Ultra-conservatives in America and Their Resistance to Change

Not all change is good but it is inevitable and some of it is necessary.  The political and Christian right in this country risk appearing backwards as they dig in their heels to fend off 21st century changes.

 

Hostile anti-Obama protesters feel threatened by policies they feel will undermine their traditional American way of life which tends to exclude other cultures and religions.

I have been guilty many times in the past of labeling most extremist on the right as ignorant slugs whose grasp of reality, history and many facts often reflect some levels of mental deficiency.  But I have come to the conclusion that such people, though at times poorly informed, are not always ignorant.  In fact many of them are just as intelligent as the liberals they attack for being intellectual elites.  There are of course those who still hold to debunked notions of global cooling and the President being a practicing Muslim, but these do not make up that larger population I want address this post to.   Liberals are not without their ideologues but unlike their conservative counterpart, change is not something to dread but to embrace and rebuild with.

So what I am finding then is not for lack of a brain from those on the right wanting to “take America back” to a period in our history that has long ago disappeared or who proclaim God is punishing this country with terrorist attacks and mass murders by madmen because we have strayed from some earlier set of values.   It is, I honestly think, a conscious decision they have made to limit their contemporary views to only those notions they locked into at a more immature age, with perhaps some childhood anxiety disorder holdovers.  It’s as if they have gotten a glimpse of a future that resembles nothing like their accustomed to and have made a conscious decision to freeze time in their mind and refuse to allow it to take its natural course.  They then proceed to create an apologetic culture over time to confront the reality of inevitable change.

When you look at the language of Tea Party types and fundamentalist Christians you see notions spelled out in ways that sound more familiar in a junior high school setting; having a more sophomoric argot to them.  Ideas are expressed in more simplistic ways that accommodate an adolescent view and seem trivial in light of broader experiences.  Their mental faculties have not been diminished physiologically and they are quite capable of expressing an intellect with high IQs in most areas.  But in their socio-religious view of life their growth appears stunted and all too ready to reject a social dynamic that develops layers of knowledge over time.  The concept of WASPs – white Anglo-Saxon protestants – comes to mind when considering many on the right today as they try to deal with the changing make up of American families in the 21st century.

Why does the changing traditional image of American families seem threatening to many conservatives today?

The simpler, broader concepts of “mom, apple pie, God and country” still holds a pleasant but narrow image from a past era for today’s hardcore right-wing contingent within conservatism.  To such people however, mom is never a teenage girl who had an unwanted pregnancy, diabetes from too much apple pie is beyond comprehension, the Judeo-christian concept of a universal creator remains the only acceptable view (orthodox interpretations primarily) and many still see the country as it existed for many years as the domain for white male property owners.  Capitalism has been woven into biblical scripture and wealth is nearly universally seen as the ultimate end to one’s pursuit of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  To discredit those who have vast fortunes is to engage in a social blasphemy of sorts.

This state of mind is, I feel, an intentional choice because it preserves a familiarity of the bygone era.  We all harbor this to some degree.  We also all tend to resist most changes.  But for many on the Christian and political right in this country today, the magnitude of change we are inevitably experiencing as a democracy with its emphasis on freedom is change that cannot be tolerated.  No amount of critical thinking seems to be capable of altering this dogmatic stand either.

When it comes time for us all to go out into the world on our own, beyond the control of those who have filled our minds up to this point, we inevitably run into challenges to those perceptions that were narrowly defined in our subconscious during the brain’s formative years. By the time I was seventeen I was sure Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, was the one true religion.  Americans, especially Texans, were the greatest people ever and the envy of the world and that equal economic opportunity was there for everyone who expended the right amount of energy, no matter what your gender, religious beliefs or race were.  Naturally I heard this from the authority figures within a paternalistic white American, christian culture and since I was a physically white male American born in Texas and raised in the Catholic church, I failed to see how women and other people of differing races, cultures and belief systems seldom shared this view.  How could I?  I had never interacted sufficiently, if at all, with such people.

But then somehow the mechanisms of control lost sight of me and allowed me to gain a higher education and this, to the shock and dismay of many, opened doors that had heretofore been closed.  Some of them had in fact been nailed shut.  Perhaps this was the dread of former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum expressed in his campaign about higher education. 

I found that these  countervailing views that grabbed me at a young adult age seem to fit in areas that my traditional upbringing could not quite reconcile.  Not everything I began to absorb satisfied a hidden hunger.  In fact I found some objectionable, at first.  But there was enough there that allowed me to see that perhaps I had in fact not been given all of the information that was out there to make an informed decision.  Just coming to the realization that an open and honest debate on issues was an option was something of an awakening for me.

Deeply held views that demonized and rejected gays, held minorities and women to an inferior status and saw all other manifestations of religious faith as broken and even corrupt, began to fragment.  As this became more unsettling to me, my parents and others would try to assure me that though some customs and tradional views they raised me with were not absolutes, I was not to concern myself with such doubts because the older notions had been around “forever”.  Surely, they presumed, this must carry greater weight that time often honors.  To think outside this preset mold I was warned was to invite Lucifer and Stalinists thoughts into that world that had been carved out for me.

It took about two-thirds of my life to finally accept that much of what I was taught as a child and young adult was subject to debate and some of it, not all, was unlikely to stand up to scrutiny.  I had what I call “a road less traveled” epiphany.  Rather than view this as a failure of family upbringing or a conspiracy of some sort, I found it beneficial to accept this as part of the maturation process in life.  Those adolescent ideas and ideals that got me through my young life served a purpose that allowed me to focus on less complicated matters that tender young brains were better able to handle.  The real failure I have discovered comes in believing too deeply that much of what we are taught are absolutes and are inflexible.  It takes a certain amount of courage to step outside that box we have become too familiar with where pushing the envelope was often discouraged.  The status quo was held up as my security blanket.

Think of the temper tantrum young children throw when their notion of getting a toy is altered because the condition of good behavior gone bad has effected this outcome (provided you have a parent willing to enforce discipline).   Your world is momentarily shattered and you engage in a kicking, screaming fit to re-established that happier moment before Mom or Dad enforced the conditions that prevented you from getting what you wanted.  Such behavior seems harmless at such an early age but when such mechanisms carry over to the adult world,  especially regarding critical matters that will effect long term outcomes for ourselves and others, it can create some conflicts that lead to acts of aggression on local and even a global scale.


