Praise the Lord and Pass the Petition, Onward Christian Organizers
March 1, 2006 7:32 PM   Subscribe

The Other Christian Activists "Any Christian who believes that homosexuality is a more important issue than justice for the poor just hasn't read his Bible straight." - David Hilfiker
"If you are waiting for a religious left to emerge to offset the power of the religious right, it may already be in your own neighborhood at a local church or synagogue." - Ira Chernus
posted by quonsar (33 comments total)
Whenever I hear people dog on Christians, I remember that every liberal protest I have ever been to has included a sizable contingent of church people, including pro-choice events.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:42 PM on March 1, 2006

Hallelujah! This article makes some similar points.
posted by brain_drain at 7:45 PM on March 1, 2006

Neat! Good article.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:46 PM on March 1, 2006

David Hilfiker is an amazing cat, a real example. Me I ain't Christian, but if I was, I'd hope to be like him.

Whenever I hear people dog on Christians I think of the Berrigans and these crazy Domincan nuns my mom used to run with, talk about the courage of their convictions. They seemed to really enjoy their iconoclastic underdog status, which makes me wonder if one of the reasons (one of the reasons only, other than it doesn't make for good indignation or news) we don't hear alot about the real Jesus was a Capricorn style Christians is becuase part of their trip is being a humble underdog in the Jesus mode.

Now roll on the 120 awful things about organized religion (97 of which I would agree with).
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:49 PM on March 1, 2006

Because wino, because. I'ma render that typo unto Caesar.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:50 PM on March 1, 2006

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks.
posted by bardic at 8:08 PM on March 1, 2006

posted by Mr Bluesky at 8:27 PM on March 1, 2006

Most excellent. I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders; evidently not all organized religions beget mindless 'bots who rain death & destruction down on infidels.

Or is this merely an enlightened aberration?
posted by whozyerdaddy at 8:27 PM on March 1, 2006

IMHO, it's not at all an aberration--along the lines of DivineWino's comment, there's a healthy tradition of Christian charity in practice, especialy among Catholics (CWA anyone?). My own bias against many protestant and evangelistic strains of Christian charity work is that it's hellbent on conversion more than actually feeding and clothing the poor and desperate.

In any event, I'm happy to see Christians who want to take back the message and legacy of Jesus. A post like this reminds me that I'm too quick to tar with the same brush.

(And the Jesuits and ex-Jesuits I've met are some of the coolest, kindest people ever.)
posted by bardic at 8:38 PM on March 1, 2006

Great article, but i really wish these people would raise their voices more. (and get together with my folks more
posted by amberglow at 8:47 PM on March 1, 2006

Quakers: Enemy of the State
posted by homunculus at 9:08 PM on March 1, 2006

I've really bumped my head against the people who try to convert along with their charity as if there was a scorecard in heaven, because they always seem to want people to make the motions and not really care about the actual teachings.

That being said I think there are people who have the holy fire and that is something that I admire (perhaps even moreso because I am not capable of it in the same way, such clarity of faith and intensity of belief must be an incredibly powerful rush). I was Quaker educated for a good portion of my early life and I appreciate it more and more every day, not because it created any kind of belief in the supernatural aspects of Christianity or any kind of mush-brained credulity, but because it encouraged me to question my conscience and believe strongly that any relationship that I have with the divine (sorry) (or a greater human purpose than eating, breathing and/or making babies) is mine and mine alone, not to be legislated or dictated to me.

I look at it as a metaphorical introduction to a moral philosophy and am a better person for it, I think. The Society of Friends is Protestant (in the real true sense of it) FWIW. Coming from a long line of lapsed Catholics I always feel like pointing this out when hardline strains of Protestantism are pointed out (rightfully) as dangerous.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:10 PM on March 1, 2006

What amberglow said. Republicans embrace the hardcore wingnuts. Why aren't progressives embracing the religious left? I'm atheist, but I'm capable of understanding that Jesus Christ and I agree on a lot of stuff.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:17 PM on March 1, 2006

DW, I went to a Quaker high school. You've put into words what I've always felt about the great opportunity I had there, although I don't identify as a Quaker these days. I've been meaning to get back into Meetings though.

