Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Religious Right Implosion?

by dsteffen

Sun Jan 22, 2006 at 09:49:37 AM PDT

An Associated Press article in our local paper this morning caught my eye. It deals with a single denomination of the "values" coalition, but I think it's symptomatic of what's to come.

"Conservatives who loved the battles of decades past have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of bloodthirst," [Rev. Wade] Burleson wrote. "Since all the liberals are gone, conservative crusaders are now killing fellow conservatives."

Those of us who cut our political teeth in the radical left movements of sixties knew this one was coming, someday. That day may be here. And it may be good news for 2006 and beyond. More on the flip.

The article deals with divisions among the Southern Baptists. Burleson, apparently, has argued recently for inclusion, criticizing attempts by the Southern Baptist Convention to reign in believers who don't tow the line. And it's not just the liberal Baptists:

Burleson first rankled the board over an obscure policy change: Trustees of the International Mission Board voted in November to bar future missionaries, from using a "private prayer language," or speaking in tongues in private. Previously, missionaries were discouraged from speaking in tongues publicly, but their private prayer was not monitored.

The practice is common among Pentecostals, whose spirited brand of Christianity is spreading rapidly throughout countries where Southern Baptist missionaries work, and in the United States. Many conservative Protestants, however, reject the practice.

Burleson's reward for championing religious freedom, even on so narrow a scale?

About a month later, trustees voted him out. Delegates to the annual Southern Baptist gathering in June will decide whether to approve his removal from the board...

I have thought from the very beginning that the Christian right coalition was an extremely fragile partnership, possible only as long as each element didn't really know what their fellow travelers thought. It's a movement full of marriages of convenience, a lot of go-along-to-get-along, and the strangest of bedfellows. It seemed to me that once they thought the liberal "enemy" was dispatched, the leadership would turn its venomous hatred inward and start purging its own. I thought that for one very simple reason: been there, done that. In the late sixties, we watched the radical left movement disintegrate into a jumble of warring factions who seemed to hate each other as much or more than they hated the "establishment".

The "People's Liberation Front of Judea" routine from Monty Python's Life of Brian was so funny because we all recognize that it's so true. And the Christian Right--God on their side or not--are not immune.

How many of the "values" voters who went to the polls in 2004 would have been so eager to usher in a new "Christian America" if they had known one of the leaders of that movement had been going around saying stuff like this?

"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them."
--Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991

Now those divisions may be beginning to be exposed--not just across denominational lines, but within a single denomination itself. (Although I'm sure Pat's words were twisted and taken out of context... </snark> )

Back to the AP article:

"The Southern Baptist leadership is so ideologically driven that it's almost impossible for them not to continually draw lines and narrow the boundaries," [The Rev. Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School in North Carolina and a critic of the conservative takeover] said. "In the early stages, this was publicly evident with the moderates and liberals. Now, when the convention meets annually in June, you wonder who they're going to throw out this year. There's always somebody."

I've often thought that there were issues like this out there that had the potential to be an enormous wedge in countering the "values" movement. Now that there are early indications that the Southern Baptists may be heading for their "Robespierre moment", I'd like to ask, "What can I do to help?"

Tags: Religion, Religious Right, Christianity, christian right, values, Values Voters (all tags)

Hey, count us in!

The so-called christian-right are some of the must dangerous people on earth.


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