Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Religious Right concedes defeat

That is the headline of a story last Friday in the Telegraph.co.uk . "Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle." They see the church as the main victim of this failing. "Unease is rising that a nation founded - in the view of evangelicals - purely as a Christian country will soon, like northern Europe, become “post-Christian”. Recent surveys have suggested that the American religious landscape has shifted significantly. A study by Trinity College in Connecticut found that 11 per cent fewer Americans identify themselves as Christian than 20 years ago. Those stating no religious affiliation or declaring themselves agnostic has risen from 8.2 per cent in 1990 to 15 per cent in 2008."

Their anger is not aimed at liberals, however. "A growing legion of disenchanted grassroots believers does not blame liberal opponents for the decline in faith or the failures of the religious Right. Rather, they hold responsible Republicans - particularly Mr Bush - and groups like Focus on the Family that have worked with the party, for courting Christian voters only to betray promises of pursuing the conservative agenda once in office." I see an object lesson for liberal Christians and UUs in all this. We have been taking the same route, with far too many expressing their religion by faxing congressmen rather than serving their community. We are in a very real and present danger of having this evangelical's lament becoming ours: "Ray Moore, president of Exodus Mandate, a South Carolina-based group which organises home-schooling for Christian children, said: “Political involvement by Christians is not wrong, but that’s all the big groups did for 25 years. They were more concerned with fund-raising and political power than they were with our children’s welfare.” Any objective observer would say that sounds a whole lot like us- anyone who receives the social justice emails must acknowledge it.

We must take this lesson to heart. Politicians and political movements come and go- the pendulum always swings. I have lived long enough to see both the Democratic and Republican parties, both Liberalism and Conservatism, declared dead and buried. The way to avoid being swept aside by the swings is to lead on moral principal rather than following partisan positions- which we have been guilty of in the past. I hope the new President of the UUA, no matter who it may be, will stand firm on the separation of church and political party, so that we UUs can avoid in the future the frustration the Religious Right is feeling today.

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