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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Forgotten Mainline

In another example of The American Prospect‘s recent interest in the subject of politics and religion, their online edition has just published a poignant report by Michal Lumsden about the efforts of mainline Protestants to mobilize opposition to the war in Iraq. Focused mainly on the story of a UCC minister whose son, a Marine deployed to Iraq, signed up for sniper training (and whose husband, a retired career Marine, admits he “turned off religion and turned on duty” when called on to fight), the piece goes on to discuss the emphatic anti-Iraq-war position of virtually every mainline Protestant denomination.
You can read between the lines in Lumsden’s account her frustration with what she calls the “black-and-white world of secular versus conservative that the mainstream media perpetuates,” one of those conservative “memes” that also gets far too much acceptance from progressives who don’t happen to be religious themselves. You probably know the story: “liberal, relativistic” Christian denominations are declining or even dying, while conservatives–the real Christians–thrive.
This is not the time or place for an argument about religious trends in the United States, which do not neatly fit into the liberal-decline, conservative-growth pattern unless you really think the growth of nondenominational and charismatic church membership is all about cultural or political conservatism. But the fact remains that an estimated 44 million Americans belong to the National Council of Churches “mainline” family of denominations, which is a lot of folks to ignore, and a lot of folks whose leadership is in some ways more united on issues of war and peace–and united on this subject with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church–than their loud and much-discussed Christian Right rivals.

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