Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Evangelicals Used To Be Progressive Edition

From this James Rohrer post on Salon/Alternet:
Most Sioux County [Iowa] voters are descendants of Dutch Protestant immigrants who settled the area more than a century ago. Their grandparents and great-grandparents were if anything even more theologically conservative, more pietistic, and more inclined to lace every conversation with biblical injunctions. But a century ago, the local folk opened their Bibles and found admonitions against rich rulers exploiting the poor. They found Jesus preaching that the “sinners” would enter the Kingdom of God before the Chamber of Commerce types, and understood that disciples must speak out against the Trusts and war profiteers. I just spent a week reading through the Alton Democrat for 1900, which routinely drew upon the Bible to editorialize against the imperialist ambitions of the United States –even dubbing its capitalist rulers “immoral” and “evil”– and to denounce the moneyed aristocracy that unjustly controlled the destiny of the people. . . .

The Bible has not changed, and neither have the core theological beliefs of the people of Sioux County. But society has changed and the nature of political action has evolved almost beyond recognition since the turn of the 20th century. The Bible and the Christian tradition can be tapped as resources for an array of political agendas. That the “heartland” has in recent decades swung so far away from the populist tradition of [William Jennings] Bryan is not because there is something intrinsically authoritarian or anti-democratic in the religious beliefs of the masses, but because Republican strategists in the last two generations have done a far better job than progressives at organizing, marketing and communicating their message in a way that appeals at a visceral level to the hopes and fears of many people. To change America, we must change this reality.
While discussing Rohrer's essay, Ed Kilgore adds a paragraph from his review of  Michael Kazin's biography of William Jennings Bryan, A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan
Once upon a time, right here in America, tens of millions of people read the Bible daily and read little else; believed it to be the literal and inerrant Word of God; and somehow interpreted it as a saga wherein God repeatedly delivered His people from the predations of the rich and the powerful and the privileged, perpetually condemned their subjugation as a divine commandment, and further commanded that they respect their equality as His children. In other words, those politicized Christians who have formed a firm alliance with Mammon and Mars on the grounds that the Word’s main message today is to condemn abortion and homosexuality and feminism are forever vulnerable to those faithful who read their Bible and see otherwise.

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