When immature christian thinking sees Islam as nothing more than an evil based upon their view of what is or isn’t a “true” religion, then the positive aspects of the Muslim faith are ignored and even twisted to suggest some hidden agenda exists with the consensus.  When immature heterosexuals claim that the legality of marriage was only intended to be between a man and a woman, they ignore the vital element of relationships that strengthen self-esteem and make us productive members of society.  When immature patriots think only older, narrowly defined traditions masked as “original intent” have greater value than those conditions that the social dynamics of today present us, they blind themselves to modern reality and pigeon-hole all cultures to fit out-dated concepts.  All of these reactions limit the gifts and talents that others can bring to the table in making this a more just and free society.

By using the language and promoting the notions that had meaning for us as an adolescent and expecting it to always bear fruit as an adult is a trap that is easy to fall into.  The failure to allow new and varied experiences to refine what was thought to be chipped in stone is a trait that will prevent the human race from advancing and sustaining a quality of life that ensures ours and the other species’ survival.  Not all change is good and we need to move cautiously where angels dare to tread.  But the converse is equally true and we need not be afraid of expanding views once deemed sacrosanct.

We need to take with us into the future those elements that have and will continue to serve us as the needs of a 21st century confront us.  All others need to be either respectfully laid to rest or disposed of in the unceremonious manner that we take out the daily trash with.

“Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another.”  – Immanuel Kant

 

 

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18 responses to “Ultra-conservatives in America and Their Resistance to Change

  1. Fear of any kind of change is the main culprit behind people inching backwards. I think many people feel that if the country and world change too much, they will be left behind or worse, left out of the social and economic loop. I understand this fear, but it is not an excuse to turn heart and head away from making the world a better place.

  2. “I understand this fear, but it is not an excuse to turn heart and head away from making the world a better place.”

    You’re right Donna. But to such people it is more a certainty that these things are “evil” rather than uncertainty and fear on their part. The language and understanding is not in place for these people to move forward and won’t be for years down the road. Ultimately such people in the past had difficulty accepting that the earth wasn’t flat and didn’t revolve around the sun but you see how long that lasted before there was acceptance of these now obvious facts.

  3. Moreover, I think that the information revolution we’re experiencing is bringing change on a scale that you have to go back to the revolution the printing press brought on (reformation, creation of the modern state, fall of the old Catholic dominance). To many people this is very scary – and symbolized by a black President named Barack Hussein Obama. I don’t think change will be stopped, but if history is a guide those who fear change can make it a very bumpy path!

    • “I don’t think change will be stopped, but if history is a guide those who fear change can make it a very bumpy path!”

      Agreed! It’s those “speed bumps” that often create suffering longer than necessary, especially when based more on fixed notions rather than legitimate reservations.

  4. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but aren’t these conservatives the same sort of people that have brought the American economy to the 21st Century? Take the energy economy, which is and will likely always be heavily conservative. Oilmen are Republicans, for whatever reason. I would argue that the biggest ‘change’ in America in the last fifty years has almost exclusively taken place in the ways we find, exploit and utilize energy. Is that, truly, fear of change?

    Many people that are characterized as disliking change in this post are, simultaneously, many of the same people that vote and maintain the breakneck level of mechanization of formerly blue-collar jobs. Bible Belt conservatives have long acquiesced to replace those jobs with advanced robotics.

    Look at the radical transformation of how America disseminates, acquires and utilizes religion. Very few people would ever believe the strides Protestantism and Christianity in general has adapted to the 21st Century. TV Channels, radio channels, online TV and an embrace of all the modern forms of downloading video (Hulu, Netflix et cetera) are now commonplace. It is a very recent adaptation for American citizens to receive their religion so far from the pews. Now, according to Netflix, these people who ‘fear’ change are watching thousands of hours of their chosen programming on technology that was not even a glint in someone’s eye twenty years ago. Is that fear of change?

    I can go online and have, in a few moments, access to Catholic encyclicals going all the way back to the foundation of the Church. I can read fire-and-brimstone jeremiads in the same amount of time from the 19th Century. The social infrastructure around churches and church hierarchies has changed dramatically in the last few decades. I can donate to my local church with Paypal, or transfer money to them via Indiegogo.com. Do you want to donate to a Seventh-Day Adventist, Pentecostal and Baptist Church in Swaziland? Easy. Thanks to the efforts of true fundamentalists embracing these technologies. What sort of person fears change so much that they embrace it with open arms?

    When the recent referendums on gay marriage in Maine and California took place the finely tuned an undoubtedly modern political machine converted money from fundamentalists all across the fifty states, relayed information and money to fundamentalists on the ground in those states and took many in the chattering classes by surprise. Why? Those political campaigns were some of the first true ’21st Century’ efforts. Social media, an unprecedented level of integration on several different organizational strata and a level of sheer complexity that the opposing sides were simply buried. It’s hard to make the case that the same amount of people who now rejoice in the technologies that allow them to utilize 12 Mormons’ pocketbooks (located several states over) to buy them signs, stickers and office supplies from three different online retailers to be delivered at twenty-four different locations across several hundred miles of California/Maine ‘fear’ change.

    If it’s fear, then it is a type of fear that I don’t rightly understand.

    • “Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but aren’t these conservatives the same sort of people that have brought the American economy to the 21st Century? Take the energy economy, which is and will likely always be heavily conservative. Oilmen are Republicans, for whatever reason. I would argue that the biggest ‘change’ in America in the last fifty years has almost exclusively taken place in the ways we find, exploit and utilize energy. Is that, truly, fear of change?”

      Not to rain on your parade but wasn’t it the efforts of progressive reformers that helped move these economic changes into the 21st century and until recently enabled a great middle class to benefit from such changes? Left to themselves the Republican oilmen could have done nothing without the labor of the middle class which created more consumers by which the economy expanded from.

