The Religious Left and My Journey to L.A.

I was reading an L.A. Times article on the religious/nonreligious nature of the Occupy L.A. protest, Occupy Movement Is Largely Secular, and they discussed a bit about the religious left. In NYC, the religious left has been very supportive of the movement, according to this article, L.A. has seen less direct support or endorsement by any churches, save two, an Episcopal church in Pasadena and a UCC church in Santa Monica. This led to a more general analysis of the religious left:

“The problem is — and this is true of the religious left in more general terms — it’s so disorganized right now,” said Laura Olson, a political science professor at Clemson University who studies religious involvement in politics. “They have a difficult time articulating a message that’s as clear and bounded and digestible as what the religious right offers.”

Said Randall Balmer, a Columbia University professor who writes widely about evangelical conservatives: “I think part of it is the whole drift of the culture toward a more conservative direction. But I also think the religious left has lost its voice, has lost its nerve, is no longer articulating the principles in the New Testament.”

Then this, on how the Occupy movement might serve to energize the religious left:

Butler, of Faith in Public Life, participated in that demonstration and said she sees a lot of excitement about the Occupy movement in the faith-based community. She believes it could become a rallying point that will reinvigorate the religious left.
“Like a lot of things … it takes a while for churches to get organized,” she said. “But you are seeing folks get organized…. There’s a natural fit there, in other words. These values are our values.”

All this considered, I’m looking forward to getting to L.A. and participating with the Occupy movement there, as well as exploring the culture of the religious left in L.A. Frankly, I’ve not spent much time in urban areas, so I look forward to the new experience of urban religion, not just from the point of view of my own Christian tradition, but from the perspective of a region that is so religiously diverse and pluralistic. Yes. I’m quite fascinated by the prospect.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

3 thoughts on “The Religious Left and My Journey to L.A.”

  1. I tend to be politically nonpartisan for the most part. I came from a very conservative upbringing, then swung in the exact opposite direction by the time I was 24. Now I’ve settled somewhere in the middle, yet I am very socially progressive. My nonpartisan stance seeps into my ideals for Christianity. Ideally there would be no “us versus them” mentality when it came to religion. Just “us”, regardless of our differences. The “us versus them” mentality drives a wider gap between factions that could otherwise eventually mutually understand and respect each other. And that gap creates at atmosphere of distrust, negativity, and resentment.

    I just finished a book by Father Thomas Keating, a very progressive and pluralistic Trappist Monk and priest. In the book, called *Open Mind, Open Heart* (in which centering prayer is the theme), he speaks very positively about the charismatic movement. I was completely stunned to hear these very open and welcoming views regarding the charismatic movement, because I have always viewed them warily AND as very right wing in terms of their overall stance politically and socially. I admit to having harshly judged the charismatic movement, and unfairly I might add, since I don’t personally know any charismatics. I have not been in their presence, I have not attended their churches. I have stayed as far away as possible from them.

    With all that said, I see the need to draw lines and make distinctions when generalizing and trying to find patterns. There are definite differences in how the left and right (within the Church) conduct themselves. I just wish, deep in my heart, that we wouldn’t be so divided.


  2. Very insightful comment, Vesper, thanks. I share your sentiments. Completely. Jesus said that we live in the world but not of the world. Can we take this as referring to language and distinctions? We live in a linguistic world of distinctions and differences. These often lead to suspicions, divisions, and violence. While living in this world of language and distinctions, of differences, we somehow try to not be “of” the world in the sense that we do not identify with what divides us or become hostile.

    That’s been an important part of my spiritual path. I try to be intellectually engaged in differences and distinctions (not simply ignoring them and hoping they go away), but at the same time, my desire is that my ego doesn’t get pulled into these distinctions in such a way that I become suspicious, hostile, divisive, or violent (in even the most subtle way). It’s no small task! It feels like an important part of my journey, however, because while I do not want to become hostile toward others, there are certain forces at work in our Modern Western system that exploit people and cause great suffering.

    If you get a chance, I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on the Keating book. Have you mentioned in on your blog? I don’t see any recent posts on it.


    1. I haven’t posted anything on the Keating book on my blog. I do keep track of my books here:

      I thought it was a great book overall, especially in regards to the hows and whys of centering prayer. It helps in a very practical way. I gave it four out of five stars. My only problem with it is that it’s very repetitive about certain topics. Although this might be considered helpful in really pounding the point home, it just seems redundant to me. That said, a worthwhile addition to any contemplative’s library.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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