I've been chewing over this idea for a bout a month now, learning all I could about the relgious right and thinking of a number of strategies for combatting them.
This is on Kos' mind too - and I'm posting this to picque interest in the idea of working on
1) progressive/libebral/Dem umbrella group which would be the left equivalent of the Christian Coalition.
I like this name : THE CHRISTIAN VALUES COALITION
- Another group that did nothing but publicize the RR's hate speech and busts them on it - monitering hate speech, looking for connection to hate crimes, getting media attention for hate speech issues
- Also, there's this : my "Christians retake God via hellfire and damnation" concept.
- Also : reclaiming the power of religious oratory - the best religious oratory in the English language, now, is in black American churches. The power of such speach can be learned and deployed with powerful effect. it's an art form.
I posted this on Kos' "Values" post
I went online just to post somehing explicitly about this and - lo!
Hey, Kos, you had exactly the same thought.
Jim Wallis too :
"When we take back our faith, we will discover that faith challenges the powers that be to do justice for the poor instead of preaching a "prosperity gospel" and supporting politicians who further enrich the wealthy. We will remember that faith hates violence and tries to reduce it and exerts a fundamental presumption against war instead of justifying it in God's name....." ( see : Jim Wallis, of Soujourner's, Recovering a Hijacked Faith and, also, see "The GOP doesn't own Jesus", by Brooks Harrington and my favorite : "Politics and Religion: Republican Presidential Campaign Blasphemous")
Many people - right now - are thinking along similar lines. They need to be forged into an overall organization. There are some groups already,but they are bound to specific traditions and institutional frameworks.
Existing groups :
Clergy Leadership Network
"Faithful America" - Sloan Coffin's group - is good, but somehow (to me) not quite pitch perfect. It's close, but somehow........ it's too nice.
I would make the same critique, I think, of Sojourners
Then, there's Speak from the Heart : "The California Council of Churches, in partnership with Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI), has launched Speak from the Heart, a publishing program aimed at Progressive Christians.
Speak from the Heart includes a website, a weblog and a webzine and will also publish a continuing series of video documentaries and books targeting the Progressive Christian community."
There a also a large number of non-church groups - "Liberal Like Christ" for example - who might help : I'll put together a list and check back to see if anyone is into woprking on this idea.
Somebody needs to do it : better now than later.
We need to take back Congress in the 2002 elections, or at least the Senate. Best to start on that now, patiently building up the infrastructure.
Lakoff was on "Talk of The Nation" today, and he noted that there is no dem/liberal/progressive equivalent to Pat Robertson's "Christian Coalition"
And WHY NOT ?
Well, there's tremendous power in the repetition of a simple, good idea.
So here it is.
THE CHRISTIAN VALUES COALITION
Let it be.
I looked it up on Google. Nobody has even thought to use the name.
Here, again :
THE CHRISTIAN VALUES COALITION
Nice, huh? - It barges right onto and squats on Pat Robertson's rhetorical turf, but better, because it grabs VALUES and CHRISTIAN for a different sort of Christianity than Pat's hate-mongering.
Best to start now. We - or such a group - would need - a website w/a database, and volunteers to do outreach to major church groups, to start tap[ping into their constituencies.
Perhaps Kos would lend a wee bit of space on his already woefully overtaxed site -
Wouldn't you, Kos ?
The idea is explicitly about reclaiming God.
I've been shouting about this for a month or so now, over at Metafilter.com, but vanishingly few seemed to really get the concept - for which Lakoff is a superb spokesman.
OK, here's one rather blunt example of the "reclaiming God" idea, as I put togther about three weeks ago. I put it together as a intellectual exercise - of what I thought would be a great mid-size ecumenical Christian religious organization that would do nothing but bust the religious right on their hate speech (and track it to, to build a database of RR hate speech as ammunition for politicians) and try to keep the issue in the public spotlight.
Many groups are needed, and the largest umbrella org would be, of course,
THE CHRISTIAN VALUES COALITION.
There are already existing groups,
"at which point should we cease with the biblical quotes and start in with the handmaid's tale?" somebody on a Metafilter discussion thread asked this, and a progressive Christian there voiced a beautiful expression of her progressive, caring Christianity - to which I would graft my "Hellfire and Damnation"-
In short - Get used to the Biblical quotations, folks. Them's your ammunition.
You'll be hearing a lot of Bible quotes in the coming years for one simple stark - or liberating - fact.
