Answer the following TWO questions. Write your answers using single spacing and 11 pt. font. Aim for approximately 1/3—1/2 page of text for each question, making your complete quiz about 3/4—1 page in length (no more than one page). Send your quiz to me as a Word or PDF attachment with the required subject heading in the email. If you have any questions, ask by email (as always!). Remember to answer all parts of the questions you choose. Any questions? Let me know!!!
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Week 16 Lecture, ANTH 3600: Contemporary Religious Movements:
Fundamentalism and Politics in America (for 5/5 & 5/7)
As explained before, there’s no formal lecture this week—our last week! (insert Kleenex and
your violent, open weeping here). Again, there’s a brief introduction to the topic, related
videos, and readings. Quiz 4 follows, and you send the quiz to me (by Sunday [5/10] at noon).
This Thursday or Friday I’ll be sending you the final test. Don’t panic, there’s no need to—it’s
not hard! If you’ve been doing what I’ve asked you to do you’re covered, as you’ve already
gone through the material. The final isn’t cumulative—only material from second half of
course. The Final Test is due on Friday 15th at noon (or anytime before that if you wish).
Okay, let’s get down and dirty with some of that…there…thinkin’ stuff!
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled” – Mark Twain
(I’m leaving this quote here this week, cause it’s appropriate to the topic)
Like last week, I’m organizing things in what I consider to be a logical flow (for your
benefit) and making a few points on each item by way of introduction. The first thing you
should do is the assigned textbook reading (Chapter 11 section on Fundamentalism), which
provides some basics—a starting point.
The rest of this material concerns to the United States and there are two threads to it—
fundamentalist religion and politics—with considerable overlap between them. I sorted the
material with these two threads in mind (for organizational purposes), but you shouldn’t
think that they’re entirely separate—they aren’t! The first thread concerns Christian
Fundamentalism: what it is, who follows it, the prosperity gospel (capitalism-based) angle
of it, and so on. The second theme concerns politics: Christian fundamentalism, ideology,
nationalism, authoritarianism, neo-conservatism, and Trump (I introduce Trump here only
because it’s critical that you look beyond him to see what underlies his rise to the
presidency and his current authoritarian grip over it and other institutional arms of the
United States federal government). You really should make the effort to go through all the
material I’m laying out here today considering where the USA is right now and where It’ll
be going in the future—your future, and that of your kids and grandkids.
Finally, I realize that this is sensitive material for some—that you may take offense to it by
way of disagreement or personal beliefs. So be it. But know that it is not my intention to
irritate or offend you. Rather, my intention is to inform and induce critical thinking. I didn’t
author the essays, write/direct the documentaries, and I’m not an atheist. So open your
mind. The materials I’m showing you here are based on empirical science (social science, in
this case), which, itself, is part of the issue at hand (American denial and/or rejection of
science). This country has a long history of anti-intellectualism and anti-science born not of
plain old obstinacy, but of cultural factors (ideological, political, etc.). Things are seldom as
simple as they appear on the surface. A quick glance at any clock, wrestling match, or the
Scopes Monkey Trial should tell you that.
Since so much of what follows concerns cultural (group level) psychology, I think it’s as
good a place as any to start with. We considered the concept of cognitive dissonance in the
last lecture, and I want to further drive it into your melon (head) here. Note that it applies
to both facets of this lecture (fundamentalism and politics), and so I am presenting this first
(and separately), then we’ll roll on. Have a look:
Conative Dissonance Theory: A Crash Course (2016)
Good, short documentary that defines the term (inconsistency of thought). The resolution of
dissonance is discussed (various ways people deal with dissonance) along with the need for this to
happen. Why the need? People experience inner discomfort without resolving the inconsistency.
How they resolve it is a different matter.
