A Battle Between Worldviews

Several sources have now reported on a speech that MAGA House speaker, Mike Johnson, recently gave at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., at an event for the National Association of Christian Lawmakers. Although the address was being livestreamed, Johnson seemingly believed he was speaking privately when he told the audience that “the Lord had called him to be a new Moses.”

The Lord! (Can we say “self-important”?)

Johnson then said something with which I do agree. He told the audience that the U.S. is “engaged in a battle between world-views” and “a great struggle for the future of the Republic.”

Johnson clearly believes that far-right Christians will prevail–a belief that the history of culture change fortunately doesn’t support, and that I don’t share. The conflict between world-views that Johnson referenced is not new. It formed the organizing thesis of my 2007 book, God and Country: America in Red and Blue. (Still available at Amazon…)

When I was researching that book, I came across a legal historian’s very useful description of the two different groups that created the United States–the  “Planting Fathers” and the “Founding Fathers.” The Planters were the Puritans. They came to the New World for “religious liberty,” which they defined as freedom to worship the right God in the right church and to establish a government that would require their neighbors to do likewise. One hundred and fifty years later, those we call the Founders–the men who drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights– defined liberty very differently. For them, liberty was the right to form and follow one’s own beliefs, free of government interference.

What had intervened between the two sets of founders– what had caused a significant  change in Americans’ then-predominant world-views– was the Enlightenment. And therein lies the problem we still face today, because this country is still home to a significant number of Puritans.

Our Puritans are a minority, but they are a fervent and activist minority. America’s legal framework is based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberty and the proper role of government,  but America is still grappling with the intransigence of the Puritans who reject that understanding– along with the Enlightenment’s emphasis on science, evidence and empiricism. The Speaker of the House is rather clearly one of them.

America’s increasingly acrimonious culture war is being waged between our contemporary Puritans, on the one hand, and the rest of us– secularists and adherents of  non-fundamentalist religions– on the other. In the abstract, it raises some important and too often neglected questions: what good is religion? do modern societies still need it? what separates “good” religions from harmful ones? what’s the difference between a religion and a cult? between religion and philosophy?

The problem is, we don’t have the luxury of considering and debating those questions in the abstract.

We really are engaged in a battle between totally inconsistent intellectual paradigms. America’s two political parties have sorted themselves into tribes with contending and incommensurate world-views. Today’s GOP has for all intents and purposes become a cult,  fixated upon imposing fundamentalist religious precepts (and its disdain for nonWhites and nonChristians) on the rest of the country, and discarding inconvenient impediments like Separation of Church and State. The Democratic Party is far less cohesive, but despite deep disagreements on a wide array of issues, virtually all Democrats have accepted secular modernity and rejected Puritanism and theocracy.

Talk about “alternative realities”! 

Of course, not every Republican is a Puritan. But every single vote cast for a Republican candidate is a vote for a Puritan world-view that has been publicly and fervently embraced by Republicans like Michael Johnson and Jim Banks.

It really is not an overstatement to say that the 2024 election will be pivotable. That election will tell us whether Johnson is right in believing that, at least in the short term, Puritans will prevail–or whether my faith in the essential common sense and good-will of the American public will be vindicated. 

The assertion that we are engaged in a battle of world-views may be the only thing on which Johnson and I agree.


  1. There are so many aspects of modern society that the Framers didn’t anticipate!

    What we really need is Constitution 2.0, rewritten from the ground up, but currently the best we can do is try to create piecemeal amendments to Constitution 1.0, which of themselves would be nearly impossible to pass, due to the stringent requirements, almost insurmountable hurdles.

    I know that many people fear a Constitutional Convention, dreading that somehow the right-wing would hijack the agenda and we would end up the worse off for having tried to rectify this situation with such a drastic approach. But I say that the majority of Americans would not stand for religious extremism, and that we should not fear a wholesale revision. We can find common ground, I’m sure of it.