      You also seem to omit the ill-effects of those efforts ” that have brought the American economy to the 21st Century”. Extracting fossil fuels from their underground placements has eventually caught up with us and is now the cause of major wars necessary to sustain this supply, not to mention the environmental damage their spent energy has caused. Your captains of industry have shown very little concern to find suitable substitutes to replace this source of energy when it run dry, which it will in the next generation or two. All this may have brought us to the 21st century in some form or another but it will prevent us from reaching the 22nd centruy if we don’t find safer and more efficient ways to manage our limited resources.

      You can’t measure everything by material gains especially when most people are not only NOT benefitting from it but are suffering because they can’t afford the costs to incorporate it into their lifestyle. Moving too fast in some areas without considering the damaging side affects has in fact moved us closer to our own demise unless we act soon. But then wouldn’t that fit the end times scenario for all the fundamentalist christians? Might it be that they are not so eager to be “good stewards” of our resources because they are more focused on fulfilling some mythical view of a messianic second coming?

      You connect the economic progress of capitalism with a change that has been a part of conservatism but I think you fail to successfully make the argument that it was ultraconservative social thought that promoted these advances or was it merely traditional christians caught up in the material gains that come from expanding markets and became sold on the idea that capitalism and christianity share much? I think it was the latter and that’s why I mentioned as I did that “Capitalism has been woven into biblical scripture and wealth is nearly universally seen as the ultimate end to one’s pursuit of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

      Greed and material excess run counter to most biblical teachings as well as the Protestant work ethic, not to mention that they are indicators of immaturity. The core message of Christianity has been lost on the masses who profess Jesus Christ as their savior but who also rate human loss of life as “collateral damage” in wars, especially if the people are dark skinned and of another belief system.

      The material gains that were made that have benefitted mankind were not necessarily the result of people who still think the Bible is the inerrant word of God and who hold necessarily to a strong moral code that encompasses traditional family values. Their primary focus was creating something that not only made life easier but did so first and foremost to make them wealthy people. The evidence is pretty conclusive that what oilmen have wrought may have benefitted us economically but now we are paying for it in spades by the damage their toxic waste is effecting. Rather than working with scientist and environmentalist to reduce these negative effects they have for the most part fought them all the way until public concerns were prominent enough that made it difficult to be both a free marketer and a concerned citizen.

      Regulations and government oversight are in place not because conservative capitalist have made life easier for us and care about social justice but because they have exploited workers and dumped their waste product into our drinking water and food supplies without any regard to preventing more of it.

      Many christian capitalist espouse the virtues of free speech but often oppose publications and programs that attack their views and will make attempts to have the legal system shut down such efforts. The industrial barons of the 19th century were not motivated by compassion for people who built their factories and railroads but by the cheap labor they could often exploit them for to make hefty profits for themselves.

      In today’s multi-national corporate kingdoms profits are nearly always put above people and many of the banks who once looked after their customers interests now make bogus products that robs investors while making a handful filthy rich.

      “When the recent referendums on gay marriage in Maine and California took place the finely tuned an undoubtedly modern political machine converted money from fundamentalists all across the fifty states, relayed information and money to fundamentalists on the ground in those states and took many in the chattering classes by surprise.”

      Not to rain on your parade but aren’t these conservatives the same sort of people that started a civil war rather than abolish slavery? These referendums were aimed at depriving people of their civil rights. People who are not viewed equally by ultraconservatives. The fact that modern conveniences make it easier for ultraconservatives to achieve things at a faster rate than before does not negate that this faster pace is often aimed at slowing down progress that would allow greater freedom for more people and enhance conditions that would benefit the health of millions. Is it progress when some people are denied their humanity because they don’t fit some narrow criteria for what is or isn’t acceptable. Suppressing social change that essentially hurts no one in any way is not progress

      • “Not to rain on your parade but wasn’t it the efforts of progressive reformers that helped move these economic changes into the 21st century and until recently enabled a great middle class to benefit from such changes? Left to themselves the Republican oilmen could have done nothing without the labor of the middle class which created more consumers by which the economy expanded from.”

        I’m certainly not debating the work of ‘progressive’ ‘reformers.’ They applied effort, things happened. No one is debating that. My only opinion is that ‘more’ change (by whatever metric you would want to use: technologically, socially et cetera) has been spearheaded in the last few decades by the work of some of our country’s staunchly conservative energy sector. Have some of those excesses been tempered by reformers, with some help from those identified as progressive? Certainly. It doesn’t change, however, that the change has not come exclusively from people who identify as ‘liberal.’

        Taking fracking, for instance. In a few short years it will turn the U.S. into a net exporter of LNG and may, eventually, turn the U.S. into a net exporter of *oil*. Is that fear of change? Is anyone, at all, arguing that we need to turn back the clock to the days of the oil embargo? Certainly some individuals in Greenpeace are. Not the oilmen.

        “Extracting fossil fuels from their underground placements has eventually caught up with us and is now the cause of major wars necessary to sustain this supply, not to mention the environmental damage their spent energy has caused. Your captains of industry have shown very little concern to find suitable substitutes to replace this source of energy when it run dry, which it will in the next generation or two. All this may have brought us to the 21st century in some form or another but it will prevent us from reaching the 22nd centruy if we don’t find safer and more efficient ways to manage our limited resources.”

        No offense, but I think you’ve become incredibly tangential to the main point we’re discussing. Has change occurred on account of the work of some of the world’s most staunchly religious, conservative members of American society? I’d argue yes, but whether or not that change has come with negative side effects is entirely beside the point. As you bring up later in the point, with slavery, no change comes without problems. Has the extraction of energy come with environmental destruction and an imbalance in our ecology? Yes. Nevertheless, that has nothing to do with our definition of ‘change.’

        I must also correct your unsourced, one line assumption that oil reserves will ‘run dry’ in the ‘next generation or two.’

        http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/energy-overview/oil-shale/

        As you can see for yourself, courtesy of non-profits and the Department of Energy, the future for oil (and, for that matter, natural gas) is vastly different than your precious and precocious presumptions.

        “Regulations and government oversight are in place not because conservative capitalist have made life easier for us and care about social justice but because they have exploited workers and dumped their waste product into our drinking water and food supplies without any regard to preventing more of it.”

