The NeoCon War Against the Mainline Protestant Churches, Continues
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 05:32:06 PM EST
I wasn't able to settle on my favorite post from 2013 to reprise on New Year's Day. But today I found the one I wish I had found then. Here it is again, with some minor revisions -- FC

The recent smear of prominent Christian journalist Cynthia Astle by the ever-nefarious Institute on Religion and Democracy was a stark reminder that the war of attrition against the historic mainline Protestant churches, continues. It was also a reminder that there is more to the story than the culture war and other controversies at summer meetings of The Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ.

Consider for example, Rev. Jim Tonkowich -- who had never even been a member of one of the churches that IRD trollishly claims that it wants to "renew" -- who nevertheless served as the organization's president from 2006-2009.  Tonkowich, then a member of a schismatic evangelical Presbyterian sect ran covert and not so covert campaigns to foment division and discord in the mainline churches which he characterized at the time as marked by "division, polarization, and discord."

Now he has not only become a Catholic but claims that the best way for Protestant Churches to solve their problems is to also become Catholic.

(Unsurprisingly, IRD was, at the time, still promoting Tonkowich as an "expert" to the media.)

It should come as a surprise to no one that IRD's quarter century campaign to neutralize the social justice witness of the mainline churches has been largely underwritten (PDF) by the same conservative foundations that brought us such institutions as the Heritage Foundation, the neo-conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, and The American Spectator.  The churches had earned the ire of conservative interests through their principled and growing opposition to the excesses of American foreign and military  policies, as well as those of major corporations; and advocacy of the civil rights of African Americans, women and increasingly LGTBQ people.  Unsurprisingly, a coalition of rightist elements has sought for decades to displace the mainline churches from the center of American culture.

Early in his tenure, as president of IRD, Tonkowich published a revealing sneer in the neo-conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard (the executive editor of which, Fred Barnes, is and was a member of the IRD board.)

For those who are shocked by the crack-up of the Episcopal Church, let me explain:  The answer was on a T-shirt I saw last month while traveling to the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly in Birmingham and the Episcopal Church General Convention in Columbus.  It read, "I'm Making It Up As I Go."  Exactly.

One of the differences between the historic Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church is that they are democratic institutions that elect their leaders and set their course through democratic processes.  Of course, the success of any democratic institution depends on people's commitment to democratic processes, and their respect for democratic outcomes.  But they are always also vulnerable to anti-democratic interests intent on undermining the integrity of both the process and the targeted institutions themselves.

IRD's sustained attack on the mainline churches has been led by outside interests including top American Catholic neo-conservatives.  They have certainly wreaked the havoc they sought:  Dividing denominations against themselves; pitting Christians against Christians, and contributing to the decline of these churches as a constructive presence in American public life.

The brazenness has sometimes been astounding, but that does not mean that IRD has been entirely oblivious that the role of prominent Roman Catholics in a campaign to "reform" Protestant churches, can be a sensitive matter.

In one remarkable episode the name of a Catholic convert named Dr. J. Budziszewski was quickly scrubbed from IRD web site following the 2006 expose by the late Methodist minister, Rev. Dr. Andrew Weaver et al on the role of prominent Catholic neo-cons at IRD. Budziszewski chaired the IRD board.  

One of the most troubling aspects of the IRD is that, while powerful figures in the right-wing of the Roman Catholic church have been among its leaders from its inception, there is no program, staff or budget for changing the Catholic church. There are only programs, staff and budget for changing Protestant churches (IRD, 2005).  According to their IRS filings, the IRD's millions have been spent to change the NCCC and several of its constituent churches (GuideStar, 2005).   At the same time, 6 of the 17 current members of the board of directors, a full (35 percent), are prominent conservative Catholics. They include founders Father Richard John Neuhaus (American Enterprise Institute) and Michael Novak (The Institute on Religion and Public Life) along with Robert P. George (Professor, Princeton University), George Weigel (Ethics and Public Policy Center)  Mary Ellen Bork (wife of Judge Robert Bork) and the chair of the board, and J. Budziszewski (Professor, University of Texas at Austin) (IRD, 2005).  This double standard of selecting only Protestant organizations and churches for change was challenged by a distinguished Catholic leader Msgr. George G. Higgins (Christianity and Crisis, 1984).  He served on the executive staff for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1944 to 1980 and was Director of their Social Action Department, 1954-1967.  Msgr. Higgins was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, and with the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal as a tireless champion of the labor movement in the Roman Catholic Church (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002).  

