Out of the basket

Such a pity about Jim Wallis and Sojourners (if you like that sort of thing, at least).

But the rejection of so mild a political message, by a magazine whose editor has laboured mightily to establish himself as the face of the religious left, has sparked recrimination and soul searching among progressive people of faith in the US.

Maybe that’s because “progressive people of faith” care way too much about unity and cohesion and community among progressive people of faith and not nearly enough about free inquiry and principle and substantive issues and dissent. We ornery disputatious gnu atheists are the opposite. We’ll be a community of one if that’s what it takes.

Seriously, “progressive people of faith” do seem to have some kind of weird bug about unity, which to a jaundiced outsider would be better named “conformity.” Everything is to be sacrificed to “working together,” as if people who disagree can’t work together despite disagreeing. This imperative fosters an ooky mix of coercion and sentimentality which I find less than congenial.

Jim Wallis’s supporters, who are more liberal than conservative, believe he has had a knack for creating a safe space in which religious leaders who hold divergent views on issues rooted in sexuality can make common cause against hunger, poverty and war. His detractors believe that his is largely a ministry based on media attention, painting him as a skilful straddler and self-promoter, who convenes gatherings of less politically savvy religious leaders, and then emerges as their spokesman.

Yes…I recognize the type, and I’m not crazy about it. That’s especially true because the self-promotion so often comes at the expense of that eternally despised minority, The Atheists.

In Barack Obama’s Washington, there is no more visible Christian leader than Wallis, who is sometimes described as one of the president’s “spiritual counsellors”.

But see I think Barack Obama’s Washington should be secular; that it shouldn’t be haunted by “Christian leaders” at all; that the president shouldn’t have “spiritual counsellors” except in private.

But one cannot be both the left bank and the bridge. Either one is the face of a movement whose values one embraces and espouses, or one practises circumspection to play the honest broker, the great convener, the architect of the grand synthesis. Wallis still wants to be both, and this is now manifestly unhelpful to LGBT people and their supporters.

Pre-cisely. One cannot be both the left bank and the bridge. One can’t do everything, have everything, be everything.

…this argument opens a self-inflicted wound, calling attention to the fact that Wallis’s appeal to the political right is based precisely on his willingness to toss LGBT people and women in need of abortions out of the basket when the balloon starts to lose altitude.

That’s the problem with the “of faith” bit. The reasons for doing that are faithy, and they have no purchase on atheists. Atheists don’t have a demanding heartless Boss to appease.

9 Responses to “Out of the basket”