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pastordan @pastordan
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Let's talk about this Washington Post article looking at southern white evangelicals who still support Trump:…
1. Overall, it's a pretty good piece. It's respectful to the church-goers, tries to understand them without making them anthropological exhibits.
2. It's also a step up from the usual "Yup, Trump dead-enders are still with Trump" pieces because it tries to answer that vexing question: WTF, evangelicals? You're going with THAT sinner?
3. I mean, head-on! It's framed by a preacher who's very nervous about preaching on adultery in the age of Trump! (He chickens out.)
4. One last general thing: it's a good reminder that white support for Trump is *uneven.* In the rural South, you might be hard-pressed to find a white man who doesn't approve of Trump. Up here in Wisconsin, not so much. (Though admittedly, more than I'd like.)
5. In any case, if you've ever wondered how Trump can keep such high ratings among Chrisitans/white Christians, that's why. Sky-high support some places, not so bigly elsewhere.
6. Now, let's get down to specifics. Many people have noticed this part:
7. It's easy enough to look at that and wonder what in the living aitch-ee-double-toothpicks people are thinking. How can a professed Christian be so dumb, so scripturally ignorant?
8. The answer is that it's not ignorance, it's pride. And by pride, I don't mean arrogance, but something almost altogether different.
9. Reinhold Niebuhr (originator of the Serenity prayer, every politician's favorite theologian, from the same branch of Protestantism as me) thought pride was the original sin, which is a pretty conventional view.
10. But Niebuhr's definition of pride was anything but conventional. Yes, there's stupid wilfulness, he said, but more importantly, we refuse to acknowledge that we have limited information.
11. As Niebuhr says (and I never tire of repeating), *what* we know is largely contingent on *who* we know. Our social connections condition both how much we know, and how we interpret that knowledge.
12. It's no surprise to hear the grandmas in this piece spout insane conspiracy theories. (Obama carried a Koran with him? Seriously?) They live in a very small world, with more than likely only a very small list of news outlets they'll pay attention to.
13. It's not that they're incapable of seeing a larger world. You'd be surprised how intelligent some ignoramuses can be. But "their people" see the world through a particular lens, and they choose to do so as well.
14. That's that Fox News bubble we all hear about. It's not brainwashing people; it's reinforcing what their in-group wants to hear. And what that in-group wants to hear is that it's under attack.
15. Or more precisely, what that in-group wants to hear is that they're under attack, but with a brave new leader to protect them!
16. Again, no accident that the ghosts of the Civil Rights Era pop up in this piece. The shriveled, diseased heart of Christian American pride is the refusal to give up its place of privilege.
17. White privilege, cis-het privilege, middle-class privilege, you name it. Trump's convinced these people that they FINALLY have a president who's on their side.

Their pride is their inability to critique that conviction.
18. You can see the folks in the article struggle with the cognitive dissonance this creates. They talk about Trump getting framed by liberals, they talk about Satan the father of lies. They recognize their own rationalizations.
19. But they still stick with Trump. Why? Because the group is more important than their doubts.
20. If you put personal knowledge up against the ideology of your social group, the personal knowledge is going to lose. Every g-d time. Tribe is far more important to humans than reason.
21. That's what pride is, according to Niebuhr: the inability to interrogate our own moral stances because we're too committed to ideology.
22. What makes it worse, according to Niebuhr, is the human capacity for "partial self-transcendence." That is, we're able to see how we can make things better, and tempted to think than means we can make them *good.*
23. In other words, humans know just enough to fool them into thinking they're not dumb. Big mistake. Big mistake.
24. There's another strand here too, which is that our pride blinds us to the consequences of our actions, and so it's important to gather as many perspectives as we can in taking moral decisions.
25. That's the piece of Niebuhr beloved by Obama, David Brooks, Hillary Clinton and many others. But it's incomplete.
26. It's not just that elites have to ask a lot of questions. It's that (and here I'm extrapolating from Niebuhr) if humanity is ever going to "approximate justice," multiple perspectives will have to penetrate one another.
27. I'm not sure Niebuhr would have been a big fan of post-modernity, but in a way, his ethics necessitates it. Think about the classic post-colonialist question: how can you do justice for the indigenous if you don't talk to them?
28. Or to put things another way, American democracy can't survive if a bunch of people decide they'd rather be ignoramuses than consider things from somebody else's point of view.
29. Or if they decide their ideology is more important than hearing that they and their forebearers may have made mistakes.
30. Again: no accident that we hear the rehearsal of racial grievances from the white perspective. Part of the issue is that some folks don't want to wrestle with the idea that their parents were racist as shit.
31. Part of Trump's appeal to the pride of white voters is to preserve their self-deceptions about who they are, and where they come from. White moral privilege *is* pride, y'all.
32. Before we get into the question of "What can we do about this?", let me give you a word of caution: if you think you're immune to the sin of pride, you've just committed it.
33. Pride is part of the human condition. We *all* are vulnerable to self-deception. We *all* are conditioned in our knowledge by the perspective of our social peers. We *all* think we're smarter than we are.
34. If your takeaway from this piece is "Heh. Look at those idiots," take out your mirror and hold it up in front of your face. Thou art the man.
35. (If your reaction is "The Washington Post spends too much time interviewing Trump supporters," well, you've probably got a point there.)
36. I give this word of caution because of course liberals and progressives can get their heads stuck up their own you-know-whats. But also because counteracting pride seems essential to me.
37. I've grown very cynical about the prospect for change in American politics in recent years because I've become sharply aware of the limits tribalism imposes.
38. Basically, as long as we're divided up into these little us-vs.-them groups, not much is going to change. As long as there are places like Luverne, Alabama, there will be Trump supporters.
29. As long as there are places like Berkeley or Madison or any of the big cities, there will be liberal Trump opponents. Division is also part of the human condition.
30. So how does change come about? Well, either you get the tribe to flip its perspective (not bloody likely), or you take its power away.
31. The only way that can happen in our society is to break up those insular cultural pockets, which is why anything that smacks of multi-culturalism is anathema to some conservatives.
32. Or the tribes can be just plain sidelined, and I think that's ultimately what will happen in the US. As White Christians become an ever-smaller piece of the pie, their power will shrink.
33. Eventually, assuming the GOP doesn't go full-on apartheid, a new, more diverse American ideology will take control.

It will be imperfect. It will be confronted with the temptation to pride.

It will be much, much better than MAGA.
34. That's my hope, anyway. I guess we'll see.
35. End of thread. Thank you for allowing me to jam up your timelines this afternoon. Anyone down in Luverne want to buy me some Chicken Shack? I'm not too proud to say I'll bet it's good.
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