Conflict Management

It is an an age of acute political polarization. Understanding how we got to this place of hyper partisanship is exceedingly helpful for peace of mind, but the question still remains: how do we get out of it? How do we collectively evolve, to see the commonalities we share as being more important than the differences we cling to? One potential place to start is learning the art of better conflict management.

Humans aren’t natively wired for healthy conflict management — in fact, we’ve evolved with a primary skillset geared towards pretty much the opposite approach: group combat, physical violence, and social dominance for maintaining strict social hierarchies. Much of the story of the civilized world is about collectively learning how to curb those base instincts, and the ways in which we’ve utterly failed to do so — leading to wars, genocides, and unspeakable acts of horror from the micro all the way to the macro scale, again and again, from generation to generation for thousands of years of recorded human history.

The psychology of conflict

The work of many philosophers and academics leaves us with the popular impression that humans are essentially rational beings, making logical choices between alternatives based on the careful weighing of evidence, pros, and cons. Not so! Our brains are riddled with cognitive biases, mental distortions, and habits of logical fallacy we fall for again and again.

It turns out that we are pretty poor scientists in our personal lives (and often in our professional ones as well). Instead of approaching the world with an open mind and leaving room for the possibility that our ideas and assumptions may be wrong, we frequently do quite the opposite — we filter incoming information against our pre-existing convictions and keep the stuff that matches, while tossing out evidence that doesn’t agree with what we already believe. Instead of being open to what reality tries to show us, we engage with the world from a place of motivated reasoning; we expect reality to conform to what we expect of it, instead of the other way around.

As a result, when we encounter people or ideas that disagree with our own preconceived notions, we have a very hard time conceiving of the idea that their way of thinking might have any merit at all. Moreover, those people are in the same cognitive boat that we are — they’re just as convinced that we are wrong as we are that they’re the ones not thinking straight. It’s a recipe for terrible conflict management, lurking around every corner and every interaction — hundreds or even thousands of times per day for each of us.

How to improve conflict management

So how do we get better at this, given the nature of our brains to get hooked into escalating a situation rather than de-escalating it? Is it hopeless, or can we work towards improving our conflict management skills?

All hope is not lost! A number of disciplines from coaching to leadership to non-violence communication offer various types of approaches to upping our game in reducing the conflicts that seemingly rage all around us.

One such approach comes from a resource that manages to be both classic business canon and yet undersung in the general population: Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He suggests essentially turning your brain’s primal instinct on its head: instead of approaching every interaction with the mindframe of “I’m right and you’re wrong — let me tell you why,” Carnegie suggests practicing finding the kernel or essence of something you both actually agree on first.

Even if there’s no obvious space of overlap in your ideas, you can still take pains to truly listen to what the other person has to say and find something of value in it, and communicate your appreciation to that person. Or, simply ask them open-ended questions about their perspective and encourage them to open up further. Here are some examples of phrases you might use to let the other person know you’ve truly heard them and appreciate their thoughts:

  • That’s very interesting! Can you tell me more?
  • I think I see what you’re saying — would you explain that a bit further?
  • You’re right about X. I hadn’t thought about it that way before.
  • It sounds like we have X in common. Could we dig in to that a bit more?
  • I can understand why you’d feel that way.
  • That touches on something similar in my experience — can I tell you about it?

Only after you’ve found some initial common ground and acknowledged the validity of the other person’s perspective — even if you don’t agree with it — do you consider pivoting to bring up points of disagreement. Sometimes the essence of conflict management is simply to avoid wading into conflict in the first place, by heading it off at the pass.

Validating another person’s point of view is an extremely powerful way to open up a space of dialogue. It leverages an age-old human guideline for healthy interaction: the concept of reciprocity. When we treat people with fundamental respect — the way we ourselves hope to be treated — we have already improved our skills in conflict management by defusing potential heated arguments before they get started. And once they do, we can practice falling back to a place of basic listening and validation before attempting to head back into conflict territory.

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory

Many people around the world were shocked in the aftermath of World War II. How could “polite” society break down so utterly, so swiftly, and so zealously? Why did the authoritarian personality come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?

The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?

A braintrust of scholars, public servants, authors, psychologists, and others have been analyzing these questions ever since. Some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject of authoritarianism were either themselves affected by the Nazi regime, or lived through the war in some capacity. Other more recent contributions have built on those original foundations, refining and extending them as more new history continues to unfold with right-wing behavior to observe.

