Spare the religiosity, it is political ideology that matters

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

A good rule to follow when interpreting election results and voter sentiments is to ignore explanations that rely on references to religion or God.  I was reminded of this rule this week when I read Mark Mellman's column in The Hill.

Mark's column, "Revisiting the G-d gap," argues that religiosity is dividing Democratic and Republican voters, and he concludes:  "If Democrats truly want to win religious voters, they must adopt a new vocabulary and a different perspective, without betraying the values that define us."

I counter that it will be futile for Democrats to devise a strategy specifically to win religious voters because when religiosity shows up as meaningful in crosstabs of surveys, it is most often an artifact of political ideology rather than the core driver of political attitudes.

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The Episcopal Church Elects A Second Gay Bishop

Though this is a religious rather than political story, I thought it might be one many of you involved with the struggle for LGBT rights might be interested in. Organized religion, including (especially?) the world's Christians, has long been hostile to the LGBT community, but many churches are slowly moving from being homosexuality's biggest enemy to its biggest ally. The Episcopal Church, whose motto is "The Episcopal Church welcomes you," may just be leading the way. Earlier today, a second Episcopal diocese elected an openly gay person bishop, six years after New Hampshire became the first. (Disclaimer: I am currently working for an Episcopal parish in Omaha, my fourth job with the Episcopal Church.)

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected the Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool of Baltimore as bishop suffragan (assistant bishop) today. If confirmed, she will be the second openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and the second lesbian bishop in global Christianity.  Her election comes a day after the diocese elected another bishop suffragan, the Rev. Canon Diane M. Jardine Bruce, its first female bishop.

There is a reason I say "if" confirmed rather than "when" confirmed. In the Episcopal Church, bishops are elected by the members of their diocese but are subject to approval of the larger national church. A majority of the church's 110 diocesan standing committees (elected committees of both laity and clergy that assist the bishop with the governance of a diocese) must then approve the election. Very rarely do standing committees reject bishop-elects, and on those rare occasions that they do, it is usually because of technicalities and problems with the rules. Nevertheless, I am not at all confident that Mother Glasspool will be confirmed.

There are three key differences between Mother Glasspool's election and Bishop Robinson's 2003 election. The first is the timing. Because Bishop Robinson was elected shortly before the triennial meeting of the General Convention, the church's primary governing body (an elected, bicameral institution), he merely needed to be confirmed by a majority of the bishops at Convention. Because this Los Angeles election was held nearly three years before the next General Convention, Mother Glasspool will have to go through the standing committee process I described above, which is a bit more rigorous and impersonal. Second, Bishop Robinson's election put the issue of LGBT inclusion before the church. Now that it is an issue we have been grappling with for six years, there may be more concerns about unity than there were before the divisions had begun to grow. Finally, and this may help Mother Glasspool but I doubt it, she has been elected a bishop suffragan, which is basically an "assistant bishop," whereas Bishop Robinson was elected the bishop of his diocese.

It's hard to tell where the national church's mood lies. Many of those who are the most angry about these issues have left and so this past summer's meeting of the General Convention was a very encouraging one. Nevertheless, we're talking about 109 different elected bodies here, many of whose members were elected at annual diocesan meetings held after General Convention. If I had to make an uneducated guess, I'd put the odds of Mother Glasspool being confirmed at slightly over 50%.

One final word about LGBT battles in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, its American body: schism is not nearly as likely as the MSM has described it in recent years. Yes, some American Episcopal bishops do reject the authority of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and some have left the church for other, unofficial Anglican bodies - but no more than 8 of the 110. And yes, some of the other Anglican archbishops and presiding bishops also reject her authority - but no more than 10 of the 38. The Communion and its many member churches are dedicated to working this out together in the traditional Anglican way, and I'm sorry if that's not sexy enough of a story for most journalists. If Mother Glasspool is confirmed, many in the larger Anglican Communion will see it as yet another example of America taking action before the rest of the Communion is ready. While that can only serve to exacerbate tension, I am not worried about schism. Realignment, perhaps, but not schism.

I have refrained from commenting on theology in this post. While I do believe that a contextual reading changes the meaning of St. Paul's seemingly anti-homosexual words, this post is for informing, not opinionating. And the information is this: The Episcopal Church has just elected its second gay bishop, this time, a woman.

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From Medina to Cleveland, 18 Stories about Faith and Climate Change

Part 3 in a series on voices of faith and climate change.

On Friday, I wrote about statements and actions from the leaders of the world's three largest Christian denominations on climate change. On Saturday, I posted eight faith-based videos from Repower America (including my own). Today's post will broaden the scope of this series considerably.

