Chuck Currie writes:
If there a difference between the political aims of the religious rights and the progressive left? Yes, and it is pretty basic. The Southern Baptists, for example, maintain close ties with Republican political candidates, like George W. Bush, and work to elect them. Their efforts often cross the line between separation of church and state and even violate IRS rules governing churches.
Progressive religious people tend to be tied more to causes (homelessness, poverty, civil rights, health care, etc.) than to individual candidates and almost never claim to speak for God on partisan political issues. Claiming to speak for God is a hallmark of the religious right.
Does Chuck Currie live in the same world as the rest of us? True, Southern Baptists maintain close ties with Republican political candidates, but since when did religious liberals distance themselves from political liberals? Do they really not work together for causes they consider important? Of course not. Youíve heard of Al Sharpton, Iím sure.
Is it true that religious liberals tend to be tied more to causes than the Christian Right? Thatís even more absurd. I can refute that in two words: gay marriage. Too complicated? Well, I can refute that in one word: abortion. Members of the Christian Right are not only deeply tied to particular issues, it is arguable that such causes have been a driving factor in the growth of the Christian Right in America. Would the Christian Right really be where it is today without the cause of abortion to incite and excite members?
Do religious liberals really not try to claim to speak for God? Of course they do. Every time a religious liberal talks about what they think God would want, they are doing the same thing that conservative Christians do.
Does that mean there are no differences between the religious right and the religious left? No, itís just that Currieís attempt to explain the differences doesnít help us.
One difference is, obviously, different political goals. Liberals are inclined to support abortion choice, conservatives are inclined to support abortion criminalization. Liberals are inclined to support gay marriage (or at least some equivalent), conservatives are inclined to not only criminalize gay marriage, but also sodomy, sex toys, etc.
But doesnít the religious right seek to impose their religious values on everyone else through the law? Yes, they do, and they arenít bashful about admitting that ó but that doesnít differentiate them from the religious left. Most, if not all, of the policies decisions religious liberals make stem from their religious values as well. Theyíre religious, remember?
There is, however, an important difference to be found there: whereas the Christian Right usually stops once they find a religious justification for some decision (secular justifications are superfluous at best), religious liberals donít. A religious liberal may defend abortion choice based upon certain religious values, but thereís a good chance that they have secular reasons to support choice as well.
Whereas the Christian Right always comes back to God or the Bible, religious liberals will come back to God and the Constitution, the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. Like Martin Luther King using both his religion and Americaís political traditions to attack segregation, religious liberals tend to be comfortable reaching into both religious and secular traditions to explain or defend their positions.
Thatís not a superficial difference, like supporting causes over candidates, thatís a fundamental difference in basic attitudes and approaches. This is what keeps religious liberals from crossing the line separating church from state ó they may have religious reasons for a position, but the existence of strong secular reasons as well means that the proposal is more likely to be constitutional.