January 7th, 2013

Public Administration Degree- infographic

Degrees in public administration can add value to one’s career. Take a look at the infographic below to learn more. You give back to communities in which you serve, public safety or health aide every day citizens in times of crisis. There is a true value in the work and if you feel a calling to it a degree can provide you with a leg up.

Via: Anna Maria College

November 2nd, 2010

The Religious Left is Dead

Written by a friend

The label, anyway. I’m not as sure about the content.

I’m just back from a fizzled reading in town. One member of my congregation showed up, and the owners of the coffee shop where the event was taking place.

That’s really okay: it’s a rural Republican stronghold, what else could you expect? I only had hopes that we might get a turnout because I expected that a few friends, maybe one or two fellow travelers, would turn up.

But honestly, the response to the book has been underwhelming, at readings and elsewhere, and the whole idea of a “religious left” has been ebbing away for some time now. I think I know why.

The leaders and tidy, obedient followers of the Religious Right have so poisoned the well of a connected religion and politics that anyone who believes that God can dream of freedom, let alone fairness, for the dispossessed have simply walked away. Are you a liberal? you can ask them. Yes, they’ll say. Are you a progressive? Perhaps. …Are you a religious progressive? Well, no. They’re just religious. The ethical peg can no longer be jammed into the political hole for these people. They’re interested in what God calls them to do, and they’re interested in politics. They’re just not very interested in what the one might have to say to the other.

Jim Wallis, as much as I want to make a bête noire out of that pious old nincompoop, didn’t have much to do with it. He’s spent God knows how long shilling a politics redeemed from itself, based on soppy reconciliation and precious little else. But I have come to see that his pitch to the spiritual-minded, as soapy as it may be, responds to audience demand more than creates it. People see through him. The questions I get at my readings show it. They don’t see the case for surrendering reproductive rights for a mess of common ground, and they’re not afraid to say so. But neither are they about to slap a cross on their Mao jacket and wade out into the GOTV field.

The bullshit attacks on Obama’s faith have had no effect. He’s a generic Christian, just like most people in this nation. Even if he weren’t, lefties wouldn’t fault him for it.

The supposed secularism of the left has done nothing. As contemptuous of faith as some secular voices may seem (and sometimes they seem plenty), they’re no threat to anyone with a settled identity. Don’t like that I believe in God? Fuck you. Next question? It frustrates me to no end that I sometimes can’t get my non-believer friends to digest religious ideas—if you’re not reading William Cavanaugh, you’re missing one of the smartest writers on politics operating today—but that’s certainly not going to shake my religious or political commitments.

It’s not the Republican wave building this year. We all know that’s not true. Religious Democrats are like any others, which is to say, more used to catastrophe than they should have to be. And like any other Democrats, they’re deflated by the lack of delivery on the promises of campaign 2008. Obama’s shiny faith commitments did little to insulate him from disappointment.

What has finally killed the label of the religious left is a lack of interest in symmetry. People simply don’t want a Religious Left to respond to the Religious Right. They want something that works in a categorically different fashion. I’m arrogant enough to think that I’ve given them something like that in my book, but I probably would have been better off packaging it as some kind of conversation-starter for churches. In fact (memo to my publisher), it’s not too late to do just that. A Q&A supplement for discussion groups might be just what the doctor ordered for sales.

More to the point, it might be just what is needed to get the political message across. Religious progressives haven’t left the field. They’re just tired of wearing the uniform.

So, dutifully, I am stripping the insignia. It’s time to go guerilla. I will never be ashamed to be a religious progressive, but I don’t know how often I will volunteer the description. From now on, it’s: Religious Right vs. just plain religious, and, well, I have some ideas about what what “religious” might mean. Maybe in a few years, the country will have regained its senses and the term Religious Left can reclaim some of its meaning. For right now, though, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the label has got to go if the content is to survive.

November 2nd, 2010

A new avenue to pursue

Wanted to let everyone know that Aaron Krager is now primarily writing at his own new site.  Please check it out.

