Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why are liberal Christians invisible?

America's Christian Hypocrisy: 
Here’s a newspaper headline that might induce a disbelieving double take: “Christians ‘More Likely to Be Leftwing’ and Have Liberal Views on Immigration and Equality.” Sounds too hard to believe, right? Well, it’s true — only not here in America, but in the United Kingdom…

Here in the United States, those who self-identify as religious tend to be exactly the opposite of their British counterparts when it comes to politics. As the Pew Research Center recently discovered, “Most people who agree with the religious right also support the Tea Party” and its ultra-conservative economic agenda. Summing up the situation, scholar Gregory Paul wrote in the Washington Post that many religious Christians in America simply ignore the Word and “proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated union busting, minimal taxes, especially for wealthy investors, and plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations.”
 … religion has become more of a superficial brand than a distinct catechism, and brands can be easily manipulated by self-serving partisans and demagogues. 
If you ask the Man on the Street what he thinks of when he hears the word "Christian", he will probably tell you he pictures a Bible-thumper who opposes health care reform, disbelieves in evolution, considers global warming a crock, and obsesses about homosexuals.  Basically, he will tell you that he imagines a right-wing conservative Evangelical.

And whose fault is this?

Timothy Noah, in the NY Times, writes:
A 78-percent majority of Americans is Christian. Only about a third of them self-identify as evangelical, which is a very rough proxy for the Christian conservative minority that increasingly insists on being called, simply, “Christian.” Such totum pro parte synecdoche de-legitimizes mainline Protestantism, historically black Protestantism, and Catholicism, which account, combined, for most of the other two-thirds of all Christians. The de-legitimization is why Christian conservatives favor it. Mainstream news organizations like the New York Times, ever-fearful of being branded anti-religious, have allowed themselves to be bullied into accepting the Christian right’s implicit suggestion that the only true Christian is a Christian conservative member of an evangelical or fundamentalist congregation.

GLAAD did a study showing  that mainstream media disproportionately favors Christian conservative views on gay issues. As described in the HuffPo 
The findings confirm that despite growing public support for LGBT people across faith traditions, the media highlight a disproportionate number of anti-LGBT religious voices in the media. Three out of four religious messages about gay or transgender people come from religious groups that have formal policies, decrees, or culture opposing equality. Unsurprisingly, messages from those sources were overwhelmingly negative. Mainstream media uses far fewer voices from the gay-affirming, or even moderate, religious traditions. The vast majority of gay or pro-LGBT sources are presented without any religious affiliation whatsoever…..The media needs to stop promoting the false notion that being religious is synonymous with being anti-LGBT. 

Let's remember that not only The Episcopal Church, but also the Lutherans (ELCA), Presbyterians, and UCC, among others, are actively moving towards LGBT support. The majority of lay Catholics support LGBT rights.  Polls across the country show support for marriage equality at over 50%.  But you wouldn't know this from the media.

Fred Clark at Patheos sees this as an active political strategy
This is a deliberate, intentional attempt by a politicized faction of American evangelicals to do two things: 1) redefine “Christian” to mean “white evangelical Protestant,” and 2) redefine “evangelical Protestant” to mean “conservative Republican.”… 
It’s deliberately insulting to every Christian who is not a white evangelical Protestant and to every white evangelical Protestant who is not a conservative Republican. The latter group is not a small category. …. 
But for the most part, the fundraisers and vote-herders of the religious right have succeeded in getting the media to play along with the weird idea that these millions of people do not exist. 
The de-legitimization Noah describes is the attempt by the self-appointed bishops of the religious right to exclude those millions from Christianity — and to prevent the remaining majority of white evangelical Protestants from being able to imagine that voting for anyone other than who they’re told to vote for is even a possibility.
The power of these power-brokers depends on their being able to claim that they speak for all evangelicals — and for all “real” Christians. The very existence of Christians who are not white evangelical Protestants or of white evangelical Protestants who are not right-wing Republicans undermines their claim to speak as the voice of God and of all of God’s real people.
We talked previously about how Rick Santorum, fundamentalist Catholic, decried liberal Christians and claimed you aren't Christians at all.  All part of the same cloth.

So, what to do?  Of course, you have to come out -- as liberal Christians.  Just as I, a gay person, have to come out over and over again.  The reason we are moving forward on LGBT rights in this country is because we LGBT people ARE coming out--and people learn we aren't any different than anyone else and aren't scary people having sex in the streets.  Yes, you'll take some insults and anger from those to whom you come out.  That's what coming out means.  But you'll also slowly change hearts and minds.

Second, as you move up to the TEC General Convention, and you battle about budgets and blessings, you should also think about how you put yourself forward outside.  Surely one role of the Episcopal Church is to be a strong voice of Christian leadership.   Put up those billboards.  Encourage those wearing collars to speak out to the media and write letters to the media.  Get your voice OUT there, institutionally.

Who knows?  You might also find this kind of thing to be part of mission and evangelism, as people learn that they don't have to give up religion just because they believe in social justice.

(quotes show my emphases and reparagraphing)

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