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Originally Posted on CrossLeft

Jim Wallis was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night promoting his boldly title book "The Great Awakening". His interview reminded me on how much I actually disagree with him even though we share the banner of progressive Christianity.

His first point is that we have moved to a post-Religious Right dominated politics. He's already declared the Religious Right over. Jim is way too premature in making such a declaration. Our friends at Talk 2 Action continue to monitor the politics and activities of the Religious Right. Its certainly changing with the deaths of Kennedy and Falwell and the diminishing role of Pat Robertson. I think the conclusion though is that the Religious Right is alive and well, and still a powerhouse voting bloc in the West and South for the Republican Party. With so many sub-par Republican candidates this year, the Religious Right has been divided on whom to support. However, Huckabee's win in Iowa demonstrates when they do coalesce around a candidate, the Religious Right can win, at least in the South, Midwest and Plains.

Wallis also spoke about a new generation of religious folk who have concerned themselves with Darfur, AIDS, poverty and other issues beyond the narrow lense of abortion and gay civil rights. He always uses language that is inclusive of all Christians, but he's really only speaking about and to Evangelicals. The fact is that mainline Protestants, Jews, many Catholics, and other religious folk have never stopped advocating for a full range of social justice issues. Wallis should be more specific about whom he is representing because their have been exciting changes within some pockets of the evangelical movement. But he shouldn't act as though he represents everyone. He represents a narrow band of the religious spectrum who are progressive and Evangelical.

What perhaps was must frustraing was when Wallis was asked "are we trying to build a Religious left?", his answer was flatly "no". We're not trying to be left or right but going deeper, to what he calls a "moral center." Speak for yourself brother. I think what we need is what Barack Obama is calling a governing progressive majority. The fact is that most Americans are progressive. Overwhelming majorities support health care for all Americans, increased support for education, are against tax cuts for the rich, want to pull out of Iraq, and want to stop environmental destruction and global warming. Folks have been told that they are conservative, but when you ask them on the issues, our country can build a progressive majority. To do so, will require religious progressives to organize and not shy away from letting the world know that you can be progressive and religious.

Wallis doesn't seem to want to take the mantle of religious progressivism, positioning himself as a centrist. Most folks have Wallis tagged as a liberal, why not embrace it? Why not make an attempt to build work with religous and non-religious progressive to build the progressive majority that Barack Obama wants? Perhaps he's been inside the beltway too long, but I think his approach lacks

Originally posted to Stephen Rockwell on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 04:50 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have a few points of disagreement... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fabucat

    You said:

    The fact is that most Americans are progressive. Overwhelming majorities support health care for all Americans, increased support for education, are against tax cuts for the rich, want to pull out of Iraq, and want to stop environmental destruction and global warming.

    ...and I wonder how you arrived at this conclusion.  You must not talk to many folks outside your own circle of beliefs because I can assure you there are lots of folks who don't agree.  I can hope that my/our neighbors would feel as you suggest, but reality says it's just not true.

    I'm also vehemently opposed to non secular politics.  I don't want religion as part of the Democratic Party (or any party) and I've essentially stopped supporting my state party because they are whoring themselves for "religious voters."

    The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

    by Persiflage on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 05:08:11 AM PST

    •  When did the Democratic party become the party (4+ / 0-)

      of intolerance. Religious voters are people too, and as long as they're not cramming they're religion down your throat what the heck do you care?

      •  I'm not intolerant of religion... (0+ / 0-)

        I'm intolerant of having people's religious beliefs, whatever those may be, injected into governmental policy and/or how we conduct our business as a nation.

        The Republican party has long branded itself as the "family values" party...inserting (their interpretation of) biblical verse into such things as abortion, rights of people of differing sexual orientation, and so on.  If that's how they choose to believe/behave in their private lives...fine.  
        OTOH, their beliefs have no place in the halls of our government or influencing legislation.

        I'm not in favor the Democratic party abandoning it's secular orientation...that's all.

