Podcasts/Sacred Tension-what s going on with evangelicals9pywn
what_s_going_on_with_evangelicals9pywn SUMMARY KEYWORDS evangelicals, people, disgust, atheists, called, feel, evangelicalism, christian, understand, worldview, rock candy, gay, prejudices, dynamics, book, satanists, world, satanist, research, fascinating SPEAKERS Will, John Morehead, Stephen Bradford Long, Joe
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Stephen Bradford Long 01:03 This is sacred tension, the podcast about the spiritual discipline of asking questions. My name is Steven Bradford long, and we are here on the rock candy Podcast Network. For more shows like this one, see the show notes of this episode, or go to rock candy recordings.com. All right. Well, before we get started, as always, I have to thank my patrons. My patrons are the lifeblood of my show, and my creative work in general. So it's really hard to make a living as an independent, low budget small time creator. And so if you have a creator, an indie Creator, who you really like, go ahead and send them money, go ahead and join their Patreon or buy their merch or whatever, because every little bit helps. You really need to support the artists who you like. And for now, I'm going to thank my latest patrons on Patreon returned No. Adam Akasha Patrick Devy Dev, John Billiam, Raj, Tina, w m, holy oak, Kelly Hein, hairy hoof clop. Ian and Darren these patrons make this episode possible. And if you want to join their number, please go to patreon.com forward slash Steven Bradford long and you will get all kinds of extra content every week. Also, I have started a Discord server for Sacred tension. So if you're like me, if you're like a clueless Boomer like me, I'm not a boomer but I have the headspace of a boomer. If you're like me, you didn't know what discord was. It is a platform for gamers that a lot of different creators are now using, they are now co opting to host their kind of private communities online. And it is a ton of fun. So if you want to come hang out with a bunch of Satanists, pagans, and progressive Christians, just all around degenerates and heathens, come hang out with us. There will be a link in the description to join my Discord community. I would love to have you on there, we share memes. We talk about all kinds of stuff. And you are more than welcome. Sometimes it isn't enough to just listen to a podcast, sometimes you need a little bit of community. And if that's you, then please feel free to join my Discord server. And finally, the rock candy Podcast Network is still growing. So if you like the shows on rock candy, if you like sacred tension, eleventy life, Bible bash, bubble and squeak and maybe some of the other shows that we have coming on board, and you have a show or you're thinking of starting one, and you think that it would be a good fit for the network. Please reach out to me, I would love to hear your pitch you can reach out to me by my via my website at Steven Bradford long.com. And if you want to contribute to the weirdness and all the glitter and neon and unicorns and degeneracy and Satanism going on on the rock candy podcast network, then please reach out to me. All right. With all of that out of the way. I am delighted to welcome John Morehead back to the show. So we did a conversation several weeks ago about Satanism and evangelicalism. John is an evangelical I am a TST Satanist, and we had an incredibly productive conversation. And it was in people just absolutely loved it. The satanist absolutely loved John, and I got many requests for him to come back. So here he is. John, welcome back.
John Morehead 04:54 Well, thank you. It's good to be back. Glad to know that it did something right and that folks enjoyed our prior conversation
Stephen Bradford Long 04:59 app. salutely And, you know, I think that our conversation demonstrates the fact that people liked it so much, demonstrates, I think the real goals of a lot of Satanists, the, which I think is plurality and EQ ecumenism, I can't say that word correctly, ecumenism, you know, plurality and ecumenism and, and dialogue and fighting for everyone's rights to practice religion, however they see fit as long as it doesn't infringe on others. And I think that's why people loved it so much, because you're very much about those goals as well. So go ahead and tell us some about who you are and what you're doing what you're studying.
John Morehead 05:48 I am the director of a nonprofit organization, the evangelical chapter, the foundation for religious diplomacy. Frd is made up of people from a variety of religious traditions for even eyeing the possibility of having an atheist or secularists chapter. And we're all committed to the idea of religious or inter religious diplomacy, that, that we have real differences, those differences matter. But what also matters is the way in which we navigate those and hold those in a peaceable tension, so that we can live together in a pluralistic public square. And I hit up the evangelical chapter, and I work to try and help evangelicals, conservative evangelicals, who tend to be either on the side of ignoring other religious traditions and atheism, or more likely being very defensive and confrontational about it in trying to understand why that is, and help them navigate that so they can be more hospitable and more peaceful in the way in which they relate to others in which they have serious disagreements.
Stephen Bradford Long 06:45 Awesome. Yeah. So I wanted to have you back on to talk primarily about evangelicalism because for people like me, I am a religious minority, and I am a sexual minority, I'm gay. And so for people like me, evangelicals are really frightening. And I used to be an evangelical years ago, you know, I was a missionary and YWAM and all that. So I think partly because of my experience within evangelicalism and my experience, after evangelicalism, I find and many people like me find evangelicals in this country, deeply terrifying. And so I wanted to have you on to kind of talk about their psychology, the psychology of evangelicalism to perhaps humanize, I don't mean that in a way that excuses their behavior, but just so that we can understand what what's going on. So let me just start with this question. So John, what the fuck is going on with evangelicals?
