Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Peter Laarman to Samuel Rodriguez: Theocratic Agendas and Aging White Men

At Religion Dispatches, Peter Laarman writes a heartfelt open letter, ordained pastor to ordained pastor,  to Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the "Hispanic Karl Rove," as Greg Metzger characterizes him.  Rodriguez gave the opening benediction for this year's Republican National Convention, and is unhappy that President Obama was re-elected.  As Mark Silk notes, Rodriguez is now being promoted as the Great Brown Hope of the GOP at a moment in which the Republican party is having to come to terms with its serious lack of support among Latinos.

Laarman finds it mystifying that Rodriguez chides the president for having failed to "strengthen families" and marriages, when, as Laarman points out, "the president is already strengthening families in multiple ways: through the great moral achievement of the Affordable Care Act, his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter equal pay measure, his embrace of marriage equality, and his very strong commitment to greater access to higher education."

And so Laarman asks Rodriguez,

Or is there a particular kind of family you think needs to be strengthened—and that our president is falling short on that agenda?

And I think that the answer to that question is rather clear: along with his cronies in the religious right, the Catholic bishops of the U.S. included, Rodriguez excludes altogether from his definition of family families headed by same-sex parents, and it is the president's support for those families along with all other families that Rodriguez holds against the president, when he maintains that the president is undermining marriage and family.

Laarman is also troubled by Rodriguez's post-election call for the nation to adopt "the agenda of the Lamb" and to pursue "sanctification" and a "new awakening"--as described by Rodriguez and the leaders of the religious right (the U.S. Catholic bishops included).  Laarman's response to this appeal: though he and Rodriguez are both ordained Christian ministers, one of the two presumes to know clearly what the "agenda of the Lamb is."

The other does not.

As to the agenda of "sanctification" and a "new awakening," as Laarman points out, Rodriguez appears to think that American voters simply do not understand this agenda, and need it further explained to them.  But in Laarman's view, American voters do, in fact, understand what Rodriguez and his cronies mean by these terms, and have quite specifically chosen to reject the agenda promoted by Rodriguez and the religious right in the last political campaign:

You and I both long for a “new awakening.” The difference is that I believe we did in fact see a new awakening in this election. An awakening to the the need to reject all theocratic language and all theocratic posturing for the sake of authentic religious freedom.  
Forgive me for quoting Maureen Dowd to you (and please do not lose your breakfast over this), but very few people who are paying attention doubt that Ms. Dowd is correct in describing this election as the “death knell for the Republican culture wars”—wars that you appear eager to continue. 
American voters—and not just voters located on the two sea coasts—elected a lesbian U.S. senator, the first openly bisexual and three new gay members of Congress, and three states voted to legalize marriage equality, while another rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw it.

And so Laarman concludes with the suggestion that Rodriguez might well consider that his religious-right "agenda of the Lamb," premised on his understanding of "sanctification" and "new awakening," is simply losing traction among many American voters who long for sanctification and a new awakening that does not exclude but embraces a minority group long shoved to the margins in American society.  His final advice to Rodriguez:

The view you espouse—deference to Christian doctrine in public policy (and please do kindly stop using the not-useful “Judeo-Christian” tag to cover your actual belief)—is one that now is held mainly by some still-powerful aging white men and by yourself.  
Where does that leave you? As I say, I became aware of you by way of a book that described you as a rising Latino evangelical who could fairly be labeled progressive. It’s not my place to give advice, but in your position I would cut my ties to the declining, rear-guard, and overwhelmingly white theocratic agenda. Spend more time with younger people of color and with immigrant Americans who have more important things to worry about than some imagined/projected “agenda of the Lamb.” It will be good for your career and good for your country. 

Good advice, it seems to me.  But I'm not sure that it's advice that the aging white heterosexual males who still want to run things (with token representation among malleable male powerbrokers of color) are prepared to hear.  If the comments that still roll into this blog site on any given day by straight white men concerned to save my soul and set me straight because I fail to love and forgive my enemies (or so they say) are any indicator of the ability of many straight white men to listen respectfully to the people they have long treated as subordinates, we have a serious Straight White Male Listening Problem in this nation.

And I say that as someone who loves and has many close friends who happen to be straight white men, and who has long found strong support from many straight white men (and straight white women) for this blog, whose table is spread for people of every color, for males and females alike, straight and gay alike, believer and non-believer equally.

The graphic is from the Pew Research Center's analysis of the coalition that re-elected President Obama last week.

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