Religious liberal. Have
I lost my mind or do I simply enjoy oxymorons? (Well,
both are true to some extent, but that's beside the
point.) In this case, neither. Religious liberals
have often been an integral part of American politics.
Much of the social and political progress we so revere
was brought about in no small way by religious liberals.
From the abolition of slavery to the civil rights
movement, from women's suffrage to gay liberation,
these living, breathing "oxymorons" have
been at the vanguard of the fight for justice.
Go to any Gay Pride rally or parade and you'll find
the religious denominations/ organizations that have
offered invaluable support to this cause. Find a pro-choice
protest and surely amidst the crowds, you'll also
find religious liberals. Religious liberals have somehow
become the unheard, forgotten voice in our country
despite the tremendous role they've played in our
history and their continuing participation in the
modern struggles against the forces of oppression.
We don't hear or see them, not because they aren't
there, but simply because our vision has been blurred
by the easy stereotypes that surround us. The media,
the great narrator of history in the making, doesn't
"need" them to create a "balanced"
story, so they are ignored. We, the overwhelmed and
overwrought denizens of the information age, rely
so much on the media's representation of the world
that we ignore what we could so easily see for ourselves.
When we do notice them, we paint them as the exception
that proves the rule. Or we fool ourselves into believing
that they somehow separate religious belief from secular
ideals, so that they can act on one at the exclusion
of the other. They support liberal causes despite
their religious beliefs. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. They
support liberal causes because of their religious
For the religious liberal, in general, personal morality
(the mainstay of religious conservatives,) is, well,
personal. Decisions about private matters
are best left to those involved and those immediately
involved in their lives. The public expression of
faith is directed to that which is public in nature.
The religious liberal publicly expresses his or her
faith through what Jews call Tikkun Olam,
the healing of the world. They commit charitable acts
and fight for justice. They act in their public lives
in accordance with private morality, but do not seek
to force their concept of morality upon others. Instead,
they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the
sick. They march for the common dignity of human beings,
for peace or economic justice or women's rights or
gay rights or the environment. They do so because
their religious beliefs demand it.
In the meantime, when they're not being ignored,
they're attacked from both sides. The extremists on
the religious right denounce them as heathens and
heretics who support "sin." The extremists
on the secular left attack them for their religiosity.
After all, religion is the root of all evil, the cause
of all of the injustices of the world. (Listen to
the discussions where liberals congregate, you're
sure to hear at least one person claim that all of
the wars in man's history were caused by religion.)
There simply is no way to win if you're a religious
liberal. Or is there? Victory is the progress steadily
made in large part due to their struggle. Victory
is knowing that whatever the outcome, you're playing
the game fairly and justly. Victory is being so integral
to the very structure of the nation that you can
be taken for granted. Victory is being a living, breathing
"oxymoron" and being proud of it.
Perhaps someday, the religious liberals will have
their own parade and a catch slogan to for chants
and posters. We're here. We're religious and liberal.
You're welcome. Perhaps we'll notice them
then and finally listen to what they have to say.
If so, they will once again prove integral to social
and political progress if only because they'll force
the media and the general public to acknowledge the
complexity of the issues that face us in the modern
A religious liberal pride parade. We definitely need
one of those. If anyone decides to organize one, I'll
be there with bells on.