Yes, we do have a ‘scorn problem’…

Thought I’d share this op-ed piece I found in the NYT this morning.

It’s pretty much dead-on in describing the problem, as I frequently try to point out here on the blog. I also try to address the problem by providing a civil forum for discussion — a project that is, at best, a work in progress. Ahem…

Anyway, the headline is “America Has a Scorn Problem.” Here’s an excerpt:

A Scientific American report on political polarization noted that Americans increasingly hold “a basic abhorrence for their opponents — an ‘othering’ in which a group conceives of its rivals as wholly alien in every way.” It continues, “This toxic form of polarization has fundamentally altered political discourse, public civility and even the way politicians govern.” A 2019 study by Pew said, “55 percent of Republicans say Democrats are ‘more immoral’ when compared with other Americans; 47 percent of Democrats say the same about Republicans.”

We find one another repugnant — not just wrong but bad. Our rhetoric casts the arguments of others as profound moral failings….

Please read it, and discuss. With a minimum of scorn, if you can manage that… (Oops; was I being a little scornful there myself? I hope not, because I’m very concerned, and discouraged, about the problem…)

The lady writes from a religious, clerical perspective (starting with a parable from the Gospel of Luke). I do that sometimes myself. Although I don’t think you have to be a believer to act like a grownup in dealing with other people. For that matter, I’d really like to see some of our “Christian” brethren learn to get along better, with each other as well as others.

Anyway, seems to me she’s with Jesus on this point. And I’m with both of them. At least, I try to be…

12 thoughts on “Yes, we do have a ‘scorn problem’…

  1. bud

    Don’t you think Democrats have a right to be scornful of Republicans right now? It was your guy who coined the phrase “Ultra MAGA”. Damn right I’m scornful and make zero apologies. These are folks who are now defending the storming of the capitol. These are folks who are pushing extreme laws aimed at restricting voting rights. These are the same people who cultivate a culture of violence that continues to plague our country by pushing this anti-replacement hate via TV hosts like Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson. Damn right I’m scornful. You act like we’re discussing the capital gains tax rate rather than hate speech that incites violence. And let’s be crystal clear this is what the REPUBLICAN party in 2022, not just some fringe. Heck the fringe in the GOP are people like Liz Cheney and Tom Rice. Republicans are going after Big Bird, Dr. Seuss and Mickey Mouse for merely promoting diversity and inclusion. Yes I’m scornful. And pretty ticked off at people who display yard signs emblazoned with the word Republican. Besides, since you level this charge without context doesn’t that make you scornful?

  2. Ken

    Here a few words from a different Christian thinker, Marilynne Robinson. And be forewarned, she has a considerable degree of scorn for certain types of “religiosity”:

    “If the word [sin] is spoken now it is likely to be in one of those lately bold and robust big churches who are obsessed with sins Jesus never mentioned at all. On the testimony of prophets, social injustice is the great sin – according to Ezekiel the reason for the destruction of Sodom.”

    “The religious monoculture we seem to be tending toward now is not a neutral averaging of the particularities of all the major traditions. It is very much marked by its cultural moment, when the whole focus is on ‘personal salvation,’ on ‘accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.’ Theologically speaking, the cosmos has contracted severely. The simple, central, urgent pressure to step over the line that separates the saved from the unsaved, and after this the right, even the obligation, to turn and judge the great sinful world the redeemed have left behind – this is what I see as the essential nature of the emerging Christianity. Those who have crossed this line can be outrageously forgiving of one another and themselves, and very cruel in their denunciations of anyone else. Somehow in their eyes this does not make them hypocrites, a word that for Jesus had a very particular sting.”
    “So, we have an element newly prominent in American religious and political life , a new form of entitlement, a self-declared elect. What some have seen as a resurgence of Christianity, or at least a bold defense of American cultural tradition … has brought a harshness, a bitterness, a crudeness, and a high-handedness into the public sphere that are only to be compared to the politics, or the collapse of politics, in the period before the Civil War.”