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Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theories are not new. Covid-related conspiracies may be new, but conspiracy theories about pandemics and contagious diseases have been around for centuries. Anti-vaccination hysteria goes back decades. The specific group of theories known as QAnon may be new (or maybe not really?!), but conspiracy theories themselves are a tale(s) as old as time — or at least time as we know it, from the start of recorded history.

QAnon flag epitomizes modern-day conspiracy theories
Image credit: Anthony Crider

A large body of psychological research has shown that there are some deep cognitive reasons that conspiracy theories tend to resonate with us, and especially in particular types of people, or people in certain types of circumstances.

We are fundamentally wired to be storytellers. It’s intuitive why this ability might be hard-coded into our brains, as it so clearly relates to survival, self-preservation, and our ability to navigate and succeed in a complex world. We need to be able to understand cause and effect in an environment of many rapidly shifting variables, and storytelling is a framework for weaving coherent narratives that reduce our anxiety about the great uncertainties in the environment around us.

Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs

Conspiratorial thinking is far more common than we think, and can ebb and flow in populations based on prevailing conditions. Our ability to see patterns in randomness and dissemble stories on the spot, along with numerous other cognitive and psychological biases, make us vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories.

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End mass shootings now

Freedom is freedom from the fear of death.

Freedom is freedom from fearing you’ll be gunned down at school.

Freedom is freedom from fear your kids won’t come home from school.

Freedom is freedom from fear of going to the grocery store.

Freedom is freedom from senseless violence.

Freedom is freedom from murderous rampages replayed night after night.

Freedom is freedom from domestic warfare.

Freedom is freedom from weapons of warfare in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, in our stores, on our playing fields, on our streets.

Freedom is freedom from injustice.

Freedom is freedom from inaction.

Collective narcissism is a bad solution to modern anxiety

I’ve been reading Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom and it’s synthesizing a few things together for me in new ways — prime among them the realization that collective narcissism is the shared root ideology of both Christian nationalism and Nazism. First off, I’d recommend it:

Next, I’d like to thank it for reminding me about the insidious dangers of Calvinism and the Protestant Work Ethic, as described in sociologist Max Weber‘s most cited work in the history of the field. Beyond the problematic authoritarianism of John Calvin as a person himself, the ideology of predestination coupled with a paradoxical obsessive compulsion with working yourself ragged is a noxious brew that fed the Protestant extrusion of American capitalism as well as the murderous violence of its Manifest Destiny.

Reformation Ideologies

Calvin — like Luther before him — was reacting to the social and economic upheavals of his day which, during the Reformation, were all about the middle class emerging from the security and certainty of feudalism into a far more dynamic world of competition, isolation, and aloneness. It held promise but also peril — hope along with, inescapably, fear.

During the Middle Ages, humankind had retreated from the aspirational virtuousness of the Greek and Roman civilizations and descended into almost 1000 years of darkness, as compared to the dazzling intellectual brilliance of the millennium before it. Those who would prefer cultish cowering in self-righteous ignorance over the humility of fallible science and critical thinking managed to topple a glittering civilization and scatter it to the wolves. It was a return to cruel and arbitrary happenstance, a horrifying Hobbesian world of pestilence and pathology.

Continue reading “Collective narcissism is a bad solution to modern anxiety”

Legitimate political discourse? πŸ€”

The Republican National Committee, in perhaps the most stunningly stupid self-own in the history of modern politics certainly in my lifetime, finally said the quietest part out loud: that in their official pronouncement, the events at the Capitol on January 6 constituted “legitimate political discourse.” Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were censured by the RNC in the statement as well, for their role on the January 6 Committee and their investigation into these “legitimate” events involving a murderous attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

Yale historian Joanne Freeman had this to say about the RNC statement:

Democracy vs. Authoritarianism is on the ballot in 2022

If there’s any upside to the dark situation we’re in, it’s these gifts Republicans keep on giving — further debasing themselves each time you think they can’t possibly stoop any morally lower — that we can use to our advantage to turn out our base in record numbers in these upcoming midterms. We did it in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe we can’t do it now. Trump’s support is waning, not growing — and the fractures within the GOP are widening, not tightening. Plus, we’ll have 8 million new 18-year-old eligible voters we can potentially reach — the vast majority of whom statistically speaking, are going to be progressive Democrats.

