Salon readers debate the religious left's place in politics.

By Salon Staff
Published March 11, 2005 9:00AM (EST)

[Read "What Would Falwell Do?" by Amy Sullivan.]

Part of the problem that Amy Sullivan describes in her provocative piece about the silence of the religious left is unfortunately apparent in her own article, too: the absence of the voices of female religious leaders who have been unfailing in their commitment to justice, equality and peace.

Where are the likes of Sister Joan Chittister, who relentlessly calls the Bush administration on its duplicitous policies and abandonment of the poor in the pages of the National Catholic Reporter? Or Sister Elizabeth Johnson, the eminent Fordham University theologian, who sees Mary, Jesus' mother, as called not only to bear Jesus but to fight for the poor and oppressed? This invisibility reached its zenith last year when "Meet the Press" did a segment on "abortion and faith." On the panel were Al Sharpton, Jerry Falwell, Jim Wallis and a male representative from the Southern Baptist Convention -- not a woman in sight.

-- Angela Bonavoglia

Amy Sullivan suggests that the "religious left" has abdicated its responsibilities over the years. But I would point out that the religious left is afflicted by the same problems that liberals in general face. The national media, which is supposedly unbiased, in fact caters to the Jerry Falwells and ignores the many voices from the other side. Time and again I see the message of Christianity ignored because its complexities don't fit the simplistic sound bites the media craves. The result is a distortion of the message of Christianity in favor of fundamentalism.

-- Denise Giardina

I am the priest at a liberal Episcopal church in suburban Atlanta. When I said in a sermon that it was time for moderate and liberal Christians to reclaim our faith from the religious right there was applause -- and applauding is a very un-Episcopalian thing to do. When we offered a class called "Christianity and Moral Values: A Liberal Alternative" the room was packed, and people were literally standing in the hall.

It is time for liberal Christians to reclaim our faith, to not be afraid to speak out, and to put our beliefs into action. As a bumper sticker I once saw said, "The Christian Right is neither."

-- Patricia Templeton

I'm not sure if I agree with the sentiments expressed in Ms. Sullivan's article. I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. I do not believe that those of us on the left need to impose our religious views on others. The civil rights movement was not a religious movement, but a movement led by religious individuals. Dr. King's religious beliefs may have inspired him to strive for racial equality, but he did not attempt to impose his particular denominational doctrine in the public square.

There is a big difference between Dr. King and the Rev. Falwell and his ilk. The Rev. Falwell has made it clear that he wishes to impose his religious doctrine on the larger American society (and probably, via foreign policy, on the entire planet).

Jesus made it clear that we are to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Jesus agitated for internal, spiritual changes, not for political changes. In fact, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

What has made America so great? The fact that we can live here together despite our individual religious (or lack of religious) viewpoints, and the government does not impose the majority religion (Christianity) on any of us.

-- Lorna Jerome

Matching the mainstream media's equating of religion with the right is its (and your article's) equating of religion with some form of Christianity. I realize I live in the Bay Area's countercultural bubble, but, hello, Buddhism? Islam? Hinduism? Taoism? Assorted venerable and novel mystical traditions?

To allow the opposition to determine the terms of the debate is to have already lost.

-- David Bolam

Salon Staff

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