The Democratic takeover on Capitol Hill provides new energy and aggressiveness for the nation’s Religious Left – that faction of clergy and activists who seek to associate organized faith with the liberal agenda in cultural, economic and foreign policy debates. While deriding Christian conservatives for their alleged “intolerance,” “ignorance” and “fanaticism,” the religious leftists manage to turn off most religious believers of even moderate outlook with their own displays of arrogance and radicalism, and their smug dismissal of traditional values.
The controversial new leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States provided a prime example of these alienating attitudes in a startling interview in the New York Times Magazine on November 19th with Deborah Solomon. When Solomon asked about the current numbers of Episcopalians, for instance, Bishop Jefferts Schori took it as a point of pride that her church experienced declining membership.
Q: How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?
A: About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations.
In other words, it’s just those uneducated, unsophisticated Evangelicals and Catholics and Mormons and Orthodox Jews who are bothering with the messy, dirty work of producing and raising kids. Naturally, the Presiding Bishop defends the low Episcopal birthrate as a sign of enlightenment:
Q: Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?
A: No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth, and not use more than their portion.
In other responses, Bishop Jefferts Schori showed far more sympathy for Muslim extremists than she did for “fundamentalists” within the Christian tradition:
Q: As a scientist with a Ph.D., what do you make of the Christian fundamentalists who say the earth was created in six days and dismiss evolution as a lot of bunk?
A: I think it’s a horrendous misunderstanding of both science and active faith tradition…
Q: Pope Benedict…became embroiled in controversy this fall after suggesting that Muslims have a history of violence.
A: So do Christians! They have a terrible history… I think Muslims are poorly understood by the West, and it is easy to latch onto that which we do not understand and demonize it.
Note that when the good Bishop speaks of the shameful record of violence by Christians, she says “they have a terrible history” – not we. In other words, she instinctively excludes herself when she talks of Christian tradition.
At a time when Muslim fanatics seek to influence politics and mores around the world, conducting tireless conversionary efforts in the European and North American heartland of Christendom, it’s deeply disturbing that the leader of one of the most influential Christian denominations refuses to recognize what many thoughtful Muslims freely acknowledge—that Islamic culture, today and yesterday, has been marred by uniquely warlike and violent elements. The idea that Christians (or even Muslim reformers) who seek to identify and confront those ugly influences merely “latch onto that which we do not understand and demonize it” is to diminish the significance of the worldwide Islamic terror campaign that’s claimed literally tens of thousands of victims from Mumbai to Madrid, from Nairobi to New York.
Finally, Bishop Jefferts Schori casually dismisses the familial and marital norms that most believers embrace and defend as the very essence of Judeo-Christian faith. Instead of traditional pride in a husband and wife building a home together, making heroic efforts and even significant sacrifices to share a life, the Bishop happily announces that she and her spouse occupy opposite ends of the continent.
Q: You were previously bishop of Nevada, but your new position requires you to live in New York City. Do you and your husband like it here?
A: He is actually in Nevada. He is a retired mathematician. He will be here in New York when it makes sense.
In other words, it doesn’t “make sense” for a retired mathematician to be at his wife’s side when she takes on the leadership of one of the nation’s most significant Christian denominations? It doesn’t make sense for the first female Bishop to head this denomination to try to model marital togetherness?
The questions and answers with Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori eloquently (if inadvertently) demonstrate the bankruptcy of the Religious Left. If the movement’s attitudes toward marriage and child-bearing reflect the trendy ideas of secular environmentalists rather than timeless Biblical truth, then who needs religion? Most Americans understand that the purpose of organized faith is to bring unchanging values to bear in challenging and modifying the fads and temptations of the moment. Religion means nothing if we rather begin with fashionable contemporary ideas and use them to alter the fundamentals of faith. Moreover, what’s the point of maintaining any sort of organized Christianity if one of its most prominent leaders will instinctively condemn her own faith tradition while excusing or dismissing the violent excesses of the deadly Muslim enemies of the Christian world?
As with most leaders of the Christian Left, Bishop Jefferts Schori appears be very Left, but not very Christian. Her example shows the way that this new movement of religious liberals amounts to little more than a desperate effort to use the language of faith to repackage the tired ideas of secular, utopian leftism and moral relativism that have failed so spectacularly wherever they’ve been tried around the world.