View Full Version : Some noteworthy U.S. trends, both good and bad
03-12-2007, 01:40 AM
Below are pages dealing with some trends that will undoubtedly have an impact, directly or indirectly, on the future success of GLBT rights activism here in the U.S.A.:
First, here are two articles about a trend toward racial desegregation in U.S. megachurchs:
* Trendsetting megachurches take up challenge of desegregating Sunday worship (http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2007/feb/24/addressing-the-whole-flock/) by Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer, Saturday, February 24, 2007 (another copy here (http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070221/25932_Megachurches_Desegregate_Worship.htm))
* Black megachurch reaches for Latinos (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17246151/) - MSNBC, Feb 20, 2007
Second, here's an article about the Republican Party's largely unsuccessful attempts to woo black voters via social conservativism: Sorry, Not Buying (http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10652) by ZZ Packer, American Prospect
Third, here's a page about megachurches and related matters:
Myths of the Modern Mega-Church (http://pewforum.org/events/index.php?EventID=80) - Event Transcript, Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle conference, Monday, May 23, 2005
See especially the following comments by David Brooks, Columnist, The New York Times:
One of my favorite statistics from this last election was that George Bush carried 22 of the 23 states with the highest white fertility rates and John Kerry carried the 17 states with the lowest fertility rates. And that's really not about fertility; that's about church attendance. People who attend church have more babies than people who don't.
Social conservatives, according to Andy Kohut's recent Pew data, are just much more economically moderate or liberal than other Republicans. And you begin to see it on the Social Security issue where they feel free to divert away from the Republican movements on this issue. In fact, if I were building a political majority in this country, I'd start sort of where Gary Bauer is substantively. I'd take socially conservative and economically liberal, and I think that's a lower-middle-class majority in the making, which is the opposite of what you hear, that a party should be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I think that's not the way to build a majority.
03-16-2007, 05:31 PM
Here's a rather scary article:
Sinners in the hands of an angry GOP (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/03/29/waronchristians/) by Michelle Goldberg, Salon.com, March 29, 2006.
On page 2 (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/03/29/waronchristians/index1.html):
Christian Reconstructionism is a theocratic sect that advocates the replacement of civil law with biblical law, including the execution of homosexuals, apostates and women who are unchaste before marriage. Christian Reconstructionists used to be politically radioactive, but a new generation of religious right leaders like Scarborough have embraced them, and some members of today's GOP apparently see no problem associating with them. This does not mean that America is on the verge of theocracy, but it signals an important shift. The language of religious authoritarianism has become at least somewhat politically acceptable.
Consider Rod Parsley, Pentecostal pastor of the World Harvest megachurch in Columbus, Ohio, a broad-shouldered, suntanned man who, like Scarborough, is emerging as one of the new generation of leaders of the religious right. He was a major force behind the mobilization for the anti-gay marriage amendment in Ohio, which in turn helped get out the evangelical vote that put Bush over the top in that state.
Parsley's church is nearly half African-American, and he has a talent for mixing the soaring civil rights rhetoric and rousing call-and-response rhythms of traditional black preachers with classic populist demagoguery and exhortations to ostensibly metaphorical violence.
The article is mostly about something called the "War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006 conference," attended both by religious right wing leaders and by politicians. This conference was full of both fierce anti-gay rhetoric and absurd Christian persecution paranoia, e.g. a claim that "Christianity is on the verge of being criminalized in America." Furthermore:
"My friends," White said in a stentorian voice like burnished oak, "America is no longer good. Unrighteousness, evil, corruption, perversion and death are now standard operating procedure in the United States of America. If we do not put an end to it now, in this moment of divine destiny, then God will and God should judge America."
This was remarkable language to hear at a political forum. Imagine if Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi gave a conference address that was followed by a furious condemnation of her country. She would have to scramble to distance herself from it and would be excoriated in the press regardless. But it's not unusual to encounter this kind of thing at one of Scarborough's events because they manage to bring together congressmen -- this one featured Sen. John Cornyn and Republican Reps. Todd Akin and Louis Gohmert -- with some of the most radical elements of what was once the right-wing fringe.
03-22-2007, 08:33 PM
On a website called Latter Rain (http://latter-rain.com/) I found a copy (http://latter-rain.com/escha/remnantchurch.htm) of an In These Times article Preaching Revolution: A new evangelical movement offers lessons for the left (http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3061/preaching_revolution/) by Zack Exley. Some excerpts:
Bell and Claiborne are two of the better-known young voices of a broad, explicitly nonviolent, anti-imperialist and anticapitalist theology that is surging at the heart of white, suburban Evangelical Christianity. I first saw this movement at a local, conservative, nondenominational church in North Carolina where the pastor preached a sermon called "Two Fists in the Face of Empire." Looking further, I found a movement whose book sales tower over their secular progressive counterparts in Amazon rankings; whose sermon podcasts reach thousands of listeners each week; and whose messages, in one form or another, reach millions of churchgoers. Bell alone preaches to more than 10,000 people every Sunday, with more than 50,000 listening in online.
