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John H. Bryant writes:

Behaviorally speaking, what happened when Barack Obama spoke on religion yesterday?For some, like the way I approached the speech and later his presentation, Obama’s speech might have seemed to be about religion… or perhaps the American Black experience… or perhaps the generational tug of our past with what is important to us today. Well, it wasn’t about religion as much as we might think it was.

Yes, we’ve into a shift in religion (Religious Shift in America 2008), energy, globalization, business, etc.

I know what I heard but I noticed something else. My conclusion is there is no Hope for an undefined future condition called ‘a better America’. It has arrived.

What I heard was a shift and a loss of cues that we all have depended upon for so long. Behaviorally they are called SDs or “S – Ds” and stand for ‘discriminative stimuli’. You know, the things we recognize, the brands, the terms, the words, the stimuli out in the environment that we come to recognize as meaning good and bad, smart and dull, etc.; anything that allows us to discriminate one thing from another. While reading the speech that came out in the AM prior to the Barack’s presentation, I couldn’t tell who was speaking. We saw a difficult subject handled without acrimony: race.

Barack Obama speech laid waste to more of the SDs that we’ve all depended on but that are no longer dependable. What are we going to do now if we can’t depend on those old stereotypes? (SDs)

  • We lost the inflamatory rhetoric SD of White, Jackson, Farrakhan and others
  • We lost the ‘done me wrong’ SD
  • We lost the ‘one cause’ explanation for 300 years of bad behavior SD
  • We lost the ‘good guy – bad guy’ dichotomy SD
  • We lost the ‘quick fix’ remedy in my term claim SD
  • We lost the government can make it better pabulum SD
  • We lost the SD of when to have the gut wrenching sinking feeling

I’m a pretty smart guy so I need to figure out the consequences of losing my SDs.

  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and says things that are not purely Democratic, Republican or Washington centric?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you can’t tell if he favors those that are white or black?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and he doesn’t instill fear of the future?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and he doesn’t try to make you mistrust those who want him silenced?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you think he is talking directly to you rather than in lobbyist code?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you can’t tell why he knows what you value?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you don’t hear that government knows what is best for you?

Wow, this election is getting complicated. I am going to have to make other associations with Barack Obama when he speaks and that’s hard work because it involves changing my stereotypical SDs.

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Barack Obama’s speech was so full of interesting threads. The issue of religion and our ever more confusing association with a particular religion, its leaders and its every rule is central to Obama’s speech – and likely some of his more robust and potentially inflamatory arguments.

I’m posting this article recently published by my friend John Bryant (Religious Shift in America 2008). It’s relevant because it digs in deep to the shift in religion in America.

     Religious interest never goes away but in the last decade interest has risen to new levels.  Two studies in particular to be highlighted here mark today’s on-going monologue about religion in America. The first study is not about a shift at all but acts as a reference point for this article. The research is based on structured telephone surveys of more than 2,000 households and in-depth interviews with more than 140 people in 2006 conducted through the University of Minnesota by sociologist Penny Edgell. Researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other groups as “not sharing their vision of American society.” Furthermore, Americans are least willing to let their children marry atheists.

The Edgell survey was followed by the release in February, 2008, of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That survey of over 35,000 Americans found that nearly half questioned were not practicing the religion of their parents. While that finding was no big deal for some, it was a bomb for many, especially those involved with the business of religion.

The Pew Forum study confirmed what has been speculated for years about believers:

  •   the long-held belief that denominational loyalty is fraying —
  •   those greatest impacted are mainline Protestant and evangelical churches —
  •  One in six overall (16.1%) reported they were not connected with any particular religious faith —
  •  This number rose to 1 in 4 between the ages of 18 -29 who said they were not affiliated with any religion —
  •  Twelve percent were split 50/50 between a) those that were secular and unaffiliated, and b) those who said they were religious and unaffiliated —
  •  Catholics have seen numbers diminish for almost 40 years and seem to be outside the survey radar —
    • Absolute numbers don’t reflect major declines in the last four years
    • Their age demographic has shifted more rapidly than other Protestant denominations
    • Catholics have the broadest mixture of education levels but declining numbers in the 18 – 29 age group
    • Supported by older populations including high percentage of immigrants who bring that religion with them

After checking out that pdf, go back to Obama’s speech. We’re talking about a major politician speaking to the gray area and the shifting context of truth. Yikes, it will be pretty interesting how this will play out in America.

Post 3 on the speech will be the full analysis of his text.

~R

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