Now, let me first say this : I'm already convinced that substantial vote fraud in both Florida and Ohio swung the election.
Nonetheless, the very real gains of the Religious Right in the US - over the last three decades - have come about with a tremendous amount of work, a lot of cash, and the crafting of a political ideology which is wrapped in the overt trappings of Christianity.
The US Democratic party somehow - at the end of the era of the Civil Rights movement and with the death of Martin Luther King - drifted away from faith which imbues politics with the conviction and passion displayed - as misplaced or misdirected as I feel that to be - The right speak to Christians - who listened - in their own language. The right did not look down upon people's faith or view Christianity with unease.
America IS, overall, a Christian nation : the actual political war - which the Democrats may have just lost for the fact that they don't even recognize the dimensions of the problem - is for the soul of Christianity in America and the question of whether America is to be a theocracy or not.
There no tiptoeing around that issue.
I tried - damn late in the game to do something about this, but the problem is one that's long been in the making, and it requires a long term solution.
Liberals, progressives, and all Americans - for that matter - who don't wish to live in a full-blown "Handmaid's Tale" theocracy need to get up off their butts and face the fact that something fundamental has shifted in the American political equation.
Who has a strategy ? I do. But - more's the shame - I don't have friends in high places. More's the pity. With a budget and staff, I could kick some righteous ass. Y'hear that, Joe Trippi and the DNC ? Have any better ideas ? I've got a few, and your currrent strategies amount to perpetual retreat. Try something different - try new tactics, political weapons, symbols, and language.
The only way to confront the radical right in America - whose politicians now have the Congress, a nearly filibuster free Senate amenable to amending the Constitution, a Justice Department concerned more with it's notions of morality than about justice, and - soon - a biblically-based Supreme Court.......
....is to reclaim the soul of American Christianity - using all of the rhetorical ammunition that can be drawn from the Bible - and delivered with the hellfire-and damnation zeal of a revivalist preacher.
American Christianity has been in the American past a socially progressive force, and it can be so again.
( here, I begin preaching )
Americans who do not now wish to live in a theocracy must - sooner rather than later - awake to a Christianity of their origins, if that is in their past, and pick up their Bibles, reclaim their Christian roots and blast the leaders of religious right with a true Gospel message, one which calls them out for their words and doctrines that are so filled with such hate and violence and lust for the power with which to dominate others and proscribe how all Americans should live : to call them out for the madness of the last four years which, I feel along with many, many Christians, has strayed very, very, very far from the spirit of the Gospels that I grew up with :
To call them back from their blasphemous, errant ways, back to Jesus, to Christ's message - of love and forgiveness, and back from their promotion of war, lies, indebtedness, and hatred : to call America back from a path that leads to more and more war, lies, hatred, and polarization, to a land where America - once a shining symbol to the World - becomes in the World's eyes, if not in it's own, a beast that is watched in dread, fear, and hatred even but with little loved.
Does this language - from me - make you, anyone out there reading this, uneasy ? Does it make you cringe ? Do political passions expressed in religious idiom seem to you unseemly ?
Get used to it. Learn to like it - a bitter pill for some, I suppose, but one you'll have to swallow and digest if you want to roll back theocracy on the march.
You're living in a different realm now, although you haven't - it is likely - fully inhabited the psychological territory. Dip your toe in and get used to the water - learn to swim even - before you're pushed in, lest you drown.
But first :
Relax, breathe deeply : take a walk : call your friends and family : grieve but - while you are grieving, think of this thing Ihave to say......and I'll try and say it simply now and with fewer words
Here's a little secret : I'm a born again Christian too - they got me young, at about 9, and it was reinforced for the fact that my father was a minister and - though I promptly, for being young and distractable, forget this rebirth and haven't ever mentioned it publicly nor set foot in a church in years - I'm brushing up now on my scripture.
See, there's this other guy - a character named George W. Bush - who's also seldom seen in a Church, and yet he wears the bible, so it seems - as a tight (though ill fitting) suit - with great enthusiasm. So : I welcomed Jesus into my life and never renounced that and so now I figure if that other guy can make out that he chats with God three times a day, I figure I have the right to lay some righteous fire and brimstone on those who claim to somehow "own" GOD.
Well, Mr. Robertson, that's idolatry. You and your ilk are idolaters.
You don't own God, and your presumption to act as the hand of God is a blasphemy.
