Six Reasons We Can't Change The Future Without Progressive Religion
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Third, over the course of American history, liberal religious faiths have been the primary promoter of progressive values throughout the culture -- and also the leading institution when it came time to inculcate our progressive sensibilities into the next generation. Many, if not most, progressives in America are progressive specifically because they believe that this is what their faith demands of them. They're raising their kids in churches and temples because they believe, as the Bible says, that "if you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Liberal congregations have etched our values onto the young souls of tens of millions of American progressives, over three centuries and dozens of generations. Do we really want to try to do without them now?
Fourth, progressive religion has always been America's most credible and aggressive front-line defender of non-market-based values against the onslaught of capitalism and greed. In recent years, as the “free-market” fetishists took over (and gulled American Evangelicals into shilling for their hellish utilitarianism), our liberal faith communities -- mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics, Jews and Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the rising wave of reformist Muslims -- are the strongest remaining cultural forces left with the moral authority to insist that we have a duty to the poor, that democracy cannot survive without a commitment to justice, and that compassion is always a better survival strategy than competition.
The market says: Everything and everybody has a price, and is for sale. Faith says: The most valuable things in our lives -- good health, safe food, strong families, a clean environment, a just economy, meaningful work, access to opportunity -- are beyond price, and should by right be available to us all. Our faith communities (especially, but not always exclusively, the progressive ones) have always held this light up within our culture, and it's never been needed more than it's needed right now.
Fifth, in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief -- and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief -- abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice. For most Americans, our religious worldviews are the epistemological soil in which every other decision we make is rooted -- the basic model of reality that we use to navigate the world. When we stopped engaging people's basic model of moral order, we effectively ceded the entire moral landscape of the nation to our enemies. It was, in retrospect, perhaps the most self-destructive error we've made over the past 40 years (and that's saying something).
To our credit, a lot of our best organizers and activists are starting to realize the magnitude of this mistake. We're paying a lot more attention these days to learning to clearly articulate progressive values, to express ourselves in explicitly moral language, and to put forward more strongly progressive frames, narratives, and future visions to counter the bankrupt conservative worldview that's brought us to this sorry place in history.
But while we're working toward some new understandings here, let's also remember that the right wing's success on taking this field was rooted directly in their ability to mobilize conservative churches to carry the moral banner forward into the culture for them. If we're going to overwrite their brutal and anti-democratic story of how the world works, the most important step we can take is to tap into the vast reach and deep moral authority of our remaining progressive faith communities, and amplify their voices every way we can. Churches and temples have always been the first and most natural places Americans turn when it's time to have serious cultural conversations about value and meaning and the future they desire. If we're serious about changing the national story and bending the future in our preferred direction, then that's where we need to be.