Year-End Quiz: Do You Speak Conservative?

It’s the end-of-the-year rush for every sort of retrospective.  Can you take the ILYBYGTH challenge?

Thanks to the folks at the Texas Freedom Network Insider, we have several lists of the most contumacious quotes from America’s conservative punditry.  One list describes the year in creationist/no-climate-change quotations, one from the anti-Islam contingent, and one from the continuing “War on Christmas” campaign.

Here’s the idea: The Insider compiled these quotes as a demonstration of the intellectual outrageousness of contemporary conservatism.  Here at ILYBYGTH, we have a different goal: Can we understand what these conservatives meant?  Can we see the point each speaker hoped to make?  Of course, we know that some quotations are just plain dumb.  This is not only true for conservatives, of course.  Every sort of political blabbermouth can say stupid stuff.  But in some cases, it seems that the quips that seem the most outrageous to liberal secular folks like me actually represent a coherent, compelling conservative worldview.

If you call yourself a conservative, can you explain these quotations in terms that might seem less outrageous to non-conservatives?

Or, if you think of yourself as non-conservative, can you try to put yourself deep enough into the conservative mindset to understand what each speaker was getting at?

So put down the pumpkin pie, stop donning your gay apparel, and try the quiz!

Quote #1: Pat Robertson on the definition of Islam:

I hardly think to call it a religion, it’s more of — well, it’s an economic and political system with a religious veneer.

Quote #2: Rafael Cruz, father of obstreperous Tea-Party favorite Ted Cruz, on the connection between evolution and communism:

You know most Americans have their head in the sand about evolution. I’ve met so many Christians that tell me ‘well, evolution is a scientific fact.’ Baloney! I am a scientist, there is nothing scientific about evolution. But you know something, Karl Marx said it, ‘I can use the teachings of Darwin to promote communism.’ Why? Because communism, or call it socialism if you think communism is too hard a word, necessitates for government to be your god and for government to be your god they need to destroy the concept of God. That’s why communism and evolution go hand in hand. Evolution is one of the strongest tools of Marxism because if they can convince you that you came from a monkey, it’s much easier to convince you that God does not exist.

Quote #3: Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, complaining about efforts to imply that Santa was not white:

Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?

How bout it?  Can you beat this year-end quiz?  What did these conservatives mean?  For folks like me, can you do the mental gymnastics to put yourself into a world in which these statements make sense?  Be sure to check out the fuller lists at the Texas Freedom Network Insider.

Happy 2013 and best wishes as we slide into 2014!

 

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20 Comments

  1. I’d like to take a stab at figuring out what those conservatives meant, but I am afraid that if I entertain their comments, I will end up with irreparable brain damage. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  2. Donna

     /  December 24, 2013

    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  3. willbell123

     /  December 24, 2013

    I can understand the first and last as a non-conservative and can appreciate where they’re coming from (even if I think that place is dark and ignorant), the second one however pisses me off too much to try and piece out what is meant because it is completely false (not to say that the others aren’t) and I’m far too close to the evolution debate for my own good.

    Reply
  4. Is the Marx quote from Cruz’s nonsense real? I’ve googled it, but the first 40 results are all Cruz-related articles or creationist websites.

    Reply
    • I don’t think it sounds like it’s supposed to be anything but a loose paraphrase. I took it over to my go-to source, Talk Origins Archive. Several hits there discuss the legend that Marx wanted to dedicate *Das Kapital* to Darwin but Darwin refused the honor. But I don’t see anything specifically about this exact quotation.

      Reply
    • willbell123

       /  December 26, 2013

      The closest I can find from Marx is this:

      “Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle.” – Marx, 1861

      Not exactly the same, and in context it doesn’t sound very notable, other than saying they were aware of each other, and they were very aware of each other as Adam pointed out.

      Reply
  5. Here’s my best attempt:

    #1: It is true that Islamic doctrine contains plenty of instruction on the proper governing of a state… at least so far as I have read. I suppose that many of the early writings are similar to the Judeo-Christian Old Testament, in that there is more focus on government laws and organization than there was in the New Testament, which focused more on church laws and organization. I think this is largely just a side-effect of the position of the religions at the time. Judaism and Islam were both forming independent states during the time of the writing of much of their scripture. Early Christians were not, so there was little emphasis on government rule and more emphasis on internal church organization. Had the scriptures been written during the time of Constantine, I suspect they would look very different. However, I think that this distinction is lost on many people, and it is assumed that Islam is uniformly a code of rule for the state (which is laughably untrue, if you read the Qur’an).