        The longer I live, the clearer I perceive how unmatchable a compliment one pays when he says of a man "he has the courage to utter his convictions." Mark Twain

        by Persiflage on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 06:19:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  In Fairness (0+ / 0-)

          It was the injection of Catholic Social Justice teachings (Al Smith, Rev. John A. Ryan, Senator Robert Wagner, Sr.), coupled with the Social Gospel movement (Frances Perkins for example) that helped turn pre-New Deal progressivism into contemporary liberalism, especially on economic issues.

      •  If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning (0+ / 0-)

        and in the evening, all over the world. Why? Cuz it's what people with hammers gotta do.

        Where are you reading in "intolerance" here? Disagreement? No doubt. Consider maybe that by leaping into the matryr's weaves, you might be confirming the stereotype that was the basis for firewalling the zeal of religion from the droll workings of state; unto God and unto Caesar and all that.  

        Speaking of confirmation, two things favoring "tolerance"--encouragement--of separation walls: The tendency of religion is to confirmation bias - I must share my epiphany, my good feeling to confirm its validity. When others resist, I question its worth if my faith is not perosnal and therefore an actual or honestly arrived at serenity. Why? Because for many, it's not about the religion or metaphysic beauty per se--many "christians" have not thoroughly read the bible they adore--it's about the attractivenes of the ingroup I belong to and doing all I can to elevate it's temporal worth, even at the cost of violence and destruction. If you don't believe my interpretation, google some of George Barna's evangelical christian polling on their hairball of cognitive dissonance.

        Second point: Theologian/academic Mircea Eliade wrote in the 60s that the "bargain" of the 20th Century was one of trading faith for truth, that blooming knowledge must by its nature lay bare some of the comforting myths and contexts by which we arrange our mostly habit-based lives. Most of the problems of politics are ones of measurement - priorities and resources and utility. They are practical problems that challenge many of the happy myths we live by--bootstraps, just deserts, heathen obstructionism, etc and so on. Religion has its place but, being much like most other leaden institutions in our culture, it falls prey to the appeal of diversification and justifies its pursuit of opportunities by spinning its relevance and necessity--and by loading more beams into its own eye; again we go with the God/Caesar thing. True Faith is personal. All Politics is personal. But seldom does the official blending of the two lead to satisfaction for anybody but Bishops and Kings.

    •  public opinion polling (5+ / 0-)

      If you look at public opinion polling, majorities on each of the issues I name support progressive policies.   I talk to all kinds of folks who call themselves conservative.  Many are, but others actually agree on the vast majority of progressive issues.

      As for your aversion to religious voters, I think its troublesome.  Fact is, 93% of Americans believe in God and two thirds consider themselves religious in that they regular attend a house of worship.  If the Democrats hope to build progressive majority, than religious folk will have to be at the table.  

    •  My opinion of religion's place in the US is much (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Frank Cocozzelli, Persiflage, ratador

      the same as that of Thomas Jefferson:

      But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

      As long as no one is trying to coerce me into subscribing to a faith with which I disagree, or trying to legislate morality, I don't care whether a person is religious or not.

      "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi

      by LynneK on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 06:08:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Americans' progressive opinions (0+ / 0-)

      Opinion polls consistently show majorities for each of the positions that Stephen Rockwell mentioned.

      People may not consider themselves particularly progressive or on the left or leaning to the left.  But once you remove the labels from the issues, their opinions are far more progressive than their political representatives believe they are.

      "Don't look now, but that wall with the writing on it is beginning to crumble." -- Brother Billy, 2006

      by wipeltz on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 11:53:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  perhaps Barack has been in washington too long (0+ / 0-)

    And perhaps the money influence in his campaign is not the kind of progressive and does not lead to the equality that wallis seeks.

    perhaps edwards' tackle of poverty, which has been going even before 2004 has been leading the discussion of that issue, one that is the most often discussed by wallis.

    or perhaps more importantly Wallis runs a non-profit and endorsing a candidate would have implications and create problems for the non-profit status of Sojo.

    •  reading the post? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wipeltz, Empower Ink

      couple of points....

      Barack has recently been calling for Progressive Majority...I don't think the other two candidates disagree with that, just haven't heard it as prominently from their campaigns.