John Morehead 07:50 Well, it's interesting. You started there a few moments ago with mentioning some of your own biography. For me, this is in part, biographical or autobiographical. It's a part of my journey. Years ago, I was involved in what's called counterculture apologetic ministry within evangelicalism that is, I thought the way in which to understand and to try and persuade people who were in certain religious traditions, they tend to focus on particular groups that they find dangerous or threatening. So that would be Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, New Age movement, that kind of a thing. And the approach is, well, I'm gonna go to them and point out how their worldview and what they believe is unbiblical, and I'm gonna refute that. And then somehow, this person is supposed to say, Hey, let me embrace what you believe to be true. And I was involved in that very aggressive, polemical kind of approach to inter religious relationships for a number of years. But I've always been very well read, not just in theology, but sociology of religion, religious studies, and so on. And it started to dawn on me in my reading this looking even at the history of Christian mission, that a missionary overseas tries sympathetically to understand the culture and to embed themselves within it develop relationships as they share. Whereas in the American context, you'll find many evangelicals assumed this Christian nationalist kind of view. This is a Judeo Christian country, and those who don't hold to that or are outsiders, they may be a threat. And so there's this very confrontational kind of approach us versus them. And I found that problematic years ago, and I eventually pulled myself out of that counterculture, Evangelical community and continued reading and networking with others who are involved in things like inter religious dialogue. And so a part of my biography is having been in a very confrontational place and now reflecting in broader ways, seeing that that simply is problematic. It doesn't value the other appropriately objectifies them, and it's not persuasive. If you want to try and persuade somebody I'm all for persuasion. Whether between an atheist trying to, you know, convince a Christian there is no god or what have you, I'm all for that. But it needs to be done in respectful and hospitable kinds of ways. And at the end of the day won't if we don't persuade each other, we have to still have to figure out a way to live with each other, even in spite of our disagreements, so a part of what I'm doing is because of my own particular spiritual journey,
Stephen Bradford Long 10:21 that yeah, that's fascinating. Absolutely. And so my, and people who listened to the show are probably aware of this, my gut reaction, and my kind of very simplistic understanding, or diagnosis of how evangelical how evangelicalism has become so rotten is that it's a lot of us and tell me if this is right or wrong, that it has a lot to do with power. And maybe this, this craving for power that they feel is being lost in our culture. But the more I think about it, the more that feels like a very shallow diagnosis. For me. I think power plays a part. And I think evangelicals are maybe mourning or grieving are panicking, or filled with rage over the loss of power that they feel in our culture. And I think maybe that's where a lot of the toxic behavior is coming from. And by toxic behavior, I mean, you know, what you were just talking about, you know, kind of this us versus them ch mentality all or nothing approach. And but the more I think about it, the more I realized that this power diagnosis, you know, this this lust for power, it might be too simplistic of you. So what is going on there, tell, tell me some about what I see as a lust for power and trying to, you know, kind of control the identity of this nation of America. Where does that come from? Yeah, I
12:01 think I've
John Morehead 12:02 got some of the pieces of the puzzle and try and this is something I've wanted to understand for myself, and so that I can help the evangelical tribe understand the psychological dynamics of what's going on. And so, five years ago, we got our first grant from the Louisville Institute. And that was the for three years. And we put together case studies of evangelical churches who were relating to non Christian religionists in their neighborhood in positive kinds of ways. And so at the end of that three year grant period, my thought was, well, this is great that we found these few churches, the minority amongst other evangelicals, but the question is, then why are they why and how were they able to do it that way, rather than the dominant way of aggressiveness, and this what you call the lesser power that I think most evangelical churches are all about. And so we went back to the low violence to begin a supplemental grant for two years. And that involves a process of research in social psychology, a little bit of social neuroscience, to understand the psychological dynamics underneath the theology of opposition to religious others. You know, evangelicals are all about theology, and Bible verses and so on. And while I appreciate that level of discourse, nevertheless, in my thinking, there's a theology that results in a particular theology. There's so there are different.
