The blog of Frederick Clarkson

Archive for the ‘Religious Left’ Category

Albert Mohler is Worried. And He Should Be

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Yesterday, I published a commentary at Women’s eNews titled: U.S. Religions Quietly Launch a Sexual Revolution. Its about how the Religious Institute, a progressive religious think tank has issued a 46 page manifesto about breaking the silence in religious communities about a host of sexuality issues; and although many mainstream religious institutions have a long way to go, many have also come a long way.

Unsurprisingly, the manifesto was immediately denounced by Religious Right leader Dr. Albert Mohler, the fundamentalist president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This is a story about how, when progressives get focused, and mean what they say and say what they mean, the Religious Right loses control of the narrative.  
Much More.

Written by fred

February 25th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

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

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

When the Alfred E. Neuman School says “What, Me Worry?” — about the Religious Right

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Pastordan nails it (or at least one of many very important its) over at Street Prophets today. In discusing how the immoderate Rick Warren has endorsed Proposition 8 that would repeal marriage equality in California, pastordan succinctly describes the elephant on the table that is one of the obstacles to clear thinking, informed conversation and good strategy in response to the Religious Right.

There is much more to say on this, but before we go there, let’s also note that today is Write to Marry Day in support of marriage equality in California and in oppositon to the Religious Right’s infamous Prop 8. Here is the original  press release calling on bloggers to highlight this important battle on their blogs today. (What we used to call a “blog swarm.”) With less than a week to go, the No on 8 campaign needs financial help to compete with the enormous financial advantage of the coalition of theocrats seeking to impose their particiular religious view of marriage on everyone else. You can contribute via Act Blue.

Of course, no need to bother with all this if you are part of the Alfred E. Neuman School of Beltway Insiderism. When it comes to such things, all you have to say is “What Me Worry?” Afer all the Religious Right is dead or severly diminished, and therefore The End of the Culture Wars is at Hand! So when it comes to initiatives sponsored by the dead or dying Religious Right that feature leading wedge issues of the so-called culture wars of the last generation, nothing to worry about… right?

Dan writes:

The real problem here is the endless parade of Religious-Industrial Complex consultants and activists who tell us that Rick Warren is the epitome of the “moderate Evangelical” that Democrats should be working to attract. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Cameron Strang – who was supposed to pray at the Democratic Convention in Denver – is now on the board of Oral Roberts University. Randy Brinson worked for Mike Huckabee this spring and runs what’s left of Alabama’s chapter of the Christian Coalition. Joel Hunter endorsed Huckabee in the primaries, and has pledged himself to “maintaining a socially conservative platform”. Even the venerable Jim Wallis won’t describe himself as part of a “religious left.” Moving away from strictly Evangelicals, Doug Kmiec is still an authoritarian Catholic.

Ever since 2004, we’ve been treated to a parade of icons like this with the pledge that while they may be socially conservative, they’re good on poverty or the environment or whatever, and Dems should do whatever they can to bring them into the fold. Meanwhile, they go on being social conservatives at best happy to jettison a progressive social agenda in favor of poverty reduction, if not actually undermine it.

This is so very well put. And because it is, I want to repeat what I told Bill Berkowitz in an interview with Religion Dispatches last summer. We need to be very clear about what is at stake:

Bill Berkowitz:  Rick Warren, the much celebrated and talked about pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, interviewed Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain on Saturday, August 16. Before and after the event, Warren’s Civic Forum received a lot of media attention. Many in the media have anointed Warren as representing the new face of Christian evangelicals; creating a new movement that not only distances itself from the old timers of the Religious Right, but one that is setting a new agenda for evangelicals. How do you view Warren’s work and where does he fit within the broad constellation of religious leaders?

Frederick Clarkson: Four years ago, Rick Warren wrote an inflammatory letter about the presidential contest to thousands of evangelical pastors. This letter revealed him to be a fierce partisan, who epitomized the worst aspects of the Religious Right. He declared five issues to be “non-negotiable” and those “are not even debatable because God’s word is clear on these issues.'” These included abortion, same sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and euthanasia. He later said he regretted the letter but that he had not changed his views.

While he is a skilled showman, he is unable to sustain moderation in style or in substance even before a national television audience. His real self leaks out. At the Civic Forum, Warren highlighted the top two litmus tests of the Religious Right–abortion and same sex marriage, and described abortion as a “holocaust.”

Following this he called on his audience not to “demonize” people with whom they may disagree–having just compared people who have a different view on abortion to the Nazis. In my view, Warren is an emerging leader of the Religious Right in transition, not of evangelical moderation.

I added: …I think this is also about marginalizing the role and voice of religious progressives, which is to say those who in past decades played decisive roles in stopping the war in Vietnam, pushing for African American and women’s rights, and much more. The Beltway Insiders would prefer not to have a resurgent Religious Left complicating things by making conservative evangelicals uncomfortable and perhaps more importantly, compelling significant changes in the way the politics and public policy industry does business. So I think a faux Religious Left is being manufactured as an official counterweight to the Religious Right in the media and as a sop to the actual stirrings among religious progressives.

Religious progressives are indeed a counterweight to the Religious Right and are far better gounded in important matters such as poverty, AIDS and climate change than the me too squad of conservative Catholics and evangelicals currently being promoted by Beltway Insiders in the service of short term political advantage. Religious progressives are pro-marriage quality, pro-choice and pro-separation of church and state. The immoderate conservative evagelicals being recruited to the party by people who really ought to know better, mostly are not.


Written by fred

October 29th, 2008 at 1:01 pm