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Religious Discrimination In The Media And The Ird


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These are two issues in one: the media's discrimination against mainline churches and IRD's successful campaign to undermine them.



Over the past nine years, prominent Religious Right leaders have appeared more than 40 times on the major Sunday morning new talk programs. But the principal leaders of the UCC, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), American Baptist Churches, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Reformed Church in America, among others, haven't appeared once. Why?

By J. Bennett Guess

June - July 06


On Easter Sunday, April 16, NBC's "Meet the Press" hosted its annual installment of "Faith in America," where seven religious commentators spent an hour discussing the state of religious life in this country. Representing the "Christian perspective" were a conservative Roman Catholic priest, a liberal Roman Catholic nun and a charismatic Pentecostal pastor. Not a mainline Protestant leader among them.


It was at least the second consecutive year that "Meet the Press" had snubbed the 35-member- body National Council of Churches by excluding any representation of its mainline communions. A year earlier, NBC had invited the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a charismatic evangelical and a Roman Catholic priest to discuss the same topic. Again, no Episcopalians, no Presbyterians, no Lutherans. And certainly no one from the UCC.


Meanwhile this year, over at CNN, Wolf Blitzer's "Late Edition" spent about 10 minutes on Easter Sunday talking about Christian voters. Blitzer's guest? Jerry Falwell.


If you've noticed lately that a news interview with a United Methodist bishop is just about as likely as a UCC commercial on network television, then you're starting to get the point.




While some suggest the pervasive public silence is linked to decades of mainline decline, others suggest a more-sinister plot.


The Rev. Peter Laarman, former pastor of Judson Memorial Church (UCC/American Baptist) in New York and now director of the national Progressive Religious Partnership, believes the silencing is the direct result of a coordinated, decades-old strategy by so-called "neo-con" organizations, most notably the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), to disrupt mainline churches, discredit their national agencies and "decapitate" mainline leaders.


The rise of the Religious Right not only depended on its ability to attract more political power, Laarman says, but its growth in influence also required a squelching of mainliners' longstanding clout. Because these more-moderate churches stood at the literal center of America's heartland and held significant sway on public opinion, their Christian credentials needed to be undermined. (More than 50 percent of members of Congress still belong to mainline Protestant churches.)


Articulating a thesis once put forward by theologian John B. Cobb, a United Methodist, Laarman says the mainline church enjoyed remarkable success through the 1970s: The Vietnam War, long opposed publicly by mainline leaders such as the UCC's William Sloane Coffin, had been ended. The sin of racial segregation had been exposed through the help of more-courageous mainline clergy. Civil rights legislation, advocated by mainline church agencies, was being enacted. The ordination of women was growing in practice and acceptance, and a "liberationist" reading of the Bible — not biblical fundamentalism — was gaining prominence.


"These were not only significant cultural milestones but certain moral victories for the mainline church, and the mainline church became a victim of its own success," Laarman believes. "After the 1970s, a significant part of the mainline church went to sleep."


"But then it was torpedoed by this offensive [from the IRD] that it didn't see coming," Laarman says. "Unbeknownst to most people, there was a huge counter thrust that was well-funded and well-organized. Of all the vehicles of the Right in the last 40 years, its success at dividing the mainlines is its best and least known success. These [divisions] are not indigenous reactions within these communions. These are being orchestrated by the IRD."


IRD: 'Looking to divide and destroy'


Founded 25 years ago, IRD works through a three-pronged programmatic strategy referred to as "United Methodist Action," "Presbyterian Action" and "Episcopal Action," whereby it routinely hounds mainline leaders as "bureaucrats and elites" and portrays elected heads of mainline communions as rejecters of true Christianity.


According to Laarman, IRD's goal is a simple one: Portray mainline church leaders as anti-Christian, anti-American fools, and by so doing, cripple any mantle of respect or credibility their words or actions may have, either within their own denominations or within the public at large.


IRD's website ird-renew.org reveals how its attacks are most often personal, and how its stated commitment to "promoting democracy and religious freedom" often fails to include any respect for the democratic processes that are hallmarks of mainline Protestantism.


Randall Balmer, an evangelical Christian and professor of American religious history at Columbia University, is writing about IRD in his newest book — which he describes as "an evangelical's lament" — called "Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Destroys America" (Basic Books, 2006).


The Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, says there is a growing body of evidence that groups like the IRD are working to "deliberately divide and undermine institutional churches."


"This is a concerted effort, not just against the National Council but the mainline churches themselves, to erode the confidence in leadership of these churches," Edgar says.


The NCC and the World Council of Churches were early targets of IRD and became the subject of an IRD-inspired segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" in 1983, when it reported IRD's allegations that both the NCC and WCC were using mainline members' offerings to "promote communism." However, in December 2002, when "60 Minutes" Executive Producer Don Hewitt was asked on CNN's "Larry King Live" to name any show he regretted during his 36-year career, Hewitt named just one: the story berating the ecumenical church bodies, calling the allegations "a lot of nonsense."


UCC News



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Of course this article is true and right, but what's to be done about it ? How do we fight illusions, deceptions, lies, and unjust persecutions.


I believe that we were given an answer 2,000 years ago. When it has happened/happens to me, I ignore it as much as possible and go on with my life and its direction which is to progress into the future. What other choice is possible ? If the other side prompts one to respond in kind and we do, then we are playing their game, which Christian teachings have historically demonstrated along with those of Ghandi and other non-Christians, do not provide any satisfaction for us in the long run, only pain and suffering. It boils down to peaceful resistance, and whether we wish to be part of the problem or part of the answer ?


There's an article in today's LA Times that details much the same idea, only its perspective is that the right wing of religion in general is trying everything possible to hasten the "end times" for everyone.


Somebody's got a huge, uncurable, massive case of obsessive-compulsive schadenfreude if you ask me.


flow.... :o

Edited by flowperson
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The media is friend only to sensationalism. Although there have been lawsuits against tv stations for not making their airwaves accessable to all (in regards to not airing the UCC extravagant welcome ads).


Thanks to the internet, progressives are able to get out there and show the world who they/we are! That is how I found such a thing existed! We just have to keep demanding that we are here. Maybe we can get some progressive in broadcasting who will be willing to show the world that there is more out there than Jerry Falwell's and George Bush's of the world!

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