Stephen Bradford Long 13:25 There's a there's a psychology that results in a project. Okay, yes, sorry
John Morehead 13:29 about that. Yeah. So these hospitable evangelicals have a particular psychology then there's a very different psychology for the majority of evangelicals. And in my thinking, theology is post hoc that is, there. They come to the biblical texts with presuppositions, and that determines the Bible verses they go to in the theologies they develop. So it's not just about theology. So I wanted to understand the psychology underneath that. And when I started my research process, I found things like the Pew survey in 2014, where they use the feelings thermometer, how do various religious traditions feel about each other? Do they feel warmly in positive or quarterly and negative. And what was interesting and sad is that evangelicals were on the cold end of the spectrum, in terms of how they tend to view other religious groups, and the bottom two, were Islam and atheism. And not surprisingly, other religious groups, then, in turn, view evangelicals more coldly than they do any other religious tradition. And that was in 2014. They went back in 2017, and did another survey using the same information. And they found across the board with the exception of evangelicalism, the other religious groups had gotten more warm and positive and how they viewed and felt other religious groups, whereas evangelicals stayed the same. And views about evangelicals had gotten colder in terms of how people viewed them. And so I wanted to understand And the feeling aspect of the emotions, a lot of the work in understanding religion, inter religious dynamics focuses on the rational belief systems and this kind of thing. And that's all important. But related to that are important emotional considerations tied to psychology. And so as we began our research, we did our own survey work. And I read through just a ton of social psychological literature and so on. And what I'll share with you just some summaries of some things. And if you want, if you have more questions, you want to go into more depth or afterwards if people want to get in touch and say, Hey, what was that source? You mentioned? I'd
Stephen Bradford Long 15:37 be happy to provide the specifics. I just don't want to get your audience bogged down and absolutely some of the technical and if and if you could send me the sources, actually, I will put them in the show notes. Okay.
John Morehead 15:47 Yeah, that'd be great. My initial theory going into this is that what the the key factor for evangelicals is the reaction of disgust. Human beings evolved with a disgust response in order to keep us healthy. We stay away from contaminated foods, things that smell bad, we have this visceral deep reaction in order to keep ourselves healthy and protect ourselves from things like disease. Well, what's interesting is over the course of history, human beings would not only develop physical disgust, but also social moral disgust that has certain individuals, certain groups, we find disgusting as a means of preserving our own conception of reality for our tribe. And I thought that might be something in fact, that might be the major thing going on for evangelicals, as I did research and social psychology, offense and interesting tests, experimentation that had been done with Christians, to see what was going on in terms of disgust. And what was interesting. In one of the tests, they discovered something that they call heretical disgust. That is, if they take Christians and have them read a passage from the Koran, or from an atheist writer, or what have you, and they tell them this is the source. Christians literally feel disgusted, and contaminated simply by reading texts from those that they seriously disagree with. And another worldview,
Stephen Bradford Long 17:11 that and that part, that's fascinating. Yeah, that's fast. So
John Morehead 17:17 they wrote a journal arc article on those initial tests, they went back and repeated it and did it and they found the exact same thing. And so I don't know if this is the primary dynamic is going on for evangelicals. But I have seen it when I was back doing my apologetic work. In the counterculture, I continue to see it today in inter religious dialogue, this visceral reaction of the other is going to contaminate me, and that's why I can't get too close. That's why I can't develop relationships. That's why I have to refute what they believe to be true, because that is a self defense mechanism. They literally find it hermetically disgusting, to be too close and too intimate with those with whom they have serious disagreements. So I think Disgust is one of the main social psychological reactions that's going on.
Stephen Bradford Long 18:06 That's fascinating. And, you know, I, I relate to that, in my own experience. And honestly, I think if it weren't for being gay, I would still be there. And because, you know, finding out that I was gay, and coming to terms with that through high school and college, absolutely horrific, brutal experience, it kind of almost killed me, because I was suddenly the object of my own disgust, and I couldn't, and suddenly, it wasn't just focused outward, it was focused inward. And so it was kind of this standoff within myself, where will my disgust when or will I break that disgust, and I was able to break the disgust and self loathing, but it took years and years in the process really did enormous damage. And if it weren't for that process, I don't think I would be where I am. Now, I think I would still be an Evangelical, I think I would still be, you know, pretty, pretty conservative. And, and still kind of guided by that sense of disgust. But I but when it comes to other people, I relate to what you're saying, because I remember years and years ago, when I was like 18, or 19, and I was just coming to terms with my sexuality. I remember getting on to a gay Christian forum and feeling this disgust towards other people on the forum for no reason. And assuming that it was some kind of spiritual taint, you know, assuming that there is some kind of spiritual taint. And I think what's really dangerous about this is there is there is this marriage between intuition and spiritual truth in the evangelical world that I find really dangerous so people don't people are I was given license to take my disgust and assume that I felt it because it was godly because it was spiritual. And when I assumed that I had that gift of discernment, quote, unquote, that and really, it was just, you know, this disgust mechanism inside of me, it wasn't spiritual at all. But when I assumed that it was actually God speaking to me, then that meant that my disgust, or my loathing was, you know, couldn't was untouchable, it couldn't be challenged, because it was the voice of God. That I think is what's so dangerous, when these deep intuitions inside of us that are not a good barometer for understanding the world around us or other people, when those things are embraced as the voice of God instead of challenge challenged is just these are human quirks that just need to be examined. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong, but we can't take them on their face value that I think is so destructive,
John Morehead 21:06 I would agree with you. And I would also point out, and this is not to justify evangelical disgust reactions, but we all to be human means to have a disgust reaction. And keep yourself healthy, whether it's Democrats and Republicans being disgusted by each other, or Muslims and Jews, whatever it is. Part of the healing process is to understand and recognize your own social psychological dynamics, and that it's there and to work through a process of re humanizing the other and recognizing that even if I seriously disagree with your worldview, even if I find it, it's just gross. I don't like it, that's okay. It's theirs, they have made their choice. And we have to figure out a way to navigate together and live together not only in our communities, but on this planet, in order to make it a safer place to live. So I think that so that heretical disgust was wasn't the only factor we discovered, but I think it's a significant one for evangelicals. What level
Stephen Bradford Long 22:05 does rage play in this, especially in things like the election of Donald Trump? Because I, I feel like the rest of America really underestimated the rage that evangelicals feel. Could you talk some about that? And maybe I'm completely wrong on this point. But I feel like there is some very, very deep anger that the that the rest of us just did not understand.
