The Left Does What It Decries
There is a laughably far-fetched and paranoid conspiracy theory being floated these days by liberal activists. I've seen it now in the writings of such spokespersons as More Light Presbyterian Field Organizer Michael Adee, a group of United Church of Christ hand-wringers (Chuck Currie and John Dorhauer, in particular), and especially the UCC President, John Thomas. I encourage you to take a look at what these people write. They are their own worst enemies.
Anybody who understands anything about renewal movements in general and the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in particular will laugh out loud at the preposterous claims of these detractors. IRD writer Steve Rempe does an especially good job of pointing out the flock of fallacies in John Thomas's tirade, as inaccurate as it was intemperate.
The gist of the phony indictment of IRD follows these lines:
- As in most conspiracy theories, a shadowy and nefarious but extremely powerful group is actually pulling all the strings to work out their will across a vast stage that they direct. In this case, the bad guys are secular conservative political figures with lots of money to spend.
- These secular politicos have set up and bought off IRD in order to either (a) destroy the mainline churches or (b) capture all their resources for right-wing political use. It's unclear which tactic IRD is supposed to employ, according to this theory. One hears both.
- "Outside political operatives" (often referred to as "minions") from the IRD then infiltrate the holy ground of the mainline denominations to do their dirty work of breaking them apart through so-called "wedge issues."
- The denominations are painted as being historically extremely far-left in their very nature (totally ignoring the reality of history as well as denominational demographics in one massively wrong assumption), so that whatever IRD and other renewal groups do is spoken of as trying to wrest the denominations away from their true purpose.
- The only desire of these IRD "operatives" is to destroy the church. Their only possible motivation is secular far right-wing politics mixed with greed.
- Because IRD is in conversation with other renewal groups and works in concert with them across many denominations where renewal objectives coincide, then obviously IRD is the "hub" of the whole "subversive" movement and orchestrates the actions of all the other groups. Whatever "bad" happens in any denomination is the direct result of corrosive IRD influence, according to this line of reasoning. (Note, for instance, the "eerie coincidence or perhaps non-coincidence" Michael Adee invents between John Thomas's "exposure" of IRD and the immediate PCUSA announcement of a $9 million budget cut, which, in his mind, must have IRD written all over it. Spooky, isn't it--not any coincidence but Adee's apparent paranoia.)
So what's the rap against IRD? IRD is faulted for supposedly being all about secular right-wing politics at the expense of the liberal, social-activist ministry of the mainline denominations. Although the claim is loony to the core, IRD is made out to be in league with the Devil because of its supposed captivity by secular politics.
Interesting. If that were the case, since I'm the only "minion" assigned to "destabilize" the entire Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one would think I'd know about it. But I don't. All I know about are the straightforward purposes listed in the IRD mission statement. All I know is Christian faith trying to work itself out despite the strange world of denominational polity. All I know is a desire to be faithful to the Lord as he has revealed himself through Scripture.
The rap against IRD is totally spurious, the product of minds too steeped in cynical political maneuvering to be able to recognize unadulterated Christian devotion.
Hold On: Entering Irrational Territory
But here's where the story gets truly bizarre. The same radical gang that wants to hang IRD over things it doesn't actually do has announced with glee its plans to do exactly what it has decried in IRD.
Michael Adee's More Light Presbyterians (MLP) are now proudly in league with the secular, political, liberal National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which has nothing to do with faith or Christian ministry and everything to do with partisan power politics. And he couldn't be more pleased about being co-opted into secular political affairs.
The fact that he has recently (inaccurately) criticized IRD about being co-opted into secular political affairs seems to escape Adee entirely.
Okay, we need to get this straight. Is being in league with secular politics evil? Then the fact that IRD has no such institutional ties ought to be hailed as a good thing, and the fact that MLP has now so thoroughly wed themselves to a secular political power bloc should be alarming.
Or is joining forces with secular politics okay after all? Then why the gleeful (and erroneous) criticism of IRD by liberal voices, when they merely conjecture that IRD is so joined at the hip with the Republican Party, but in fact IRD desires no such relationship and has kept clear of any such secular arrangement?
If such merging of politics and religion is a cool thing to be heralded, why would it be cool only if the arrangement is radical religious with radical political, but not cool if it would ever happen to be conservative Christian with conservative political? How about some consistency, at least!