    Prof Cox-Richardson’s post today was to recognize the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Constitution 2.0 needs to restate Constitution 1.0’s preamble in modern terms, including a full embrace of that UN doctrine as one of the fundamental functions of government. After that, many other necessary reforms would fall into place smoothly.

    It may be too late for old folks like me, but it’s not too late to give our descendants a government to be proud of.

  2. In terms of a true Christian church, I keep coming back to several verses from the New Testament, such as “you will know a tree by its fruit”, and “many (false prophets) will come in my name”.

    I think about the story of the preacher who was preaching about the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth”, etc) and was challenged by a church member in the audience who asked him where he had got those ideas. The preacher says “it is literally the words of Jesus”, and they guy says “well, that does not work any more because it is weak”, or something to that effect.

  3. I must also add a note from my trip to the National Holocaust Museum two days ago.
    The first exhibit was about the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. The parallels with the rise of Trump and MAGA are stunning. It is as if he is following the same playbook. Both begin by a disenchantment with the current conditions. When Hitler was elected (with less than 38% of the vote), he was appointed Chancellor, and the leaders thought that it was okay because he could be controlled by the rules and guardrails in place at the time.
    Yesterday on one of the Sunday news programs, Robert Costa asked Kevin McCarthy about Trumps dictatorial words and actions, and he laughed it off saying something to the effect the “he will change his ways once he is in power”. He is wrong, just as the German government was wrong.
    There are so many other parallels between the two, and I don’t want to hijack any more space here, but talk about a fight between two world views.

  4. My parents taught me my ABCs.

    My father explainened further – Always Be Curious.

    Why do people stop being curious once they arrive at a self-satisfying explanation?

  5. Some observations on the comments.
    Yes, I fear a Constitutional Convention, for the same reason I dread Republican primaries. While I admit to being a moderate to liberal Democrat, it’s become quite obvious in Republican primaries the winners can’t run to far to the crazy right. I’m concerned it’s not that people wouldn’t want to Right Wing babble…it’s that the moderates who would be required to make this successful and accomplish needed changes would never make it to the Convention’s floor. It would be hijacked by the extreme (probably on both sides). I fear what would come of such a gathering.

    James Todd’s comments on the Holocaust Museum, the rise of Hitlerism, and today’s MAGA is interesting because the MAGA side of the aisle is now claiming the liberals are the new Nazis, with their support of Palestinie and antisemitism. Somehow criticizing a nation’s government’s policies became conflated into a religous bigotry. If I say I’m opposed to how Israel treats Palestinians, be they in the West Bank, Gaza, or any where in the world Mossad can track them down to murder them, I’m antisemitic. If someone criticizes Iran, they are not opposed to Islam, just Iran. If I criticize Hamas, I’m not opposed to Islam. It’s an interesting double standard, espcially in light of the unrestrained violence against the innocent in Gaza, and the attacks by illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank on Palestinians.

  6. I had a brief “religious experience” yesterday at Eskenazi Hospital, ICU, where my daughter has been on life support since November 17th. Overnight hospital staff had placed two late night calls to my granddaughters, Candace at 12:20 a.m. telling her they were putting in another central line, she had a bit of fever and blood pressure was dropping again. At 2:43 a.m. they called her daughter Angela to inform her she had taken another turn for the worse, she is now in kidney failure, can’t put in central line due to finding blood clot near her heart, advised we come early in the morning. We arrived about 9:15 and found a technician working on the tubes and connections, within minutes there was a man we had never seen before hovering around the door to her room, he entered a few minutes later and we learned he was the hospital Chaplain. I asked his what denomination he represented, his response was Christian which I commented covered a lot of territory these days. He then wrote “Interdenominational”; my response was an eye roll with raised eyebrows. His presence added to our escalating fears after 2 hospitalizations in 2 weeks after a vehicle accident and 3 weeks of life support with the only answers we received were that they had no idea what caused the attack of so many infections, the loss of the use of her right hand and mental deterioration when removed from sedation, then the 2 overnight dire warnings. “The Rev” was a very nice and friendly man but what was his part in any of the medical dilemmas we have viewed as my daughter deteriorates daily? Was this a last ditch effort to tell us to pray because they didn’t have any answers or treatments to save her life.