22:38 Yeah, I,
John Morehead 22:39 personally, I'm not a Trump supporter. But I do try to understand the dynamics that led for many evangelicals to to make that choice politically. I do think there were, and again, this is rightly or wrongly, this is about perception, keeping in mind for people perception is reality. Their perception of this portion of the electorate was that they were being left behind, they were disenfranchised. They were angry about it, they were angry about the Obama administration in their eyes contributing toward that, and they made their their choices electorally, accordingly, for Trump. And I don't think that really has been factored in and taken into account, I think the more we continue to simply be dismissive, label people's deplorables, and so on, it's not going to turn the tide for those who want to vote that particular type of politics out of office, I think we need to understand the anger and try and help those who voted that way deal with it. I will say related to that, as a part of our research, a lot of what we heard after the election of Trump was there was things like misogyny and racism and so on. Those were the key factors that led evangelicals to vote for Trump. I found an interesting study called Make America Christian.
Stephen Bradford Long 23:55 So let me let me back up just just to clarify what you just said. So, so what I'm hearing is that was it accusations of misogyny and racism that led that that made people feel really angry and led them to voting for Trump? Or was it actually misogyny and racism that led to voting for Trump?
John Morehead 24:19 No, sorry for my confusion there. What we saw in some of the analysis in Political Science and Social Psychology and so on looking at evangelical support for Trump was they felt that some of the key factors were actual misogyny and racism and things like that. Okay. And while that that may, those may have been factors, I think there's a greater factor that kind of serves as an umbrella under which other things may be found. So if you look at the Pew Forum, again, I find it a great source for good demographic data dealing with religion. They did a survey on What what are the key things you need to believe in the whole tool in order to be a true American and for evangelicals, one of the greatest things was you need to be a Christian. And so this narrative of Christian nationalism that this is a Judeo Christian country, we found in our survey research was an even greater factor then discussed was, and you know, some of our research, I found an article called Make America Christian again, Christian nationalism and voting for Donald Trump. They tried to factor in in their experimentation, where they factored in for things like race, and found that Christian nationalism has even greater explanatory power. And I think that you need to look at not only psychological factors to understand evangelicals, but you need to look at narrative factors. We all live within story, we all tell ourselves stories in which we live our lives. And for evangelicals, one of the greatest stories is Christian nationalism, that this was founded as a Christian nation will always be a Christian nation, and therefore certain things follow from that, you know, people need to get in line, if you're not really a Christian, then you're not really truly an American, or you're not a good American, at least. And so I think that Christians are angry because they're trying to connect their fortunes to Trump to try and bolster that idea of the narrative of Christian nationalism. I think that has great explanatory power for some of the angry feel
Stephen Bradford Long 26:21 that makes complete sense. You know, there are people like David Barton, I'm sure you're familiar with him, who create kind of this alternative. I think it's an alternative American history of Christian nationalism. And oh, God, I just had a question, and it was a really fucking good question, too. So, god dammit, give me just a second. It was right there. Okay. Oh, yes. So a lot of this is bringing to mind. A lot of this is bringing to mind the work of rod Dreher, who is not an Evangelical, he's a Catholic, and he's kind of he was Eastern Orthodox, and then he was a Catholic, and then he converted to Catholicism. No, no, no, no, it's the opposite. He is Catholic, and he was Catholic. And then he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. But he has a book called the Benedictine option. And what I find so fascinating about that book, and I haven't read it all, I'm I'm planning on sitting down and working all the way through it, because it's just such a huge influence on so many people's lives. And the the premise is, our culture is so corrupt, and our nation is so corrupt, that Christianity has to withdraw into a kind of monastic setting, culturally monastic setting, and, you know, not focus so much on outward on outward expansion, but withdrawal into itself, to kind of cut to create an arc to weather, you know, this terrible, progressive secular storm. And then when it's time they, you know, the the arc can open and Christians can go back out into the world and continue to live, to bring Christian you know, other people to Christ. I don't know if that's a very good way of articulating his premise, but there you have it. But he, but it's so fascinating to me, why he says that this needs to happen. He says that it's because of the legalization of homosexuality. He says it's because of sexual liberation is because of secularism, not because of endless war, not because of the financial crisis, not because of income inequality, not because of climate change. And what strikes me is so interesting about this, and this is something that I you know, just looking back on my time as an Evangelical, and then you know, as a as an Anglican and I almost converted to Catholicism. And so my time in the Catholic world, these threats, these quote, unquote, threats they feel as existentially terrifying as climate change does to me now. And it the only way that I can describe it to people who don't get that is it's like, they're imagine that the universe is like a human body, and in altering things like marriage, or sexual morality, it feels like altering the very DNA code of the universe in such a way that can cause it to unravel or cause it to to fall apart and unforeseen and terrifying ways. And that fear was very real for me, and it took years for me to get over that to get over this, this feeling that me having a gay relationship is somehow overriding and mutating the DNA of the cosmos, or the DNA of society in the way that God intended. And to do that is to create horrific, you know, Chernobyl like mutations, that that will inevitably leave lead society to disaster. And so for, for I, for me, it feels like it's all the wrong priorities, you know, we should really be focusing on things like climate change and income inequality and that kind of stuff. But I also realize at the same time that these things feel as big, you know, that gay gay marriage and abortion they they feel as existentially huge. Anyway, I don't know if you have any thoughts on that. But that's a that's a helpful exercise in empathy and compassion for me.