        Enough has already been said on this argument, by more convincing and intelligent authors than yourself, that I’ll restrict myself to a sentence. How does this paragraph have anything to do with your blog post or my reply?

        “You connect the economic progress of capitalism with a change that has been a part of conservatism but I think you fail to successfully make the argument that it was ultraconservative social thought that promoted these advances or was it merely traditional christians caught up in the material gains that come from expanding markets and became sold on the idea that capitalism and christianity share much? I think it was the latter and that’s why I mentioned as I did that “Capitalism has been woven into biblical scripture and wealth is nearly universally seen as the ultimate end to one’s pursuit of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

        It’s certainly a dead end to argue over what some people may or may have not of thought. My only point was that fundamentalists, of all stripes, have and continue to inspire more ‘change’ (again, by whatever metric you want) as well as react to it at levels that are incongruous to your post. Do some ‘Christians’ misunderstand, or allow themselves to be lead away, from ‘proper’ Christian thought (which, I’m assuming, would disapprove of the leap for vast quantities of wealth)? Perhaps. Yet that gets far, far away from the discussion. For our purposes it’s simply enough to assume that they believed in ‘Christianity’ and if they went purposefully contrary to those ideals they would go to Hell. Notice the capital ‘H.’ We can only view the advances undertaken by fundamentalists, be them Ray Kroc of McDonalds and his transformation of the fast food industry, to Jerry Farwell and his transformation of how millions of Americans consume religion, as generally in accordance with the Gospel as they found it. Any further conjecture is, at best, blowing in the wind.

        “Not to rain on your parade but aren’t these conservatives the same sort of people that started a civil war rather than abolish slavery?”

        Remember that for every fundamentalist slave owner there was a fundamentalist “the Earth is 6000 years old” abolitionist (especially among the most prominent: from Fredrick Douglass to Abraham Lincoln).

        “These referendums were aimed at depriving people of their civil rights. People who are not viewed equally by ultraconservatives. The fact that modern conveniences make it easier for ultraconservatives to achieve things at a faster rate than before does not negate that this faster pace is often aimed at slowing down progress that would allow greater freedom for more people and enhance conditions that would benefit the health of millions. Is it progress when some people are denied their humanity because they don’t fit some narrow criteria for what is or isn’t acceptable. Suppressing social change that essentially hurts no one in any way is not progress.”

        Again you veer dangerously off course. Were these referendums aimed at depriving people of their ‘civil’ ‘rights?’ Perhaps. It’s beside the point. What’s more important to consider is whether someone can legitimately believe that you are slowing down progress by taking some of the most modern techniques, of any field, and improving upon them? Does anyone slow down progress by making things faster, better and more organized? I would argue that no one who participated in those campaigns honestly believed that they were turning back the clock as they designed and improve upon Obama’s 2008 social media apps. Even fewer thought they were turning back the clock by using them. When the various groups’ media consultants sat down with, well, anyone at all in the campaign: did they pitch their tactics as the media of the 19th Century or the 22nd, the 23rd Century? To me it seems evident that virtually everyone who participated in those precedent setting efforts knew that they were pushing their beliefs into a new, and improved (‘changed’) form.

      • ”No offense, but I think you’ve become incredibly tangential to the main point we’re discussing. Has change occurred on account of the work of some of the world’s most staunchly religious, conservative members of American society? I’d argue yes, but whether or not that change has come with negative side effects is entirely beside the point.”

        I would appreciate it ACB if you would deal directly with my premise (see below) and quit trying to hijack the conversation to fit your perception of the issue of change I was addressing. My argument was that social changes and religious tolerances are not the result of ultra conservatives and in fact have been obstructed by the more extreme elements in conservatism through most of western history. If there are some “negative side effects” to social change it hasn’t been the ultraconservatives who have tried to correct it and who in fact have more than likely hampered it. Human collateral damage may be seen as a consequence of empire building in your circles but those who were the recipients of of such injustices and inhumane treatment probably wouldn’t see it so sympathetically.

        Material and economic advances that benefitted consumers based more on one’s self-interest to incur wealth, is NOT a form of change to establish social justice. Case in point. When the railroads were developed and promoted by Robber Barons like Carnegie, this didn’t change the social custom that segregated people of color from whites. Later we would still see in the South that blacks and some minorities were expected to vacate their seat on public buses if there wasn’t one available for any white person. I don’t think anyone can rightfully visualize the white christian conservative governor of Alabama, George Wallace and his ilk to protest such treatment, do you?

        As this nation’s economic power progressed women and minorities were still considered 2nd class citizens for decades and not allowed to vote, hold certain jobs and were always paid significantly less than the predominant white male society. There were of course people with progressive minds in the past that also fell into this mode of thinking but please name one reformer who religious fundamentalists and Tea Party types today would acknowledge as one of their own. People like Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower would be viewed today as RINOs.

        Name me any social movement in the last half century where fundamentalists or died-in-the-wool libertarians lead the effort to promote social equality for blacks or Muslims, or any economic fairness for minimum wage earners or equal pay for equal work for women. The Dixiecrats in the 1940-50’s evolved out their contempt for black civil rights and people like Phyllis Schlafly condemned the Equal Rights amendment by claiming it embraced “abortion funding, … homosexual privileges, [and] whatever else.”

        My argument is not based on the economic changes that were initiated by wealthy conservative white men that others have eventually benefitted from. My argument centers squarely on the inability of many zealous free-market advocates and the christian orthodoxy in this country to promote social justice and accept those changes in a time frame concurrent with the reforms that were initiated, not decades later when law and social norms assimilated them into the common parlance of civilized society.

        ”I must also correct your unsourced, one line assumption that oil reserves will ‘run dry’ in the ‘next generation or two.’”

        Unsourced? You think I pulled this estimate out of my head?

