Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Premature Obituaries...

Over at Religious Dispatches, there are two blog entries today that look at the question of "Is the Religious Right dead?"

Having just finished reading both, I find my pulse racing, as sexual justice issues are once again pushed to the side, as problems to be solved to create an evangelical center rather than moral justice issues at the center of millions of people's lives. Laura Olson in her blog says that progressive religious voices "are afire with discussion of a different kind of marriage between religion and politics that emphasizes peace and justice issues instead of socio-moral concerns." I think she means the issues I care about: women, sexuality education, reproductive health and reproductive justice, full inclusion of LGBT persons.

My colleague Robby Jones quotes Dr. David Gushee at a meeting this week of Third Way:

"Abortion more than any other issue poses a problem in gaining the vote of centrist evangelicals. If a Democratic presidential candidate proposed a serious demand-side plan to reduce abortion by half over the next eight years, and invested real political capital in the effort, it would make a significant difference for centrist evangelicals.”

But that would mean supporting comprehensive sexuality education, defunding ineffective abstinence only education program, and providing family planning service, goals that many of the people who don't believe in women's right to make her own moral decisions about abortion don't support.

Robby Jones provides interesting statistics on how progressive evangelicals and evangelicals on the right differ dramatically on sexual orientation, abortion, and stem cell research. He writes:

A majority of left/center evangelicals support stem cell research, legalized abortion, and access to the morning after pill without a prescription. There is a remarkable 50-point gap between left/center and right Evangelicals on each of these issues. Importantly, more than 8 in 10 in the evangelical left/center want to find middle ground on abortion laws, while 6 in 10 in the evangelical right think there’s no room for compromise on abortion.

On gay and lesbian issues, while only a quarter of the left/center evangelicals support allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry, a near majority (49 percent) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples, compared to only 11 percent of the evangelical right.

Jones concludes:

"...there is indeed a new evangelical center emerging. .. This new movement is no less evangelical than the right. But it promises to be less strident, less partisan, and less defensive; it also promises to be more creative and more willing to follow conclusions into unconventional places to work for the common good... the evangelical left/center—half of evangelicals and 13 percent of voters—has the real potential to partner with political progressives on a range of issues going forward in ways that defy the conventional wisdom of “the era of the Religious Right.”

Just don't expect that reproductive health and justice and full inclusion for LGBT persons, including marriage equality, are going to be among those issues. The extreme Religious Right may be losing some of its momentum, but for those of us who support sexual justice, it's not time to let down our guard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You could also read this more optimistically, Debra...
"Just don't expect that reproductive health and justice and full inclusion for LGBT persons, including marriage equality, are going to be among those issues. "
It seems like Jones was pointing toward the fact that center/left evangelicals would be willing to start working on our issues or are at least somewhat open to a progressive view on reproductive and sexual justice issues. My view is if some evangelicals have moved so far from the right to be okay with abortion reduction and civil unions, that's a short step from marriage equality and understanding the need for comprehensive sex education. Most conservative people I know have made the transition slowly, but once they move . . . and have theological reason to . . . they end up having little or no argument against the rest of the journey. I stress the "have theological reason to", I don't think a change of view based only on a secular argument for will of the people is strong enough to move folks to full sexual and reproductive justice stances.