The 7 Signs of the American Religious Left
Catholic Priest, writer, and founder of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty Robert Sirico, recently gave a nice lecture entitled The Rise (And Eventual Downfall) of the New Religious Left (audio). In it, he listed the seven characteristic errors of the religious left, as well as some interesting discussion of the historic origins of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels. You can also read his writing on this subject from a 2002 article in First Things. He is, however, often a critic of the religious right as well.
Sirico has also been a long time critic of the Vatican and its alignment with liberal politics (except abortion, see How Partisan Are the Bishops?), i.e. the same errors he lists above. I’ve summarized his seven points below, but his discussion is really interesting. Also decent is his discussion of the same subject matter in a radio interview with Kresta in the Afternoon.
Here’s Sirico’s list of the seven signs of the religious Left (my titles added):
- The Kingdom of God: A tendency to believe that the Kingdom of God is not something essentially escatological; it is a state of being that can and should be achieved here and now through human effort on Earth.,
- Economic Success: A loathing of the economically successful, rooted in the assumption that wealth is generally unjustly acquired, even and especially when it has been accumulated through market mechanisms.
- Material Inequality: A conviction that the cause of material inequality is primarily due to injustice that must be rectified.
- Commerce: A reliable bias against commerce and the merchant classes, their products, marketing, and their cultural presence.
- Government programs: A bias in favor of government programs purporting to do good for others, and a preference for public policy solutions over individual or voluntary community action.
- Social wellbeing: A judgment that Earthly states of social wellbeing must come to be realized ahead of issues such as faith and morals.
- Environmental Morality: An attachment to the idea that the natural environment represents a source of moral light in a world that is darkened by the activities of human beings.
Sirico mentions the popular authors in this vein, Jim Wallace, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo (the ‘Don Rickles of the group’). He mentions that the first six points have some historical theological basis, though he finds them a ‘misapplication’ of biblical principles.
The last point is the most dangerous, since it makes the grave theological (and practical) error of basing morality on nature – or as Sirico says, ‘preferring the jungle to the garden.’ I also addressed why learning about God from primarily from nature and astrology are risky and unreliable (because creation is fallen, it shows both it’s original beauty and the death and sickness of the fall) in my podcast The Truths and Myths of the Christmas Story.