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What makes people distrust science? Surprisingly, not politics

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Bastiaan T Rutjens, an assistant professor at the psychology department of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, writes in Aeon:

Today, there is a crisis of trust in science. Many people – including politicians and, yes, even presidents – publicly express doubts about the validity of scientific findings. Meanwhile, scientific institutions and journals express their concerns about the public’s increasing distrust in science. How is it possible that science, the products of which permeate our everyday lives, making them in many ways more comfortable, elicits such negative attitudes among a substantial part of the population? Understanding why people distrust science will go a long way towards understanding what needs to be done for people to take science seriously.

Political ideology is seen by many researchers as the main culprit of science skepticism. The sociologist Gordon Gauchat has shown that political conservatives in the United States have become more distrusting of science, a trend that started in the 1970s. And a swath of recent research conducted by social and political psychologists has consistently shown that climate-change skepticism in particular is typically found among those on the conservative side of the political spectrum. However, there is more to science skepticism than just political ideology.

The same research that has observed the effects of political ideology on attitudes towards climate change has also found that political ideology is notthat predictive of skepticism about other controversial research topics. Workby the cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, as well as research led by the psychologist Sydney Scott, observed no relation between political ideology and attitudes toward genetic modification. Lewandowsky also found no clear relation between political conservatism and vaccine skepticism.

So there is more that underlies science skepticism than just political conservatism. But what? It is important to systematically map which factors do and do not contribute to science skepticism and science (dis)trust in order to provide more precise explanations for why a growing number of individuals reject the notion of anthropogenic climate change, or fear that eating genetically modified products is dangerous, or believe that vaccines cause autism.

My colleagues and I recently published a set of studies that investigated science trust and science skepticism. One of the take-home messages of our research is that it is crucial not to lump various forms of science skepticism together. And although we were certainly not the first to look beyond political ideology, we did note two important lacunae in the literature. First, religiosity has so far been curiously under-researched as a precursor to science skepticism, perhaps because political ideology commanded so much attention. Second, current research lacks a systematic investigation into various forms of skepticism, alongside more general measures of trust in science. We attempted to correct both oversights.

People can be skeptical or distrusting of science for different reasons, whether it is about one specific finding from one discipline (for example, ‘The climate is not warming, but I believe in evolution’), or about science in general (‘Science is just one of many opinions’). We identified four major predictors of science acceptance and science skepticism: political ideology; religiosity; morality; and knowledge about science. These variables tend to intercorrelate – in some cases quite strongly – which means that they are potentially confounded. To illustrate, an observed relation between political conservatism and trust in science might in reality be caused by another variable, for example religiosity. When not measuring all constructs simultaneously, it is hard to properly assess what the predictive value of each of these is.

So, we investigated the heterogeneity of science skepticism among samples of North American participants (a large-scale cross-national study of science skepticism in Europe and beyond will follow). We provided participants with statements about climate change (eg, ‘Human CO2 emissions cause climate change’), genetic modification (eg, ‘GM of foods is a safe and reliable technology’), and vaccination (eg, ‘I believe that vaccines have negative side effects that outweigh the benefits of vaccination for children’). Participants could indicate to what extent they agreed or disagreed with these statements. We also measured participants’ general faith in science, and included a task in which they could indicate how much federal money should be spent on science, compared with various other domains. We assessed the impact of political ideology, religiosity, moral concerns and science knowledge (measured with a science literacy test, consisting of true or false items such as ‘All radioactivity is made by humans’, and ‘The centre of the Earth is very hot’) on participants’ responses to these various measures.

Political ideology did not play a meaningful role when it came to most of our measures. The only form of science skepticism that was consistently more pronounced among the politically conservative respondents in our studies was, not surprisingly, climate-change skepticism. But what about the other forms of skepticism, or skepticism of science generally?

Skepticism about genetic modification was not related to political ideology or religious beliefs, though it did correlate with science knowledge: the worse people did on the scientific literacy test, the more skeptical they were about the safety of genetically modified food. Vaccine skepticism also had no relation to political ideology, but it was strongest among religious participants, with a particular relation to moral concerns about the naturalness of vaccination.