None of the other policy questions or culture wars will matter if we cannot solve the most fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: do we still believe in the ideals of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the vision of a self-governing people shared by the Founders? Or do we want to hand over the keys to the nation to the erstwhile billionaires, old money heirs, and trust fund playboys who want to drag us back to some perverted nostalgic fantasyland that’s part Leave It To Beaver, part wild west, and part Silence of the Lambs?

Do we want democracy, or authoritarianism?

Do we want to choose our leaders, as citizens — or do we want politicians to choose our leaders?

It’s the only question in 2022.

Motivated Reasoning

Motivated reasoning is a common daily phenomenon for all of us, assuming we’re human and/or interact with other humans. It’s a cognitive science term that refers to a type of emotional bias in which we have a tendency to prefer decisions or justifications based on their personal desirability vs. an unbiased examination of the facts.

Thinking and feeling aren’t anywhere near as “separate” in the brain as is commonly believed — they are very intertwined, and it’s also incredibly difficult for us to understand or detect from moment to moment which parts of our stream of consciousness are “thinking” and which are “feeling.”

What’s worse, we have other biases that exacerbate the motivated reasoning bias — like the “Lake Wobegon Effect” wherein we tend to overestimate our own abilities vs. others. So, we’re overconfident — at the same that we are less rational than we think we are. That can be a volatile combination — especially when found in individuals who hold a lot of power, and make decisions that affect people’s lives.

For we know not what we do

It can be infuriating to deal with people who are using motivated reasoning to make decisions instead of critical thinking: they tend to work backwards from the conclusion they wish to reach, and ignore evidence that contradicts their pre-existing beliefs. The way they deal with the cognitive dissonance of conflicting information is simply to toss the new information out, instead of evaluating it. Generally, though, they are unaware that their brain is in the habit of making that easier choice, and tend to get angry when this is pointed out.

Examples of motivated reasoning:

  • Bigotry and prejudice
  • Belief that you can “reduce covid cases” by not testing
  • Belief that you can get Republicans elected by refusing to count Democratic votes either outright or via procedural means

Related concepts:

  • Emperor’s New Clothes
  • Potemkin Village
  • tautology
  • foregone conclusion
  • Catch-22
  • ouroborous
  • self-fulfilling prophecy
  • revealed wisdom
  • divine right of rule
  • teleological thinking
  • self-interest bias

Cults and Mind Control Books

Mind control is a type of “psychological technology” used by con artists, cult leaders, and influence peddlers of all stripes to try and modify human behavior, to twist it to one’s own nefarious and usually opaque ends. Also referred to as undue influence, emotional abuse, or thought reform, mind control is a set of techniques designed to hack in to the brain’s cognitive quirks, biases, and numerous psychobiological “opportunities to circumvent rational and critical thought.”

Cults are a specific structure of social organization formed through the application of mind control. There are at least 2 “layers” and often many interstitial rings that draw members ever closer to a hidden agenda lurking at the center — the true purpose of the organization that most of the footsoldiers know nothing about, because they work for one of the many “friendly PR faces” tacked on to the outside of the group to disguise the malignancy within.

Here’s the cult leader playbook:

  1. Position himself (and the group β€” his extension) as the only safe haven to turn to when afraid: “I alone can fix it!”
  2. Isolate followers from other sources of information — i.e. keep them in the Fox/OANN/Newsmax ecosystem
  3. Arouse fear in the follower — invent invisible boogeymen everywhere! Huge caravans at the border that mysteriously disappear after elections! Evil liberals trying to do their jobs in schools and educate our youth about our history! INFLATION looms as a large spectre every time the left manages to eke out a few pennies from the cold unfeeling hands of the aristocrats!

Rinse; repeat. Stoking fear is “EZ Mode” — it means one of the parties in our two-party system can “de facto secede” from governance by just sitting on the sidelines and heckling all day, waiting for the problems and frustration to boil over so they can harness the abject anger of poor manipulated people into political weaponry, to break their lives on the wheels of history carelessly and for no higher purpose than personal greed and addiction to power, wealth, and status.

