Friday, February 10, 2006

The Wedgie Award Goes to Progressives

I keep running into a phrase that I’m finding increasingly tedious. The annoying phrase is “wedge issue.”

It’s a political term, from what I can figure out. It apparently denotes a dispute of some kind—usually peripheral—that can be slyly introduced into a formerly united voting block to split it into factions. Operatives from one side apparently try to foment discord in the other side by driving wedge issues into the unsuspecting opposing forces. It’s the old plan to “divide and conquer.”

What’s happening with the term is that it’s being used willy nilly as an “explanation” of just about anything theologically conservative people and organizations attempt to accomplish. If devout Christians oppose abortion, the progressives decry it as a wedge issue to cause church schism. If faithful Presbyterians work to maintain the fine standards and morality Presbyterians have always followed, they are accused of using sexuality as a wedge issue to wrest control of the denomination for ultra-right political purposes.

An egregious recent example is found in a mad rant by a fellow with a bee in his bonnet about renewal groups in general and the Institute on Religion and Democracy in particular. Quite unable to contain his pique, John Dorhauer writes:

Today's wedge issue is homosexuality, and renewal groups have latched onto it as the most recent evidence of the church's apostasy. Their mission is to save the church from such heretical practices, and to "renew"' and restore the church to its truer, more historic past.

The problem is that these groups have much more nefarious intentions. It is not the “renewal” of the church that they are interested in, but the destabilization and destruction of what has been throughout the history of the United States the most consistent, courageous, and clear voice of social reform and justice.

The truth of the matter is that there is no truth to what Dorhauer writes. People operating from basic Christian convictions about issues long settled in Christian morality but newly assaulted by raging secularity within the church are not “introducing wedge issues” when they uphold biblical morality. It’s called committed discipleship, a concept largely incomprehensible to those more politically than spiritually motivated.

In fact, when Dorhauer accuses orthodox believers of introducing wedge issues, it’s actually a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. It seems likely that Dorhauer uses that kind of thinking, and because he employs that kind of tactic, he just naturally expects that evangelical Christians are operating with the same purely political motives.

He’s wrong.

I was amused to find the smoking gun that absolutely illustrates the reality of who is actually out looking for places to drive in wedges. Here’s what a fiercely “progressive” blogger had to say recently about a change of mind within the conservative National Association of Evangelicals:

So why should progressives be glad about the NAE’s retreat from one prominent element of what is known as “Creation Care”? Not just because it exposes a split within the organization, but because that split reveals the forces now threatening the unity of the conservative movement. Progressives should be on the lookout for divisions among religious conservative, and between religious conservatives and other conservatives, to find wedges that can be driven home to crack the conservative movement to pieces [emphasis added].

I rest my case.

* * * * *
Until now, about a week later. Another clear instance of progressives seeking to use wedge issues to break apart evangelicals just cries out for notice. A progressive wrote recently, "This research helps us avoid traps, like viewing the Right as impossible to challenge, or even omnipotent. We can identify wedge issues which can offer us political opportunities."

Obviously this tactic of identifying and exploiting "wedge issues" in the opposition is serious business for the progressives. It seems to be a common activity. No wonder they so often just assume that that is what we evangelicals are doing, when it couldn't be a more ludicrous conjecture.


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