    The religious worldviews “…too often neglected questions: what good is religion? do modern societies still need it?” It had no place in the ICU accommodations my daughter now seems trapped in, it held no answers to our questions and certainly did not ease our fears for her survival.

  7. I am reading 2 very good books right now: Heather Cox Richardson’s “Democracy Awakening” and Liz Cheney’s “Oath and Honor”.

    We are definitely in a crossroad’s period in America. I hope we make the right choice in 2024, but even that will probably bring about destruction and death as the MAGA cult will not go “gentle into that good night” and they own most of the assault rifles.

  8. Including Lester’s nonsensical comment, today’s offerings collect much of what this blog has been dealing with for years. Yes, we are in for some terrible times when Biden does indeed defeat Trump once again. I predict that the popular vote margin will be even greater than in 2020. That will set off the MAGAs and the mini-civil war will happen.

    I don’t think we give enough credit to those good people in every corner of our society who just aren’t shooting off their mouths to get attention. The MAGATS, like the Nazis, have no other message than insurrection. The good news is that there are enough real patriots in our military and police that will thwart the uprising by the fat, beer-bellied screamers who, as Lester suggests, never learned about critical thinking.

    The cultists are imprisoned by their own ignorance and fears of inadequacy. They are compelled to follow the loudest, aggrieved voice they hear, because they simply lack the mental capacity to look at society through a wide-angle lens.


  9. Having heard the Amazing Heroic Rashida Tlaib – sitting on the floor – 6 feet to her side Saturday – I would like to Caution all of you. Michigan – is an important State in 2024. As long as Genocide – and continued Deep Oppression continues – many (enough that could sway the results) – will vote – but NOT vote in the Box for President. That and several other states could – drastically change the end result in 2024. We – Caring Jews, Moslem, Christians, Non-Believers (I’m Jewish) – are NOT likely to be Scared into voting for Biden. Some of us will – no doubt – but plenty won’t! 45 – is HORRIBLE – no Question – however HE isn’t – the Current Accomplice in the Genocide that continues. Rashida Tlaib – is INCREDIBLE – a Loving, Caring – oldest of 14 children – “I have straight teeth because my father was an Assembly Line Worker at Ford – His UAW Membership – got me Dental Insurance.” Tlaib – is NO One Issue Congresswoman. It was telling when she spoke of how – when she leaves the Capitol Building – she can FINALLY BREATHE – she isn’t being attacked any longer – she has respite from the Horrific Treatment. I had to not post – from Saturday until today – related to her – because of the HUGE numbers of threats on her life – for her (momentary – semi-) Safety! She preaches love and caring – not Hate – and Moving to End Systemic Oppression(s). We obviously need for a Non-Republican in the White House! We also need – for Action – Liberal and Radical – to prevent – a Deeper Fascist State! I’m Grieving! I’m Scared! I’m Angry!

  10. Let’s put in a requirement that one must get 100% on the citizenship test that has to be taken prion to a grant of citizenship in the good old US of A in order to run for Federal Office including President. That would eliminate about 150 Congressmen, immediately.

  11. Those so-called Puritans traveled to this continent to gain their own personal religious liberty, yet they don’t believe that other people should have the same right. They literally left England to escape Catholicism being forced on them and to this day believe that they have the right to force their religious beliefs on everyone else in our country. They don’t care at all about their extreme hypocrisy.

    They obviously don’t believe in one of the most important passages in the Bible they claim to follow – the ‘Golden Rule’ found in Matthew 7:12. It is commonly claimed by Christian denominations, but is basically a part of most other religions across the globe. Maybe it is high time that the rest of us forcefully remind them of this rule.

