Rational answers to many questions folks have had about the conservative Christian mentality and this election are here, in an excellent DKos diary, Views from a former Christian conservative. Every progressive needs to read the essay if they want to understand this perspective and regroup for the next election cycle. It’s not going to make you feel any better about the state of things, but it frames things better, than say, thinking these people are all stupid, insane or evil. Just a few snippets, since the original is a long, engaging post:

It starts with the fact that we as conservative Christians are taught to see America as our land. I mean, you guys in Europe and the loonies on the East and West Coasts think the Founding Fathers died to bring us religious freedom.

They so did not. They died to give new Christianity a place where it could flourish. And if you think that Catholicism was flourishing perfectly fine before that, thank you, then you don’t understand conservative Christianity. See, I grew up being taught that Catholicism was almost-sort-of-not-quite-but-we-won’t-talk-about-it cult. Really.

Lots of Southern Baptists believe Catholicism is a cult, despite the fact that it is the largest practiced religion in the world. If you understand that we can believe that about Catholicism then maybe you can understand that American Conservative Christian values don’t necessarily fit into any kind of historical, cultural, or anthropological perspective. They never really have.

…When you grow up being raised in this environment, whether you give it any credence or not, what starts to happen is that you see things very easily in terms of whether they fit into the “Us” category or the “World” category. Since, um, most things fall into the World category, it gets very easy to compartmentalize in your head, and to, for example, start thinking, “the media is a tool of Satan, I shouldn’t believe what people are telling me.” And even if you don’t think “TOOL OF SATAN!!!!” every time you hear the media, if you’ve heard other people around you and in your church say it enough, even subconsciously you start doubting the media.

How this plays out is that you begin to filter your environment as a conservative christian based on what you can easily categorize. Once you have identified, say, George Bush, as one of Us, it’s much easier to disregard negative news about him because the Media is one of Them, and the two things can be easily canceled out in your mind.

In the South, the tendency to categorize things, combined with the fact that we are taught to expect persecution as a Christian people, has led us to segregate, commit acts of racism and intolerance, and to be very, very suspicious of anyone from the North or the West, because all of you are part of the World.

If I were still a conservative Christian I can tell you exactly how this election would look to me right now. Kerry is an immoral man of the World, and I thank God that Bush, a man of clear moral integrity who is out to defeat Satan regardless of the forces that stand in his way, has been blessed with victory. He didn’t win the election–God chose him as the leader of this nation.

That is how I would view this election. And that is not a stance that would make me ignorant, stupid, bigoted, or homophobic. Because I read just as many newspapers then as now. I was valedictorian of my high school. I was open-minded and tolerant. And I was always pro-gay rights from the time I made my first gay friend at age 9.

…When you blame the voters who chose Bush, you are completely mistaking what is happening in our country today. Bush did not win the election based on ignorance and stupidity. He won the election based on a belief system that has been determinedly advancing across the country because Christians believe it is their spiritual duty to bring people to Christ. And you cannot be successfully brought to Christ until you also commit to serving Christ. You cannot successfully serve Christ unless you do his will. And it is Christ’s will that Bush win re-election. Do you see the pattern at work here???

You guys, you democrats and liberals, have a tendency to blame the people rather than the ideologies they represent. It is my belief that people’s lives are shaped by ideologies. But people’s lives are changed by other people. My life was shaped by the ideology of the Southern Baptist church. My life was changed when I met Jerry Boles, who died of AIDS in 1994. My life was changed when my best friend came out to me 5 years later.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding