Dispatches from the Religious Left

Frederick Clarkson announced the upcoming publication of Dispatches from the Religious Left today.  Dispatches is an anthology of essays on religion and politics from a liberal perspective.  Authors include luminaries ranging from PastorDan at Street Prophets to Rev. Deb Haffner and Marshal Ganz.  My wife and I, who co-own a web development firm targeted at liberal churches and religious organizations, also contributed a chapter on new media.  It's edited by Clarkson, who is a long-time scholar of the religious right, and published by Ig Publishing, an up-and-coming progressive publisher.

I received the full text of the book this week, so I've only had a chance to skim it briefly.  The chapter we wrote takes a nuts-and-bolts approach to new media, introducing liberal religionists to the basic elements of new media and illustrating the kinds of things that can be accomplished with it.  We also make recommendations for developing a new media strategy that's consistent with organizational mission.

Clarkson sums up the book with three main themes:

  • Religious progressives need to seriously reevaluate where they are going and where they have been in order to live up to their highest aspirations.
  • Marketing and public relations are not a substitute for political organizing, which history and hard earned experience shows us is how real progress is made.  
  • Religious progressives must never abandon such basic progressive values as reproductive rights, gay and lesbian civil rights and separation of church and state, no matter what political consultants in hot pursuit of seemingly persuadable conservative Catholics and evangelicals may say. Separation of church and state is "woven into their DNA" says essayist Rev. Peter Laarman.

The book is released on Oct. 1.  We're going to be doing a couple of promotional events in the next few weeks, starting with a discussion at Open Left tomorrow at 2 pm (which I can't attend, sadly). I'll be posting updates as more events comes up.  Meanwhile, you can pre-order it at Powells right now.

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Do You Have to be a Christian, to be a Republican?

I'm toggling between MSNBC, and CNN for the Republican National Convention, and I've noticed something interesting:

There is a singer at the RNC, (Rachael Lampa), who is a contemporary Christian rock/pop singer.  So far, she sung a couple of Christian pop ballads in front of the delegates.

MSNBC cut away, but CNN showed her, pretty much in her entirety.

This raises an interesting question for me:  

What if you're not a Christian, and you're attending the convention?  

Could there be such a thing at the RNC?

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McCain: "Barack's 'The One', but Ready to Lead?"

Cross-posted at Truth About McCain.

In the above YouTube video, focused entirely on Barack Obama and the religious subtext to his political message, John McCain concedes, "Barack Obama: He may be the One.  But is he ready to lead."    

It seems to me that in this ad John McCain falls into the trap of repeating and popularizing his opponents' best lines for the purpose of vaguely trying to punch holes in them.  

America is a very religious country, with ninety percent of people saying they believe in God.  So a candidate who says that he feels a mission to lead and has been chosen to do so may have a much better chance than another candidate who ridicules the religous content of his opponent's mission, without offering any religious content of his own.

 John McCain's slogan is, "Barack Obama:  He may be "The One", but is he ready to lead?" If American decides that Obama is more ready to lead than McCain, then McCain's McCain may find that it is essentially over.  

Religious people take leaps of faith, and "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."  If McCain's campaign depends on convincing religious people not to have faith, that makes him a negative naysaying tool of doom rather than the man to lift up the nation in troubled times.  

Obama has deftly manipulated McCain into the role of doubting the power not only of hope, but also the power of faith.  He's turnng McCain into the John Kerry of the 2004 election, with Obama taking the mantle of hope and faith and McCain doubting their power in the face of a faithfully-oriented nation.

The video ends with Charlton Heston playing Moses, parting the Red Sea, which is one of the most popular movies among white people. Regardless of the reason, will McCain benefit from ridiculing that image and essentially doubting its underlying religious message?  I don't think so.

If McCain is trying to use this as a wedge issue to separate atheists from Obama, it is unlikely to succeed, since atheists have so many other reasons to despise McCain.

Althogh McCain has many other more potent cards in his deck, arguing that "the Chosen One" is not ready to lead, is like saying, "Moses can part the Read Sea, but is he ready to lead?" Good luck with that line of argument in your local church.

Hat Tip to Agent X.

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My Christianity Problem

Obama's recent push toward the Christian community, especially as it comes to a White House connection to something resembling Bush's policies, has me a little edgy. The recent poll revelation that roughly 92% of Americans are believers in some form of religion (with Christians by far in the lead) puts me in a shaky 8% that misses the true separation of church and state that Jefferson enjoyed.

While riding in to work this morning and listening to public radio do a story on the Middle East, they gave up the statistic that over 80% of Arabs are convinced that the US's position in the Iraqi and Afghanistani campaigns is to replace Islam with Christianity, therefor giving Al Quaeda it's strongest recruiting message.

An article on Huffington Post this morning talked about Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's heir apparent) questioning Obama in public on whether or not he was a Muslim and trying to bring him to Christ in front of a group of clerics Obama was meeting with.

All of this is making me feel so far to the outside that I fear the worst happening both in the US and in the World.

Atheists rarely stand up proudly to declare their non-belief. More likely, they wish to be ignored by believers... left alone and unbothered. The organizations which have formed around atheism (The Brights, The Humanists, etc.) seem like they are competing more for membership and money than for the freedom from believing that everything is God-created and that we are doomed to hell for not taking part in the Jesus chorus.

It doesn't matter, it seems, whether you support a Democrat or a Republican. Both sides want to tie themselves to pastors and priests who advocate the most outlandish things... and who, when these things don't happen on schedule (you can look back for centuries and see the Rapture as having been expected and missed several times), simply revise the due-date.  At all political levels we are seeing this stuff happening (the Governor of Louisiana, for instance, just signed into law a bill making creationism ... excuse me, "intelligent design"... a subject being taught to the youngest of schoolchildren) and it is getting worse.

When I was younger I thought we were getting farther from religion as a culture, but we have actually swung the other way. I fear that my grandchildren's grandchildren will never see a religion-free cultural climate. Perhaps they will be able to finally disengage at least elective politics from this bugaboo.

Under The LobsterScope

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This Atheist's Experience with Faith-Based Programs

Once upon a time, a long, long year or two ago, I was roundly and purely opposed to any sort of public funding for faith-based initiatives.  I had several long arguments with a friend of mine, another liberal atheist who nevertheless had a more pragmatic position on the topic.  As usually happens with this particular friend, I eventually saw the wisdom in much of what he was saying, and my own position has moderated since then.

In the same vein as Saintcog's excellent diary Why This Atheist Supports Obama's Faith Based Initiative, allow me to describe my experience at the Lakes Region St. Vincent De Paul food pantry today.

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