Monday, July 9, 2012

Why religion is important to the progressive cause...

Our churches and temples have been the fountain, the rock, the mother source of our movement from the very beginning. Progressives of faith have always played a central role in our political victories in the past. It's time to stop imagining that somehow, we're going to take the country back without them now. Alternet Editor, Sara Robinson

I'm an atheist, but believe that the teachings of Christ coincide very closely to my own when it comes to helping the poor; the sick; the most vulnerable in society. I have been saying that the left should point out the contradictions promulgated by the right and their "Christian" beliefs with memes, such as the one at the end of this post.  Alternet codified it in a post today on six reasons why the religious are natural allies of the left, quoted in italics and with comments by yours truly:

A community of like-minded people, bound by similar beliefs that bridges many divides
1. there's nothing like it if you want to bond a bunch of very diverse people into a tight community of shared meaning and value.  A religious congregation brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, educational levels, professional rank, and life circumstances, and melds them into an enduring tribe that's centered around a shared commitment to mutual trust and care, and (most importantly) has a clear and vivid shared vision of the future they're trying to create. 
Helping the most vulnerable, the poor, the sick, focusing on love and building peace--these are the key tenets of Jesus Christ's teaching, and they are shared by the progressive left and the christian communities in this country. They're SHARED beliefs, and we should build communities that SHARE these beliefs to further them, not only for this election, but for all elections going forward...

Religious narratives
2. religious narratives center people in the long arc of history, telling them where they came from, who they are, what they are capable of, and what kind of future is possible. History does this, too; but religion does it at a deeper, mythic level that gives these stories extra emotional and cognitive resonance. 
A sense of shared destiny and ability to build our future--together--makes sense in including the religious. To digress a bit, I admit that I used to poke fun at religious people and their lack of syllogistic reasoning, but I think this is because the far right hijacked their narrative. A Christian friend of mine said recently, "I think a lot of Christians are appalled by what's happened to their religious beliefs and how they've been taken over by the republican party. However, I think a lot of them are afraid to speak out against extremists who say that they speak for them." We need to draw on our shared interests and help them find their voice.

Inculcating values into our young
3 over the course of American history, liberal religious faiths have been the primary promoter of progressive values throughout the culture -- and also the leading institution when it came time to inculcate our progressive sensibilities into the next generation. Many, if not most, progressives in America are progressive specifically because they believe that this is what their faith demands of them. 
I've said many times that if he were alive today, the teachings of Christ would be considered socialistic, anti-American in the eyes of the so-called faithful of the far right. This schism--and hypocrisy--must be pointed out to the young people in this country who are disaffected by all parties. Policy is important, and the policies of those who believe in Paul Ryan budget cuts for programs to the poor and Mitt Romney "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that" promises need to know that this is not "What Jesus Would Do."

There is no market machinery for doing good when faith guides your humanity
4. progressive religion has always been America's most credible and aggressive front-line defender of non-market-based values against the onslaught of capitalism and greed. In recent years, as the “free-market” fetishists took over (and gulled American Evangelicals into shilling for their hellish utilitarianism), our liberal faith communities -- mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics, Jews and Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the rising wave of reformist Muslims -- are the strongest remaining cultural forces left with the moral authority to insist that we have a duty to the poor, that democracy cannot survive without a commitment to justice, and that compassion is always a better survival strategy than competition. 
This is absolutely critical: the republicans have evolved into some sort of libertarian hybrid--republitarians--in which they have, bizarrely, "stolen" christianity as their own, while adhering increasingly to the tenets of the atheistic and anti-charity, hyper selfish views of Ayn Rand. Truly an unholy breed of republican that repulses many lefty christians. (For more, see Nuns on the Bus, activist nuns who traveled the country to protest the Paul Ryan budget against that targets the poor;  The Christian Left on Facebook, with over 80,000 followers.) 

The vast majority of the people in the United States believe in God
5. in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief -- and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief -- abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice. 
If we're truly a representative democracy, we need to align and coordinate with, the majority, not just atheistic syllogistic thinkers. We must also point out, early and often, how Jesus' views actually align with the views of those on the left--not with the views of this latest, most virulently selfish form of conservatives: republitarianism.

Inherent community building
6. progressive faiths, across the board, promote the essential belief that human communities are, in themselves, inherently and intrinsically sacred. 
This is key for the left, which is currently balkanized and splintered--many of whom care less about policy details than about having been "deceived" by Obama's center left foreign and defense policies.

What are your thoughts? Do you know of any Christian progressive organizations on Facebook or elsewhere? Please share in the comments. Thanks for reading.


  1. thank you , Groobie, for the way you distill so much info. Your morsels are superbly digestible and come in handy in countering those wrong-wing folks.

  2. Was it Socrates who said that "Knowledge is the only virtue and ignorance the only vice"? I must remind that all in congress profess to one of the two approved mystic religions and they use this power to conduct unlimited war against their cousin, Islam. Mystic religions are the leading cause and method of retarding the education of people worldwide. Rather than use religion to retard, let us study religious thought in its historical perspective as a cause for war and control of the masses. If one studies war and poverty and famine, then immediately there is reason to oppose all with every effort. Watching propaganda TV and being totally ignorant of the lessons of history, PLUS trusting our evangelical, very religious, national leaders is why we and the world are in the mess we find ourselves. Read history...get back...

  3. Religion is sufficiently diverse that one can find theists on all sides of every issue, but not only is mainstream religion on the wrong side of most issues, but religious ideology is used to justify many anti-progressive issues. It was used to justify slavery, to deny women the vote, equal opportunity, and control over their reproduction, and it is the driving force behind anti-gay bigotry today. Unfortunately, most theists don't take Jesus' teachings to heart.