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American Jews
The Jews – 2% of population; monotheistic with the Torah (OT) as
their sacred text. Central religious figure = Moses.
Political Characteristics of Jews
Demographically well-off
Disproportionately influential/represented in culture: in law,
business, politics, journalism, and entertainment. High voting
rates, concentrated in heavily populated states.
Politically liberal – liberalism is often seen as the essence of
Judaism itself, though this view is controversial given the
conservatism of orthodox Jews. Most scholars see liberalism (and
attachment to the Democratic party) as not necessarily
theologically driven, but a byproduct of history (minority status
and target of bigotry; i.e., anti-Semitism). Jews sought protection
from pro-minority rights groups, not social services directed to
the poor (not many Jews represented here). Strong alliance in
the 1950s and 60s between blacks and Jews (Jewish CR workers
massively overrepresented in the movement).
Voting results – 2008 election 74% Obama
4. Jewish Liberalism has been threatened by (1) Estrangement between blacks
and Jews when blacks moved to urban centers and favored “community
control” challenging Jewish statuses (got violent in NYC) and AffirmativeAction became a national issue not always favored by Jews. (2) The proIsrael position became associated with the GOP. (3) the Neoconservative
movement and culture war. The Neoconservatives (group of former
liberals turned conservative on many issues) in their publications
Commentary and Public Interest (Irving Kristol, Normon Podhertz, and
today Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, David Horowitz) urged Jews to
leave political liberalism because Dems were weak on Israel and soft on
communism, pushing Aff-Action, creating cyclically dependent
impoverished groups, and pushing values that were inconsistent with the
Torah. Further, Jesse Jackson did not help when he referred to Jews as
‘Hymies’ and NYC as ‘Hymietown’; also Louis Farrakhan, leader of the
Nation of Islam described Judaism as a ‘dirty’ religion. Both men were
seen befriending PLO leader Yasir Arafat and supporting a Palestinian
state (fed perceived rebirth of black anti-Semitism). BUT, short-lived after
Carter failed to get a majority. Gap between Dem support between Jews
and non-Jews rose from 20% in 1984 to over 40% today (perhaps more
afraid of evangelical Republicans like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell than
black Dems like Jesse Jackson).
Why the fear of EP Republicans? Historical discrimination by “Christian
government” against Jews. The Christian Right seemed to be antidemocratic and anti-pluralistic to Jews. But…Dispensationalism?
3 groupings: Reform (39%); Conservative (33%); Orthodox (21%; most
Religious Characteristics
Synagogue attendance very low (less than 25% once a month).
Label is increasingly an ethnic identity more than indicating a religious
Increasingly secular in worldview
Losing culturally distinctive identity (especially among young)
Intermarriage growing (50% today) and birthrates lower than necessary to
replace population
Political ideology and Judaism
Theological liberalism dominates Judaism today (3/4s either
Reform or Conservative). Theology of “deeds not creeds” such that
Atheism or Agnosticism is theoretically and practically tenable in
much of Jewish thought. Reform Judaism more or less
approximates the secular enlightenment philosophy.
History of persecution – fostered concern for religious minorities
and other disadvantaged groups.
Orthodox are the most Politically Conservative
Ultraconservative Jews (like Hasidic Jews) hold politically
conservative views on cultural and social issues. However, this
group often practices withdrawal much like the fundamentalist
Protestants in years past, so the GOP benefits of Orthodox Judaism
is waning if it ever existed due to secularization of Jews today 29%
of young non-o Jews rate Israel high on their priority list compared
to 60 of older non-o Jews). Seems younger Jews care far less about
Israel today because they care far less about Judaism today
(increasingly being reduced to an ethnic label, not a traditional
religious commitment).
Was and is prominent among the “NeoConservatives” (Irving
Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Bill Kristol, and
David Horowitz; Weekly Standard).
American Jews and Israel – has connected Jews to American
conservatism quite frequently.
U.S. is a strong ally of Israel and the GOP is consistently seen as
Israel’s strongest supporters
• Dispensational Theology among Protestants – according to DT, Christians
(really everyone) are commanded to be especially kind towards and
protective of the Jews as God’s chosen people. Pastor John Hagee and
the “Christian Zionist” movement calls for the U.S. and Christ’s church,
as instruments of God’s prophetic fulfillment of land promises to Israel
found in the OT, to tenaciously defend and fight against Israel’s enemies
and protect her as the place where Christ will one day occupy the
throne of David in Jerusalem to re-establish his earthly kingdom. But
despite many cases of affinity between evangelical leaders and grateful
Jewish ones, the specter of necessary conversion still haunts this
relationship. Quick side: Christian theologians have disagreed on what
to make of Jews in the New Covenant age (after Christ’s death and
resurrection). Is there still a divine plan targeting Jewish people and
Israel or is there now only one people of God with no particular ongoing
divine interest Jews? At the extremes are so called ‘dual covenant’ (two
people; two salvific plans) and ‘replacement’ theologies (the church
simply replaced Israel when Christ came; ethnic Israel/Judaism is no
longer a meaningful category in God’s mind).
