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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:50 pm 
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Looking through this forum I was surprised to see this subject was not covered. 30 years ago and before there were many strong ties between Christian activists and what might loosely be called the 'Left'.
Now if we hear about Christianity in the US all we think about is activists on the Right. The voice of the left within American Christianity has been effectively silenced. I expect that is galling to many.
Just today I saw this:
http://www.tngovwatch.org/2010/12/my-dr ... st-church/


Quote:
Today, the Methodist Church is little more than the “religious” arm of socialism.
The Methodist church is pro-illegal immigration. They have been in the bag for socialist health care, going as far as sending out emails to their membership “debunking” the myths of Obamacare


Quote:
For the few remaining patriots in the Methodist church, know what that church supports and then you should abandon the church, much like the Methodist church as abandoned American values and patriotism.


The author, Judson Phillips is not a nobody, he is influential in the Tea Party movement.

Thoughts?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:15 pm 
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Well, there's this.
Quote:
As of in Matthew 5:3-12:

* Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
* Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
* Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
* Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
* for they will be filled.
* Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.
* Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
* Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
* Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

As of In Luke 6:20-23:

* Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
* Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
* Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
* Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.


I remember the Beatitudes from Sunday School, but it's been a good 18 years since I went to church regularly. My mother and my aunt, who pay more attention to such things, say almost no one talks about them now, though.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:22 pm 
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As someone who grew up in the Methodist church and counts three Methodist ministers in his immediate family, I could say some very uncharitable things about Mr. Phillips, but that would be, you know, unchristian of me. On the other hand, George W. Bush is a Methodist, so go figure.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 12:26 am 
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I heard part of this today on CBC radio and intend to listen to it later:

The Munk Debates, featuring Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens. The topic: is religion a force for good in the world?

What I heard was fascinating. Mr. Hitchens began, and IMHO he utterly demolished Mr. Blair before Mr. Blair even opened his mouth.

Mr. Blair is, of course, a recent convert to the Roman Catholic church. Mr. Hitchens is an atheist.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 12:57 am 
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But I am not so much talking about the atheist/believer debate but the apparent neutralising of the progressive voice within the various denominations of Christianity in the US. It was not always so.
I do not understand why that voice is no longer effective and I think it is long overdue that it should be once again. Nor am I particularly interested in finding reason's to dislike the right wing versions of Christianity. That is something well covered already. But how both they and right wing politicians have made them pre-eminent over Christian liberalism is worthy of thought.
How did they do that?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 1:38 am 
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My question is why any form of Christianity has become associated with fiscal conservatism. What in the world do these two have to do with each other??

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 1:43 am 
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I know, Tosh. But, believe me, this radio program is worth listening to!

Don't forget, Mr. Blair aligned himself with "the Right".

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 1:48 am 
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Ok, to give a more substantive response to your inquiry Tosh ...

I am certainly not qualified to give any more than the most casual opinion on any religious institution in this country, as I have not actively participated in any religion in nearly 30 years, but I do have an inside track, as it were, to the Methodist church through my family, and what I can tell you is that there are certainly a lot of right wing conservatives within the laity of Methodism. The reputation of the church as liberal comes largely from the clergy. In fact my experience is that the clergy tends to be far more liberal than many of the other members of the church.

I attribute this to the educational standards for Methodist clergy. In order to be ordained as a Methodist minister you have to get a degree from an accredited Methodist seminary, and all of them, as far as I know, are affiliated with major liberal arts universities, those bastions of socialist elitism that are so reviled by conservatives in the US. So it is no surprise that they would be, you know, inculcated into the whole socialist agenda of these institutions. *insert rolling eyes here*

The truth though is that the Methodist denomination has stressed social justice and service as one its core tenants from the very beginning. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, embraced Arminianism over Calvinism and as such the idea that men are saved through faith and grace and not through predestination. Wesley was a strong believer that service to others, primarily the poor and those in need, was an important part of a persons faith, and to this day the promise to give of your “prayers, your presence, your gifts and your service” is one of the vows a person takes when they join the Methodist church (Methodists have a penchant for the poetic). And the Beatitudes are still very much talked about in Methodist churches.

So it is no surprise that the seminaries are located in liberal institutions. And it is true that many Methodists are largely liberal, and many that I know are decidedly leftist in their political positions, favoring such heresies as same sex marriage, abortion rights, universal health care and the like. But there is also a strong conservative movement within the church, driven almost entirely by the laity. A fundamentalist movement called “The Confessing Movement” is working to transform the church “from within” to take it back to what it sees as the more traditional path of the church, whatever that may be. They are mostly opposed to the liberal leanings of the clergy.

The sad truth though, is the Methodist church is shrinking, like most of the other mainline protestant denominations. And you have to realize, the United Methodist Church is the largest mainline denomination in the US, the second largest protestant denomination after the Southern Baptist, and the third largest Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic and Baptist churches.

