Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where Have All the Progressives Gone?

U.S. Catholic bishops are defending their direct involvement in congressional deliberations over health-care reform, saying that church leaders have a duty to raise moral concerns on any issue, including abortion rights and health care for the poor. Do you agree? What role should religious leaders have -- or not have -- in government policymaking?

Despite the fact that I generally disagree with the sentiments of these Catholic bishops, I have to support the fact that they are living out their faith in very tangible ways. Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals have found their voices in the public forum and no one questions whether their faith guides their politics and policies. When it comes to those of us who are faithful and progressive, we struggle to find a way live out and proclaim our faith in the public square. So, with that being said, I think these Catholic bishops are on to something.

When I first entered into seminary, I found it very uncomfortable to introduce myself to strangers. Revealing the fact that I was a young seminarian almost always lead the person I was talking with to assume that I was a conservative fundamental Christian who was ready to start my judgment talk as soon as I was given the opportunity. I would try and find opportunities to illustrate my progressive and open-minded mentality in various and interesting ways, but now I know I was fighting against something bigger than me, I was fighting against the voice of religion that the secular world has come to know and fear.

It’s time for the progressive and faithful to take a stand and reclaim our position in the public square. We need more people to illustrate that faith can lead one to be open-minded and loving. Religion cannot and should not be the deciding factor of public policy, that is the beauty of this country, but, for those of us who are involved with religious groups - we work for them or we ascribe to them - we can allow those basic tenets to guide our lives and the ways we interact with the world.

But we have to be careful as well. As religious leaders, one must understand that our voices are influential to those who are watching. Therefore, reminding members of our faith of the breadth of opinions on issues is important. Unless the issue at hand is one of extreme prophetical nature, we must allow for differing voices to proclaim as well, as long as they proclaim the love of God.

The questions we are dealing with now are surrounding health care and issues of life and death. Maybe we should not be criticizing the Catholic bishops, but rather asking where all the progressive voices are in this deliberation?


Midrashional Thinker said...

Point well taken, Rachel. You are totally right that the left needs to learn from the right how to be visible and vociferous in public arenas. We don't seen as much press on what the liberal left clergy is doing, do we? Keep reminding me!

Also,I totally love the first paragraph - the whole story is there and it feeds the rest of the piece structurally.

Jason said...

It's not just the Catholic bishops who are on to something. You're right - we need to stop decrying the use of religion in the political discourse, and spend our energy instead on getting our progressive vision out there.

Otherwise we end up doing what 2004 Democrats did: voting against someone (Bush) instead of for someone (Kerry). It's so much more inspiring to be for something, isn't it?

I mean, what's more inspiring than the gospel?

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