A good book can change your questions, even if you’re not entirely convinced by the author’s answers.
By Alan Bean
I received a copy of Darren Dochuk’s From Bible Belt to Sun Belt as a birthday present from my daughter, Dr. Lydia Bean. She said I’d love it, and she was right.
Like me, Dochuk hails from Edmonton, Alberta, and, like me, his doctoral dissertation focused on Southern religion. But while I was primarily interested in progressive Christians struggling for social survival in the Deep South, Dochuk turned his attention to evangelicals from states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas who migrated in droves to southern California between the dust bowl thirties to the post-war period when the counties surrounding Los Angeles were booming as a result of massive government spending on military and aeronautical projects.
As a child, Darren Dochuk was driven to the vacation spots of Southern California every summer. I dreamed of visiting Disneyland, but I never got there. Still, the brand of Christian Right spirituality described in his book impacted my life in significant, sometimes painful ways. The California-inspired Jesus People movement was in full flower when I attended the Baptist Leadership Training School in 1972. It was around that time that my traditionally Baptist parents were attracted to the charismatic movement. My father repeatedly invited me to luncheon meetings of the Full Gospel Business Men’s International, a loose affiliation of tongue-speaking, prophesying, faith healing neo-Pentecostals founded in Southern California by a layman named Demos Shakarian.
For me, these were bewildering experiences I had largely forgotten until I read From Bible Belt to Sun Belt. Though I never understood the appeal of this style of religion, my parents informed me that my life would be transformed if I submitted to “the baptism” and received the “gift of tongues.” I tried my best, but it didn’t take. (more…)
By Alan Bean
Now that Rick Santorum has emerged as a viable candidate, media scrutiny will likely revolve around his highly traditional positions on abortion, contraception and gay rights (apropos of which, check this out). But David Gerson, a political advisor who has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations, sees Santorum as a compassionate conservative with a vision of the common good.
Consider this, for instance:
In a 2005 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Santorum argued that men and women should not be treated either as “pathetic dependents” or as “radical individuals.” “Someone,” he argued, “always gets hurt when masses of individuals do what is only in their own self-interest. That is the great lie of liberal freedom. . . . Freedom is liberty coupled with responsibility to something bigger or higher than the self. It is a self-less freedom. It is sacrificial freedom. It is the pursuit of our dreams with an eye towards the common good.”
Gerson doesn’t think the former Pennsylvania Senator stands much of a chance of getting himself nominated, but sees his rise as a sign that Republicans are remembering the need to add a pinch of humanity to the small government stew:
Libertarians may wish to claim exclusive marketing rights, but there are two healthy, intellectual movements in American conservatism: libertarianism and religious (particularly Catholic) social thought.
Libertarians may damn Santorum as a heretic for supporting prison ministries and expanding colon cancer screenings for Medicare beneficiaries, but Republicans abandon themselves to a radically individualistic libertarianism at their own peril. Gerson’s column in the Washington Post can be found here.
There is a lot to like about Ron Paul. He opposes the war on drugs; he is anti-war, and he doesn’t like the Patriot Act. Who could ask for anything more?
If you believe Adele M. Stan, progressives should be asking for much, much more. Ron Paul’s libertarianism may overlap with the progressive agenda at important points, but it flows from a entirely different source. Stan associates Paul with the anti-civil rights John Birch Society as well as the modern Reconstruction movement. My research has reached similar conclusions.
Progressives contend that we’re all in this thing together; Libertarians say we’re all on our own. Progressivism is consistent with religious altruism; libertarianism logically tends toward the moral nihilism of Ayn Rand. A philosophical difference that great can’t be mended with duct tape and baling wire. Friends of Justice endorses a Common Peace Agenda that embraces the legitimate rights and needs of all people. We aren’t satisfied with simply ending the war on drugs or reducing the size of the prison population; we seek what Martin Luther King Jr. called The Beloved Community.
Those in search of the common good must choose their coalition partners with great care. We don’t have to agree on every point, but we must be working toward the same broad goal. What kind of America are we trying to create? AGB (more…)