Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Rick Warren, newly ascended establishmentarian.
Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College and editor of the school's outstanding (but hard to resubscribe to!) magazine Religion in the News, writes a great blog called "Spiritual Politics." He posted the smartest observation I've yet heard about Rick Warren's "Saddleback Forum" featuring Barack Obama and John "Prisoner of War" McCain:
[I]n hosting the two candidates, Warren's behaving not like a sectarian but an establishmentarian--a religious office that's been largely unoccupied in recent years.
Establishmentarian religion serves to bless, convene, and otherwise hold a sacred umbrella over the community at large. When consensus has to be built, it is there to build it; when a common goal has to be achieved, it is there to hallow it. Nationally, in the first part of the 20th century, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalians or the Bishop of the Methodists or the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterians were there to do the job. After World War II, a more interfaith approach came to the fore. Perhaps the greatest contribution of establishmentarianism in American history was to set its seal on the civil rights movement.
But the lesson mainstream religion took away from that era was not of its own role but of the prophetic one, incarnated in Martin Luther King, Jr. And ever since, it is the image of the prophet, not the priest, that has mesmerized the imaginations of American religious leaders. That goes, of course, for those evangelical leaders who, modeling themselves on the black civil rights clergy they had once reviled, created the religious right a generation ago.
As Time's David Van Biema makes clear in last week's cover story, Rick Warren flirted as recently as four years ago with religious right leadership. But with a personality that doesn't quite fit the job description, and the nose of the successful entrepreneur who can tell where there's a market opening, he has since moved powerfully into the role of American Establishmentarian-in-Chief.
Copyright © 2008 by Philocrites | Posted 20 August 2008 at 5:12 PM