Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Roseanne Show- Morality, Politics and Religion.

Written by: on May 26, 2018

The other day I was doing work around the house and watching Hulu. I stumbled upon an episode of the new Rosanne show. Now I am aware of the controversial nature of her individual political beliefs and support our current president. That aside, the show is being used as a vehicle to shed light on the differences felt by many Americans as it relates to politics, religion, nationalism, patriotism, racism, classism, sexism, etc. Her character mirrors her real life personality while the others characters ,like her sister Jackie, are  liberals who does not share her political point of view and they find themselves in constant dialogue about it. In addition, they have added that she has an African American granddaughter whose mother (also African American) is married to her son DJ they both serve in the military. Her grandson (Darlene’s son) is gender neutral and refuses to follow gender norms and cultural pressure as it relates to him being a young boy.  One of the episodes focused on prejudices and avid hatred that many “right winged” Americans have (primarily post 911) against those from the Middle East. It hones in on the stereotypical biases that feed into the beliefs that everyone from that regions are all Muslim terrorists who come to our country to kill Americans. This “fear of terror” that warps our ideals of patriotism into nationalism that is reinforced by group thinking and community formation that maintains such a misguided belief system and therefore justifies heinous acts against a group of people.   (Whew that was a mouthful..)

Ok so the story line goes like this…new neighbors move into the neighborhood. Roseanne is watching them constantly assuming that they are terrorists. She makes assumptions on how they look, and how much fertilizer they have in their garage (which she feels is going to be used to make bombs). As you may know, the Conner family is a lower class white family in Chicago. In this episode, they were unable to secure the money necessary to pay their bills for the month. This was crucial specifically because their daughter in law is deployed to Afghanistan and her daughter is supposed to Skype with her at 2am. The only Wi-Fi available was their new neighbors. In going over to ask if they could use their Wi-Fi ,they discovered that their neighbors were not from Afghanistan but were Yemen and had the same distrust and fear of her family as she did theirs. The neighbors allow them to use their internet because they say that the children should not suffer because of ignorance of the adults. The young girl was able to speak with her mother. Furthermore, an incident at a grocery store where her neighbor was refused groceries due to her ethnicity brought even more awareness to the hatred they continue to experience each and every day. In witnessing this situation, Roseanne is humbled by her misguided biases (mind you they only have 30 minute episodes so they have to get to the “moral of the story” pretty quickly) and advocates for her neighbor against the store clerk.

I know you may be thinking…So what was the point of sharing that episode? Well this week we read the book The Righteous Mind Why People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. His premise is that our morality drives our beliefs, belonging and doing. This is the foundation by which we understand and engage in politics and religion. He is a moral psychologist and seeks to break down using a variety of scientific theory and psychology to explain his point of view. The book was not at all super engaging for me. I thought he minced words and theories to get his point across but I do think there is something interesting about studying the creation of community and how people adapt and formulate beliefs not just as individuals but as a group. The episode I shared is an example of moral plight that is very evident in our American society especially today as it relates to how we view politics and religion.  Roseanne’s character acted out of intuition as a means of survival.Throughout the episode she continued to justify her behavior because she believed that she was doing her duty to protect her country from those who would seek to bring harm to it. I think that this quote from Haidt pretty much sums it up “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. We lie, cheat, and cut ethical corners quite often when we think we can get away with it, and then we use our moral thinking to manage our reputations and justify ourselves to others. We believe our own post hoc reasoning so thoroughly that we end up self-righteously convinced of our own virtue.[1]

[1] Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), Kindle Location 220.

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

5 responses to “The Roseanne Show- Morality, Politics and Religion.”

  1. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second…”

    That reminds me of what I learned in the Philippines. American missionaries in Manila are told that they have to hire a live in maid. This was unthinkable for most new missionaries. But, the rationale of the Catholic culture was this. “If you are a (white) foreigner living in our community, and you leave your home unattended, then you must want me to come and take your things. Praise God for giving me a new American neighbor help me provide for my family.”

    Yet, in Taiwan, just a few hundred miles north of the Philippines, American missionaries could leave their homes with their doors unlocked. The Daoist karma-based culture make petty theft highly undesirable.

  2. Mary Walker says:

    Sometimes Haidt really sounded cynical, Christal. I agree with you that he brought up things that are really pertinent today. There is still so much mistrust of other ethnic groups. But I think that it is not either/or – gut feeling or rationalizing. I think here’s another both/and deal. We were all saddened by 9/11 and a little frightened. There are facts involved such as every terrorist act during that time period was committed by Muslim men between the ages of 20 and 40. The challenge for me as a Christian is to have discernment. Our neighborhood grocery store is owned and managed by Muslims. They’re great people.

  3. Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Christal, this line it key for biased individuals to make changes: “Roseanne is humbled by her misguided biases..”. This is a rare and beautiful thing to witness in myself and others. How do you suggest we encourage people to humbly admit their biases so they can change? My thought is to not provide shaming environments so people feel free to admit their biases. To respond in love and acceptance as people tell their stories. Any ideas?

  4. Jim Sabella says:

    I agree, Christal. Groupthink is a frightening thing. We know this from history and we often face it today. I just returned from Albania where the Muslims are a high percentage of the population. Tirana—the capital—is a safe, clean and beautiful city. The streets are safe to walk alone in the evenings. There is very little crime, virtually no murders and hospitality was unbelievable. We cannot allow a few from either side or any side to paint a picture that is not accurate. We need to think and discover for ourselves and help others to do the same. Thanks for a great post.

  5. Kristin Hamilton says:

    “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”
    You know, I have been thinking about this statement a lot this week. When our children were little, we began to teach them to think about consequences for their actions and to make decisions based on whether or not they wanted the consequences. I did this because I could pretty much justify any behavior as a teenager, making it difficult for my parents to punish me “reasonably.” Our kids learned that disciplinary action 🙂 was their “choice” based on their behavior. We didn’t have to set curfews or create elaborate rule systems. We just had to be consistent with the consequences. Eventually, their “intuition” was molded to think that way.
    When I read your story, I realized that most of us have not been raised to think about the consequences of our biases and prejudices so our intuition remains one of “me first” rather than of caring for humanity. How can we change that?

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