        “Petroleum Man will be virtually extinct this Century, and Homo sapiens faces a major challenge in adapting to his loss. Peak Oil is by all means an important subject. – http://www.peakoil.net/about-peak-oil

        “The term Peak Oil refers to the maximum rate of the production of oil in any area under consideration, recognising that it is a finite natural resource, subject to depletion.”
        –Colin Campbell

        That being said, I am familiar with the optimistic claims of increased oil production from shale. I have read something of Leo Maugeri’s report that points to a prolonged period of rising oil production, particularly in the United States. But this assessment not only fails to mention a time frame when demand will once again exceed this new source but also mentions nothing of increased global warming from burning fossil fuels. If atmospheric CO2 from man-made global warming continues to rise above the acceptable level of 350 ppm, millions will perish from increased droughts, desertification, deforestation and rising sea levels from melting glaciers and polar caps before the end of this century. Economies will implode. So we may have discovered more abundant sources of oil and natural gas but unless we eliminate the threat it poses from its use, it will wreak more negative CHANGES than either one of us care to discuss. Of course this may be something you would choose to avoid discussion of since this is a change of thought that most conservatives are not willing to confront.

        ”Remember that for every fundamentalist slave owner there was a fundamentalist “the Earth is 6000 years old” abolitionist (especially among the most prominent: from Fredrick Douglass to Abraham Lincoln).”

        You have a source to validate this specious comment? Even if we knew this to be true it would surely have changed as time progressed, but not by fundamentalist christians. Many if not most still defend today the head-in-the-sand belief that the earth is 6000 years old. Besides, what has this got to do with any abolitionist who wants to change the social conditions of slaves and what some believed 150 years ago about the earth’s age? Most of the founding fathers and later leaders like Lincoln, some of who were anything but fundamentalists, were equally ignorant in their views about blacks, thinking them inferior to the white man, but none the less felt the need to end slavery.

        ”Again you veer dangerously off course. Were these referendums aimed at depriving people of their ‘civil’ ‘rights?’ Perhaps. It’s beside the point.

        Perhaps?!? Seriously? Can you expect me to view you credibly when you make such a indefensible point? And let me reiterate. I’m not “off course”. You have attempted to redirect this conversation in that direction. Not I. Here is the core of my premise spelled out in the 3rd paragraph:

        “Their mental faculties have not been diminished physiologically and they are quite capable of expressing an intellect with high IQs in most areas.  But in their SOCIO-RELIGIOUS VIEW OF LIFE (emphasis inserted) their growth appears stunted and all too ready to reject a social dynamic that develops layers of knowledge over time.”

      • “My argument was that social changes and religious tolerances are not the result of ultra conservatives and in fact have been obstructed by the more extreme elements in conservatism through most of western history. If there are some “negative side effects” to social change it hasn’t been the ultraconservatives who have tried to correct it and who in fact have more than likely hampered it. Human collateral damage may be seen as a consequence of empire building in your circles but those who were the recipients of of such injustices and inhumane treatment probably wouldn’t see it so sympathetically.”

        I think the main failing is that you attempt to divorce economic reality from the changes that take place in the social and religious sphere. But more on that later. For right now I would like to concentrate on trying to maintain a healthy level of civil discource. There’s no need, and ample reasons, to restrain some of your more wilder views. I’m certainly unsympathetic to be calling, of all things, an empire builder (or moving among the empire building circles?) and I’m certain many would be. Acknowledging that every change comes with negative side effects is not to dismiss those effects. To realize and understand them is not to silently condone them. 

        “Material and economic advances that benefitted consumers based more on one’s self-interest to incur wealth, is NOT a form of change to establish social justice.”

        And yet history is replete with social justice that has been achieved by some of the most wealth-orientated people of the world. 

        “Case in point. When the railroads were developed and promoted by Robber Barons like Carnegie, this didn’t change the social custom that segregated people of color from whites. Later we would still see in the South that blacks and some minorities were expected to vacate their seat on public buses if there wasn’t one available for any white person. I don’t think anyone can rightfully visualize the white christian conservative governor of Alabama, George Wallace and his ilk to protest such treatment, do you?”

        What they did do, as well, was fundamentally change the social fabric of the United States. Millions of American benefited from gainful employment, a higher standard of living and improved health. It revolutionized the way in which people communicated, travelled, lived and worked. Are you saying that there has been absolutely, positively no benefit to social justice from railroads? 

        “There were of course people with progressive minds in the past that also fell into this mode of thinking but please name one reformer who religious fundamentalists and Tea Party types today would acknowledge as one of their own. People like Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower would be viewed today as RINOs.”

        I’m not sure what the point of this is. You know these cliched and overwrought appeals to emotion have a pre-formulated response. Likely something along the lines of “Yeah, but imagine Democrats acknowledging George Washington as their own! He would be viewed as right-wing extremists!” In any event, let’s think for ourselves and try to avoid responses that were constructed entirely by other people. 

        “Name me any social movement in the last half century where fundamentalists or died-in-the-wool libertarians lead the effort to promote social equality for blacks or Muslims, or any economic fairness for minimum wage earners or equal pay for equal work for women. The Dixiecrats in the 1940-50’s evolved out their contempt for black civil rights and people like Phyllis Schlafly condemned the Equal Rights amendment by claiming it embraced “abortion funding, … homosexual privileges, [and] whatever else.”

        With African Americans, my first reaction would be that of surprise mingled with a touch of an embarrassment. The African American community’s fight for equal rights was conducted almost entirely by fundamentalists of all stripes until very recently, after the fight was over, and even to this day Rev. Jackson can be happily described as a fundamentalist of the sort we know all to well. Evolution, abortion and gay marriage? A bunch of hokum to him. I can’t think of a more dyed-in-the-wool-homosexuals-are-going-to-Hell conservative than Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Were they ultra-fundamentalist conservatives or simply fundamentalist conservatives? It’s up to you to decide, but I’m content with either. 

        I’m not sure why you seem to believe that to change the social well being of America you don’t need to change its economic situation. Was there a ‘social movement’ of conservatives and libertarians? I’m sure there has never been one by your standards, and I’m not about to sink this conversation so low. What I would argue is that the increased globalization of the United States, and the contact many Americans had with other cultures/creeds/races, influenced social justice more than any social movement. Racists of all stripes were faced with the unsettling reality that in other countries their subject of hate was not only successful in other countries but thriving. It’s hard to maintain that someone is racially inferior (or practices a heathen religion) if you not only have to work alongside them (especially if they had to travel half the world over) but they can speak better English than yourself.

