Reading Recs: Two Must-Reads from this Week
Read the latest from Chrissy Stroop and Diana Butler Bass.
Personal Preface: Hello, readers. It’s been an odd week, and I’ve been off my schedule again. Thankfully, by mid-week I had reached the end of my post-surgery restriction period, and I have hope that that means a more normal schedule.
On to content!
Over at Religion Dispatches, my friend Chrissy Stroop has a great feature of REAP - the Religious Exemption Accountability Project - and their efforts to hold the conservative Christian and LDS colleges accountable for discrimination against their LGBTQ+ student populace. These institutions accept an incredible amount of taxpayer funding.
From the article:
On a fundamental level, much of the public may be unaware that the Christian colleges and universities that discriminate against LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff are currently allowed to do so while receiving massive amounts of federal funding. As REAP’s Southwick says:
“Currently, there is little financial incentive for these campuses to change because they receive billions of dollars in taxpayer money with little to no accountability to the students, the government or accrediting bodies for their mistreatment of LGBTQ+ students. We hope to change that.”
Expounding on the point, he adds: “Part of the change involves forcing these institutions to choose between accepting federal funding or continuing their discriminatory practices.”"
In addition to receiving federal funding despite their discriminatory practices, the membership universities of the CCCU also receive considerable funding from far-right donors and funds with obfuscated sources.
I consider REAP’s work valuable, and that’s why they are one of the organizations I regularly donate to, from the revenue earned by paid subscriptions. When you support my direct work, I support them in turn.
I had Paul Southwick and Erin Green from REAP on Exvangelical last year. You can find that conversation here.
The other stand-out article I came across this week was from Diana Butler Bass, on her publication The Cottage:
The author (hereafter ‘DBB’) is responding to and contextualizing a rather puzzling NYT feature of how elements of evangelical and Pentecostal styles of worship are being integrated into GOP politics, and calling it “new.” DBB refutes this:
It is, sadly, far too easy to criticize the secular press for failing to understand religion. But there was something especially disconcerting about this article because it wasn’t reporting on something new — it was reporting on something old and, aside from a few off-handed comments, the writers didn’t appear to understand the historical depth of the cultural phenomenon at the heart of the story.
If you walked in almost any evangelical church anywhere in the United States in the last five decades, you would have encountered the kind of praise worship described. You also would have slipped through the porous boundary between worshipping the King of Kings and singing his Kingdom into political existence. And it was a very particular Kingdom, one of GOD and the GOP. Indeed, as those years unfolded, the terms “evangelical” and “Republican” slowly, but insistently and dogmatically, became synonymous.
If you were a Democrat, chances are pretty good you never told your fellow churchgoers your political party for fear you’d be run out of Bible study, prayed over to exorcise the demons in your soul, or humiliated as the subject of some “concerned” preacher’s sermon. Trust me, all three things happened to me personally at one time or another — and I could easily find a couple hundred acquaintances with similar tales to tell. If you dissented, if you doubted GOD/GOP, you kept it to yourself or faced the consequences. Evangelicalism has been a political rally for a very long time. And only certain people are welcome to the party.
This is in keeping with my own experience as well. As an undergraduate at Indiana Wesleyan during the Bush presidency, I had friends pray for my soul because I voted for John Kerry, which I wrote about in October, 2016.
I know how hard it can be to keep all the elements of how evangelicalism intersects with politics and society. Each of these articles, in their own way, show just how ingrained these practices and beliefs are in the conservative institutions of America.
I added some other comments over on Twitter:
The NYT has oddly been positioning evangelicalism “going political” under Trump, as if it wasn’t inherently political before. I wrote about that in February:
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend, everyone.