolerance, compassion and a form of justice that applies to all people, not just the self and my kind. You can see the effect of religion, in particular African American Christianity, in leading and shaping the Civil Rights movement, one of the most astounding non-violent social revolutions in history. You see it in the culture of kindness among Buddhists. You see it in the effect of progressive forms of religions of all stripes in promoting human rights and social equality.

Yes, too often the progressive and moderate forms of religion are passive and silent in matters of great social importance. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. said that the greatest obstacle to racial justice was not the bigot but the “white moderate” who professed understanding but refused to speak and act. The poet Yeats captured the moral dilemma of our times: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

In a time when religion at home and around the world is tempted by hate, when Jim Crow reappears in a business suit and with a Bible, when our young are sick of religion which breeds its multi-various bigotries, let us speak the truth about the intersection of hate and religion and employ the higher strains of religious faith to build the common good.

Our nation needs impassioned moral discourse that serves to knit together the social fabric, rather than tearing it. We could begin by saying true religion respects the dignity of all persons. Period.


44 comments:

Archiguy said...

Great editorial. Religion has been hijacked for partisan purposes for the last 2000 years, and probably before that. The Catholic priesthood in medieval Europe would put people to death for learning to read or possessing books, lest they get their OWN ideas about what the Good Book said. It's always been about control, and nothing is as effective at controlling a population as exploiting people's faith.

Unscrupulous people have used their Holy Books to justify all sorts of inhumane acts directed at their fellow men, including slavery, incest, and rape. They're still doing it today here in America, of all places, to marginalize gay people and prevent them from marrying the people they love. In some countries, they even try to kill them - and those policies have wide support among the devout.

Wiley Coyote said...

Three things....

One, more people have been killed in the name of "God" than any other reason in history...

Two, there too many "Christians of convenience" out there, in both political parties.

Three, Yes, politics is hijacking religion. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Barber are three of the biggest race hustlers in the country, all using religion as their reason(s) to drive their agendas - and funding.

Mr. Barber, I can assure you that you are no more of a God fearing Christian than I am and because I believe in many of the new laws passed recently in NC, does not make me an immoral person.

The immorality I see is you and YOUR agenda.

Garth Vader said...

Would the Observer have ANY content at all if it gave up "race and religion" pot-stirring?

Egregore said...

You can complain all you want but people do not want to change and so they will not. Your words fall on deaf ears and will have no impact on what continues to happen. You may as well just save the typing.

Skippy said...

Spare us the liberal clap trap garbage, this just happened today:

Melanie Campbell, the president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said though black Americans are not threatened by biting dogs and KKK members in white hoods, the "dogs are still biting in other ways" and there is still "racism and inequality."

This black racist was referring to the Supreme Court..

You "tolerant" liberals own violent discourse in this country and it ain't even close.

Old Rebel said...

Of course church attendance and "hate" are related.

Leftists consider all opposition to their agenda as "racism" and "hate." Since folks who attend church tend to be more conservative than secular folks, it's no wonder the SPLC's "hate map" highlights religious areas such as the South.

Shoemaker sounds like yet another convert to the Church of Liberalism, which is supplanting Christianity.

Shamash said...

How can anyone talk about hate and religion with no mention of Farrakhan?

It's not just a Christian thing.

Watch the smiles.

silicon28 said...

Archiguy: You are dead on with your comment...

Wiley: Wiley, Wiley, Wiley... You can pick out Al, Jessie, and Rev. Barber but somehow forget Jerry, Donald Wildmon, Mike Huckabee, or Mark Harris? Don't make your racism so explicit next time you comment on religion...

And last but not least... Rebel: "your" version of Christianity probably has been in need of being supplanting for a long time... Especially if you are going to limit "true" Christianity to anything that is the polar opposite of what those "leftists" believe. (Including some of us "leftists" who are every much as Christian as you are...)

Wiley Coyote said...

Silicone,

For you to compare Mike Huckabee to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson pretty much sums up where you stand.