• The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee is among the top five
most powerful lobbies in D.C.
From the Jerusalem Post (orthodox Jewish newspaper):
“There are fewer and fewer [evangelical leaders who subscribe to
replacement theology] as time goes along. They are seeing, finally,
the error of replacement theology. The vast majority of evangelicals
do not believe in replacement theology. Evangelicals believe that
Israel has a Bible mandate to the land, a divine covenant for the land
of Israel, forever. That the Jewish people are chosen of God and are
the apple of God’s eye. That Christians have a Bible mandate to be
supportive of Israel and the Jewish people, to demonstrate to the
Jewish people what they have not experienced from Christianity for
2,000 years… the love of God.”
- Source: Evangelicals seeing the error of replacement theology, The
Jerusalem Post, Israel, Mar. 20, 2006
One other little thing, the vast majority also believe that Jews must
repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Still a
‘problem’ for the alliance.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormons)
LDS Church
Who? 3% (4-6million); nearly all white; much higher levels of
church attendance/activity than others; fastest growing religious
group; heavily concentrated geographically in Utah (70%) and a
few other Mountain West states (Idaho 27%)
History: established in 1830 by Joseph Smith, who claimed to
have received revelation from the angel Moroni and discovered
“golden plates” buried near his NY home, the information of
which translated into the Book of Mormon (book of beliefs and
historical claims; teaches that ancient Israelite prophets –
ancestors of Native Americans – sailed to the Americas from
Jerusalem in 600bc foretelling the coming of the Messiah; Christ
came to them and gave them a “second testimony” after His
resurrection and ascension; one of 4 inspired books in Mormon
theology; Bible, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants).
Mormons taught the concept of ‘unified just communities”; and
set these up as they migrated to Utah in the 19th century, Smith,
killed 1844, replaced by B. Young.
C. Basic Beliefs – God is a physical man who achieved deity
through righteous living (model for man). He and his wife
produced spirit offspring who later came to earth in human
form in order to be more like God (imitation). Their inability to
do so perfectly prompted God to send Jesus Christ, our eldest
brother, to suffer for their sins; world rejected his gospel and
church fell away from truth shortly after his ascension; his
church was “restored” in 1830; full salvation is achieved
through faith, repentance, obedience to God, baptism, receipt
of the Holy Ghost; all spirit children will return to God
(‘Heavenly Father’) at judgment with varying degrees of
reward/punishment. Zion is the New Jerusalem, a future place
in America (Independence, MO), where Christ will return and
rule in person as the former tribes of Israel reunite; prophets
and apostles still hear from God within the context of the LDS
leadership (President); very slow small minority trend today is
towards inclusivism and even universal salvation; less dogmatic
on sacred text than before.
Most controversial historically: polygamy (officially discontinued in
1890); baptism of the dead; limiting priesthood to white men
only (ended in 1978)
Most appealing to non-Mormons – sealing of families/marriages
‘for time and eternity’ or the physical reuniting/reconstitution
of families together in the afterlife as now.
D. Political History – Mormons were treated with suspicion by
many Americans. Their communalism, separatism (People’s
Political Party), alleged heresy, bloc voting, support for
polygamy and consequent growth, and early provocative
political-militant language by Prophets (also Mountain
Meadows Massacre) led many to take a extreme political action
against them (Sup Ct actually upheld a law legally dissolving the
organization). Assimilative actions by the church (abandon
polygamy, dissolve Party, encourage traditional political
behavior including two-party state etc.) resulted in recognition
of Utah as a state in 1896.