Moving beyond domain-specific skepticism, what did we observe about a general trust in science, and the willingness to support science more broadly? The results were quite clear: trust in science was by far the lowest among the religious. In particular, religious orthodoxy was a strong negative predictor of faith in science and the orthodox participants were also the least positive about investing federal money in science. But notice here again political ideology did not contribute any meaningful variance over and beyond religiosity.

From these studies there are a couple of lessons to be learned about the current crisis of faith that plagues science. Science skepticism is  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 10:50 am

He Preyed on Men Who Wanted to Be Priests. Then He Became a Cardinal.

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I just was involved in a discussion on Quora in which the “No true Scotsman” fallacy was flagrantly used. The person with whom I was having an exchange is an Islamophobe and was pointing out how terrible Muslims are by recounting various Muslim terrorist incidents.

I agreed that those were terrible, but pointed out that there are many Muslims, and certainly not all are terrorists, and that we see Christian terrorists as well, and that in his saying what bad things Muslims do, he should be aware that Christians also do bad things, and pointed out the story in today’s NY Times about Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse of young men.

His response was a classic “No true Scotsman” example:

As for Christians, too much is done in the ‘name’ of Christianity but they aren’t Christians. Know the difference.

That is, if a Christian does something bad, the person is not really a Christian, but if a Muslim does something bad, then the person is definitely a Muslim.

It’s difficult to deal with such bias and myopia.

In this case, he claimed that Cardinal McCarrick was not a true Christian since he did something bad. Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman report in the NY Times:

As a young man studying to be a priest in the 1980s, Robert Ciolek was flattered when his brilliant, charismatic bishop in Metuchen, N.J., Theodore E. McCarrick, told him he was a shining star, cut out to study in Rome and rise high in the church.

Bishop McCarrick began inviting him on overnight trips, sometimes alone and sometimes with other young men training to be priests. There, the bishop would often assign Mr. Ciolek to share his room, which had only one bed. The two men would sometimes say night prayers together, before Bishop McCarrick would make a request — “come over here and rub my shoulders a little”— that extended into unwanted touching in bed.

Mr. Ciolek, who was in his early 20s at the time, said he felt unable to say no, in part because he had been sexually abused by a teacher in his Catholic high school, a trauma he had shared with the bishop.

“I trusted him, I confided in him, I admired him,” Mr. Ciolek said in an interview this month, the first time he has spoken publicly about the abuse, which lasted for several years while Mr. Ciolek was a seminarian and later a priest. “I couldn’t imagine that he would have anything other than my best interests in mind.”

Bishop McCarrick went on to climb the ranks of the Roman Catholic hierarchy — from head of the small Diocese of Metuchen to archbishop of Newark and then archbishop of Washington, where he was made a cardinal. He remained into his 80s one of the most recognized American cardinals on the global stage, a Washington power broker who participated in funeral masses for political luminaries like Edward M. Kennedy, the longtime Massachusetts senator, and Beau Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Suddenly, last month, Cardinal McCarrick was removed from ministry, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an accusation that he had molested a 16-year-old altar boy nearly 50 years ago.

Cardinal McCarrick, now 88, who declined to comment for this article, said in a statement last month that he had no recollection of the abuse. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to be removed for sexual abuse of a minor.

But while the church responded quickly to the allegation that Cardinal McCarrick had abused a child, some church officials knew for decades that the cardinal had been accused of sexually harassing and inappropriately touching adults, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

Between 1994 and 2008, multiple reports about the cardinal’s transgressions with adult seminary students were made to American bishops, the pope’s representative in Washington and, finally, Pope Benedict XVI. Two New Jersey dioceses secretly paid settlements, in 2005 and 2007, to two men, one of whom was Mr. Ciolek, for allegations against the archbishop. All the while, Cardinal McCarrick played a prominent role publicizing the church’s new zero-tolerance policy against abusing children.

The scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy has gripped the Catholic Church for nearly two decades, resulting in billions spent by the church on lawsuits, settlements and prevention programs. But while the church has made strides in dealing with sexual abuse of children, it has largely avoided a reckoning over sexual harassment and abuse suffered by adult seminarians and young priests at the hands of their superiors, including bishops.

