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Friday, June 11, 2004

Praying on the left.

I'm always happy to cheer signs of strategic thinking by religious liberals, and I hope a conference earlier this week may do some good in rousing left-of-center people of faith to speak up, organize, and share their theological and political ideas in public. (It would sure help if the Clergy Leadership Network would get its Web site together, though. Until they do, here's the Center for American Progress page on its Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative.)

After noting that the most frequent churchgoers do tend to vote Republican, and complaining about the way the media equates "religious" with "conservative" and acknowledging that religious liberals don't enjoy butting heads with some ferociously anti-religious folks on the left, the Washington Post story about the conference describes some of the other problems we face:

"Part of it is our fault. We should take back the Bible, take back the theological principles and not just cede them to the religious right," said the Rev. Susan B. Thistlethwaite, a minister in the United Church of Christ and president of the Chicago Theological Seminary. "It's not good enough to talk in vague terms about values. We can do better than that. We can make the theological arguments."

Historian Taylor Branch said that in the 1970s, the abortion issue split the progressive religious alliance that had formed in the civil rights movement. Since then, the left has done no better than the right in "moving beyond polemics," he said.

"Not many people who call themselves pro-choice actually want to celebrate abortion, and not many of those who call themselves pro-life want to put women in jail for having abortions," he said. "It's more of a show than a debate, with polarizing options that aren't real. Both sides profess that they love children, but you don't really have the two sides doing very much to cooperate to reduce the number of neglected and abandoned and unwanted children, or to care for them."

The Rev. Charles Henderson, a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister who publishes the interfaith quarterly CrossCurrents, said that from the 1950s through the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations took for granted that their values would infuse television and the public schools. Evangelicals, who felt shut out of establishment institutions, created their own schools and broadcast outlets. "Then you wake up one day in 1984 and the Christian right is dominant, and you wonder why," he said.

("Religious Left Seeks Center of Political Debate," Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 6.10.04, reg req'd)

And asking for forgiveness.

Meanwhile, as President Bush continues pretending that torture isn't immoral so long as it's (kinda, sorta, hey our fingers were crossed) legal, a group of American religious leaders is broadcasting an apology on Al Jezeera and Al Arabiya television (NYT, reg req'd).

"The impetus for this ad was from the deep sense of moral regret that we were hearing from people of faith across the country," said Tom Perriello, the co-director of FaithfulAmerica.org — the month-old nonprofit advocacy group that created the ad.

"We believe that the abuses are both sinful and systematic and that the moral damage of this around the world will last a long time," he said. . . .

In the ad, a Presbyterian, a Muslim, a Catholic and a Jew read a statement as written Arabic translations appear.

Here's the ad. (Thanks, Amy at The Gadflyer!)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 11 June 2004 at 8:10 AM

Previous: National day of mourning.
Next: Outsourcing prayer.

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