Thursday, June 05, 2008

A More Prominent Religious Left, and a New Face for Islam

Two recent news stories are of interest. First, a Pew Forum-sponsored panel conference addressed the topic of "a more prominent religious left" and its impact on American politics. Participants in the panel define the religious in the following terms:

"Two factors are central to the reality behind the terminology. The first is a 'liberal' theological perspective that involves less traditional views of the divine, spirituality and religious authority. The second factor is a liberal perspective on political issues."

As the question and answer format of this article unfolds it is apparent that the religious left is still viewed largely through a Christendom lens, and while understanding this facet of the religious left is important, particularly in light of the present political situation surrounding the presidential election, it ignores a significant facet of that element that U.K. scholar Gordon Lynch calls "The New Spirituality" or "Progressive Belief." He defines this as a large, diverse, and increasingly influential form of western spirituality of the left that has "emerged out of four key concerns: the desire for an approach to religion and spirituality that is appropriate for modern, liberal societies, the rejection of patriarchal forms of religion and the search for religious forms that are authentic and liberating for women, the move to re-sacralize science (particularly quantum physics and contemporary theories of cosmology), and the search for a nature-based spirituality that will motivate us to try to avert the impending ecological catastrophe." Lynch has developed a book on this topic titled The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty-first Century (I.B. Tauris, 2007). Readers can find my interaction with this book in a previous post.

And NEWSWEEK online has an interesting story titled "The New Face of Islam," that looks at the critique within the Muslim tradition of militant interpretations of jihad by groups like Al-Qaeda. The article states that "Intellectually and theologically, a lot of the most ambitious work is being done by a group of scholars based in Ankara, Turkey, who expect to publish new editions of the Hadith before the end of the year." The work of such groups holds great potential for capturing the hearts and minds of the Islamic world with a new vision for Islam without violence in its relationship with the West.

1 comment:

Steve Hayes said...


It's always seemed to me that theological liberalism leads to political conservatism, and vice versa.