    “Populations are inevitably judged by the people they, or some plurality of them at least, choose as their representatives….”
    “There is an implied religious rationale or impetus and obligation behind very deplorable trends in contemporary society. The arming of the fearful and resentful and unstable with military weapons, supported by the constant reiteration of tales that make mortal enemies of their fellow citizens and elected government, is pursued with a special passion in regions that claim to be profoundly and uniquely Christian, and well mannered, to boot. Biblicist that I am, I watch constantly for any least fragment of a Gospel that could, however obliquely, however remotely, cast all this in any but a satanically negative light. I am moving, reluctantly, toward the conclusion that these Christians, if they read their Bibles, are not much impressed by what they find there.”

    “… those Nones that show up in statistics now are alienated not by our ideals but by our hypocrisies.”

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I can’t believe I didn’t know there was an Elvis Costello impersonator. I need to get out more, I guess — even though, being an introvert and all, I generally don’t want to…

    1. Barry

      The thing I have noticed, Ken, is that the people I see screaming the loudest on social media and often in the news and government about how Christian they are are really just screaming about their right wing political views.

      Many of them are not active members of a church body, working and volunteering at church to serve “the least of these.”

      I have a business contact that fits that description. He is a nice person to deal with for the most part. He’s on social media touting how Christian republicans are and how evil Democrats are. He posts all sorts of conspiracy stuff and crude nonsense.

      I’ve actually encouraged him to actually find a good church and he refuses. He offers every excuse in the book to actually get involved in a local body of believers. He plays the role of a Christian online, reposting GOP talking points about cultural issues but yet he won’t get involved in church life. It’s not for me to judge his soul but I sincerely doubt he has any relationship with Christ outside of political and culture war topics. But that seems to be a fast growing trend.

      Being a “Christian” these days too often means a right wing politician supporting individual whose promoting their right wing political objectives either online or on tv or radio- and that includes politicians who tout how Christian they are

      Did you hear the GOP primary winner in Pennsylvania’s opening words in his victory speech? He sounded like a tv preacher, not a politician. He was citing various passages in the New Testament and talking about “our enemies.” His opponent in November is a Jewish Democrat. His quoting of the New Testament was no accident.

      Could he be any more subtle? He wants a holy war, as long as he wins. After all, those Jews believe differently than those good old bible based republicans.

      1. Ken

        The author of this article

        concludes that “many white evangelical Christians are sort of letting go of the church and clinging closer to America, rather than the other way around.”
        But throughout history religious fervor has taken many forms, operating both in and outside churches. So simply declaring this a secular rather than a church matter would be mistaken and short-sighted.

  3. Ken

    The point is: Faith and the struggle for goodness should not be disfigured as mere piety and well-mannered good neighborliness.

  4. Barry

    Speaking of the lack of civility in the law

    This Florida teacher married a woman. Now she’s not a teacher anymore

    (She tried to hide it but her students found out bylooking up her name online and finding a video of her wedding)

    Over the years, a half-dozen children came out to her as gay or transgender. Most told her informally, blurting it out by her desk. With every student, her first question was, “Do your parents know?” If the answer was “no,” and if Solomon ascertained the student’s household was likely to be accepting, she encouraged the student to come out to their parents.

    Early in the job, one teacher — who figured out Solomon was gay after watching Hayley help Solomon cart supplies into her classroom — told her in the middle of a casual conversation, “I like you as a person, but I don’t support gay marriage.” Stunned, all Solomon could think to say was, “Okay.”

    Some time after that, third-grade teacher Arriete said, another staffer struck up a conversation about Solomon. The woman asked if Arriete knew Solomon was married to a woman, adding that same-sex relations were against her religion and “not right in God’s eyes.” Arriete, whose brother is gay, walked away rather than start an argument.

    Later, Arriete nominated Solomon for a “Rookie Teacher of the Year” prize, awarded through a faculty-wide vote. In a biography accompanying her submission, Solomon detailed her marriage to Hayley, as well as her stint working for an LGBTQ rights group. As staff members were sitting down to vote, Arriete said she heard another teacher mutter that she refused to vote for Solomon “because she’s gay.”

    Solomon lost the prize to another teacher who had worked at the school for less than a year, Arriete said. “A lot of people didn’t vote because she is openly gay,”

Comments are closed.