RD: Why Liberal Religious Arguments Fail
- Why Liberal Religious Arguments Fail
By Peter Laarman
Peter Laarman is executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, a
network of activist individuals and congregations headquartered in Los
Angeles. He served as the senior minister of New Yorks Judson Memorial
Church from 1994 to 2004. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Peter
spent 15 years as a labor movement strategist and communications specialist
prior to training for the ministry.
A lot has been made recently of a pair of efforts to turn the Republican
Partys ostentatious religious posture against it. In early June,
conservative Republican Rep. Paul Ryan was handed a Bible flagging passages
on the poor in response to his heavily-criticized budget proposal, followed
closely by the American Values Networks must-see video claiming to debunk
the notion that Ayn Rands ideas can be reconciled with Christian teaching.
The AVN people exulted that they had boxed Ryan into a corner: that,
logically, he must repudiate either Rand or Jesus.
In these very pages Sarah Posner dived deeply and revealingly into the many
potential problems of dueling biblicisms, but I want to look more closely at
the broader problem of seeking to debunk or refute or demolish the
religiously-grounded views of others. Its important for me to say
immediately that I rank chief among sinners in this regard. I love, love,
LOVE telling others how puny and undeveloped their ideas are, and in
particular how little they comprehend of the Bibles great themes of exodus
and liberation. (Reallyyou can check my greatest hits here at RD if you
doubt me.) And yes: I am, in fact, using argument here in order to make the
point that argument is generally
unhelpful, particularly in respect to religiously-tinged viewpoints. God
help me, I can do no other.
Ideation and argument are mothers milk to many of us, and especially to
those of us nurtured in what I will shorthand as The Wordy Anglo-Protestant
Traditiona tradition that also inflects significant parts of American
Judaism. When something moves us or provokes us, what do we do? We write a
manifesto or a platform statement or a treatise.
We issue declarations. We ask people to sign our statement; join our
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