John Morehead 30:56 I appreciate that. I think once you people have a certain view of the way things are supposed to be. And once when that begins to change in substantial ways, it becomes very, extremely threatening. So I appreciate that, that empathy exercise there. Let me mention one other factor that we found a significant in our research. And that was this idea of, in academics call it mortality, salience, related to terror management. In other words, when people are reminded of their mortality and the threat of death, they tend to double down on their worldviews. And one of the things that hit this country and most Americans to the core was 911. And it shook people, they, we were this in impenetrable nation protected by the oceans. And all the conflict took place over there. And that all broke down on 911. And people were reminded of their mortality. And beyond that, the perpetrators were connected to Islam. And so for evangelicals, what's fascinating there was this interesting article in a religious studies journal, where an individual looked at evangelical writings and conservative publications pre 911, on Islam, and they tended to view Islam as a mission field and eat admissions and evangelism. And then he analyzed their post 911 writings and things changed dramatically after 911. Evangelicals were writing about Islam as possibly not even a religion. It's a political system bent on world domination, it satanic needs to be opposed. And so there was this dramatic shift now why the shift is because of the reminder of 911 that we are going to die and that there are people out there who may want to hasten that death process. And so that causes evangelicals to double down on their worldview. And it's not just evangelicals that do that. If you look at the research and mortality salience, whenever a group feels threatened by another worldview, and they're reminded of their own mortality, there's this human process, I'm going to double down on protecting the way I see the world. And that protects me from the dangers or the perceived dangers of the others who are out there. So 911 was a pivotal point of mortality salience is again in the mix. And the crazy thing about all of this is that here we are trying to work through the prejudices that evangelicals, here's what I'm trying to do help evangelicals recognize their own social psychological dynamics, and why they have the prejudices they do about certain religious groups. But psychologically, prejudice functions as a self defense mechanism. If I am prejudiced against those I find threatening, I keep them at bay, they're over there. I'm over here with my tribe, and I keep myself safe. So again, this is not to justify the prejudices, it's to understand the dynamics that are going on. So hopefully, we can help folks work through these and cross the prejudices and get rid of them and work together. Does that make sense?
Stephen Bradford Long 34:00 Absolutely. So to kind of summarize here, basically, you've pinpointed three primary guiding psychological forces than they could be described as discussed Christian nationalism, and the terror of death. And it was of which, you know, we were reminded of that, through things like 911. Yes. So how do you go about working through this with evangelicals? Like what's the process that you go through?
John Morehead 34:32 Yeah, that's that's the challenge. I continue to read and study and I think there's been more research done on understanding the dynamics and there has been I'm trying to put together a program of change. In fact, I watched a great program that was produced by Steven Spielberg called Why We hate if your viewers or your listeners get a chance, they should check that out. It's a it was a multiple part series going through some of the science It's, and in the final chapter of that program, there was a neuroscientist Emil Bruno, whose work is just fantastic, unfortunately, here's the cruel thing. He's a neuroscientist working for peace. And he's currently battling brain cancer. But his research is just amazing. In the final episode of that program, he pulled together a group of people who were working in various aspects of peacemaking, and dealing with prejudice. And he said, You know, we've spent the last 60 years trying to understand why we have these prejudices. But we spent very little time in that process of trying to figure out how to facilitate change. So there's not a whole lot of data out there more needs to be done. One of the things that academics look to is the contact theory, that is, in surveys, people who know people in a given religion or other worldview tend to view them more positively than those who have no contact. So if I know a Muslim, I'm far more likely to view Muslims or positively than somebody who doesn't, it's just Muslim in the abstract. So one of the ways in which we can do this is try and bring people into strategic contact with each other. And I use the word strategic purposefully, if you're not careful, if you put people who are prejudiced against each other, bring them into close proximity, and it's not done strategically, you can end up actually reinforcing the prejudice. So it has to be done careful,
Stephen Bradford Long 36:24 which is what I think Twitter and which is what I think Twitter and Facebook is.