  12. JoAnn –

    I am so sorry to hear about your daughter and I hope the medical staff is able to save her life and bring about a complete recovery.

    It is regretful that the chaplain’s appearance to her room caused such stress and frustration. The ICU staff should have known to first ask the family members if they would like the chaplain to visit her and the family instead of just assuming that it would be okay.

    Hoping for much better days ahead for you, your daughter and your family.

  13. Pete, you put the words there: “…self-satisfying explanation.” Once satisfaction is reached there appears no need to bother to look any further.
    James, you refer to the very thing I mentioned the other day, the German leaders thought that Hitler would be hemmed in by all of the bureaucratic junk, not considering that he could just ignore it. Costa is very seriously wrong. How someone in his position can misunderstand the vitriol that Trump has been spewing, and think that it is no more than words, is beyond me. Trump is a VERY, VERY sick puppy, and his narcissistic wounds will know no bounds in taking revenge…one of his favorite word, of late.
    How about Puritans =Pure Hypocrisy?
    The ’24 election will probably be a watershed election, indeed, and the blowback, if Biden wins, might be lessened if he beats Haley, rather than Trump…not that I’m particularly hopeful in that regard. I expect that Biden will take precautions in the run-up to the election, to try to minimize any violent acts of rebellion.
    JoAnn, I feel for you, and agree with your stated perspective on religion.

  14. Lester and Nancy; thank you for your kind words. Nancy; I appreciate your comments that staff should have asked family before summoning the Chaplain, we were in the past church-going people to different denominations and had we wanted the visit, we would have asked for it. We do our praying for her life and for solace in our private times. He was a very nice person and understood our discomfort.

  15. Wow JoAnn,

    I am so so sorry! That’s one of the hardest things to deal with, I know!

    I hope you and your granddaughters can find some comfort, but, there really is no comfort in this world for something like that. Why do we grieve, why do we have heartfelt grievous pain when someone we love is extremely ill. No mother should ever have to deal with losing a child. Men can grieve, but women have given birth to that person. That person was inside of them for 9 months more or less. That’s a connection or bond that should be stronger than iron. How many of us would give their lives for that of their children.


    “No One Has Love Greater Than This”
    Pontius Pilate gesturing toward Jesus. Jesus’ hands are bound, and he is wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns.
    1-4. (a) What happens when Pilate presents Jesus to the angry mob gathered outside the governor’s palace? (b) How does Jesus respond to the humiliation and suffering, and what important questions are raised?

    “LOOK! The man!” With those words, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus Christ to the angry mob gathered outside the governor’s palace in the morning on Passover of 33 C.E. (John 19:5) Just a few days earlier, Jesus was hailed by the crowds when he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the divinely appointed King. On this day, however, the hostile crowd has a very different view of him.

    2 Jesus is decked with a purple robe like that worn by royalty, and he has a crown upon his head. But the robe, draped over the ribbons of bleeding flesh on his scourged back, and the crown, braided of thorns and pressed into his now-bloodied scalp, are in mockery of his royal status. The people, incited by the chief priests, reject the battered man standing before them. The priests shout: “To the stake with him! To the stake with him!” With murder in their hearts, the people cry out: “He ought to die.”—John 19:1-7.

    3 With dignity and courage, Jesus endures the humiliation and suffering uncomplainingly.a He is fully prepared to die. Later that Passover Day, he willingly submits to a painful death on a torture stake.—John 19:17, 18, 30.

    4 By surrendering his life, Jesus proved himself a real friend to his followers. “No one has love greater than this,” he said, “that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) That raises some important questions. Was it really necessary for Jesus to go through all that suffering and then to die? Why was he willing to do so? As “his friends” and followers, how can we imitate his example?

    Why Was It Necessary for Jesus to Suffer and Die?
    5. How did Jesus know the specific trials that awaited him?

