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Old 07-29-2013, 04:44 AM  
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The Rise of the Christian Left in America

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...merica/278086/

In June 1979, a coalition of conservative religious leaders led by a Jewish Howard Phillips, Catholic Paul Weyrich, and evangelical televangelist Jerry Falwell banded together to wage a political "holy war" against the liberal establishment. They called their organization the "Moral Majority" to signify the large number of social conservatives they believed were being ignored across American culture.

Forming a political action committee, the organization registered 4 million voters in 1980 and purchased $10 million in radio and television ads questioning President Carter's patriotism and Christianity. Its message struck a chord with a large swath of Americans, and their efforts are credited with helping to elect Ronald Reagan. More importantly, the birth of the coalition began of a period of political dominance for the religious conservatives that would span at least three decades.

But according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with the Brookings Institution, the religious balance of power is shifting in ways that could make the religious left the new "Moral Majority," figuratively speaking. If current trends persist, religious progressives will soon outnumber religious conservatives, a group that is shrinking with each successive generation, the data show.

PRRI reports that 23 percent of 18- to 33-year-olds are religious progressives, 17 percent are religious conservatives, and 22 percent are nonreligious. By contrast, only 12 percent of 66- to 88-year-olds are religious progressives, while about half are religious conservatives. The survey used a religious-orientation scale that "combines theological, economic, and social outlooks."

"What you clearly see in the data when you move from the oldest Americans to youngest Americans is a stability among religious moderates and decreased appeal in religious conservatism," says PRRI CEO Robert Jones.



One might assume that the increasing diversity of the population is a driving factor in the shift, but Jones says this is not the case. African-Americans tend to be theologically conservative -- 49 percent, as opposed to 14 percent who are liberals -- but are more progressive on economic and social issues. Hispanic Americans are far more likely to be religiously moderate, and they don't tip the scales one way or the other. "It's mostly age," Jones says. "Younger whites, whose parents were far more conservative, are the ones who look significantly different."

Progressive religious leaders seem predictably pleased. David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and author of The Future of Faith in American Politics who describes his political instincts as center-left, says he is neither surprised nor disturbed by younger generations' progressive tilt.

"I am generally glad, at least in terms of hope for progress on justice and peace issues that I care a whole lot about," Gushee says. "Much of what goes out under the name of Christian conservatism I find odious, so there is not a lot of grief in this office today about the new data."

Gushee believes conservative evangelicals need to come to terms with their fading constituency and with the "impossibility of 'taking back America' for their vision at least as it currently exists."

Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization, says shifts are due to young people choosing to identify with Jesus and his teachings as opposed to a particular political party. Harper believes the GOP is being pulled to the far right by extremists on issues like abortion, thus forgetting and alienating those whom Jesus affirmed and advocated for: poor people, ethnic minorities, and women.

"I think the focus on the person of Jesus is birthing a younger generation inspired by [Jesus' Sermon on the Mount]," she says. "Their political agenda is shaped by Jesus' call to feed the hungry, make sure the thirsty have clean water, make sure all have access to healthcare, transform America into a welcoming place for immigrants, fix our inequitable penal system, and end abject poverty abroad and in the forgotten corners of our urban and rural communities."

Though Harper might dispute it, many would argue her list sounds like a liberal wish list. It's certainly at variance with the agenda of many conservative Christians, which would include opposing abortion and gay marriage and protecting religious liberty. It is also perhaps emblematic of the way the growing numbers of religious progressives are thinking.

So how can we expect these shifts to affect American public square? Will religious progressives cohere into a political movement like their conservative counterparts did in the late 1970s and 1980s? Will the religious left become the next "Moral Majority"?

Jones says it's too early to tell. A constituency in itself does not a "movement" make. The latter depends on infrastructure, organization, and leadership, elements that American religious progressives have not been able to produce -- despite various attempts -- on the scale that the religious right has.