Christian Fundamentalism and American Politics
Note that some of the concepts that you looked at in last week’s lecture on cults may be
useful to recall here when looking at fundamentalism and politics. Not that all of the
religions shown or written about here are necessarily cults (that’s a matter for debate on
an individual case basis), but that the psychological concepts and underlying thinking may
be of use. So let’s get started with a few documentary videos:
Inside Edition Investigates TV Preachers Living Like Rock Stars (2011)
This one speaks for itself—well, sort of. It may seem absolutely incredible at first glance (How could
any sane person believe and follow this crap?), but putting that aside for a moment, the roots of this
kind of “Christianity” (quotes used here because I [yes, personal opinion here] do not think this is
Christianity) go much deeper, tapping into cultural things well beyond religion. This is “prosperity
Gospel” teaching (where the rubber hits the road in Christian televangelism and fundamentalism)
that deliberately targets a part of the American collective consciousness—the American Dream:
capitalism and accumulation of wealth. Not everybody’s susceptible to this perverted wedding of
capitalism and religion, of course, but many are (estimated 16-18 million prosperity gospel
adherents in the USA as you sit, stand, or [preferably] lie there reading this). Note that one of these
mind thieves (Paula White) is currently heading Trump’s “faith office” out of the Whitehouse…YOU
and I paying for all her activities (security, travel). Makes me crazy, but perhaps I’m the odd one.
Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis Defending Their Private Jets (2015)
Follow up to the last video. Here you can witness the utter distain these thieving asswipes have for
“common people” like you and me. They talk about their private jets, bought by, but not for, their
followers, and their need to avoid commercial airline travel that would put them in “demon tubes”
with undesirables. They refuse to directly associate with regular people—people in need, people
hurting, people seeking spiritual guidance. Sound like something Jesus would do? I recall reading in
some old book once (The Bible) that Jesus hung out with prostitutes and flipped money-changing
tables in front of temples. Not these con men—they’d run the money tables, and do.
Guns For God: The Church of the AR-15 (2018)
A whole other level of insanity here: money, religion, and—wait for it—guns! Yep! You heard me
correctly. Now we have another aspect of Americana injected into religious fundamentalist
experience. And not just any gun, the AR-15 assault weapon (designed to kill people, not to hunt
animals with). Mind you, this is a fringe fundamentalist sect (run by the son of the con man that
runs the Moonies), but there is a strong link between guns and fundamentalism in other churches,
including those discussed in the videos above, below, and the readings. The difference in those
cases is that guns are not part of the religious doctrine itself, as they so clearly are with the Church
of the AR-15. Have a look. Also, don’t you just love the guru’s crown? Doesn’t it just embody the
Christian essence of caring and helping those in need? I call these kinds of people (that worship or
constantly talk about and live for guns) ammosexuals, but hey, that’s just me. And by the way, in
case you think I’m some pansy who’s never handled a gun, think again: I grew up around guns and
hunting in rural Canada. I owned dozens of shotguns and rifles in my time. Never worshipped them,
As mentioned in the intro, I’m listing the reading here and pointing you (very briefly) to
some of the major points or themes (important elements). By no means should what you
see here be considered complete or comprehensive; that is for you to work through during
(or after) you read the essay. Same goes for the essays later on in the lecture (below).
Koch, Bradley A.
2014 Who are the Prosperity Gospel Adherents? Journal of Ideology 36:1-46.
Considers Christian Fundamentalism in the USA. Link between God’s will and financial gain explained
through material reward on Earth. Belief that poverty comes through lack of faith, therefore it’s poor
people’s fault if they are poor. Screw ‘em! The important association between this kind of
fundamentalism and radical individualism (as expressed through capitalism) is explored. Makes the
key point that probability of membership is statistically linked to relative lack of education, especially
Is the Trump Presidency A Religious Cult? (2018)
This guy, Reza Azlan, is a leading scholar of world religions. In the video, he argues that White
evangelicals voted for Trump because of White nationalism, prosperity Gospel teaching, and a
promise to “give them back their power.’ But most revealing to Azlan is the changed moral
foundation of most Christian fundamentalist groups. He makes the supremely important point that
evangelicals used to place morality in public life above all else, but now have abandoned (or talk
away) those standards to support Trump (talk about cognitive dissonance! Or hypocrisy? Or both?).
