Saturday, April 04, 2009

With One Hand He Condems the Right to Damnation, with the Other to Eternal Life

Doing research on my master's thesis (which focuses on educational developments within American Protestantism, 1900-1930) has forced me to reconsider many of my previously held positions regarding the role of Protestantism (and religion more generally) in a democracy. While my thesis deals with the more sympathetic adherents of left-wing Protestant thought (the "Social Gospel") I've found it's not easy to simply lop this group off from their right-wing (Fundamentalist) bretheren, given that they both arise out of evangelical traditions.

It was with this history in mind that I grew rather shocked at my own reaction, recently, to seeing a big group of anti-abortion protesters from all over Wisconsin descend upon Madison. While I remain--fundamentally--opposed to their position, I was nonetheless, for the first time, struck by their activism and by the grassroots nature of their campaign. I found myself envious of their organization, though not in the traditional way that liberals formerly envied the right-- for its ideological cohesion, its loyal "base," and its slick use of framing issues. Instead, I was impressed by their committment to democracy and peaceful protest at a grassroots level.

I am reminded of this story now that I see that Princeton University Press has just published a book with a rather shocking title: The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right. It's quite possible that my views here come from the background of a naive Jew who never really had to interact with any of these people--and if that's the case, let me know--but at least now I can be that naive Jew while citing political science!


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