      Secondly, I'm not suggesting at all that Wallis should endorse candidates (although he has given Obama a platform multiple times).  I'm suggesting that Wallis approach to bringing about social justice and the change we all want to see is wrong.   We shold be seeking to build a progressive majority, and not say we're centrists.  If progressives can't say we're progressive, than we have major problems.  

      •  Progressive majority is great (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fouro

        But can we leave religion out of it?   I don't want to hear my President, my Senator, my pubilc school principal or my Presidential candidates discussing their personal feelings about religion or their love of Jesus during legislative sessions, policy discussions, or Presidential debates.

        "Progressive" is a great term, and a progressive majority is what most of us here are working for, aren't we?   What is more progressive than working to eliminate poverty or taking public financing?  Obama's love of Christ does not separate him from other hard-working progressives or elevate him into a newer or better progressive status-  and I don't want it front and center in any administration or policy debate.  I respect it, but don't want it in politics, political debate, or my party's platform.  I just want my government to support and protect religious freedom, and that's the last I want to hear of it.

        The Bush administration, like it or not, has induced serious religious fatigue in most people who value the separation of Church and State.   The last thing I want is for my own party or candidate to begin putting their own religious views forward in a way that identifies their own beliefs with our political goals.

        http://www.katemckinnon.com

        by kate mckinnon on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 06:09:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  not completely (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wipeltz

          I don't think religious folks can leave their religion completely out of it.  Where I agree with Wallis is that folks who do go out into the public square can't make their argument in religious terms, but in moral and ethical terms.  

          Folks can say my religious values lead me to this, but here is why I'm supporting a progressive agenda in moral and practical terms.  

          Prottecting religious freedom is a good and important thing, but I don't think you can ask public servants to completely check their religion at the door.  Even if not discussed, it informs who they are and how they look at issues.   I'd rather have that out in the open than closeted.

          •  It's a personal decision, I suppose (0+ / 0-)

            for each of us, whether to publicly discuss our religious beliefs.  But I do feel that the Constitution affords me the protection of separation of Church and State, and I'd like to see that respected in our courts, chambers, public schools, and policy sessions.

            I don't mind knowing what persuasion my representatives are, and I don't think that they should be required to hide it.  But when they stand up on the Senate floor to support free breakfasts for hungry kids, I don't want them to say "Because I love Christ (Mohammed, Allah, the Pope, the Temple, Xenu) I support  or condemn this bill."  You know?  It just isn't appropriate.

            It just doesn't belong in policy statements, platforms, or political explanations.  Or at least I don't think it does, and I believe that the founders of our country agreed with that.   If a religious organization wants to work for social justice, right on.  But if my elected representative wants to explain to me his religious position on the issues, I would prefer a different elected representative.

            http://www.katemckinnon.com

            by kate mckinnon on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 07:29:46 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  we agree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wipeltz

              I think a public servant has to make his or her arguments in moral, ethical and even practical terms in language and on a basis that everyone can buy into.   In your example, I would agree that a Senator should not go to the floor and say Christ led me to this, but rather should explain the position in terms palatable to the constituents that he or she serves.

              I'm just suggesting though that there will be times in which public servants say this is who I am and this is what informs my beliefs.  For many folks, religion will be a big part of that.  

            •  There are times for religious references (0+ / 0-)

              When the religious right attacks a progressive, religious candidate on some social issue and frames the objection in Biblical or other religious doctrinal terms, would you block that candidate from responding in religious terms?

              For example, if the objection is to some new corporate regulation or to corporate taxes and is phrased in terms of capitalism being "God's way" as shown in the Bible, I would want to reply that "Biblical economics" are actually redistributive.  And I would want to cite some chapters and verses, too, in a factual, not emotive or evangelistic way.  

              It's not a question of framing things in religious terms for the general public.  But when there's a need to explain something to a particular religious constituency, it might be necessary to use their own frame of reference in order to make an effective rebuttal.

              "Don't look now, but that wall with the writing on it is beginning to crumble." -- Brother Billy, 2006

              by wipeltz on Thu Jan 24, 2008 at 12:14:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  I used to dislike Wallis (0+ / 0-)

    But I've come around to seeing the value in his non-ideological approach.

