Archive for the ‘Religious Right’ Category
Congratulations to Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois — Winner of the 2012 Father Charles Coughlin Award.
I wrote about Huck’s latest claim — that the reason for the Newtown massacre is that God does not like the so called contraception mandate, that contraception must be covered in employee health insurance packages — at Daily Kos and at Talk to Action which has been down a lot lately due to technical difficulties. If you encounter said difficulties, please be patient.
Posting here at FrederickClarkson.com has been episodic for a long time. But one of my New Years Resolutions will be to post more frequently. Its a good discipline, but the truth is, when I get in the groove, I like it. The discipline part is secondary.
But if I am not around, I can usually be found having said something over at Talk to Action — most recently a Christmas eve rumination about the anti-Semitic roots of claims that there is a “war on Christmas” and how that bastion of evilly secular liberal media — public radio — has a little remarked upon but remarkable quarter century Christmas broadcast tradition, which in turn has roots in the early days of broadcasting.
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.
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?
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.
In honor of Banned Books Week, and in light of her crafty attempts to ban books at the Wasilla Public Library back in the day… it is worth thinking about.
I would guess that she would try to axe Dispatches from the Religious Left from library shelves — what with all of discussion of sexuality — especially marriage equality – not to mention reproductive justice and fierce, convincing advocacy of religious pluralism and separation of church and state. It’s enough to make book banners and book banner wannabes pretty hot under the collar.
I discuss this in more detail over at Talk to Action:
I have a Guest Commentary in the new issue of Boston-based Public Eye magazine. It is adapted from my essay in Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. Here is the first part:
The main reason why the Religious Right became powerful is not what most people may think. Some would undoubtedly point to the powerful communications media. Others might identify charismatic leaders, the development of“wedge issues,” or even changes in evangelical theology in the latter part of the twentieth century that supported, and even demanded, political action. All of these and more, especially taken together, were important factors. But the main reason for the Religious Right’s rise to power has been its capacity for political action, particularly electoral politics.
Meanwhile, over on the Religious Left, many of the ingredients are present for a more dynamic movement. But the ingredient that is most remarkably lacking on the Religious Left is the one that made the Religious Right powerful: a capacity for electoral politics. Indeed, there has never been anything on the Religious Left on the scale of say, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority or Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition—or even any of dozens of significant Religious Right groups—including the 35 state political affiliates of Focus on the Family—that have had any significant national or regional electoral muscle.
Conservative evangelicals have figured out what it means to be a Christian and a citizen. This new identity easily integrates Christian nationalist ideology and notions of Christian citizens’ place in history, which in turn helps to inform and to animate their politics. It is in this sense that the ideology of Christian nationalism—America as a Christian Nation—mixes with theology. It appeals to those invested in the idea that they are living in the end times (á làwriterTim LaHaye and Pastor John Hagee) and nonapocalyptic, long term theocratic political activists.
While many fine organizations on the Religious Left, broadly defined, register voters and even mobilize them when elections roll around, I know of none for whom building electoral power and changing elections is a central activity. Even worse, some see electoral politics as a waste of time and even a tacit endorsement of the excesses of the power structure. I do not agree with such dour assessments, nor do I think that electoral politics is a panacea.
Here is what I do think: (Much more)
As Banned Books Week looms on the horizon, the issue of then-Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin’s attempted book banning is heating up.
While Palin did not ask for specific books to be removed, there is a back story emerging thanks to ABC News, among others — there were specific books at issue in the community and at her church in particular.
The Nation has the relevant section of the transcript of the ABC News report by Brian Ross, and the video.
ROSS: Around the time Palin became mayor, [Palin's] church and other conservative Christians began to focus on certain books available in local stores and in the town library, including one called “Go Ask Alice,” and another one written by a local pastor, Howard Bess, called Pastor, IAm Gay.
BESS: This whole thing of controlling, you know, information, censorship, yeah. That’s a part of the scene.
ROSS: Not long after taking office, Palin raised the issue at a city council meeting of how books might be banned according to news accounts and a local resident, a Democrat, who was there.
ANNE KILKENNY: Mayor Palin asked the librarian, what is your response if I ask you to remove some books from the collection of the Wasilla Public Library?
ROSS: The Wasilla librarian, Mary Ellen Edmonds, the then president of the Alaska Library Association, responded with only a short hesitation.
KILKENNY: The librarian took a deep breath and said, the books in the collection were purchased in accordance with national standards and professional guidelines, and I would absolutely not allow you to remove any books from the collection.
“A few weeks after the council meeting, the mayor fired the librarian, although she was reinstated after a community uproar,” Ross reported. “The Wasilla librarian, Mary Ellen Edmonds, left two years later, and according to friends, because it was just too hard working for Sarah Palin.”