So based on that I would say that yes, the influence of leftist and liberal thinking on the Christian church in the US is diminishing. That doesn’t mean that it is gone, or that it is going to vanish forever, but it is becoming less of a force in religious circles.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 11:46 am 
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Thanks for that background tinwë.
From the WiKi article on the Confessing Movement:
Quote:
Dispute over grassroots origins

Many moderates and liberals in mainline denominations accuse the Confessing Movements of being part of an attempt by well-funded outsiders such as Institute on Religion and Democracy (a group founded by the prominent neoconservatives Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus) to silence the social agenda of the mainline Protestant denominations, rather than being a series of organically arising movements within various Protestant denominations as the Confessing Movements' leaders often claim it to be.

Many of the laity in the confessing congregations, however, may maintain that the aim of these Confessing Movements is simply to maintain the received Christian doctrine of the denomination as they understand it to have been traditionally taught and understood.
[edit] Debate about outside money

The confessing movements state that they receive no funding from the IRD. The groups that accuse the Confessing Movements groups of conspiring with the IRD claim that they derive a significant percentage of their budgets from the IRD, and in turn, the IRD itself is funded largely the by Scaife Family Charitable Trusts/Scaife Foundations, and to a lesser extent by the Smith Richardson Foundation.


And a very detailed in depth look at the strategy:
http://old.mediatransparency.org/story.php?storyID=93

Quote:
Good News/RENEW maintains that its central purpose is the spiritual renewal of the UMC. Spiritual Renewal should mean growing in faithfulness and building up one another to further the "transforming power of Christ" in the world. It should mean a new embrace of the biblical vision of love for God and neighbor, especially of those who are outsiders and "the least among us."

What our analysis of its publications found was very different. We read articles that continually tried to diminish and discredit the ministry of fellow Christians, especially those to outsiders and "the least among us." We found an unvarying political-party line embracing the far-right of the Republican Party while continually calling those with whom they disagree partisan. We also observed a willingness in this "spiritual renewal group" to associate themselves with extremist elements in society through recommending links to these groups.

Finally, despite repeated claims to the contrary, Good News/RENEW is embedded with and benefits from IRD, a secular- funded right-wing political organization unaffiliated with any church.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:51 pm 
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Interesting.

I see much the same pattern in Lutheran and Episcopalian churches--there are "liberal" and "conservative" branches emerging and struggling with one another. A recent example is the allowance of gay clergy in the Episcopalian church. I had a friend who left the church she loved (and wrote a book about) to attend a splinter group church. I lost touch with her some time after that, but the last I heard they were trying to align themselves with the dioceses from other countries (South America or Africa, I believe), who are still conservative.

Homosexuality is a hot-button issue, but I totally do not get how people can condemn other churches for caring about social welfare issues. I can understand disagreeing with methods but not to the point of reviling a group.

As a non-Methodist, I can tell you that my impression of Methodists has always been that they truly care about the social welfare of their community and their world; as such, they are active in outreach and helping the poor, etc.

I think that's rather a good reputation to have. :scratch:

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:49 pm 
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The only Christian denomination I am at all familiar with in any real sense is the Mennonite Church. From what I can see they are at once very conservative socially and at the same time very devoted to good works in the community. Traditional Mennonites do not get involved in politics and are pacifists.

They are apolitical because that's how they read the gospels, which is also why they are traditionally pacifists. The newer varieties of Mennonites are not quite so strict.

They embody both strains of Christianity, in fact. They are, in many ways, more "left" than "right".

But their doctrines are fundamentalist, the Bible is literally true, etc. and lately they have been moving somewhat to The Right and some have entered politics.

The Sikhs, of which we have a pretty big population, are obviously not Christians. But they are also exerting political clout on social issues such as gay marriage because they are quite socially conservative. They do not seem to be very active in charitable works in the general community, I don't know what their religion teaches about that sort of thing.

I can certainly understand that a person's conscience might require him to agitate politically against what he sees as sin or immorality. It seems inevitable to me that if enough people think that way they will get the society they want. It makes it difficult to keep the division between church and state - after all, the state will become what its citizens choose, as long as they CAN choose. Then obedience becomes the rule and choice is lost.

How many times over the history of humanity has this reality led to tragedy? I wonder.

Often people point to Nazi Germany as an example of a "secular state". But, in fact, Hitler at least pretended to be a Christian and many of his henchmen were religious - it is futile to point out that they were NOT good Christians. That's the excuse always made for Christians who do terrible things - they aren't GOOD Christians. No doubt!

Likewise the USSR is pointed out as what happens when a state is completely secular. But did the people of the USSR get to choose their government? In this case the State becomes the Church and obedience is the main requirement.