Because bishops have control over priests’ assignments and complete loyalty is expected by the church’s clerical culture, seminarians and priests can be especially vulnerable to sexual harassment by their superiors.

“In the corporate world, there are ways to report misconduct,” Mr. Ciolek, 57, said at his home in New Jersey. “You have an H.R. contact, you have a legal department, or you have anonymous reporting, you have systems. Does the Catholic Church have that? How is a priest supposed to report abuse or wrong activity by his bishop? What is their stated vehicle for anyone to do that? I don’t think it exists.”

Now, after the fall of Cardinal McCarrick, some Catholics are saying that the church is on the verge of confronting its own #MeToo moment, akin to the wave of painful truth-telling that has swept through other workplaces, schools and Hollywood.

The Rev. Hans Zollner, a member of the Vatican’s commission for advising the pope on protecting minors, said that he has seen more victims come forward in recent months with accounts of sexual abuse in the church that they experienced as adults.

“The #MeToo movement has created a momentum,” he said. “It has brought another level of attention to this kind of hidden abuse.”

‘Uncle Ted’

With his warm, gregarious presence, Cardinal McCarrick rose quickly through the ranks of the church after being ordained a priest in 1958. As a bishop, he took pride in his success at recruiting young men to the priesthood — including one he met in an airport, according to his colleagues.

In 1981, the New York-born clergyman was made the bishop of the newly created diocese of Metuchen in central New Jersey. The young men he recruited would attend seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland, before being ordained as priests for the diocese.

Those who interacted with him back then said he was friendly with all the seminarians, but would invite a few he especially favored to overnight stays at a beach house in Sea Girt, N.J. It was a small, simple house, some six blocks from the ocean — a retreat that the diocese had purchased at Bishop McCarrick’s request in 1984. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2018 at 10:39 am

Once Militantly Anti-Abortion, Evangelical Minister Now Lives ‘With Regret’

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Terry Gross interview:

Evangelical minister Rob Schenck was once a militant leader of the anti-abortion movement, blockading access to clinics to prevent doctors and patients from entering.

But after more than 20 years in the movement, Schenck experienced a change of heart. Though firm in his evangelicalism, he has disavowed his militant anti-abortion stance.

“I live with regret,” he says of some of his former tactics. “I remember women — some of them quite young — being very distraught, very frightened, some very angry. Over time, I became very callous to that.”

Schenck now sees abortion as a moral and ethical issue that should be resolved by “an individual and his or her conscience” — rather than by legislation.

“This is not a question for politicians,” he says. “When your end goal is a political one, you will, without exception, exploit the pain and the suffering and the agony of those who face the issue in their daily reality, in their real life.”

Schenck describes his change in outlook as one of several “conversions” he has experienced as an evangelical Christian.

“Change is a part of the spiritual life,” he explains. “Anytime we stop changing, we stagnate spiritually, emotionally, intellectually; we stop growing.”

Schenck’s new memoir, Costly Grace, tells the story of the different phases of his religious and political life and explains why he changed — and how he now preaches a more inclusive message, embracing the people he once demonized.

Interview Highlights

On becoming an anti-abortion activist in 1988

There was a very close identification with the civil rights struggle, and I came to see this as a kind of civil rights struggle for the most vulnerable of human beings, those in the womb. And so as time went on, I embraced that. It took me a little while to become totally convinced of the rightness of that cause and I would take that into more than 20 years, actually 25 years, of activism.

On ways he and his fellow anti-abortion activists made it difficult for women seeking abortion

We engaged in mass blockades. Sometimes, we would have a dozen people in front of the doorways to a clinic. Other times, it would be hundreds. On occasion, we actually had thousands. And so we created human obstacles for those coming and going, whether they were the abortion providers themselves, their staff members, of course, women and sometimes men accompanying them that would come to the clinics. And it created a very intimidating encounter.

There were, of course, exceptions. There were women who would later thank us for being there. There were adoptions arranged where women would go through with their pregnancy, deliver their child, the child would be adopted through the pro-life network, but that was a relatively rare exception to the rule.