July 24th, 2008

What Can the Religious Left Do About It? (democratic Discourse)

Let me start by saying that I really wasn’t expecting a tennis match with Pastor Dan any more than he was expecting one with me, though I suppose my using the title of his panel at Netroots Nation made it likely. Anyway, here’s his post responding to my last post. While I don’t want to get bogged down in tennis, I both like and respect Pastor Dan, and I do want to take the time to respond to him while moving along with my overall argument. Plus, he keeps providing me with good jumping off points. Here are the two I’m liking right now, one from his response to me:

That churches, synagogues, temples, etc., participate in food pantries, ecological advocacy, restorative justice programs, and whatnot is indeed a not-conservative agenda when measured against the right wing obsession with abortion and homosexuality. But for the most part, it bounces off many people as being not particularly political, but just what churches do. So, give away food or collect donations for AIDS relief in Africa: that’s religion. Issue bellicose statements in defense of a particular vision of family values: that’s politics.

And, from a post on Street Prophets being covered in the news (because of Netroots Nation):

“Some people think that the progressive side of things doesn’t respect religion too much,” said Dan Schultz, known as “Pastor Dan” and host of “Street Prophets,” a diary on the popular national lefty blog DailyKos. “I think that’s really overstated. What I see as much more of a problem are the conservative types who say you can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe in these 15 different things, most of which come right off the GOP playbook.”

I think that these two quotes state well the difference between how the right and the left treat religious discourse, and specifically the difference between how the right and the left react to the fact of religious pluralism. The right has formed a political-theological position based on a certain type of exclusivism, i.e.: “[Y]ou can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe in these 15 different things, most of which come right off the GOP playbook”. The right was very successful in making their version of Christianity appear to be the only legitimate one to their adherents and in convincing its adherents that other religious are invalid. The religious right has, in many respects, convinced the adherents of the Christian right that Christianity is identical to Republicanism, and that the tenets of Christianity are the same as the policy positions of the Republican party.

The left went a different route: the secularization of political discussion. Specifically, making religion a private rather than public affair, and thus a non-political one. Giving away food or collecting donations for AIDS relief came to be seen as religious (private) actions, while talking about policy changes came to be seen as political activities and, thus, necessarily separate from religious activities. The religious left, in many ways, appears to have bought into this separation of the religious and the political. I would suggest that it is not so much the media who has hidden our light under a bushel, but we ourselves.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 17th, 2008

What Can the Religious Left Do About It? (Some Introductory Thoughts)

Last week, my post got picked up by Pastor Dan over at Streetprophets. Great! However, both Pastor Dan and one commenter on Faithfully Liberal had an interesting reaction to my post: blame the media.

In the case of Pastor Dan: “Because the Beltway Villagers have decided in their wisdom that the religious left is all about chasing the votes of awesome Evangelicals who aren’t actually liberals.”

In the case of Cameron, a commenter here:

I’d prefer to take the ‘left/right’ out of the equation, but I suspect the answer is this: some people want to have a whinge, and others want to do something useful. When it’s a matter of other people’s private morality, you can only really complain. The media likes to pick up on that.

On the other hand, if you see a problem and do something to help, it doesn’t generate the sound bites the media wants. In religious terms, this is about pleasing God, not the media. So when we do see these folk letting their light shine, we can praise our Father in heaven for their good work (Matt. 5:16)

Most of these activities are simple consequences of the Golden Rule. I think the problem lies in the fact that ‘the left’ has become (in the popular mind) synonymous with ‘anyone who shares.’ I suspect it’s more to do with the way ‘left’ and ‘right’ are delineated in the media.

Okay… fine. But, why the immediate jump to the ‘Beltway Villagers’? Organizations, movements, and people on the religious left are working in communities across the country – heck, across the world. Why do so many people seem to forget that the churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and so forth in their own neighborhood are doing the kind of work for charity and justice that most of the left supports? Certainly, the media plays a role in shaping the cultural landscape, but I suspect there’s something more going on here… and that something more is precisely the thing that the religious left actually has the power to change.

That being said, I can now follow on last week’s post and re-ask the question: Why don’t people know what the religious left is doing?

Read the rest of this entry »

July 10th, 2008

What is the Religious Left Doing?

The religious left is easy to ignore, for reasons that are hard to fathom. While a protest by Fred Phelps is instantly recognized as having something to do with religion, probably because he’s so well associated with homophobia, how many people know that one of the plaintiffs in the recent landmark marriage equality case in California was The Rev. Troy Perry (founder and former moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches)? Oh, and he’s also the guy who performed the first public same-sex marriage in the Untied States, way back in 1969. Oh, and the MCC underwrote the filing fees for the case (and the lawyers worked pro bono).

