Is this thing on?

Oh, who am I kidding? How many times have I tried to return this blog to “regular programming” in the last five or so years? If you’re reader who knows me only through Left At The Altar (back in the day, there were actually a number of those!), you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the little breast cancer adventure I wrote about in my last post (in 2014?!) hadn’t worked out so well, after all. (It did. I’m fine.)

So why try again now? And why didn’t I fire this thing up – letting it sputter back to life like a long-dead FBI Twitter account – last fall, as it became clear that the US was going to hell in a big (the biggest!), gawdy handbasket? There were various reasons – some logistical, some existential… There was the ongoing upheaval of moving across the country, and then the upheaval of changing jobs. And after several years of writing strictly for academia, then for a more technical writing job, I forgot how to write for fun. Sometimes it felt like I forgot how to write, period.

And – let’s face it – like many of you, I was in shock. Then I was in mourning. Then I was trying to figure out how to function in a political climate where such a disheartening number of my fellow Americans voted to dismantle and destroy most of the social and eco-justice advances of the last 20 years. When I finally did figure out how to function, the answer was so shocking I had to sit with it for a while before telling anyone. Continue reading “Is this thing on?”


Not dead, yet

Three years ago I mulled over the state of the religious left – as seen by media figures who were just beginning to notice there WAS such a thing, political observers who doubted its viability, and conservative figures eager to demean and undermine it.   Two recent studies show that the religious left is very much alive and kicking.  A study from the University of Florida reports that the religious left “is closing the so-called ‘god gap” (the theory that white religious Christians are inevitably conservative and Republican) and is likely to have increasing electoral visibility and influence during the Obama administration.  The 2009 Religious Activist Surveys (by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics) finds “strikingly different religious profiles” (in terms of issue positions and priorities… would it be impolite to say “duh”?) between the religious left and right, but finds that at the same time activists in both camps are “deeply religious,” cite faith as a factor in their voting, and are equally engaged (albeit in slightly different ways) in political activism.

Charlotte Allen wrote her LA Times rant about the impending death of liberal Christianity in 2006.  (The direct link to her article seems to be broken, but my old blog entry has some excerpts, as does this link.)  ‘Course she didn’t say exactly when we’d meet our demise, and as we approach the end of 2009, Kenneth Wald, one of the authors of the University of Florida study, is declaring “we’re in an age where we’re likely to see a flowering of the religious left.”  But other observers think the religious left will lose relevance by being too quick to compromise on core positions, in order to curry favor with a religious right that never gives an inch.  Here’s Peter Laarman:

Health care reform provides a good case in point. A significant part of the conservative community is determined to insert a hard prohibition on federal abortion funding into the final reform legislation—a provision that will remove existing access to abortion services from the insurance plans of millions of women. Conservatives unhesitatingly frame this as an issue of fundamental conscience. In response, many good liberals bite their tongues and go along for the sake of the supposed greater good of achieving universal coverage.

The silencing of a progressive religious voice for the sake of creating an imaginary common ground is also evident in the informal agreement to remove entire issues—marriage equality, for example—from the table. Whereas abortion can be admitted to the conversation on the right’s terms, equal rights for sexual minorities cannot be admitted at all. The religious right’s position, “we’re not even going to discuss this,” becomes tacitly accepted by everyone else.

When the left compromises, the “goalpost” moves rightward:

…some notably sex-phobic evangelical and Roman Catholic individuals and entities have been rebranded as the progressive forces watch, while actual progressives (solidly feminist and pro-LGBTQ religious leaders) have disappeared from view.

Interesting point.  Are religious lefties more open to compromise?  (Is it that difference in neural wiring, again?)  Are we fatally attracted to it?  Will it be our undoing?

Just thought I’d toss this stuff in the mix, while co-blogger abc41 has us thinking about what religious progressives believe.

(Updated to fix my co-blogger’s tag.)

Still simmering

Some very thoughtful people argue that Rick Warren is an evangelical moderate, one of the “good guys” trying to broaden the evangelical “social evils” agenda beyond abortion and gay marriage, to include attention to poverty, hunger, AIDS, malaria, etc.  Here’s Juan Cole on the topic; here’s Steven Waldman.  Melissa Etheridge says he has a big heart.   Geoffrey Garin thinks Warren’s willingness to share the stage is a big coup for Obama and the progressive agenda (hat tip to SB&KE):

Rick Warren is the one who is making the bigger statement here. In no uncertain terms, the best known pastor of our time will be telling his followers and fellow evangelicals that there is nothing ungodly about a president who believes that government shouldn’t interfere with a woman’s right to choose and that gays and lesbians deserve the protection of our laws as much as any other American. That’s a moment progressives should celebrate.

Andrew Sullivan sees it as a teachable moment, when gay and lesbian people of faith – in particular – can insist on respectful dialogue:

Gay people contribute disproportionately to the religious and spiritual life of this country and we seek no attack on free religion freely expressed and celebrated. I find the idea of silencing my opponents abhorrent. Many gays voted for McCain. I believe in family, which is why I have tried my whole life to integrate my sexual orientation with my own family and finally two summers ago, to become a full part of it as a married man. I love my church, however much pain it still inflicts on itself and others. And I am not alone in this, as I have discovered these past two decades.

If I cannot pray with Rick Warren, I realize, then I am not worthy of being called a Christian. And if I cannot engage him, then I am not worthy of being called a writer. And if we cannot work with Obama to bridge these divides, none of us will be worthy of the great moral cause that this civil rights movement truly is.