On reflecting on how his rhetoric while protesting abortion clinics and doctors may have contributed to the violence toward abortion providers, such as Dr. David Gunn, who was murdered in 1993; Dr. George Tillerwho was was wounded in 1993 and murdered in 2009; and Dr. Barnett Slepianwho was murdered in 1998

This became more about us, about me, about our need to win, to win the argument, to win on legislation, to win in the courts. I will tell you that my acceptance of that responsibility had to come only after a long period of reflective prayer, of listening deeply to those who were gravely affected by those murders, in therapy with my own — I will be careful to say — Christian therapist, who helped me come to terms with what really happened and how I may have contributed to those acts of violence through my rhetoric, and eventually in a confrontation, a very loving one but nonetheless an encounter, a very strong, very powerful encounter, with the relative of one of the doctors shot and stabbed. … And it was … actually at a Passover Seder table when I was confronted very gently and very lovingly by a relative who happened to be a rabbi of that one abortion provider. In that moment, I realized my own culpability in those in those terrible, terrible events.

On the evangelical support of Donald Trump . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2018 at 9:15 am

Republicans Use Church Tax to Fund Millionaire Tax Cut

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Kevin Drum posts at Mother Jones:

Now here’s a sentence I’ll bet no one ever expected to read:

Republicans have quietly imposed a new tax on churches, synagogues and other nonprofits, a little-noticed and surprising change that could cost some groups tens of thousands of dollars.

Say what? Well, as you may recall, last year’s Republican tax cut on corporations and millionaires was actually considerably higher than the $1.5 trillion they budgeted, so they had to increase a bunch of other taxes to bring it in line. One of the ways they did that was to end tax breaks for fringe benefits. The problem is that churches don’t pay taxes. You can’t remove a tax break churches weren’t getting in the first place, so instead they simply imposed a brand new tax on fringe benefits for folks who work for churches. Politico explains further:

The main benefits affected are transportation-related, like free parkingin a lot or a garage and subway and bus passes. It also targets meals provided to workers and, in some circumstances, may affect gym memberships….Churches and other groups want to know how they are supposed to go about calculating the value of things like parking spaces for employees. Some wonder if the garages provided as part of clergy residences are now taxable.

Evangelicals, like everyone else, are slowly learning that the Republican Party exists to serve the rich. If they can do stuff for their other constituencies, that’s great, but only if it doesn’t interfere with their primary mission. They’ll tax churches if that’s what it takes to balance their tax cut for the rich. They’ll ditch E-Verify if their business donors don’t like the idea of being prohibited from employing cheap undocumented workers. They’ll kill jobs in small companies that depend on cheap steel if that’s what it takes to provide big steel companies with profit-busting tariffs. They’ll blow away protections for pre-existing conditions if it will help big insurance companies and reduce Obamacare taxes on the rich.

Actually, though, I take that back: I doubt that . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2018 at 1:04 pm

Trump is losing the debate over splitting up immigrant families

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James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post:

THE BIG IDEA: Thursday was a tipping point in the debate over President Trump’s policy of separating children from their undocumented parents at the border, as GOP lawmakers distanced themselves and conservative faith leaders mobilized their flocks against it.

Republicans might be able to win political fights over “sanctuary cities,” the border wall and the president referring to Hispanic gang members as “animals.” But party strategists privately acknowledge they will not be able to prevail in a messaging war over whether it’s a good idea to take kids away from their folks, especially against the backdrop of dramatic visuals and a stream of relatable stories about traumatized young people being housed in shelters. This policy is widely believed by operatives to play especially poorly with suburban women who are key to Democratic hopes of retaking the House.

This explains why more and more elected Republicans — especially those facing tough reelection fights — are going on the record to say they oppose splitting up families. Even Paul Ryan declared that he is uncomfortable with the policy. “We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” the speaker told reporters during his weekly news conference, though he blamed the courts and not Trump.

While the president could easily direct his administration to stop separating families, Ryan nonetheless pushed for a legislative fix. A few hours later, House GOP leaders circulated a proposal that would, in effect, allow children to be detained alongside their parents. The provision is part of a broader compromise on immigration between conservative and moderate Republicans that would give a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for “dreamers,” $25 billion for a border wall and reductions in legal immigration. It’s not clear the measure, which may still change, will have the votes to pass when it comes up on the floor next week.