E. Mormons and Politics today – extremely politically cohesive religious group
(85% vote GOP; more supportive of GOP than evangelicals; second only to
blacks as the most loyal partisan coalition); dominate business, news media,
and politics in Utah where 80% state legislators are Mormon; claim 16
congressional seats plus other key political figures like Sen. Orrin Hatch,
Senate majority leader Harry Ried, 2008 GOP primary contender Mitt
Romney and Glen Beck. “Strict church” (i.e., highly active & demanding
religious life tithing, hours per week in church meetings, volunteerism, large
families, dietary restrictions, extensive church regulation/discipline – ‘temple
permits’ and excommunication are significant carrots and sticks; these
coupled with necessary obedience to the head of the LDS church (President)
produces great cohesion, political cohesion too, and potential for member
mobilization on anything (from natural disasters to political referenda – like
gay marriage votes). Wilson calls this “dry-kindling” capacity unlike other
groups (evangelicals and Catholics). BUT LDS leaders rarely use it (kind of a
reserved right). LDS tend to be culturally conservative on cultural issues
(more conservative on gender roles, abortion, gay marriage than
evangelicals), but a bit less than evangelicals on ‘non-morality’ issues).
Though members are heavily GOP in behavior, the church is FAR LESS
explicitly political or attached to political entities like parties (unlike the
Christian Right and evangelicals and Catholics in general, who hear more
political messages at church than Mormons). Recently, the LDS church voted
to support anti-discrimination policies in Utah protecting gays.
Case in point – 2000 primary election, LDS Church leaders decided to make
two announcements to their members concerning the initiative to ban
gay marriage or Prop 22 (1. letter explaining LDS position; 2. letter
encouraging Mormons to become active with time and money). Results,
tremendous immediate mobilized and organized anti-gay marriage
movement in CA.
F. Constraints on Mormon political influence – same as before regarding
theology (seen as a ‘cult’ by many Christians); plus they are
geographically constrained. Will evangelicals support Romney?
G. Political irony between LDS and Evangelicals/Catholics – the LDS is rigidly
hierarchical in church government like Catholics (Pope – Prophet;
Teaching Magisterium – General Authorities; Dioceses – Stakes; Churches
– Wards). The RC is politically neutral (at the top) as well. BUT, the RC
does not create the political grassroots activity and consistent cohesion
that the LDS church does (probably due to lack of voluntarism, strict
church, and church activity which gives rise to political activism). On the
other hand, the Christian Right and evangelical leaders expend great
efforts to mobilize voters, but it is far less able to do so (in as dependable,
sustained, reliable, cohesive manner) as LDS leaders do because it lacks
the single centralized authority structure (there is not evangelical
‘church’). (Story of LDS pres Sith speaking with Truman about getting
food/supplies on the ground in post-WWII Europe. Truly an unmatched
Relief Society – doctrine to store up one year’s worth of food for end
American Muslims and Islam
I. American Muslims – (1% roughly; 3 million people; rapidly outpacing Jews in
number; 1,500 mosques up from 1 in 1930; nearly all 1st or 2nd generation
immigrants with 65% foreign born)
Very diverse (American Islam is second only to Mecca in diversity). Of
Muslim immigrants, 24% come from Arab region, 26% come from Pakistan,
Iran, and other South Asia, rest come from throughout the world). Of
native-born (35% of total Muslim pop), 20% are African-American and 15%
are other; also of Native-born, 21% are converts compared to 14% born
Demographics and attitudes – middle class (socioeconomically) and
mainstream. Here we see the difference in American Muslims compared
to those around the world (sometimes a distinction is drawn between
‘Islamists’ and ‘Muslims’). A much higher percent of Muslims here give
responses closer to the mainstream opinion of other Americans compared
to Muslims in Europe and Middle-East (they are wealthier, only a minority
think of themselves as “Muslims first,” larger majorities consider life to be
good here for women, and larger shares, though a bare majority, are
concerned about and condemning of Islamic extremism.” Only 1%
American Muslims say suicide bombings against civilians are justified for
sake of Islam (80% say never), higher percentages say they are justified in
Europe. Very little favor of Al Qaeda (5%) compared to European Muslims.
However,, 26% of Muslims under 30 say that suicide bombings to defend
Islam are possibly justifiable.
C. Political views:
1. 9/11 impact: 53% Muslims say life is harder since 9/11, though only
25% report discrimination.
2. War on Terror: There is strong opposition to the War in Iraq, half
disagree with war in Afghanistan, and over half do not consider the
War on Terror a ‘sincere effort’ among Muslims compared to the
general population (split on Iraq, strong majorities on Afghan and
Terror wars).
3. Though 47% of American Muslims say they are Muslim first before
American, 60% of young Muslims say so (42% of Christians say they
are Christian first). Of high commitment Muslims, 70% say Muslim
first (59% for Christian counterparts).
4. Only 11% favor the GOP compared to 51% favoring the Dems (71%
voted for Kerry, but 89% voting for Obama).
