You Misspelled “Liberal Democracy” As “Judeo-Christian Values”

GOP presidential nominee seeker John Kasich wants to add a new federal agency to promote “Judeo-Christian Western values.”

Alright, so let’s go through what’s wrong with this.

New federal agency: Nope

Promote (since government “promotes” at gunpoint): No

Judeo-Christian values:

Free Myesha fast

A video posted by Snapchat @youngbusco87 (@youngbusco) on

Seriously, what are they?

I mean I grew up going to church 3x/week. If anyone should know, it’s me. And yet I know that even within the Southern Baptist Church, which is different from the Baptist Church, there are massive disagreements about how to live a Godly life.

For instance, in college I freaked the fuck out when I visited my BFF’s Sunday School class and the teacher said women should not teach Bible study to mixed-gender classes.

Which, I mean, Paul is pretty clear:

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

But that still didn’t sit right with me. So I jumped on the internet and three hours later I’d read about five pages of amateur theology (it was circa 2006 and I used to play Freecell while pages loaded) and came to a conclusion. When Paul said women should stay silent in church, he was talking to the church at Corinth at the time of his writing. It’s literally a letter to church elders with instructions on how to go about their business. It wasn’t meant to be instructions for all time going forward up to and including Whatever Baptist of Birmingham, Alabama in 2005.

But, not everyone shares my conclusion. I don’t even know what the fights are in 2015, it’s been a long time since I fought with anyone over theology. The point is that from shit as broad-ranging (and you’d think irrelevant to religion) as climate change Christians have opinions on the Godly way to react and those opinions differ. Whether it’s the role of women in church, in the home, and in the world, how to raise your kids, or what foreign policy to support, Christianity, even in the US, is not a monolith.

So what are Judeo-Christian values?

We could (and should) look to moral philosopher Jonathan Haidt’s research to illuminate trends between moralities and political persuasions.

His research found six “foundations” of morality.

1. Care/harm
This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

2. Fairness/cheating
This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]

3. Loyalty/betrayal
This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”

4. Authority/subversion
This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.

5. Sanctity/degradation
This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

6. Liberty/oppression
This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor. We report some preliminary work on this potential foundation in this paper, on the psychology of libertarianism and liberty.

The current American culture war, we have found, can be seen as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying primarily on the Care/harm foundation, with additional support from the Fairness/cheating and Liberty/oppression foundations. Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, use all six foundations, including Loyatly/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation. The culture war in the 1990s and early 2000s centered on the legitimacy of these latter three foundations. In 2009, with the rise of the Tea Party, the culture war shifted away from social issues such as abortion and homosexuality, and became more about differing conceptions of fairness (equality vs. proportionality) and liberty (is government the oppressor or defender?). The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are both populist movements that talk a great deal about fairness and liberty, but in very different ways, as you can see here, for the Tea Party, and here, for OWS.

This research does a great job explaining the differences between the moralities American liberals share and the ones conservatives share. But that tells us almost nothing about Judeo-Christian values, as the American Jewish/Christian communities are made up of both liberals and conservatives. While the picture in your head of someone promoting “Judeo-Christian values” might be an evangelical white southerner, and indeed, that’s the cultural mieliu from which I sprang, that leaves out the tremendous numbers of urban Jews (within which there is PLENTY of disagreement on values), black Evangelicals (who tend to vote much more like urban Jews than white southerners) and Catholics, who tend to be more liberal as well.

In sum: saying you’re a Christian doesn’t tell someone anything concrete or useful about your values. Which also means that saying you’re a Muslim doesn’t tell someone anything concrete or useful about your values. Islam is way, way more diverse than American Christianity.

Kasich explains further

“U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering our opponents’ propaganda and disinformation,” Kasich said. “I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share: the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.”

Close Guantanamo, drop charges against Edward Snowden, stop spying on citizens and lying about it, stop torturing imprisoned Americans, stop droning Americans to death, and then we’ll talk about how America values human rights.

But here’s the thing about the rest: speech, religion, association, democracy:

Liberal democracies don’t promote values.

