Most people I talk to think that politics isn't working in America and believe that the misuse of religion has been part of the problem. Politics is failing to resolve the big moral issues of our time, or even to seriously address them. And religion has too often been used as a wedge to divide people, rather than as a bridge to bring us together on those most critical questions.
A pretty damning indictment, all things considered, and one that's been frequently made in decrying the "Religious Right."
All right. For the moment, let's grant, for the sake of the argument, that religion as a divider, rather than a uniter, is a bad thing. But then Wallis, who one can safely surmise would identify himself with the "Religious Left" (if there were such a body) has to explain what religion, as a uniter, is good for--and the very next paragraph, he goes off the tracks and straight over a cliff:
It's time to remember the spiritual revivals that helped lead to the abolition of slavery in Britain and the United States; the black church's leadership during the American civil rights movement; the deeply Catholic roots of the Solidarity movement in Poland that led the overthrow of communism; the way liberation theology in Latin America helped pave the way for new democracies; how Desmond Tutu and the South African churches served to inspire victory over apartheid; how "People Power" joined with the priests and bishops to bring down down Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos; how the Dalai Lama keeps hope alive for millions of Tibetans; and, today, how the growing Evangelical and Pentecostal churches of the global South are mobilizing to addresse the injustices of globalization.
If Wallis thinks that these are the works of religion as a uniter, I have a bridge in Brooklyn he might be interested in. Did religion bring together abolitionists and slave owners? Civil rights leaders and segregationists? The Solidarity movement and communists?
Of course not. Every movement he cited above had one other thing in common, besides their religious sources: they were all movements against something. Slavery, segregation, apartheid, dictatorships--every one of these movements was against something, and as a necessary corollary to that, against that something's proponents and defenders. If that's not religion as a divisive force, I don't know what is.
The problem Wallis is trying to get around acknowledging is that in America, the great religious movements of the last two generations have been the pro-life and the pro-family movements. There is no real "Religious Left" anymore because the Left in general embraced opposing positions to both of these movements--and based most of their opposition to these movements on the fact that they are fundamentally religious in nature, with an alarming degree of success.
"The Religious Right's Era Is Over"? Wallis had better hope not, because if so, what replaces it won't be a new wave of religiously-inspired leftist social movements.
What replaces it will be Richard Dawkins, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and company: the people of the Left who successfully turned back the great religious movements' assault, and will now seek to banish all religions--and all religious people--from the public square once and for all.