Tuesday, September 26, 2006

National Religious Leaders Respond

I did not mean to imply yesterday that there were NOT progressive religious leaders who support sexual justice issues. Indeed, the Religious Institute is a network of more than 2600 religious leaders from more than 40 faith traditions that support the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

There are nationally recognized religious leaders who understand and articulate the connection. For example, my friend and colleague Rev. Barry Lynn who heads Americans United has an excellent new book out called Piety and Politics which demonstrates how attacks on sex education, gay rights, and women's moral agency are of a single piece with attacks on the separation of church and state, the teaching of evolution, the posting of religious symbols in public places, public prayer, and so on. He urges readers to say no to theocracy, and in one of my favorite passages, he writes:

"The goals of Christ and the goals of the Religious Right seem to have little in common. Christ did not spend his time trying to forge a faith-based government. He did not obsess over the sexual habits of people. Were he here today, I find it inconceivable that Christ would parade in front of abortion clinics screaming at teenage girls or picket a gay man's funeral hoisting a sign with a hateful homophobic message."

Rabbi Michael Lerner from Tikkun sent me this message about yesterday's blog:

Dear Debra, It is certainly true that the Religious Right tries to make the issue of abortion and homosexuality the central issues in American politics. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives unequivocally oppose any attempts by the state to prohibit reproductive choices for women or to prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying with the same attendant rights gives to heterosexual marriages. Yet at the same time we agree with Jim Wallis in insisting that we not allow the Right to set the terms for politics in the U.S. Our task as spiritual progressives, we believe, is to change the dominant discourse so that it does not persist in its narrow fascination on private sexual and reproductive choices, important as they are, while ignoring these other areas that Jim Wallis mentions (poverty and economic issues in particular). We at the NSP also believe that issues of peace and non-violence, human rights and civil liberties, torture, and addressing the fundamental spiritual crisis in America should be central to the agenda of a progressive movement, and that we should insist on broadening the public discourse away from a narrow focus on abortion and homosexuality.

I agree completely. I wish I could spend more of my time working with clergy and congregations on how to be sexually healthy, how to help people integrate their sexuality and their spirituality, how to help people live sexual lives with holiness and integrity -- and less time responding to the religious rights attacks on people's most personal and private decisions. But, as long as the religious right makes abortion and gay rights central issues in their agenda for America, progressive and mainstream religious leaders must engage these issues as well.

1 comment:

Beverly Dale said...

It seems that those of us who believe in women's capacity to make moral decisions on our own behalf are always running around plugging the holes in the dike as those who are erotophobic seek to remove that agency. I have two solutions: first we have to understand that most people who are anti-sexual/anti-woman/anti-freedom are usually motivated by rage spurred on by fear and great insecurity if not guilt. Those are not pretty emotions and yet I believe they are often present. So, understanding that dynamic might help us in determining strategy. And secondly, the strategy I would recommend is that we (mostly women) have to start telling the truth about what sexual repression has felt like. We need to give it a "personal face." In my case it was unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, thwarted dreams, ill-advised marriage, sexual dysfunction and ignorance. And, most importantly, it all had God's blessing. Now, for most people of faith, whether on the right or left, that would be rather devastating to hear and acknowledge as the outcome, far too often, for the policies they propose. I recently concluded two performances of these stories in a one-woman show "An Irreverant Journey from Egg Beaters to Vibrators" and the response was overwhelmingly positive. People (especially women) really want to talk about the way sexual repression has impacted their lives and that of their mothers and daughters. This is not about an ideology or a political position. This is about where we live our daily lives.
Keep up the good writing and the good work of advocacy and plugging the holes in the dikes. However let's also tell the stories that will touch people's hearts and their transform spirits as well.