Religious progressives face three hurdles to morphing into a true movement, Jones says. They are more ethnically diverse than conservatives, so they have fewer natural affinities than their counterparts on the right. They are also more geographically dispersed across America. Conservatives, on the other hand, are heavily concentrated in the South and Midwest, which makes for easier mobilizing. And finally, progressives are more religiously diffuse, which is to say that religion is only one of many influences shaping the way progressives think and behave.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to interpret the erosion of conservatism among young religious whites as anything but bad news for the latter-day leaders of the religious right like Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins who rely heavily on that demographic. If the data are correct, these leaders' dominant days may be ending sooner than expected.

Not every conservative religious leader is sweating it. Russell Moore, the recently elected president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, says he doesn't put much stock in surveys like PRRI's. He believes that the type of religion that survives and shapes cultures shows up in local congregations.

"Congregationally speaking, Protestant liberalism is deader than Henry VIII. While survey after survey shows a secularizing American population, this hasn't helped the growth of liberal Protestant churches," he says. "Where are the Unitarian mega-churches, the Episcopalian church-planting movements?"

Moore doesn't believe religious conservatives, particularly Christians, are fading. But he does think they will be culturally marginalized in the future.

"We will seem increasingly conservative," he says, "not because we are passing out voter's guides but because we believe in such culturally incredible things as that every life matters, that marriage is a permanent one-flesh union of a man to a woman, and, above all, that Jesus of Nazareth is alive, and Lord."

Moore's predictions may be right, but for now we only have data. And the data indicate that the growth of religious progressives may soon shift a balance of power that has existed for more than a quarter century. The conservative faithful will continue to have a voice in the public square, at least for some time. But now they'll have to learn to sing in harmony, rather than solo.
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Old 07-29-2013, 04:35 PM   #46
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Pat calling the recent swath of state bills (i.e., Texas, North Carolina, et al) legislating women's bodies "rational" and "reasonable" is disturbing.
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Old 07-29-2013, 04:51 PM   #47
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Pat calling the recent swath of state bills (i.e., Texas, North Carolina, et al) legislating women's bodies "rational" and "reasonable" is disturbing.
The most "draconian" legislation still allows for abortion for up to six weeks after conception. That's a pretty big concession from the point of view of a conservative Christian who believes it's the equivalent of murder. Compare that to the partial birth abortion advocates who don't want even a day's worth of separation between legal abortion and birth.

The vast majority of restrictions are far less restrictive than that.

Edit: Oh, and that "draconian" legislation isn't even law because it's been blocked by the courts. In other words, it's been reduced to lip service, pending a landmark SCOTUS decision.
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Old 07-29-2013, 05:07 PM   #48
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Old 07-29-2013, 05:19 PM   #49
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There's a reason why atheists overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Unless you have a better explanation for why that is, it's probably got something to do with the Democratic Party being less Christian. Gee, just a guess.
That doesn't surprise me. The GOP sold its soul to Christian politics a long time ago. The "Christian Right" is the elephant in the room that all of the GOP candidates feel obligated to pander to. When you pander to someone's opposite, you are going to lose their support.
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Old 07-29-2013, 05:41 PM   #50
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The bolded sentence is a legitimate criticism of the church as a whole. But the left-leaning churches which eschew any doctrine are basically just social clubs or organizations, and won't be around long. When doctrine is abandoned for social justice or philanthropy no lives are changed, there is no staying power. Look at Europe.
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Old 07-29-2013, 07:31 PM   #51
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The bolded sentence is a legitimate criticism of the church as a whole. But the left-leaning churches which eschew any doctrine are basically just social clubs or organizations, and won't be around long. When doctrine is abandoned for social justice or philanthropy no lives are changed, there is no staying power. Look at Europe.
Learn something about your own religion. There have been and still are very leftist Catholic churches throughout central and south america.
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Old 07-29-2013, 07:32 PM   #52
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Old 07-30-2013, 07:40 AM   #53
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I'm not talking about the people. I'm talking about the legal environment and the culture.
We're not talking abotu "culture". You were mentioning the law.


Quote:
My evidence is that abortion is alive and well
Has been 40 years now. Restrictions are more common now and more state roadblocks are being attempted so if anything the law is moving away from abortion rights.


Quote:
, stem cell research is expanding,
Didn't exist 30 years ago, hence can't judge it's trajectory.