“The GOP solution released Thursday would keep families united, according to lawmakers and aides familiar with its implications, albeit in federal custody,” Mike DeBonis reports from the Capitol. “It would not permit a return to the previous ‘catch and release’ policy where families were released pending court hearings that were typically scheduled months in the future. A Democratic aide … said that the proposed Republican language would not force the Trump administration to stop its current practice of separating families, which is largely taking place among families apprehended while crossing the border between official ports of entry. Rather, the aide said, it would apply only to families who officially seek asylum.”

— Historically, whenever a politician has cited Romans 13 to justify public policy, they have lost the debate. It’s never been a winning argument, but that’s what Jeff Sessions did Thursday. Defending the “zero tolerance” policy he unveiled last month, the attorney general said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind.: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

This passage was previously used to justify the divine right of kings, oppose the American Revolution and defend slavery. Consider these two quotes from a new story by Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan:

“There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked,” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. “One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by loyalists [to the crown]. … The second spike you see is in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. … This is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made … Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and the 19th century — and Sessions seems to be doing the same thing, so in this sense there is some continuity — it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda.”

Romans 13 says that the purpose of government is to pursue what is good, and it says that the government should not be a terror for those who are doing good,” said Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. “The fact that the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans, wrote several epistles from jail suggests that he was occasionally on the wrong side of an unjust law. … You cannot read Romans 13 without reading Romans 12.

In Romans 12, Paul wrote: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. … Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”

— Sessions’s defense led to one of the testiest briefings of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s tenure as White House press secretary. When CNN’s Jim Acosta asked her about the attorney general’s biblical reference, she eventually told him: “I know it’s hard for you to understand even short sentences.”

“Where in the Bible does it say that it’s moral to take children away from their mothers?” Acosta asked.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” Sanders replied.

“There is no law that requires families to be separated at the border,” said Paula Reid of CBS. “This was the administration’s choice!”

“Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent,” added Brian Karem, executive editor of the Sentinel newspapers in Maryland. “Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through?”

“Brian, guys, settle down,” said Sanders. “I’m trying to be serious, but I’m not going to have you yell out of turn.”

“These people have nothing,” replied Karem.

“Hey, Brian, I know you want to get some more TV time, but that’s not what this is about,” said Sanders.

“Answer the question,” he replied. “It’s a serious question. These people have nothing. They come to the border with nothing, and you throw children in cages. You’re a parent. You’re a parent of young children. Don’t you have any empathy for what they go through?!”

Sanders ignored him and called on another reporter.

— Fact check: “The Trump administration seems to be caught inside a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, insisting without evidence that its own policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents is somehow a long-standing law and that any blame should go to Democrats,” writes Salvador Rizzo of The Post’s Fact Checker unit. “These claims are violently divorced from reality, as we’ve explained previously. Alas, [Sanders] seems to have missed or disregarded our fact-check.”

— Another way to think about it might be the presidential library test: When considering about how Trump’s tenure will be remembered, it’s a useful exercise to consider what he’ll want to highlight in his library. He’s obviously a hard-liner on immigration, but it’s difficult to imagine a display in any museum touting the separation of parents from their children. For example, George W. Bush does not highlight the enhanced interrogation techniques, which many see as torture, that happened on his watch. And Ronald Reagan’s library makes no mention of trading arms for hostages in the Iran-contra imbroglio. The fact that Trump, Sanders and Ryan are all trying to pin this policy on a court order is a proof point that this is not something they want to define their legacies.

From an alumna of George W. Bush’s White House and State Department: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2018 at 11:00 am

‘Make Sure Not to Talk Any Arabic’: American Muslims and Their Guns

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America is, unfortunately, shot through with bigotry for all the “melting-pot rhetoric.” In the NY Times Adeel Hassan reports some aspects of living in America:

When Sheima Muhammad takes her Glock pistol to her local gun range in central Ohio, she gets funny looks. As a 25-year-old woman, she stands out from the other customers, who are mostly older men. Then there is the matter of her head scarf.