    The person who has convinced me the most of the worth of Wallis' message is none other than atheist author Daniel Dennett.  Yes, Wallis spends an inordinate amount of time attacking atheist seculars like Dennett, and yet it's Dennett that makes perhaps the most poignant argument for Wallis' work.

    Dennett's argument goes like this... many of the moderate religionists are doing nothing to rein in the most radical elements of their faith.  Dennett has nothing but scorn for such moderates.  Dennett calls on moderate religionists to actively counter these radicals within their own respective faiths, whether it's Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or Judaism.

    And in the end, that's exactly what Wallis is doing, even under his non-ideological label.

    •  Disingenuous (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Iddybud, wipeltz

      I would argue that Wallis is being fairly disingenuous by claiming to be non-ideological.  He has a pretty strong theological and ideological point of view.   Instead of saying he's a progressive (which his politics general indicate) and working to build a progressive grassroots movement for change amongst religious progressives, he's trying to claim that he's a centrist.  

      Social movements haven't started in the center historically.  Progressives have mobilized around an agenda that eventually become centrist, but its not a good starting point politically for what building a movement.

  •  Wallis is a wonderful loving decent Christian man (0+ / 0-)

    You ask if "perhaps he's been inside the beltway too long".  Did it ever occur to you that perhaps he may be correct ????

    Oprah? Nah, I'm voting however Jerry Springer tells me to.

    by Barry in MIA on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 06:11:33 AM PST

  •  I Used to Like Wallis... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Cocozzelli

    until I closely read his book God's Politics.  Religion and politics aside, he spends far to much time and energy promoting himself.  He name drops with pathetic frequency...there is literally a line in God's Politics where he says, "As I was saying to the Pope over dinner the other day...."  His recent diary at Huffington Post is full of name dropping as well, and is a thinly disguised sales pitch for his new book.  A true man of God would be more concerned about solving the world's problems, and less concerned about promoting himself and his book sales.  Hence, I do not trust Jim Wallis regardless of what he says about religion and politics.

    "Don't take life too seriously...you'll never get out of it alive." B. Bunny

    by The Angry Democrat on Wed Jan 23, 2008 at 06:18:40 AM PST

  •  Dead-on Correct About Wallis, But… (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wipeltz

    As I pointed out before about Obama, in relation to Wallis:

    All-too-readily he [Obama] buys into stock GOP talking points. Here is an example of what I mean.

    Back on June 28, 2006 Obama gave the keynote address at Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference. In that speech was this little gem:

    Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith. (emphasis added)

    Someone truly trying to change the course of the conversation would have said something along these lines:

    As both a Democrat as well as being a person of faith I dismiss our opponents’ claim that Democrats are hostile to religion. When the Right makes this claim, they almost always never name specific individuals but instead speak in generalizations. Are there a few cranky atheists who are hostile to faith? Maybe. But even most nonbelievers respect the faith of others.

    Instead, let us speak frankly. Their charge of Democratic hostility towards religious expression is at best, an exaggeration. The separation of church and state exists not to exclude faith from our discussions, but to ensure that every American enjoys the freedom of conscience envisioned by the Founders. And if there is any real, more organized hostility to spirituality, it comes from the neoconservative Right who all too often uses the anxiety of damnation to demonize liberalism, promote unilateral war and destroy Social Security.

    Unfortunately, Obama took the easy way out by buying into the Religious Right’s talking points. He wasted a golden opportunity to do something truly constructive by correcting the direction of an erroneous, but all-too-readily accepted discourse.

    As a religious Catholic who values the separation of Church and State, I worry, as the record demonstrates, that far from reality being Obama versus Wallis, Obama has in fact echoed Wallis by using divisive language about faith.

    Still, a great post my friend.

    •  Good Point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wipeltz, Frank Cocozzelli

      Frank,

      Good point.  I also disagreed when Obama gave that rather uninspired speech at Wallis's conference.  In fact, I was there when he gave it and I have some of the same concerns you do.

      I think on overall strategy, Obama is a bit different...winning over folks not for a centrist agenda but for a progressive agenda.   I think John Edwards and maybe to a lesser degree Hillary (since I know you support her) are there as well as should be any progressive Democrat.

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