Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Category: Religious Right

Sarah Palin Can’t Decide If Fictional Single Women Should Raise Children

Fans of The LiberalOasis Radio Show know we try very hard not to talk about Sarah Palin, because without liberal outrage, she would go away.
But I can’t pass this up.
Her new book bothers to slam the 1992 fictional TV character “Murphy Brown” for choosing to keep her baby and raise it without a father.
Media Matters excerpts:

Standing up for the family wasn’t fashionable then and it is even less fashionable now. Many of us remember one of the early and epic clashes of the American heartland versus Hollywood over the role of the American family.
It was May 1992, and thirty-eight million Americans watched as a fictional television journalist named Murphy Brown, finding herself over forty, divorced, and pregnant, decided to have the child alone. Without the baby’s father. On prime-time television.

And her new book praises the fictional movie character “Juno” for having her baby. AP reports:

Most Americans, I think, are a lot like Juno,” she writes — they may not be actively religious, “but they still want to do the right thing.”

Juno, of course, then gave her baby to a soon-to-be divorced woman who was going to raise it without a father.

The Republicans’ Secular Problem

In recent days, there’s been another round of heated dialogue within the Left about perceived slights against both religious and nonreligious liberals.
Hopefully, this round will lead to additional understanding, since we need a strong religious-nonreligious coalition to best stand up to the fringe fundamentalists of the conservative movement.
Forging that coalition is something I discussed in Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!, as a way to defuse charges that liberals are hostile to religion.
But I also wrote:

…there are an equal amount of voters who attend services at least weekly as there are voters who seldom or never go. It is true that regular churchgoers trend Republican and the “seldom of never” group trends Democratic, but that means you could just as easily say Republicans have a “secular problem.”

That was written before the 2006 midterm elections.
Now, the GOP “secular problem” is far more severe.
Eschaton recently called attention to the Pew exit poll from the midterms.
Which found that the Democrats’ lead has widened to massive proportions among those who attend church seldom (now at 60%-38%) or never (67%-30%).
While the Republican lead weakened among those who attend services weekly (now just 53%-46%).
(Democrats also opened up a big lead among the little discussed swing group, those who attend church monthly.)
Republicans are failing to be competitive among the secular (defined broadly), while Democrats are being competitive among the religious.
In turn, the Republicans have a secular problem.
As noted earlier on the LiberalOasis Wire in the right-hand column, Frameshop warns that:

Republican consultants … are again telling their clients to attack Democrats as “anti-religious” … preparing to launch smear after smear to sell the idea that religious folks in America are under attack.

The improved 2006 poll numbers should not make Dems let down their guard. Poll numbers can always change.
A prominent religious-nonreligious coalition — based on shared principles, not phony pandering or craven capitulation — is still needed to neutralize those expected attacks.
But those attacks will do nothing to solve the Republicans’ secular problem, and may very well make it worse.

Don’t Think of the Elephant on the Table

The blogosphere has become an important new cultural, political, and journalistic phenomenon. The Yearly Kos celebrated the newfound power of the blogosphere — and there will be many other conferences to ponder what it all means.
There are also all sorts of conferences this summer to discuss politics and important issues of the day as we head into the drama of the mid-term elections. But amidst all of the turmoil of the changing political landscape and fascinating advances in communications technology — one thing remains largely unchanged. When organizations get together, one subject that is rarely on the agenda is the religious right and what to do about it.
Oh sure, the legislative policy wonks talk about the threat of the Right to their agenda, but in terms of seriously building an understanding of this formidable movement into the short and long term planning of the major organizations in America, it just doesn’t much happen.
Sometimes we wonder why the religious right is doing so well. It is the leading faction in the GOP in Congress these days. And it enjoys outright control of many state Republican parties including Texas — where they recently reaffirmed their conviction that the U.S. was founded as a Christian Nation.
The religious right has influenced the domestic and foreign policy of the Bush administration on quite a range of matters, and with appalling consequences. For example, Uganda had a model AIDS prevention program. But thanks to the coercive funding policies of the Bush administration, “abstinence only” replaced the successful model program — and recently the minister of health announced that the HIV rate had doubled.
Horror stories abound.
But here is the deal.
In order to have coherent conversations about the religious right — just as with any subject — it helps to have some kind of common set of knowledge, an agreed upon set of terms, and the capacity to develop deeper understandings that can inform our evolving understanding of the dynamics of political life. I have suggested five books that could form the basis for such a conversation. At the blog site, Talk to Action, we are trying to ratchet-up our collective literacy about these things. But it is just one place. We need to have more such places in our political lives to have these conversations. One event that always features at least one discussion of the right is the annual reproductive rights conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
I was on the panel this year, when a remarkable thing happened:
There were about sixty-five people in the session; mostly young; almost all women. Some worked for reproductive rights organizations around the country. As always, it was an interesting and informative set of presentations, and a thought provoking question and answer period.
At the end of the program, each of the presenters was asked to take a minute for a final word.
I took my minute to observe that in our workplaces; in our political organizations, be they prochoice, LGBT, Democratic Party; whatever — there are no spaces where we can speak knowledgeably and coherently about the religious right. As I said this, audible murmurs of agreement rippled through the room, and there was a visible physical reaction among many. I was startled by this: clearly I had surfaced and identified a need people have in their political lives.

At conferences all over America this summer, the elephant on the table will be the religious right — and everyone will be talking around it. Few will be so impolite as to ask when we are going to actually talk about it.