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November 26, 2014

The Left's Unending Fascination With Scripts to Browbeat Relatives on Thanksgiving Strongly Resemble... Scripts for Religious Conversion

Religious fervor on Thanksgiving?! How appropriate!

Think Progress has a guide on "how to argue with your Evangelical uncle" about marriage equality. Vox is advising you on Bill Cosby, Ferguson, and immigration (you're for it as much as possible, of course).

Last year, some of Michael Bloomberg's dollars trickled down to someone who gave you talking points on gun control. Chris Hayes is once again dedicating an hour of his MSNBC show to the cause.

Less combatively, Conor Friedersdorf advises you to adopt his brand of nodding empathy: "Before you focus on any point of disagreement, ask questions of your interlocutor to figure out why they think the way they do about the subject at hand."

These advice columns are becoming a genre unto themselves. The stock villain: crazy right-wing uncle, the jokes about stuffing. But I recognize them by what they unwittingly emulate: guides for religious evangelism. The gentle, righteous self-regard, the slightly orthogonal response guides, the implied urgency to cure your loved ones of their ignorance. Your raging uncle will know the truth, and the truth will set him free.

That's a problem. Our politics are taking on a religious shape. Increasingly we allow politics to form our moral identity and self-conception. We surround ourselves with an invisible community of the "elect" who share our convictions, and convince ourselves that even our closest and beloved relatives are not only wrong, but enemies of goodness itself. And so one of the best, least religious holidays in the calendar becomes a chance to deliver your uncle up as a sinner in the hands of an angry niece.

One thing that interests me about these Bluffers' Guides to Politics:

Supposedly progressives are super-informed and Love Science. Indeed, that's the main "political" argument they're actually arguing for.

So why is it so many of them seem to need these bluffer's guides to explain to them why they believe the things they believe?

It doesn't really make sense, does it? They're anxious because they're going to a Thanksgiving dinner where they won't have an Automatic Affirmation Clap Circle applauding their poses and posturings, but instead might be asked things like "Where are you getting that claim from?"

And this produces in them a terrible anxiety -- an anxiety disclosed by all these articles in their first paragraphs, which note the anxiety and fear before proposing a way to combat it.

But if they believe all these things so terribly fiercely, shouldn't they already sorta know why they believe them?

It's incredible, when you think about it -- they go through the whole year believing in their progressive catechisms zealously but only bother to ask Why do we believe this progressive religious nonsense again? one single day of the year, the one single day of the year where they fear they might be questioned about their religious beliefs.


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posted by Ace at 12:38 PM

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