How many people know that religious folks, including a student from my alma mater, are still going to jail for protesting at the School of the Americas?

How many people know that Christian Peacemaker Teams are still working in Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, the Mexican border, and elsewhere to give the oppressed and underprivileged what they need to survive?

How many people know that Catholic Worker Houses are still providing communities around the United States with tens of thousands of meals every week, along with toiletries, blankets, transitional housing, other needed items, listening ears, and connections to social services?

How many people know about the Center for Progressive Christianity or The Christian Alliance for Progress and their work on progressive issues like economic justice, peacemaking, environmental stewardship, and LGBTQ equality? Of course, those are just Christian organizations, but there are progressive organizations and movements in every religion.

How many people know that the church, the synagogue, the mosque, or the temple in their neighborhood is running a homeless shelter or a food pantry or a free clinic? While we’re at it, how many people know how much of the budget of their local religious community goes towards supporting those in need? How many people know that the person standing next to them at their last protest or rally was a member of a religious community?

It would be far too laborious a task to list everything that those in the religious left do, because it gets done everyday and in a variety of ways. The religious left is made up of bloggers and activists and lobbyists and front-liners. We write, we call congress, we ladle out soup. There are religious people involved in every aspect of the broader progressive movement – sometimes for the same reasons as the secular people involved, sometimes for different reasons.

So why don’t people know? What do we do about it?

I’ll get to that over the next few weeks.

Minor Update: Since this is a post in a series, I suppose I should link it to the previous post.

Kind of Important Update: Fixed the links.

July 3rd, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Religious Left?

I’m headed to Austin for Netroots Nation in a couple of weeks, and have been looking through the agenda trying to figure out what, if any, sessions I’d like to attend. Since I’m going as an exhibitor, I don’t really feel the need to go to any, though there is a part of me that says, since I’m there, I might as well go to anything that looks interesting, so long as someone on our team can handle the booth. Anyway, while perusing the list, there looked to be two items that would be interesting to anyone who is both religious and on the political left:

  • Revolution in Jesusland: A Rising Social Movement of Ordinary Radicals (Saturday, July 19, 10:30AM, Room 11): A progressive social movement is rising among evangelical and born-again Christians committed to eliminating poverty, saving the environment, protecting separation of church and state, aiding immigrants and promoting justice across racial, gender and class lines. Zack Exley and Jamie Moffett will facilitate a discussion about how all progressives can work with better understanding of each other across the Evangelical divide.
  • Whatever Happened to the Religious Left? (Saturday, July 19, 4:30PM, Ballroom E): There is nothing on the left corresponding to the politically dynamic religious right. But there are some promising elements with the potential to become greater than the sum of their parts. This panel seeks to address what’s going on and what should happen next. We will discuss how common approaches to electoral politics can be found and practiced in a way that respects the unique character of progressive faith.

And, of course, there’s the multi-faith service on Sunday at 9AM in Room 12.

Finally, given how conversations about religion (and, often, everything else)tend to go in Left Blogsylvania, there’s a panel called “Different Tones and Wider Nets” on Friday, July 19 at 9AM in Ballroom E. The description given is: “One of the great debates of blogging is the general rudeness and shrillness acceptable within the discourse. Does profanity exempt you from being taken seriously? Are you necessarily “calmer” because you don’t drop a few four-letter words? We’ll discuss the tone and attitude of various pockets of bloggers, and also why, no matter what, Michelle Malkin is still worse.”

For this post, though, let me focus on the question asked in the title of one of the panels: Whatever Happened to the Religious Left?

Well, we started asking questions like that, for one thing.

The assumption on the left seems to have long been that either (a) there has never been a substantial religious movement on the left, or (b) there used to be one but then the religious right won out and now there is no such movement. Impression (a) can be dispensed of easily – we could all name a few movements on the left with, at the very least, a substantial religious base: the Social Gospel Movement, for example, worked toward better health care, universal education, and end to child labor, and shorter working hours, as well as providing the poor with things like healthcare, education, daycare, and so on. I might also name the abolitionist and civil rights movements among those with a large religious base on the left, or the Catholic Worker Movement. Indeed, many people today recognize the teachings of Jesus as rather leftist (and, indeed, sometimes radically so). I suspect that, on a careful reading of the letters of Paul, or even of Leviticus, most people would find quite a few ideas that are embraced by the left.

The problem comes when we look around today and don’t see something like the Religious Right on the political left. It becomes easy to say, “Well, there once was this Religious Left thing, and then it vanished.” The religious left hasn’t gone anywhere… a fact that I find myself amazed I have to point out whenever I have to do so. The issue isn’t that the religious left has disappeared, only that it has learned to be invisible. Most people don’t know, for example, that Christian Peacemaker Teams exist, or that they’ve been working in Iraq longer since before the US invasion, or that Interfaith Youth Core works to bring youth of different faiths (and no faith) together to serve the wider community. There are, I suspect, four major reasons for this invisibility:

First, the religious left is not and never will be the same kind of movement as the Religious Right. The Religious Right is primarily a political movement led by a few well-recognized people – Pat Robertson, James Dobson, etc. No one seems to argue when these people are held up as the leaders of a right wing movement of religious people anymore than people argue when Karl Rove is allowed to speak for the Republican Party. The left just doesn’t, in general, seem to work like that. While Senator Obama might speak from the left and to the left, he just isn’t in a position to speak for it, and other people on the left will happily disagree with him publicly. Likewise, which Pastor Dan or Jim Wallis can speak from the religious left and to the religious left, I don’t think that anyone would pretend that they speak for the religious left. As a diverse, big-tent, people-powered collection of movements, we’re simply never going to be the sort of monolithic movement that the Religious Right is (or, at least, has tried to be for the last couple of decades).

Second, the popular conception of what counts as a religious issue remains stuck on the wedge issues of abortion and LGBTQ rights. Poverty, environmentalism, anti-war movements, and so forth get left out of the mix. Moreover, when those two ‘religious issues’ are discussed in the national media, the religious voices are damn near invariably those that are anti-choice and/or anti-LGBTQ equality. Part of overcoming the invisibility of the religious left, then, is convincing those who control our national discourse that the religious are concerned with much more than two issues, and that the religious sit on all sides of different issues. Of course, this by itself will probably end up showing that categories like ‘left’ and ‘right’ don’t define people all by themselves, and people who are ‘on the left’ are, on some issues, more to the right, and vice versa. The point for those who are both religious and mostly on the left give voice on all issues, and a variety of voices at that.

Third, and counter to the previous paragraph, most people on the religious left don’t seem to be particularly interested in showing how good religious people are by acting for the general good. In other words, the people on the Christian Peacemaker Teams, or working with Interfaith Youth Core or the Catholic Worker Movement aren’t doing it because they want cookies, but because they believe that it’s the right thing to do. They, as it were, pray in their closets. To a degree, and perhaps with a faithful appropriateness, the invisibility of the religious left is self-imposed.

Fourth, however, is that many of us on the religious left have learned to be invisible for the sake of our own sanity. While it isn’t very nice to have to bring this up in so many conversations about religion and the left, we do have to face the fact that the left is often less than friendly to religion when it’s anything more than a list of empty platitudes. While very few people would argue that religious people ought to be kept off the political landscape, it is true that religious people’s policy ideas – even when derived from a particular religion – need to be open to public, secular reason and persuasion. Quite simply, even when one’s ideas are founded upon the principles of a specific religion, there’s little reason to bring up that fact when it is presumed that the political sphere is supposed to be religion-free. Indeed, we’re probably all familiar with the charges of irrationality that can come from naming one’s ideas as religious. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a point in being openly religious in the largely secular conversations that occur among the left netroots – not because of any hostility, but just because it doesn’t do anything to get one’s ideas across.

