October 19, 2005

What I Learned in Washington DC

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 7:30 pm

So what was said at the Path to Action conference? Instead of a blow-by-blow account of each of the speeches and panels, I’m going to step back and reflect on the big themes running through the conference.

The current state of politics and Christianity in the US is an historic anomaly
American Christians have far more often been activists for change than defenders of the status quo. Christians were in the vanguard of the struggles for abolition of slavery, child labor laws, anti-trust laws, women’s suffrage, the Department of Labor, anti-imperialism, civil rights and human rights. Somehow we’ve fallen asleep since the civil rights movement.

Pluralism does not require our silence
Christians do not have a monopoly on morality. There are clear, moral voices among Jews, Muslims, Pagans, agnostics and atheists in the US, and they deserve our respect and our partnership. The separation of church and state safeguards the health of the church as much as the health of the state. But we need not stop speaking of how our moral convictions are borne out of our religious faith. The secular left needs to become more comfortable with the religious left, and recognize that they don’t have to share our faith to agree with our politics.

We don’t need a Christian Left to mirror the Christian Right
The Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and other conservative Christian organizations have been masterful at translating a religious constituency into political power. But they have made political and moral compromises to maintain the fervor of their base and their hold on politicians at the expense of the Gospel. They have demagogued issues to raise funds. Progressive Christians don’t need to imitate these sins.

We must not demonize conservative Christians
There is much common ground between the Christian right and left. Where we agree, we need to come together around our common faith to work together. When we disagree, we need to remember that while they don’t share our politics, they share our faith in Christ. And that is plenty.

If there is a single priority for us, global poverty is it
Start snapping your fingers once every three seconds. Now consider that each time you snap your fingers, a child dies needlessly from hunger, unsafe drinking water or easily treated diseases. As you snap, imagine that instead of a child dying far off in Africa, that it’s a child in your neighborhood. *snap* The child across the street. *snap* Your child. *snap* Is there any doubt we would do all we could to save their lives? The poor children in Africa are created in the image of God, just as the children in your neigborhood. They also deserve to be saved.

We need to be better communicators
Conservatives are very savvy at getting their message out. Any journalist has dozens of conservative Christians in their rolodex, but few if any liberal Christians. Conservatives speak passionately about simple messages, while liberals talk at length about the nuances. Conservatives repeat their messages until they have kidnapped the issue. Progressives don’t stay on message.

We need to scale up
When one organizer mentioned to Jim Wallis that she had trouble getting Sojourners to return her calls, Wallis described how crazy his world has been since God’s Politics came out. Sojourners can’t keep up with the media requests, and Wallis is just one person. We need many organizations like Sojourners, a “network of networks”, to meet the need.

We need a new generation of leaders
There seems to be a dearth of leaders for this movement, and especially post-boomer leaders. Jim Wallis is great, but as one gen-x attendee observed, “he’s a little older than me” (as am I). As Wallis often says, we are the ones we have been waiting for. A new generation of leaders will arise organically from our midst, and these leaders will not remember Vietnam, civil rights or Watergate.

There is much we can do on our own
Fair trade, socially responsible investing, hybrids — each of these acts puts the power of the market behind our convictions. And we can give. Sending 1,000 bed nets to Africa can save the lives of 1,000 children. It would cost less to educate the children of Africa than the US spends on ice cream a year. Maybe we can skip one latte a week and send the money to world relief organizations instead. We can witness and evangelize. And most importantly, we can pray.

2 Comments

  1. Bob writes:

    “The Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and other conservative Christian organizations have been masterful at translating a religious constituency into political power. But they have made political and moral compromises to maintain the fervor of their base and their hold on politicians at the expense of the Gospel. They have demagogued issues to raise funds. Progressive Christians don’t need to imitate these sins.”

    Good luck with that, Bob, and I mean that sincerely. Politics has a way of corrupting those who get overly involved in it. I have a “for instance” for you, off topic but as an example very valid. The President appointed an INDEPENDENT Tax Reform Panel and charged them specifically to find a tax reform plan that would SIMPLIFY, BE FAIR, BE REVENUE NEUTRAL, AND PROGRESSIVE. The Tax Panel tweaked the Code, which means they kept the status quo and actually added to the problem by requesting more code be added to the thousands and thousands of pages already in it. Who got to the Tax Panel? Hmmmmm. Now, we’ve got Chertoff stating the Department of Homeland Defense is going to send all illegal aliens packing, suuuuuure. Can’t wait to see them get started on that, how ’bout you?

    Sounding a little synical these days? Darn, I try to keep that to a low roar.

    Over all, I am very impressed with your accounting of the Progressive gathering in DC. Not having been present myself (remember I wasn’t invited) I’ll have to take your word for it that it was as moderate as it sounds, if it was, indeed, as moderate as you made it sound in this piece? I’m proud of ya! Good job!
    Yer red state buddy, Jacke

    Comment by Jacke — October 20, 2005 @ 4:01 am

  2. […] , yes…to reconcile or not to reconcile? A tough question indeed. While writing the previous post, I wrestled with the paragraph headlined “we must not demonize conservative Christians&#8 […]

    Pingback by I am a Christian Too » On Reconciliation — October 20, 2005 @ 6:24 am

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