Gerald De Maio

Looking for strong political prejudices? The Atlantic offers a U.S. map packed with revelations

Looking for strong political prejudices? The Atlantic offers a U.S. map packed with revelations

A quarter of a century ago, America was already a bitterly divided nation — especially on matters of religion, culture, morality and politics.

Thus, liberal theologian Harvey Cox of Harvard Divinity School (author of the ‘60s bestseller, “The Secular City”) was shocked when he invited to lecture at Regent University. It’s hard, he noted in The Atlantic (“Warring Visions of the Religious Right”), to titillate his sherry-sipping colleagues in the Harvard faculty lounge, but accepting an invitation to invade the Rev. Pat Robertson’s campus did the trick.

Cox was pleased to find quite a bit of diversity at Regent, in terms of theological and political debates. He was welcomed, and discovered lots of people testing the borders of evangelicalism — other than on moral issues with strong doctrinal content. He found Episcopalians, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers.

Politically, too, the students and faculty members I met represented a somewhat wider spectrum than I had anticipated. There are some boundaries, of course. I doubt that a pro-choice bumper sticker would go unremarked in the parking lot, or that a gay-pride demonstration would draw many marchers. But the Regent student newspaper carried an opinion piece by the well-known politically liberal evangelical (and "friend of Bill") Tony Campolo. … One student told me with obvious satisfaction that he had worked hard to defeat Oliver North in the Virginia senatorial contest last fall. If there is a "line" at Regent, which would presumably be a mirror image of the political correctness that is allegedly enforced at elite liberal universities, it is not easy to locate.

The bottom line: Cox found limits to the diversity at Regent, but they were limits that left him thinking about Harvard culture. In terms of debates on critically important topics, which school was more diverse?

I thought of that classic Cox essay a computer click or two into a must-read new essay at The Atlantic that ran with this double-decker headline:

The Geography of Partisan Prejudice

A guide to the most—and least—politically open-minded counties in America

So where does one find diversity that matters, people who are trying to be tolerant of their neighbors who represent different cultures and belief systems? You wouldn’t know that by reading that headline.

So let’s jump-start this a bit with the headline atop the Rod “Benedict Option” Dreher take on this piece, which has been updated several times (including his detailed reaction to a criticism from one of the authors). That headline: “Least Tolerant: Educated White Liberals.”

Where is Dreher coming from? Here is a key passage in the interactive Atlantic piece:

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Spot the news story: Americans feel 'warmer' about faith groups, except for (#DUH) evangelicals

Spot the news story: Americans feel 'warmer' about faith groups, except for (#DUH) evangelicals

Several times a year, the Pew Research Center hits reporters with another newsy study -- full of numbers and public-square trends -- that is almost impossible not to cover.

The latest report was topped with this sprawling double-decker headline: "Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups -- Jews, Catholics continue to receive warmest ratings, atheists and Muslims move from cool to neutral."

That's a rather warm and fuzzy way to put it and that's precisely how The New York Times -- in a very straightforward and newsy report -- decided to cover this material. Of course, this survey was also framed with references (#DUH) to the 2016 presidential race. Never forget that politics is what is really real.

After an election year that stirred up animosity across racial and religious lines, a new survey has found that Americans are actually feeling warmer toward people in nearly every religious group -- including Muslims -- than they did three years ago.
Muslims and atheists still rank at the bottom of the poll, which asked respondents to rate their attitudes toward religious groups on a “feeling thermometer.” However, Muslims and atheists -- who have long been targets of prejudice in the United States -- received substantially warmer ratings on the scale than they did in a survey in 2014: Muslims rose to 48 percent from 40, and atheists to 50 percent from 41.
The religious groups that ranked highest, as they did three years ago, were Jews (67 percent) and Catholics (66 percent). Mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, who were measured for the first time, came in at 65 percent. Buddhists rose on the scale to 60 percent from 53, Hindus to 58 from 50, and Mormons to 54 from 48.

There was, however, one exception to this civility trend.

Evangelical Christians were the only group that did not improve their standing from three years ago, plateauing at 61 percent.

As you would imagine -- remember the journalism commandment that "all news is local" -- scribes at Christianity Today jumped on that trend right at the top of their report on the survey.

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