The coming denominational storm

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There’s an interesting little article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times today on how the Terry Schiavo affair has joined conservative Catholics and evangelicals in a common cause:

The struggle is only the latest indication of a strengthening religious alliance between denominations that were once bitterly divided. Evangelical leaders say they frequently lean on Catholic intellectuals like Robert George at Princeton University and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, to help them frame political issues theologically.

Read the whole piece, and Goodstein notices an important trend. The days of inter-denominational disputes, at least among conservatives, are very much a thing of the past. As Goodstein reports, the alliances here were forged in the smithy of the “culture wars” over abortion, gay rights, sex, and smut. But left unmentioned in the article is the flip side to all of this: namely, the extent to which these culture war issues are creating fault lines across and within denominations.

Essentially, over the past few decades, religious conservatives of all stripes—Baptists, Jews, Catholics, Lutherans—have begun aligning with each other to spar with their more moderate or progressive co-religionists. A few years ago, for instance, the Jewish Reform movement decided to recognize gay partnerships, earning the wrath of their more Orthodox fellow rabbis. Churches regularly have inter-congregational disputes over these matters, as seen in the Episcopal rift over gay bishops last spring. And Noam Scheiber reported last year for the New Republic on George W. Bush’s curious alliance with the Orthodox Jewish community.

Coming back to the Terry Schiavo case, no doubt there is a wide, wide swath of moderate and progressive Catholics and evangelicals among that vast majority of Americans who oppose this whole “culture of life” nonsense. And that split among religious Americans, it seems, could widen in the coming years. Right now, of course, conservative ire is focused on those pesky activist judges and all those godless liberals who supposedly “want” Terry Schiavo dead. But this isn’t a secular-religious split; rather, it’s a split between religious conservatives of all faiths and everyone else. As usual, the culture wars are not what they seem.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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