        “My argument is not based on the economic changes that were initiated by wealthy conservative white men that others have eventually benefitted from. My argument centers squarely on the inability of many zealous free-market advocates and the christian orthodoxy in this country to promote social justice and accept those changes in a time frame concurrent with the reforms that were initiated, not decades later when law and social norms assimilated them into the common parlance of civilized society.”

        Then it is a flawed argument, because it’s unsound to divorce the economic effects of those advancements from social change as a whole. The two are inseparable. Did Henry Ford wake up one day to create the middle class? No. But that doesn’t alter the historical record. He has been and, at the very least, should be a contender for one of the defining influences of the creation of the middle class. He could not, or did not want to foresee (or attempt to foresee) all the social constructions he was about to affect when he flipped on the lights at his first factory. That changes nothing at all to millions of Americans relishing in the justice who would be, otherwise, eking out a living as subsistence farmers. 

        To me, you ignore immensely large swaths of achieved social justice for little or no reason at all beyond a disjointed, virtually incoherent paradigm. What differentiates the achieved social justice of ultra-fundamentalists like Harriet Beecher Stowe, or Henry Ford, and Susan B. Anthony from those of any other? You maintain that there can be no social change with Christian orthodoxy, when the historical record seems to suggest otherwise. If there is something that differentiates the gains made by MLK from any other I fail to see it because it’s not intentions that concern me or the millions of Americans who still need their justice and peace. It’s results. 

        There is something fascinating in the bizarreness of insisting that social justice is independent from the economy of humanity. 

        “You have a source to validate this specious comment?”

        Since these public figures and their writings have been dead for over 100 years their materials are publicly accessible free of charge. For the more prominent people, like Lincoln and Douglass, a vast quantity of their speeches/professional writings/letters and diaries are available online. Less popular figures you may have to search harder for, or look in your local library. They can usually be found as ‘The Collected Letters and Papers” or simply “Works of,” to use an example, “Abraham Lincoln.”

        “Even if we knew this to be true it would surely have changed as time progressed, but not by fundamentalist christians.”

        As I said before, let’s keep the one line assertions to a dull roar. 

      • ”I think the main failing is that you attempt to divorce economic reality from the changes that take place in the social and religious sphere”

        Nope, I am making no concerted effort to do anything of the sort. However you are making every effort to squeeze it within the premise of my post.

        ”But more on that later. For right now I would like to concentrate on trying to maintain a healthy level of civil discource. (sic)”

        I beg your pardon. I have said something that offended you? I have a policy that won’t allow rude and ugly language or attacks of any kind on people’s character. But you cannot come into a conversation here thin-skinned and dispute the claims of others and expect deference to your emotions. If you interpret anything I have said to be passing judgment on you falsely, correct me. But this is my blog sir and I will not be dictated to by someone who has come across as arrogant and superior as to how we should “maintain a healthy level of civil discourse.” Sorry, don’t mean to rain on your parade

        Now, let me see if a can for one final time make it clear what it is that I am at odds with you on and why your perception of “change” is outside of what my post was focused on.

        Broadly interpreted, change does indeed occur in various ways and it most certainly does through the efforts of all people who hold a variety of political and religious views. There are also indeed consequences of change not intended or considered by those who have directly effected some changes. Thus there are levels of change and forms of changes that can be characterized and discussed in specific fashions. Your view, as I interpreted it, is that change in a more broader context can and does occur by ultraconservatives, thus negating what you presumed was my premise, as it appears in the title of my post, Ultra-conservatives in America and Their Resistance to Change .

        But titles are intended to be worded in a way that will draw attention to a larger crowd. They are not always intended to encompass an irrefutable absolute. The text of the post or article will spell out the specifics and establish a premise that gives merit to what the title was referring to. But the full text itself is intended to be instructional regarding the authors premise , and is also not an absolutist position.

        So, when you commented as you did, you seem to have missed this not only the first time, but then persisted after I had explained rather well I thought what the purpose of my post was. I could only conclude one of two things:

        1. The title offended some ultraconservative sense you may hold and were intent on blasting holes through the presumption of the title, or

        2. You have a very enlarged ego and are very anal about being precise. The inerrant notion you must have presumed from my title that all ultraconservatives were opposed to change in its broadest interpretation must have sparked some thought in your cranium that here was someone in the universe who doesn’t fully understand what they are talking about and it is my anointed task in this life to set them straight.

        I really don’t care which one of these served as your motivator to join in the conversation and I don’t want you to think I don’t want your participation on my blog in the future. I do. But with this provision. Offer your comments as another view of the subject or, as it turned out to be in this case, an ancillary thought to my original premise. Avoid being pretentious and superior but don’t hesitate to challenge me in a civil manner if you think I have violated the definition of my premise.

        I try to proof read my comments before I post them to make sure I stay on subject but have been known to publish too early and left my self vulnerable to such criticism. If you are uncertain what my intent is with my post try asking me for clarity’s sake. That will save us both a lot of grief and embarrassment.

        If all of this still doesn’t register with you and you feel compelled to give me a good tongue-lashing anyway, rest assured I will trash it before the ink has time to dry. I hope not because I’m sure we are capable of having some vibrant and enlightening conversations.

        Have a nice day. :-)

      • I think the main problem is that you shifted the discussion almost as fast as one could read, and that caused many of your present anxieties. At first you start off clear and vibrant (though whom actually holds these views is ambiguously colored, never specified concretely, and I would tentatively call whoever ‘they’ are as simply ‘People Who Disagree With Me’): “It is, I honestly think, a conscious decision they have made to limit their contemporary views to only those notions they locked into at a more immature age.” Fair enough. You explain that “This state of mind is, I feel, an intentional choice because it preserves a familiarity of the bygone era.” Using your own life as an allegory you create a psychological framework of ‘normalcy’ to compare to the ‘alien’ conservative. You lay out a few assumptions that the reader should already be familiar with, “The real failure I have discovered comes in believing too deeply that much of what we are taught are absolutes and are inflexible.” You conclude that “we need not be afraid of expanding views once deemed sacrosanct.”