John Morehead 36:29 Yes, yeah. So So you have to bring people together for community causes for meals, that they're bonding together in social contexts, which then permits us to be the ability to rethink and re humanize each other, because there is a dehumanization process that's going through there. So strategic contact is one thing that we need to do. But the downside of the strategic contact is it's very difficult. It's time consuming, and it's expensive. And for for my demographic for evangelicals, they tend to be in parts of the country where there aren't people with them in their towns that they need to be brought into contact with. And so I can't bring evangelicals and Muslims together in a city if there are no Muslims there, right. So bringing them into contact is difficult. So one other possibility that has greater potential is going back to narrative going back to story. One of the things we did with our grant was we produced I think it's about an eight minute video, we went to one of our positive case study churches out in California, where they are doing great things with Muslim immigrants and refugees. And we told their story, what are you doing? Why are you doing it, we have Muslims, they're saying how much they appreciate it, and they feel welcomed and love. And the goal of that video was very strategic. We looked at strategic storytelling and the psychology of that, so that we could produce a video that would tell a different story. For evangelicals, the story doesn't have to be in order to be a good Evangelical, I have to hate Muslims, or hate atheists. The story is, I can be a good Evangelical, have my beliefs in my convictions, and I can love and be hospitable to Muslims, and atheists and others. So what we need to do is put some resources into creative and strategic storytelling that paints a new narrative for people in different religious communities so that they can begin to view those that they may not do favorably in positive ways. Those are just a couple of things. I think that comes out of the data. If we want to facilitate change and deal with the serious challenges we face.
Stephen Bradford Long 38:34 That's fascinating. So bringing people into contact with each other. And that instantly reminds me of Harvey Milk's thing, when in a speech he gave, which was everyone must come out. Because he knew that if everyone came out, then everyone's you know, then then everyone would have a son or a daughter or a friend or a nephew or an uncle or a hairdresser or a boss or whomever who would be gay. And that would alter the entire world. And it has, and I think that's partly why we've seen such incredible change when it comes to acceptance of gay people. It's because a lot of people came out and there was a lot of media representation and that altered everything and then changing the narrative changing the story of of what evangelicalism is. So let me tell you some about my experience of coming out as a as an atheist. I personally prefer to use the term non theist for reasons I'm about to disclose. So, of all of the identifications that I have had, you know, and I've, I, you know, I kind of have a foot and all kinds of in all kinds of different worlds. So you know, I'm a yoga teacher and I'm in the meditation world. I'm a satanist and I'm in the state. Tanach tiempo I am gay and I've done a lot of work for LGBT people. So of all of those things though, the one that has caused me the most grief is atheist. Of of all the ones that have caused me the most grief that just caused me the most rage, it is atheist. And people come out of the fucking woodwork like goddamn cockroach is to, to debate me to fight me on it in a way that that has never been true of my homosexuality, or even my Satanism. When people when I when I bring up people are more disturbed, that I don't believe in God than the fact that I'm a Satanist. People are more disturbed that I don't believe in Satan than that I actually worship Satan. I think people would actually prefer that I worshipped an actual literal Satan. Because that means that I'm an atheist. And Right, right. And it is, it has been one of the most frustrating, frustrating experiences for me, a because I hate debate. And suddenly, every like all of these people, especially on Twitter, just come out of the woodwork to debate me. Or they will send people send me messages complete strangers send me messages on Twitter saying, I hate atheism and materialism. And I'm like, at least buy me a fucking drink first, like God damn. For real, so talk some about the evangelical perception of atheism, because it blows my mind. Because atheism is on the one hand, I get it. On the one hand, I'm like we are a threat to everything you believe our very existence is kind of a threat to everything you believe. But at the same time, we're such a tiny minority, and that evangelicals act as if we are this huge existential threat to America and to the world. It's just not true even among the nuns even among those with that is n o n e s, even among the nuns, those with no religious affiliation. Atheists are rare most people believe in God, even without or some kind of higher power or, or supernatural force. So people like me are incredibly rare. I mean, there were, we're bigger. Were there more of us. But still, even though they're more of us, we're still a minority. And so the fact that evangelicals see us as this threat is just so out of proportion to me. Could you talk to them to that? Yeah.