As far as the other two you mentioned, I never see these men with their faces plastered all over every race baiting story that comes across the wire. They may very well be the opposite end of the Sharpton/Jackson stick, I dunno, I never hear anything from them.

As Shamash said, Farrakhan is another one, who is folloed by several of our local elected officials (Mayfield, Leake, Cogdell to name a few) and touted as "doing God's work".

silicon28 said...

I just... cannot... resist...

Wiley: The "Jerry" had that pretty well-known last name... "Falwell..." Sound familiar now?

(Maybe I should have just used Pat Robertson and spoken "down" to your level?) LOL... You really can't help yourself, can you?

John said...

You can always tell when Fannie writes a column from the title BEFORE you even read it.

She is the Observer's top race card player and broken record... basically, if you are white or republican you MUST be racist... if you disagree with any of Obama's policies it must be because of race... etc...

John James said...

Sounds like 'ol Shoemaker is hitting the bottle again. This time it's the race-bait Kool-aid.

Wiley Coyote said...

Silicone..

Yes you should have said Falwell and Robertson. Both are/were religious opportunists.

But in the race/hate/ambulance chasing categories, they still have a ways to go to Sharpton/Jackson status.

Archiguy said...

Heaven forbid an African American preacher like Sharpton or Jackson speak out about the continuing discrimination and racism still infesting much of this country.

Heaven forbid they try to remind all of us of a sordid history of abuse that has still not receded far enough into history, as some of these comments clearly indicate.

Because in the twisted, upside-down world of the far-right, that makes Sharpton and Jackson racists. It's positively surreal.

Must be nice, not to mention convenient, to be able to rationalize one's own moral failings by projecting them onto others who are guilty only of shining a light on the darkness - and denial - still living in too many "conservative" hearts.

Tim Burleson said...

It is sad when people are called "liberal" as an insult. Because Jesus of Nazareth was/is the most dangerous liberal who ever lived. He who said "Love your enemy" when the religious leaders of the day wanted to stone someone who violated one of the 250+ laws guarding the Sabbath.

Unfortunately many of the pew bearing Christians of today have no idea what they are signing up to or to whom they are paying allegiance when they say "Jesus is Lord." They think they are agreeing to abide some arbitrary rules of behavior. Where Jesus calls for relationship and doing what you can sacrificially to heals the hurts and injustices of the marginalized of the world.

Bible Belt Christian need to wake up and see what they are signing up to. many would run away and have run away when Jesys has challenged their views on race and poverty. They label people who do take Jesus seriously as "Liberals" or "bleeding hearts" instead of seeing that all we are trying to do is take Jesus' message very seriously.

When judgment falls it will fall on us not because of abortion, nor sexual preference, but because we let children die hungry ,or denied someone medical care. Don't believe me? Read Matthew 25, the passage my evangelism professor at Southern Baptist's Southeastern Seminary said was the true "test of fellowship for the Kingdom of God.

Wiley Coyote said...

Archie...

This is the same Sharpton who had roles in the Tawana Brawley hoax, the Crown Heights riot, shakedowns of corporations who don't do his bidding (economic terrorism, same as Jackson), and our own local favorite, Nick Mackey debacle, plus the Trayvon Martin case where NOWHERE was race an issue but was made an issue by him and other race hustlers....

Jackson is just as bad and uses the same tactics and his own racial slurs...

alwaystomorroww said...

Interesting that the writer is more accepting of the merits of the twitter "hate map" transposed over a Bible-belt map but the word of God should be more interpretive.

CharlotteObserver said...

Strange how the Observer, Charlotte and many liberal owned and operated cities are in these so called hate areas for this twitter hate talk.

One would wonder how this story would even make it to the observer which is so fair and balanced and would understand things like this so it does not paint the wrong picture of Religion.

Oh and I bet the tweets of beheading and stoning as well as Misogyny are easy to target from just one Religion on this Earth. But we would not want to paint all of them with on brush.

