All over America people are waking up to the threat posed by the theocratic Christian Right — in their lives, in their communities, in their thinking and in their actions. As I wrote the other day, the lights are coming on in America. No question there is alot of darkness, friends, and some places face a deeper gloom than others. But I want you to know that I think what I see is not merely silver linings. Nor do I think I am I clinging to false hopes. Nor am I claiming that the struggle is over. Far from it.
First, a little perspective. This is not about conservatives vs. liberals. I have more in common with most conservatives I have known over the years than any of us has with the Christian theocrats bent on overturning the rough consensus we have enjoyed about the meaning of constitutional democracy. I have recently heard lots of stories from people whose Republican friends and relatives are expressing grave reservations about the fanatical actions of the leaders of Congress and the president in the Terri Schiavo case, not to mention the threats against judges.
Yes, many people are also skeptical. An editorial in The New York Times is not enough, they say. And besides, maybe its too little, too late. But does that mean its all over folks? Does that mean we are giving up? Because if we are, I hear beaches and margaritas calling out to me. But if you are reading this, odds are, you don’t think its over, or at least you don’t want to think its over. So I guess the beaches and margaritas will have to wait.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled How to Beat the Christian Right Part I. (I will do a more formal part II in a few weeks.) But in a way, much of what I am writing about these days is about this one way or the other.
One thing that I think is so true that it almost goes without saying. But I will say it anyway. You don’t win at politics if you are not in the game. And a strong corollary is that you face a significant disadvantage if you do not know the nature of the game.
This is part of the significance of yesterday’s editorial in The New York Times that inspired The Lights are Coming on in America. Their clear and unequivocal statement that we are up against a Christian theocratic movement — was and is a breakthrough. The editorial voice of the Times is no small thing. And we may reasonably expect that the struggle that they must have gone through to arrive at this way of thinking, and their extraordinary articulation, will continue to inform their thinking and writing on these subjects.
Anyway, while I wasI celebrating the snapping on of this powerful light its important to note that the Times is far from the only light that has come on recently. I have had the awful experience of watching this movement grow in strength and sophistication these 20 odd years. And I have never in my adult life seen people so politicized, really trying to come to grips with the theocratic movement, and inventing new ways of trying to address it. The lights are coming on in America, friends. As dark as it seems, darker in some places than others, to be sure. But as one who has seen alot of darkness, I want you to know that I see lights coming on, and I am encouraged.
What I want to address in this essay is that many have been wanting progressive and moderate people of faith to play a greater and more visible role in public life. This is, infact, starting to happen.
Let’s start by taking a look at what some bloggers are doing.
Pastordan has launched The Affirmation Project on his blog faithforward. In taking this on, pastordan is pioneering an online effort to raise the voices and the visibility of people of faith who are not part of the theocratic Christian Right.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough,” writes pastordan. “It’s time Dr. Frist, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, the Family Research Council, and anyone else who would make adherence to political goals a literal article of faith heard from another side of the country. To that end, and for the time being, I am suspending the regular business of this blog and giving it over to a single project.”
“It is time for us to state, simply and directly, that we can affirm faith while disagreeing with the Republican legislative agenda. By “we,” I mean anyone who can get under that statement. You don’t have to be religious yourself. You don’t even have to be a Democrat. You just have to be willing to say that you are willing to affirm faith, but you don’t believe that it should be used as a weapon in a partisan campaign to increase the political power of a single party in the American commonwealth.”
Another blog, Jesus Politics has more or less daily lists of the most to-the-point articles and blog posts on politics and religion on the web. If you think that the moderate and progressive religious community isn’t buzzing about what to think about and do about the Christian Right, you are not reading Jesus Politics.
Bruce Prescott at Mainstream Baptist has been posting a flurry of incisive and illuminating commentaries and important links on these subjects.
Chuck Currie often has stuff I see nowhere else, surfacing important conversations and significant actions being taken.
There are others. Many others. And you can find them. Visit any of these sites, and you will find a rapidly growing list of progressive religious bloggers, and a widening and substantive conversation that spreads out all over the bloggosphere. If you are looking for passion and political energy and vision, these are gateways.
Let’s underscore that this is a communications infrastructure that was in its infancy just a few months ago. It has grown rapidly in audience, quality of content, and ability to zero in on what is important. I have no doubt that this network will play a powerful role in the next few months and beyond.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that the Clergy and Laity Network is calling for a national prayer vigil on April 24th in response to the Family Research Council’s national telecast featuring Senator Bill Frist, James Dobson and other leading Christian Rightists. They are waging the campaign in collaboration with linguist George Lakoff, best known for his popular work on “framing.”
Many fine organizations have been working in the trenches for years, providing first rate analysis, up-to-date reporting, and significant activism, partly but not exlusively in the religious community. The depth of thier knowledge and maturinty of thier presentation will be indispensable as we go forward. Among these are Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Political Research Associates. My own belief is that it is necessary to take the information and analysis you can glean from organizations like this, into electoral work. The Christian Right has come to power via elections, and it is by electing people who believe in constitutional democracy that the threat of creeping theocracy will be diminished.
Meanwhile, moderate and progressive people of faith are getting together in person as well as in cyberspace. For example, the other day I learned about an ecumenical conference coming right up that is intended to do just that. Its titled: “Reclaiming our Voices: Progressive Religious Values: Promoting Liberty and Justice For All,” Saturday, May 7, 2005. Plenary speakers include: Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches, Robyn Lundy, Executive Director, The Tikkun Community, National Office, Rev. Dr. Paul Smith, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Workshop topics include: “Religious and Secular Progressives,” “Framing Religious Ideas in the Public Dialog,” and “A Religious Basis for Marriage Equality and Reproductive Rights.”
Finally, also coming right up is national conference, also in New York: “Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right,” April 29-30 in New York, is an opportunity to hear as remarkable and impressive a group of experts on the Religious Right as has been assembled anywhere in a long time. I am honored to be included along with Rev. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Rev. Joe Hough, president of Union Theological Seminary, authors Karen Armstrong, Chip Berlet and many others.
My topic? “Learning about the Christian Right, and What in the World to Do.”
The darkness is far from over, of course. And things may well get worse before they get better. The Christian Right in Washington is at the peak of its power. But again, I see the lights are coming on in America. I see them where once there was darkness; and thanks to those lights, I am starting to see more signs of an America I recognize.
[Crossposted from FrederickClarkson.com]