I suppose I’m behind the news as I started the skeleton of this post some days ago but was too lazy to do any writing until now. At any rate, Andrew Sullivan decided to highlight a particularly annoying email from a reader insulting them dumb Christianists in order to explain the appeal of Sarah Palin. As readers know, I’m a godless infidel. I have never thought highly of Palin either. I regard McCain’s choice of her in petulant response to his advisors putting the kibosh on his first choice (Lieberman) as emblematic of his reckless disregard for his party or country, which is the same trait that exhibited throughout his career won him admiration as a “maverick” among the pundit class. So I’m writing this just because it was among the more egregious examples of politics-as-mind-killer.
The example of the molesting minister doesn’t even succeed on its own merits as stereotype. It is Catholic priests who have gotten the attention, not fundamentalists. Having been a former ultracalvinist I remember having great disdain for Catholics due to their lax attention to the Bible in favor of the tradition & dogma handed down by experts from the Church. Presumably the reader just has a low opinion of religion in general and had little problem tarring one variety with the sins of another. How do Protestant clergy compare to Catholics in rates of abuse? Hard to say, there isn’t much data to go on. It’s quite possible that the abuse rate is higher among public school teachers, so sending your kid to a private religious school would actually be safer. Finally, the thesis of the reader isn’t that fundamentalists are merely ignorant and impervious to evidence, but that they are actually seeking out the most audacious liars so that the self-deceiving double-think essential for them will be safe from reveal. The idea that parents of molested children are actually aware of what’s going on is new to me and rather sick.
Maybe the ministers aren’t molesting kids. Maybe they’ve internalized the frigid puritanism that prevents fundamentalists from having even a healthy sex-life, resulting in “foundering” marriages among the faithful. Another beautiful stereotype murdered by a gang of ugly facts. Conservative protestant women have the most orgasms, Catholics & mainline Protestants in between and those with no religious affiliation the least. Married women with feminist ideals are also less happy than their traditionalist counterparts. Arthur Brooks wrote a book on the relationship between happiness and (among other things) religiosity. Perhaps it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig in blissful ignorance. As a wise drunk once remarked, the only one who is truly happy is the village idiot. Feel free to be against happiness, but it’s hard to use it as a stick against fundamentalists.
Why did Andrew hold this email up to the world? He has a problem with “Christianists” generally and Palin in particular. That’s why he’s been promoting Palin conspiracy theories, though I suppose in a rather Cal Thomas sort of why. John Schwenkler put Sullivan and the “birfers” in their place here (and some other places). Chip Smith is invited to defend birferism, which is totally unlike being a “truther” but like being a holocaust revisionist (in a good way!) as he sees it.
On a final (hopefully for the rest of my life) Palin-related note, I engaged in some Szaszian mocking of the DSM and the armchair psychoanalysts of the former vice-presidental hopeful here.