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December 20, 2006


This is a great letter. I have never heard of the IRD but will keep my feelers out for them in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). We left-leaning Presbyterians have also had a tough time getting and keeping our acts together on this issue. Please let us know if your letter is published, and it gets any feedback.

Yes, do let us know if you have any luck placing this letter, or otherwise pressuring major news organizations to cover this story more effectively.

"Perhaps observers think this is all a soap-opera confined to one wealthy denomination - but in fact, as the IRD figured out a long time ago, a great deal is at stake, perhaps even the country's soul."

If the soul of the United States is at stake merely because of aberrant power-mongering by various factional (and self-dubbed) "Christians," then this country's soul has already exceeded its shelf life, may it rest in peace. But from what I understand, there's a rather massive wad of anarchic jism about ready to fly, oh...any year now, and if it does, the U.S.'s soul should be restored to its original street-fighting sheen in no time.

Your comments on contemporary journalism are completely accurate, but if "the public remains unaware of who is behind the stories and the events" reported, it's because the public prefers to remain so. Critical reading, discernment, and sensitivity to bias (such as the bias that's embedded in your hyperbolic assertion above) are not skills _hoi polloi_ possess now, nor are they skills deemed useful today. In another 15 years or so, assuming civilization endures, those skills will have become thoroughly obsolete. We reap what we sow. So be it.

I figured someone would pick up on that phrase and make me clarify it! Thanks for your comment, Samczyk. Yes, I was being somewhat hyperbolic, and you're right to call me on it.

The "soul of the country" isn't going to be lost or won because of denominational infighting -- if America had a "soul" I think it may have already lost it, in large part, to the same temptations the prophets of every religion have always warned about - though that is not at all true for many individuals here, of every possible religion and non-religion.

What I was referring to was the IRD's fear, back near its founding, that the mainline denominations - to which many of the people in governmental elected office belong - had disproportionate power and influence on moral issues, and that those opinions were affecting American policy in a left-leaning direction. When the leaders of those churches spoke out for human rights and against war-mongering, when they called for compassion toward all people and greater understanding among religions, when they suggested that America had a moral responsibility toward the less fortunate of the world or toward the earth itself - to name just a few issues - these religious conservatives who believe in Americaan exceptionalism based on their concept of it as a Christian theocracy started to get very very nervous. The two worldviews didn't fit. As the decades have passed and and a postmodern worldview has gained strength, the Bush-style Christians have become more and more determined to stamp out voices of moral progressivism, wherever they arise in society: in churches, academia, national public radio and tv - and so on. That's the purpose of think-tanks like the IRD. I find that abhorrent, and think their insidious tactics needs to be brought to light.

On the other hand, I basically agree with your last paragraph. It's easy to lay blame at the feet of the media, but it's a willfully ignorant public that is really at fault. We do reap what we sow - but I'm not at the point yet of saying "so be it." Again, thanks for writing.

If you haven't already seen it, this article is a must-read to understand where the schism in the Episcopal church grew from:
Avenging Angel of the Religious Right


As a conservative, both in religion and in politics, reading your posting and the comments reminds me of reading "Screwtape Letters." Everything is turned around. All that is "good" in one circle is considered "bad" in another, so that in the letters, the Lord God is "the Enemy," and virtue is despicable. Viewpoint makes SUCH a difference!

I'm NOT saying that the writing here is despicable or anything like that. What I AM saying is that some of the values held dear to conservatives are pointed out by liberals as "evidence" of how awful conservatives are, and some of the values held by liberals are fingered by conservatives as being the exact things that make them so dreadful. Yet both sides would point to their own attributes as points of pride, hallmarks of their achievement!

For instance, that IRD is considered conservative theologically and to some extent politically looks to be a right damning charge, self-evident in its "Yuck!" factor on your blog. You'd think that knowingly and brazenly being conservative in public and consorting with conservative supporters pretty well indicts the lot of us.

Just a comment from another world, another viewpoint.

One other thought: It seems you need to be careful about distinguishing between principles and means. You appear quick to assume that those who are politically liberal love the poor, want peace, want justice, and just generally care about people, and that those who are politically conservative don't.

What you've done is confuse the principles with the means toward those principles. Could it be that BOTH liberals and conservative DO love the poor, want peace, want justice, and just generally care about people, and yet they each determine a different MEANS to go about effecting those principles?

For instance (and vastly oversimplifying things), on economics: Democrats want the poor to do better, so they give them things like guaranteed higher wages, preference in education, and welfare. Republicans want the poor to do better, so they prime an economic system that produces more opportunity and wealth for the poor, allowing them to rise above their circumstances. Notice that both sides want the same end: fewer poor people; less misery. The principle to help the poor is shared. What is different is what either side determins to be the best MEANS to achieve that end.

As I read your posting, it is just absolutely assumed that the liberals care and the conservatives don't. That's no more than bias and shallow analysis. I'd caution against confusion. We can have healthy debate over the best MEANS to an end, while largely sharing the principle that the poor should be helped.

You have brightened my day. I was running along on a post-holidays energy deficit, wondering if my work and IRD's work in general is really making any difference. Then I read your breathless estimation of our enormous effect and our tremendous influence over the press and government and EVEN denominational hierarchies, and I feel good again. Could we use your description of our influence when donors ask, "But are you ACCOMPLISHING anything?"


Jim Berkley
Director of Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom
The Institute on Religion and Democracy

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.