So, whatever happened to the religious left:

  • There Never Was a THE Religious Left: What there have been are many, many movements on the left with strong religious bases. I also strongly suspect that there will be a THE Religious Left, only groups on the left with strong religious bases that have learned to work well together and with the secular left.
  • The Frame of Religious Issues is Still Too Narrow: At least, that’s true in the popular conception of ‘religious issues’. In order for the religious left (recognizing that the term isn’t perfect) to have any sort of influence, the popular conception of ‘religious issues’ is going to have to grow to include poverty, war, the environment, free trade, healthcare, and everything else that we care about.
  • We’re Silent: Obviously, we’re not completely silent – organizations within the religious left have been maimed, jailed, and killed for speaking and acting out, and that will continue to happen. While those on the religious left should not seek praise for out work, so as not to cheapen it, there does need to be better publicity around it for only one reason: better publicity means wider education on the issues and the movements that are working on them, which gets more people working on them, which leads to a higher success rate in ending things like slavery, poverty, etc.
  • We’ve Gotten Secular: I think that too many religious people on the left have bought into the idea that political discourse must avoid the religious – even if the culturally religious is still okay. We’ve accepted that public discourse must be of a particular kind. However, in a pluralistic society, it is important to remember that people may hold ideas from a variety of sources, and that people who start from different sources can work together successfully. Moreover, a recognition that different sources exist can help us to better argue our (the left’s) point to those who start from different points. Think about it this way: an argument based upon a certain reading of the New Testament is unlikely to win over a Muslim or an atheist. On the other hand, an argument based solely on non-religious arguments is unlikely to win over a moderate to liberal evangelical Christian. By recognizing the value of translating our ideas and arguments into a variety of religious and non-religious languages, we can broaden the liberal/progressive coalition and put more people behind achieving our goals

“Whatever Happened to the Religious Left?” is simply the wrong sort of question… a better one would be “What is the Religious Left Doing?” and “How Can We Do It Better?” In other words, the very questions that the actual panel is going to be exploring. I’ll try to offer my own answers over the next couple of weeks.

June 19th, 2008

Gay Marriage and the Natural Order of Things

California is abuzz with discussions and debates about the impact of gay marriage. And let me say right off, whether your for it or against it, you can’t dismiss the economic benefits this is bringing to the state — at least for the short term.

There are a number of angles that one can approach the issue, but for the church the theological and the pastoral are deeply connected. At one level, we who are clergy, and the church itself, is faced with the pastoral question — if society is offering the opportunity, do we share in it? That is, even if the church isn’t required to bless such unions, when approached by members or the public seeking our involvement in such unions, what shall we do? As I told people yesterday, I’ve not been asked, and I’m moving to Michigan in less than 2 weeks, so the possibility of being asked is limited. But what if?

The pastoral is rooted in the theological — the core theological values that form and inform the life of the church. We are, after all, a people formed by our heritage and in our case by Scripture. The questions that we have wrestled with down through the ages have to do with interpretation and application. As Larry Keene, a Disciples minister, says in a clip from the film For the Bible Tells Me So, it’s not a matter of what the Bible says, but how the Bible reads. We can agree that the Bible says this or that — in terms of pure literal words — but how should it be read? What do we bring to the table that influences interpretation and application?

Today, in the LA Times, there is an interesting article that raises just these issues. We read about a variety of starting points, from right to left. The person representing the conservative position is the president of my alma mater, Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Mouw. In the quotes here, he makes the same point as in the documentary, Romans 1 speaks specifically about the “natural use.” He goes on in this article to speak about the “orders of creation.” In other words, human beings are not designed for homo-erotic relations. And in a sense he’s right. If marriage is linked completely to the possibilities of procreation, then gay marriage would seem to be “unnatural.” But is procreation the sole criteria for determining the right to marry?

As I read Mouw’s statements about natural use and orders of creation, I became worried. My worries lie in the fact that the same arguments have been used against women’s ordination and for a subordinate place in society for women. Indeed, as a Fuller student 20 plus years ago, we dispensed with arguments about nature as rooted in an ancient culture. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of a man’s hair and says:

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. (1 Cor. 11:14-15)

Interestingly, Paul seems to recognize the problems that his argument presents and continues:

But if anyone is disposed to be contentious –we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor. 11:16).

So, what is the natural use? Is it something that seemed natural/unnatural then — to Jews but not necessarily Greeks? If short hair is natural . . .

As for the orders of creation, that is an even more problematic issue. People like Bill Gothard used this argument — that has medieval roots — to argue for a family relationship that requires male headship/female submission. I know for a fact that such a position doesn’t reflect Fuller’s positions — at least it didn’t 20 years ago.

So how then do we read Romans 1:26 – 27:

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanging natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.

What is natural? And, has the definition of nature changed in 2000 years?

Previously published at Ponderings on a Faith Journey.

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