The bitterness endures; the hurt doesn’t go away; the pain is real. But that is when we need to engage the most, to overcome our feelings to engage in the larger project, to understand that not all our opponents are driven by hate, even though that may be how their words impact us. To turn away from such dialogue is to fail ourselves, to fail our gay brothers and sisters in red state America, and to miss the possibility of the Obama moment.

I find points of agreement with each of them.  But let’s not fool ourselves about Rick Warren: he is not a moderate.  Americablog unearthed a piece from Episcopal Cafe that should knock those particular sugarplums from your head.  And I wonder if Melissa Etheridge read Warren’s glowing Time magazine column about Nigeria’s obsessively homophobic Anglican Archbishop, Peter Akinola*:  “I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world. ”   (*If you don’t know who Peter Akinola is, this old entry from Thinking Anglicans has some choice and representative tidbits.)

I want to trust Obama’s instincts on this, because his instincts seem to be quite good.   But for now, Glenn Greenwald is making more sense to me:

There is a respectful and civil (even if clearly wrong) case to make against gay marriage, or against abortion, or in favor of a hard-line towards Iran.  But in each case, Warren opts for the most hateful, not respectful, rhetoric to defend his position.  Embracing someone like Warren is no more “inclusive” than inviting a White Supremacist or, for that matter, a Christian-hater to deliver the invocation.  People like that espouse views that are shared by many Americans; why not include them, too, or have Pat Robertson deliver a nice prayer?  Obama’s “inclusiveness” mantra always seems to head only in one direction — an excuse to scorn progressives and embrace the Right.  Not even Bill Clinton’s most extreme Dick-Morris-led “triangulation” tactics involved an attempt to court Jerry Falwell.

Of all the preachers Obama could have selected to elevate and validate (and, in every sense, it was Obama’s choice), Warren is one of the most destructive — not only having been one of the most vocal supporters for Proposition 8, but also using the most inflammatory rhetoric on gay issues generally, expressing anti-abortion views in the most fanatical terms possible, and even sitting with Sean Hannity recently and urging the murder of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (making his prominent inclusion in Obama’s inauguration — as Atrios notes — a rather odd step for a President who claims devotion to a diplomatic resolution with that country).

California’s Proposition 8: “morally bankrupt”

A guest-post by my friend Duff Beach, who has contributed many thoughtful and insightful comments to this blog over the past few years.  Thanks for this, Duff!

Last weekend the Proposition 8 coalition approached my family as we emerged from the Catholic church my wife and I attend with our two young children. As I discussed with them, slogans notwithstanding, Proposition 8 is three things: anti-marriage, anti-family, and traditional discrimination.

How many marriages will Proposition 8 protect? None. It has no effect on heterosexual marriage.

On the other hand, if passed, how many marriages will Prop. 8 destroy? Thousands on November 4, and tens of thousands and more in the future. Real people, in loving, lifetime relationships will be told their relationships are second class. They will be told they aren’t and can’t be full members of society. My old neighbors, my real estate agent, my colleagues, the parents of children my daughter goes to preschool with, all marginalized.

How many families will Proposition 8 protect? Again, none.

How many families will Prop. 8 attack? Literally millions; every extended family that includes a committed, life-time, same-sex relationship, or even the possibility of one. That means Ellen Degeneres’s family, that means Dick Cheney’s family, it means the families of those kids my children go to school with, and it may well mean your family, whether you know it or not.

Lesbian and gay people are just that, people, with families — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children — who love them. Prop. 8 attacks them. Not obliquely or by accident, but directly, with no other intent.

This discrimination has consequences. I witnessed first-hand the pain my friend suffered when she reached her twenties and her mother finally revealed to her that mom’s “friend” and “housemate” of more than a decade was actually mom’s partner. My friend wasn’t crushed because her mother is a lesbian, she was crushed because her mother felt the need to lie to her daily for well over a decade for fear that people would discriminate against her daughter.

I witnessed first-hand a “traditional” marriage fail because the wife is a lesbian. In her family that wasn’t acceptable. She tried hard to fight who she is. She suppressed it for many years. She tried to conform to what society wanted. In the end, it couldn’t change who she is. As a result she suffered, her husband suffered, and their two families suffered.

What traditions will Prop. 8 uphold? The tradition of thousands of years of discrimination. The tradition of forcing confused, anguished young people further away from society. The tradition of hate, and imposing self-loathing on a small, but significant part of the population. And the tradition of discouraging stable relationships between same-sex lovers.

The religious right has made this a cause celebre, but it is not the government’s job to enforce religious norms. California is a civil society, not a theocracy. The California Constitution, Article I, Section 4, prescribes, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference,” and, like the federal constitution, bars the establishment of a State religion. Are we now to repudiate that Californian and American tradition?

Catholic churches are under no obligation to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Nor are LDS churches, Evangelicals, Jewish or Islamic temples, nor any other religious organization. Right now, without Prop.8, religious conservatives can go right on decrying the “gay agenda” and discriminating to their hearts’ content. Right now people who are uncomfortable calling a gay union “marriage” are free to refrain from doing so. What does Prop. 8 add? It adds pain. This cannot be a proper goal for our state’s constitution.

Proposition 8 doesn’t help anyone, but hurts many. It is, in short, morally bankrupt.

Protect marriage, protect families, vote no on Proposition 8.

MizM adds: The Proposition 8 supporters have added extortion to their arsenal of Rovian campaign tactics: see here and here, and then donate to “No on 8” here!

National Day of (Conservative Evangelical Christian) Prayer

A bill signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 makes the first Thursday in May a National Day of Prayer.  Prayer coordinators for the event have to sign a statement that reads in part:

“I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God.”

As you might imagine, Jews and Muslims have some issues with this.  Kudos to Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First for their call for a National Inclusive Day of Prayer.

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