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January 12, 2008

Progressive Christians Respond to Neo-con Fundamentalism

By Gary Vance

The pendulum of religious influence on socio/political issues has begun to swing back to the Left and thank God for it. The unholy merger of neo-conservatism with the holy fever of the Religious Right is at last being countered by a growing contingency of left leaning Progressive Christians.

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The pendulum of religious influence on socio/political issues has begun to swing back to the Left and thank God for it. The unholy merger of neo-conservatism with the holy fever of the Religious Right is at last being countered by a growing contingency of left leaning Progressive Christians. A Christian think tank, the Institute for Progressive Christianity (IPC) has risen up like young David to stand against the multi-headed Goliath incarnation of heavily funded Conservative think tanks and fundamentalism.

For more than thirty years, conservative foundations sustained by corporate interests have sown billions of dollars in support of think tanks whose sole purpose is to design ideologies and schemes to advance their economic and militaristic megalomania. They continue to reap countless billions in return and their goal of perpetual war appears to be almost accomplished.

Each election they won came with the blessing of the Religious Right and brought public policy further under their control. This allowed them to further cut taxes on the wealthiest and to issue contracts for federally funded business deals with cronies that drained the national treasury. Conservative Christians were forced to look the other way and condone some policies that flagrantly violate moral principles. Every strategic and ideological move made by the conservative ruling elite is conceived and developed behind the walls of those conservative think tanks.

Liberals and moderates during the same time frame have not effectively matched the investment or countered the potent focus that sustains the blended neo-conservative fundamentalist movement. This lack has been especially evident in the realm of mainstream and Progressive Christians whose voices have not come close to matching those of the Religious Right in magnitude or volume. The adherents of the many variations of Christian fundamentalism have learned to speak with one political voice while moderate and more liberal Christians are just starting to.

Conservative think tanks have worked in close conjunction with conservative Christian leadership to develop mutually compatible platforms and positions. Linguistic scholars design language filled with buzzwords and catch phrases that encapsulate their values and impassion their zeal. Massive funding for marketing ensures their ideas will be presented with the highest profile. This carefully engineered ideological hybrid of rabid fundamentalism mixed with greed driven neo-conservatism has grown like kudzu and has begun to strangle the very foundational premises of our democracy.

There is no group or individual outside of the Christian community that could adequately respond to the religious dimension of this threat without being perceived and painted as a persecutor of the faith. A movement from within the Christian world was required to take a lead role in repairing the breach in the wall between the institutions of religion and government. Thankfully, there is an innovative movement developing to fill this need.

One of the stalwart examples of this new movement emerged when a diverse group of moderate and liberal Christian activists coalesced a few years back to form Crossleft.org. This Progressive Christian site was designed to help reframe the conversation of faith and values in the realm of political discussion. A little more than a year ago, CrossLeft inaugurated the Institute for Progressive Christianity. The IPC was expressly designed to strengthen a broad based Progressive Movement with much needed academic and moral capital while refuting the undue influence of fundamentalism in public policy.

The IPC is arising as a strategic nerve center for research and development of the Progressive Christian movement and offers a robust response to the Right. The institute has hosted innovative symposiums, published revolutionary research papers, issued provocative press releases, and is designing compassionate public policy proposals while championing the separation of church and state.

The IPC produced a comprehensive White Paper on 8/30/07 entitled An Unholy Alliance . This compelling and thoroughly documented paper, co-written by IPC director Frank L. Cocozzelli and Eve Herold, conclusively exposes how the Religious Right and Neo-conservatives joined forces to fight against stem cell research. This document makes a convincing foundational case for support of this vital area of research and effectively arms proponents with spiritual and moral arguments to face down those on the Right who oppose it.

Newly contested neo-con/fundamentalists have taken notice and not surprisingly have begun to lash back. Even Rush Limbaugh, king pin of far right talk radio, blasted the IPC during his 12/01/06 broadcast. He seemed offended  when the fledgling IPC issued a press release publicly rebuking and refuting Dr. Dobson after his disparaging analysis of liberals on Larry King's 11/22/06 show.

Rush said, "So you watch. This group is going to be acclaimed. This is the one Christian group, the Institute for Progressive Christianity, which will not be laughed at, which will not be made fun of, which will not be impugned, they are going to be applauded, and the whole point of this is to further fracture the 24 million evangelicals and conservative Christians in this country."

All Progressives have been forced to endure the seven painful years since neo-cons gained control of the government and steered the nation into the ditch on the Right. Dispirited moderate and liberal Christians helplessly watched as the Christian image was hijacked by extremist fundamentalism and they were politically marginalized. Standing against the giants on the Right, this emerging Progressive Christian movement is a long over due and promising response to the fundamentalists that have dominated the political arena far too long.



Submitters Bio:

Gary Vance is an evangelical pastor/writer living in rural Tennessee. He is the author of "Wasn't Jesus a Liberal?" and other published essays.

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