John Morehead 42:51 I mentioned earlier the Pew survey on how one feels about other groups. And I mentioned that Muslims and atheists around the bottom atheists below the Muslims. So on the one hand, that doesn't surprise me because atheists and I don't think it's just evangelicals. I think if you look at other American groups, they tend to distrust atheists. Absolutely. But on the other hand, it is surprising to me to hear you say that and I know it's it's somewhat anecdotal, it's your experience. It would it would be fascinating to me to conduct survey work amongst evangelicals, and get their reactions in their feelings, thermometer gauges, comparing views of atheists with Satanists, and other groups. Because evangelicals have certain boogeyman certain groups that they it just drives them nuts. And in my experience, what that tends to be in the past, it was Mormons, but I think over time, and with the presidential run of Mitt Romney, that has gotten a little warmer these days, it still is pagans and witches, and you'll see this, especially in October, and Halloween, all the books come out and the websites and all that Satanists are in that mix, and then the stereotypes about you know, what they think Satanists are all about. And in fact, they wouldn't acknowledge that there are many atheists who are saying this. So, in my experience, the boogeyman for evangelicals have been those kinds of religious groups and not so much the atheist. And what you tend to see in evangelicalism is a very healthy cottage industry of apologetic books and programs and so on, and
Stephen Bradford Long 44:26 debating atheists. It drives me crazy. I just I got so fucking triggered hear you say that because I know that a lot of these people who challenge me have those DVDs, and they're trying those talking points on me. Like, I can hear it, I can, I can hear the word because I was a missionary. It's like, I know this shit. So like, I hear the wording or and I'm like, You got that from a book, didn't you? You got that? You got that from a DVD, didn't you?
John Morehead 45:03 Yeah. Well, and because there is that cottage industry out there, my assumption would be is that because they're engaging, even if it's in a very narrow kind of way that that they wouldn't have that strong visceral reaction. But in my experience, what you who you tend to hear from on the extremes are the very extreme. I mean, even in my work as an Evangelical, doing dialogue and multifaith engagement, the way I do, some of the Evangelicals I hear from are not those saying, Hey, man, this is great. We look forward to this new model. It's those who are very much opposed, they then begin to question my ethics and, and everything else along the way. So maybe, I don't know, I'm just trying to come up with another, trying to balance your experience with my experience, maybe what you're hearing from are the extreme elements. Because I think evangelicalism to use to phrase it in the way of this social psychology is doing its mortality salience in regards to atheism, in a way to keep that terror managed effectively. And what you're hearing from are the extremes, which I will point out. One interesting thing if we have any Christian apologist listening and have probably given fits, but what's interesting is you what you see some of the strongest, most visceral, apologetic work in evangelicalism are people who claim that they have this deep understanding, and they're very firm and convicted in their faith. And what's interesting is, in the social psychological literature, those who are who are very weak in their commitments, or those who tend to lash out. So I wonder sometimes, if those who are really deeply involved in this strongly negative, apologetic art is rooted and calm and uncomfortable in their convictions as they would like us to believe that's just an observation.
Stephen Bradford Long 46:48 I think that's I think that's true. And just anecdotally, I see that people really lash out at me, and it is predominantly over my atheism. Also, interestingly, lately, it has mostly been there. There have been some evangelicals lately doing that. But honestly, mostly it is progressive Christians who do it. And I, and I think that fact is very, very interesting to me, because they I think, I think a lot of progressive Christians really struggle with their faith. And in because they're, and I think that their conception of God is, and I don't mean this in a derogatory sense at all, I think it's more fuzzy, I think it's more on a spectrum of just kind of day to day, sometimes it's more symbolic, the next day, it might be more literal. And I think that that sense of instinct, you know, I think that that's true of everyone. But I think that they're more conscious of it. And I think and this is just my personal experience, I think they're more conscious of it. And I think that that creates a bit of instability for them. I think that when they come across, when people come across an atheist that they can't just dismiss as an asshole who has zero understanding of Christian history, like Richard Dawkins, I think, you know, Richard Dawkins did a lot for the world, but he's also just a complete bloviating asshole who does not understand Christian theology. And he drives me nuts. Because of that. I think he did a lot of good for a lot of people. But I also think he did a lot of damage because I think he really does not, can he read? Anyway, that's a whole other rant, which I will not go down right now. For people who are interested in that, listen to my interview with Paul Walker, who is an astrophysicist and a pastor and we have a conversation about the new atheists. But that aside, but I think for a lot of progressive Christians, when they encounter someone that they just can't dismiss as an asshole atheist, who doesn't, who doesn't have an appreciation of the richness of Christian theology and history and liturgy, I think they find that deeply threatening, at least that's my own personal anecdotal experience. I also think that is very, yeah, go on.
John Morehead 49:05 I think you've stumbled onto something in which we can agree I don't again, I don't mind people having strong disagreements with me as a Christian and trying absolutely me of whatever they will at least understand what I'm about and what what the background of my tradition I should do the same thing with you before I disagree with a Muslim. I better really understand what Islam is about and not interact with a stereotype and a caricature Exactly. I'm with you.
Stephen Bradford Long 49:28 Or ask like I'm, I'm like, please ask and you know, so much of what I do is not I'm not interested in trying to convert people to what I believe that that isn't a thing for me. I am very interested, though, in learning to survive together as you know, on this rock as we hurtle through space and try not to just completely burn ourselves alive. So you know, I'm, I have I'm very invested in people just asking me and I don't care if they walk way completely disagreeing with me, I would rather people ask me what I believe so that they have a clearer picture of what it means to grow up gay or what it means to be a Satanic Temple Satanist, or what it means to be a yoga teacher and this particular school that I teach or whatever, on and on and on, I would rather people ask. So we're already kind of coming to the end of our conversation, this is flown by talk some about let me look at my notes here. This is a whole other issue, which I probably should have brought up earlier in the conversation, because it's so massive. What are your thoughts on the interaction between evangelicals and abortion and homosexuality? Because those those two things seem to be catalysts for a lot of rage and a lot of anger? And division? How does that interact with all this?
John Morehead 50:59 Yeah, I think similar social psychological dynamics are involved, I think people are finding those issues, threatening to their worldview, to their religious beliefs, and so on. And they're, they're interacting defensively and instead of persuading others, or making the case worse, I will say that I don't work in those areas too much. And trying to apply my work, I will say I do some work as an adjunct as Multnomah in Portland. And there is an individual there on faculty, Brad Harper, who has a son who is gay, and they wrote a book together where they dialogue about it, and they're trying to forge a new way that, you know, we didn't see this coming. But you know, we're still father and son, we love each other. Let's talk about it. But others listen to our conversation so we can model a better way forward. So there are some of us evangelicals, I would implore your audience I know many of them may have had bad experiences with Evangelicals, thick gray holes, I get it. I'm in the tribe. I'm trying to work with my fellow tribes, people to help them understand be a little more self critical, self aware, to understand the psychological dynamics that are there and to work with them to change their understanding and their narrative to change their psychology. So we can develop more more helpful and positive theologies to relate to people that we just happen to disagree with. But we have to share as you say, this rock hurtling through space with so I don't know if I'm optimistic or not the way things are today, but I'm gonna keep plugging away.
Stephen Bradford Long 52:29 One, one last thing that I would like to ask before we wrap this up. Do you have any data on the interaction between evangelicals and climate change?
52:38 You mean, in terms of trying to facilitate changes of opinions on that or?
Stephen Bradford Long 52:42 Yeah, chant? Yeah. What are what are the emotions underlying their response to climate change?
John Morehead 52:50 I just think it's, it's more of a conservative orientation. to downplay that kind of interesting area of research is moral foundations theory, Jonathan Hite. I love Jonathan Hite. Yeah, I can't even do it because they're tapping into conservative moral foundations that causes them to poopoo. That kind of stuff. I did come across one thing in the social psychological literature, then appealing to certain moral foundations for conservatives on climate change, made them more open to entertaining its possibilities as a reality. So again, it's about taking the issues of disagreement and framing them in ways that work through differing psychologies, rather than assuming our own psychological framework and try to say, Just tell the other just see it my way. You know, we've got to work through where they're coming from, if we want to try and persuade others about some of the key challenges of
Stephen Bradford Long 53:41 the day. That's fascinating. And to just go back to one of the things that you were just talking about, this is really an exercise in empathy. And I think that it's important to understand, you know, for for fellow minorities like me, who feel deeply threatened by evangelicalism, I understand that it might be too difficult or too hard, too traumatizing due to past experiences, to try to empathize or understand the evangelical mindset right now for you. And if that's the case, then the thing you need to do is to take care of yourself, get some really good therapy, go to your communities, go to a you know, go deep into the gay community or into the pagan community and just feel find some healing there. But for those of us who are able to, I really think it's important that we experience you know, that we practice this empathy so that we can understand what's motivating these really, really, really toxic behaviors. This for me is totally in line with the first tenet of the Satanic Temple which is one should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason and evangelicals are part of that. All creatures category. And so we have to act with compassion and empathy towards evangelicals even along with denouncing and and work and struggling against some of their more toxic behaviors. All right, is there anything? Are there any final thoughts that you want to add before we wrap up?
John Morehead 55:21 No, I think I gave a good statement and imploring your audience and you have complimented that I just appreciate the opportunity. I will mention we do have a book coming out later this year through through Pickwick dealing with the neglect of emotions in multifaith engagement, and my chapter goes through this research and we've got another chapter by it was written by several individuals at Baylor, who have social psychological and neuroscience background this is an interdisciplinary book broadly Christian that says, Look, here are different areas dealing with emotions related to multifaith relationships, and we're missing the boat we got to do better so that'll be coming out later this year.
Stephen Bradford Long 56:02 Fantastic. I can't wait I will definitely read that. And if you want to come back on to talk about it. Please let me know whenever it comes out that sounds great. Awesome. Well cool. All right. Well, that is it for this show. As always, the music is by eleventy seven and the jelly rocks you can find their music on iTunes and Spotify eleventy seven by the way has a new album out it's called Basic glitches I will be playing a song at the very end of this show so be sure to listen for that the artwork is by Rama Krishna Das this show is edited written and produced by me Steven Bradford long and it is a production of rock candy recordings and as always thanks for listening
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