Methodist Agency speaks truth to power against IRD propaganda
TTA Site Administration printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 23, 2006 at 11:43:45 AM EST
[ editor's note : this story, by TTA member cross and flame, has been promoted from the member post section ]

"Earlier last month, the Institute on Religion and Democracy sent a letter to most (if not every) United Methodist conference and leader urging a petition of censure against the agency of the UMC that speaks out regularly on social justice issues and is often the counter-opinion to the IRD.  The following is the rebuttal and point-by-point response by that agency: the General Board of Church and Society of the UMC.

 Here's a teaser:We alert you to a resolution attacking the GBCS that is being circulated by the IRD.   The IRD has forwarded this draft resolution to United Methodists around the United States asking them to submit it to their annual conferences for consideration and approval. The hostile nature of this resolution and its inaccuracies concern us and demand a response...We are providing you with the text of the IRD draft resolution along with a point by point response from the GBCS.
(2 comments, 3313 words in story)
The Catholic Right Part Three: Rev. John McCloskey, the Face of an Opus Dei Agenda.
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 23, 2006 at 08:29:35 AM EST
"They got to hate the Church because they hated the friends of the Church, who exploited them and whom the Church did nothing to rebuke or correct."  --Rev. Wilfrid Parsons, S.J., circa 1936


And now the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the faith to which I belong, is not only embracing questionable friends, she is allowing them into positions of power -- and increasingly letting them set official doctrine. After being denied requests for greater power by both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, wary of its intentions, the more orthodox-leaning Pope John II elevated Opus Dei to the status of being the Church's only  Personal prelature and had made many known members bishops and cardinals. Pope Benedict XVI has continued this embrace.  

This struggle for the heart and soul of the Catholic faith extends to America. And to a very large extent, what eventually transpires within the Church in Rome may well determine the fate of religious liberty in our own country.  

The Catholic Church is now at a crossroads. Will she lead by following the religious tolerance of a Sister Rose Thering, the progressive nature of a Pope John XXIII, the humility of Catholic Worker founder Peter Maurin, the empathy of distributive justice advocate Monsignor John A. Ryan? Or will control return to Church Plutocrats who allign themselves with the true agents of apostasy, the practitioners of "trickle-down" faith?  

(10 comments, 2449 words in story)
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 23, 2006 at 07:16:08 AM EST
John Dorhauer, Talk To Action writer
One of the areas upon which we have been focusing a lot of attention as we analyze the attacks on our churches has been the development of key stategies. Some of those are responses to activities already begun in the life of a church, while others are more proactive - designed to protect a church from an attack in the future.

Of the former, one of the most effective has been the identification and training of what we call "allies." In many churches, the ability of the pastor to name, train, and deploy key lay leaders in defense of their church has proven critical.

I will briefly describe this strategy, and then talk about a congregation wherein the work of key allies has - to this point - thwarted the concentrated attack that they have been enduring for the past two years.

(16 comments, 963 words in story)
The Catholic Right, Part Two: An Introduction To The Role Of Opus Dei
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 16, 2006 at 08:17:10 PM EST
Opus Dei founder
Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva
This series began with a quote from the Jesuit priest Wilfrid Parsons. Using nineteenth century Spain as an example, he explained how it is often the powerful friends of the Catholic Church who are the primary cause of apostasy. It is those who exploit the less powerful by using the cloak of religion to disguise their pursuit of unjustifiable, disproportionate power and pecuniary gain who cause the working class and the intellectual to despise the Church.

In order to fully understand the heart of Catholic theological conservatism, one must understand an organization that exists within the Catholic Church, Opus Dei. When its core beliefs and strategies are fully examined, then the goals of ultra-conservative Catholicism can be better understood. Hopefully this installment will provide the reader with an introduction to this very secret society while refuting some the inaccuracies surrounding its workings, much of which is due to the publicity over Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code.

Note: Since this subject of the Catholic Right is more complex than I had originally imagined, I've decided to expand the series beyond the originally intended four parts. Therefore, until I believe that all the major points of interest are covered, the series will continue.

(35 comments, 2218 words in story)
The Matrix
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon May 15, 2006 at 11:12:26 PM EST
Perhaps one of the most often used devices circulated amongst our churches under attack is a document we refer to as "The Matrix."

sample 'matrix'

This particular document purports to be an objective analysis of how the United Church of Christ compares to biblical principles, orthodox theologies, and the historic faith. It is most often presented as the work of a "Research Committee" whose purpose it is to present objective analysis about the merits of staying or leaving the UCC; and it is presented with the assumption that the members of the committee came up with this information on their own.

It is, in fact, a document that - though in each location it goes through some editorial revision to appear "new" and particular to that church - began circulating almost 20 years ago and which gets handed to the activists in a local church by whomever it may be that is coaching the takeover.

