Friday, June 24, 2005

Leftward Christian Soldiers


American Prospect Online - ViewWeb

Founded by Jacksonville, Florida, businessman Patrick Mrotek, the Christian Alliance for Progress (CAP) says its purpose is the “reclaim” the Christian faith from the extreme religious right...CAP’s core principles include commitments to economic justice, environmental stewardship, equality for homosexuals, effective prevention -- but not criminalization -- of abortion, peaceful solutions to international disputes, and universal health care for all Americans...

“One of the great problems of the Democratic Party,” [CAP Director of Religious Affairs Timothy Simpson] said, “is that the 5 percent or so [of its members] who don’t want any religious rhetoric at all, and who do not represent the mainstream of American political or religious life, have been allowed to call the cadence in the [party]. And when that happens, Democrats get their butts kicked. Because people in this country are believers.”


I hit the link and joined. I am, after all, a Christian and one who supports their "core principles."

I'm not terribly optimistic. I've been involved in a number of these liberal religious groups that do minor good works on the political front at the margins. Even during the heyday of liberal Christian activism they weren't a major force and nowadays, with liberal/mainline churches on the way out, these well-meaning liberal Christian operations are even less likely to succeed.

What bothers me about a lot of liberal Christianity is not that it is inimical to "traditional values"--with which I have no sympathy--but that it's often associated with metaphysical reductionism and dismissive of religious devotion. I believe what's in the Creed--nothing in there about abortion, homosexuality or sex roles much less the "ownership society" or the war in Iraq. I am a religious person: I believe that the most important things the Church can do are having daily services and keeping church buildings open so that people can visit. And, I'm a member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament--please hit this site, contact the Secretary General for info and if you are so moved join!

That seems to be a problem with the Religious Right as well as the Religious Left: the whole debate has become one about "values"--and religion has dropped out of the picture. The "Religious" Right supported Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood celebrity with no religious affiliation, over Jimmy Carter, a devout Baptist Sunday School teacher who made "born again" respectable. Nobody, least of all conservatives, seems to take religion seriously. They "church shop" for churches that support their "values," or have convenient parking lots, or active youth groups, and do not give a damn about theology, liturgy or religious devotion. Conservative evangelical Protestants make common cause with conservative Catholics and conservative Orthodox Jews who agree with their notions of how society should be organized and have formed an unholy alliance with secular Libertarians. They've bought into the idea that religion cashes out as a code of conduct--they simply disagree with liberals about what the correct code of conduct is.

So I'm pessimistic on two counts. First, I don't believe that any liberal Christian movement will succeed in influencing politics: even if, per impossible, conservative Christians could be convinced that Jesus (who enjoyed his followers to leave their families and follow him) didn't support "family values" or that "Christianity is the religion of which socialism is the practice" it would make no difference. They would give up Christianity. Secondly, for all the brouhaha about religion and politics, debates about teaching evolution in the public schools (which should be about as controversial as teaching the quadratic formula) and the supposed rise of the "Religious" Right, Christianity as such is close to dead. Right or left, the majority of people who, according to the polls, say that religion is "important or very important in their lives" are interested in supporting "family values" or promoting social justice, acquiring skills for "successful living" or exploring "spirituality." And very few people are interested in the doctrine of the Trinity, or care about the Church's tradition of liturgy and devotion, or believe that God is present in holy things and holy places, or love the Church.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're dead wrong about a couple of things.

First, the Bible is very clear about homosexuality. There are few things more clear in the Bible. No one claims the Bible says anything about the liberation of Iraq. "The Creed" says nothing about murder, helping the poor, rape, theft, or any number of things. To suggest all there is to Christianity is the Creed is silly.

Second, you stated Reagan was not a religious man. That is false. He proclaimed himself a believing Christian and attended services regularly. He didn't attend regularly while he was president because he said he didn't want to impose on other attendees with his security needs.

H. E. said...

First, the Bible is very clear about homosexuality.

