Comments: Thursday's Stories

"Because it's worth repeating until we're all sure we remember it, more on the "faith-based" nature of the "charities" featured on FEMA's home page, with a sideswipe at FEMA's incompetent blocking of the people trying to get into New Orleans to deliver aid."

The emergence of this horrorific theocratic movement makes me think that liberal Christians must have, for a long time, been a brake on the formation of such movements previously, and the reduction of liberals who are Christian or Christians who are liberal has allowed the remaining Christian factions to mutate into this horrible beast.

As a metaphor, I'm thinking of the way the nitrogen in the atmosphere limits the ability of oxygen to create fire. As America learned during the fire on Apollo 1, many things that are normally flame-resistant become flammable when put into a pure oxygen environment. Likewise, a Christian church can drift dangerously to the right once all the liberals drop out of that church.

So to, I wonder if the presence of liberal Christians, like Bill Moyers, used to act as a brake on the formation of such a hard-core, reactionary, nationalist, authoritarian and theocratic movement. Perhaps it was the presence of more Christians like Bill Moyers who kept this kind of right-wing Christian movement from forming earlier in the nation's history. Certainly, the extent that this group wants to mandate the Christian faith from Washington seems unprecedented in our nation's history.

I'm making the assumption that liberal Christian factions are rarer now than they were 50 years ago. I don't have precise figures in front of me, but I've read in several places that particpation in mainstream Christian denominations peaked in the 1950s and has since declined. Since 1980 the only denominations that have grown have been the hard-right ones. This leaves me thinking that many types of people that once would have been liberal and Christian are now liberal and secular. Many states that 50 years ago were famous for their Christian ethics are now famous for their liberal secularism - Massachucetts comes to mind. Boston used to be famous for its censorship trials - Naked Lunch and The Howl, for instance, plus many more of the Beats. My dad tells me when he was young in the 40s and 50s and the obscenity trials of Boston were a bit of a national joke.

But those regions that had a liberal tradition have now become secular. The same is true in Europe. Those nations that 50 years ago had the highest participation in religion (the Scandanavian countries) now have the highest percent of people who express a disbelief in God.

I hope that this current, reactionary Christian movement proves short-lived. I hope that it is merely a one-time response to the social changes of the last 50 years - the liberation of blacks and women, the increasing religious diversity of the country. I hope that like most reactionary movements it will decline and most of its members will come to accept the social changes of the last 50 years. I hope. I do not wish for this movement to stop being religious, or to stop being Christian, I only hope that the people now in this movement can mature in their faith enough to remember the liberal traditions that are also part of the historical truth of Christianity.

I was just recently reading Elaine Pagels on the early history of the Christian faith, and I was impressed with the liberalism of the early Church. I've posted more about that on my blog.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at September 12, 2005 01:06 PM