This set of books is a lead on how they fuel their political war machine:

Qualities of a Cult Leader

  • Narcissistic β€” highly self-absorbed, they demand excessive admiration and slavish devotion to their whims.
  • Charismatic β€” they have a way of grabbing attention, whether positive or negative.
  • Unpredictable β€” erratic behavior keeps enemies on their toes and fans β€œon edge” with desire to please Dear Leader.
  • Insatiable drive β€” it could be status, money, sex, power, or all of the above, but they feel they deserve it more than anyone else on the planet.
  • Lack of conscience β€” they have no shame and will demand things a decent human being would not.

…remind you of anyone in particular?!

January 6 Attack: A “dagger at the throat of America”

President Biden and Vice President Harris commemorated the 1 year anniversary of the January 6 attack on our democracy with morning speeches and a day of remembrance inside the Capitol rotunda with Representatives and Senators giving a number of moving speeches in their respective chambers. The tone on TV news and blue check Twitter was somber and reflective. The President referred to the violent events of Jan 6, 2021 as a terrorist attack on our democracy, and said that the threat was not yet over — that the perpetrators of that event still hold a “dagger at the throat of America.”

Only two Republicans were present in chambers when the moment of silence was held for the nation’s traumatic experience one year ago — Representative Liz Cheney and her father, Dick Cheney, the former VP and evil villain of the George W. Bush years. That this man — a cartoonish devil from my formative years as a young activist — was, along with his steel-spined force of nature daughter, one half of the lone pair that remained of the pathetic tatters of the once great party of Lincoln.

What do you do if you’re in a 2-party system and one of the parties is just sitting on the sidelines, heckling (and worse!?)? How do you restore confidence in a system that so many people love to hate, to the point of obsession? Will we be able to re-establish a sense of fair play, as Biden called on us to do today in his speech?

The Big Lie is about rewriting history

We don’t need to spend a ton of time peering deeply into discerning motive with seditionists — we can instead understand that for all of them, serving the Big Lie serves a function for them in their lives. It binds them to their tribe, it signals a piece of their “identity,” and it signals loyalty within a tight hierarchy that rewards it — all while managing to serve their highest goal of all: to annoy and intimidate liberals. Like all bullies, their primary animating drive is a self-righteous conviction that “I am RIGHT!” at all times and about all things, and that disagreement is largely punishable by death or, in lieu of that, dark twisted fantasies of death passed off lamely and pathetically as “just joking, coworker!”

Continue reading “January 6 Attack: A “dagger at the throat of America””

Conspiracy Theory Books

In half a decade we’ve gone from Jeb Bush making a serious run for president to Marjorie Taylor Greene running unopposed and winning a House seat in Georgia. QAnon came seemingly out of nowhere, but taps into a much deeper and older series of conspiracy theories that have surfaced, resurfaced, and been remixed throughout time.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? In an increasingly complex world of information bombarding us as blinding speed and high volume, the cognitive appeal of easy answers and turnkey “community” may be much stronger than ever before.

Repression causes authoritarianism

Research has shown that emotional repression causes authoritarianism (Altemeyer, Adorno, Stenner et al). Fundamentalist religious groups favor the most repression, culturally — ergo, fundamentalist groups are at the highest risk for nurturing authoritarian traits.

Emotional repression is the keystone of fundamentalist parenting. The strict application of “Biblical law” as cherry-picked by extremists is inherently contradictory & hypocritical, stunting emotional and psychological growth through corporal punishment and capricious applications of anger for sometimes opaque reasons.

When trusted caregivers apply physical violence to a developing mind, seeds of deep distrust and paranoia are planted. Children learn to “obey” by repressing negative parts of themselves so deeply they fall out of conscious awareness altogether & rule the personality “from below.”

The abused child learns “splitting” as a psychological defense mechanism, which later in adulthood is considered a “superpower” — they present a saccharine but False Self in their outer aspect to the tribe, and sequester negative id impulses deep down into an “inner sociopath.”

Repression creates divided minds

Never being given the required emotional support to transcend the paradoxical human project of reconciling the positive & negative aspects inherent in all people, they become “arrested” at a moment of obsession with punishment as the only solution to every problem. They see the world in very black and white terms — the classic “you’re either with us or against us” zero-sum worldview in which everybody who doesn’t agree with you must be delegitimized and eradicated completely.

Continue reading “Repression causes authoritarianism”

Christian Nationalists

The term Christian nationalists brings together a number of radical religious sects seeking to overthrow the democratic republic of the United States and installing a strict theocracy, from dominionists to orthodox Catholics to Evangelicals and many more.

Here are some of the people and groups involved in the modern day movement to establish a Christian theocratic government in America:

  • 700 Club
  • Howard Ahmanson Jr.
  • Awake 88
  • Alexander Acosta
  • Alex Azar
  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • American College of Pediatricians
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • American Family Association
  • American Family Radio Network
  • American Heritage Girls
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Americans of Faith
  • America Wake Up
  • Robert Arnakis
  • Arlington Group
  • Larry Arnn
  • Edward Atsinger III
  • Marcus Bachmann
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Jim Bakker
  • Steven Bannon
  • Baptist Press
  • George Barna
  • Jeff Barke
  • Mari Barke
  • Stephen Barney — conservative philanthropist
  • David Barton
  • Gary Bauer
  • Glenn Beck
  • David Benham
  • Jason Benham
  • Philip “Flip” Benham
  • Robert J. Billings
  • Dr. Henry Blackaby
  • Sen Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Morton Blackwell
  • Bob Jones University
  • Bolthouse Foundation
  • Dick Bott
  • Bott Radio Network
  • Lt. Gen. William Boykin (ret.)
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
  • Bob Branch
  • Lincoln Brewster
  • Jim Bridenstine
  • Harold O. J. Brown
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Pat Buchanan
  • Mark Bucher
  • Building a Nation
  • Jonathan Cain
  • Capitol Ministries
  • Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation
  • Ben Carson
  • CBN University
  • A Choice Not an Echo
  • Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)
  • Christian Coalition
  • Christian homeschooling movement
  • Christian Satellite Network
  • J. C. Church
  • Church United
  • Church Voter Lookup
  • Tom Coburn
  • Mary Colbert
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Conscience and Religious Freedom Division
  • Conservative Caucus
  • Kellyanne Conway
  • Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
  • Council for National Policy
  • Culture Impact Teams (CITs)
  • Jan Crouch
  • Paul Crouch
  • Ted Cruz
  • Dr. Kenyn M. Cureton
  • Robert Lewis Dabney
  • The Daily Signal
  • Marjorie Dannenfelser
  • Jeff Denham
  • Betsy DeVos
  • Richard DeVos
  • Richard DeVos, Sr.
  • James Dobson
  • Mark Drever
  • Karen Rudolph Drollinger
  • Ralph Drollinger
  • Dinesh D’Souza
  • Alan P. Dye
  • Eagle Forum
  • Stuart Epperson
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Frank Erb
  • Tony Evans
  • Jerry Falwell
  • Faith & Freedom Coalition
  • The Family
  • Family Christian Academy (FCA)
  • Family Life Radio
  • Family Policy Alliance
  • Family Policy Councils
  • Family Research Council (FRC)
  • Family Worship Center
  • Fellowship Foundation
  • Reverend Wilber Fisk
  • Tami Fitzgerald
  • Florida Family Action
  • Florida Family Action PAC
  • Florida Family Policy Council
  • Focus on the Family
  • Foster Friess
  • Free Congress Foundation
  • Lynn Friess
  • Jim Garlow
  • Rosemary Schindler Garlow
  • W. Barry Garrett
  • Godspeak Calvary Chapel
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Peggy Goldwater
  • Grace Community Church, Sun Valley
  • Billy Graham
  • The Green family
  • Ken Ham
  • Abraham Hamilton III — host of American Family Radio’s “Hamilton Corner” who described the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas as “Satan’s work” that was “immune to legislation.” He went on to claim that the Democrats were “exploiting” the victims by calling for hearings on gun control
  • Mark Harris
  • Kristan Hawkins
  • Carl F. H. Henry
  • Heritage Academy
  • Heritage Action
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Eric Heubeck
  • Hugh Hewitt
  • Jack Hibbs
  • Rob Hilarides
  • The Hillsdale Collegian
  • Kay Hiramine
  • A. A. Hodge
  • John Henry Hopkins
  • Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG)
  • Nelson Bunker Hunt
  • Institute on Religion and Democracy
  • Larry Jackson
  • David Jeremiah
  • Bob Jones Sr.
  • Bob Jones Univeristy
  • Kingdom Warriors
  • KMMJ
  • C. Everett Koop
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Beverly LaHaye
  • Tim LaHaye
  • Wayne LaPierre
  • Bill Lee — Governor of Tennessee
  • Leonard Leo
  • Mark Levin
  • Liberty University
  • LifeWay Research
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Elias Loera
  • Nathan Lord
  • Dave Louden
  • Barry Loudermilk
  • John MacArthur
  • Rachel MacNair
  • Danielle Madison
  • March for Life
  • Ed McAteer
  • The Moral Majority
  • Jeanne Mancini
  • Manhattan Declaration
  • Rob McCoy
  • Mark Meadows
  • Mark Meckler — Tea Party activist and co-funder of Convention of States
  • Janet Mefferd
  • Roy Moore
  • Museum of the Bible
  • The Naked Communist
  • Penny Young Nance
  • National Center for Constitutional Studies
  • National Christian Foundation
  • National Conservative Student Conference
  • National Federation of Republican Women
  • National Right to Life Committee
  • Richard John Neuhaus
  • New Christian Right
  • Kristi Noem — Governor of South Dakota
  • Gary North
  • North Carolina Family Policy Council
  • Michael Novak
  • Old Time Gospel Hour
  • John M. Olin
  • Organicgirl
  • Joel Osteen
  • Sarah Palin
  • “Pastors Briefings”
  • Mike Pence
  • Pentecostals
  • Sonny Perdue
  • Tony Perkins
  • Rick Perry
  • Howard Phillips
  • Buddy Pilgrim
  • Mike Pompeo
  • Art Pope
  • Reverend J. C. Postell
  • POTUS Shield
  • The Power of the Positive Woman
  • Dennis Prager
  • Praise Network
  • Tom Price
  • Erik Prince
  • Scott Pruitt
  • Quiverfull movement
  • Oleg Rachkovski
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Ralph Reed
  • Carolyn Richards
  • Road to Majority Conference
  • Pat Robertson
  • Jim Robison
  • Roe v. Wade
  • Rousas Rushdoony
  • Karl Rove
  • John Rustin
  • SAGE Cons
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  • Salem Radio
  • Richard Scaife
  • Jeff Sessions
  • Francis Schaeffer
  • Phyllis Schlafly
  • Alan Sears
  • Jay Sekulow
  • Ben Shapiro
  • W. Cleon Skousen
  • SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN)
  • SonLife Radio Network
  • Springs Community Church
  • Horatio Robinson Storer
  • R.J. Rushdoony
  • Southern Presbyterian Church
  • Southern Strategy
  • Darla St. Martin
  • Stop ERA
  • Students for Life of America
  • Susan B. Anthony List
  • Donnie Swaggart
  • Gabriel Swaggart
  • Jimmy Swaggart
  • Jimmy Swaggart Bible College (JSBC)
  • Jimmy Swaggart Telecast
  • Bruce Taylor
  • Jeff Taylor
  • Steve Taylor
  • Taylor Farms
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church
  • James Henley Thornwell
  • Robert Tilton
  • Unity Project
  • “Values Bus”
  • Values Voters Summit
  • Richard Viguerie
  • Young America’s Foundation
  • C. Peter Wagner
  • Chester Ward
  • Washington Watch
  • The Watchmen
  • Doug Wead
  • Well Versed
  • Paul Weyrich
  • Paula White
  • Donald Wildmon
  • Farris Wilks
  • Dan Wilks
  • World Ag Expo
  • World Congress of Families

See also: Christian nationalism terms

Is America a Christian nation? No.

The Founders knew acutely the pains of centuries of religious warfare in modern Europe and resoundingly did not want that for their new nation. Many of them moreover knew religious persecution intimately — some whose families fled the Church of England for fear of being imprisoned, burned at the stake, or worse. Is America a Christian nation? Although many Christians certainly have come here, in a legal and political sense the nation’s founders wanted precisely the opposite of the “Christian nation” they were breaking with by pursuing independence from the British.

Contrary to the disinformation spread by Christian nationalists today, the people who founded the United States explicitly saw religious zealotry as one of the primary dangers to a democratic republic. They feared demagoguery and the abuse of power that tilts public apparatus towards corrupt private interest. The Founders knew that religion could be a source of strife for the fledgling nation as easily as it could be a strength, and they took great pains to carefully balance the needs of religious expression and secular interests in architecting the country.

James Madison: 1803

Americans sought religious freedom

The main impetus for a large percentage of the early colonists who came to the Americas was the quest for a home where they could enjoy the free exercise of religion. The Protestant Reformation had begun in Europe about a century before the first American colonies were founded, and a number of new religious sects were straining at the bonds of the Catholic Church’s continued hegemony. Puritans, Mennonites, Quakers, Jesuits, Huguenots, Dunkers, Jews, Amish, Lutherans, Moravians, Schwenkfeldians, and more escaped the sometimes deadly persecutions of the churches of Europe to seek a place to worship God in their own chosen ways.

