Coalescing to the Religious Right and Calling it Progressive
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 03:21:04 PM EST
This past week the debate between the nascent Religious Left and the Religion Industrial Complex gained national attention when it was featured in a major article in U.S. News and World Report.  We might not ordinarily focus on such matters on this site, but an important part of the criticism of the RIC has been how it has at once enabled the Religious Right while pretending that the culture wars of aggression waged by the Religious Right against the civil and constitutional rights of other Americans are over or are about to be.
As we have seen, RIC leaders based on a series of faulty assumptions and cynical political triangulations, have not only declared that the culture wars are over or about to be but promoted the power hungry ambitions of retrograde Religious Right figures like Rick Warren, who seem nice enough - until they talk about what they really believe.  

The most infamous example perhaps, occured on national television, in a event which was originally organized by none other than the Democratic Party aligned think tank Faith in Public Life -- before they inexplicably backed out.  Warren, in hosting the nationally televised conversations with presidential candidates Barack Obama and Rick Warren in 2008 called legal abortion a "holocaust" and then had the nerve to call on Americans to engage in a more civil discourse and not to "demonize" one another.  The next day, he told an interviewer:  

If they (Evangelicals, among whom Warren counts himself) think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted. They would call that a holocaust, and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier....

Faith in Public Life has had nothing but praise for Warren, even after this debacle.

Susan Thistlethwaite, a member of the board of Faith in Public Life and its parent organization, the Center for American Progress, takes to her the Washington Post/Newweek's On Faith blog for a political tap dance and light show because her organization, which has earned a lot of media coverage as an agnecy of the Religious Left, was described by U.S. News as heading down a "centrist" road.  

"I'm in favor of reaching out and I am less interested in labels. To me as a person of faith, I believe we should be engaging the public square in order to effect change. In order to effect change, you have to engage in the broadest possible coalition-building."

Indeed, those of us who have been critical agree that the matter is about substance more than terminology. That is part of what has been so objectionable about the way that substantive debates are diverted and obscured by semantic slights of hand.  There is hardly a better example than Thistlethwaite's  invocation of the "broadest possible coalition."  

While most sensible people would agree that sometimes seemingly unlikely coalition partners are necessary and possible, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for one, says that Thistletwaite's idea of reaching out is almost exclusively to the Religious Right, while the religious mainstream -- never mind the Religious Left -- has been left out.

So let's be very clear:  Leaders of mainstream Protestant denominations and major bodies of Judaism representing many tens of millions of Americans, are marginalized in favor of building relationships with a handful of conservative evangelicals of various stripes.  This may be a strategic error of historic proportions, but Thistlethwaite et al, do not even want to discuss it.

Pastordan answered Thistlethwaite, noting that the methods of Thistlethwaite and her colleagues have sought to  

marginalize those who disagree with their premises, of course. And on closer inspection, their supposed middle ground turns out to be exceedingly narrow, excluding many of the progressive representatives you might expect to see if a true consensus were being built...

My favorite piece of mendacity, however, is the charge that religious progressives not interested in finding the middle ground on core principals are somehow intolerant and therefore guilty of betraying both Christian unity and liberal ideals. Thistlethwaite chides people such as myself to "honor diversity" and be open to "possibility, unexpected joy and the movement of grace," as if we were narrow-minded partisans closed to God's fondness for surprises.

As a political point, this is egregious. As a religious point, it's little more than a passive-aggressive claim to the high ground dressed up in church clothes. Many of the people being called out as divisive ideologues have been in favor of strategic alliances for years.

Chip Berlet, commenting over at Debra Haffner's blog agrees.

"For over 20 years I have been having civil debates and discussions with evangelicals (including conservatives) over areas of shared interest, especially around resisting organized White supremacist and anti-Semitic groups. The whole idea that this is something new for "progressives" is absurd."
 

Absurd indeed.

At the same time, many religious conservatives remain hell bent in pursuit of their various culture war objectives. This remains absolutely unchanged, the publicity afforded a handful of moderate evangelicals not withstanding. The overstated and oversold PR claims by well-connected Beltway Insiders have so far failed to withstand the compelling evidence of political reality.




Display:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_03/0174 74.php re: Warren, how about the video in Wilson's article on Hitler youth! Crowd hysteria over Hitler bad, but if channeled for Jesus devotion, good. It all reminds me of Chris Hedges' American Fascists. Hedges seems to attribute fundamentalist tendencies to despair. It seems impossible that this stuff, combined with the Quiverful movement, is happening.

by Heretic on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 05:33:15 PM EST

The Religious Right is trying to re-brand itself, hi-jack an honest movement, corrupt it, and fulfill their perverse agenda.

by Stacey Tallitsch on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 06:22:46 PM EST


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