Sunday :: May 21, 2006

"The religious left is back." WHO?

by pessimist

My, my! Did I not ignite the blazing bonfire of righteous indignation today! But then, considering the emotionally explosive nature of the issue, I should have expected this! (Psssst - I did!)

But I raised the issue earlier in order to create awareness of the dilemma which I present in this next topic - one which should make clear why I asked how we can tell the real Christians from the Bu$hCo variety:

Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility
A Different List Of Moral Issues
By Caryle Murphy and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writers
May 20, 2006

For most of the 20th century -- from the Progressive era through the civil rights movement -- religious involvement in American politics was dominated by the left.

That changed in the 1970s, after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights, the formation of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and, on the left, "the rise of a secular, liberal, urban elite that was not particularly comfortable with religion," said Will Marshall III, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

In large part, the revival of the religious left is a reaction against conservatives' success in the 2004 elections in equating moral values with opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Religious liberals say their faith compels them to emphasize such issues as poverty, affordable health care and global warming. Disillusionment with the war in Iraq and opposition to Bush administration policies on secret prisons and torture have also fueled the movement.

Liberal evangelicals are "leaping out of the closet and they are saying 'Enough is enough,' " said Jack Pannell, spokesman for Sojourners, a Washington-based evangelical social justice ministry.

"Evangelical Christians are not all white people living in the suburbs
and only concerned with abortion and same-sex marriage."

So who ARE they if not white Republican suburbanites? How can we tell the liberals from the GOP others? That IS the question of the day!

According to John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron, and others, the religious left cuts across almost all denominations, drawing in black churches, liberal Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants - as well as Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and people who say they are "spiritual" but not affiliated with an organized faith. It also includes some theologically traditionalist Christians.

"The wind is changing," said the Rev. Tim Ahrens, senior minister of First Congregational Church of Columbus, Ohio, and a founder of We Believe Ohio, a statewide clergy group established to ensure that the religious right is 'not the only one holding a megaphone' in the public square.

"Folks -- not just leaders -- are fed up with what is being portrayed as Christian values."
"As religious people we're offended by the idea that if you're not with the religious right, you're not moral, you're not religious," said Linda Gustitus, who attends Bethesda's River Road Unitarian Church and is a founder of the new Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture. "I mean there's a whole universe out there [with views] different from the religious right. . . . People closer to the middle of the political spectrum who are religious want their voices heard."

Janel Bakker, 28, a graduate student at Catholic University who attends Washington Community Fellowship on Capitol Hill, an evangelical church affiliated with the Mennonite denomination, said she grew up in a 'relatively conservative religious home' where 'the big issue' was abortion. But Bakker, who has attended several rallies against the Iraq war, said she now regards poverty, peace and the environment as important spiritual issues ignored by the religious right.

"The religious right has assumed that capitalism is the way to go
and is the most moral way to organize society,"
Bakker added.
"Young people are questioning that."

Other questions are being asked as well:

The Rev. Joseph W. Daniels Jr., senior pastor of Emory United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington, said a key question for him is whether the religious left will become 'the polar opposite to the religious right' or be 'a voice in the middle'.
"What this country needs is strong spiritual leadership that is willing to build bridges.
We don't need leaders who are lightning bolts for division and dissension,"
he said.
Nonetheless, some observers doubt that the revitalization of the religious left will lessen the divisions over religion in politics. "I do think," said Allen D. Hertzke, a University of Oklahoma political science professor who follows religious movements, "that, if in fact this progressive initiative takes off, we will see an even more polarized electoral environment than we did in 2004."

Some groups on the religious left are clearly seeking to help the Democratic Party. But the relationship is delicate on both sides. "If I were the Democrats, the last thing I would do is really try to mobilize these folks as a political force . . . because I think some of this is a real unhappiness with the whole business of politicizing religion," said Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. "My gut tells me that all this foment [on the religious left] is bound to create more involvement in politics," he said. "I don't know whether there's going to be more of them numerically, but you don't need greater numbers to have a political impact; all you need is to be more active.

"You already see that in Ohio and some other states,
where Christian conservatives no longer have a monopoly on faith in politics."
What is not clear, according to sociologists and pollsters, is whether the religious left is growing in size as well as activism. Its political impact, including its ability to influence voters and move a legislative agenda, has also yet to be determined. "I do think the religious left has become more visible and assertive and is attempting to get more organized," said Hertzke. "But how big is it? The jury is still out on that."

There is disagreement already over the potential power of the religious left:

"Organizationally speaking, strategically speaking, the religious left
is now in the strongest position it's been in since the Vietnam era,"

said Clemson University political scientist Laura R. Olson.

Can you now see why I asked who is a Christian and who is a Chri$tian? The distinction could prove to be vital to the future of this nation.

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