The constant debate is whether politicians and commentators who say patently ridiculous things in the public square actually believe what they say. Whether execrable clowns like Beck, Limbaugh and the other shills of the conservo-GOP propaganda machine believe what they say is not important, because like all demagogues, they’re looking to rile up the weakest minds with the shortest fuses to parrot their nonsensical rhetoric, loudly (and buy their merch)!
The line between those performers and elected officials that quote Jesus to justify hate, or misstate the laws of economics, have been blurred because they too want those ratings, in the form of contributions to ones PAC, names on a donor list, and yes, buy their merch!
The greater question is how is it that given the empirical reality that everyone can see, how is it that so many adhere to ideological beliefs that do not stand up well when faced with the real world?
How do conservatives so internalize the religious and patriarchal traditions so that despite the success of women, and the women they personally know, they still believe they have to protect women from themselves?
In a country with such strong fundamentalist religious traditions like America, we all know people who grew up in religious, patriarchal families with beliefs that feel medieval. Some of those people grow up, face a world that does not fall neatly into the emotional and intellectual cubby holes carved out by their religious training and evolve. And some never do. Like in “Footloose” some people will figure out that rock and roll and dancing don’t compromise you morally, and some never will stop believing in their inherent immorality.
Religious conservatives simply persist in believing what they learned when they were comforted by religion, whether when they were children, or when they were “saved.” So in small, homogenous, rural towns everywhere, but especially in the South and Midwest, you find people who grew up in a tradition, never moved away to have a broader experience, never confronted by opposing viewpoints, except in the media. But that media comes from the sinful big cities on the coasts. They’re liberal, Jewish, secular, homosexual – you can’t trust them. They’re not the real America. And they’re probably influenced by the Devil. They dance to rock and roll.
Because I’ve never lived in such a small homogenous place, I’ve known every type of person possible. Including religious fundamentalists. Also, because of where I met them, in most cases the religious fundamentalists I’ve known were not raised that way. They came to it in adulthood because they had led shitty lives till then. They grew up secular. They grew up poor. They grew up in very questionable circumstances with parents that did not comfort them. They fell into sin, in their parlance. And then they were “saved.” And just as if they had been raised in a small town in Kansas they became John Lithgow in Footloose.
Now I’ve known other people who fell into fundamentalism in the course of their lifelong search for a religion. They just kept spinning the wheel and moving from faith to faith, always seeking a new set of ethos that comforted them, temporarily.
But mostly what I’ve seen is people who lied, stole, were promiscuous and dishonest, and adopted a worldview that held that everyone lies, everyone steals, everyone is promiscuous, everyone is dishonest – no one is to be trusted. They were all ready to accept that they are sinners, everyone is a sinner. But they are forgiven (what a relief). They can change and they can be saved. They fall into a community of people who seem kind, and it is often the first time in their hard lives they have felt kindness.
Besides being forgiven, they learn that it is only God/Jesus that can keep you straight. Through Bible study and tithing, and service to the Church community they can have the kind of lives they dreamed of – real American lives. They cocoon themselves in their Church and accept it’s teachings as Gospel. So at that point, like any cult, they are at the mercy of how connected to reality or willing to distort it to their ends their church is.
The American conservative movement, in conjunction with the fundamentalist churches have created a mythology that works perfectly together. In short, like I said earlier, we believers are the only ones that have truth, can be trusted, are real Americans. Everything that comes from sources that are not us (ie. liberal media), are at best unreliable sources and are probably inspired by evil. They live in a world that combines the Bible with Norman Rockwell 1950s America. White, male led families are the fulcrum of life. Everyone else needs to know their place. Even white females would do better to let the men do the thinking.
Obviously not everyone can think this way. It’s not just that we weren’t raised this way, it’s that we aren’t constitutionally amenable to such undemocratic and religiously inspired mythological belief. But those people who are inclined to think this way are very difficult to deprogram or even enter into fair-minded debate with. They’ve armored themselves against opposing viewpoints, creating an alternative conservative media that encompasses Fox News, talk radio, certain online outlets, that constantly reinforce their beliefs, filtering out the conflicting information, and rationalizing the failures of the belief systems and its avatars.
So conservatism never fails, people fail conservatism. The Founding Fathers were Christian Republican conservatives who did not believe in the separation of church and state. Progressives are racists for their pandering to get minority votes while conservatives exhibit their color blindness and fairness by not helping anyone. Bush won Florida. Reagan never raised taxes. Budgets need to be balanced like in households. Homosexuality is sin. Abortion is murder.
And there is no compromise on these things because they’re not politics, they’re faith. There’s no dancing here.