Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Values voters and the religious left

I started to write a response to the rant about "Values voters and the Left" that Gary Bauer wrote for yesterday's Washington Times. But then I read Tony Hendra's top-secret memo to DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Hendra's memo about "That New-Time Religion" was leaked to the American Prospect and they put in online. So much for secrecy. Democrats have never been good at keeping secrets.

Now that I've read Hendra's memo, I'm at a complete loss for words. Frankly, no one could write a better response to Bauer than Hendra's already written. So, I'll just cite his conclusion:
In conclusion: Without the South and the Sun Belt, we’re dead meat. My successor should remember: When the South was a reeking hospital corner of brutal racism and cretinous, Bible-thumping prejudice, it was overwhelmingly Democratic. Now it’s overwhelmingly Republican. What’s wrong with this picture? Has the South changed? Not really. The South stuck to its guns and now it’s running the show. We changed and we’re not. We need to take a long, hard look at our former glory in the 13 states of the old Confederacy, reopen the files on great Democrats like Bull O’Connor and Sheriff Haney, revisit that simpler, more innocent time when Democrats controlled the market in racism, bigotry, book burning, and sanctimonious humbuggery. Of course, we can’t embrace these things as wholeheartedly as we once did (and the other side now does). But there’s always a centrist, progressive version of them if you just look hard enough.

We can do all the above -- and win in 2008 -- if we never lose sight of our fundamentalist American values.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

On Christian Mass Market Culture and Identity Politics

Thanks to Carlos Stouffer at the Jesus Politics blog for calling my attention to the article on "Mass Market *Culture* and Identity Politics" at the Daily Kos blog. Shock makes a lot of interesting and insightful comments. Here's the core of his argument:

Christians are behaving just like good consumers should. They are unconsciously slipping into the "mold" that the marketers have laid out for them. It's done so well that it has become part of the Christian culture.

Importantly, this directed marketing has given Christians a sense of separate identity. They are no longer Americans who happen to be Christians and happen to be Republican or Democratic. They are Christian Americans -- separate from (and some believe, superior to) the rest. (Note this is just like typical "identity politics", except, at the heart, it was not originally about politics, but rather money... although Republican politicians are now engaging in it as well, of course.)

I think Shock has put his finger on one of the factors that has led to our current Republican-Christian hegemony. I think a greater factor has been the very effective efforts of people influenced by Christian Dominionism to organize and takeover the mechanisms of government.

Promoting the Interfaith Alliance

Byron Williams makes some insightful comments about "Promoting a Religious Left" on the Public Theology website. Here's one of his best remarks:

But progressive Christians must be leery of duplicating the evangelical right by becoming aligned with one political party. Instead of a theological response to the right, a la talk radio's Air America, the country needs a prophetic voice that is neither Democrat nor Republican -- nor exclusively Christian.

What Williams is looking for already exists. It is the Interfaith Alliance, an organization that I recommend highly.

What is lacking in Williams' observation is any recognition of the need for Christians on the left to get organized politically. Without organizing, the Christian left may find its voice, but we won't have the hands and feet that are necessary to produce political action.

Keeping a Democratic Faith

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for alerting me about recent additions at the Public Theology website. A very good list of articles that are pertinent to the thinking of Christian Democrats is in the article "Keeping the Democratic Faith."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Jimmy Carter Democrats vs. Karl Rove Republicans

Kudos to M.C. Blakemore for his essay "Church split: Will Jimmy Carter Democrats take on Karl Rove Republicans" in today's Athens News (Ohio). Blakemore writes,
Anyone who thinks that all Christians -- especially conservative Christians -- can be lumped together in a monolithic bloc has never gone through a church split. That's when all the good Christians in a congregation viciously turn against all the other good Christians over some point of doctrine or decorum until the fighting gets so bad the whole church splinters. Incidentally, such infighting went on long before any of the recent scuffles over gays in the pulpit. The history of the church is replete with schisms, not the least of which turns on the seemingly innocuous question of whether sinners should be baptized with a sprinkle of water on the forehead or fully dunked in a tub.

While Karl Rove may have gotten a phalanx of Christian voters to act as one on Election Day, he could find himself herding cats instead of docile sheep when he tries to ram through the next phase of the right-wing agenda. Not to mention the fact that all the pontificating about the impact of Christian conservative voters has riled up the Jimmy Carter Democrats. They're the voters who remember that as president, Carter was a bona fide "born again" Christian back when George Bush was still hitting the bottle. They truly believe in Jesus, but don't believe what the current president tells them about the war in Iraq.

Blakeman's essay hits several nails straight on the head.

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