Politics, Public Policy and Progressive Faith

Archive for May, 2013

31 May

Rev. Ed Bacon on gun violence, marriage equality

This is almost a week old, but in case you missed it…

Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints Church in Pasadena was on Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” program (May 26, 2013) talking about gun violence and marriage equality, among other things, with Susan Lesser, Mark Lepo and, of course, Oprah. Good material here, including Bacon’s discussion of how marriage equality enhances the institution of marriage. (The gun violence material starts just before the 12-minute mark. The marriage material starts at about 29:25.)

31 May

Don’t wear the sign; be the sign

Sally Steenland (@ssteenland) of the Center for American Progress posted audio and an edited transcript from an interview she did with Sr. Joan Chittister (@joancdc), a Benedictine nun who has served in leadership positions among her Catholic sisters and who is a writer and speaker about spirituality and justice in many forms.

The top of the interview deals with the nature of power, authority and leadership–interesting, if a bit academic in places, at least for me on a Friday night. Then they turn to the new Pope and his advice that nuns not use their vocations to pursue ambition. (Asked for her response to that, Chittister reviewed the competent worker-bee history of nuns in the Church and concluded:  ”Nuns don’t get money, they don’t get power, and they don’t get civil or ecclesiastical positions. So no, I can’t answer the question because I don’t understand it.”)

My favorite part of the interview, however, is Chittister’s response to Steenland’s inquiry about the increase in the share of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated, the so-called “nones”; here’s an excerpt from the nun’s take on the nones and how to respond to them:

Well, the way you spread the word is: Don’t worry about wearing the sign; be the sign. You don’t have to wear a sandwich board saying, “I am religious and spiritual and know what you should do.” You do have to be the best of the mystical presence that your tradition brings. Certainly in Christianity, that means that you begin to go through life putting on the mind of Jesus, trying to see the world as Jesus saw the world.

There has always been a great mystical dimension to Christianity. Our saints were mystics. That means they go right into the heart of the Gospel and the spiritual pulp of human life; they’re not as intent on the hierarchical, legalistic, and clerical.

What happens in a world that sees itself as participative and in a state of transformation? People rise up and say, “We’re here too. We want to be part of the discussion. We want to be as honored.” I am a carrier of the best of my tradition; I believe the spirit of God is still alive.

There’s more–on that question, the lives of young women today and other topics. Read the whole thing.

31 May

Dan Savage: Half Right About the Christian Left

For some time, Dan Savage has been challenging liberal Christians to do something to dislodge the notion that all Christians are conservative and, in particular, anti-gay. I think Dan is right–we do need to do something–but I think he is wrong about what we ought to do.

As he promotes his new book, Dan has returned to this issue, with this video and this interview (also with video) on Huffington Post. Dan recognizes the existence of “Not All Like That” Christians–NALTs–the ones who are not like the religious right. He suggests that proclaiming their existence to him is beside the point, what they should be doing is taking on the religious right and getting in their faces. He mentions other possibilities in his video, but he tends to return to the getting-in-their-face option.

Um, no. Bad idea, Dan.

What the progressive faith community has to offer is not more screaming, but a reasonable, faith-based alternative to the screaming. We need to do a better job finding our voices, but not to out-shrill the other side. Indeed, we are most effective when we speak quietly and when we listen. We are most powerful when giving witness to the value of our gay and lesbian family, friends and clergy. To the duty we have to care for our God-given environment. To the need for tax and energy and health care policies that reflect our religious values to care for one another. We are most successful when we demonstrate that there are liberals who are liberal because of our faith, not in spite of it. We win by being who we are.  And there is no point at yelling at those on the far end of the other side. We are not going to convince them:  Frankly, too many of them think we’re Satan. Our audience is the larger community.

And we need your help. The next time you get invited onto a cable show to debate an issue with a member of the religious right, suggest–or even insist–that the show feature a progressive faith voice, too. Use YOUR voice to help us use ours. Use your status to help us defeat the idea that people of faith are all “like that.” I will gladly connect you with folks who are great for this!

Oh, and drop the NALT label. It’s clever, granted, but no one wants to be defined by what they are not.


31 May

What this is about…

This site has been created to highlight and uplift the progressive religious voice in American politics and public-policy debate.

As a liberal Christian, I often have been frustrated by the media’s tendency to equate “religious” with “conservative.” I don’t deny the existence of religious conservatives–I know they exist. But I know that progressive people of faith exist, too.

Too often I see representatives of the religious right called upon to debate the issues of the day on television–as the sole faith voice, pitted against  representatives of the secular left, as though those were the only two sides with anything to say about values, culture or policy. To the extent that the press covers progressive (or even moderate) religious views, it tends to be on the media fringes. We get on the faith page, not the front page.

I’d like that to change, and toward that end, I will help bring attention to progressive faith voices by pointing to the good coverage they DO get. I also will feature Q&As with progressive faith leaders–broadly defined–and with those who study liberal faith movements in this country. Stay tuned!