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Besides Lafayette Park, Lerner’s activists rallied in a Lutheran church and in the United Methodist lobby office on Capitol Hill, where they were joined by the United Methodist Church’s chief lobbyist, Jim Winkler. Although Lerner himself is a somewhat faded star since the Clintons dissed him in the early 90s, his rally was graced by a somewhat more ascendant Brian McLaren, chief poobah of the Emerging Church, the amorphous community for left-leaning, post-modern evangelicals. A more therapeutic antidote to Lerner’s polemics, McLaren touted his New Kind of Christianity and platitudinously appealed for common ground and new narratives while not so indirectly lobbing condemnation at the supposed “visions for social suicide” of conservative evangelicals who have not yet bent the knee to global warming activism or, presumably, McLaren’s own latest crusade against Israeli occupation.
More acidly targeted rhetoric came from Tikkun associate editor Peter Gabel, who derided religious conservatives as “an angry vigilante group.” Left-wing Catholic nun-activist Joan Chittister bemoaned the “big bombs and big profits for a few.” Lerner’s network portrays itself as besieged light in a dark universe:
Our mission as spiritual progressives is to help those people separate the decent and legitimate needs that they have from the illegitimate racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, pro-militarist politics in which these needs find inappropriate expression.
In its various activist workshops while in D.C, Lerner’s spiritual progressives plotted how to prevent a “corporate take over” of America, how to combat the “the Tea Party Movement and the growth of an indigenous American Fascism,” “overcoming Islamophobia” through “dialogue between Muslims and others in the progressive community,” organizing for “marriage equality” and “reproductive rights,” plus addressing “Israel/Palestine: The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Debate,” and urging a “global Marshall Plan” to redistribute American wealth to the countless victims of U.S. imperialism. J Street Founder Ben Ami also joined Lerner to deliberate over “progressive” opposition to a militaristic Israel.
Unsurprisingly, Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America likewise comfortably fit in with the network about Israel and opposing conservative Christians, if not about same-sex unions and abortion rights. An ostensibly non-political memorial service for Israel’s victims in the Gaza flotilla was solemnly convened.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich even took the stage to tout an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which Lerner straight-facedly insists is politically plausible and not utopian.
So Lerner’s spiritual progressives grieved and celebrated simultaneously, nursing disappointments over Obama, while also channeling the departed spirits of 1960s radical activism, perhaps with a little help from Marianne Williamson. Fighting American fascism is hard work, but apparently it can also be fun, and invigorating.
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