Preface to Steeplejacking
Michelle Goldberg printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 11:19:26 PM EST
I was honored that John Dorhauer and Sheldon Culver asked me to write the preface to Steeplejacking, and Fred suggested I post it on Talk To Action. Here it is, for anyone who needs more inducement read this important book:
Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, head of the Anglican church in Nigeria, has described jumping back in horror after realizing he'd shaken hands with a gay man. Gay sex is already criminalized in Nigeria, but Akinola has championed a bill that would go much further, making it illegal to advocate for gay rights, belong to a gay group or publicize such a group in the media. "Strictly interpreted, the bill would ban two gay people from going out to dinner or seeing a movie together," The New York Times reported. Violators risk up to five years imprisonment.

Very few American conservatives would admit to backing this kind of repression, and yet twenty-one American Episcopal churches have put themselves under Akinola's authority rather than remain tied to a denomination that accepts gays and lesbians. Somehow, among many American Christians, vociferous condemnation of homosexuality has become the supreme mark of piety. Similarly fierce fights over sexual morality are erupting throughout the Protestant mainline, threatening to tear churches -- and church property -- away from their historic denominations. How is it that, in a time of widespread war, swelling inequality and environmental emergency, the question of gay rights is rending American churches in a way not seen since slavery?

This is not a spontaneous phenomenon. As Sheldon Culver and John Dorhauer reveal in this essential book, it is part of a carefully orchestrated campaign meant to undermine the liberal Protestant tradition and make Christianity synonymous with right-wing fundamentalism. It's hard to tell this story without sounding like a conspiracy theorist  -- it is, after all, a tale of power-seeking reactionaries enacting a plan to infiltrate and undermine established institutions. Yet Culver and Dorhauer have carefully marshaled evidence linking fights in individual congregations to larger organizations like the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which is heavily funded by right-wing foundations.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy has made no secret of its goal of hijacking mainstream Protestantism -- in a 2000 report on its "Reforming America's Churches Project," it boasted of successes in its almost 20-year campaign to "discredit and diminish the religious left's influence." But there was still much more to be done. The report outlined a plan to spend $3.6 million over four years to manipulate the governing church conventions of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church. It laid out its plan to use gay marriage as a wedge issue, and explained why taking over the mainstream churches is so important: "Secular proponents of sexual license like to portray their opponents as fundamentalists and conservative Catholics. They are befuddled to learn that liberal-dominated mainline churches oppose their agenda as well. IRD will continue to expose the pro-homosexual bias of mainline church agencies that want to disregard the official teachings of their churches."

Just as planned, right-wing groups have formed parallel organizations inside mainline congregations all over the country, often attempting coups against more liberal church leadership. Few churches caught in such struggles realize that they're part of a broader campaign, which is one of the reasons Steeplejacking is so valuable  -- recognizing the systematic nature of the assault is a crucial first step in organizing against it.

A Baptist preacher once told me that members of the Christian right will always cross denominational lines for political reasons, but they'll rarely cross political lines out of religious solidarity. That's because the Christian right is a political movement masquerading as a spiritual one. It seeks to harness peoples' yearning for transcendence and anxiety about a quickly changing world to a punitive, partisan program. It's about power. Much more is at stake in the battle within the mainline churches than positions on a few wedge issues. The outcome of these struggles will determine whether America's historic Protestant churches remain firm voices for social justice or become mere adjuncts of the political right. The Episcopal Church has been deeply critical of the policies of George W. Bush, especially the war in Iraq. Not so Archbishop Akinola, who, following Bush's reelection in 2004, published an open letter to the president saying, "By your victory at the polls, you have put to shame the revisionists and their agenda in the Church of Christ, and particularly in the Episcopal Church of United States of America...I hope that by your election victory, these ordained men and women will feel rebuked and be forced to repent of this grievous sin of repudiating the word of God, and to seek genuine restoration."

When I published my 2006 book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, which was about the religious right in American politics, I thought I'd find an audience among my fellow Jews, secularists and civil libertarians, as well as gays and lesbians interested in the systematic way that homophobia has been used as an organizing tool. I've been both surprised and delighted by the enthusiastic reception I've found among liberal Christians. Throughout the country, such Christians have expressed despair at seeing their faith appropriated by forces utterly at odds with their interpretation of the gospels. Some have even confided that the very name "Christian" has become an embarrassment -- a heartbreaking admission. Very often, Christians ask me what they can do to reclaim their religion and stand against the right. The question usually leaves me humbled and a bit baffled, because, as a secular Jew, I'm not remotely qualified to answer it. Now, though, I know what to say: As a start, read this book.




Display:
You bring an important and knowledgable perspective to bear on all this.  As you know, there is a great deal of denial about the role of the IRD-tied renewal groups in the mainline churches, and reluctance to recognize that there are agents of disruption, both witting and unwitting in their midst, despite all that has happened over the past two decades or so.

It is important too, to see that the beneficiary of these divisions is none other than George Bush, and the targeted institutions are those who happen to oppose the excesses of American foreign policy.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 01:24:53 PM EST



WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (330 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (178 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (98 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (93 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (105 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (127 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (115 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (79 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (228 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (55 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (153 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (53 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (54 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (210 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (240 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (87 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (171 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (141 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (146 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (144 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (123 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (185 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (83 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (189 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (77 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (107 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (105 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.