Totalitarian states promote values.

truepath

“Follow the true path, comrades!”

wahl

Pictures are of Jewish socialists and communists, sex researchers, etc. People who don’t represent German values, contrasted with leading Nazis. Reads: “Look at these faces and you’ll know where you belong!”

mao

Chairman Mao gives us a happy life, 1954

Liberal democracies tolerate ideas.

Look, dawg. I support human rights, the most basic of which are the right to life and liberty, summed up as freedom of speech, religion, association, and trade.

The moral foundation I hold most dear is liberty/oppression, for sure. And, yes so-called “Western” governments are violating human rights less than non-Western governments.

But that’s not because Judeo-Christian values.

Americans didn’t lose their right to communicate without surveillance because our President didn’t pray enough. George W. Bush is one of the most religious presidents we’ve had. He continually invoked God as he created secret prisons and passed the law that opened the door to wiretapping. As he began prosecuting whistleblowers and spying on Muslims he talked about God granting the right to freedom of religion while he stripped away our most fundamental liberties.

In fact his very justification for starting two wars we never should have fought was to bring democracy to the Middle East. To impose by force Kasich’s “Western values and ideals.”

Are you seeing the irony yet?

The right to life and liberty, summed up as freedom of speech, religion, association, and trade aren’t Christian and Jewish things. They’re liberal democracy things. Really, they’re trade things. When goods cross borders armies don’t dude. And when armies aren’t crossing borders it’s more difficult to justify oppressing your citizens. War be the health of the state, and all that.

You can’t fuck your way to virginity or bomb your way to democracy or use a fundamentally coercive power to promote tolerance and liberalism. It doesn’t work like that.

Kasich, like Bush, sees Islam and Islamic organizations as threats to liberal democracy and wants to counter them with Western values and ideals. But Islam is diverse enough to coexist with liberal democracy.

Sure, there are theocratic Muslims. There are Muslims who want Islam’s worst values codified by law by an organization willing to enforce them with violence.

There are Muslims who would vote for a man who would use God to justify starting a war with a country that poses no existential threat to them. *cough* Bush *cough*

But there are billions of Muslims. There are billions of Christians. The vast majority of both support the right to life and liberty, summed up as freedom of speech, religion, association, and trade. The vast majority of both is tired of being associated with theocratic, war-hungry, violent despots.

The difference between a liberal democracy and a totalitarian state isn’t a particular religion’s set of values. The difference between a liberal democracy and a totalitarian state is just one value: the right to life and liberty. That value then enables all varieties of values to flourish, as long as they do not violate that fundamental right.

Setting up some fucking theocratic federal agency does not further the right to life and liberty. It is neither necessary for that task nor helpful to it.

13 Comments

  1. david

    “You can’t fuck your way to virginity or bomb your way to democracy…”

    In fact, bombing worked remarkably well in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

  2. david

    “Sure, there are theocratic Muslims. There are Muslims who want Islam’s worst values codified by law by an organization willing to enforce them with violence.”

    No Islamic nation has ever governed itself according the principles established by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Not one. Not ever. And based on current indicators, no change is likely in the future.

  3. david

    “There are Muslims who would vote for a man who would use God to justify starting a war with a country that poses no existential threat to them.”

    That would be almost every muslim in every Islamic nation — all hoping for the destruction of Israel.

    Of course there is no true voting in Islamic nations. Many still believe in monarchies.

  4. david

    “But there are billions of Muslims. There are billions of Christians. The vast majority of both support the right to life and liberty, summed up as freedom of speech, religion, association, and trade.”

    Who told you this? Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Leaders of Islamic nations routinely attack our basic freedoms.

    Go to Saudi Arabia and wave a Bible in the air. Tell people about Jesus. Then get ready to be arrested.

    “The vast majority of both is tired of being associated with theocratic, war-hungry, violent despots.”

    Based on immigration figures, there’s no evidence to support your claim.

  5. david

    “The difference between a liberal democracy and a totalitarian state isn’t a particular religion’s set of values. ”

    Yeah, it is a particular religion. You make the fundamental western mistake of compartmentalizing Islam as a religion only.

