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September 14, 2005

Underpinnings of Christian Left Can be Seen at Boston College

Tony Coppola

      For years, political scientists have been branding the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as leaders of the Christian Right, the political movement of conservative Christians—mainly evangelical protestants—whose goals are to decrease the size of government and legislate morality on the country. One does not have to look far from BC's campus to see this movement. Not only do some students ascribe to the philosophy of the Christian Right but a radical Catholic Group, the Cardinal Newman Society, which has no legitimacy within the Church, called for the firing of multiple BC professors for taking public stances in favor of removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Although Father Leahy quickly announced that he would stand by the professor's freedom of speech, this is a reminder that we are a Jesuit school and as such have a unique dynamic not present on most college campuses. What does this designation of our university as Jesuit mean, however?

      The decades-old Christian Right would argue that it means that Boston College has a special duty to insure that its students leave as religious and political conservatives. But, this has never been BC's top concern, despite its conservative hallmarks: an uninviting, borderline homophobic notice of non-discrimination, its failure to provide birth control, and its uneasiness with pro-choice speakers. Rather, from the day students walk into freshman orientation, Boston College tries to instill in them a sense of social justice, pushing the slogan of "men and women for others." This message that BC has been pushing throughout its existence perfectly sums up a new liberal movement that is stirring, the Christian Left.

      Yes, you read that right; I did not say the secular left; I said the Christian Left. Led by a new organization called the Christian Alliance for Progress, the movement is gathering steam. The Christian Left like the Christian Right is in the business of legislating a morality, a morality, however, that argues for anti-poverty programs, for the preservation of God's environment, for the treatment of all those who are sick, and for the equality of all God's people (gay or straight, Christian or not, black or white). Despite popular belief, the Christian Left has always existed, focusing mainly on protesting human rights abuses and capital punishment. Now, however, its leaders like editor of Sojourner's and author of God's Politics, Jim Wallis, are fed up with intolerant Christians misconstruing Christ's message as one of intolerance and bigotry. Members of the Christian left are ready to move beyond merely taking stances on a few issues and turn their movement into one that will have true political power.

      Unfortunately, the mere formation of this movement is not enough. In order to be politically significant, the Christian Left must convince the secular left that it is acceptable to mix religion and politics without violating the establishment clause of the constitution. As long as the secular left continues to scoff at the idea of religion as anything but something private, it will make any permanent electoral gains for the Democratic Party that the Christian Left supports difficult. American voters must come to realize that the Party is not anti-religious, that most liberals believe in God, and that they are not hostile towards religion. Unfortunately, a recent poll showed that only 26% of Americans believe the Democratic Party is at all favorable towards religion, a politically problematic statistic when 90% of Americans believe in God and define themselves as somewhat spiritual.

      The Christian Left must, therefore, be able to convince the American people that their interpretation of religion, one of compassion, is just as valid as the Right's interpretation of religion, one of intolerance. If its members can do this, it will not only be a victory for the Christian message but will translate into huge electoral gains for the Democratic Party.

Front Page (September 14, 2005)

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