Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Left/Right religious convergence

Here is a promising story today in the Washington Post - Religious Right, Left Meet in Middle

The Rev. Rob Schenck is an evangelical Christian and a leader of the religious right. Rabbi David Saperstein is a Reform Jew and a leader of the religious left. Both head political advocacy groups in Washington, and they have battled for years over abortion, gay rights, stem cell research and school prayer.
This summer, each intends to preach a bit of the other's usual message.
Schenck said he plans to tell young evangelicals at a Christian music festival on July 1 that homosexuality is not a choice but a "predisposition," something "deeply rooted" in many people. "That may not sound shocking to you, but it will be shocking to my audience," he said.
Saperstein said he is circulating a paper urging political moderates and liberals to "demonstrate their commitment to reduce abortions" by starting a campaign to reduce the number by half within two years.
Schenck and Saperstein disclosed their plans in separate interviews. They are not working together. The minister remains a die-hard opponent of same-sex marriage; the rabbi staunchly supports a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion. But both are trying to find common ground between liberals and conservatives on moral issues -- and they are not alone.

First it is nice to see the media acknowledging that there is a Religious Left in this country, and not just a Religious Right. Second, I am happy to see people representing both sides reaching out in an effort to find common ground. Reducing the number of abortions in the country is an excellent goal for both left and right advocates. We have differences about how to pursue that goal, but that should not prevent either side from cooperating in areas where we can agree. And recognizing that there is something more to homosexuality than just a choice someone makes to be different may break down some of the barriers to cooperation in those areas as well.

Saperstein noted that the phenomenon of strange bedfellows began a decade ago on foreign policy. During the Clinton administration, the rock star Bono, former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and religious leaders across the political spectrum teamed up to champion debt relief for Africa. Since Bush took office, broad religious coalitions have backed U.S. peacemaking efforts in Sudan, funding to combat AIDS and pressure on countries that restrict religious freedom.
What is new, the rabbi said, is the effort to forge such coalitions on domestic issues.
"For 25 years, evangelicals involved in conservative politics and mainline denominations involved in liberal politics really have been adversaries, both in politics and in the free market of ideas, and that continues because we have very different visions of religion in American public life, and very different views of the Constitution, and very different views on some core issues," he said.
"But right now on abortion, poverty, gay issues, the environment, there's a lot of talk about crossing the lines and finding common ground. There are elements of a common vision, but not yet common policy or legislative proposals."

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