    5 As the promised Messiah, Jesus knew what to expect. He was aware of the many prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures that foretold in detail the Messiah’s suffering and death. (Isaiah 53:3-7, 12; Daniel 9:26) More than once, he prepared his disciples for the trials that awaited him. (Mark 8:31; 9:31) On the way to Jerusalem for his final Passover, he specifically told his apostles: “The Son of man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to men of the nations, and these will mock him and spit on him and scourge him and kill him.” (Mark 10:33, 34) These were no empty words. As we have seen, Jesus was indeed made fun of, spit on, scourged, and killed.

    6. Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer and die?

    6 Why, though, was it necessary for Jesus to suffer and die? For several profoundly significant reasons. First, by keeping loyal, Jesus would prove his integrity and sanctify Jehovah’s name. Recall that Satan falsely claimed that humans serve God only out of selfish interest. (Job 2:1-5) By remaining faithful “to the point of death . . . on a torture stake,” Jesus gave the most conclusive answer possible to Satan’s baseless charge. (Philippians 2:8; Proverbs 27:11) Second, the Messiah’s suffering and death would provide atonement for the sins of others. (Isaiah 53:5, 10; Daniel 9:24) Jesus gave “his life as a ransom in exchange for many,” opening the way for us to have an approved relationship with God. (Matthew 20:28) Third, by enduring all manner of hardships and suffering, Jesus had been “tested in all respects as we have.” He is thus a compassionate High Priest, one who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”—Hebrews 2:17, 18; 4:15.

    Why Was Jesus Willing to Give His Life?
    7. How much did Jesus give up when he came to earth?

    7 To put into perspective what Jesus was willing to do, think about this: What man would leave his family and home and move to a foreign land if he knew that most of its inhabitants would reject him, that he would be subjected to humiliation and suffering, and that he would finally be murdered? Consider now what Jesus did. Before coming to earth, he had a favored position in the heavens alongside his Father. Yet, Jesus willingly left his heavenly home and came to earth as a human. He made this move, knowing that he would be rejected by the majority and that he would be subjected to cruel humiliation, intense suffering, and a painful death. (Philippians 2:5-7) What motivated Jesus to make such a sacrifice?

    8, 9. What motivated Jesus to surrender his life?

    8 Above all, Jesus was impelled by deep love for his Father. Jesus’ endurance was evidence of his love for Jehovah. That love caused Jesus to be concerned about his Father’s name and reputation. (Matthew 6:9; John 17:1-6, 26) More than anything, Jesus wanted to see his Father’s name cleared of the reproach that had been heaped upon it. Jesus thus counted it the highest honor and privilege to suffer for righteousness’ sake, for he knew that his integrity would play a part in sanctifying his Father’s good and beautiful name.—1 Chronicles 29:13.

    9 Jesus had another motive for laying down his life—love for humankind. This is a love that goes back to the very beginning of human history. Long before Jesus came to earth, the Bible reveals that he felt this way: “I was especially fond of the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:30, 31) His love was clearly evident when he was on earth. As we saw in the preceding three chapters of this book, in many ways Jesus showed his love for humans in general and for his followers in particular. But on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., he willingly gave his life in our behalf. (John 10:11) Truly, there was no greater way for him to demonstrate his love for us. Are we to imitate him in this regard? Yes. In fact, we are commanded to do so.

    “Love One Another . . . as I Have Loved You”
    10, 11. What is the new commandment that Jesus gave his followers, what does it involve, and why is it important that we obey it?