CharlotteObserver said...

Oh and an amusing aside would be the definition of hate talk and to whom the so called hate talk is directed.

I know we have so many folks making such horrid remarks and tweets about anything to do with Religion.

So I guess it would be great to know just what is meant by hate talk. And who decided just what gets in the basket before they lofted this balloon for all to see.

Kyle Fuller said...

“'Men never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.'” Pascal, Pensees, 894.
And you just proved it.

kantstanzya said...

I don't know who drew up this "hate map" but I imagine it was some liberal whose definition of "hate" is anyone who doesn't agree with his world view.It seems to coincidentally and predictably... but not surprisingly... neatly correspond with the alignment of red states and blues states.

The theme of this article is simple....conservative + religion = hate and falsehood. Liberal + religion = love and truth.

"Too often the progressive and moderate forms of religion are passive and silent in matters of great social importance."

No statement could be further from the truth. The fact is that because "progressives" (I think the author added "moderates" to give his position credibility)have REFUSED to shut up about social issues and have gradually hijacked several once great denominations like the Episcopal Church and moved them from service and worship as religions into organizations of social change and political "social justice" they are slipping in membership and into oblivion and irrelevancy.

Sorry Stephen Shoemaker....The religions that are thriving and growing? Conservative religions.

Redlight said...

Great comments from both sides.This would not be the case if the Facebook comment platform was required.

Refreshing to see some of the old names hammering each other with good comments.

Note to The Observer: please dump the Facebook crap!

MochaLite said...

The author makes some valid points about religion and hate, but her broader points are tarnished because she violates several major rules of research:

(1) Correlation is not causation. Check out a map of U.S. barbeque restaurants. It looks almost the same as the "hate" map. Can I say that barbeque-eaters are hateful?

(2) Don't extrapolate from tiny samples. This map was created from about 1% of all tweets nationally, and only those that were geotagged. This is a ridiculously small sample, and is biased toward areas with good internet connection, etc. (no haters at all in upper Minnesota?)

(3) Don’t define research terms to produce the results you want. The researchers chose common “hateful” terms, the n-word, fag, dyke, etc., but totally ignored others. For example, “teabagger” or “bagger” is used very hatefully. I imagine a tweet map of that one would look rather different from these, but that doesn’t fit the results they were trying to find.

Flono says: “Our nation needs impassioned moral discourse that serves to knit together the social fabric, rather than tearing it.” That isn’t served by using skewed and biased data.

Carol Justus said...

How can you hate someone you have never met or talked to or worked for!

Besides hate only builds and builds and shortens your life.

It is much easier to love and respect all and live by the golden rule.

I have seen more hate even from so called journalists and hundreds that post are full of hate, they must have a miserable life.

Smile and love live today for you have no idea what tomorrow will bring or even if you will be here to see what it does bring.

Bill said...

I love how the comments completely reinforce the position of the editorial. The denials, the insults and, of course, the singular focus on the color of one's skin.

While racism exists everywhere, it is especially acute in the self-proclaimed 'bible belt. Shameful.

Jeff Henson said...

Bill:

The only position the editorial takes is that other than African American Christians, Buddhists and those who follow a "progressive form of religion", everyone else is Jim Crow in a business suit and a Bible. What an invitation "to participate in civic discourse!" The author reminds me of the Pharisee praying in the temple: "O God, I thank thee that I am not like these knuckle-dragging, racist Christians."

Carol Justus said...

Jesus came to seek and to save the sinners, He gave his life for sinners.
All are sinners, it does not matter who you are, the homeless of the Pope or an evangelical preacher, you are a sinner the same as all the rest of us.

If we can remember one thing and that is to DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU!!

For by Grace (Gods Grace) you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Not as a results of works, that no one should boast.

American King James Version
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.



CharlotteObserver said...

Great how those who do not embrace religion know all about those who do should act.

CharlotteObserver said...

