Christianity as Logo: Is Donald Trump a “Baby Christian”?

 

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As you might have seen recently in the news, James Dobson, noted evangelical leader and founder of the Focus on the Family empire, has made the public claim that Donald Trump, the Presidential candidate to whom he has lent quasi-official support, is a born-again Christian.  This statement was made largely in an attempt to explain how Trump’s string of unsavory comments and crude vocabulary need not offput the “values voters” who Dobson represents and whose support Trump so desperately needs.  Rather, Dobson located the reason for Trump’s language and attitudes in the fact that he is a “baby Christian,” or very recent convert.  In other words,  Dobson has argued, Trump should be given a pass in the matter of his foul language and otherwise distasteful comments since he was not raised in an evangelical environment, and is just learning the cultural ropes, so to speak.

It will surprise no one that a wave of anti-Trump folks responded to the “baby Christian” comment by claiming that Trump’s ethics are so bankrupt that this news couldn’t possibly be taken seriously.  Yet as Russell McCutcheon himself recently argued, the progressive clamor over whether Trump’s religiosity is “genuine” — that is, reflective of some inward personal shift —  is actually a conservative move in the sense that it presumes the existence of some sort of authentic religious experience that is deemed authoritative and positive precisely because it is presumed apolitical.  McCutcheon’s analysis points to the fact that since every religious act is designed to have some impact on the power relationships shared by people, every such act is political in one way or another.  So while Trump may be among the more colorful candidates to invoke religion while on the campaign trail, there’s nothing particularly unique in how he’s doing it. Continue reading “Christianity as Logo: Is Donald Trump a “Baby Christian”?”

“I Was an Orphan. I Grew Up in Pennsylvania…”

Picture 21Tonight is the series end to Mad Men, the story of the early years of Madison Avenue ad men (and women). When last we saw him, the protagonist, Don, had given away his car to a young scam artist, offering him a new start, and was seated alone at a bus stop, his belongings in a big paper sack. His ex-wife, Betty, had been diagnosed with lung cancer but was going back to school anyway. His onetime boss and then partner, Roger, was playing an electric organ in their freshly vacated offices while Peggy, once a secretary but now an integral part of the creative team, had rollerskated her way into a new found self-confidence and a new office, armed with some erotic Japanese art.

peggy Continue reading ““I Was an Orphan. I Grew Up in Pennsylvania…””

Policing Harvard’s Back Door

Extension SchoolA friend at the University of Missouri recently alerted me to what he thought was an ideal candidate for a post on our site. It involved a report in which a man who is said to have gone on “a naked rampage at [Boston’s] Logan airport” was identified by the media as “a Harvard student.” Continue reading “Policing Harvard’s Back Door”

Walmart Asks: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

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I had to look twice when I was driving in Birmingham yesterday and drove past the local “Walmart Neighborhood Market.” Neighborhood market? Yes, it seems that the corporate giant is expanding yet again…this time with smaller stores. Now Walmart can compete with grocers in more crowded city centers that may not be amenable to its otherwise inexhaustible sprawl. The famous chain is known not only for its low prices but also for widespread criticism of its business practices — complaints that have made so much news as to warrant their own lengthy wikipedia page. Continue reading “Walmart Asks: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?””

“No Coke, Pepsi”

brand-loyaltyDid you catch this story a few days ago? No…? While you can listen to the original, longer set of stories, listen to the brief weekend report:

The moral of the story? Continue reading ““No Coke, Pepsi””

Brand Loyalty

Picture 1Have you heard of the parody of the 1960s “Peter and Jane” readers for kids, and how Penguin UK has threatened a lawsuit unless the author and small publisher “pulp” the books?

No? Then come up to speed with this article. Continue reading “Brand Loyalty”

The Stamp of Identity

cowU.S. food makers have spent a lot of money building their brands….

In much of my work I find it useful to start with trying to understand or account for what, on first glance, seems like the easy examples, then look for increasingly messy analogical situations that can be explained in much the same fashion — a strategy that complicates the seemingly straightforward and simplifies the apparently complex. So when it comes to understanding human identity not as a public display of a self-evident, inner quality but, instead, as the naturalized result of thoroughly public contests over place and rank, maybe a good place to start is with trade disputes over making and selling cheese. Continue reading “The Stamp of Identity”