Quote:
same sex marriage is busting out all over the place,
I'll grant that one.

Quote:
popular entertainment involves a lot more explicit sex/language
,

Not a law, and it's no different than it's been for decades.

Quote:
and several states have legalized marijuana.
Even Jimmy Carter ran in 1976 on de-criminalizing marijuana. Some states have tried to pass these laws but they're not being upheld by the Feds. Adn the laws only cover medicinal rights anyway. Besides it's nothing but a bored young person's drug anyway;





Quote:
Edit: Add that no fault divorce has been adopted in all 50 states and gay adoption is much more widely accepted.

Again, I'll give you the gays (who you love with all your precious little heart). But no fault divorce has been around since the 60s and it's been prevalent for a long time most places.
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Old 07-30-2013, 08:31 AM   #54
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Has been 40 years now. Restrictions are more common now and more state roadblocks are being attempted so if anything the law is moving away from abortion rights.
Uh, I already said that. Nonetheless, abortion is still legal everywhere. Maybe you're satisfied with parental notification requirements or limitations on late term abortions, but that's not what most social conservatives have been seeking for the past 30 years.

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Didn't exist 30 years ago, hence can't judge it's trajectory.
You can definitely judge the trajectory. After a brief period in which very mild limits were imposed by the Bush administration (limits on government funded research, but no limits on private research), those limits have now been lifted. Full speed ahead.

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Not a law, and it's no different than it's been for decades.
I'll grant that it's not a law, but it's very different. Maybe you're unfamiliar with the movies and music of the 70s and 80s, but today's versions are far more explicit. And since you're more sensitive to it, maybe you'll recognize that homosexuality is openly celebrated and ubiquitous on TV now where it was subtle and uncommon then.

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Even Jimmy Carter ran in 1976 on de-criminalizing marijuana. Some states have tried to pass these laws but they're not being upheld by the Feds. Adn the laws only cover medicinal rights anyway. Besides it's nothing but a bored young person's drug anyway;
The laws in some states allow for recreational use. It doesn't matter that there were efforts in the 70s. What matters is that success happened well after the Moral Majority entered the picture. And the success is spreading.

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Again, I'll give you the gays (who you love with all your precious little heart). But no fault divorce has been around since the 60s and it's been prevalent for a long time most places.
The expansion of no fault divorce happened right around the time that the Moral Majority was entering politics. And yes, it's been prevalent since then despite the "political clout" of social conservatives. It's just another failure of social conservatism in the culture wars. Unlike the failures in the same sex marriage arena, this one is lamentable.
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Old 07-30-2013, 08:53 AM   #55
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No-fault has been available in all 50 states the past 30 years so I'm really not sure what your point is there. Stem Cells? Never seen it show up on any voter list of top-20 issues. Hasn't changed much anyway:


Social conservatives have won big on the drug war because (1) hard drugs are still not allowed as they were for many years of the early US history, (2) massive penalties for users i.e. 3-strikes, (3) ongoing military ops in foreign countries continue onward reducing importation, although it does still happen.


*Death penalty: clear win for the social conservatives. That issue isn't even debated by the Left any longer.

*Gun rights. Another clear win, not debateable. In the 1960s it sure was.

*ERA. Clear win for social conservatives.



Finally, the key thing here is that the conservatives have made the GOP more conservative than it otherwise would be. The Left & Dems haven't moved much on any of these issues the past 30 years but the Moral Majority can't really do anything about them, can it?

http://www.gallup.com/poll/118546/Re...al-Issues.aspx
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:33 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by Prison Bitch View Post
No-fault has been available in all 50 states the past 30 years so I'm really not sure what your point is there. Stem Cells? Never seen it show up on any voter list of top-20 issues. Hasn't changed much anyway:


Social conservatives have won big on the drug war because (1) hard drugs are still not allowed as they were for many years of the early US history, (2) massive penalties for users i.e. 3-strikes, (3) ongoing military ops in foreign countries continue onward reducing importation, although it does still happen.


*Death penalty: clear win for the social conservatives. That issue isn't even debated by the Left any longer.

