Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Conference on Theocracy

There was a high-powered conference in NYC last weekend Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right .

Frederick Carlson who has one of the best blogs on the radical religious rights reports that " the conference sponsors plan to edit the conference down to an hour long film, which they plan to broadcast and make available on DVD. A book based on the main conference presentations may also be in the works. "

There was a report in the Moonie Washington Times on the conference which was predicatably shrill and a nice column by Newsday's Ellis Henican focusing on Chip Berlet

Chip Berlet isn't the devil. He doesn't even look the part.

He's a big, burly guy in suspenders and a sport shirt who was raised Presbyterian in northern New Jersey. He's spent most of his adult life at the intersection of journalism and community activism - in Colorado, Chicago and Boston. Over the years, he's become one of America's leading experts on the steady rise of conservative Christianity and its growing role in political life. He was onto this long before George W. Bush came into the White House.

These days, Berlet thinks of himself as an organizer, a researcher and a radical left-wing Christian. Yet he counts among his friends quite a few people whom his other friends consider whacked-out right-wing religious zealots.

"Actually," Berlet was saying on Friday afternoon, "I don't like those labels at all, calling people 'religious extremists' or 'radical religious right.' You can't have a conversation when you start that way. I want to talk to these people. I want to engage them. ... I want to have a real discourse about religion and politics."

Welcome to backlash against the latest scary rise of America's Religious Right.

There's plenty of anger and exuberance and outrage in the room. This is New York, after all, where skepticism is always in style. But Berlet might be onto something here, something that could actually work in the battle against religious extremists, by whatever name: Don't insult them. Engage them. And don't back down.

Check out the website of Berlet's organization, Politcal Research Associates, for some of the best information on the far right and how to combat it.

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