Your political aims, most of them, have very little to do with the will of God, from what I can see, and much more to do with the pride of men with an all too human arrogance, a prideful assertion of those who claim that their day to day course is charted through daily, clearly worded letters from God. But such are the claims of false prophets to lead a nation astray.
So - to all leaders, to Mr. Pat Robertson and friends - to all those who seek to lead America down a road towards hatred, fear, violence, war, persecution of minorities, towards a bestiality which is certainly not in the spirit of Jesus, I would say :
"Get thee hence, Satan."
OK - get it ?
BELOW - ARMSTRONG PIECE
"Jesus' Words, Bush's deeds
Jesus' words, George's deeds
Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful." (Matthew 5:7)
During his tenure as governor of Texas, Mr. Bush presided over a record 152 executions. When Father Dan Berrigan was asked what he thought of Mr. Bush's "wearing his faith on his sleeve," he replied, "Bush comes to the Bible having run a human slaughterhouse in Texas...He obviously seeks out parts of the Bible that allow killing, but I don't know what he does with the Sermon on the Mount." [ii] In an interview Mr. Bush declined to speculate on what Jesus would have thought about the death penalty. "I'm not going to put words in Jesus' mouth," he said.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." (Matthew 5:9)
The early days of the Bush presidency were interrupted by the unspeakable tragedy of 9/11. The entire world rallied to our side. The French newspaper, Le Monde, headlined, "The whole world is American now." Afghanistan and the dismantling of the Taliban followed. But all of that changed. Influenced, not by a God whose name is Love, but by a band of neo-conservative ideologues (Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfield, Cheney and others)who envisioned a world dominated by American might, the U.S. "shocked" and "awed" Iraq to its knees[iii] We toppled the tyrant Saddam Hussein. And more than a year ago we declared our "mission accomplished" from the deck of a warship. "Using twisted and selective misinformation Mr. Bush led us into what William Sloane Coffin has rightly called, "the worst war in American history."
Since the war was "won" hundreds of American troops have been killed, thousands wounded, and scores of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed, maimed, made homeless, and consigned to streets of terror. And why? Because Mr. Bush said there were weapons of mass destruction; there were none. Because of Iraq's ties to the 9/11 terrorists; there were none. Because of an imminent threat to the United States; there was none.
Using twisted and selective misinformation Mr. Bush led us into what William Sloane Coffin has rightly called, "the worst war in American history."[iv] Where was the peacemaking ethic of Jesus?
Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," (Matthew 5:3)
As George W. Bush approached the presidency, he said, "We must be humble. If we are an arrogant nation we will be resented." He decried "nation building." That seems so long ago and far away. Our unilateral, preemptive strike against Iraq violated international law, the United Nations Charter and every form of "just war" theory. We alienated historic allies, refused to listen to "the opinions of mankind," hastily constructed a "coalition of the willing," and thumbed our nose at the rest of the world.
Mr. Bush, with no foreign policy or military experience before becoming "the leader of the free world," insists that he sleeps easily at night, that he has no second thoughts about the rightness of his cause.
The Song of Mary (Luke 1:41-54) and Jesus' "inaugural" in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16-19) forever link the New Testament ethic with the poor and the oppressed.
Jesus' teachings concerning the abuses and tyranny of wealth, and his oneness with the poor, are there for one and all to see. In response, the Wesleyan movement swept across the lower reaches of English society. In the May/June 2004, issue of Zion's Herald, Andrew Weaver and Dale White compared the convictions of the founder of Methodism with the economic policies of the Bush administration. The article, sub-titled, "Mr. Bush, Meet Mr. Wesley - Please," closed with the words, "As long as (Bush's) policies are harmful to the underprivileged and only helpful to the rich, he is not practicing his faith according to the ethics of John Wesley."[v]
The United Methodist Church has developed a set of Social Principles as "a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions."
Mr. Bush may or may not be aware of his church's stand on social and economic issues. But many of his administration's policies and programs, and many of his own executive decisions, appear to be at sharp variance with his church's worldview. Examples include environmental protection, a woman's right to choose, the United Nations and its related bodies and the International Court of Justice, the separation of church and state, freedom of information, corporate responsibilities, and the rights of sovereign nations - to list but a few areas of divergence between Mr. Bush and his church.
View of evil, view of self
As sobering as any of the above are George W. Bush's understanding of good and evil and his messianic self-concept.
