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Sunday, May 8, 2005

Lakoff hosts two-week progressive religious forum.

George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute — famous for the notion of "framing" in political discourse — is sponsoring an ambitious if mildly quixotic online symposium for religious progressives starting Monday. For the next two weeks, the forum will invite responses to a series of daily themes like "What is progressive spirituality?" (Monday, May 9) or "Conceptualizations of God" (Friday, May 12). The goal?

We want to explore the common ground between spiritual and secular progressives—to talk about who we are and why we believe what we do. What do spiritually progressive values have to say about policy issues like the environment, healthcare and war? How do spiritual progressive frame their beliefs? What unites the progressive movement? Why has this unity been so difficult to achieve? And what action can we take to promote our shared values?

Could be interesting, although the last time many of the same older theologians and activists tried to reframe American religious politics through marathon online discussions, they came up with prose by committee that attracted no attention at all. It's an interesting group of people Rockridge has lined up, though: Marcus Borg, Harvey Cox, Rebecca Parker, William Sloan Coffin (he uses the Internet?!), Michael Lerner, Rosemary Radford Ruether — you get the picture. Daniel Schultz, the famous Pastordan at Daily Kos and Faithforward, is the forum's blogger-facilitator.

Why am I not jumping up and down for joy? Actually, I am, although I suspect that the much-anticipated religious left will fumble around for a bit longer before finally finding its groove. At some point it simply must grow broader than the Jim Wallis, Michael Lerner, and Bob Edgar Show — each of whom I greatly admire. Experimental networks of religiously oriented political activists keep springing up, mostly to no avail, but someone is going to put the pieces together eventually in a way that makes a difference. Hopefully with some local congregational or social oomph.

My enthusiasm is limited by two things: I may not actually be a "progressive." And I continue to think that the most effective challenge to the Christian right will not come from the left but from someplace closer to the center. Or, to put it another way, a truly visionary alternative to the Christian right will probably have some sharp critiques to point at the left, too.

Nevertheless, I've signed up. You can, too.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 8 May 2005 at 11:47 PM

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Kensho Godchaser:

May 10, 2005 01:37 PM | Permalink for this comment

I signed up as well. I have to wonder, though, about a "religious progressive" sign-up form whose "religious affiliation" list contains only four faith-specific choices. Including some of the larger minority religions would have been nice. Even Hinduism doesn't get a top-level listing, for f*ck's sake.

And I agree completely about the pressure coming from the center. The progressive movement has served a vaunted purpose in tearing down the dogma of fundamentalism, but it's too permissive and doesn't present a powerful enough vision of spiritual belief. The result is that everyone's beliefs come off as wishy-washy and relativistic. Wicca and Paganism are rife with people who insist you should do "whatever works for you", no matter what that is. That attitude is as oppressive as fundamentalism; it stifles debate.

There's a way to merge fervent belief with respect for the beliefs of others. There IS such a thing as "respectful disagreement". Unless the progressive movement throws out the concept of tolerance and replaces it with the more rigid criterion of respect, it will be superceded by another movement in the next few decades (perhaps the Integral movement, if its luminaries can get their heads out of the clouds).


May 10, 2005 08:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

Thanks for pointing that out. I signed up too.

Regarding moral values, I see three possible stances.

1. Authoritarian: Religious authority decides, and people must obey.

2. Libertarian: Individuals decide, and do what they want.

3. Communitarian: People decide as a community, and pass legislation democratically, identifying what is permitted and what is forbidden.

I support the Communitarian view, while accomodating the Libertarian as much as possible. But I reject excess individualism. Ultimately, communities should set the rules, relying not on holy scriptures, but on reason. In general, people should obey the rules, and if they disagree with them, try to get them changed democratically.

Kensho Godchaser:

May 10, 2005 10:05 PM | Permalink for this comment

TransparentEye: What kind of rules are these? Who gave the community the authority to set them? And how do these rules play with the concept of individual rights?

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