Monday, April 26, 2004

Not keeping up
The blessing and curse of the blogosphere is that it is very large and diverse and we have limited time and attention. I started regularly reading blogs a little over a year ago when a friend of mine started a blog of his own (it was David Neiwert at Orcinus). At first I only regularly read a few blogs that he dialoged with in order to keep up with the conversation. Soon I was actively exploring to find new blogs of new types. Within two months I had to start my own blog and participate. That meant creating my own blogroll. Like most blogrolls, my list only gets longer; it never gets shorter. As someone who has rather eclectic interests, my attention wanders from week to week. Some weeks I read mostly science blogs, some weeks mostly humor blogs, other weeks mostly fringe conspiracists, and so on.

My other bad habit as an inhabitant of the blogosphere is that I don't pay very close attention to comments. There are exceptions, some of the best material at Panda's Thumb happens in the intelligent discussions in the comments. But at some of the most popular sites, the comments go on and on, repeat themselves, wander off topic, and fill up with trolls. At the first sign of a flame war, I'm gone.

Now, all of this is just preliminary to confessing that I haven't been keeping up with some of my favorite blogs, like Allen Brill's The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians) the American Street. I've never met Allen, but I imagine him to be almost the perfect exemplar of the ethically consistent, rational, tolerant, and open minded religious person that I alluded to in the previous post.

The reason I bring this up today, is that in checking out Village Gate this morning I found out that a great deal of Atrios' religion ranting this weekend was aimed at Brill and a number of other liberal Christians. I suppose I might have known that if I read Atrios' comments. Brill's coverage of part of the other side is here. Quite a few other people have weighed in as well. Chuck Currie fired a rather hash response at Atrios on the pages of American Street. In the comments to Currie’s post Street emcee, Kevin Hayden tried to make peace between the sides and Pharangula blogger, PZ Meyer, came to Atrios’ defense. I’m still tracking down all of the relevant posts at their home sites.

This is turning rather ugly and it's giving me that Mom-and-Dad-are-fighting feeling in the pit of my stomach. These are all very good people and they are usually on the same side (my side). Both sides are feeling unappreciated by their allies and lashing out in frustration.

To me this looks like the full flower of the success of a conservative strategy of divide and conquer. For years, the religious right has refused to qualify themselves, calling themselves "Christians" in a manner that said, "only our sect has true Christians." Moreover, some on the religious right force that distinction to an absurd Manichean extreme: in their world there are only Christians (them) and godless atheists (everyone else). This line of argument is very common in creationism/evolution rhetoric.

Besides trying to own God, Christ, and religion in general, as they have patriotism and the flag for forty years, the far right’s behavior has put liberal and moderate Christians on the defensive ("I am too a Christian!") and begun separate secular and religious progressives.

The secular and religious portions of the left coalition have reasons enough to feel friction without help from the right. Both are heirs to nineteenth century progressive intellectual traditions. Many on the secular left feel they are the continuation of Enlightenment humanism and still pine for the day when religious superstition was supposed to fade away under the bright light of rationalism. That day has been indefinitely postponed. The religious progressives are the survivors of the nineteenth century social gospel movement that gave us some of the most important fighters for abolition, workers rights, child labor laws, and temperance. They, at one time, seemed destined to become the mainstream of American religion. They found their primary frustration in the same movement that frustrated the secularists. In the first couple years of the twentieth century a conservative counter-revolution took place in American religion. Many churches gave up the social gospel and embraced a form of politically conservative, reactionary anti-modernity. The movement took its name from a series of pamphlets called “the Fundamentals.”

These fundamentalists have been trying to overturn both secular and religious progressivism for eighty years. As long as we fight each other, we are doing their work for them. If the far right manages to separate the secular and religious lefts, they will rule uncontested for another generation and irrevocably remodel our society in their image.

No comments: