The Rev. Andrew Weaver writes about the Conservative Catholic Influence in the Institue for Religion and Democracy, and its growing influence. They constitute about a third of the board (about the same proportion of Catholics in the country, I think), but have undermined the general ecumenical work between Catholics and protestants. What is interesting is how anti-Catholic, also, their theology truly is, especially when it comes to capitalism.
He writes: While Father Neuhaus and his Catholic cohorts have built and sustained an organization that has consistently labored to generate suspicion and hostility
about mainstream Protestant leaders, not a penny has been spent nor
staff member assigned to attempt to change anything about the Catholic
Church. This conduct constitutes the single greatest breach in
ecumenical good will between Roman Catholics and Protestants since
Weaver quotes a former editor of First Things: The America toward which Richard John Neuhaus wishes to lead us -- [is]
an America...in which moral and theological absolutists demonize the
country's political institutions and make nonnegotiable public demands
under the threat of sacralized revolutionary violence, in which
citizens flee from the inner obligations of freedom and long to
subordinate themselves to ecclesiastical authority, and in which
traditionalist Christianity thoroughly dominates the nation's public
life (Linker, 2006).
Is Neuhaus aware that American Idol and Project Runway are more important than church these days, and that young people are simply ignoring adults about sex?
Weaver concludes: Imagine the outcry from Catholic leaders, a fully justified response,
if a highly influential group of Protestants obtained a million dollars
a year from left-wing sources to generate a propaganda campaign against
the leadership of the Catholic Church over the issues of the ordination
of women and divorce. Moreover, this Protestant-directed group
constantly sought to undermine Catholic leaders and missions through
twisted and demeaning distortions of what they said, while seeking no
reforms in their own communions. This is exactly the situation we have
Although I generally think Protestant Christianity has rendered "god-talk" to be redundant, and has not called young leaders of great talent, I do believe that there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the liberal, magnanimous, social justice tradition that is a crucial part of American culture - via Henry Ward Beecher, Walter Rauschenbushc, Henry Fosdick, William Sloane Coffin among others. Perhaps protestants were right: Catholics would undermine the American traditions of sympathy, mutual aid and civil rights.
Charles Darwin and Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden
have three things in common: a fascination with barnacles, a passionate
desire to understand evolution, and a knack for controversy. While
writing Evolution's Rainbow a few years ago, Roughgarden
concluded that the astonishing diversity of sexual types and
interactions meant that Darwin's theory of sexual selection (based on
competitive males and choosy females) was not just wrong, but
unfixable. She wants to replace it with social selection, in which a
wide variety of social interactions, say, same-sex bonding and group
membership, determine an animal's reproductive success and therefore
shape bodies and behaviours. Her cooperation-based theory would, she
argues, explain not just the peacock's tail, but the female spotted
hyena's clitoral penis, the bonobo's use of sex for bartering and
bonding, and the side-blotched lizard's five sexual types. Not
surprisingly, most biologists are unwilling to jettison sexual
selection. Some see her critique as a political statement reflecting
her experience of metamorphosing from John to Joan in her early 50s.
But many others take her ideas seriously, even if they strongly
disagree. Roughgarden, a practising Christian, has now ventured into
the face-off between evolution and religion. Robert Adler talked to her at her San Francisco flat.
THE popular debate about intelligent design has,
I am happy to say, discredited fundamentalists who want to censor
science for religious reasons. It has also exposed pseudo-scientific
organisations such as the Discovery Institute for what they are.
Nevertheless, in pitching misguided evangelicals against the scientific
community, it has had one negative effect: it has encouraged scientists
to counter-attack by criticising religious faith in general.
attacks are nothing new. One of the more outspoken scientific opponents
of religion, physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at
Austin, has said: "There are good people, and bad people. Good people
do good things, and bad people do bad things. When good people do bad
things, it is religion." It was a brilliant sound bite, but one of
Weinberg's less vituperative statements is more instructive: "Science
does not make it impossible to believe in God. It just makes it
possible to not believe in God." His point is that before the advent of
modern science, all natural phenomena were viewed as miraculous, for
want of any better explanation.
Liberal values represent the essence of the world’s great religions. At
the root of all of the great faiths are fundamental beliefs in
compassion, justice, love, and charity. We have the right — dare I say
the duty? — to express ourselves as moral agents without the imprimatur of ecclesiastical authority.
Spoken the right way, arguments for the embodiment of these values
in our civic life can ring with the divine provenance granted to them
by believers. And indeed, religious activists — especially our
ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams — are vital to our movement. But
to expect them alone to create a moral counterforce to the destructive
fear mongering of the right is not only unrealistic, it’s an
expectation rooted in abdication of our own role as moral agents.