But this movement is still barely aware of its own existence, and has not chosen a label for itself. George Barna, who studies trends among Christians for clients such as the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Focus on the Family, calls it simply "The Revolution" and its adherents "Revolutionaries."
"The media are oblivious to it," Barna wrote in his 2006 book Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary. "Scholars are clueless about it. The government caught a glimpse of it in the 2004 presidential election but has mostly misinterpreted its nature and motivations." According to his research, there are more than 20 million Revolutionaries in America, differentiated from mainstream evangelicals by a greater likelihood of serving their community and the poor and oppressed within it, a more "intimate, personally stirring worship of God" in daily life, and a much greater chance of studying the Bible every day.
Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners magazine and author of the bestseller God's Politics, says, "'Progressive evangelicals' was thought to be a misnomer, but now we're a movement." He was as surprised as anyone when his 2006 book tour for God's Politics began to develop the feel of a revival tour. At evangelical Christian Bethel University in St. Paul, Wallis spoke shortly after a rally held by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. More people attended Wallis' event. "One of the Dobson organizers came over and told me, 'If they make us keep focusing on just two issues [abortion and gay marriage], they're going to lose all of us,'" he says.
According to the Barna Group, nine percent of Americans attend house churches (up from one percent 10 years ago). And tens of thousands of churches are de facto community centers, serving and supporting virtually all aspects of their members' lives, usually with a significant percentage of members acting as volunteers. In this way, churches have left progressives in the dust in terms of serving and engaging people directly. The union hall is the left's nearest equivalent, but not only is it dying, it rarely attempts to serve anywhere near as many of the needs -- spiritual and practical -- as churches do.
The Revolutionaries' faith in the Bible leads them to a gospel of social justice, but it also leads to a morality that is far out of step with mainstream American culture and the left. Sex outside of marriage, divorce, "lust," "sexual immorality" and homosexuality are all things Jesus or other New Testament voices spoke about with varying degrees of intensity.
According to Wallis, the Revolutionaries are "breaking away from the Right in droves -- but they will never be captured by the left. They're going to challenge the left on a lot of things: For these Christians, sex is covenantal and not recreational. And they oppose abortion and they are not going to move away from that."
In other words, these folks are left-wing on economic issues, but still socially conservative, and, in particular, are still anti-gay. But, at the very least, they apparently don't regard their anti-gay views as a top political priority:
He also spoke out against the exclusive focus on abortion and gay marriage by many evangelical leaders. "Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act," he said. "And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed."
Anyhow, while some of these churches are politically active, most "Revolutionary" churches reject political activism of any kind:
But, as of now, the Revolutionaries seem to be embracing person-to-person, "be the alternative" solutions to the exclusion of advocating for social policy that is more in line with their vision of the kingdom. Boyd says, "I never see Jesus trying to resolve any of Caesar's problems."
Wallis believes this reluctance comes from the recent experience of being dragged into the mess of partisan politics on the terms of the Republican party.
"But the prophets [of the Bible] don't talk about just being an island of hope -- they talk about land, labor, capital, equity, fairness, wages," says Wallis. "And who are the prophets addressing? Employers, judges, rulers. On behalf of widows, orphans, workers, farmers, ordinary people. The gospel is deeply political. It's not partisan politics, but a prophetic politics. It is what the prophets and Jesus finally call us to."
03-22-2007, 08:42 PM
If these "revolutionary" groups are as in tune with ACTUAL Biblical ethics and morals as they seem to be -- and if they are motivated by love rather than fear --and if their understanding of sexuality is IN FACT "covenantal" in nature rather than legalistic and anti-sexual then the move to embracing gay marriage and gay equality may not be as big a leap as it would seem.
(Those are big "IFs" I know):rolleyes:
04-07-2007, 01:26 PM
For Some Black Pastors, Accepting Gay Members Means Losing Others
By NEELA BANERJEE
March 27, 2007
Original on New York Times site (http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F60E12F939540C748EDDAA0894DF404482)
Copy on "Faith in Public Life" stie (http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F60E12F939540C748EDDAA0894DF404482)
04-14-2007, 01:29 PM
Some people credit MSNBC's Keith Olbermann with having played a significant role in the leftward turn of the 2006 elections. Here's an article about him:
Limbaugh for Lefties
By Stephen Rodrick
New York Magazine (http://nymag.com/news/features/30338/)
However, I wouldn't credit him alone. Other trends, such as the recent revival of a "religious left," have no doubt played a role too, it seems to me.
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