Sunday, May 21, 2006

Religious left?

An article in the Washington Post claims, "The religious left is back." The evidence is surprisingly weak, however, and I feel even less convinced that leftists have strong influence in the religion department now than I did before reading the article. For there to be a true "religious left," this group would have to be defined independently from anti-war protests. Of course many Christians are against war; why should that come as a surprise? If faith-based anti-war rallies were a demonstration of there being a religious left, we would have to look at the Catholic Church as a liberal organization.

The article goes on to quote a "religious" Unitarian Universalist and sites the formation of a group called the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Unitarian? Spiritual? They're not even tied to an actual religion. That's the best they could come up with?

As a final resort, the article discusses--desperately--the fact that some Democrats in Congress are actively religious. There's a shocker.

At best, the article could have shown that there were a significant number of people on the left who happened to be privately religious. If this were the case--and the article does not even successfully prove that much--this would be unlikely to constitute a "religious left." That term seems to describe a group of people whose politics and religious beliefs are interwoven. To merge politics and religion, however, would be against the basic principles of the left. A group of religious leftists, then, would still just be leftists who happened to be religious, not a "religious left."

UPDATE: I retract the last paragraph of this post. In fact, I apologize for what a bad post this is. My blog is new, I've experimented with different styles of posts. This is one style I probably will not be doing again. In my defense, please note the time at which it was written.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They're not even tied to an actual religion."

Wow. Where to start? Nowhere, I guess. Your opinions are so strong as to have convinced yourself.

I think many Unitarians would disagree that they are not "religious" or "spiritual". Because they're not one of Big 3, they don't count?

Also, this statement is incorrect or overinclusive: "To merge politics and religion, however, would be against the basic principles of the left."

You are thinking of the secular (or elitist it is often described) "loud" left. Many many liberals have not only incorporated religion into politics, but into their entire lives -- working and voting.

If you knew the history of some of our faith-based social service providers over the years -- think hospitals -- you might rethink your blanket statements. Right now, it's more efficient in many places to have the marketplace determine and provide services, I agree. But who originally established many of these social institutions? The religious left.

They build the buildings and staffed many departments, and later were replaced by specialists and sold to secular interests, in many cases. This is a good thing, for specialization, efficiency, and understanding of now serving a more diverse population, where in the past we were more segregated by things like religion in where one lived.

Don't count out the spiritual liberals. They are not as noticeable or loud as their more secular counterparts like the Hollywood crew (or rich) but I would venture to say it's the little people who daily incorporate their spirituality into their liberal politics that helped build this country and will help secure her future. The marketplace alone does not function to create and build from the groundup so much, as devotion and belief. Both work best together, not in isolation.

And I wonder, are you really so dismissive of the power of the Unitarians? They will only grow in the future, and hopefully their voices will become more recognized ... once they are not banned from buying tv time because their message of inclusion is so controversial.

Interesting blog overall. I agree with you about memories of uncomfortableness in high school locker rooms (girls take time to put on powder and cream and talk about shaving their legs, etc. so don't think only guys have an extended "naked time".) Also, you're lucky in that the default lockerroom for kids is the women's room: Am I a prude if I don't want your 5 year old (boy or girl) staring (yes staring -- no casual glances from kids) at me while I try to air dry and get changed? Happens way more than once, but what can you do?

As for that funny toy shop: don't bitch. There's not enough clever places like that for childless adults to shop and have a bit of fun picking out presents. If you're uncomfortable, why take a child there and not to the generic Toys R Us? This blanding of everything to "protect the children" has to end somewhere, don't you think? Toy stores should be fun for adults too, without worrying about what to tell the kiddies. They'll grow up and get the jokes soon enough, and hopefully won't be too traumatized by innocent arrangements

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

anonymous: Please stay on topic if you're going to comment here. If you want to comment about other posts, do it on those posts.

I never said that Unitarians were not spiritual, I said they were not tied to any religion, and they aren't.

As for the last statement in the post, I probably should have said that merging the two isn't consistent with current left values. It was very late when I wrote this and I could have worded it better.

1:37 PM  
Blogger amba said...

I have a friend who's Methodist (though she is descended from big shots in the Mormon Church) and she epitomizes the religious left. She says, Jesus said to care for the poor, "the least." He said not a word about homosexuality . . . The Methodist church is close to splitting over that issue, rather like the Episcopalians. My friend is deeply involved in activism for immigrants (she favors full legalization for illegals) and full equality for gays, and in campaigning for candidates (including PA's pro-life Bob Casey) who can help get the Republicans out of power. And she would say that her activities are based on the teachings of Jesus -- to protect the outsider, the weak and the meek.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please stay on topic if you're going to comment here.

If you want to comment about other posts, do it on those posts.

It was very late when I wrote this and I could have worded it better.

Nevermind then.
Sorry to have troubled you with contradictory views, and in the wrong place at that!
Good luck with the Althouse Jr. blog and the buff guys!

9:04 AM  
Blogger Freeman Hunt said...

No need to apologize for this post.

I used to be a Unitarian Universalist. The hymns are hilarious. Everyone must feel comfortable with the words, so the hymns can't mention anything specific. Basically you're left with, "Isn't life great? It sure is great. Maybe there are supernatural things and maybe there aren't, but it's okay. Let's all be nice to everyone."

1:41 AM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

freeman hunt: Thanks for the funny insight. I'm actually not apologizing for the Unitarian stuff--I still think it's not a real religion. The fact that it's not even a requirement that you believe in God is sort of the deal breaker for me. In fact, I pretty much stand by everything I said about the evidence the article uses. At the end, though, I think that--in my half-awake stream of consciousness--I sort of babbled my way into saying something that was obviously wrong. Normally, in writing, you can just edit/delete things the next day if it's not up to your standard, but with blogging I feel like I'm obligated to keep something up no matter what. So, I now have a new rule for myself: no late night real-issues blogging.

1:51 AM  

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