Group Members and Plausible Deniability

Fred Clark has an article entitled The push-back against the push-back begins: ‘Mainstream’ evangelicals criticize critics of the religious right. It discusses how prominent in the evangelical community are the hateful people who suggested that the Newtown shootings were caused by, for example, God being excluded from the public square. Are guys like Mike Huckabee prominent or fringe?

This is a dynamic that probably goes on with any group to one extent or another. But, I notice it most with the socially conservative, politically active wing of Christianity. The question of whether and to what extent a person is speaking for “Christians” becomes important because that’s generally where the person’s influence comes from. If he were just a dude condemning birth control on some street corner, his public reception is a whole lot different than if he is speaking on television due to his association with a Christian group — even if the content of the speech is exactly the same.

Christians, like most other groups, are not monolithic. Everybody is not going to agree with everybody else. But, it’s difficult to determine whether the views of guys like Dobson or Huckabee represent anything like the consensus of the group or if they’re more like street corner ranters who found their way into a radio studio. The test, I suppose, is if they are readily welcomed back into the fold and by whom after they say something as objectionable as Huckabee’s statement about the Newtown shootings.


  1. jharp says

    “This is a dynamic that probably goes on with any group to one extent or another. ”

    Please. Not another “both sides do it” nonsense.

    Right wing Christians do it daily. It is their business model.

    Oh, and Happy New Year to all.

    • says

      It’s the nature of groups. Groups derive their power from numbers but they don’t necessarily want to be associated with the negative acts of the people who make up those numbers.

      The nature of the disassociation is just more plausible and justified in some cases than others.

  2. MarcD says

    I am an atheist, but I still tend to read a fair amount of religious text and thought, mainly because it can be a worthwhile exercise in understanding morality. For example, I would love to read various views, Christian and otherwise, on where you draw the line between charity for the poor vs. incentives for self reliance. What I find tedious are these arguments that boil down to one side claiming authority in understanding an invisible and inaudible entity’s will more accurately then another group. The only claimed authority of opinion is some intangible and impossible to quantify measure concept of devotion. Religious thought has contributed to our collected works of literature, moral ideas, art, and song. It is a shame when we have to see this most debased form of social contribution.

  3. says

    I’m less and less inclined to defend Evangelicals about anything the more it fades in my rearview mirror as I proceed further into more historically-rooted Christianity. But here goes an exceedingly back-handed defense.
    Remarks like Huckabee’s (I’ll take your word for what he said about Newtown) strike me as Evangelical just-so stories, not especially hateful. “We’ve been warning you that God won’t put up with this stuff forever. Now will you believe us?”
    A major part of Evangelical schtick during my lifetime has been that sort of thing, with preachers holding a newspaper in one hand, a Bible in the other, claiming that the morning’s news is fulfilling prophecy. That’s probably not the primary meaning of Biblical “fulfilling,” apart from the conceit that prophets 4,000 years ago were writing about events in today’s America (because we’re so exceptionally central to God’s plans).
    But if you’re a prophecy wanker, you want once in a while to prove the fertility of your vice.

    • says

      Some criticize the notion of American exceptionalism. I wonder if more should be made of the fallacy of the exceptionalism of the present. We’re not really all that special just because we live *right now*.

      • Carlito Brigante says

        I reject out of hand the concept of American exceptionalism.

        But your second point, the exceptionalism of the present, is a vice of many. Probably any large and powerful nation or empire succumbs to exceptionalism of time and position.

        • Doug says

          We’re all the protagonists in our own life narratives. It’s unavoidable and unobjectionable, but it does skew our perceptions.

  4. Carlito Brigante says

    Your point is well taken. I feel as if I am more of the antagonist in my own life’s story, but that will be for my Executor or Executrix to finally determine.

  5. Marc says

    It’s “Dog.” We if course gave him the courtesy of capitalization as a proper noun. We went to Miami. The closest thing we would get to a hip hop inspired Dawg would be as Cleveland Browns fans. Now if it had been a grunge or Grateful Dead reference, would have been in our sweet spot.

Leave a Reply