Faith in Public Life is a progressive organization that coordinates faith-based political campaigns and monitors the news for stories about faith communities involved with issues like health care, hunger, immigration, and the environment. Each day they send out a helpful newsletter highlighting around a dozen articles of interest. Using those newsletters as a guide, here are 18 faith-based environmental links from the first half of November.

So far this series has focused almost exclusively on Christianity, so I would like to give special attention to one story in particular. From the Telegraph, "Medina to go green":

Medina will be the first Islamic city to go green, the Grand Mufti of Egypt has announced, as part of a seven year plan to make the religion more environmentally friendly.

Speaking at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) conference at Windsor Castle, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, said Islam teaches its followers to protect the Earth. He announced the plans for Medina as part of a seven year plan to make the faith more environmentally friendly by teaching about climate change in Islamic schools, using renewable energy in mosques and encouraging green habits in places of pilgrimage.

Medina, the second holiest city in Islam, will go green by improving public transport, providing clean water from taps so pilgrims do not continue to use plastic bottles and printing leaflets and the Koran on recycled paper...

As an oil-producing nation, Saudia Arabia has not been seen as a "green destination". However the pronouncements of the Grand Mufti is likely to influence the deeply religious country and encourage millions of pilgrims to reduce their carbon footprint.

Headlines and, in some cases, summaries of 17 other stories are below the jump. Evangelicals, Catholis, Protestants, the Orthodox, Sikh, Shintos - most everyone makes at least a brief appearance. Some are commentary; most are hard news. I know you don't have the time to read all 17, but I encourage you to scan the headlines and pick one or two that sound interesting.

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Evangelical Movement Within The Democratic Party - Good or Bad?

I was going to post this topic under a specific state as there is a race catching a lot of attention, but I am going to broaden this question and talk about Democratic strategy versus core Democratic values.

That actually brings up a larger question about Democratic values and what are they... really?

There is a growing movement since 2004 of evangelical leaders embracing the Democratic Party. Many feel that Bush used this base to get him elected, then turned on them.

The question I have for the readers of this post today, is:

Is a growing Christian base of leaders and voters good for the party?

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The World's Three Largest Christian Denominations Speak Out On Climate Change

Part 1 in a series on voices of faith and climate change.

Over the next few days, I plan to make several posts highlighting the efforts of faith activists on issues surrounding the environment, climate change, and the need for renewable energy. Their (our) efforts matter not only because the environment is an important progressive cause, but also because, like labor and women's rights groups, the interfaith movement is poised to become an integral part of the progressive coalition.

This first post serves to highlight recent statements from the leaders of Christianity's second and third largest denominations, the (Eastern Orthodox) Ecumenical Patriarch and the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, urging world leaders to care about the upcoming Copenhagen conference. In addition to these two recent statements, Newsweek has dubbed Catholic Pope Benedict XVI "the Green Pope" and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released numerous statements on the issue. What this means is that, for all James Dobson may have to say about it, the leaders of the globe's three largest Christian denominations have all spoken out against environmental destruction and called for quick action on climate change. They are joined by a growing chorus of American Evangelicals that includes former Christian Coalition president-elect Joel Hunter, former National Association of Evangelicals vice president Rich Cizik, liberal-ish publisher Jim Wallis, and even Pat Robertson. Oft-divided Christianity is beginning to speak with one voice on environmental stewardship and climate change.

Future posts will include faith-based videos recorded for the Repower Wall (including my own), a round-up of faith-and-environment headlines and links, and if they are made publicly available, video and resources from last night's interfaith panel on climate change. These posts will not be limited to Christianity, but will also highlight Jewish and Muslim stories.

As I was saying, on October 25th, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, "first among equals" for the world's 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, began an aggressive lobbying campaign with a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Our Indivisible Environment":

It may seem out of character for a sacred institution to convene a conference on so secular an issue. After all, Jesus counseled us to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"... What does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul?

A lot, as it turns out. For if life is sacred, so is the entire web that sustains it. Some of those connections--the effects of overharvesting on the fish populations of the North Atlantic, for example--we understand very well. Others, such as the long-term health impacts of industrialization, we understand less well. But no one doubts that there is a connection and balance among all things animate and inanimate on this third planet from the Sun, and that there is a cost or benefit whenever we tamper with that balance.

Moreover, just as God is indivisible, so too is our global environment. The molecules of water that comprise the great North Atlantic are neither European nor American. The particles of atmosphere above the United Kingdom are neither Labour nor Tory. There can be no double vision, no dualistic worldview. Faith communities and nonbelievers alike must focus on the common issue of the survival of our planet. The natural environment unites us in ways that transcend doctrinal differences.

Since publishing this op-ed, the Patriarch has held separate meetings with President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, former President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He is not alone. Below the fold, a summary of a recent speech by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury (the symbolic leader of the Anglican Communion), the highlights of other Anglican and Episcopal actions, and links to active Jewish groups.

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