Thanks Bill: Too often we do not have someone condemning others with a big brush and then justify themselves with a big brush.

That takes unique talent.

Scottijames said...

Anybody can call themselves a Christian and use it to just about justify anything. Hitler and the National Socialists used the state church of Germany to cynically appeal to German Christians to give him their imprimatur.

Now, to be a disciple of Christ is much harder because it is so specifically defined in the New Testament. The cost is much more expensive.

Carol Justus said...

The person who calls himself the Charlotte Observer and he said this!!
He takes the name to think he fooling someone---he is himself!!

The bible says you can have all things, but if you do not have love, you are nothing more than a clanging cymbal or noisy gong!!

It amazes me how the so called "right" or "conservatives" throw around their talk about family values, but will do all in their power to take away from the least among us and give massive tax breaks, loopholes, and special treatment to the richest which amounts to ten times all that is given to the poorest which is now 43 percent---since Romney it has dropped 4 percent points.

CharlotteObserver said...

Strange how the Observer, Charlotte and many liberal owned and operated cities are in these so called hate areas for this twitter hate talk.

One would wonder how this story would even make it to the observer which is so fair and balanced and would understand things like this so it does not paint the wrong picture of Religion.

Oh and I bet the tweets of beheading and stoning as well as Misogyny are easy to target from just one Religion on this Earth. But we would not want to paint all of them with on brush.

CharlotteObserver said...

I know how you feel Carol: Why if you look at donations for actual charities you will see the majority of them come from those folks you are so much against.

Liberals give to causes while conservatives actually help folk.

That needs to change and those rich folks need to start looking out for themselves.

Carol Justus said...

I would beg to disagree with you on the giving subject.
The south has the lowest wages in the country as a region and yet they give more than any other region.

Here is back up proof!!

Religion And Giving: More Religious States Give More To Charity
BOSTON — States with the least religious residents are also the stingiest about giving money to charity, a new study on the generosity of Americans suggests.
The study, released Monday by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, found that residents in states where religious participation is higher than the rest of the nation, particularly in the South, gave the greatest percentage of their discretionary income to charity.

The Northeast, with lower religious participation, was the least generous to charities, with the six New England states filling the last six slots among the 50 states. Churches are among the organizations counted as charities by the study, and some states in the Northeast rank in the top 10 when religious giving is not counted.

The most generous state was Utah, where residents gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity. Next were Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.

The least generous was New Hampshire, at 2.5 percent, followed by Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

In Boston, semi-retired carpenter Stephen Cremins said the traditional New England ideal of self-sufficiency might explain the lower giving, particularly during tight times when people have less to spare.

"Charity begins at home. I'm a big believer of that, you know, you have to take care of yourself before you can help others," Cremins said.
The study found that in the Northeast region, including New England,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, people gave 4.1 percent of their discretionary income to charity.

The percentage was 5.2 percent in the Southern states, a region from Texas east to Delaware and Florida, and including most of the so-called Bible Belt.

CharlotteObserver said...

Carol, thanks for showing that conservatives live where most generous folks live? Note the voting patterns map.

Carol Justus said...

CharlotteObserver said...

I know how you feel Carol: Why if you look at donations for actual charities you will see the majority of them come from those folks you are so much against.

Liberals give to causes while conservatives actually help folk.

That needs to change and those rich folks need to start looking out for themselves.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The rich do look out for themselves, they buy all the politicians and tell them what to do, even some get them to sign pledges to as they tell them>
Do you think they were bribed to sign that pledge with money or with threats to support opponents against them when they come up for reelection, either way it bribery in my book!!



Make up your mind----are the rich giving most to charities or is it the poorest in the country live in the poorest states that give the most???

First you said it was the rich, now you agreeing with me--that is a first!!

The rich start foundations, and have convince the poor to donate and then they make money on the administration on the foundation or charities when people call you and ask for money!!

CharlotteObserver said...

Oh I know what you mean about rich people buying favors:

Capital Rich folks make things and try to protect the system which helped create all those jobs.