        All right. To summarize ‘these people’ have made a conscious decision to dummy themselves down socially so that they can cling to what is known, the past, instead of the unknown future. Along the way this deliberate effort to keep the world absolute and inflexible they must undertaken an elaborate set of mental gymanstics. It’s certainly not the first we’ve heard portions of that argument, but it’s a nice retread with some neat scenic routes.

        I dummy up a response that posits real life provides some eyebrow-raising instances where some of the world’s most unapologetic, fundamentalist Christian ‘Conservatives’ not only kicked the past in the ass, but have been happily building a future completely different than the one they just left. (I think the examples I used was the use of the internet, energy sector and a few others).

        Almost immediately the concern shifts to the negative effects of this change, without ever addressing whether or not Christian Conservatives are the ones to be held accountable or not for change. Importantly, you never address whether or not Christian Conservatives *see themselves* as an agent of that change, which was the original point of your opening post. Instead you argue, blithely ignoring the psychological facets of your own blogpost, that the negative effects-something-something-clearly-sort of weigh out all the good or something. In fact, in a few paragraphs you’ve lost any semblance of a point or dignity with the concluding remark.

        “Might it be that they are not so eager to be “good stewards” of our resources because they are more focused on fulfilling some mythical view of a messianic second coming?” All joking aside, arguing that Christians who don’t recycle are secretly part of some death cult and are actively trying to end the world as we know it is not only a creative reinterpretation of current Christian theology, but outside polite conversation. All comments like those only add to a general din of confused intentions. ‘Conservative Christians are scared of change, which is why they want to end the world…” Because as well all well know, ending our world isn’t a big change…? At about there in your response I almost completely lost you. It wasn’t out of spite, or frustration. I found myself rereading it over and over trying to see how it connected. I couldn’t understand.

        Amid this sea of uncertainty was a salient point that ‘ultraconservative social thought’ did not necessarily promote anything because it was, from your point of view, a creed that did not have an explicit economic principles or if it did (i.e. Sermon on the Mount) it had little to do with wealth creation. It’s beside the point because it matters little whether Christian theology has helped created the bubble of Christian Conservative absolutes. All that is necessary, per your opening post, is to decide whether it has been used to create that bubble *from the perspective of a Christian Conservative.* It clearly has for whatever reason. Saying that it ought to or ought not to, as you do, is a leap away from your original blogpost.

        The parting remark attempts to send the ship off on a even kneel. “The fact that modern conveniences make it easier for ultraconservatives to achieve things at a faster rate than before does not negate that this faster pace is often aimed at slowing down progress that would allow greater freedom for more people and enhance conditions that would benefit the health of millions.” To my ears it seems a nasty convulsion of an argument. Conservatives are creating ways for their bubbled reality to change faster and easier so that it can be harder to change? In any event, we hit upon my reply which uses some of the gems in your response.

        Most is ultimately not worth mentioning, beyond the fact that I seemed to be (and am) agreeing with you on a quantity of small points you brought up. Did reformers reform? Well, yes, or we’d have a different meaning for reformers. I repeat my previous point that the bubbled reality of yesteryear is transforming into something zany and, even a decade of go, impossible to imagine (i.e. fracking). Small Town, North Dakota is going to be the next energy metropolis and ect. I also write that while Christian theology of any viewpoint, except for perhaps the American ‘Gospel of Wealth’ movement, does not advocate wealth creation clearly the Christians’ personal theology did.

        At this point you alter the main discussion most notably. To be precise, you write that they have not only been trying to maintain their bubble but have been obstructing social change “through most of western history.” One notices how the focus shifted from their own bubbles to that of the presupposed dignities of other non-CC people, which had little space in your OP beyond a rather paltry paragraph. Whereas before the argument was based on the viewpoint of Conservative Christians and how they saw themselves in the world, this new argument now focused on how me and you perceived their actions in the world. It was not longer sufficient or even reasonable to consider the psychology of Christian Conservatives. In short, if I replied back with an allegory along the lines of the one you presented as a counter-hypothetical, it would be out of place because you no longer cared about how individual people saw themselves.

        Specifically, you began to argue “that social changes and religious tolerances are not the result of ultra conservatives and in fact have been obstructed by the more extreme elements in conservatism through most of western history.” Of course, that wasn’t your original argument. Previously it was based exclusively on the conscious decisions of your generic Christian Conservative. I think we can both agree that no Christian, sitting in his little “sophomoric” world of absolutes saw himself or herself as agents destroying social change or religious tolerance. It has moved beyond, to go back to your original blogpost, whether Christians “freeze” adjustments in “their mind” and moved to whether we see their actions as a “freeze” on the world as it is.

        Reading previous responses it’s easy to see how, then, a critical reader had difficulty understanding what you were attempting to point out because, at the end of the day, the argument was never based on what you wrote in your blogpost. We weren’t discussing, even though your own allegory suggested it, conservative Christians’ frame of mind or how they viewed themselves. As a result, explaining how the changes they’ve made (which, clearly, have upset both the social and religious balance of their bubble that you stridently maintain for them) affected *everything* is a useless argument and I should have identified my argument as such before it left my fingertips. Simply, there’s an undercurrent of assumptions, based on how you view Christian Conservatives in the world. These assumptions dictate to you how they can possibly view themselves regardless of whether or not they actually think in that way. As a result, what I should’ve started off with is not a reply to what you wrote but to the actual agent: your assumptions about them. I could write and yammer on at length about how Martin Luther King, who thought he was a divine agent of God, enacted social change, showing he never believed in this ‘bubbled reality’ thesis because that was never the thesis. I would call it a failure of imagination on my part, but few people can put themselves in another’s shoes.

        Not that it matters too much to me whether one looks at from the Christians’ own perspective or ours. As you’ve proven, its hard to argue that “in western history” or “contemporary” times Christian Conservatives oppose change except by the most inexplicable standard.