    #2: It seems to be common for religious conservative extremists to assume that people who espouse more liberal policies are “worshiping the State”. I assume two things are coming into play here. Firstly, non-religious and non-fundamentalist people are more likely to be liberal than conservative (although there is plenty of variation here) so some conservatives link liberalism with godlessness. Secondly, I think many fundamentalist extremists find it impossible to imagine a person existing without worshiping some sort of God. I’ve heard many of them claim “there is no such thing as an atheist” or “atheists are just worshiping the idol of science”. I have long since wondered if these extremists are projecting their own worldview onto others; they simply can’t imagine a world where one does not utterly lose oneself in some ideal or deity. So, if someone (especially a secular person, but liberal Christians *gasp* are not immune from the criticism) values anything that is not their idea of God, then that thing must be an object of worship and deification. This is especially true if the person is already viewed as godless, for they must have replaced God with a new idol… the State.

    #3: To be fair, I think that some of the bizarrely repetitive assertions that “kids, Santa is white” were just meant to be a little “wink wink” at the audience that she is trying to keep up the ruse that Santa is real. After all, if you have an honest discussion about whether Santa can change race, then you must not believe that he is real. I’m not saying that excuses her argument, I’m just saying it explains some of how utterly strange her behavior seemed to be at times with her desperate reassurances that Santa is white and is a real person. However, the “Jesus is white” statement was just plain ignorance. I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but in her clarifications later, she even admitted that she has since learned that the matter of Jesus being white is “far from settled”… meaning she didn’t even know that the typical depiction of Jesus in art was inaccurate. She honestly just didn’t realize he was of Middle Eastern descent. And that is pathetic.

    Reply
    • You hit the nail on the head. I was raised in a Fundamentalist home. It is true we were taught that if a person doesn’t worship God, he worships whatever else in his life which is important to him. When I was a kid, money was the target of ire. Rich non believers were to be pitied, because they would never have peace in their lives by chasing more money and more possessions. Now there are many more atheists, so they must be worshiping science. This is an argument which will never go away. The target of the Fundamentalist may shift, eg homosexuals and atheists, but the basic premise will remain the same. BTW, I am a huge Megyn Kelly fan, but boy, did she ever miss the mark with her comments. Her clarification was completely unsatisfactory. But, she’s human, and like all humans, she made a mistake.

      Reply
      • Yes! And homosexuals worship sex, and liberals worship the State, and Catholics worship the Pope, and anyone who is different from them is worshiping some made up idol. I think this ignorance is common of people who refuse to actually listen to the other side’s reasoning, which is why I like following this blog: it actually attempts to do that.

        I know very little about Megyn Kelley, but I’m pretty sure I could not enjoy her after I saw her bit about the “festivus” display. Good lord. =P

      • She’s actually very good. Don’t let her conservatism put you off.

      • Well, it’s probably a bit of a moot point since I get all of my news from online sites (mostly nbcnews) because I prefer reading it to watching it.

      • I’ve been watching her for a few years. If you only get your news by reading or primarily from nbc news, you only have snippets of what those other media outlets choose to print or air. Like anyone else, Megyn is a human and sometimes she has gaffes (like “Jesus is white”). But she is smart and is able to get good answers to questions overall. I don’t usually judge people if I don’t follow them. For example, the whole Duck Dynasty thing. I read the whole GQ article & think that Robertson could have been more tactful. Since I don’t watch his show, I have no skin in the game about how A&E reacted. I only have my first impression, which is that he shoots from the hip when he speaks. Lots of people are like that.

      • I can’t judge who she is overall as a person, of course, but I’ve seen several of her “gaffes” and they are pretty strongly biased and sometimes pretty offensive, so I simply don’t think I would enjoy her show very much. I’m sure she may do some good work too, but that wouldn’t be worth wading through the nonsense, to me (like Jesus being white and her attacks on an atheist over a ‘festivus’ pole, which was pretty surreal. To be fair, her guests are sometimes more offensive, but again, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy that.)