Socialist Rich folks love to live off that money and the government, lawyers and others who need easy free money.

You know like Nancy Pelosi lives off the money her Husband made.

Carol Justus said...

Charlotte Observe said:


Socialist Rich folks love to live off that money and the government, lawyers and others who need easy free money.

If you think there is free money, you are living in a cocoon or in fantasy land.

The rich BUY POLITICIANS to do their will and if you think a rich man whatever you want to call him or her "conservatie" "tea Party which is not a party" or "so called liberal" is not receiving a benefit from the thousands or millions they give do not tell the politician they own what and when to do it you have less grasp of the world than most!!

We have in the past and do have now a fee rich who do the best they can to make this a better country FOR ALL, but people like Norquist,Sheldon Adelson, Wayne R. LaPierre, and others like them to not control many in congress you do not have any idea how the system works!!!

There is more money given to the rich, the corporations in one week than all the welfare given to the poor get in a year.

In 2011 GE make 10 billion in profit and they RECEIVED A REBATE FROM THE IRA OF SOME 3.4 MILLION DOLLARS.
Then you want to condemn those on food stamps or housing allowance which they can only get for 5 years in their lifetime.

CharlotteObserver said...

Yes, GE, and here to punish them obama put the head of GE as our jobs tzar.

Free money. As in section eight, welfare, phones, food stamps, health care, and not collecting taxes from illegals just to name a few.

Carol Justus said...

So you think it is fine that the rich can buy tax loopholes from your so called "conservatives" who will sell their soul and even sign pledges to do as he tell them are not owned by the rich and corporations who are filling their pockets with cash.
The amount the so called "conservatives" give to the rich and corporations in one week is more than all what you call welfare costs for the entire year---you have a computer check it out. All you have to do ask the computer what you want to know, but you do have to know how to word and and ask the question!!!

But that is fine with you so long as you can condemn those who you hate and do not bow to your brand of politics which is worship those who sign pledges to do as they are told!!!

CharlotteObserver said...

Hey you did not say anything about pledges.


Now that you are talking about pledges this is a different light altogether.

Carol Justus said...

CharlotteObserver said...

Hey you did not say anything about pledges.


Now that you are talking about pledges this is a different light altogether.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Where have you been? You talk a lot about politics and you do not know that 283 of your so called "conservative" republicans signed a pledge to Grover Norquist to vote as he tells them.

Do or are you so naive that they did not receive something in return for signing the pledge??

They either were paid off or they signed to keep him from supporting opponents against them when they come up for reelection!!

They were elected to represent the people in their districts or in the case of the senate the state, not Grover Norquist, Sheldon Adelson, or Wayne R. LaPierre.

If a person wants a job with company or the city, state, county or federal government and takes an oath of office and the sells their allegiance to some one should be impeachment and prosecuted for fraud or bribery!!!

CharlotteObserver said...

I see what you mean, why would any politician sign a pledge to not raise and in fact lower taxes by cutting spending by the government.

That would be just crazy with all the stuff that people want.

Carol Justus said...

CharlotteObserver said...

I see what you mean, why would any politician sign a pledge to not raise and in fact lower taxes by cutting spending by the government.

That would be just crazy with all the stuff that people want.

September 2, 2013 at 1:12 PM

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You mean that you did not know the very people you are supporting and bragging about are the ones who signed away their right to make their own decisions and are told how they will vote???

That is the reason we have idiots in congress, no one is interested in checking on those they are voting for because they come out with simpleton answers to every problem which they know nothing about or have already pledge their vote for a campaign contributor with lots of money and have control over their every move by bribery or threats which are the same in my book and they also get housing Washington owned by those who hire the lobbyist at half or less of the going rate for an apartment in the area.

CharlotteObserver said...

Yes no one is interested in the malfeasance in Washington.

You have those folks pegged. Yes sir/mam you have them all boxed up and ready to ship.