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    Thursday, January 13, 2005


    There’s a nice post at new donkey about the religious right. Here are the key passages:

    How many Southern Baptists know that their Convention endorsed liberalized abortion laws prior to Roe v. Wade? Or even that an ACLU-style absolutism about separation of church and state was long the most distinctive trait of their community, dating back to Roger Williams and to the early English Separatists? How many contemporary Presbyterians know that John Knox opposed the celebration of Christmas? And how many American Congregationalists really understand that the same tradition that made their community so notably progressive on issues like slavery and civil rights also made them for many decades the very fountainhead of nativist and anti-labor sentiment?

    Maybe a lot of them, but I doubt it. At one point in our history, religious pluralism created a way to define ourselves distinctively within the common American civic creed. Now the arrow seems pointed in the other direction, with religious identity being less and less a matter of heritage, doctrine and liturgy, and more and more a matter of consumer choice--and of secular values.

    It's this last point that compels me to write about this subject. To be blunt about it, millions of those Americans who can't name the four Gospels probably have no doubt that those Gospels demand that they oppose abortion, gay rights, or feminism. More than a few Catholics who thrill at Dan Brown's bogus expose of the machinations of Opus Dei probably think the litmus test for being a "good Catholic" is pretty much the same menu of "cultural conservatism" and "moral values." And no telling how many Americans who can't distinguish Muslims from Hindus or Sikhs--much less Sunni from Shia or Arabs from Persians--have probably bought into the idea of George W. Bush's foreign policy as a religiously-based effort to vindicate Western values against an undifferentiated heathen horde.

    This is not an accident, and is not the fault of the religious rank-and-file, who are not historians or theologians, and have complicated lives to lead. But the rampant secularization of much of the American faith tradition in the not-so-sacred cause of cultural and political conservatism must be laid at the parsonage door of those religious leaders who have abused the prophetic function of their ministry to acquire a "seat at the table" of secular power.

    In particular, Christian Right leaders in every denomination who abet and exploit the doctrinal and historical indifference of The Faithful to promote an agenda of intolerance and self-righteousness are the true Secularists of contemporary American society, and far more dangerous to the integrity of our faith communities than all the honest unbelievers in our midst or in Europe or Asia.

    It seems to me that sometime in the next four years, the religious middle and the religious left are going to need to start making some noise or else risk ceding the entire discussion of morals to the religious right. And as New Donkey points out, the religious right, or at least the leaders of same, are more interested in pushing a secular agenda than a Christian one. Yet the religious right, or at least the leaders of same, are the ones dominating any media discussion of religious issues.


    Jolene said...

    Dude, something's weird with your blog. All I can see on the front page are the posts, which cut off in the middle of a one post. Everthing else (links, profile, etc.) is gone.

    Jolene said...

    Well, nevermind. It's fixed. I'll just be quite now.