        As for Duck Dynasty… I don’t watch the show either so I don’t care about it that much. However, there is no “tactful” way to state that homosexuality leads to bestiality, there is no tactful way to sneer demean a human being to the act of anal penetration, and there is no tactful way to imply that blacks were happier before the Civil Rights movement. Sure, maybe in other ways he’s a good person. Everyone who has done disgusting things has also done something good, and everyone that we idolize as good has also done disgusting things. That’s just human. However, I cannot lightly dismiss words that are used to incite hatred and perpetuate lies against a vulnerable group as just “shooting from the hip”. I call it being a hateful bigot and being to proud to realize or admit it.

        I don’t know if you are gay, bi, lesbian, or trans*, but in my own experience, his words have caused me to suffer for my entire life. Not from him, of course, but from my community I was aware since I was a child that homosexuality is the gateway to all immorality and sexual depravity, that gay people are mentally damaged and backwards, that being gay is just a lifestyle choice that people make to rebel against God. I still hear these same words echoed and parroted over and over again among former-friends, my own estranged family, among politicians and powerful people that can control the rights I have and the comfort of my life. These words have incited enormous self-hatred when I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, they caused my family to abuse and reject me when I came out, and they cause me to still live in fear of losing my job, my home, and they were all LIES. They are lies being perpetuated by arrogant men with microphones like Robertson, who have the gall to claim that they “just love them” while simultaneously poisoning our communities and even ourselves against us (LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers). So if that’s called “shooting from the hip” then I hope he’s happy with being responsible for the fatal gun-wounds that are resulting. Sure, he might be a great person in some other ways. But he is a terrible person in this way, and he is actively and willingly hurting others, so I will judge him accordingly.

        =P Whoops, long reply!

        Oh! And in terms of news from nbc… yeah sometimes I get pretty frustrated with how little focus they place on world happenings. For example, almost no one is talking about the protests in Ukraine, and I am just trying to get my info about it from my Ukrainian friend (who I am pretty worried about! He was right in Kiev not too long ago!) =( I wish it was easier to find headlines about this stuff. I try to supplement from various other sources, but I do primarily prefer text-version news. I just don’t enjoy watching it as much because it requires more time. Heehee… I will chalk this up to never having a TV when I was younger, so motion on screens still distracts me a lot and irritates me sometimes.

      • No, I am a straight woman. I have known and loved gays as friends and also one family member. I can understand how Robertson’s words cut you to the core. I have argued time and again with straights who use such hurtful words, how they are received, but the hard core anti gay people don’t care at all how much they hurt others. They live in ignorance of the fact that every person is created in the image of the God they claim to worship, and that every human being has inherent dignity. It’s so frustrating for me; I cannot begin to imagine how I’d feel if I were gay, and had to listen to the vile things said. Robertson definitely shoots from the hip, and you are correct in pointing out how the ammo from that weapon finds its mark deep within valuable and tender souls. Thanks for being so honest and so brave to share your thoughts and experiences with me. As I said, I don’t watch DD, I couldn’t care less about Robertson or his beliefs, but he has not personally injured me. His words reveal who he is more than anything else. Remember what kind of person he is, and hold your own head up high.

      • =) Thank you for your kind words. I wish that Robertson’s comments had not gotten such publicity, but irresponsible media would much rather get headlines by saying “Robertson fired for calling homosexuality a sin” than saying “Robertson fired for disgusting hatespeech” which would have been more accurate. What was truly upsetting to me about the whole incident was how many people rallied around him and used this as an excuse to call Christians to “fight back against the evil gay agenda” and to call for further oppression of LGBT folks because, for some reason, someone fired for hate-speech is a hero while those who were verbally attacked are the enemy. I try not to let my opinion of Christians as a whole be tarnished by these things, and mostly I succeed. But I still look at these sorts of events and I am so grateful that I am free from religion… free from feeling like I need to appease and pacify these people, free from having to bow my head to them and take the abuse, free from having to wince while my supposed brothers and sister in Christ railed against me as an enemy and oppressor of Christians because they did not know a gay person was in the room. I’m done with all of that, and I don’t think I will ever look back.

