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The blog of Frederick Clarkson

Archive for December, 2008

Faith in Public Life Embraces the RIC

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There is already an abbreviation for a term fast making its way into our political lexicon: RIC (great for headlines) is, of course, short for religious industrial complex. Blogger Dan at Faith in Public Life, a member agency of the RIC and roundly criticized lately for it, embraced the term today in response to the blogospheric discussion that has broken out about the RIC. However, in the manner of industrial PR writers everywhere, he responded to exactly none of the points raised, declared that “the discussion seems to have run its course,” and thanked everyone for their participation.

Blogger Scott Isebrand, meanwhile, shows that far from being over, the discussion has just begun:

The RIC, he writes, is

“cultivating the public personae of a new generation of religious leaders,” a public personae of a “values voter” who is “no longer shackled to a ‘narrow agenda’ of abortion and gay marriage, and [is] voting on a ‘broader agenda,’ including poverty, the environment, and global HIV/AIDS.” The constellation is also claiming that Democrats need New Evangelicals in order to win elections.

But the New “moderate” Evangelicals are ultimately…conservative. They still oppose reproductive choice. They still oppose full civil rights for gay Americans. Consider, alongside Joel Hunter, two other leaders of the “broader agenda,” New Evangelical, conservative Christianity. Rick Warren of Seattle’s Saddleback church denies the simple scientific fact of evolution, and Jim Wallis of Sojourners, as Schultz points out, has actively combated the idea of an organized religious left.

The only thing new about New Evangelicalism is how it’s a conservative Christian movement that’s made inroads into the Democratic Party.

Written by fred

December 16th, 2008 at 9:16 am

A Disucussion Busting Out All Over

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A discussion is busting out all over the blogosphere, well not quite all over, but its getting around. Sarah Posner’s article at Religion Dispatches catalyzed what is probably the first full blown conversation about the role of what Digby terms “the religious industrial complex.” Sarah got the ball rolling by pointing out that the courting of moderate and religious right evangelicals by Beltway Insiders is not to be confused with building a Religious Left.  She contrasts thier perspective with those of some of the contributors to Dispatches from the Religious Left 

For those just joining us, pastordan posted a link-filled round-up of the conversation so far — while taking it all further as well. Then, over the weekend, fellow Dispatches contributor Shai Sachs weighed-in at the mega-political blog, MyDD.  

When we launched Dispatches from the Religious Left, we hoped to catalyze a wide-ranging conversation about the state of the religious left; how it could become more politically dynamic; how it could become greater than the sum of its parts.  The role of the religious industrial complex is an important part of the conversation. If we allow a small group of moderate evangelical authors and pastors and a gaggle of Democratic political consultants, and like-minded journalists to define it, we will have a Religious Left that is little more than an electoral and public policy arm of the moderately conservative wing of the Democratic Party.  Suffice to say, it will be highly contained, never prophetic, and not very progressive.  Shai writes:

…rather than mimicking the Religious Industrial Complex, I think the Religious Left needs to come up with its own structures for making the basic point that that there is a large and growing bloc of voters sympathetic to the beliefs and values of religious progressives, and that it is possible to win elections, and to goven with the support of that bloc. 

My instinct tells me that the Religious Left will come to power through quite a different path than the Religious Industrial Complex.  In particular, the progress on marriage equality in the next couple of years is going to be a proving ground.  Already, the Religious Left has been out front and very active on this issue.  But with the new Democratic trifecta in New York, we have the potential to make a large, pro-active, legislatively-won gain on this issue, in a huge and important state.  The shape of religious lobbying in that battle will be quite different than the defensive posture taken in the battle to resist Goodridge overrides in Massachusetts, and I think (or hope, in any case) that it will help create a new class of political operators, capable of gathering and wielding progressive religious support. 

Written by fred

December 15th, 2008 at 11:16 am

Inside vs. Outside the Beltway?

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Religion scholar Mark Silk, writing in response to Sarah Posner’s article at Religion Dispatches,  mischaracterizes Dispatches from the Religious Left:

A new book, Dispatches from the Religious Left, rounds up a bunch of outside-the-Beltway lefties to make the case for themselves. I don’t have a problem with their case, and I understand their annoyance, but that doesn’t seem to me sufficient grounds for scorning those toiling in the spiritual vineyards of Democratic Party politics.

The mischaracterization is that I rounded-up a bunch of Outside the Beltway lefties.  (Not that there would be anything wrong with that.)  As a matter of fact, contributors Carlton Veazey and Barry Lynn operate inside the beltway, and stay true to their values and fight the good fight.  

That said, unlike many other contemporary books on religion and politics, Dispatches is neither by nor about Democratic Party consultants and other Beltway Insiders kissing-up to moderate and conservative evangelicals and calling that the foundation of a new religious left.  There is more to progressive religion and politics than this.  And part of the role of this book, is to show how that is so. 

Written by fred

December 11th, 2008 at 9:40 am

Battling for the Soul of the Democratic Party

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That’s the title of an important article by Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches.  The article critiques the activities of various Beltway Insiders and contrasts their approach with that of several contributors to Dispatches from the Religious Left. 

The religious left is still struggling to find an organizing and base-building model, while the center-right continues to dominate the conversation and capture the attention of politicians. A new book, Dispatches from the Religious Left, edited by the journalist Frederick Clarkson, attempts to start the conversation—though by its own admission it’s merely a start, not a blueprint.

Part of that start, of course, is debunking the notion that the centrist evangelicals represent a religious left

Written by fred

December 10th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Carlton Veazey Employs His Chapter from Dispatches as a Fundraiser

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This just in from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice:

The Obama administration offers hope for a broader understanding of reproductive health and choice. President-elect Barack Obama is both pro-choice and a person of strong religious conviction, and RCRC will be in the forefront of advocacy for positive programs to support healthy and wanted pregnancies, expand healthcare, and strengthen families.
Let’s start by connecting the dots. Reproductive issues such as unintended pregnancy underlie and are connected to our other concerns as people of faith: providing universal health care, eradicating hunger and homelessness, eliminating violence, reducing income disparities, increasing equality and empowering women, and improving environmental quality, among them.
Regressive groups – those that keep the culture wars roiling – will continue to single out and demonize abortion and the women who have abortions, which makes our mission of connecting the dots all the more urgent. The fact is, health, economic stability, education, and other matters of daily life all relate to our private decisions.
 
It is time for  reproductive health and choice to be accepted as part of a comprehensive social justice ethic.  Please take a few moments to read about this vision and help make it a reality by making a generous donation to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Written by fred

December 2nd, 2008 at 5:50 pm

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