How can this extreme reversal be explained? The only way, according to Azlan, to consider it a cult,
because it fits the criteria (which you know about having read about it last week)
2017 Why Evangelicals Voted for Trump: A Critical Cultural Sociology. American Journal of
Cultural Sociology 5:338-354.
Views White Christian nationalism is the basis of Trump’s support. Not sure I entirely agree with him
in terms of the 2016 election (when the choice was between two horrific candidates, but one with no
political baggage), but today Gorski’s argument is more credible, at least to me. Goes into the “culture
war” aspects of Trump’s appeal—extreme right-wing judges on courts, abortion ban, rejection of
multiple genders, rejection of gay marriage, advocacy of gun rights, and hyper masculinity. Trump as
“savior” is laid out in terms of these and other issues. The appeal to nostalgia (MAGA…a fictitious,
undefined past and fear of culture change in the present) and “American exceptionalism” are also
considered key ingredients. Gorski argues that there is a serious need to bridge the divide between
Americans. To me, the only way to do this is through education of the young. But what does this
foreigner know, right? I’m mental, right? Should be driving a ski-doo, right?
Authoritarianism: The Political Science that Explains Trump (2016)
Defines the psychology of authoritarianism and its role in social and political life in the USA. They
make that point that the link between political party and authoritarian thinking is now almost
exclusively within the Republican party (it wasn’t always this way). Authoritarian thinking is built
on fear, particularly of the “Other,” and a desire for “strong” masculine leadership to “combat” real
or perceived social ills. It’s a way of viewing the world that, according to McWilliams (and many
others), was THE driving force in the election of Trump (you will read McWilliams’ essay, below). Of
course this means it was there long before Trump. Trump as symptom, not as cause.
McWilliams, Matthew C.
2016 Who Decides When The Party Doesn’t? Authoritarian Voters and the Rise of Donald
Trump. Political Science and Politics 49(4):716-721.
Explores the election of Trump through the lens of authoritarianism. In other words, looks at the
collective social and political psyche of Americans—the appeal of authoritarianism in America today.
In my opinion, the article doesn’t explain why many Americans are susceptible to the authoritarianism
messaging in the first place, but that’s a historical angle that isn’t really the thrust of McWilliams’
work. Note that, although he doesn’t mention this, leadership in modern nation states isn’t necessarily
chosen by the voting public; for example in Parliamentary democracies (England, Canada, Australia,
New Zealand), where the party itself choses the leader. At any rate, this is a heavily cited and
intriguing article. And for whatever it’s worth (not much), I totally agree with it.
Answer the following TWO questions. Write your answers using single spacing and 11 pt.
font. Aim for approximately 1/3—1/2 page of text for each question, making your complete
quiz about 3/4—1 page in length (no more than one page). Send your quiz to me as a Word
or PDF attachment with the required subject heading in the email by SUNDAY May 10th at
noon. If you have any questions, ask by email (as always!). Remember to answer all parts of
the questions you choose. Any questions? Let me know!!!
1. What is “prosperity gospel” Christianity? Define the term and consider (discuss) it in
relation to the social, political, and economic climate of the United States. Is there a link
between the aim of “prosperity” fundamentalism and basic American cultural values? If so,
what is it/are they? Finally, what is your opinion of prosperity Gospel fundamentalism?
Your answer to these questions should draw upon multiple materials from this lecture.
2. Authoritarianism, White nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism were critically
important in the election of Donald Trump, according to most accredited scholars. What do
these terms mean and how, specifically, have they been linked to the election of Trump?
Your answer should draw upon the arguments presented in the material for this lecture.
Finally, are you convinced by the arguments? If so, why? If not, why? (5 pts.)
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