*Gun rights. Another clear win, not debateable. In the 1960s it sure was.

*ERA. Clear win for social conservatives.



Finally, the key thing here is that the conservatives have made the GOP more conservative than it otherwise would be. The Left & Dems haven't moved much on any of these issues the past 30 years but the Moral Majority can't really do anything about them, can it?

http://www.gallup.com/poll/118546/Re...al-Issues.aspx
Clarification: I've been talking about the social conservatism that comes from religious beliefs or morality (as embraced by the Moral Majority). While guns and the death penalty are a part of a broader concept of social conservatism, they don't really have anything to do with what I've been talking about.

On the one hand, you argue that no fault divorce was prevalent before the rise of the Moral Majority, but on the other, you claim victory as a result of continued prohibition for hard drugs. I would argue that the trend in both divorce and drugs is against you.

The ERA failed in 1979. I guess social conservatives have "won" a minor victory over the fact that it hasn't been revived despite some efforts to do so from the left, but it's trivial.

If you're satisfied with the results of the past 30 years, I'm not going to argue with you. Religious conservatives are to the Republican party what blacks are to the democrats. Your vote is much appreciated, but don't expect me to work too hard to advance your agenda.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:40 AM   #57
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Death penalty is very much a moral majority issue, you can argue either way on guns. The areas of heavy support for social conservatism are also the strongest pro-gun areas so it overlaps if not correlates.


And I agree 100% with you that you don't have to do anything to help social conservatism, just like we don't have to help your neo-conservatism. I'm not quite certain what neo-cons have really won the past 40 years either, outside of the 2002 Iraq War vote (which of course destroyed the party for a decade running now). When you nominate Juan McCain, I won't be there to help you out Patteu.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:48 AM   #58
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Death penalty is very much a moral majority issue, you can argue either way on guns. The areas of heavy support for social conservatism are also the strongest pro-gun areas so it overlaps if not correlates.


And I agree 100% with you that you don't have to do anything to help social conservatism, just like we don't have to help your neo-conservatism. I'm not quite certain what neo-cons have really won the past 40 years either, outside of the 2002 Iraq War vote (which of course destroyed the party for a decade running now). When you nominate Juan McCain, I won't be there to help you out Patteu.
No, neither death penalty nor guns is relevant here.

My brand of national security conservatism (call it neocon if you want) won the Cold War, for one thing. You're welcome.

Which POTUS candidate did you vote for in 2008?
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:55 AM   #59
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Ok, you can pick and choose what you want on this topic. (Euthanasia probably another one that's ineligible eh?). The key point you don't grasp is the "But For" nature of the question. Saying social conservatives have failed because they haven't gotten their way ignores the fact that "but for" their efforts, all of these issues would already be far left. Abortion on demand would be everywhere, Churches would be taxed, gay marriage would be in every state, etc etc.

I voted Constitution Party in 2008. I thought your candidate was a disgraceful, sick joke. He's done nothing since to disprove my assessment. PS: The cold war ended in 1989, that's 25 yeras ago now.
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:06 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by Prison Bitch View Post
Ok, you can pick and choose what you want on this topic. (Euthanasia probably another one that's ineligible eh?). The key point you don't grasp is the "But For" nature of the question. Saying social conservatives have failed because they haven't gotten their way ignores the fact that "but for" their efforts, all of these issues would already be far left. Abortion on demand would be everywhere, Churches would be taxed, gay marriage would be in every state, etc etc.
No, I'd say euthanasia is clearly within the scope. And on that issue you've lost ground too. I think it's great that you're content with "but for".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prison Bitch View Post
I voted Constitution Party in 2008. I thought your candidate was a disgraceful, sick joke. He's done nothing since to disprove my assessment. PS: The cold war ended in 1989, that's 25 yeras ago now.
Half a vote for Obama. Talk about disgraceful.

Just to clear up your confusion, McCain was never my candidate. I voted for him reluctantly because I didn't want to help Obama win like you did. You should redesign your attempt to criticize me by using Romney instead.

Yes, I'm aware of when the cold war ended. If abortion had been abolished 25 years ago, you'd have something to crow about too.
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