In 1984, Msgr. Higgins was quoted as saying that the IRD's leaders "undoubtedly know that numerous non-Marxist Catholic leaders in the third world, including a number of cardinals and bishops, are, if anything even more `radical' than some of their counterparts in the WCC and the NCC (Christianity and Crisis, 1984). He asked why the IRD had refrained from attacking the Catholic Church whose social teachings were radical by IRD standards. He said "under the guise of defending democracy" the IRD was in danger of "becoming a partisan apologist for a conservative or neoconservative brand of American-style free enterprise ...." (Christianity and Crisis, 1984).

Current Catholics on the board include Thomas F. Farr of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; Graham Walker, president of Patrick Henry College; and William L. Saunders, vice president of Americans United for Life. They join a group, still comprising mostly evangelicals and relentlessly schismatic mainline Protestants, some of whom have already left the targeted denominations; some of whom are still working from the inside.

The war of attrition against the mainline Protestant churches, continues.




Display:
The membership of Mainstream Protestant Churches AND the Roman Catholic Church continue to decline and that of Evangelical Churches continues to increase.  May just be a change in people's religious sensibilities.    

by John Minehan on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 02:56:08 PM EST
There are obviously many reasons for membership declines in various churches, but there is no question that IRD and its affiliates have for decades sought to diminish the influence of the mainline Protestant churches in public life by breeding discord and encouraging defections of individuals and whole congregations. (Indeed, the PCUSA lost 110 congregations last year.) Again, while not the only factor, it has been catalytic. We have written a great deal about this subject on this site over the years, so you'll have to forgive me if I take more than a little exception to your uninformed pooh poohing of my post.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 10:15:40 PM EST
Parent
I read today that an Amarillo Presbyterian congregation is taking itself out of the Presbyterian Church of America over doctrinal differences.

by khughes1963 on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 10:50:31 PM EST
Parent
It is hard to keep track of all the denominations that go under the Presbyterian label.  But the Presbyterian Church in America is a conservative schismatic sect that broke with mainline Presbyterianism in 1970.

The Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) is the mainline denomination from which the the First Presbyterian Church of Amarillo voted to disaffiliate to join yet another conservative schismatic group.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2014-01-17/first-presbyterian -leaves-denomination

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jan 19, 2014 at 05:52:58 PM EST
Parent




For the Roman Catholic Church, anyone baptized in the RCC has to formally renounce membership. The RCC undoubtedly has members who haven't darkened a church door in decades, and would be surprised to be told that they were still considered members.

For large evangelical churches, there is a great deal of churning, people church-hop, and it would not surprise me one bit if "number of unique visitors per year per church" would be the basis for membership estimates, thus counting many individuals more than once.

Some "mainstream" and some small evangelical churches maintain a counting distinction between visitors and those who have committed to a church and requested membership.

Because there is no one criterion for counting, the number of functional participants in a denomination, and relative growth or decline in membership compared with other denominations, is difficult to determine.

by NancyP on Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 01:14:32 PM EST
Parent



I wonder why this war is still in continuation, I read british essay and assumed this was over. the war was close to ending but it is starting again. May peace be showered in these lands.

by Richard Guiness on Tue Aug 23, 2016 at 09:47:55 AM 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 (329 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 (173 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 (97 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 (114 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 (77 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 (226 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 (51 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 (52 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 (238 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 (140 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 (144 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 (82 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 (104 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.