Catching Up with the Talented Rev. Rodriguez
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Sep 25, 2011 at 08:44:23 PM EST
The scandal that began with Rachel Tabachnick's exposure of Rev. Samuel Rodriguez's leadership role in the xenophobic Oak Initiative, is widening.  There are three main branches to the scandal at this point:  First people wonder where he really stands on matters of religious tolerance and immigration.  Second, there is the question of the depth and breadth of his involvement in the New Apostolic Reformation.  And third, albeit somewhat tangentially, there is the matter of the escalating smears against Rachel Tabachnick and others of us who write in this area.
First, following Rodriguez's resignation as a leader of rabidly Islamophobic Oak Initiative, (which is dominated by NAR leaders), the liberal Washington, DC think tank Faith in Public Life, urged Rodriguez, (with whom the group has worked closely, and who has served on it's advisory board) to issue "a public denunciation of their extremism."

We appreciate Rodriguez's admirable decision to distance himself from a group promoting fringe theories about Muslims, and hope this can be an opportunity for him and other people of faith to stand firmly against bigotry and the spread of harmful misinformation.

Second, researchers who have been writing about the New Apostolic Reformation have long treated Rodriguez's involvement in NAR as well-established, common knowledge, and uncontroversial.  But Rodriguez's involvement was news to writer Greg Metzger; so much so that when he was unable to learn this for himself, he accused Tabachnick, Talk to Action and unnamed "anti-Religious Right web sites" -- of McCarthyism.  To his considerable credit, he now acknowledges that he was wrong about Rodriguez, and Tabachnick was right.  It is so  rare for journalists and pundits to acknowledge error that this fact alone makes Metzger's turn about something to celebrate.  May we all be wise and honorable enough to live up to his example.  He has also made some kind and friendly statements about Talk to Action generally and Rachel Tabachnick's research in particular.  We appreciate it.

But that said, we arrive at the third aspect of the scandal.  Metzger's charge of McCarthyism was as grave as it was unsubstantiated and needs to be addressed.

McCarthyism, of course, refers to that dark period of our history when powerful interests destroyed lives and careers of thousands of individuals through the use of reckless charges, not to mention the use and abuse of law enforcement agencies and more to investigate and to smear political and religious opponents.  The culture of McCarthyism infected all parts of society.  And while the term has fallen into some generalized use to characterize the making of unsubstantiated accusations, Metzger's employment of such loaded language was vastly disproportionate to the details of his (then) disagreement about Rodriguez's involvement in NAR.  Unlike most of the victims of actual McCarthyism, Rodriguez is a prominent figure with access to media of all kinds if he ever feels the need to correct the record about anything.  Of course, there was nothing to correct because the writing about him was true.

The charge of McCarthyism is all the more egregious because it comes at a time when Tabachnick and others of us who have written about dominionism, NAR, Christian Reconstructionism, and related matters have been smeared by certain journalists and pundits for weeks.  

Although none of us to my knowledge has done so, it seems to me that we would be far more justified in using the term to describe the prominently published smears by Mark I. Pinksy and Lisa Miller, among others.  While published smears against people who write about these things are not new, it is fair to say that there has been a marked escalation in their shrillness and number in recent weeks.  Some of these broadsides have been so outrageous that Chip Berlet questioned the competence of journalists who engage in denialism about the reality of and significance of dominionism.

But Pinsky, the most recent and most outrageous of the bunch, went so far as to claim -- in USA Today -- that the writing about dominionism by four Jewish writers (including Tabachnick) is analogous to centuries of anti-Semitic smears by Christians against Jews -- including the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion!  His charges are as outrageous as they are completely unsubstantiated, albeit cheered by tmatt at Get Religion.

The nature of the charges, and the language used to make them, has far far exceeded any reasonable standards of journalism or respectable public discourse.    

I invite Greg Metzger, Faith in Public Life, and all people of conscience and good will to please join us in speaking out against the smears.  It is not only the right thing to do, but as we know with these things, you never know who might be next.

Frederick, I appreciate the words here and I will respond more fully than what I have done so far. We are at a critical point in the debate and greater humility, clarity and honesty is needed by all of us. Thanks for leading the way.

by gregmetzger on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 08:54:16 AM EST ngelical-leaders.html

by gregmetzger on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 12:05:17 PM EST

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