Tuesday, July 11, 2006
There Will Be No Religious Left
Note: I know I was asked to post once a week, but I saw this story, part of an on-going thing, and I couldn't resist. I guess I want to establish my bona fides as it were. I'll try to keep it short, too; I tend to write rather long.

CBS News carried this story last night, and as it fits in well with a developing narrative from this discussion of Sen. Barack Obama I believe it is deserving of some attention. On Sen. Obama, I have already commented. On more general issues, however, I think something needs to be said. To put it simply, I don't think, despite the media's attention, and the sudden interest in Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo (both of whom have been around for a generation), that there is going to be a politically active, organized Christian left in this country the same way there is on the right. The question is one of priorities and philosophy (or perhaps theology?). The Christian right, for a generation now, has been actively organized, starting in the 1970's with direct-mail guru Paul Weyrich, up through the Christian Coalition, for the kind of political action you see, for example, over at The Daily Kos. That is, it is organized to elect candidates, to defeat other candidates, to build networks of activists who volunteer, go door to door, write letters to the editor, etc. Early on, the Christian right saw the Republican Party as a good vehicle for its political ambitions and its biggest donors - A. "Bunky" Hunt, the truck magnate and Adolph Coors, the brewer - were already huge benefactors of the Republican Party.

The so-called religious left, however, has totally different priorities. They want to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the forgotten in prison, hospice care, AIDS clinics, demand racial justice, and an end to the madness in Iraq. Since the days of the Civil Rights movement and before, they have had no interest in serious organizing (one of the constant complaints against MLK, Jr.), but in acting, in doing. There is no time, indeed no desire, to organize, to raise money to support candidates, to oppose other candidates, when the needs in the world are so immense. Lobby on behalf of particular issues? You bet. Preach from the pulpit and print books and pamphlets demanding action? Absolutely. Put together a functioning organization that actively seeks to elect candidates of a particular party? Never, for the very good reason that those who are part of what the media calls the religious left honor and support the separation of church and state in this country and they see advocating partisan politics as a violation of that separation. We might wish it were otherwise, but these folks, evangelicals and Unitarians, Jews, Muslims, and Baha'i, all have different, and it seems to me, much better priorities: they don't want to Christianize the country, they just want to help the victims of a society grown increasingly hard toward the have-nots.

UPDATE: I feel like a prophet. Or perhaps a smart blogger. What follows is a small excerpt from Adele Stan:
Ever since the rise of the religious right, liberals have longed for a religious counterpart on the left. But that notion was always dubious, and the recent turmoil within the Episcopal Church should put ut to rest for good.
- - - -
Liberal values represent the essence of the world's great religions. At the root of all of the great faiths are fundamental beliefs in compassion, justice, love, and charity. We have the right - dare I say the duty? - to express ourselves as moral agents without the impramtur of ecclesiastical authority.


I'll just say, in passing, that I said it first.
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