The Bible is also very clear about wearing linsey-woolsey, boiling kids in their mother's milk and charging interest on loans. Oops, that's the Old Testament. Then there's Jesus, who didn't have anything to say about homosexuality but did say very clearly that divorce was prohibited (hedged in Matthew "except for adultery") and had some fairly clear ideas about the prospects for rich people when it came to the Kingdom of Heaven.

"The Creed" says nothing about murder, helping the poor, rape, theft, or any number of things. To suggest all there is to Christianity is the Creed is silly.

I didn't say that, did I? There's also church-going and prayer. When it comes to ethics though we're on our own--to suggest that the Bible provides a clear code of conduct or an ethical system is even sillier.

Second, you stated Reagan was not a religious man. That is false.

Nope. I said he had no religious affiliation. He didn't--check it out. I don't doubt that he was a believing Christian of some sort. I Just find it peculiar that he was billed as the "religious" candidate vis-a-vis Jimmy Carter, a committed Baptist who taught Sunday School since the age of 18 and announced that he was "born-again" at a time when that kind of admission made people's eyes bug out. The story that pops into my head is about the time that Reagan got the idea of naming a submarine carrying nuclear warheads after the city in Texas, Corpus Christi, and someone had to explain to him why that might not be a good idea.

He didn't attend regularly while he was president because he said he didn't want to impose on other attendees with his security needs.

The dog ate my homework.

acb said...

Your homework too?

Anonymous said...

Jesus didn't say anything about car-theft, therefore stealing a car is A-OK with Jesus. *LOL*

The Bible is crystal clear about the model for human sexuality. That is true of both the Old and New Testaments. You are free to reject that model, but to suggest it is not clear is ridiculous.

The Bible does provide clear ethical guidelines. The fact you're ignorant of them or reject them is your own problem.

Jimmy Carter merely proves that one can go to church and be a moral idiot at the same time.

H. E. said...

The Bible is crystal clear about the model for human sexuality. That is true of both the Old and New Testaments.

Right. The OT is very clear about the moral acceptability of polygamy--at least for patriarchs, kings and other guys who can afford it. It also clearly suggests that if your No. 1 wife turns out to be infertile the thing to do is father children on other wives or concubines, and that when you're old (at least if you're a king) it's a good idea to get a pretty young chickie (in addition to your other wives and concubines) to keep you warm at night. There are also very clear guidelines for divorce: if you get sick of your wife, write out a bill of divorce, hand it to her, and kick her out of the house. Jesus didn't agree with this--his idea was no divorce, period. Maybe though the issue isn't clarity but consistency.

Personally I'm just not all that interested in sexual conduct--a trivial issue that both liberals and conservatives have glommed onto. There isn't that much utility riding on it compared to unsexy bread-and-butter issues like social security and other social safety nets, health care and access to education and other policies geared to ameliorate the effects of dumb luck, like affirmative action. Maybe we can cut a deal: I'll trade gay marriage for a cradle-to-grave welfare state; I'll trade abortion for affirmative action so that women can have a fair crack at getting "men's jobs" at male wages. Are you game?

Anonymous said...

Sexual conduct is ultimately tied to creating the next generation and thus perpetuating our civilization. To call that trivial is asinine.

Women who are in "men's jobs" whatever those are, who have the same education level, the same years on the job, put in the same hours, etc. do get paid the same.

Men or women who choose lower paying jobs, or choose to work fewer hours, get paid less. And there's nothing wrong with that.

By the way, polygamy in the OT, which was permitted but not preferred, involved heterosexual relationships. As I said before, the Bible is very clear on the model for human sexuality. But since you've already indicated you have no use for the book, it doesn't matter. Just stop being so disingenuous about it.

Anonymous said...

Well, this post is certainly the perfect microcosm of everything that's despicable about both right and left in America.

The left "trades" on other people's lives and problems, and the right thinks that God lives in the White House.

Beautiful.

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