“I don’t get looked like as a normal person who’s just trying to protect themselves,” said Ms. Muhammad, who emigrated from Turkey as a baby with her family, who are Kurds, and is a naturalized American citizen.

American Muslims like Ms. Muhammad say they own guns for the same reasons as anyone else: for protection, for hunting and sport shooting, for gun and rifle collections or for their work.

They also cite another factor: fear of persecution, at a time when hate crimes against Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But owning a gun is no assurance of security. Muslim gun owners are viewed with suspicion by gun stores, ranges and clubs, and occasionally met with harassment.

Ms. Muhammad said she decided to buy a pistol after a frightening encounter with a stranger in the parking lot of the grocery store where she worked in Columbus.

“I just felt defenseless,” she recalled. “I did not feel like I could protect myself. It took a toll on me even until today. I’m overcautious, always watching my back.”

She goes to the gun range once a week.

“People stare at me and look me up and down, kind of like: ‘What are you doing owning a gun? We know what you people do with the guns,’” she said. “I walk into the place and I feel like an alien.”

A Pew Research Center survey of American Muslims last year found that nearly half said they had experienced discrimination: 32 percent reported being treated with suspicion; 19 percent said they had been called offensive names; and 6 percent said they had been physically threatened or attacked.

Muslims represent about 1 percent of the United States population, and there is no reliable data on how many own guns. Of a dozen Muslim gun owners interviewed recently in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia, most said they had faced skepticism and even hostility.

Gun ranges and gun shops in several states have declared themselves“Muslim-free zones.”

One gun range owner in Arkansas, Jan Morgan, gained national attention in 2014 when her business was one of the first to declare a ban on Muslims. (She used her newfound prominence to run for governor, losing in the Republican primary last month.)

In Florida, a gun store and range that banned Muslims was sued for discrimination in 2015. The suit was dropped, but the company still sells bumper stickers that proclaim it “Muslim-free.”

And in Oklahoma, a federal judge is considering a lawsuit filed by a Muslim man, an Army reservist who was turned away from a gun range in 2015. Before kicking him out, employees at the range demanded to know whether he was part of a “jihad,” according to the lawsuit.

Gun ownership was the preserve of white men since before the nation’s founding, when the colonies prohibited women and slaves from owning firearms and banned sales of guns to Native Americans. As the right to own a gun expanded, so did tensions. After armed members of the Black Panthers occupied the State Capitol in 1967, California passed a law banning the carrying of loaded firearms in public.

The American Muslims we interviewed recently said their decision to own guns was simply a matter of exercising their hard-earned rights.

One of them is Nezar Hamze, a deputy sheriff in Broward County, Fla., who is also active in the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights group.

“I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,” he said of the Second Amendment.

“Muslims have a victim mentality, or immigrant mentality, when it comes to gun ownership,” said Mr. Hamze, 41, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and whose father emigrated from Lebanon. “They’re afraid that they’re going to be put on some sort of list if they purchase, or if they go to a gun range and shoot.”

He added: “They’re diminishing their rights for themselves. They can practice their Second Amendment, just like every other American does.”

Hassan Shibly, the executive director of CAIR Florida, and a son of Syrian immigrants, said he “became a handgun owner reluctantly.”

“It got to the point where people I know who are in law enforcement actually recommended that I take some means to make sure that I can protect myself and my family,” said Mr. Shibly, 32, who lives in Tampa.

Mr. Shibly has received death threats because of his advocacy on behalf of Muslims, he said, and mosques he attends have also gotten threats.

“I’m not a reckless gun enthusiast,” he said. “I’m somebody who reluctantly owns these tools for purposes of self-defense, while recognizing the great burden they come with. They’re not simply for sports, or entertainment, or for culture.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, plus lots of photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2018 at 11:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Law, Religion

What’s Next for Evangelicalism?

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Sarah Jones writes in The New Republic:

Evangelicals love President Donald Trump, as we all know. And every time a new poll shows evangelical support for Trump at a steady high, the commentariat wrings its hands. These Christians have fallen for a cut-rate King David, a charlatan Solomon, a false prophet. But the evangelical movement is not monolithic. America’s megachurches aren’t lined up neatly in a row, all marching to a Republican cadence. Evangelical support for Trump maps onto racial lines: He belongs to white evangelicals, who put their might behind his presidency.