Thousands of years ago, the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tse is
said to have told his followers: “Religious robes are no more holy than
work clothes.” Now, let’s get to work.
I think she is formally correct. Of course my religious robes are "work" clothes. My holy clothes are my jeans and my T-Shirt that says "what wouldn't Jesus do?"
Liberal principles to may not be explicitly religious, but they may have [and must have] some implicit foundations. Religious leaders may help reveal our implicit values in the public sphere; and they also have the calling to organize and gather. She might be right that the religious left isn't necessary for its own sake - we might not be. But it would be to her own detriment if she decided that we didn't have skills that would be useful for transforming this country into a compassionate, and responsible place. I think progressives do themselves a disservice by not working closely with religious leaders.
Where are the young progressive preachers in positions of leadership?
Kazin quotes Debby Applegate "what Beecher
brought to American culture in an era of bewildering change and
fratricidal war was unconditional love so deep and so wide that the
entire country could feel his warmth, like it or not." ... For Beecher, sinfulness was a temporary malady, which the love of God
could burn away as a fierce noonday sun dries up a noxious mold. "Man
was made for enjoyment," he assured parishioners. If he sought his own
pleasure in the arms of one or more members of his flock, it should not
have been too surprising.
When a modern conservative says that liberalism is "destroying" America, he's talking about another America, the good, joyful, exuberant America. Of course, there was a time when liberals were also joyful and exuberant.
Now its just capitalists and military contractors.
All right. I realize I am supposed to be all-merciful, universally
loving, the Light and the Way and everything, but even a divine avatar
of the Supreme Being's loving grace has His limits. I know I've said
many times that there is always room for one more—even the lowliest—at
the table of the Lord, but even so, there is just no freaking way I'm
redeeming this S.O.B.
I don't want to name names, but his initials are Gus Feigert,
owner-operator of Fei gert Automotive down on Seybold Road, by the
gas station. There, I said it. And you know what? I don't care. I'm
glad I said his name. If he's going to suffer damnation for all
eternity—which, I assure you, he most certainly is—then I don't see how
much more damage revealing his identity during his brief time on Earth
is going to cause the bastard in the long run.
It is just as I suspected. I was never, myself, convinced by Christianity through appeals to the afterlife, divine punishment or "sin." Christianity may be a language that we teach people to speak - and it just isn't being spoken by those immersed in contemporary culture. Ruth Gledhill writes:
THE Church of England
has debunked the widely held view that young people are spiritual seekers on a
journey to find transcendent truths to fill the “God-shaped hole”
A report published by
the Church today indicates that young people are quite happy with a life
without God and prefer car boot sales to church.
If they think about
church at all, the images young people come up with are
“cardigans”, “sandals and socks”, “corrupt”,
“traditionalist” and “stagnant”.
Alright. We clearly need better fashion.
The authors began their
work believing that even if the young had little knowledge of Christianity they
would still have religious or spiritual yearnings. They were shocked to find
that they did not.
Personally, the premise is pretty faulty. I remember thinking more about girls than God. And it was a lovely young violinist at Evensong that converted me to the mysteries of the church. The music! What kids are interested in is power.
people do not feel disenchanted, lost or alienated in a meaningless world.
“Instead, the data indicated that they found meaning and significance in
the reality of everyday life, which the popular arts helped them to understand
and imbibe.” Their creed could be defined as: “This world, and all
life in it, is meaningful as it is,” translated as: “There is no
need to posit ultimate significance elsewhere beyond the immediate experience
of everyday life.” The goal in life of young people was happiness
achieved primarily through the family.
The researchers were
also shocked to discover little sense of sin or fear of death. Nor did they
find any Freudian guilt as a result of private sensual desires. The young
people were, however, afraid of growing old.
In their advice to the
Church, the report’s authors say that the first thing to do is
“avoid panic”. It recommends means of reconnecting with young
people such as through alternative worship forms, traditional buildings, church
schools and civic occasions where Anglican clergy often officiate.
However, the authors
also note the obvious contrast between the view of Generation Y that life is
generally benign with the figures showing rises in eating disorders, substance
abuse, teenage suicide, bullying and sexual abuse.
The authors conclude:
“We live in an instant culture, which c
be reached by instant missionary tactics.” And the desire for happiness
is valid and should not be criticised by clergy. “It can only be
outclassed by a Christ-like way of life, for in him alone is true happiness to
So what is at stake here? What is God telling us through this study? I think it is pretty clear that the traditional forms of evangelizing just won't cut it. We'll have to spend a lot more time thinking about who we are in relationship to youth culture.
Of course, it is possible that youthfulness should not be idolized. It is just one way of being fully alive.