(6 comments, 1091 words in story)
Talk to Action Writers to be Featured on State of Belief -- Sunday, May 21st [UPDATED!]
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat May 13, 2006 at 11:14:34 PM EST
On Sunday, May 21st the Air America radio show State of Belief, hosted by Rev. Dr.  Welton Gaddy, will feature a discussion of the attacks on the mainline churches by the Institute on Religion and Democracy and related groups. The three guests are all contributors to Talk to Action: Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer; Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott, and Rev. Dr. Andrew Weaver.  

The program will air on about 40 stations around the country, XM Satellite Radio, and over the internet via streaming audio, as well as via podcast. Visit the State of Belief section of the Air America web site for details.

We made reporting on and discussion of the attacks on the mainline churches a focus of Talk to Action, because while the churches have been in the sights of the strategic thinkers and financiers of the right for at least a generation -- media coverage, even in progressive and religious media has been spotty at best. This oversight was strange because the historic churches of mainline Protestantism have been at or near the forefront of every major movement for social and economic justice in the Unites States for a century.

We are very encouraged that State of Belief is broadcasting a pioneering discussion of this subject.

Update [2006-5-15 15:13:50 by Frederick Clarkson]: Here is a link to the State of Belief press release on the show.

(7 comments, 1712 words in story)
The Catholic Right
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon May 08, 2006 at 07:23:20 AM EST
INTRODUCTION: In light of the attention over the release of Ron Howard's film The DaVinci Code, the ultra-conservative group Opus Dei has become a subject of much discussion. Some of it is accurate, some is not.  

I am a Church-going Roman Catholic, an attorney, and an advocate for embryonic stem-cell research. Over the past five years I have continually run into "Catholic" opposition that I ultimately found to be fueled by Opus Dei members or its sympathizers. As a progressive minded member, my Church heroes are Monsignor John A. Ryan, Dorothy Day and Pope John XXIII. To a great extent, the current Catholic Right seeks to undo much of their good work. I believe it is time that the belief and methods of Opus Dei and the broader Catholic Right be exposed. As for the aforementioned inaccuracies in The DaVinci Code, I worry that Opus Dei and other socially conservative groups that rely on Catholic identity to further an agenda may use them as a shield for deflection from more concerns that can adversely affect our pluralistic democracy.  

The following is the first installment on a four part series on the Catholic Right. The opening piece is intended to be an introduction to American Catholic thought and how it is relevant to the contemporary Catholic Right.

'The great tragedy of Spain was that in the nineteenth century the working masses apostatized from the Church, as Pope Plus X once remarked.  And, it is well to remember, it was poverty, destitution and injustice which made them apostatize. They got to hate the Church because they hated the friends of the Church, who exploited them and whom the Church did nothing to rebuke or correct.  The words of Pope Leo XIII 45 years ago went unheeded and his great encyclical Rerum Novarum was neglected.
The lesson of all this for us is that we should meet the evil of Communism not merely by denouncing it, and not at all by stigmatizing as communistic all fundamental reforms.  We must attack the main causes of Communism.  Among these are poverty, insecurity and inequitable distribution of wealth and income.  Failure to remove these evils will do more to strengthen Communism than all the propaganda and all the "boring-in" methods of the organized Communist movement.'
                               Rev. Wilfrid Parsons, S.J., circa 1936

(34 comments, 3077 words in story)
Episcopal Newspaper Exposes Rightwing Agencies
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 09:58:50 PM EST
The Washington Window, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has joined a growing number of publications inside and outside mainline Christianity that have published exposes of the efforts of rightist agencies to destabilize the historic mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.  

The two-part series by former Washington Post and New York Times reporter James Naughton examines, according to a press release, the network of conservative groups, "their donors and the strategy that has allowed them to destabilize the Episcopal Church.... The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion "to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism."

The expose, which demonstrates the unambiguous motives of rightwing activists to foment a permanent schism in the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and in the world Anglican Communion, comes in the run-up to the American church's triennial meeting in Columbus, Ohio in June.

(8 comments, 1718 words in story)
On the Run
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 11:16:14 PM EST
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One of the more amusing aspects of writing about the attacks of the religious right has been tracking their responses.

For a long time, groups like the IRD and the renewal groups associated with them have had the luxury of doing their most deleterious work under the radar.

This happens because they are intentional about hiding the aspects of their work that they know most folk would deem unchristian.

(6 comments, 1348 words in story)
Them Again: Faithful and Welcoming
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Apr 10, 2006 at 10:36:36 PM EST
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I wrote about this newest of `renewal movements' within the United Church of Christ a few weeks ago. There is more to say.

Sometimes I forget how important is this work of exposing attacks on our churches from the right. Many people will contact me each week asking me to stop doing this for one reason or another - and I will confess there is a small part of me that wishes I didn't have to do this.

