Progressive Faithful Finding Our Voice
Settling in at the Netroots Nation conference where I will moderate a panel tomorrow is a challenge for me today. In this progressive community I am distinctly a person of faith, and I am acutely aware of how long it has been since the progressive religious voice has had a champion in the American public square.
I look back to the 1950s, when Protestant theologian Reinhold Neibuhr had a serious impact on American foreign policy, in particular. Before that, Walter Rauschenbusch with the Social Gospel and Dorothy Day with the Catholic Workers’ Movement were celebrities of their time. Then, of course, there is the lasting presence of Martin Luther King, Jr. with his gift for connecting faith values with the moral conscience of our country concerning racial and economic inequality. The last truly powerful voice for progressive Christians that I can think of was Rev. William Sloane Coffin, who fought for civil rights and against war and nuclear weaponry. His witness faded through the 1980s.
Beyond these powerful leaders, the fact is progressive people of faith have remained in the public square all along. We have worked alongside other progressives to build the foundations of MoveOn.org, the Howard Dean campaign, the Obama campaign and public support for health care reform. And, along with the bloggers in Las Vegas today, we have participated in the rise of the blogosphere as a vital arena for American and international public discourse.
The panelists who will speak tomorrow on Common Values: Building Bridges with People of Faith to Win Progressive Change are fine examples of the voices emerging now, in our time. George Hunsinger grounds his stand against torture on the moral bedrock of basic human dignity recognized by all religions. At Sojourners, the progressive Christian network led by Jim Wallis, Elizabeth Denlinger campaigns for immigration reform, health care, the environment and more. Rebecca Voelkel testifies to the fact that LGBT faithful and their straight allies are showing the church and the world how LGBT equality is precious to the heart of God. And Eric Sapp pulls this all together by helping progressive political campaigns connect with people of faith through the values and ideals we share.
As the present manifestation of a progressive religious thread that runs through American history from the inciting of revolution (however imperfect) through the abolition of slavery to this very day, we are surrounded by the spirit of leaders who have gone before us. It is great to be here among the voices at Netroots Nation, This awesome new realm of the blogosphere is helping the faithful progressive voice be heard loud and clear again.