Posts tagged with: religious right

Noted evangelical scholar Randall Balmer castigates the religious right in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The critique, in my view, amounts to little more than a slightly more sophisticated version of Jim Wallis. The criticisms leveled by Balmer and Wallis are the same ones made by leftist enemies of the religious right for decades; the difference is that Balmer and Wallis are evangelicals themselves and, therefore, their critiques are “internal” and, for some, more compelling.

I happen to agree with some of these criticisms of the religious right, and especially with Balmer’s general warning against linking religion too closely to a particular political agenda. What bothers me about the article is that it goes flagrantly beyond its ostensible aims and descends into polemics. It’s hard to believe that Balmer is blind to the irony. He rips the religious right for too easily moving between religion and politics, for claiming that the Bible compels support of Republican policies. But he invokes scripture simplistically to imply support for a whole raft of Democratic positions.

There is nothing wrong with Balmer arguing for Democratic policy, nor with his making such arguments on the basis of religious conviction (though abortion policy may be an exception to this rule, I’ll leave it aside for now). It is wrong, however, for him simultaneously to act as though he’s doing something different from what the religious right does. Balmer’s article is not a defense of evangelical theology against its abuses in the political realm. It is a political counterpunch aimed at evangelical Republicans, from an evangelical Democrat.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Check out this challenging essay on Spiked by Frank Furedi, “The curious rise of anti-religious hysteria.” His main point is that while religious belief is misplaced, it shouldn’t be replaced with another sort of secular fundamentalism.

It turns out Furedi himself is just a believer in rationalism: “Superstition and prejudice should continually be countered by rational argument. But the vitriolic invective hurled at Christian believers today is symptomatic of the passions normally associated with a fanatical Inquisitor.” Of course “superstition” happens to be anything that is believed not on the basis of some sort of rational foundationalism.

On secular reactions to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Passion of the Christ: “As a secular humanist who is instinctively uncomfortable with zealot-like moralism, I am suspicious of the motives behind these doctrinaire denunciations of films with a religious message.”

On expressions of faith: “Until recently, cultural expressions of religious faith were simply considered old-fashioned and gauche. But over the past decade, scorn has turned into bigotry and hatred.”

On Intelligent Design: “Many see only the danger of superstition in Intelligent Design, describing it as a new form of Creationism on the march. They overlook the remarkable concession that Intelligent Design makes to the authority of science.”

On Jim Wallis: “When it comes to banality, Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It beats his competitors to the post.”

Perhaps the right reaction toward religious belief, according to Furedi, is not hatred but rather self-assured patronizing.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mark your calendars: The Institute for the Study of Christianity and Culture at Michigan State University is hosting a conference on April 7-8 with the keynote address to be given by Dr. Randall Balmer, Ann Whitney Olin Professor, Barnard College, Columbia University.

From the conference site: “Dr. Balmer will be giving a lecture and a panel discussion on the topic of his upcoming book Taking the Country Back: How the Religious Right is Winning the Culture Wars.”

There will also be a Saturday morning roundtable on the topic, “Politics, Culture Wars, and the Soul of American Evangelicalism,” featuring Dr. Balmer as well as Dr. Corwin Schmidt, Professor of Political Science and as Director of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College.