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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Beyond 'liberal' and 'conservative' in religion.

In today's New York Times, Peter Steinfels introduces four categorizes that may be more accurate than "liberal" and "conservative" when describing different perspectives in contemporary religion. The categories were developed by John L. Allen Jr., who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, to describe the various perspectives of Catholic cardinals:

The Border Patrol: Doctrinal conservatives worried about secularization, relativism and the loss of Catholic identity;

The Reform Party: Doctrinal moderates seeking to continue the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on issues such as decentralization, ecumenism and the role of the laity;

The Social Justice Party: Cardinals concerned with issues outside the church, such as debt relief, H.I.V./AIDS, the environment, capital punishment, war and peace, and globalization; and

The Integralists: Cultural conservatives who want church teaching written into the civil law, especially on issues such as abortion, divorce and homosexuality.

How fascinating! Steinfels points out that some Catholic leaders — like the pope — mix at least two of these perspectives in a way that confounds our habitual "liberal-or-conservative" approach: "A lot of observers would put John Paul II, for example, primarily in the Border Patrol and the Social Justice Party."

("The Pigeonholing of Religious Combatants," Peter Steinfels, New York Times 11.22.03, reg req'd)

So, what I really want to know is, Which trends in liberal religion fall into these four categories? Who are Unitarian Universalism's "border patrol," for instance? Who are its "reform party"? We all know who the social justice party members are. But who are the "integralists"? Or do we need some other labels? I have some thoughts — but I'll solicit your opinions while I finish thinking my own.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 22 November 2003 at 5:26 PM

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