Reed Magazine May 2004
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Left Us Pray...

Looking for Progressives in a surprising place: should leftists get religion?

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By Tim Appelo '78

Is George W. Bush turning the White House into the Red-State House? Lots of Reedies on the left think so, and they're feeling blue. Faced with a newly puissant conservative movement, where can progressives turn for help?

May I suggest that Reedies consider the unthinkable? How about joining forces with the religious community, including the Christian church?

Wait, come back! I realize that declaring independence of thought in the face of all tradition is the whole idea of Reed. Despite a vigorous religious presence on campus, Reed was founded in a spirit of rationalist reform. Amanda Reed endowed the college at the urging of Thomas Lamb Eliot, a prominent local Unitarian minister. However, "Atheism, Communism, Free Love" t-shirts will probably always outnumber "Jesus Saves" t-shirts on this particular campus.

When I was there in the mid-70s, many students cherished the rumor that one of the school's sports teams drove its Christian-school rival off the field by staging a mock crucifixion as a halftime show, in lieu of a marching band.

Some of us have learned a lesson or two since about intellectual tolerance. And at the very least, those lefties who perceive conventional religiosity as a right-wing monolith should note that not every follower of the Prince of Peace is shouting "Amen" to Bush's Christian soldiers. Baptist Sunday School teacher Jimmy Carter charges the fundamentalists with "the abandonment of some of the basic principles of Christianity." Don Miller, the bestselling author of Searching for God Knows What, and sometime ornery contrarian Christian evangelist on Reed's campus, says, "Fundamentalist rhetoric in the church is like a flea on a dog—a flea is part of the dog, but it's not to be confused with the dog."

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