Am I the only person who couldn't care less about the opinions of a bunch of preachers about policy toward Iraq? If I don't pay anyt [sic] attention to what Jerry Falwell thinks about same-sex marriage, why pay attention to what the National Council of Churches thinks about foreign policy?This is an issue close to Allen's heart and I'm afraid that my reply didn't give him enough encouragement. I told him that at Cliopatria we'd recently knocked heads about the public use of religious language and that I found it draining. But now I see that Allen appears ready to withdraw from the blogosphere altogether.
If someone believes that the Christian tradition generally or one of the Protestant traditions specifically has something useful to teach us about how to deal with Iraq, by all means let's hear the argument and look at the texts. I concede that the heads of denominations count as experts on what those traditions have to say.
But offhand I can't think of a reason to expect the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA to have an especially valuable opinion about the proper role of the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq.
I suppose preachers have the same sort of general license to opine at random as bloggers do, but at least the bloggers don't put out press releases about it.
Over the last year, I've watched Allen Brill build a site which is quite remarkable. Single-handedly, without institutional support, he has built, not merely a blogsite like Cliopatria, but a blog hosting site, like History News Network. Currently, it hosts 10 different blogs, including Allen's own The Right Christians. As an advocate for the Christian Left, Allen has been decidedly open-minded, hosting both a gay-friendly blog, The Christian Agnostic and Austin Cline's very secular The Village Atheist. Moreover, The Village Gate draws a huge readership, perhaps twice as big as Cliopatria's. Allen has done all of this in the face of open hostility from major vehicles of the secular Left in the blogosphere: most notably, Atrios, the Left's major traffic director, who is vitriolically secular and has always shunned The Village Gate. But Kevin Drum at Political Animal and, now, Mark Kleiman, have also attacked Allen's major premise: that, if it is to be vital, a progressive Left must welcome its potential religious allies.
I should have thought that it need not even be said. To my colleagues of the secular Left, I'd ask two simple questions: What battle have you fought? What victory have you won? I'm an American historian and I'd stake my professional reputation, such as it is, on the claim that no work of progress has been achieved in American history without major support from our religious communities. From founding organizing colonies to fighting a Revolution; from abolishing slavery to enfranchising women; from the civil rights movement to the feminist revolution, these things could not have been achieved without major support from our religious communities.
I say that, knowing about all the obscurantist backwaters and eddies. I say all that, knowing that, as we used to say in seminary,"the church is a bitch, but she is still my mother." I say all that, knowing that you're inclined to hold me responsible for the Crusades, but you accept no responsibility for the radical secularism of the French Revolution, Stalin's Soviet Union, or Mao's China. I say all that because I've read the"heroes and sheroes" – few of whom ever shunned religious language in the public arena. Read the abolitionists. Read Jane Addams, William Jennings Bryan, Eugene Debs, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and hundreds more. I say all that, because I challenge my friends of the secular Left: What battle have you fought alone? What victory have you won without our support, even our leadership? The simple answer is"None," but if you can show me where I'm wrong, then as we move toward November and even more difficult times ahead, both Allen Brill and I will keep our peace.
Update: After checking with both Allen Brill and Kevin Drum, I withdraw the characterization of Political Animal's attitude on this issue and extend my apologies to Kevin Drum.