Monday, October 19, 2009

The Center Moves Left, but Media Continue to Tack Right: Continued Work for Religious Progressives

A smattering of sources today that pick up on themes discussed previously at Bilgrimage. I’ve noted, for instance, the tendency of the mainstream media to act as if progressive voices are not to be found in faith communities in the U.S. Two outstanding postings on blogs I esteem in the past several days offer more evidence for that thesis—as well as for the apparent resurgence of progressive voices in American churches recently.

At Queering the Church, Terry Weldon points to the results of a recent Pew Research Center poll which shows an increasing number of Americans (57%) supporting gay civil unions. As Terry points out, those supporting civil unions include a significant if discrete bloc of evangelical Christians in the U.S., as well as a robust percentage of American Catholics. Terry reads the support of many U.S. Catholics for same-sex civil unions as “signs of a strengthening and muscle flexing by the left at least among the Catholic laity and clergy outside the establishment.”

Noting Terry Weldon’s posting, Michael Bayly at Wild Reed also finds “the circle of awareness, love, and justice . . . expanding” among lay Catholics, despite the resolute resistance of the Catholic hierarchy to gay human beings and gay human rights. Michael links to a wonderful letter of a Catholic mother posted at Pam’s House Blend blog that had also caught my eye several days ago.

The mother writing this letter supports the Catholic mother in Maine who has been attacked for speaking out against the attempt to remove the right of marriage from gay citizens of Maine. I discussed this story several days ago (see the first link in this posting, above, for details). Writing in support of that Maine Catholic mother, the mother whose letter appears at Pam’s blog calls on Catholic officials who are spending massive amounts of money to undermine gay rights to stop attacking LGBT human beings and their families.

A posting by Anna Hartnell at Alternet this weekend (also cited by Terry Weldon) corroborates the rise of a strengthened progressive voice in American Christianity. Hartnell notes that almost all movements for progressive change in American history have been supported, if not driven, by a critical mass of believers who see their collaboration with secular progressive groups promoting justice as part and parcel of their religious commitment. As she notes, however, the media tend to miss this aspect of the American religious story, both past and present, as they focus more or less exclusively on right-leaning trends in American Christianity.

And that monomaniacal focus, which pulls even the extreme margins of the right-wing fringe into the center and treats them as legitimate political options no matter how destructive they are to our democratic institutions, continues. As Jamison Foser noted at Media Matters recently (also here), mainstream media journalists remain unable to see where the real political center of the nation lies. Even as the center moves leftwards, the media continue to speak of the United States as a “center-right” nation in which the views of right-wing extremists should be treated as more legitimate than those of a solid majority of Americans who prefer progressive policies.

We clearly have work to do, those of us with ties to faith communities in the U.S. who believe that our faith commitment has something to do with struggling for justice with those on the social margins. We with ties to the Catholic church have much work to do, when leading Catholic spokesmen for ruthless gay-bashing initiatives like Mark Mutty of the Maine campaign to remove the right of marriage from gay citizens seek insincerely to depict themselves as compassionate supporters of their gay brothers and sisters, who want to see gay folks thrive while removing the right of marriage from them.

As Right Wing Watch notes yesterday, that bogus argument for insincere compassion is hard to sell, given the consistent stand of the Catholic hierarchy against not only gay marriage but same-sex civil unions—indeed, given the consistent stand of the hierarchy against gay rights, period, anywhere in the world that the battle on behalf of human rights for gay citizens is being fought.