5. About as many (49%) of American Muslims want Mosques to stay
apolitical compared to 43% who say they should not (for Christians,
this number is almost exactly flipped).
6. Interestingly, by a large margin more foreign and native born
Muslims than African-American Muslims say that immigrant
Muslims should try to assimilate (47% of AAs say don’t).
Islam (brief history and beliefs)
History – Mohammed, the central figure in Islam, lived in the late 6th
and early 7th century in and near Mecca; claimed to have received
revelation from Allah (via the angel Gabriel) throughout his life; his
sermons and teachings are set down in the Quran (Islamic sacred text);
won enough converts through preaching and conquest of nearby cities
to eventually make all the Arabian peninsula Islamic
Theology – One God; many prophets (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus
and Mohammed); God created angels (some good some evil); The
Qur’an is the final revelation of God (the Hadith is another holy book
but of lesser authority); Judgment is coming (heaven and hell) and is
based on unquestioned obedience to Allah and his prophet
Mohammed. To be a Muslim (or remain so), one must confess “There
is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”; pray five times
a day; fast through the ninth lunar month of Ramadan; give alms to the
needy (1/40 of income); Make trip to Mecca in one’s lifetime. Some
include a 6th “pillar” of Jihad (various interpretations)
Two broad divisions: Shi’ite (Shia) and Sunni are divided originally over
who the appropriate successor to Mohammed is.
1. Shia believe that the leader of Islam (Imam) should be appointed by God
through each descendent of Mohammed (first was Ali, a cousin and
then son-in-law of Mohammed).
Iran (90%) as well as Hezbollah (a militant hardcore Islamic
party/paramilitary group in Lebanon calling for the extermination
of Israel); 2003 Iraqi elections/constitution favored by Shia.
2. Sunni, larger of the two, recognize the first four Caliphs and the
means of selecting them as appropriate (election). Sunni are a
slight minority but was most dominate force in Iraq (Hussein was
Sunni); Al Queda is Sunni too; Taliban & most of Afghanistan are
Sunni (80%).
C. Islam in American Society/Politics – 40% Black Muslim (historically
separatist); 25% South Asian (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh); 12% Arab
1. Fear among many in the West (much less so here) is that Muslims will
engage politics with the purpose of establishing Sharia Law or a
Caliphate (Islamic law/gov’t regulating everything from religious practice
to crime control to foreign affairs to daily dress). Clearly advocated by
sizable Islamic groups in Europe, but not as much here. Kenneth Wald
notes the difference in America between ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islamists’
(Islamists are the minority favoring immediate enforcement of Sharia
2. Key political groups – Islamic Society of North America – concerned with
civil liberties protections for Muslims, especially after 9/11.
3. 9/11 and its aftermath has caused many Muslims to unite in order to refute
and fight against mischaracterizations of American Muslims.
3. Conservative on Social Affairs, but liberal on welfare state – since they are
typically socially conservative, many thought that Muslims may become
an ally of the GOP (majority voted for Bush in 2000). But 9/11 and the
War on Terror changed all that (90% backed Obama in 2008)
4. Prospects for an effective Muslim political movement are
ambiguous. Must deal with ethnic differences brought from abroad;
modernity or secular appeal of modernity in America as well as the
distinct Black Muslim movement in America; relations to Jews, view of
women, etc. May have been united around the War, but no clear
common political agenda outside it.
Nation of Islam: Rise and Decline
Islam in America has been around as long as there have been slaves in
America (15-20% of African slaves were probably Muslim). Most of
these converted to something else (for many reasons).
Resurgence in the 20th century: The Honorable Elijah Muhammed and
the Nation of Islam (1930s).
Set up as a separatist alternative to Christianity (“white man’s religion”),
which was blamed as a tool for white racism.
Nationalistic, typically calling for a separate society for black people
where the principles of Islam would govern.
Rose in influence during the Black Nationalist, Black Power, movements
in the 1960s and featured Malcolm X.
Controversy put the movement on the back burner when internal
corruption charges surfaced concerning Elijah Muhammed, and when
Malcolm X returned from a pilgrim trip to Mecca and argued that the
Nation of Islam was a departure from orthodox Islam, especially
concerning racial separatism.
5. When Elijah Muhammed died, N of I split into two factions (most
following his son who was more mainstream and less separatist –
called American Society of Muslims). But another group/person has
been the most visible/vocal face of the Nation of Islam.
