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At a conference that was said to be about “ethics and accountability in adoption” – an oxymoron if ever there was one – I was reminded of something that I’d realized some time before. Much of what I saw going on around me, particularly at a session focusing on international adoption from Guatemala, seemed to somehow reflect much larger matters. Like the patterns that can be seen in fractal art, the same patterns of thought, the same assumptions about America’s relationship to the world, its government to its citizens, and the policies and practices that follow appear with striking similarity, whether at the micro-level of one discussion of adoption – or on the macro-level of war.

“Pro-Life Across America” billboard near Kansas City, Missouri, in the summer of 2004. ©

“America’s Greatest Natural Resource.”
“Pro-Life Across America” billboard near Kansas City, Missouri, in the summer of 2004. ©

Or, to put it another way, when Ann Coulter wrote, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity,” she neglected to include in that series, “steal their kids.” Adoption practice often reflects a certain attitude about the world not far from that of Coulter’s, that other people’s kids are simply a “natural resource” to be appropriated at will for oneself on the basis of various common fictions and pretenses that are, at their core, matters of class and race. Sitting in that conference, watching a woman wave about a photo of a Guatemalan child, watching adopters and prospective adopters dismiss every possible concern about the source of those kids – while it may have been shocking to some, it was all too familiar to me.

Over the course of the past decade or so, my partner Sabina and I have ventured throughout the United States and Canada to observe, in person, a subculture that we call “Biblical America.” There are many common terms that are often used to describe the overlap of religion and politics that has come to dominate much of the American landscape today, but those terms and even our own are in some sense lacking. What we find difficult to describe is that, in contrast to those who seek to label and bottle some set of views and attitudes into an easily described container, we see and hear it as a kind of background hum. It’s a hum that’s louder or more socially acceptable in some places than others, but in this country, it’s almost always there. It’s an organic part of the American psyche, and far from being a force that’s in some future sense about to take over, it has in many ways insinuated itself throughout many aspects of everyday life and culture. The state of American politics, along with that of American culture, social structure, and yes, the practice of adoption, often can be tied back to one manifestation of that hum: a set of underlying assumptions about how the world works, assumptions that are often false but that ultimately serve to benefit some people and harm others.

We call this subculture “Biblical America,” in contrast to other more commonly-used terms, because it’s an expression of that pervasive background hum, and that’s not some easily isolated subset of people and organizations lead by a few high-profile individuals. It is not enough to describe this subculture by its associations, just by identifying the people in it and describing what they do, how they organize, how they associate with one another. We seek a qualitative description: who are they, where did they come from, why have they come together, and what shared qualities brought them together. These are the same questions we raised when we first watched Operation Rescue in the streets of Cincinnati and Dayton over ten years ago. One incorrect explanation, often put forward by those of a liberal Christian persuasion, is that they represent some vile mutated form of false Christianity. It is a much more basic matter than that. At the core is a set of shared values and assumptions about how the world works that is inherent to Christianity and that is often, but not always, expressed through religious language, practice and institutions.

Some of our previous work can be seen at the Biblical America Resistance Front website. We spent the summer of 2004 organizing an oppositional response to Operation Save America, an anti-abortion group, in Columbus, Ohio, and some of our work there is at theanswerisno.org. Our recent work includes the acquiretheevidence.com website, which focuses on the “Battle Cry Campaign” devised by evangelist Ron Luce that has gained some press attention in the past two years.

This blog is a continuation of that kind of work, with a broader focus. Instead of dwelling on a few specific groups, the point here is to comment on the generalities, the things I see over and over across many groups, events and other phenomena. From there, I plan to develop something of a framework that can help to understand that, what looks like a flood of pointless nonsense actually has a point and a purpose. I sometimes think that what much of what comes out of this subculture is often intentionally made to look nonsensical and stupid to those that are not part of the intended audience, who do not share an underlying set of assumptions – often, completely wrong assumptions – about how the world works. Whatever it looks like, it should not be taken lightly or dismissed as unbelievable or trivial; when individuals who hold these assumptions true come to power, chaos and destruction often follow.

It’s in this context that developing some kind of framework in which to make sense of the Biblical American flood of “purposeful nonsense” is a valuable effort. I think that if you want to start to get a handle on what the future looks like, take a look at what Biblical America holds to be true. In particular, watch closely when people who some call leaders, people who I describe more accurately as the dominant personalities of Biblical America, are teaching things that they believe are important to their kids. They have already come to dominate the domestic and foreign policy of this country, and are successfully working now to transform its military into a “faith”-based force. We’re watching an ongoing process with a lot of momentum, that will not be stopping because the individuals in charge in Washington and other capitals eventually change. Which is not to say they will be ultimately successful in getting what they say they want; their announced goals are sometimes not the point. There are inherent weaknesses in their so-called “worldview” that, in my view, inevitably doom their efforts. In the meantime, absent any effective, indirect and difficult to organize countermeasures, they will continue to make a mess for a very long time.

About: the author

As I, or we, have said before: I’m simply someone who’s been paying attention. For more, try my personal web site, or Google.

About: the blogroll

Since the Summer of People Losing Their Minds (here’s just one possible example), I’ve done away with the blogroll except to point to our own stuff.