Monday, March 28, 2005

Get working!

Last week Doctor Shlomo, one of my two guest contributors had a post in which he took a couple of other liberal bloggers to task for harshing on religious lefties. I’m going to take this opportunity to suggest that Doctor Shlomo and the liberal bloggers are talking across each other about two different phenomena.

Doctor Shlomo rightly points out that there are a number of liberal religious groups out there doing “good works”. These include Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Catholic Worker Movement. However, Mike the Mad Biologist (and others) rightly point out that there are few liberal Christian groups doing political work. As I understand it, the critiques we are reading about liberal Christians is not that they are not active, but that they are not active in motivating Christians to vote Democrat. Doctor Shlomo has given us examples of religious lefties struggling to improve this world, Mike and others are complaining that they need to be working to improve Democrats’ performance in the polls.

The fact is, right-wing conservative Christians have spent the last 30 years convincing their friends and neighbors that Democrats are out to get them and that only Republicans can represent their interests. Left-wing Christians have spent the last 30 years protesting nuclear war, social injustice and abusive governments. Right-wing Christians have spent 30 years trying to get people elected to local, state and federal legislatures. Left-wing Christians have spent 30 years providing services to those in need. Right-wing Christians have focused on gaining control of the political system, left-wing Christians have focused on doing good.

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Three weeks ago, I spent a Saturday afternoon at a place called So Others Might Eat. It’s a soup kitchen/social services organization that provides food, shelter, education and counseling to homeless people in DC. While there, I talked with some of the other folks volunteering. Turns out, most of them were from “liberal” churches in the District. Turns out, too, that these folks have filled the volunteer schedule for SOME through July. That’s right. Liberal lefty Christians doing good works and lots of them.

Where were the conservative evangelicals and suburban mega-church believers? Not there. Many of them were at the National Association of Evangelicals conference in downtown DC, adopting a platform that called for evangelicals to expand their attentions away from the bread and butter issues like abortion and gay marriage to focus on social justice issues and the environment. In other words, conservative evangelicals have decided that now that they control the federal government, maybe they should start working to help other people. Maybe religious lefties need to do the same. Now that they’ve mastered the art of helping other people, maybe they should start working to help Democrats regain control of the federal government.