For years, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has maintained the fiction that it is a religiously neutral organization that is simply looking out for the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans. It isn’t often that AU drops the mask enough to demonstrate that it is actually a coalition of religious liberals and secular leftists whose mission demands the condemnation, not just of church-state separation violators, but of any conservative form of faith (especially Christian, of course). Rob Boston illustrates this nicely on the “Wall of Separation” blog:
A new survey about religion in America has the Religious Right all worked up.
Researchers at Trinity College in Hartford noted a sharp rise in the number of Americans who, when asked to state their religious preference, replied “none.” According to some polls, this bloc of Americans now accounts for about 15 percent, and Trinity researchers say it may rise to 20 percent by 2030.
There’s no mystery why this would be disturbing to faithful Christians (those to whom Boston is referring with his sneering expression “Religious Right”). To the extent that people are losing faith, or leaving the church of Christ, that should bother anyone who considers matters of faith to be something more than trivial matters of fashion. But Boston has an idea why this is happening:
I have to wonder if church-based politicking hasn’t played a role in the rise of the “nones” as well. Several polls have shown that Americans are uncomfortable with politics emanating from the pulpit. People go to a house of worship to get close to God or share fellowship with other believers – not to be told which candidate to support or hear a lecture on public policy.
Yet the Religious Right keeps egging pastors to politicize their pulpits and to sermonize constantly about abortion, same-sex marriage and now even health-care reform. No wonder people are voting with their feet.
I happen to agree that endorsing candidates and lecturing on public policy don’t belong in the pulpit. What I find amusing is that Boston seems to think that this only goes on in churches beholden to the “Religious Right.” In the cloistered halls of Americans United, they have apparently never heard of Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Michael Kinnimon, Katharine Jefforts-Schori, John Thomas, Clifton Kirkpatrick, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, Carlton Veazey, Welton Gaddy, or any of the other hundreds of leaders of the “Religious Left,” or the thousands of liberal preachers who regularly use their pulpits to deliver themselves of their opinions about environmental legislation, health care reform, capital punishment, nuclear weapons, immigration reform, or, yes, abortion and gay marriage.
But that’s only apparently. Of course they know all about the Wallises and McLarens and Kinnimons at AU, and they heartily approve of what they do in politicizing churches to the left. Americans United also approves of their seeking to push churches to the left in terms of their approach to theological teaching:
This trend terrifies the Religious Right, of course. How dare Americans presume to interpret holy books and articles of faith for themselves, unaided by TV preachers, dogmatic clergy or other go-betweens?
Leaders of the Religious Right just don’t get it. The intolerance, near-fanatical insistence on adherence to a narrow dogma and obsession with politics are driving many away – yet they just keep it up.
You’d think that Boston didn’t know that there are some denominations where clergy are expected to be “dogmatic” (i.e., teach Christian doctrine as revealed by God rather than as mere human opinions, and thus dismissable), and where members don’t want their preachers offering mush. You’d think that Boston didn’t know that some denominations and many Christians don’t consider the glories of historic orthodoxy “narrow dogma.” In fact, he does, and doesn’t care. For AU, the enemy isn’t simply breaches of the “wall of separation.” It’s conservative Evangelical and Catholic Christianity.