Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Adele Stan has a good column about the potential schism in the Episcopal Church.

However tempting it may be to think of these controversies as the mere internecine struggles of individual churches, to do so would be to ignore their significance for the progressive movement as a whole. Ever since the rise of the religious right, liberals have longed for a religious counterpart on the left. But that notion was always dubious, and the recent turmoil within the Episcopal Church should put it to rest for good. Without the wholehearted participation of the mainline Protestant churches, there can be no religious left remotely comparable to the Christian right in Protestant-dominated America. And churches in the throes of schism hardly have the wherewithal to marshal their resources in the service of battles in the secular political arena.

Though, on the surface, my pronouncement may seem disheartening, I must confess to finding a measure of liberation in letting go of the hope for a forceful new religious left. Over the last 20 years, I have witnessed attempts by well-meaning liberal clerics to construct various bodies and alliances in the hopes of creating a parallel movement to that of the religious right. Organizations have come together and drifted apart, leaving a trail of frustration in their wake. The fervent hope for the creation of a vigorous, cohesive religious left has amounted to a vigil for Godot -- the one who never arrives. And now I am grateful he never did.

In seeking to create a counterpart to the religious right, we tried to force our values through a narrow hole. In essence, we bought into the religious authoritarianism of the right, inferring that moral authority proceeds only from religion. In this, we have sold ourselves short.