However, white evangelical Protestants declined from 23 percent of the population in 2006 to 17 percent of the population in 2017, the Public Religion Research Institute has found. The decline can be partly attributed to the millennial generation’s relative non-religiosity, but there are other factors at work. Immigrants are changing American politics, and they’re changing American churches, too.

Janelle Wong, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland and author of the new book Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change, tells me that Latinos and Asian-Americans are key sources of growth for evangelical churches. And they differ from white evangelicals in certain key areas. “I think what’s surprising is that non-white evangelicals, especially Asians and Latinos, sometimes show higher rates of religiosity, like they go to church more. Or they exhibit a more fundamentalist kind of orientation,” she explained. “And even though they show higher levels of religiosity, they are much less conservative on almost every issue, except for abortion.”

On climate change, Black Lives Matter, and immigration, non-white evangelicals have little in common with their white brothers and sisters in Christ. Trump didn’t just accelerate an identity crisis in his party, which faces its own future demographic challenges—he also created the same problem for one of the party’s most loyal factions. White evangelicals are ascendent now, but is the Trump era their last hurrah?

In the ecosystem of American politics, the white evangelical is a well-studied creature. His habits make headlines. We know that he usually attends church at least once a week, and that it’s also common for him to attend two to three services a week. He usually opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage rights. He probably believes God created the world in seven days. He may refer to himself as being “born-again” or he might not, but ask him if he thinks the Bible is God-breathed revelation to be interpreted literally by believers, and he will usually say yes.

But gulfs can separate a tradition’s agreed-upon doctrine from the practices of individual believers. For example, most Catholic women in America say they’ve used hormonal contraception, even though it directly contradicts the clear teachings of their church. For Protestants, these discrepancies can be particularly pronounced. If all believers are priests, charged with working out their own salvation, then doctrinal divisions will necessarily proliferate. Factor in “Christian liberty”—the idea that two Christians can disagree on some points of doctrine without committing heresy—and the matter becomes even more complicated. What is heresy to one evangelical could be orthodoxy to another.

Thus, the Republican conundrum. How can a group call itself “pro-life” and decline to support a more affordable health care system? The answer is doctrinal as well as political. Some conservative evangelicals believe that the Bible advocates against abortion and for small government. There are reams of books and entire universities dedicated to promoting this exegesis. That this interpretation mirrors the political priorities of conservative white voters is no accident. In the case of the Christian right, the line between political cynicism and religious conviction has always been thin.

And now it’s even thinner. “If you took evangelicals at their word in the 1990s and early 2000s, around the election of George W. Bush and in their reaction against the presidency of Bill Clinton, you saw them branding themselves strongly as values voters,” explained Robert Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of The End of White Christian America. Central to the value voter’s identity was (ostensibly) a preference for applying the standards of Scripture to each individual candidate. “But what has happened is that white evangelicals have really turned that on its head and have exchanged an ethic of principle for a utilitarian ethic where the ends tend to justify the means,” he added. Post-Trump, the transformation of values voter to political utilitarian may be complete.

Within this moral void, other Christian voices can gain purchase. The Christian Left has begun to mobilize, and with the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign, it is becoming more prominent than it has been in decades—a legible evolution of the work many liberal Christians have carried out in relative obscurity for a long time. The Sanctuary movement encourages churches to open their facilities to immigrants seeking protection from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and it straddles political lines; some participating churches lean left, and others do not, but all diverge from the Christian right’s party line.

According to Jones, evangelicalism now faces a steeper membership decline than Catholicism or liberal, mainline Protestant denominations, a change from earlier demographic trends. “[Membership decline] is a much more recent phenomenon among white evangelicals that I think white evangelicals thought they were going to be immune to before the last decade,” Jones explained. “If you look at seniors today white evangelicals comprise 26 percent of seniors. But white evangelicals make up only 8 percent of Americans under the age of 30.”

Consider that statistic against others: Americans under 30 are . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2018 at 11:39 am

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