Monday, November 23, 2009

Where are the progressives?

In the furor over the Catholic Bishops threat to cut off services to the least among the citizens of Washington DC simply to make a political point, and the subsequent announcement of the Manhattan Declaration, it is very easy to overlook the positive Christian voices preaching acceptance.

Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane posted an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing “A Christian Case for Same Sex Marriage”. He’s got some interesting points, and it is an interesting read. It is an extreme contrast to most of the hate-filled rhetoric coming from the religious right.

What I wonder about is why the positive voices seem to get lost in the babble when the negative voices come through loud and clear? Perhaps it’s because we tend to take our supporters for granted. Why put time and effort into lobbying someone who already agrees with you? Americans have a slang term for this, incidentally based in religious imagery—“preaching to the choir.”

Another reason could be that the media thrives on controversy. The only time support is notable is when a formerly unsupportive person or organization switches positions. Most of the positive GLBT Christian voices, like the Episcopal Church in America, the MCC, and others, have been consistently positive for years, so they are no longer generating controversy. Even when something does generate controversy, like the ELCA decision this summer, it boils down to a tempest in a teapot. Most of the general public and even many of the church’s laity are ignorant of what is going on, and even if they know, they brush it off as ‘politics as usual’ and see it as having little bearing on their daily life.

Conversely, the Religious Right knows how to mobilize their base. Fear is a very powerful motivator. While it is not a direction I’d necessarily like to see progressives move in, I wonder if part of the issue is that they’ve been taking the “See, you have nothing to be afraid of” approach.

With the crazies ratcheting up their base, can the Progressives afford to sit on the sidelines or refuse to stoop to their opponent’s level? That’s what happened to get Maine Question 1 passed and strip away marriage rights for gay couples. The base was whipped up into a fearful froth, and the progressives said, “Oh, I don’t need to vote because so-and-so who agrees with me is going to vote for the side of this bill I support.” When you do that, it’s a case of Anybody, Everybody, Somebody and Nobody.

Well, I'm somebody. Are you?


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