The end result is the same: tyranny.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:03 pm 
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If you read the second site I gave a link to it seems clear that neo conservative political organisations are behind the splintering of a range of Christian denominations with the aim of destroying their liberal heritage. It isn't just the Methodists.
The process is to form an activist group within each denomination to undermine the leadership. It is part of a planned campaign and each denomination has had the same attack. I believe I call it attack justifiably
It is my humble opinion that this should be both widely known and resisted for the honour of Christianity.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:53 pm 
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The notion that Hitler was any kind of Christian is a considerable surprise to me. ;) The Reich was far more important than God. Christians who resisted the Reich - both Protestants and Catholics - suffered the consequences. One of my WW2 heroes is Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was arrested and cruelly executed along with his co-conspirators, for taking part in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

This is not to deny that Christians can do terrible things, but I don't get the impression that Hitler even pretended to be one - I could be wrong about that, not being some kind of Hitler expert, but I don't think he needed to claim some kind of Christian credential in order to seduce the German soul - it was all that Wagnerian, 'Fatherland' stuff he and his cohort were into and were able to sell.

I see both the Fascism and Stalinism of that dark period as terrible twins - equally brutal, equally murderous and equally godless.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:33 pm 
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Equally godless? Not exactly. Not your god, maybe, but gods have many faces and many names.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 7:24 pm 
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By all means discuss the godlessness or otherwise of various 20th century despots but I hope the main discussion revolves around the loss of power of progressive Christian liberalism within American society and the reasons.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:49 pm 
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I am starting to learn how they did it. I linked to an article on the Methodist experience.
This is the same campaign waged against the Episcopalians:

http://www.edow.org/follow/part1.html

Quote:
Investing in Upheaval

Millions of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organizations to mount a global campaign that has destabilized the Episcopal Church and may break up the Anglican Communion.

The donors include five secular foundations that have contributed heavily to politically conservative advocacy groups, publications and think tanks, and one individual, savings and loan heir Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., who has given millions of dollars to conservative causes and candidates.

Contributions from Ahmanson and the Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife and Smith-Richardson family foundations have frequently accounted for more than half of the operating budgets of the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, according to an examination of forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and an analysis of statements made by both donors and recipients.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 11:24 pm 
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vison wrote:
Equally godless? Not exactly. Not your god, maybe, but gods have many faces and many names.


Well, Hitler, Stalin, Mao et al were elevated to quasi-godlike status and certainly craved that kind of power, if that's what you mean. ;).

Tosh, I don't feel qualified to comment on the American scene.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 11:38 pm 
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PBS showed an interesting documentary on this subject not long ago. I think it was "God in America" but I won't swear to it. However, it was fascinating. It's undoubtedly available somewhere.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:21 pm 
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Tosh, that really is interesting.

From my very limited personal experience with this, I don't know of any type of larger group infiltrating my friend's church. It seemed very much like the conservatives were already present in the congregation and split once the ruling became final that gay people could be clergy. They did draw together with other conservatives from around the area and began to meet together as a new congregation. They were finally incorporated into a local church that supported the whole conservative movement. (However, I wouldn't be surprised if there were liberals in that church who felt compelled to leave.) Now, if the conservatives are being funded from here on out by wealthy donors, I could see that being possible.

Can I say that another thing fueling this kind of behavior is talk radio people like Glenn Beck?

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:40 am 
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ToshoftheWuffingas wrote:
Looking through this forum I was surprised to see this subject was not covered. 30 years ago and before there were many strong ties between Christian activists and what might loosely be called the 'Left'.
Now if we hear about Christianity in the US all we think about is activists on the Right. The voice of the left within American Christianity has been effectively silenced. I expect that is galling to many.
Just today I saw this:
http://www.tngovwatch.org/2010/12/my-dr ... st-church/


Quote:
Today, the Methodist Church is little more than the “religious” arm of socialism.
The Methodist church is pro-illegal immigration. They have been in the bag for socialist health care, going as far as sending out emails to their membership “debunking” the myths of Obamacare


Quote:
For the few remaining patriots in the Methodist church, know what that church supports and then you should abandon the church, much like the Methodist church as abandoned American values and patriotism.


The author, Judson Phillips is not a nobody, he is influential in the Tea Party movement.

Thoughts?

I'm not sure anyone who infers that challenging current immigration policy or supporting universal health care is un-American or unpatriotic is worth grappling with.

As well "Christianity and the Left" is not a subject best addressed at the macro level -- sweeping generalizations are not up to the task. For instance, the last Methodist Church (AME) I attended was what I would call Conservative from the pulpit but Liberal at the doctrinal level:

Quote:
The Mission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and environmental needs of all people by spreading Christ's liberating gospel through word and deed. At every level of the Connection and in every local church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church shall engage in carrying out the spirit of the original Free African Society, out of which the AME Church evolved: that is, to seek out and save the lost, and serve the needy through a continuing program of

1. preaching the gospel,
2. feeding the hungry,
3. clothing the naked,
4. housing the homeless,
5. cheering the fallen,
6. providing jobs for the jobless,
7. administering to the needs of those in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, asylums and mental institutions, senior citizens' homes; caring for the sick, the shut-in, the mentally and socially disturbed, and
8. encouraging thrift and economic advancement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Me ... pal_Church


Furthermore one could not really understand this topic without looking at how Christianity is viewed from the Left. In the structured Left various and sundry caucuses (caucusii?) -- aka special interests -- have little use for followers of Christ, largely, I believe, due to the impression the "religious right" leaves on anyone with a social conscience.


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