Chris Hedges’ book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America also takes moderates to task. Taking a page out of Sam Harris’ book, the author chides moderates this way:
Mainstream Christians can also cherry-pick the Bible to create a Jesus
and God who are always loving and compassionate. Such Christians often
fail to acknowledge that there are hateful passages in the Bible that
give sacred authority to the rage, self-aggrandizement and intolerance
of the Christian Right. Church leaders must denounce the biblical
passages that champion apocalyptic violence and hateful political
What is interesting is his pejorative descriptions of the religious right. The Progressive Christian site Christian Alliance goes on to ponder if Progressives should do something like this, and why their voice isn’t being heard. And I have some proposed answers.
PEJORATIVE CHARACTERIZATIONS OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
Church leaders must denounce the biblical passages that champion apocalyptic violence and hateful political creeds.
I’m not sure which creeds he is talking about, but as a religious conservative, I don’t find opposition to abortion, opposing gay marriage, or conservative fiscal policy to be hateful.
While some on the right might be championing "apocalyptic violence," I don’t think it is the Christian right. In fact, one recent article discussed on my blog recommends nuking Tehran, but is actually written by an Objectivist libertarian, not a Christian. I mention this to show that I believe that the impetus for an aggressive foreign policy is not really a feature of the religious right, but of the far, sometimes irreligious right.
I see this same pattern with immigration – while some far right people are pushing for "no amnesty of any kind," I don’t hear this in the religious right, who in general agree more with Bush’s more generous and sensical policy.
movements that would abuse the weak, preach bigotry and injustice, trample the poor, crush dissent and impose a religious tyranny
You see, while I find this a good description of Islam, I don’t find this applicable to the religious right at all.
Abuse the weak, trample the poor? If that is a reference to not wanting to broaden the welfare state, conservatives take this stand, not because they don’t care about the weak, but because they believe that this approach is biblically and practically wrong. As the recent book Who Really Cares? shows, those same conservatives who oppose state welfare actually are more generous than their liberal opponents.
I’ll tell you who tramples the weak – those who are for abortion on demand, who allow 5000 children a day to die on American soil.
Preach bigotry and injustice? If this is in regard to gay marriage, I understand this position, but would counter argue that allowing gay marriage (which is allowed) and condoning it with state sanction are two very different animals, and the latter has a host of implications and effects that conservatives believe are undesirable, esp. as they affect our schools. I concede that this oint is arguable
Injustice? What the heck is he talking about? He seems to be just throwing out adjectives as if we all will just agree.
Crush dissent, impose religious tyranny? If nothing else, the author is good at hyperbole. I’ll tell you where dissent is being crushed – in the evolution/ID/creationism debate.
Granted, in the stem cell debate, I think religious conservatives are off, but there is certainly lots of dissent and debate. Finally, "religious tyranny"? This is as exaggerated and whiny as the Christians who claim they are persecuted here in America, while Christians across the middle east and Africa are killed daily for their faith (mostly by Muslims, of course).
WHY ARE THE VOICES OF THE PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANS NOT BEING HEARD?
Well, Jim Wallis is getting plenty of press lately, and there are quite a few evangelicals on board with the whole global warming thing, so I’d say that progressive Christians are being heard. However, if you wonder why they are not heard on other issues, I suggest the following:
1. Because of such exaggerated and inexact language. Like the boy crying wolf, liberals and progressives who keep crying ‘the sky is falling’ at every proposal of the right tend to cause others to not listen when something really is important. The article above, which is alarmist and mis-characterizes conservatives, causes progressives to lose credibility.
2. Because a few liberal/progressive political stands are so radical that people discard all of the other things said as well. People often fail to listen to valid points when you have one big invalid one offending their sensibilities. And that wart on the nose of liberal/progressive politics is abortion on demand. This extreme stand is so obviously wrong. If progressive Christianss at least took a middle stand, like outlawing abortion after the first trimester, people might listen. Well, except for the hard core left.
3. Because people rightfully do not believe that the welfare state supported by taxes is a viable model, and we like our freedom. While some people believe the welfare states of Europe work, they are failing monetarily, and morally as well. Not only that, but the possible pending dissolution of our own Social Security system "proves" that such programs are often unsustainable, and this makes us not want to try to start yet another program that sucks money from the till. Lastly, Americans don’t like taxes, even for "good" programs because we value our freedom. We like to emphasize personal responsibility and ruggedness, and we want the freedom to give into programs that we think work, esp. faith-based programs.
4. Because the thorny problems of health care and education require a hybrid solution, not either/or solutions. Progressives could really do us all a favor by supporting a health care model that involves both private and government solutions. We know the problems with privatized medicine, and we know the limitations of socialized medicine. I really think a good hybrid model, which rewards quality and efficiency, limits bureaucracy, and rewards personal responsibility.
With education, again, I think progressives would do well to push for a balanced, faith-friendly platform if they want to be heard. We need to support private, public, and home education.
I don’t think that "biblical literalists" are really the sole enemy of Progressive Christians. I think that extreme positions from both left and right are the problem. I also think that attacking biblical literalism is not really useful, since in the public square we should be arguing based on ethics and principle, not on biblical hermeneutics. If you want to argue the bible outside of politics, that’s fine. Otherwise, I think you are just playing into the hands of anti-religionists.