    It’s a religion, but it’s also a political doctrine and a military. It’s all three. Thus, there is no separation between Mosque and State. That’s the heart of the problem.

    “The difference between a liberal democracy and a totalitarian state is just one value: the right to life and liberty. ”

    Every Islamic republic is a totalitarian state. There is no right to life and liberty in any of them.

    Days after 9/11 when I was at a coffee shop near my house in Brooklyn, I spoke to a Pakistani muslim with whom I had a nodding acquaintance. I asked him what he thought about the attacks.

    He said it happened because “In America there is too much freedom. That is not good. Should not be allowed.”

  6. david

    “That value then enables all varieties of values to flourish, as long as they do not violate that fundamental right.”

    All Islamic nations prohibit the exercise of basic western rights. That prohibition shows no signs of going away.

    In fact, ISIS is attempting to stiffen the prohibition. By the way, the fundamental ideology of ISIS comes from Saudi Wahhabism.

  7. david

    “Setting up some fucking theocratic federal agency does not further the right to life and liberty. It is neither necessary for that task nor helpful to it.”

    Kasich, who should give up and go home, is promoting an idea that seems unconstitutional, so I wouldn’t worry about it catching on here.

    However, it is worrisome that too few Americans see Islam for what it is: A complete totalitarian ideology — religion, political doctrine, military — that its followers do not abandon when they arrive in this country.

  8. Thanks for a great article this morning. You reminded me that the holidays are coming up and I will have to be dealing with this for the next 6-8 weeks. At least I’ve decided on Las Vegas for Thanksgiving!

  9. This agency would violate the Christian maxim “give unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s; give unto God that which is God’s”

    The theological basis for separation of Church and State. A Christian value, but not a Jewish or Muslim one. The concept of “Judeo-Christian values” is only a little over 100 years old and unique to America, there are sufficient differences to dismiss the concept.

    Turkey is a secular Muslim democracy. Indonesia, the biggest Muslim nation in the world, is an authoritarian republic. These nations are not Arab, and there lies the difference, the Saudi’s want to establish their Wahabbi hegemony over the Middle East, one reason they look on Iran as a competitor.. As a result, people who practice, say, Sufism, a branch of Islam so mystical, far-out and groovy that it was big with 1960’s hippies, is ruthlessly suppressed in the Middle East.

    Separation of church and stage is alien to Muslim theology. With no Caliphate, Muslim statecraft in the Middle East is held up by a Muslim aristocracy, which used to be opposed by that Baath’ist (nationalist) movements in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. If you look over the past 25 years, you might get the impression that U.S. military power has been co-opted by the Saudi’s to crush the Baath’ist’s. I think that’s what’s actually going on.

    The only other rambling thought I have right now is that Middle East refugees to the U.S. are overwhelmingly sponsored by Christian aid organizations. This “agency” might have a problem with them.

  10. Speaking as a former market anarchist, in what ways to market anarchists seek to create a change in the culture, or ensure that cultural values that guarantee the reproduction of a market anarchist form of organization?

    Relations of production – be they capitalist, communist, feudal, whatever – are mostly continued by ideology that’s created outside the workplace. Societal institutions such as the family, schools, religious organizations, arts, media, labor unions, and so on run according to the dominant ideology that corresponds to production relations. For example, in modern capitalism we have a school system (both public and private) that educate children with the skills and values needed so they can be good little players in the capitalist economy.

    Market anarchists (both ancaps and mutualists/left-libertarians) have said that they envision a world where all societal institutions would be (allegedly) independent from one another. They also play up the idea of competition, where “capitalist schools” would compete with “communist schools” for students/consumers. A few problems here: 1. how do you ensure that ideological competition would be feasible when production relations determine the culture, and 2. assuming ideological competition was feasible, how do you ensure that market anarchy is sustained without the ideological factor?

    I think the demands of “culture warriors” for a tighter grip on the dominant culture have legitimacy, even if I strongly despise the kind of culture they want to create. I also think market anarchists will have to seize the superstructure (I know, Marxist lexicon) if they want to ensure a market anarchist society.

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