    “The night before he died, Jesus told his closest disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) “Love one another,””why is that “a new commandment”? The Mosaic Law had already commanded: “You must love your fellow man [or, neighbor] as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) But the new commandment calls for a greater love, a love that would move us to give our own life in behalf of others. Jesus himself made this clear when he said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) The new commandment, in effect, says: “Love others, not as yourself, but more than yourself.” ♥️ So, keep loving your family, and keep your expectations open. “Pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.”​—MATTHEW 6:6.♥️

    Concerning Johnson, For someone to claim that they are the new Moses, is hilarious firstly, and unscriptural secondly, and haughty lastly. It shows how self aggrandized and narcissistic this mouse is. What kind of reminds me during the time of Enoch, which was a spiritually degenerate time, some of those individuals claimed to be God, and eventually, they paid the penalty for it. That’s in Genesis.

  16. JoAnn, I am so sorry you and your family members have to go through the pain, anxiety and fear that comes with having a loved one in ICU. I have had those same experiences and know how distraught you all must be.
    Nancy is right. Permission should have been asked.

    The arrogance and self-satisfied bigots that declare their entitlement to enforce their religious beliefs on all others will fight back if not empowered in the coming election. Violence is not out of the question. We witnessed that on 1/6. The rural parts of this state are more and more vocal and extreme, fed by lies and vitriol spewed at them on an hourly basis through their preferred media. It is a choice that contributes to the arroganct, self-satisfied grievance of so many white Christo-fascists. VOTE and urge others to vote. Our lives and futures depend on it.

    The constant drumbeat of political ads by Braun and the state Republicans is disturbing at best. Who is paying for these ads? The local media, as usual, must be laughing all the way to the bank once again. The fairness doctrine is no longer in place so they don’t have to run those ads unless I don’t understand the circumstances. If anyone can confirm that the media can decline to carry the ads, I would appreciate it.

  17. JoAnn — So sorry to hear about your daughter’s trauma. Holding you and your family in the light and wishing for the best possible outcome. 🙂

  18. To understand the book of human history, it is necessary to start at the beginning and read every chapter. It’s a long book full of fantastic detail, but I’ve spent 81 years reading it and am sadly running out of time to finish it. But of course, I have lived the final chapter written so far.

    Nothing is new. Now is a rehash of much of yesterday, but the players, costumes, and setting are new.

  19. John, JD and Kathy; thank you for your kind thoughts. Some people think this Christmas season is the worst time to lose a loved one but; I lost my oldest son to cancer in September 2013 and my second son to cancer in January 2011; season doesn’t matter when you lose a child and if I lose a third the pain will be as deep and no deeper as the first and second. All of us on this blog family have lost loved ones and it is meaningful to receive these messages here; it is our ability to care deeply about others that keeps us coming here every day. Thank you, Sheila, for creating this extended family who are bound by caring, warts and all.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

  20. JoAnn I always like reading and benefit from your comments here on Sheila’s Blog and missed that you hadn’t commented lately. I’m so sorry what happened to your daughter, and what you and your family are going through at this difficult time. Hoping and praying for your daughter and your family.
    Authoritarian oppressive religion or government has no place in US: put them together and we get back to inquisition time. Both my parents served in US army during WWll and my mother as a nurse took care of prisoners of war. She said they were like human skeletons who could barely speak, the nurses would inject them with steroids and spoon feed them until they could feed themselves. She told me when I was a kid that what humans do to other humans is hell. My parent’s seriousness of what they fought against has stayed with me. I think now that our WWll vets and generation are dying out we’re not focused on how bad things can get. That’s why I speak up now that they are gone.
    I find it unbelievable that a tyrannical indicted felon has taken over the republican party (cult), and many of them rationalize with religious reasons. I’m hoping that’s a movement that most Americans don’t want to be a part of, I know I don’t.

  21. James Todd I am currently reading Rachel Maddow’s book “Prequel”. You might want to read it. It is largely about Hitler and I can see Trump except this is not Germany. I was shocked at what they were doing in the USA shortly before World War 2.

  22. JoAnn, you, your family, and your daughter’s caregivers are in my prayers for healing, comfort, strength, and medical inspiration. You have a whole circle of care surrounding you here.

  23. JoAnn, I’m so sorry to read of your daughter’s illness. I’m praying for her and for you.

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