Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Go Read Bilmon's Whiskey Bar

He has a great post here on the Democratic Party's past, present and future fortunes. And I think he gets it mostly right, although I'm probably not as pessimistic about the Party's presidential prospects and don't find as much reason for defeatism in last year's presidential election as he and others do for reasons I've discussed previously.

Nonetheless, I think he has the bigger picture about right.

However, the question I find myself returning to is, to the extent we believe that Democratic Party fortunes have been adversely affected by a cultural "backlash" (Thomas Franks' term), why has there been and why does there continue to be this backlash? In other words, what is causing this backlash and why has it proven to be as significant as it has, at least in some areas of the country if election results are any guide and exit poll surveys are to believed?

More specifically, why, in an age of modernity, increasing urbanization and globalization, and comparative prosperity, has the language and politics of reactionism (nationalism, religious fundamentalism, among other isms) proven to be as robust as it has?

Undoubtedly there's no one single, simple answer to such an inquiry.

But because I think it's important, and because I have roots in it I think I can talk about it with at least some awareness of its complexity, I'll try to dissect the role played by religious fundamentalism.

The first comment I'd like to make about the subject is that religious fundamentalism as a reactionary and driving political force in America is certainly not anything new. It's influence has ebbed and flowed as society has changed and various national developments have affected it. So I don't think its re-emergence in the past three decades--especially in the last 10 years or so--represents some fantastically unique or original dimension of American political life.

The second comment I'd like to make is one that will sound rather counter-intuitive, but it is this:

Today's religious fundamentalism is not being driven primarily, or perhaps not even remotely, by, considerations of Bible teaching. For all intent and purposes, today's weekly church goer that reports voting for Bush is functionally biblically illiterate.

Today's religiousity seems to be comprised of an ever increasingly conservative Catholic church, and the emergence of the so-called "mega-church" phenomenon within Protestant evangelicalism.

Of the first, Roman Catholicism pays little regard for the Bible, but bases most of its authority on tradition.

Of the second, there seem to be two types: those that are overtly political; and those that are not. Both are "conservative", although the latter is conservative only in the small "c" sense of the word.

The overtly political strands are best represented by D. James Kennedy, the pastor of the Fort Lauderdale based Coral Ridge Ministries, and Rod Parsley, the pastor of the Columbus, OH World Harvest church. Both have shows on cable television, although Kennedy can also be seen on regular TV. Both shows are almost exclusively devoted to political issues, namely those of abortion, gays, school prayer, in particular, and that of a Christian Nation concept in general. If there TV shows are any indication, their "ministries" are almost wholely devoid of any meaningful Biblical instruction or commitment.

The second, less politically driven type is represented by Joel Osteen's Houston based Lakewood church, and Rick Warren's (The Purpose Driven Life) Saddleback church in Lake Forest, (southern) California. While neither are politically centered, both ministries represent the Christian church's attempt to reach a new, more modern society. Both use religion as a means of enhancing the lives of their parishioners. Some label them as "self help" religions, and in the case of Osteen, a type of "prosperity gospel". But neither are known as seriously doctrinaire leaders. Of the two, Warren is the more Biblically attentive, but neither is concerned with the task of interpreting and applying the full range of Bible narratives and instructions.

So for both the overtly political, as well as the more open groups, the Bible itself plays a rather small role, used only sparingly as the circumstances demand. Although I didn't include him here, The Houston based T.D. Jakes fits in generally with the more "open", self help type of religion, but again as with the others, his focus is not biblical interpretation.

Now, granted, there are some religious professionals on the circuit who are on TV and who are more biblically focused, such as Charles Stanley, and to a lesser extent, John Haggi. But in terms of where the mass movement in religion seems to be, it is of a less rigorously Biblically applied variety.

All of this is to suggest that the emerging new religious institutions should not be thought of as monolithic or as necessarily representing a divide between modernist and fundamentalist. I believe its more nuanced that that. Obviously, the less political of the mega church movements represent the least dangerous facets of religion and represent the most likely partners in any new Democratic faith venture that is more secular than patriarchical.

1 comment:

C'est moi said...

I don't believe that you've listened to the preachers you've discredited. T.D. Jakes, Charles Stanley, James Kennedy, John Hagee are not only completely biblical, but probably some of the few voices of sanity left in this crazy secular, G-d defying world. If you were a listener of theirs you could not have written what you have. Their insight and Biblical knowledge is the entire base for their preaching, their messages and their disernment. It amazes me how many people these days have to trash the "christain world view", while embracing every kind of blasphemy and falsehood. This tendency reveals the truth of the Bible that "the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?" It behooves us all to know our own selves before we begin to pass judgement on the very people who are the only real voices out there today "calling in the wilderness" to come back to sanity. G-d will not be mocked. If you'd had the" born again "experience, you'd understand that what you're saying about these aforementioned ministers is completely off track. If you were knowledgeable about the Bible, having received it spiritually, not intellectually, you'd understand that most of what these men are preaching is the eternal truth and is a light shinning in a very dark world. There seems to be no good sense anymore, because we have all claimed ourselves to be G-d, instead of listening to our conscience and to the still small voice that speaks in every human soul. To discredit the few people that are speaking for G-d, putting their lives on the line in fighting for what they know is the truth, is a terrible travesty, particularly when, as I perceive, you know very little of what these men speak or stand for. It would behoove you to read the Bible and to be open to the leading of your intuition i.e. spirit, and to listen, truly hearing what these ministers have to say. They are speaking directly from the Source, which is G-d, and their message is life transforming. Just as the caterpillar is changed, so we,(caterpillars that we are) must also be changed. this is what G-d provides for us. This is the transformation that Buddah received, and that all great souls have experienced. The liberation of the soul through the transformational, sacrifice that was provided for us when our "lower"nature was conquered and we were set free to be restored to G-d as His children. You probably don't believe in a Messiah, a Deliverer, that restores us back to G-d. If you had this experience you would know and understand what a Charles Stanley, a T.D. Jakes and the others were saying..This is not a message they've arbitrarliy invented..But the very soul and essence of G-d's message to His people. This is the message that an alcoholic hears in an AA meeting..The (Higher power) they speak of...This is the message that transforms the soul and replaces despair with hope , and death with life. I would never take lightly the things of G-d or the people who speak His words and truths. If G-d can hold this universe together, He's a power that I can only hold in awe and respect. If He can put up with us and hold our lives together, inspite of our rebellion and grievious errors, then I'd better seek to find out who He is and where His truths are being shown to me and to the world. I would not dare to "touch" G-d's elect. Are you out there trying to save souls? How much of your life has been "crucified" so that others can have life? That's a question we all need to ask ourselves. "Judge not lest you be judged"..I suggest that you take time to really LISTEN to T.D. Jakes, Charles Stanley, James Kennedy, Jack Hayford, Michael Eusef. Your life will be changed, and you'll thank G-d for these men instead of berating them. Respectfully, Rochelle Levine