The Associated Press story features the McCain campaign’s efforts to downplay the episode, but also provides the corroborating details first exposed by ABC. The McCain camaign acknowledges that Palin raised the issue of book banning not once, but three times with the head librarian. As ABC makes clear, she was fired and then reinstated due to popular support, meanwhile — the entire staff was in fear for their own jobs. According to the AP:
The Rev. Howard Bess, a liberal Christian preacher in the nearby town of Palmer, said the church Palin and her family attended until 2002, the Wasilla Assembly of God, was pushing to remove his book from local bookstores.
Emmons told him that year that several copies of “Pastor I Am Gay” had disappeared from the library shelves, Bess said.
“Sarah brought pressure on the library about things she didn’t like,” Bess said. “To believe that my book was not targeted in this is a joke.”
The Institute for Public Accuracy kindly included my comments about Rick Warren’s recent presidential candidate forum in one of their daily press releases, which is posted over at Common Dreams. I said:
“The fiercely partisan religious right leader Rick Warren of four years ago is little different from the Rick Warren of today. In 2004, he issued a letter regarding the presidential candidates on the issues he considered to be ‘non-negotiable’ and that ‘are not even debatable because God’s word is clear on these issues.’
“At the Civic Forum, Warren featured the key litmus tests of the religious right — abortion and same sex marriage — while ignoring the so-called broader agenda of the supposedly newly moderate evangelicals such as climate change and domestic and world poverty. He said that we should not ‘demonize’ people with whom we disagree, and yet he described abortion as a ‘holocaust.’
“Warren opened the forum by saying he supports separation of church and state, while the event itself held in the sanctuary of a church epitomized the all-out war on separation being waged by the religious right and its current avuncular leader. [McCain and Obama] have contributed greatly to the role of Warren as a power broker, reflecting poorly on the judgment of both.”
One of the current fashions emanating from Inside the Beltway is the declaration that the “culture war is over,” and in the case of E.J. Dionne, that it is the wrong war to be fought. The currency of such proclamations may not last long. They are variations on the old saw that the religious right is dead, dying, over the hill, and so on. There are analyses to be made about the State of the Religious Right, which is certainly in a state of turmoil and transition, in the wake of the passing of the founding generation from public life. But any analysis whose central premise is any of the above, is probably wishful thinking, at best.
The time is not to kid ourselves with wishful thinking, but to be clear about the current nature and capacities of the religious right; staying aware of the direction of the religious right’s issues, organizations and electoral campaigns, and making any necessary adjustments.
Here is an example from today’s news: one of the most divisive issues of the culture war, marriage equality, is now before the California Supreme Court. It’s as high profile a case as they come; and in the largest state in the union; and it may well be decided prior to the November elections. The case will be heard on March 4th.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a helpful article about how religious institutions on both sides have lined up with amicus briefs in this case. This is important as the arguments made by these groups (as well as many others) will inform the battles to come in this area, and may very well serve as helpful briefings for candidates, staff and consultants.
The Chronicle reports:
As the state Supreme Court prepares for a three-hour hearing March 4 on the constitutionality of a state law allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry, the justices have been flooded with written arguments from advocates on both sides – including two large contingents of religious organizations with sharply differing views.
On one side are the Mormon church, the California Catholic Conference, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. They describe marriage between a man and a woman as “the lifeblood of community, society and the state” and say any attempt by the courts to change that would create “deep tensions between civil and religious understandings of that institution.”
On the other side are the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Soka Gakkai branch of Buddhism, and dissident groups of Mormons, Catholics and Muslims. Saying their faiths and a wide range of historical traditions honor same-sex unions, they argue that the current law puts the state’s stamp of approval on “the religious orthodoxy of some sects concerning who may marry.”
Raoul Kennedy, the attorney for the plaintiffs said, according to the Chronicle:
“… same-sex marriages were recognized by the Christian church in the fifth century, were observed among natives by the first Spanish explorers in the Americas, were common among the Mojave Indians of the Colorado River in southeastern California, and have been documented in more than 230 African tribes.
Besides religious denominations, Kennedy’s clients include about 80 churches and temples in California and more than 250 clergy members, some of whom perform same-sex weddings despite the state’s refusal to recognize them.
“By sanctioning only marriages between a man and a woman, the state relegates the beliefs and practices of (these) religions, denominations and clergy to second-class status,” Kennedy said. He argued that such treatment violates the California Constitution’s guarantee of “free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference,” language that state courts have interpreted as separating church and state more strictly than the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Further info on the case can be found on the web site of the California Supreme Court.
All of the amicus briefs can be found here.
It is not clear when the court will rule on the case, however, there is the possibility that the ruling will come before the November election, and of course, then be an animating campaign issue, just as it was when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision on marriage equality in the run-up to the 2004 elections.
So, let’s not be lulled into complacency. The issues that animate the culture wars are alive and well and are not going away, and neither are the active players. The LGTB civil rights movement will continue to go forward, and the reactionary institutions of the religious right and several generations of trained activists will carry on as well. We can also reasonably expect that the Republican Party and its religoius right allies will skillfully exploit the issue (as they have in the past) if it should come up.
I think that the question that we Democrats at all levels need to answer for ourselves is — will we be ready if the California Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality?