Religious Left?

Much is made in the mainstream press of the allegation made by the so-called denominational “mainliners” in American Christendom that the nation is being driven toward some sort of freedom-threatening takeover by something called the “religious right,” usually defined as an evangelical group closely tied to the administration, though no entity has come forward to explain this connection. Indeed, there is no such organization as the Religious Right, no proof of any effort by any religious group to tamper with the administration, and certainly nothing tangible to use in pointing to a perceived threat to the First Amendment.

The thing that seems to have upset the mainliners and the mainstream media, liberal by their own admission or simple observation, is that large segments of voters, especially in the South, have begun voting republican, notwithstanding that only a few years ago they voted democrat as a virtual bloc. Instead of categorizing these voters as citizens voting their conservative consciences, these offended liberals accuse them of voting conservative in an effort to turn the country into some sort of fundamentalist theocracy. They manufacture a connection between evangelicals and politicians based on ulterior motives to “pull a coup” and establish a church-driven government led by flaming fundamentalists.

CBS Evening News did a number on this subject on 09 July, quoting National Council of Churches General Secretary Dr. Bob Edgar, who said, "Jesus never said one word about homosexuality, never said one word about civil marriage or abortion.” Also quoted was the Rev. Tony Campolo, who said, "We are furious that the religious right has made Jesus into a Republican. That's idolatry. To recreate Jesus in your own image rather than allowing yourself to be created in Jesus' image is what's wrong with politics." Campolo practically made a cottage industry out of preaching, at least until recently, in churches belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest of the “evangelical” groups and therefore the prime target of the mainliners and the mainstreamers. Where once he must have considered them as fellow Christians, he now seems to see them as a monolithic republican group bent upon destroying the nation, notwithstanding that the registration of voters in the so-called “red” states is traditionally and overwhelmingly democrat. Incidentally, Jesus made reference to the total destruction of Sodom (identified in scripture almost exclusively with homosexuality) in Matthew 11.

Therein lies the point of friction. The CBS segment featured a meeting in a Washington, D.C., church, at which these men made these statements. Ostensibly, this meeting was meant, if not to organize officially, to rally the “religious left” in an effort to forestall the conservative surge among evangelicals, who are indelibly on the record as condemning homosexual behavior, civil marriage (euphemism for same-sex marriage, thus practically glorifying homosexual behavior), and abortion. Ironically, same-sex marriage was legally ruled out in New York and Georgia earlier this month, thus establishing among both liberals (New York) and conservatives (Georgia) the absolute unwillingness to sanction perversion as either legal or desirable. Kentucky, long a hugely democrat-registered state, passed an amendment to the state Constitution in 2004 absolutely disallowing homosexual marriage and “civil unions.” Many states, since this subject became a hot issue a few years ago when homosexual marriage was approved in some localities, have acted in order to forestall this activity, which is as much a civil issue – if not more so – as it is a religious issue.

The penultimate irony in the recent meeting in the Washington church lies in the fact that the “religious lefties” are now willing to try their own efforts at subversion of the government by politicizing religious liberals as democrats, as if the democrats needed this kind of albatross around their necks. Edgar, Campolo, and gang are, in other words, mixing religion with politics, the very thing of which they accuse the “religious righties.” This is nothing new, however. In 2004, former National Council of Churches pooh-bah Albert Pennybacker and some friends formed the Clergy Leadership Network, a 501 (c-7) organization headquartered in Washington made up only of ministers, for the express and well-publicized effort to defeat George Bush. This organization has morphed into the Clergy and Laity Network, with Pennybacker of Lexington, Ky., still at its head.

The mainline denominations, principally the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, have been in steady decline since 1960, the first four losing 28% of their collective membership by 2005. During that time, and especially in the last 25 or so years, these groups have genuflected before the political-correctness craze in the nation instead of the biblical traditions of centuries, allowing the matter of homosexuality, for instance, to be almost the end-all and be-all of their contemplations. They have reaped the proverbial whirlwind, exemplified currently in the threat of total schism in the Episcopal Church, which allowed a practicing homosexual (also longtime formerly married man and father of two) to be ordained as the bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Katharine Schori, the newly elected leader of the Episcopal Church, is publicly on the record as approving both same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexuals to ministry. Churches and even entire dioceses are currently attempting to align themselves with overseas arms of the church, actually part of the the Anglican Church of England.

These religious-left folks are the people who hope to make an imprint on government, notwithstanding the fact that they can’t even maintain their own memberships, and notwithstanding the fact that even within their organizations there is dissension on a huge scale. They are so out of touch with mainstream thinking in this country that they believe they can use their totally disoriented groups to successfully make a unified effort to change Washington. While the population of the nation has increased by 64% since 1960, the membership of the hated Southern Baptist Convention has increased by 69% while the -28% noted above marks the “religious lefties” as losers on a grand scale with regard to their influence on the populace. Even the Southern Baptist Convention, the evangelical fortress, has plateaued in recent years, so the influence of denominations, per se, is gradually diminishing. This is taking place in the era of the glorification of diversity and multiculturalism, the obsession with political correctness (meaning no mores of substance), and the resulting moral vacuum in the nation, made even emptier by the religious left in its intense desire to be, instead of other-worldly, other-spiritually.

An attitude correction is sorely needed, but it will not come from the “religious lefties.” Hopefully, it will come from the “religious righties,” who nevertheless need to get their house in order, too.