Upon receiving e-mail about the Religious Left web site and group from me, a few people said, in effect, "Well, that does sound like a nice idea, but, um, who the heck are you?" The page includes a little background about me and my interest in this project.
My name is Renee and I live in central Ohio with my husband, two children, and various animals. As a life long dog lover, I became interested in dog rescue about 3 years ago. After being a "foster mom" for dogs awaiting permanent homes, I decided that my niche was in humane eduation. Two years ago I created a web site called Puplinks as an online resource for current and potential dog owners. (Working in rescue I had a learned a lot about why dogs become homeless, and wanted to create a site aimed at prevention).
The other major internet project in which I have been involved is an educational site for kids called Letter Lane. The site has fun and educational links to topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet, and original graphics created by my husband. It was our goal to make the site multicultural and inclusive, and that is reflected both in the characters my husband created and in the links that I chose. I also teach psychology and put together a resource for my students called The Cerebral Vortex.
Over the past two years, I have learned my way around the Internet and have really come to appreciate the networking potential it offers.
As far as my interest in creating a network for the "Religious Left", it came about like this: I read an article discussion entitled "Do the Dems Need to "Get Religion" to Win in 2004?". It was in response to an article in Washington Monthly called "Do the Democrats Have a Prayer?" Here is an excerpt from the article:
What if Democrats stopped playing defense on religion--or, more accurately, started playing at all? They could gain political traction with religious moderates by pointing out the true nature of Bush's strategy on religion: Talk from the center, but govern from the right. For instance, while religious moderates cheered Bush's initiative to give social-service grants to faith-based organizations, many were turned off when one of the first large grants went to an organization run by Pat Robertson, who is considered a charlatan even by most evangelicals. If Democrats were less ignorant of America's religious landscape, they would know they could criticize Bush's attachment to Robertson without offending the swing faithful by appearing anti-religious.
In the online discussion of this article, many people balked at the idea of mixing religion and politics in that way. My thought was that, liberals who don't already "have" religion do not need to go out and "get" some. But maybe if liberals whose motivation comes from our religious or spiritual convictions found a way to be more vocal and visible, we could play a vital role in creating positive change in the United States government.
I was telling some people about this site today, and realized that I needed to back and see what I had actually written on this page. In some ways I suppose the site has become less politically oriented, at least some of the time. Someone once suggested that Religious Left might sound too polarizing, and that maybe I should call it the Religious Middle. My thinking was that I wanted to get across that there are people who are still religious, but who see things very differently from the Religious Right. From a practical point of view, I think people do web searches for "religious middle" a lot less often than "religious left".
On the Religious Left weblog, the subheading is "Uniting to promote the politics of compassion", and that probably is a little closer to reflecting what I hope to accomplish here. It is a journey--a dialog--and I am very conscious of trying not to frame things in terms of "us versus them". I think we all need to spend more time really listening to each other, and trying to understand where people are coming from instead of putting them in boxes.
It is terribly sad that so many people have a strong aversion to any talk of religion or God, and I think that has to do with bad experiences they have personally had, but also a general public image that equates religion with judging or oppressing people in some way, or the fact that some in the Religious Right have been so successful at having their version of the Truth codified into law for the rest of us. But religion and spirituality can also motivate people to work for positive social change, protection of human rights, inclusiveness, and care for the environment.
I look forward to exploring these issues with you, as we learn and grow and travel together.