Saturday, May 05, 2007

The "Religious Right" and Randy Brinson

Randy Brinson came across my radar a year ago. He's a doctor in Alabama and a dedicated Christian seeking to lead fellow Christians out of the political wilderness in which they have wandered for...well, it's not exactly forty years but it's over twenty-five. The alliance between Republicans and political Christians runs all the way back to Ronald Reagan snatching the bacon away from Jimmy Carter, the most conspicuously Christian president to hold the office in our lifetime.

Sleeping with politicians for twenty-five years has not led the nation any closer to Christian values. And politicians seem to be growing weary of Christian nagging about morals. The moral terpitude of the Clinton years drove Christians even closer into the arms of the GOP, and the election of a second George Bush was for many the next best thing to a Second Coming.

But the bloom is off the roses and Randy Brinson's Redeem the Vote movement is an idea whose time has come. Talk to Action is a site put together with the intent of addressing what has come to be called the "Christian Right," or as they describe it, "a platform for reporting on, learning about, and analyzing and discussing the religious right -- and what to do about it." Last October they wrote about Brinson's organization.

Two years ago many conservative Christian leaders were sending direct and indirect messages that voting for Bush and the republican party was the only right Christian way to vote. Not much has changed in two years, but there are some signs that a few leaders have changed their minds about politics.

In 2004 Randy Brinson organized a voter registration campaign aimed at young people called Redeem the Vote. It seemed to me at the time that this looked more like a Vote for Bush the Redeemer effort. Right before the 2004 election, Rick Warren sent out a message to thousands of pastors in his network and basically gave an appeal for the Bush-Driven Life.

A couple of weeks ago (Are you ready for this?) the Christian Coalition of Alabama, with Randy Brinson now at the helm, broke ranks with a lot of their followers by taking a moderate (read realistic) view of controling electronic gambling.

To be accurate, there is no more Christian Coalition of Alabama. A core group controlling the URL changed the name to Christian Action of Alabama, and an epitaph for the group has already been published. I'm not sure where the remnant being led by Randy Brinson will affiliate, but my hope is that similar grass-roots movements across the country will rise to form a critical mass that can be identified.

Read this editorial from the Anniston Alabama Star.

In recent campaigns the Christian Coalition of Alabama has been a vocal if not always potent political force.

It also has been a controversial one.

Often at odds with the national Christian Coalition over political goals and strategy, leaders of the Alabama organization finally broke away and formed Christian Action Alabama, which they claimed would better represent the views and values of “pro-family Alabamians.”

But the Christian Coalition of Alabama remained. With Randy Brinson at its head it continued to pursue what many felt was a more moderate and more pragmatic course.

The difference between the two groups became evident recently in the debate over whether or not to legalize electronic bingo machines at the greyhound race tracks in Mobile and Birmingham; the machines already are legal at tracks in Greene and Macon counties.

Christian Action Alabama came out unequivocally opposed to the bill. Long on record as being against gambling in any form, the leadership of CAA said it would not be a party to anything that would expand gaming in the state.

Even though the Christian Coalition of Alabama also is opposed to gambling, Brinson took a different approach.

Aware that illegal electronic bingo already was moving into the state, he reasoned that if legal electronic bingo was available in these four locations it would make it easier to identify and shut down the illegal operations. So he came out in favor of the bill.

The fact that spokesmen for two different Christian organizations differ on this bill has confused some folks. It shouldn’t.

Although many people who call themselves Christians firmly believe that gambling is a sin and should be outlawed, some people who call themselves Christians feel that gambling in a controlled and regulated environment is no sin at all.

It is a debate as old as religion itself. Believers on both sides of an issue — whether it be gambling, homosexuality, tax policies that favor the rich over the poor, and so many others — devoutly believe that Christ, or God, or Allah, or Jupiter, or Jove is on their side.

In our democracy, it is up to the individual to decide if he or she wishes to go along with this group or that group or no group at all.

It is up to the groups, and the individuals who lead them, to present their positions openly and fairly and without demonizing those who oppose them.

That is how the system is supposed to work.

Who'd a thunk it?
In Alabama, too! I'm gonna have to stop making jokes about Alabama if this keeps up. Good luck, ya'll.

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