Friday, May 19, 2006

The Search for a Religous Left

The New York Times has a great article "Religious Left Struggles to Find Unifying Message" which shows some of the problems of creating a positive force on the left to counter the religious Right. The article notes:
Turnout at the Spiritual Activism Conference is high, but if the gathering is any indication, the biggest barrier for liberals may be their regard for pluralism: for letting people say what they want, how they want to, and for trying to include everyone's priorities, rather than choosing two or three issues that could inspire a movement.
This observation might be correct, however, the real question is who will do the choosing for the "religious Left?" The real leaders of the religious Right were not established leaders of denominations, but rather became powerful leaders through their organizational and fund-raising efforts. I would content that the Evangelical Church is much more open to these entrepreneurial leaders than the Mainline Church is. (It is probably telling that one of the most significant leaders of the progressive movement in the church, Jim Wallis--comes from an Evangelical perspective.)

I believe there is hope for the Religous Left (or Progressive Faith), but there will be moments of frustration like the article documents.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Missionary Zeal in Iraq vs. Old-Time Religion

Andrew Sullivan's Quote for the Day:
"[T]he Iraq War will stand for a long time as a monument to the potential excesses of evangelical thinking - and when it comes to our foreign policy, I hope the next GOP President partakes of a little less of Bush-style missionary zeal, and a little more of that old-time conservative religion," - Ross Douthat, on how evangelicalism has changed conservatism in the Bush era.
Nicely said.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blunt Ethics?

The Kansas City Star's new political blog, KC Buzz Blog writes that the governor is trying to take the offensive on the question of ethics by prohibiting those on his staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists. It is a good step, but no one thinks that the FBI is asking questions about the governor's office because Press Secretary Spence Jackson accepted a slice at Arris' Pizza Palace from a lobbyist.

Over at KC Buzz Blog, I wrote on a comment:
I'm unclear if the governor is covered himself under this policy. Also--could one accept gifts from non-lobbyists (such as the corporations that lobbyist represent)? What gifts/meals from about political parties or PACs?

What seems strange is the type of gifts the governor is talking about are exactly the the things widely accepted by his father--Rep. Roy Blunt. Does Matt Blunt believe that any other elected official should adopt his rules? Why doesn't he introduce legislation that would require all elected officials in Missouri to uphold this standard?

It is strange that Blunt has focused on one of the ethical areas that he is not under attack for. The nasty thing about ethics reform is that it needs to be comprehensive--campaign contributions, patronage positions, etc. Also, it is appropriate for state lawmakers, then it should apply to the Federal lawmakers as well.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Religious Conservative Bed Fellows

The blog reports that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia was in the state to give a lecture, but he also "attended a Law Day Mass celebrated by Archbishop Raymond Burke at the Basilica of St. Louis. Attendees included Gov. Matt Blunt and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay."

I guess I still find it amazing that a good Baptist like Matt Blunt is happy to seek favor with Catholic leaders. On issues like abortion, stem-cells and gay rights, Catholics (or at least the Catholic Church's leadership) is very much in step with the religious Right. I was listening to conservative Christian talk radio after the death of Pope John Paul II and listened to caller after caller sing the praises (ok not literally) of the Pope. Anti-Catholicism has been such a significant part of many American Protestants' belief systems that to see the negative attitudes diminished is very suprising. (I'm quite frankly torn between believing it is a step forward in tolerance or is it just politically astute for the Religious Right to try to broaden their base).

However, just to remind us that there are limits to the "Big Tent" of the Religious Right. Robert Novak recently wrote about Governor Mitt Romney that:
Prominent, respectable Evangelical Christians have told me, not for quotation, that millions of their co-religionists cannot and will not vote for Romney for president solely because he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If Romney is nominated and their abstention results in the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton, that's just too bad. The evangelicals are adamant, saying there is no way Romney can win them over.
The irony is that the LDS Church is much more aligned with the political agenda of the Republican party, than the Catholic Church is (I am always inspired by the Catholic Church's prophetic teaching on issues such as concern for the poor and the marginalized). Yet criticizing the LDS Church (including calling them non-Christian and working to convert them) has become a cottage industry for fundamentalists. Perhaps because both fundamentalists and Mormons are trying to convert the same groups of people, suspicion between the groups continues. I mean when was the last time you had Catholic missionaries knocking on your door!

It is an interesting dilemma for those that are trying to form a political coalition from religious groups with very different theological positions.