(Funny off-color joke about my high school: A bunch of Episcopals teaching a bunch of Jews how to be good Quakers.)
posted by bardic at 9:22 PM on March 1, 2006

This is one of the reasons that I'm an avid reader of slacktivist. He's enough to get me feeling kindly towards religious folk again!
posted by JHarris at 9:24 PM on March 1, 2006

"Great article, but i really wish these people would raise their voices more. (and get together with my folks more)" - amberglow, the Christian religious left - and even the Christian center - has been tied down as a political force force several decades now. that may be changing now...

I've heard lately that the Jewish left may be under a similar assault : there's a need now for an interfaith solidarity movement vs. hate speech.
posted by troutfishing at 9:45 PM on March 1, 2006

I think that progressives ARE embracing the religious left. In fact, they are often one and the same. For example, I can think of numerous occasions locally when assorted pastors and rabbis have spoken out and vigorously supported issues important to gay folks -- sometimes at their own peril. And a lot of progressive religious folks (it seems to be called the "emergent church") are deeply involved in the social justice movement.

And while I wouldn't consider myself a Christian either (I was raised Roman Catholic but lost interest early on), I have no problem with the Jesus message. It's a good one. In fact, love is pretty universal message. I just wish that folks would focus more on the MESSAGE rather than the Jesus as an historical person and and all the Jesus related biblical minutiae. The Bible is a lesson book, not a history book as someone I read put it.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I am really enjoying the recent spate of posts on religion. Keep talking. :)
posted by bim at 10:03 PM on March 1, 2006

Astro Zombie: Thanks for reminding me of that. Unfortunately it's generally the extremes that get the attention but there are plenty of good -- probably the majority of -- religious (Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, etc.) people who are pretty chill.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 11:17 PM on March 1, 2006

Dude that was on Colbert the other night was a cool Christian. Ex-advisor to the Prez? Very, very clear on the separation of church and state, and the disgust with which the red-ink Jesus would view many of today's churches.

And then, come to think of it, Colbert's next guest was a very scary Christian. One of the televangelist "universities," which turns out to be churning out superb debaters who are expected to go to Washington to influence the government. Eek.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 PM on March 1, 2006

"I hardly think that Jesus’ two first priorities would have been a capital gains tax cut and the occupation of Iraq"
"I cited the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus says, “I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. I was a stranger. I was in prison. And you didn’t come to see me. You didn’t minister to me.”
And they say, we didn’t know – “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, stranger, in prison?” And as He says, “As you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to Me.” And so the audience – this young audience – cheered for Matthew 25. I thought it was great.
And then I said, “How did Jesus become pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American?” And I’ll tell you, the response from that youthful, you know, pretty secular crowd of people in the audience and around the country has been just overwhelming."
And so basically we have a real debate about what faith means in the world. Like you said before, is it exclusive or inclusive? Does it support a prosperity gospel that basically says the rich are so because of God’s blessing, and the poor are so because of their own failings and their own faults? Or is this a God who stands on the side of the poor, like the prophets do, and challenge the rich and powerful to change their ways and their policies?
Is this a God who is somehow an American God who has called America to lead a war on terrorism, and even the President to do that? Or as Jesus said, don’t just see the log in your adversary’s eye, but also the one in your own eye. Just to see evil in the faces of September 11th is one thing. Of course, anybody who can’t see evil in the face of September 11th is suffering from some kind of post-modern relativism, I suppose. But to say they are evil and we are good is bad theology. It’s simply bad theology and it leads to bad foreign policy.
-- Jim Wallis
posted by matteo at 12:47 AM on March 2, 2006

"Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system." -Dorothy Day
posted by felix betachat at 12:54 AM on March 2, 2006

Great, this is all we need: the total politicization of all aspects of culture...
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:00 AM on March 2, 2006

Haven't seen this of MeFi yet, but there's a new proposed immigration bill, HR 4437 that would effectively turn priests into felons if they provide charitable services to illegal alients.