The tragedy of 9/11 provided the defining moment for Mr. Bush's understanding of good and evil. "We" were "good." "They" were "evil." Speaking at Washington's National Cathedral a few days after the horrific attack on the World Trade Center he said, "Our responsibility is clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." A few months later, speaking to the graduating class at West Point, he said, "We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name" (italics mine). In a State of the Union message he identified an "axis of evil," and his conversations and pronouncements are punctuated with references to "evildoers."
There is no question that Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and murderous terrorists are evil; the Taliban and al Qaeda are expressions of evil. Sadly, traces of evil can be found in each of us. Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us 75 years ago that sin is universal, and the institutions of society are, by their very nature, "immoral." That is why democracy, with its checks and balances, is a desirable though imperfect form of government.
The despicable acts of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib were our evil. The fact that "more than a third of the prisoners who died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were shot, strangled or beaten before they died"[vi] is our evil. A noted columnist, reflecting on these sordid pages of our recent past, wrote, "Abu Ghraib made a mockery of American idealism. It made all the baser motives - oil, dad, Israel - more believable. And it represents all the complexities that this President has chosen to ignore - all the perverse consequences of an occupation[vii]
In October 2001, even as the president praised the "compassion" and "strong values" of our national character and said, "It's hard for Americans to imagine how evil the people are who produce anthrax," the Pentagon was secretly producing a more lethal variant of the poisonous substance than Iraq had possessed. Martin Marty, writing last year in Newsweek, said, "The demonization of the enemy - an 'us and them' mentality - can inhibit self-examination and repentant action, critical components of any faith."[viii]
In contrast, Jesus asked, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." (Mark 10:18) We may refuse to acknowledge "mistakes," but flaws of human nature are a part of who we are. To deny them is to deny reality.
But the most revealing and perhaps most alarming thing about Mr. Bush's self-concept is his sense of being chosen by God to lead us. While still in Austin he said, "I could not be governor if I did not believe in a divine plan that supersedes all human plans." Later he would tell his friend, the Fort Worth televangelist, James Robison: "I've heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for president." In 1999, when eyeing the presidency, he gathered some of Texas' leading pastors together for a "laying on of hands" ceremony, telling them he had been called to seek higher office. When asked by reporter Bob Woodward if he drew strength from his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush, he replied, "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength." Then pointing upward, he said, "There is a higher father to appeal to."
The major issue before the American people in November will be the direction of the foreign policy of the United States. Quite literally, the fate of the world is in our hands. George W. Bush has said, "The call of history has come to the right country." But has it really? Jim Wallis, the brilliant evangelical editor of Sojourners, has written, "American foreign policy is more than preemptive, it is theologically presumptuous; not only unilateral, but dangerously messianic; not just arrogant, but bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous."[ix]
A Call for Perfect Love in Action
Add to a go-it-alone, blindly reckless foreign policy, an economic program that rewards the wealthy, the highest deficit in our nation's history, the highest rate of job loss since the presidency of Herbert Hoover, a threat to our civil liberties under certain repressive sections of the Patriot Acts, and the soaring costs of the Iraqi war, both in dollars and human life, and we are called to grapple with the words of Time magazine's Joe Klein: "Bush promised us a foreign policy of humility and a domestic policy of compassion. He has given us a foreign policy of arrogance and a domestic policy that is cynical, myopic and cruel."[x]
On December 4, 2002, before Mr. Bush launched the war in Iraq, the New York Times carried a full-page ad signed by hundreds of religious leaders, including the president's own United Methodist bishops. The ad was titled: "President Bush: Jesus Changed Your Heart, Now Let Him Change Your Mind." The plea, joined with the voices of Pope John Paul II and millions of people, including most governments around the world, went unacknowledged and unheeded.
No one would question Mr. Bush's heart-warming conversion. But the Christian faith and the Wesleyan tradition in which his church stands calls for more than justification, a warm heart and a disciplined personal life. Rather, they call for sanctification, perfect love in action.
Perfect love in action may be, as Niebuhr suggested, an "impossible possibility," but it is an essential part of Mr. Bush's religious tradition. As we prepare to vote for the nation's highest office holder, we have every right to compare Mr. Bush's overt displays of private piety, hypocritical rhetoric and bankrupt policies with the ideals he says he believes in. Mr. Bush told Bob Woodward, "I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."[xi]
Oh, yes he does. And in November voters will have not only an opportunity but an obligation to respond.
The Rev. Dr. James Armstrong, a former United Methodist bishop and past president of the National Council of Churches, retired in 1999 after eight years as a United Church of Christ minister of the First Congregational Church in Winter Park, Fla."