I'm an avid reader of the Kos, but this is my first diary, and it's kind of personal.

I first learned about this story from The Young Turks. When I saw the quote from the pastor about Costco labeling their Bibles as "fiction," I laughed and groaned. Then I saw the name of the pastor. It was Caleb Kaltenbach, an old friend of mine from college. My immediate reaction was to be angry at him. I tagged him on Facebook and called him out, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to see what really went down.

He called me, and told me his side of things. Turns out, he was being misquoted in the media, and it was never his intention to launch a crusade over how Costco had labeled their Bibles. He thought it was humorous, so he posted a snarky pic, having no idea the media shitstorm that would ensue. Naively, he was taken along for the ride by Fox and others.

Now probably 99 out of a 100 times, when a conservative Christian says something ridiculous in the media, they mean it. But I know Caleb, and I know he's not one of those culture warrior Christians.

Tonight, Caleb took responsibility for the controversy he unwittingly initiated, and posted an apology to Costco, and statements of support for them, on his Facebook and Twitter, where this all began.

I'm not crusading against Costco or anyone else. I am sorry that this has created a difficult season for them
Cultural warfare over book labels casts a shadow over the Gospel. Never my intent when I snapped a pic...
Matthew 25: God cares about how we care for our brothers & sisters in need... I'm glad ‪#‎Costco‬ is an example of that
‪#‎Costco‬ stands on the side of the Gospel when they pay employees a living wage & do good. Judge a tree by its fruit, not by its labels
(His Facebook is here.)

Caleb isn't a culture warrior. He genuinely believes that being a Christian is about what one does for those in need, not about owning the culture. Yes, Caleb is a theological conservative, with theologically conservative views (though not necessarily politically conservative views). But while I most definitely am not a theological conservative, he and I remain friends. He's not interested in converting me to his way of thinking. He wants to cooperate with differently-minded people based on common ground. That's his thing. And, for every loud-mouthed fundy Christian who wants to make America over in their puny image, there's a down-to-earth conservative Christian who has bigger fish to fry.

So from my perspective, what this story is really about is how the media (especially Fox, obviously, but the media on both sides of the largely fictional left/right divide) feed on controversy, like parasites. And if there isn't controversy, they need to create it. It's cynicism at its finest—manipulating the emotions of those who are easily manipulated in order to turn a profit. I'm not denying that there are stupid and dangerous Christians (and fundies of all religious and non-religious stripes) out there. There are lots of them. But I do think that the primary reason there are so many of them is not something inherent in their faiths/ideologies, but something deeply embedded in the establishment media modus operandi. The media needs fundies because it needs controversy, and so it is invested in creating fundies, by limiting the parameters of acceptable public discourse, enabling, perpetuating, and amplifying the ignorance of some, then giving them the microphones.

No, I'm not denying that certain popular brands of religion have any share of the blame. Of course they do. But what we often fail to see is the way that the media and the politicians shape and recreate religion in ways that serve the purposes of perpetuating this fictive bi-polar national conflict, in order to distract us from their more basic, essentially economic, agenda.

(NOTE: This Diary has been edited to make clear the distinction between theological conservatism and political conservatism.)

Originally posted to thomstark on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 12:50 AM PST.

Also republished by Anglican Kossacks.

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