And sometimes you get to wondering if you are not just seeing things that aren't there because you have been looking for them so hard for so long. You wonder if you aren't as paranoid as your accusers say you are.

But while sitting at our Association Council Meeting last week I was reminded why this work was so important.

(15 comments, 1171 words in story)
"Liberal" Church Ad Attacked by Rightwing Agency
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Apr 06, 2006 at 01:37:38 PM EST
For a quarter century, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), bankrolled by the founding funders and architects of the institutional right in Washington, DC, (such as the Heritage Foundation), has waged a war of attrition against the historic churches of mainstream Protestantism. This gang of social and foreign policy conservatives have planted bogus stories with the media, and deployed staff to foment dissent, and to organize conservative factions into dissident formations throughout the churches as if they were strategic targets in a global war. All this and much more.

The 1.3 million member United Church of Christ, one of the targeted churches, has over the past two years, been engaged in a warm-hearted outreach campaign called "God is Still Speaking," which includes a TV and blog ad campaign that seeks to reach people who have felt "rejected" for one reason or another by churches (as UCC research has found that many people do), and seeks to offer a message of what they call "extravagant welcome." The ads assert "God does not reject people. Neither do we."

The current ad campaign was unveiled at a national news conference on March 27th at UCC headquarters in Cleveland.  Based on the UCC's news release, longtime IRD leader Mark Tooley published a piece in the  The American Spectator online on April 6 that is highly critical of the ad -- and of the UCC.

(2 comments, 1301 words in story)
The Battle for the Mainline Churches
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 30, 2006 at 12:04:29 AM EST
Here at Talk to Action, we have written a great deal on this subject. One of the reasons for this, is that the quarter century war of attrition that has been waged by elements of the religious and political right against the mainline Protestant churches in America, has gone largely unchronicled.

To read the mainstream press, you would think that people were so upset about homosexuality that they want to divide their historic churches into little warring camps. But these conflagrations have been far from spontaneous -- and have always been about much, much more than homosexuality.

A magazine article I wrote recently on this subject has just been posted online. The Battle for the Mainline Churches appears in the Spring issue of The Public Eye.

Here are some excerpts:

(4 comments, 1215 words in story)
Are Christians Being Silenced? How about the United Church of Christ?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Mar 28, 2006 at 03:30:35 AM EST
Are Christians being silenced?

The question sounds like the perennial complaint from members of the Christian Right. But in fact, as specious as the Christian Right's complaints along these lines usually are, this one is different. Not only does the complaint originate elsewhere -- but the Christian Right is the beneficiary of the apparent silencing of fellow Christians.  

When the Sunday morning public affairs talk shows think about getting a Christian view on public affairs who do they call? According to Rev. Robert Chase, Director of Communications for the 1.3 million member United Church of Christ, over the past 8 years the Sunday network public affairs shows have interviewed political leaders of the religious right 36 times, and leaders of mainline Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), American Baptist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Reformed Church in America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, among others -- exactly zero times.  

(8 comments, 1264 words in story)
Twisted Christianity
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Mar 27, 2006 at 10:34:01 PM EST
"I finally realized how Christianity had been twisted into something very cold and unloving..."

I am quoting from a young man who wrote to me some weeks ago. He grew up in a United Church of Christ congregation outside of Kansas City. Among his Junior High classmates were those whose own UCC church was one of the first to vote itself out of the denomination. He describes how at school those classmates kept " me trouble because we weren't biblical because we were still UCC." With a profound sadness he remembers how "It could be confusing to a Jr. High student."


(5 comments, 1056 words in story)
The UCC Comes Out Swinging, Challenges ABC's Censorship
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Mar 27, 2006 at 04:40:11 PM EST
A fighting spirit has returned to mainstream Christianity !

Really. First, The United Churches of Christ took a strong stand in favor of gay rights and then found itself blacklisted from ads on network television. Now, the UCC is fighting back and is taking the lead as a rallying point for Americans who refuse to accept politically motivated media censorship and who support mainstream Christianity and hold firm to their belief that faith and social justice are not somehow irreconcilable - as leaders on the Christian right claim - but that, in fact, the converse holds : faith without social justice is hollow.

The UCC has just launched a new ad campaign and is urging supporters to go to its website to send a letter to ABC demanding the network let leaders from mainstream churches on its Sunday talk show:

"Tell ABC to Open its Sunday Talk Show to Mainline Church Leaders

Over the years, Religious Right political leaders like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson have appeared on ABC's This Week at the exclusion of other mainline religious voices. Tell ABC to stop catering to the Religious Right..... ABC's refusal to air the new television commercial by the United Church of Christ is the latest in a series of actions that show a bias in favor of the Religious Right.

(1 comment)

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