By the late 18th century when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, many religious flowers were blooming within the 13 colonies. He had seen for himself the pitfalls of the experiments in which a unitary control of religion by one church or sect led to conflict, injustice, and violence. Jefferson and the nation’s other founders were staunchly against the idea of establishing a theocracy in America:

  • The founding fathers made a conscious break from the European tradition of a national state church.
  • The words Bible, Christianity, Jesus, and God do not appear in our founding documents.
  • The handful of states who who supported “established churches” abandoned the practice by the mid-19th century.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote that his Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom was written on behalf of “the Jew and the gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindu and the infidel of every denomination.” In the text he responds negatively to VA’s harassment of Baptist preachers — one of many occasions on which he spoke out sharply against the encroachment of religion upon political power.
  • The Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for holding foreign office.
  • The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  • There is a right-wing conspiracy theory aiming to discredit the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” by claiming that those exact words aren’t found in the Constitution.
    • The phrase comes from Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, wherein he is describing the thinking of the Founders about the meaning of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which Jefferson contemplates “with sovereign reverence.”
    • The phrase is echoed by James Madison in an 1803 letter opposing the building of churches on government land: “The purpose of separation of Church and State is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
  • The 1796 Treaty of Tripoli states in Article 11: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” — President George Washington first ordered the negotiation of a treaty in 1795, and President John Adams sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification in 1797, with this article widely interpreted to mean a reiteration of the purpose of the Establishment Clause to create a secular state, i.e. one that would not ever be going to holy war with Tripoli.

The Founders were Deists

For the most part, the prominent Founders were Deists — they recognized the long tradition of Judeo-Christian order in society, and consciously broke from it in their creation of the legal entity of the United States, via the Establishment Clause and numerous other devices. They were creatures of The Enlightenment, and were very much influenced by the latest developments of their day including statistics, empiricism, numerous scientific advancements, and the pursuit of knowledge and logical decision-making.

  • They distrusted the concept of divine right of rule that existed in Europe under monarchies. We fought a revolution to leave that behind for good reason.
  • They disliked the idea of a national church, and were adamant about the idea of keeping the realms of religion and politics independent of each other.
  • Thomas Paine lamented that “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”
    • Paine also pushed the envelop even further, asserting his belief that the people would eventually abandon all traditional religions in favor of the “religion” of nature and reason.

Koup Klux Klan: The authoritarian movement trying to take over America?

It may have seemed like the election of 2016 came out nowhere, and the January 6, 2021 attempted coup event was another deep gash to the fabric of assumption — but in reality, the authoritarian movement to dismantle America has been working diligently for a long time. Depending on how you count, the current war against the government began in the 1970s after Roe v. Wade, or in the 1960s after the Civil Rights Act, or in the 1950s with the John Birch Society, or in the 1930s with the American fascists, or in the 1870s with the Redemption and Lost Cause Religion, or in the 1840s with the Southern Baptist split, or in the 1790s when we emerged from the Articles of Confederation.

We are facing an unprecedented crisis of democracy under attack by the most current roster of these extremists, hardliners, theocrats, plutocrats, and others of their ilk. The following mind map diagrams the suspects and perpetrators of the Jan 6 coup as we know so far — including the Council for National Policy, the Koch network, Trump and his merry band of organized criminals, the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other right-wing militia groups, rioters who have been arrested in the January 6th probe, persons of interest who have been subpoena’d by the January 6 Committee in the House, and anyone or anything else connected to the ongoing plot to kill America whether near or far in relation. The map extends to include coverage of the basic factions at work in the confusing melodrama of American politics, and their historical precedents.

Mind map of the sedition diaspora

I’ll be continuing to work on this as information comes out of the various investigations and inquiries into the attempted coup to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, from the January 6 Committee to Merrick’s DOJ, the GA district attorney, NY district attorney, various civil suits, and probably more we don’t even know about yet. You can navigate the full mind map as it grows here:

Head onward into “Continue Reading” to see the same mind map through a geographic perspective:

Continue reading “Koup Klux Klan: The authoritarian movement trying to take over America?”