6. Louis Farrakhan – continued the nationalistic and separatist vision of
Muhammed. Appeals to urban males; calls a separate community
with alternative values; in his public speeches, often uses traditional
Christian phrases or stories, children’s songs, Bible passages, sayings
of Jesus, to illustrate his points and connect with Black protestants.
7. Distinct doctrines – God manifested himself in human form to a black
Muslim in the 1930s; E. Muhammed was another prophet of Allah;
from the original black man, all races were created; several thousand
years ago, Yakub (mad scientist) developed an experiment ultimately
created a ‘race of devils’ (whites and Jews); whites are not worthy of
evangelism and are not permitted as members to the NOI.
Secularists, AntiFundamentalists, The New Atheists
Seculars – as there are different types of worldviews among theists,
there are different kinds of worldviews among secularists as
well…but generally…
Basic beliefs
Ultimate reality – all we “know” is that the material world exists, so
we must function as such.
Truth – combination of science or reason and personal judgment
gives us our sense of truth; typically some form of evidentialism
(faith is belief in the absence of evidence OR no one should believe
anything without empirical evidence).
Ethics – Self-referential or subjectively determined; morality is
relative to person, time, place, culture
Destiny – either a meaningless future of non-existence (nihilism) or
a triumphant age of human progress/victory over war, disease,
poverty (humanism).
Man’s basic problem – cultural institutions that impede the
progress/freedom of the individual (could be capitalism, marriage,
social norms, government, but certainly religion).
John Lennon - Imagine
B. Defined perhaps more by what they are not (Read Reich p. 19 in Hunter
Baker’s book)
Historical origins – fullest articulation came during the
secular Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries) and late
19th Darwinian philosophies about how the world
D. Profile of American seculars – 14% of pop, up from 10
50 years ago, though number of “unaffiliated” has
doubled from 8 to 16% today; 48% of seculars under 35;
a bit more with college education (15%); income same
as other groups, except above $150k)
Rise of the Secular Left or Antifundamentalists in
American politics
A. History – culturally, there has been a public outspoken
anti-fundamentalist sentiment going back to the early
1900s when secular Darwinian thinkers gained control
of cultural institutions, like newspapers and popularized
an image of a Christian fundamentalist as half-wits,
ignoramuses, menaces to Western civilization,
backwoods, trash.
Some social scientists also began to publicize the view that fundamentalists
were threats to democratic society.
B. Before 1980s, despite these strong views and conflicts in the culture,
fundamentalist and antifundamentalist views & disagreements WERE
NOT yet contextualized in politically meaningful ways (i.e., no partisan
animus; similar to what was happening in the Christian church prior
to the 1970s). It would take a religious realignment (rise of Christian
Right) before “a negative cultural referent became a full-blown
political referent to secularists and other anti-fundamentalists”). Until
then, both parties were dominated by those accepting a basic JudeoChristian ethic regarding authority, sexuality, and the family.
III. Culture War between the Parties?
A. Growing Secular prominence in the Democratic Party – 1992 first time
white delegates to Dem convention twice as likely to identify as
irreligious as GOP counterparts.
B. 1992 convention, GOP delegates reserved their “coolest” attitudes
towards feminists, environmentalists, and pro-choicers (over
unionists, liberals, Democrats, blacks, Hispanics, etc.). By contrast,
Dems reserved their coolest attitudes towards one group, Christian
fundamentalists (more than half Dem delegates gave them a 0 out of
Culture War in the Electorate?
Electorate divided into three groups: Traditionalists (19%), Seculars (12%), and
religious moderates (69%).
Traditional – regular prayer/church attendance, accepted Bible as divine and
authoritative, religion = important guide for them.
Secular – no scriptural authority, no prayer/church attendance, no religious
guidance in life, no affiliation.
Survey data shows the following profile of Seculars: morality = relativistic, more than
half self-identify as liberal, just as powerful a determinant of attitudes on
social issues as religion is for traditionalists, far less willing to stress the
importance of traditional family forms, sexual mores, and far more pro-choice;
far more hostile to acceptance of public role for religion in public square,
antipathy towards Catholic Church and especially evangelicals or
Key point: Just as evangelicals have grown in prominence among Republicans (both
among voters and in the party itself; much is made of this); the same is true
concerning seculars and anti-fundamentalists among Dems. In fact,
antagonism towards Christian fundamentalists is a strong predictor of vote
choice in every election cycle since 1992. For instance, 43% of Kerry’s white
voters came from anti-fundamentalists while 2/3s of Bush’s voters came from
those expressing positive views of both the Catholic Church and Christian