Monday, October 24, 2005

Taking Leadership in Response to the Religious Right

The Religious Right rose to power while most of the nation remained somnambulant. Books and articles were written; film documentaries broadcast; and activist and scholarly seminars and conferences held -- but most of our leading institutions have had little to no response. Fortunately, this is changing. Leaders of major religious and secular institutions are beginning to speak out -- and to lead their institutions into the central struggles of our time.

Last week Rev. John Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ, spoke out against the attacks on the mainline churches -- including his own. This week, Dr. Hunter Rawlings, interim president of Cornell University called on the Cornell community to address the "invasion of science by intelligent design."

According to an account of his speech by Susan Lang of Cornell news service, Rawlings' call came in his first "State of the University" address since becoming interim president in June.

Read on. Meet Hunter Rawlings: professor of classics; hero of constitutional democracy; and role model for how university leaders can and must respond in this era of theocratic creep in American public life. Here is an excerpt from Lang's report.
Rawlings said, "I.D. [intelligent design] is not valid as science... I.D. is a subjective concept.... a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea. It is neither clearly identified as a proposition of faith nor supported by other rationally based arguments." Advocates of I.D. voice a creationist argument that some features of the natural world are so "irreducibly complex" that they must have required a creator, or an "intelligent designer."

I.D. is, he said, "a matter of great significance to Cornell and to this country as a whole ... a matter ... so urgent that I felt it imperative to take it on for this State of the University Address." The packed auditorium gave Rawlings a lengthy standing ovation at the conclusion of his address.

"I am convinced that the political movement seeking to inject religion into state policy and our schools is serious enough to require our collective time and attention," he said. As such, he asked that Cornell's three task forces -- on the life sciences, on digital information and on sustainability -- consider how to confront such questions as "how to separate information from knowledge and knowledge from ideology; how to understand and address the ethical dilemmas and anxieties that scientific discovery has produced; and how to assess the influence of secular humanism on culture and society."

He said that Cornell, which some refer to as the world's land-grant university, is in a unique position to bring humanists, social scientists and scientists together to "venture outside the campus to help the American public sort through these complex issues. I ask them to help a wide audience understand what kinds of theories, arguments and conclusions deserve a place in the academy -- and why it isn't always a good idea to 'teach the controversies.' When professors tend only to their own disciplinary gardens, public discourse is seriously undernourished," he said.

In his address, Rawlings first reviewed how the I.D. issue is playing out across the country, with disputes about evolution making news in at least 20 states and numerous school districts. He then recounted the controversy historically, with Darwin publishing his groundbreaking book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," in 1860; the 1925 Scopes trial that deterred anti-evolution legislation pending in 16 states at the time; and the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that ruled as invalid Louisiana's "Creationism Act" that would have forbade teaching evolution in public schools. Now the controversy is back full throttle in a highly polarized nation, Rawlings said, challenging again what is taught in schools and universities.

Rawlings then reviewed how Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, Cornell's first president, were definitive about the issue when they created the first "American" university. Rawlings quoted White as writing that the institution "should be under the control of no political party and of no single religious sect." Rawlings then quoted from a letter Ezra Cornell had placed in Sage Hall's cornerstone in 1873, and unearthed just a few years ago...."

Rawlings' quote from Ezra Cornell's letter well summarizes the role of religion in a secular institution and a secular society. Cornell warned "that the principal danger, and I say almost the only danger I see in the future to be encountered by the friends of education, and by all lovers of true liberty is that which may arise from sectarian strife. From these halls, sectarianism must be forever excluded, all students must be left free to worship God, as their conscience shall dictate, and all persons of any creed or all creeds must find free and easy access, and a hearty and equal welcome, to the educational facilities possessed by the Cornell University.....".
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Living Proof Ministries vs. Living Proof Inc. - A Clarification

A correction, an apology, and a developing story : I've withdrawn my story posted here on October 20th due to an inaccuracy : there are apparently two "Living Proof" entities involved in radio broadcasting, and I received an email from a representative of Living Proof Ministries, the nonprofit founded by evangelist Beth Moore, to the effect that Living Proof Ministries and Living Proof Inc. are not legally related entities.

The confusion was somewhat widespread and seems to have originated in an inaccuracy on the WAVM website which identified the competing applicant for the WAVM low power FM broadcast band as the "Living Proof Inc" associated with Beth Moore's "Living Proof" ministry. That was incorrect, and at least two Boston area newspapers also carried stories repeating that inaccurate attribution. My apologies to Beth Moore and Living Proof Ministry for my part in further broadcasting the mistake.

This confusion has proved oddly serendidipitous however, as an exploration into the correct "Living Proof Inc." has revealed a little known and startling avenue by which the Christian right is expanding an ability to bring its message to a wide sector of the American public, even to Massachusetts and on a national scale.

I will be introducing this story, likely in segments, for the upcoming launch of the new Talk to Action website. Stay tuned.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Last Call for Hot NYC Conference on Dominionism

Some of the best of those who think and write about the Religious Right are convening at the graduate school of the City University of New York this weekend. The occasion is a conference jointly sponsored by CUNY and the New York Open Center It is a rare opportunity to listen to and interact with these exceptionally thoughtful and well informed people.
I am honored to be included among them.


Dominionism, Political Power & the Theocratic Right

Dominionism is an influential form of fundamentalist religion that believes that in order to fulfill biblical prophecy, "godly Christians" must take control of the levers of political and judicial power in America in the near future.... Just how has this religious ideology gained influence in Congress, American political culture, and in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East and on the environment? What can be done to alert concerned citizens to the theocratic impulse growing in their midst? The goal of this seminar is to examine the power and influence of a religious and political movement that questions the separation of church and state, and that aims to establish a biblical society governed by biblical laws.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates; co-author, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort; Frederick Clarkson, author, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; Michelle Goldberg, senior writer, Salon.com, Esther Kaplan, author, With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House. Chris Hedges, former New York Times reporter and author of Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America; Craig Unger, journalist and author whose journey to the Middle East with Tim LaHaye is the subject of a forthcoming article in Vanity Fair.

Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm & Saturday Oct. 22 10am-6pm $85; $50 students

Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm $15

Saturday October 22 10am-6pm $75

Click here to register.


View and Discuss Videos & DVDs: A DVD of highlights from a previous CUNY conference from last April Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right is available for $19.95. It features Karen Armstrong, Joan Bokaer, Joseph Hough, Robert Edgar, Hugh Urban, Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson. (212) 219-2527 / info@opencenter.org.
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Sunday, October 16, 2005

UCC President Says Rightist Groups "intent... on destroying our life together" as a Church

Rev. John Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ acknowledged on Friday what mainline protestant church leaders have been reluctant to address for two decades: the rightist Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and allied groups are seeking to undermine if not destroy the mainline Christian churches in the United States.

The conservative movement and parts of the corporate sector have loathed the rise of the social gospel in the mainline churches for a century. They have loathed the social justice traditions that were catalysts for the civil rights movement, women's rights, and principled opposition to the excesses of American foreign policy from Vietnam to Central America. It was the latter that led to the formation of the IRD as a hub of antichurch organizing. Since then, IRD-affiliated "renewal" groups have been at the center of nearly every controversy in mainline Christianity -- most recently, but certainly not exclusively, issues of gay and lesbian equality in church and public life.

Thomas spoke, according to United Church News about groups "within and beyond the UCC" that are "intent on disrupting and destroying our life together."
"Groups like the Evangelical Association of Reformed, Christian and Congregational Churches and the Biblical Witness Fellowship are increasingly being exposed even as they are increasingly aggressive," Thomas said. "Their relationship to the right-wing Instit ute for Religion and Democracy and its long-term agenda of silencing a progressive religious voice while enlisting the church in an unholy alliance with right-wing politics is now longer deniable. United Church of Christ folk like to be 'nice,' to be hospitable. But, to play with a verse of scripture just a bit, we doves innocently entertain these serpents in our midst at our own peril."

UCC seminarian and blogger Chuck Currie has more over at Stree t Prophets. Currie has written about the IRD-affiliated Biblical Witness Fellowship in the past, as have I.

Last year, the IRD and its Association for Church Renewal, (of which the BWT is a member) attacked the UCC for its warmhearted TV ads that had been rejected by the TV networks as "too controversial."

Last summer when the UCC's General Synod endorsed same sex marriage, the Biblical Witness Fellowship (BWT) went ballistic and implied that the UCC is no longer a Christian denomination. Previously, it had called for the resignation of John Thomas.

All of the major denominations as well as the National Council of Churches have been affected by this well-funded, and sustained campaign of attrition over the past two decades.

IRD has received substantial funding and direction over the years, from what some might consider the first couple of theocratic philanthropy, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson who were profiled by journalist Max Blumenthal for Salon.com last year. This article is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand what John Thomas is talking about.

The Ahmansons have reportedly contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to IRD, on whose board Roberta Ahmanson sits. The institute, Blumenfeld reported, has a
"Reforming America's Churches Project, which aims to 'restructure the permanent governing structure' of 'theologically flawed' mainline churches like the Episcopal Church in order to 'discredit and diminish the Religious Left's influence.' This has translated into a three-pronged assault on mainline Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal churches. With a staff of media-savvy research specialists, the institute is able to ply both the religious and mainstream media, exploiting divisive social issues within the churches."

It is a good thing that the courageous leader of a major denomination has publicly acknowledged that his denomination is under attack by politically motivated agencies. I hope the UCC and all of the mainline denominations will begin to take a more forceful posture in relation to groups who have abused their standing in tolerant and welcoming communities in order to sew division and discord.
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Friday, October 14, 2005

Prophecy Belief and Constitutional Boundaries

A group of ultraconservative political operatives have harnessed a particular reading of Biblical prophecy, known as Premillenial Dispensationalism, (embraced by tens of millions of evangelical Christians) and transformed these beliefs into campaigns to deny basic rights to groups of people framed as sinful and subversive.

Premillennial means a belief that Jesus Christ returns in the End Times and, after a series of confrontations and battles against evil, he reigns over an earthly utopia for a thousand years…a millennium. Therefore, Christ returns before (“pre”) the Godly millennial kingdom. Dispensations are epochs, or blocks of history, during which certain things happen. Premillennial Dispensationalists think that we are poised on the edge of that historic epoch during which the End Times preface the second coming of Christ and his millennial reign.

A large portion of Christian evangelicals who hold these specific theological beliefs also believe that devout and Godly Christians, before the tremendous confrontations or “Tribulations” that culminate in a huge global Battle of Armageddon, will be spared injury or death when they are brought away from Earth and held in God’s protective embrace in an event called the “Rapture.”

It is easy to poke fun at these types of religious beliefs, but it is deeply offensive and provocative in a way that undermines a serious and important public debate over the proper boundaries for religious belief and public policy decisions.

It is not accurate to dismiss Christians who hold these beliefs as ignorant, uneducated, or crazy. Social scientists have thoroughly refuted these stereotypes with polling data and in-depth interviews. In addition, it is not fair to ask people of faith simply to abandon their beliefs when they step into the Public Square or political arena.

It is also not fair, however, for those in the Religious Right to use God as a trump card in public policy debates.

Premillennial Dispensationalism and a belief in the Rapture have only recently been steered toward a particular ultraconservative agenda. For many decades the evangelicals who held these beliefs were wary of too much political participation, which they saw as pulling them away from their religious obligations and devotions. Most felt that God’s plan for the End Times would reveal itself without the need for political activism. After all, God in the millennial utopia would ultimately reward devout Christians, and this was especially true if they believed the Rapture would protect them from all harm during the End Times confrontations.

In the 1970s a group of right-wing political operatives, seeking to rollback the economic policies and social safety net woven by the Roosevelt Administration, decided to recruit evangelicals into their political movement to take over the Republican Party. In doing so they pushed political debate in our country away from democracy and toward theocracy.

Evangelicals, however, require a Biblically based reason for their actions. Christian Right leaders, including Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Paul Weyrich, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson, provided the justification by arguing that, according to the Bible, Christians had an obligation to struggle against evil in the political arena, and to purify and restore the sanctity of secular society.

The leaders of the Religious Right mobilized millions by arguing there was no compromise with evil. The political operatives provided long lists of who was evil and how these sinners were subverting God’s plan for America. They presumed to speak for God and country. Moreover, they created a politicized religious movement willing to strip away rights from persons categorized as sinful. This type of demonization and scapegoating is toxic to democracy. It erodes the concept of informed consent and masks prejudice and bigotry with a veneer of religious devotion.

Because the leaders of the Religious Right have mobilized such a large voter base, they regularly have meetings with powerful political leaders, including the President. Today the Religious Right plays a major role in shaping foreign and domestic policies.

We can change this situation. The Religious Right does not speak for all Christians or even all evangelicals. The leaders of the Religious Right sometimes argue for policy positions that make their own followers uncomfortable. In a constitutional democracy, the ideal path for the nation is always open to debate; and the idea of God is too big for small minds to shackle. If we want to defend the Constitution, we must learn the religious beliefs of those evangelicals who dominate the Religious Right, treat them respectfully, and yet engage them in a critical public conversation over the appropriate boundaries for civic political debate set by the founders and framers of our nation.


Ported from Campaign to Defend the Constitution
Visit: Chip Berlet's Blog
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Is Bush Seeking to Revive the Religious Test for Public Office?

The Christian Right of the 18th century didn't like the U.S. Constitution because it did not declare that the U.S. a Christian nation. Not only that, but the Consitution explicitly banned religious tests for public office in Article Six. This set in motion of the disestablishment of the official churches in the colonies that had mostly functioned as little theocracies -- and made the United States the first nation in the history of the world to be founded on religious equality. But the Christian nationalists have never given up.

Now the Bush administration, way down in the polls and facing a conservative revolt over the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court is making at least a gesture in the direction of giving the Christian Right one of its dearest goals: the revival of the religious test for public office.


The New York Times reported this morning: "On a radio show being broadcast Wednesday, [religious broadcaster James] Dobson said he discussed Miers with [White House political strategist Karl] Rove on Oct. 1, two days before her nomination was announced. Dobson said Rove told him 'she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life,' but denied he had gotten any assurances from the White House that she would vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion."

Later in the day, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DefCon) issued a blistering statement denouncing the apparent White House collaboration with Christian Right leader James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family. "I am deeply troubled by the appearance that the President is applying a religious litmus test for his judicial appointments," said Isaac Kramnick, professor of government at Cornell University. "Such a test violates the Constitutional prohibition on religious tests as a qualification for public office."

"Since 2002," Kramnick continued, "the President has repeatedly said that he will appoint judges who believe that God is the source of our civil rights. The notion of asking judges to acknowledge a source of law other than – and perhaps higher than - the Constitution is unacceptable. It shatters the fundamental premise of our founders that the Constitution itself is the supreme law of the land."

Later today, an Associated Press story underscored Kramnick's concern: "'People are interested to know why I picked Harriet Miers,' Bush told reporters at the White House. 'Part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion.'"

"Bush, speaking at the conclusion of an Oval Office meeting with visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, said that his advisers were reaching out to conservatives who oppose her nomination 'just to explain the facts.' He spoke on a day in which conservative James Dobson, founder of Focus on Family, said he had discussed the nominee's religious views with presidential aide Karl Rove."

Meanwhile, according to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, speaking to a Republican group in North Carolina recently, warned of the danger of Islamic theocracy in the United States.

While the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism around the world are certainly not to be minimized, someone needs to tell Gov. Romney that the theocratic movement in the United States is not trending Islamic.
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Friday, October 07, 2005

John Danforth & the Christian Right

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, former GOP Senator-- and Episcopal priest -- John Danforth is at it again.

According to a story running on Religion News Service, "Since publishing two confrontational op-ed pieces in The New York Times earlier this year, Danforth has accepted a series of invitations to take his provocative questions on the road. This fall, he's a panelist at Notre Dame, a guest preacher at Harvard and Yale, and a featured speaker for Roman Catholic and Episcopal groups in Washington. Danforth is on a speaking tour denouncing the "divisiveness" of the Christian Right."

"I've been away from (the Senate) for more than 10 years," he said recently at the Memorial church at Harvard University, "and I see politics from a distance. And I'm appalled by what I see.... Right there in the midst of all the partisanship, in the midst of all the nastiness, right there with their wedge issues and litmus tests and extreme rhetoric, right there as the most divisive force in American life, are my fellow Christians."

As encouraging as it is to hear Danforth speaking out, his words are unlikely to have much effect. The power of the Christian Right is not in the divisiveness of their rhetoric, although that is a factor. It is in the political power they have attained -- largely through the effectiveness of their political organizing. What Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson say now is little different, and no more divisive, than what they were saying 20 years ago when Danforth was in the U.S. Senate and not (to my knowledge) speaking out. Since that time, the Christian Right has become the best organized faction in American politics -- and one of the most powerful.

As someone who has been writing and speaking about this subject for almost 25 years, I want to underscore that as important as issues of language are, they are not as important -- not nearly as important -- as issues of power.

I'd like to hear what John Danforth thinks should be done about those.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Roy Moore's Run for Theocrat-In-Chief of Alabama

Roy Moore has made it official. He is running for the GOP nomination for governor of Alabama. He may also be launching what could become a storied career as one of the most prominent, if cagily, theocratic politicians in America.

His platform as outlined on his campaign web site, might be best described as theocratic populist. Mr. Moore, as is now well-known, abused the office of Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, by secretly commissioning a 2 1/2 ton granite religious monument featuring the Ten Commandments -- and installing it in the state court house.

Moore was looking for a showdown in federal court. He got it, and he lost. And when Federal District Judge Myron Thompson ordered him to remove the religious display, Moore refused. Ultimately Mr. Moore was removed from office; his monument was removed from the courthouse; and he is still kicking and screaming about it.

Moore says public officials have the right to "acknowledge God." Well, all Americans have that right. But Moore, (as Judge Thompson made clear and the appellate courts confirmed), had no right to use the state courthouse to display a religious monument. Moore insists to this day that he has the right to do as he pleases and has made the right of public officials to "acknowledge God as the moral foundation of law, liberty and government," a cornerstone of his platform.

If all this were not disturbing enough, Moore's anti-immigrant, anti-union, anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-democracy and anti-separation of church and state politics are worthy of national concern. He wants to eviscerate the power of the state legislature by requiring it to meet much less frequently; term-limit legislators; and strengthen the veto power of the governor.

Finally, Moore's politics may be best viewed in terms of his apparent national ambitions. Scholars are already comparing his style to that of the late George Wallace who as governor of Alabama in the 1960s demagogued high-profile segregationist stands into a run for president -- winning four states of the old confederacy as the candidate of the American Independent Party in 1968.

But for now, Moore still needs to get past incumbent Gov. Bob Riley in the June 2006 GOP primary. Will the Ten Commandments Judge act start to wear a little thin? It could. Last year, John Rowland was forced to resign in disgrace as governor of Connecticut in the face of probable impeachment on corruption charges. Roy Moore is no more entitled to call himself "judge" than John Rowland is entitled to call himself "governor." Yet the unrepentant Mr. Moore's campaign slogan is "Judge Roy Moore for Governor of Alabama."

Indeed, Mr. Moore's major accomplishment as an elected public official was to get thrown out of office for defying the order of a federal judge. His campaign bio, which features a long list of awards from Christian Right groups, may be the single most vainglorious resume in recent American political history. But if anyone can pull off this demagogic stunt of a campaign, it's Roy Moore -- who has a national Christian Right fundraising base, and is the best-known pol in Alabama.

Candidate Moore pledges to return Alabama to the people. But what he is really saying is 'turn Alabama over to me.'
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Saturday, October 01, 2005

If You Think the Religious Right is a Problem....

There are lots of things to be done.

One of the first things to do --- is to learn more about it.

The Christian Right is one of the most successful political movements in American history. Yet people's level of literacy about the subject is often, well, shockingly low. The Christian Right is the dominant faction in the GOP. There are reasons for that. But few seem to know what those reasons are. If we are going to have intelligent conversations about all this, let alone be able to have coherent discussions about what to do, we need to have more people who share a common base of knowledge and the language necessary to have meaningful conversations. After many years, I know that useful knowledge and conversation in this area can be hard to come by.

So here is my up-by-the-bootstraps, do-it-yourself program for coming up to speed: books, magazines, conferences, videos, blogging -- and a radical idea.

Pick any three books: Among general interest books, I will certainly recommend my own. Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; but also Facing the Wrath by Sara Diamond; The Most Dangerous Man in America and Why the Religious Right is Wrong, both by Robert Boston. Current hot and excellent books are With God on Their Side by Esther Kaplan, Losing Moses on the Freeway: The Ten Commandments in America by Chris Hedges; and The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney. For the academically inclined: Rightwing Populism: Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons; Roads to Dominion, by Sara Diamond; and With God on Our Side, by William Martin.

Pick one or both magazines: Church & State; The Public Eye. (Yes, other publications cover the religious right periodically and well. Most recently Harpers has had some important coverage, and an upcoming issue of Mother Jones has good stuff. Max Blumenthal's articles in the The Nation online are not to be missed, nor are Bill Berkowitz columns for Working Assets. But for regular coverage, its the monthly Church & State and the quarterly Public Eye.)

Read Blogs devoted to this subject: Talk to Action, DefCon blog; Dark Christianity, Religious Right Watch, Frederick Clarkson, Chip Berlet, and for more general discussions of politics and religion, Street Prophets.

Attend Conferences: These are, unfortunately, few and far between. The Texas Freedom Network has one going on this weekend. The National Cathedral in Washington, DC has a good looking conference October 13-15 that is mostly about progressive religious values, (which is not really to be confused with learning about the religious right, but there will be some of that). And finally, there is one focused on understanding the Christian Right, sponsored by the Graduate Program at the City Univeristy of New York and the New York Open Center.

Dominionism, Political Power & the Theocratic Right

Dominionism is an influential form of fundamentalist religion that believes that in order to fulfill biblical prophecy, "godly Christians" must take control of the levers of political and judicial power in America in the near future.... Just how has this religious ideology gained influence in Congress, American political culture, and in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East and on the environment? What can be done to alert concerned citizens to the theocratic impulse growing in their midst? The goal of this seminar is to examine the power and influence of a religious and political movement that questions the separation of church and state, and that aims to establish a biblical society governed by biblical laws.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates; co-author, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort; Frederick Clarkson, author, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; Michael Northcott, teaches Christian Ethics, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; author, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire; Esther Kaplan, author, With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House.

Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm & Saturday Oct. 22 10am-6pm $85; $50 students

Friday October 21 7:30-9:30pm $15

Saturday October 22 10am-6pm $75

Click here to register.

View and Discuss Videos & DVDs: A DVD of highlights from a previous CUNY conference from last April Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right is available for $19.95. It features Karen Armstrong, Joan Bokaer, Joseph Hough, Robert Edgar, Hugh Urban, Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson. (212) 219-2527 / info@opencenter.org. Theocracy Watch has produced a very useful educational piece which is available on video or DVD. It can be downloaded for free or ordered by mail. Why not get a group of people together for a showing and discussion?

Consider a Radical Idea: Follow the above program and then do the same thing with religious right sources. Its a good thing to have some direct experiences of the people, books, periodicals and events of the religious right. In fact, I would argue that there is no substitute for it. One of these days, I will write up a beginner's program for how to do this.

But in the meantime, try some or all of the above. Ideally, do them with others, perhaps as a reading and discussion group. I would add that when we launch the scoop-based version of Talk to Action, the above resources will be listed along with others, and whenever there are interesting events, we will announce them -- and of course chew over whatever happens. Many of the people mentioned in this post will be frequent contributors at Talk to Action. You can think of it as a rolling conference on the religious right and what to do about it; how to talk about it; comparing notes on what works, what doesn't, and why. We want to learn lessons from our mistakes and failures. And we want to celebrate and tell the stories of our victories -- and it will be important to have many such celebrations, won't it? As I often say, this is one of the central struggles of our time.
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