I actually came in for the second part of this panel. SC was at the first part, and is with me now.
There's a distinction between the religious right -- a political group that is small but very vocal, and exists for explicitly political purposes -- and Christians in general. There are, in fact, significant theological and philosophical differences between the two. Evangelicals in particular are all over the map from progressives to dominionists and religious right activists. They can be very useful allies in any political movement, including the peace and environmental movements. Younger evangelicals, for examples, seem to be trending left compared to Generation X or Baby Boomer evangelicals. Working with these folks sometimes means putting some issues aside (abortion for example) for the purpose of working together, even if we have to stand apart on issues such as religious freedom.
Sometimes working together allows for dialogues to open up between groups. Katrina, for example, gave religious groups from all over the political spectrum the opportunity to open discussion.
Even so, argues our panel, progressive religious leaders need to get out into the public square, if only to reclaim the label of "religious" for the progressives. But more to the point, this is necessary to fight the forces that, as I see it, are trying to combine "chapter III Thelema
)" with at least superficial Christianity vis a vie Dominionism, Islamophobia, Authoritarianism, Prosperity Theology, Rod Parsley
of Patriot Pastors of Ohio, Family Harvest Church
, and so on. The religious left is starting to organize and work together towards this end.
(By the way: the Family Harvest Church is a Christian denomination that represents itself with a symbol of three circles, one for the father, one for the mother, one for the child. When our presenter went into the Church, she didn't find even one cross. Any Thelemite will recognize the significance of this immediately.)
(Generally speaking, these sorts of movements don't believe in dialogue of any kind. They aren't even following the tax laws properly.)
How do we do this?
- Actually study the religious right. Why more people haven't done this is a good question with few good answers. The religious right converted the GOP in two decades, and thus the United States. Even though the religious left doesn't want to become the religious right, we do need to understand how they happened, or how we allowed it to happen. (Part of the problem is that we never took them very seriously.) In fact, we throw lots of money on programs to counter the religious right's agenda (e.g. Planned Parenthood), but we never study how the religious right really works.
- Reach out to evangelicals. Not to dominionists, or Christian Nationalists -- evangelicals. There's a difference. If you don't know that difference, learn about it.
- Focus on Kitchen Table Values. What do we do in the kitchen? Pay bills. Feed people. Talk about school. Note that the kitchen is not the bedroom.
- Teach progressive religious leaders how to organize.
- Don't allow oneself to become a tool of any party. Instead, focus on progressive values. Don't trade away gay rights or abortion rights for votes, if that's what you believe. People will vote for a strength and a firm stance over weakness and compromise every time.
- Keep in mind that black Evangelicals vote 95% Democratic. The phenomenon of the religious right is primarily a white phenomenon.
- Make the Democrats more friendly to people of faith. Some of the language being put out by the Beltway Democrats is idiotically alienating of the religious, including the religious left. Calling religious people "extremists" isn't helpful -- after all, the religious left is just as much a bunch of religious radicals as the religious right; the differences are in what we want to do.
- If necessary -- or maybe because it is necessary -- the religious left will drag the Democrats kicking and screaming towards their vision of a better society.
- Challenge the 501(c)(3) status of churches that represent the religious right, if necessarily using video posted to YouTube. In particular, if a pastor or priest advocates for a candidate from the pulpit, that violates 501(c)(3). (NB: the religious right can, of course, do this back to us if they wish).
- Learn how to actually help a candidate win. The religious right knows this stuff pat. The religious left needs to know this cold too -- including voter registration dates, absentee voting, and so on. (Of course, I do my best to inform you, my readers, on how to do this). If we don't know this, we'll get beat fair and square. If we know this stuff, we'll kick their asses.
- Evolve. The religious right were the ones who evolved and won. Now we're evolving and winning. We need to keep evolving or we'll go into another dark age like the one we were just in.
- Most of all, we need to understand that our greatest threat is Christian Nationalism. This is the Christian Right fully manifested, and they have the potential to change the nature of Constitutional government for along time. This is what created Alito and Roberts. We need to answer the narrative of the Christian Nationalists and tackle them in every sphere of life. We need to remind people that the Founding Fathers overthrew 150 years of monarchist theocracies, including requiring no religious test for public office, in order to establish America as a secular nation. This work is still, unfortunately, in progress. (Barack Obama has made good strides in this direction.)
Some resources I found out about at this lecture:
- There's a map of the religious political movement at faithinpubliclife.org.
- There's a blog for the religious left called talk2action.org.
- By the way, the moderator wants me to plug The Chicago Theological Seminary blog, which is associated with the University of Chicago. So go read it. A lot of the emphasis of the CTS is on social service, and students of this school are all over the map. BTW, this is the only seminary to have a booth at YearlyKos.