      • Wow! This is quite a miasmic set of utterances. I found it mind-boggling that you divined so much from so little. Did I really project so much to you that it evoked such a response? I hesitate to respond for fear that even more extraneous assumptions will be forthcoming from someone who appears to spend too much time psycho analyzing minutia. What do you do for fun?

        ”I dummy up a response that posits real life provides some eyebrow-raising instances where some of the world’s most unapologetic, fundamentalist Christian ‘Conservatives’ not only kicked the past in the ass, but have been happily building a future completely different than the one they just left. (I think the examples I used was the use of the internet, energy sector and a few others)”

        Oh jeez. This again. Let’s try this angle. Would you agree that there are personality types today that can be compared to people, say, in ancient history? Let’s use the Pharisees for example. Now clearly there are not Jewish high priests that walk around today who dress in robes and grudgingly serve as lackeys for the Roman empire. But there are people today, like the Pharisees of ancient times, who feel that people who say things that are counter to the traditions of their faith are a threat to them and will go to extremes to prevent them from advancing their views. No?

        Now these modern day people that reflect similar modes of thought as the Pharisees of old are not stuck in a past that doesn’t recognize the benefits of material and economic progress and use them to their advantage. That would be silly. Changing life that is less burdensome and enriching for yourself is pretty basic stuff. They dress like most everyone else, own a house, have 2-3 cars and oodles of electronic gear. They use modern conveniences and appear to have adapted to the changes, perhaps have even been responsible for some of these material changes, yet still hold views that reflect a narrow-minded take on challenges to their faith, much like the ancients pharisees did.

        Funny they can’t see the parallels between them and their ancient counterparts in this regard but that may well be a subconscious choice they make. After all, who wants to be seen like “Christ-killers”. It’s better to make demons of others than consider that we ourselves may be acting evil at some level.

        Now, you may want to draw the conclusion that I have used my “own life as an allegory [to] create a psychological framework of ‘normalcy’ to compare to the ‘alien’ conservatives” but you would be imprecise. I live in red-state Texas. The people here just elected an professed ultra-conservative candidate, Ted Cruz, to represent the GOP in the bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. I have lived with these type of people all my life; even shared their narrow-minded views at one time. I was one of them so I can easily recognize them quicker than they can recognize me as a liberal, provided I keep my mouth shut long enough to allow them to open theirs and let their out-of-date thoughts pour forth. My “psychological framework” is based on real life case studies. Some of them were and are relatives of mine. I do not speak from some internal notion about ultraconservatives. They are former friends, relatives and neighbors I have walked amongst and broke bread with.

        Sorry AnotherClioBeliever (what is that a reference to anyway?) but I do have a life and don’t wish to waste it any further responding to redundant expressions that belittle me and my take on the subject at hand. Perhaps there is someone else who enjoys this kind of exhaustive banter you can engage. As far as I’m concerned we have taken this dialogue about as far as it is reasonably going to go.

        Have a nice life

      • I’m amused that you find serious consideration of what you’ve written disconcerting. In the future I’ll refrain from treating you as an adult. Perhaps one reason you find it surprising is that even you don’t take what you write seriously. I’d believe that. 

        According to the current academic consensus, Jesus was a Pharisee or at the very least shared a large swath of their ideals (essentially, he may have been denied card-carrying status but only just). With that in mind, I dismissed your extended analogy as failing to break from your standard mixture of forcing the historical record into your precocious beliefs. 

        That about covers it. 

      • I pretty much expected this sort of reply. The “I’m superior, you’re inferior” modus operandi is still in full operation with you I see. But allow me to take couple of parting shots before we bid each other adieu, unless of course I still find irony in your responses

        “In the future I’ll refrain from treating you as an adult.”

        Were you aware that this is in itself an immature response. Pomposity is the trait of the immature. However, if that is your intent I will simply employ the tools on WordPress that allow me to block any such future comments of yours.

        “According to the current academic consensus, Jesus was a Pharisee or at the very least shared a large swath of their ideals”

        Yes, I have read this from the jewish perspective but not from any orthodox christian sources. This simply doesn’t follow the traditional biblical new testament narrative today that the evil Jewish pharisees were the real persecutors of Jesus rather than the Romans. Thanks for citing an example that fits my extended analogy of the historical record.

  5. To me the explanation of the Tea Party and their ilk (the extremists are to a degree a somewhat different story), is to understand what has happened to upper working class types. This is the stock I came from. Parents were factory workers at GM and they benefited from a strong union with great wages and benefits.

    Today, these same folks are stuck in place, many losing their jobs, they are not surpassing their parents as they expected to, and they have little hope that their children will advance. The answer to this problem is what drives them to these insane positions that are antithetical to their own interests.

    Time and time again, the question is asked–how have the 1%’s managed to convince these working class types to support economic policies that are directly in opposition to their own interests? How have they managed to convince them to endorse policies that cut taxes for the very wealthy and tax them more?

    The answer, I suggest is the story line that the wealthy have managed to convince these people of. It is one that re-enforces their position as the receptors of most of the wealth, while at the same time offering people to blame to the worker .

    It has worked wonderfully so far, and we have this insane thing where the working class upholds their masters in their right to be masters. Their own plight, they have come to believe is caused by somebody else–i.e., immigrants, lazy folks, big govt “welfare”, loss of “christian” ideals, Hollywood immorality, and so forth. The gun has been effectively pointed at the “other” and the tea party person has lost complete sight of the real enemy in all this. Thus we have tea party people supporting a wall street insider when they are the ones who screwed the economy in the first place!

    The Koch brothers, the Adelson’s and all their ilk must laugh themselves silly over how they have managed this all.

    That is my take, in a nutshell.

    • Nice take in a nutshell Sherry. I think however that the will of the people is being more subverted by those in congress who engage in crony capitalism and ignore what most polls show Americans favor, bending instead to the will of corporate owners and their funding. Why voters continue to allow this by sending such dupes back to congress is a puzzle but I suspect it has a lot to do with the way conservative voters still see Democrats as “socialists” and Republicans and representatives of “free markets”, despite how such an arrangement between the GOP and free markets caused the collapse of the economy in 2008.

      • the Congress is of course a totally owned subsidiary of the business elite. They are now one and the same in my view.

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