Sunday, February 12, 2017

Progressives are ill-prepared. Why?

“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Those Buffalo Springfield lyrics have surprisingly more meaning now that I’m 68 than when first sung in ’67. “There’s battle lines being drawn; nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

There are some much older words I’ve been contemplating as the Wyoming senate voted to endorse discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender human beings. Alas, the legislature is good with some losing their livelihood for exercising Constitutional rights to marry the person they love. In the Equality State, being who you are is risky.

Legalizing discrimination is attributed by many observers to the Wyoming Pastor’s Network (WPN), the self-identified “network of Bible-believing pastors committed to teaching and applying biblical principle as the moral compass and source of Truth for all matters of life.”

Many of us can claim the same identity while reaching far different conclusions about whether discrimination against the LGBTQ community can be either legal or moral. That brings me back to those “older words” I’ve been contemplating, words written by the Apostle Paul in the first century.

Paul admitted to the Corinthians that, “for now,” he and they could see only “dimly.” He said we could only know “in part.” He implied there’d come a time when we could “know fully.” But he continued, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest is love.” The point is that until we are able to understand fully, we are left to rely on love. The conclusion Paul leads us to is that love precludes using biblical interpretation as a pretext for discrimination. Love, rather than weaponizing the Bible, provides us with a “moral compass and source of Truth for all matters of life.”

But, the divider is biblical interpretation. As the Buffalo Springfield said, “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Biblical interpretation is the game everybody can play. That’s where battle lines are drawn. Division is the objective. The WPN acknowledges as much on their highly sophisticated website. “The WPN is NOT an ecumenical endeavor! We are not involved in the business of unifying separated brethren.” They openly admit their goal is “less about co-operation (joint working) than it is about co-ordination (synchronized work).”

The objective of the WPN is to influence political decisions, but only on a narrow range of issues.  Their website evidences no interest in persuading lawmakers to feed the hungry or house the homeless. What matters to them are “issues of life, Marriage, and religious freedom,” i.e. abortion and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. They exist to “assist you to decide the most effective way” to engage in the public, i.e. political arena.

“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Or is it? Wyoming progressives need give heed.

Conservative Christians have long complained about progressive Christians being involved in politics. Indeed, it was the progressive church that fought for civil rights, went to the streets to stop the war in Vietnam, stood in the vanguard of the struggle for women’s reproductive choice, marriage equality, and environmental justice. It seemed counterintuitive but as the progressive churches fought for their civil rights, many left the church while folks on the other side of these issues flocked into conservative churches.

It’s no coincidence that Trump now calls for repeal of prohibitions on the endorsement of candidates from the pulpit. Now they have a president who is aligned with their goals. Conservative Christians are prepared for full-throated involvement in partisan politics.   

The defeat of the Wyoming non-discrimination bill should be the shot heard ‘round the progressive world. The game has changed. Progressives are ill-prepared. Why? While many progressives held the church in disdain, those opposed to their objectives heard a counter message every Sunday morning in churches across Wyoming. And they are now animated by sophisticated religious-political operations.

Progressives have ceded that ground to conservatives and have ignored the historic power of the church to influence public policy at their own peril. There’s something happening here and what it is…is perfectly clear. 

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