        The thing is, some people take religion and do wonderful things with it. For some, religion makes them a better person. For me, being free from religion makes me a better person. I am happy to respect all paths to self-improvement, so long as they do not harm others. That’s where I stand.

      • A beautiful reply. I wish you well.

    • #1 – I got nothing on this one.

      #2 – The way I’ve come to understand evolution is it is a theory based on evidence and tied together with assumptions of our past. Uniformitarianism would be my best example of an assumption. Scripture teaches that everyone knows there is a God, but some refuse to believe. If we take that as fact, then evolution becomes a cop out designed to give people an excuse not to believe in God. At the tower of babel three things tied the people together, which will be the same things to come back at the end: One world government, one religion (man is his own god or equal to god), and one language. Many Christians see the religion part being evolution. I’m not sure what the “end time” religion, but I have a feeling the pope will be involved somehow.

      #3 – I hate it equally when people claim Jesus had blue eyes and white as when people say He was black. Not that His skin color is of much relevance, but He was Jewish. Santa? I thought he was an asian guy… Did I miss the memo?

      Reply
      • Santa was based on a Greek guy is my understanding, but that was when Greece encompassed Turkey. So he probably looked pretty middle-eastern too.

  6. Warren Johnson

     /  January 9, 2014

    Your quiz which has preyed on my mind since the day you posted it. Like most of the responses, my initial reaction has been incredulity that (smart?) people could be so dumb.

    But one of my current missions in life is to understand my creationist (conservative?) neighbors and relatives well enough to learn how to lead them away from such a irrational views of science. (Politics is another story.)

    So below, my best shot at “as [a] non-conservative, [putting myself] deep enough into the conservative mindset to understand what each speaker was getting at…”

    1) I (Robertson) have spent my life discussing and practicing religion, and Islam does not look anything like it. So Islam must be something else.

    2) Fidel Castro and his communism ruined my (Rafael Cruz’) homeland, and I even helped him (for a short while). That government DID demand that the state be your god, although they would not put it that way; they said that communism was ‘scientific’ socialism, and so I learned that science is an instrument of oppression.

    3) Christmas is all about tradition, that nothing change from when I was a child, so of course a non-white Santa is an insult and an injury.

    So Adam, how about you, from you long study of conservative thought? How do you answer your quiz?

    Reply
    • Thanks for the invite, Warren. I’m already accustomed to writing 2014 on my checks, so I know I’m late for an end-of-year quiz. But here’s my stab at understanding these statements “from the inside:”
      1.) I can understand virulent hostility to other religions among those for whom absolutist religion is a central idea. I don’t share it, but it makes logical sense to me. If my religion is absolutely correct, then those who follow other religions must be converted or destroyed. Scary, but logical. Thus, for “fundamentalists” of all religions, I can easily understand the logic of demonization. I have a harder time understanding Robertson’s dismissal of Islam’s status as a religion. My conclusion is that this is only a strategic statement by Robertson, not a theological one. That is, he wants to hurt Islam. Instead of fulminating against it, he tries to simply declare it a non-religion.
      2.) I think it is also relatively easy to make sense of a strong connection between communism and evolution. Both ideas, indeed, came out of the same 19th-century intellectual ferment among European thinkers. If our inherited central truths are without intellectual foundation, that is, we will cast about for new explanations. Marx found his explanation in capital and class conflict. Darwin found his in the origins of species. But both can be seen as fundamental intellectual threats by those who insist on the continuing truth of the traditional intellectual foundations. I think the way Mr. Cruz said it sounds like overheated ravings, but I don’t think the underlying sense of connection between the revolutionary ideas of Marx and Darwin is too far off the mark.
      3.) This one’s a stumper to me. I’ve read with interest the comment conversation above, since I don’t really know who Megyn Kelly is. I can try to understand this as a sigh of cultural exasperation. A sort of plea not to fuss with all of the central traditions of our culture. In other words, I could see an exasperated conservative saying something like, “Gee whiz, can’t we even have a traditional, white Santa Claus without causing a huffy leftist protest?”

      Reply

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