Here's a link to an article that pokes fun at the legislation while providing real quotes from relevant (linked) sources, e.g. links to the legislation, quotes from a congressman and Los Angeles' Archbishop Mahony, etc.
posted by Davenhill at 3:36 AM on March 2, 2006

I have at least one member of the religious (Southern Baptist) left in my rhetoric Ph.D. program. A superior caliber of scholar as well. I think there might be more coming up through the ranks across the country.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:52 AM on March 2, 2006

some good progressive christian blogs
posted by hob at 6:48 AM on March 2, 2006

Republicans embrace the hardcore wingnuts. Why aren't progressives embracing the religious left?
From reading MeFi in the last year, I thought that the current progressive line in the US is that all religious people are crazy and evil. Nice to see a post with a different view for once.

I'm atheist, but I'm capable of understanding that Jesus Christ and I agree on a lot of stuff.
posted by fuzz at 8:10 AM on March 2, 2006

Nice post! Stupid people don't own God.
posted by Laugh_track at 8:34 AM on March 2, 2006

It's not that surprising to British ears. In the UK most Christian involvement in politics is left of centre. In fact, I would think that most of the, very limited, dogmatic right-wing Christian politics we get here has migrated from the US. Issues like poverty and fairtrade are typically much more important than abortion or gay marrige.
posted by prentiz at 8:49 AM on March 2, 2006

fuzz: From reading MeFi in the last year, I thought that the current progressive line in the US is that all religious people are crazy and evil. Nice to see a post with a different view for once.

Well, MeFi is dominated by people who think "activism" means writing something on metafilter or a few other sites. If you get out on the streets, the protests, and the campaign offices I've found that it's the people of faith who are most active, and willing to take the risks of jail time.

But the Christian Coalition has been much more successful at pimping a media presence than more liberal religious groups. As a result, Kerry made more news for disagreeing with the RCC over abortion, than Bush made for disagreeing with the UMC over war in Iraq.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2006

My experience has been that there are liberal Christians wherever there are liberals and Christians. The religious right has hijacked a number of denominations and christian movements, and made a lot of noise about its presence, which is why (I think) we tend to associated "Christian" with "right-wing fundamentalist." But they're just one segment of a larger whole. There are even some liberal evangelicals, as weird as that sounds, many of them in the "emergent" movement.

Was it Dick van Patten or Kierkegaard who said, "If you label me, you negate me."? The politicization of Christianity has generated way too many labels, if you ask me.
posted by vraxoin at 10:06 AM on March 2, 2006

Thanks for the post qounsar.

A person can find reasonable Christian people and information almost everywhere except for the "liberal media."

Progressive Christians don't serve the corporate interests very well, never have. And that's why it's so hard to find the progressive message in current corporate media.
posted by nofundy at 10:31 AM on March 2, 2006

David Hilfiker is right. We need to bring the poor to justice.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:30 PM on March 2, 2006

One reason you don't hear about left christians is that most "progressive" Christians believe in the separation of church and state. Add that our (liberal, mainline) churches are declining [for lots of reasons other than theology. Bad music, for example. Overworked parents. Low birth rates. a diminishment of a volunteer culture [which has more to do with economics than anything].

In my own church, you'd also find a bit more theological diversity than your average megachurch. Three of the old ladies in my [episcopal] church don't believe in the afterlife and even a couple of the conservative ones think of the virgin birth as a metaphor. They are perfectly aware that the rules are man made (at least, I'm reminded of this when I insist on a particular rule). Not that mainline Christians are particularly pleasant or universally left-wing, but you'd find they represent the spectrum of the sensible (and, of course, there are a few loons).

For example, Bible studies in mainline churches, while usually reverential, are rarely about indoctrination, but are mainly sources for conversation and storytelling. In most of the ones I've led, there is often disagreement with the biblical worldview. But what anti-religious person would spend the time going to a mainline church bible study? For what reason?

In my citywide clergy group, every cleric is progressive except for two, who are more like hawkish Democrats.
posted by john wilkins at 10:30 PM on March 2, 2006

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