Public university sponsorship of conference on"Examining the Rea l Agend...

Wed Jun 15 13:41:39 PDT 2005

In a message dated 6/15/2005 2:26:29 P.M. Eastern Daylight  Time, 
sgreen at writes:

If Mark does not  know the content of the program, then I do not think one 
can assume that a  conference that may "criticize" aspects of the Religious 
Right is "hostile" to  the Christian Right.  I would hope that any
conference would be  balanced, but I would assume that academic freedom would 
allow for criticism,  particularly since it is a timely and
legitimate topic.  As for the  issue of the criticism occuring at a state
supported university, are public  universities barred from tackling
controversial issues (and taking sides)  merely because they involve
religion?  How about their  professors?

Draw whatever conclusion that you may from the program  schedule, a copy of 
which is hosted online at 
_ ( 
According to the website, presentations included the  following:
Fundamentalism: The Fear and the  Rage - Karen Armstrong, The Rise of 
Dominionism  in the U.S. Government - Joan Bokaer, Millennialist and  Apocalyptic 
Influences on Dominionism - Chip Berlet, Learning about the  Christian Right, and 
What in the World to Do - Frederick Clarkson, The Real  Hidden Religious 
Agenda: The Theocratic States of America - John Sugg, Is an  Unholy American 
Theocracy Here? - Katherine Yurica, On the Psychology and  Theocracy of George W. 
Bush: Reflections in a Culture of Fear - Charles  Strozier, Christian Jihad - 
Skipp Porteous, Jesus Plus Nothing:  Elite Fundamentalism, Pragmatic 
Dominionism - Jeff Sharlet, Religion and Secrecy in  the Bush Administration - Hugh 
Sounds  balanced, right?   
Karen  Armstrong, I think, needs no introduction thanks to her prodigious 
writing,  especially on relations between the west and Islam.   
Joan  Bokaer is the founder of _http://www.theocracywatch.org_ 
( .  
Chip  Berlet?  Long time freelance writer, including for High Times  
(published by Norman Mailer's son, John) and for some 20 years a senior  researcher 
for_ (  
Political  Research Associates, a Massachusetts group that has lived off the 
carcasses of  right wing and conservative organizations thanks to its special 
focus as "an  independent, nonprofit research center that exposes and 
challenges the Right and  larger oppressive movements, institutions, and forces. PRA 
produces accurate  applied research and useful analytic tools to inform and 
support progressive  activism that promotes equality and justice. " 
Frederick  Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility:  The Struggle Between 
Theocracy and  Democracy,  speaks for himself at 
_ ( .  
A search  in vain for balance from John Sugg can be conducted at 
_http://www.johnsugg.com_ ( . 
Katherine  Yurica.  Go to 
( .  Need one say more? 
Charles  Strozier authored a biography of a sorts about President Lincoln, 
taking a  psychotherapeutic romp through Honest Abe's life to bring us 
"Lincoln's Quest  for Union."  He also "specializes" in something he calls "endism" or  
teachings about apocalyptic endings of the world.  In that vein, he  
authored,  Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in  America (Boston: Beacon 
Press, 1994).  His balance is demonstrated with  a remark at the NY 
Conference describing the "basically neo-fascist schemes of  the new Republicans." 
Skipp  Porteus, founder of the Institute for First Amendment Studies, a 
voluminous  source of anti-right screed now archived at 
_ ( , is a former  Pentecostal 
preacher that "exposes" the religious right through such personally  devoted acts as 
dumpster diving in the trash cans of religious right  organizations. 
Jeff  Sharlet, a founder of _http://www.killingthebuddha.com_ 
( , with his  co-author of the book of the same name, studies 
and speaks about religion and  conservativism, both on the Buddha site, and 
at _http://www.therevealer.com_ ( , where he is the  
Editor.  His equanimity for the Religious Right is evidenced in this piece  
that bumps against Pat Robertson, 
( . 
Hugh  Urban, an associate professor of comparative religions and author on 
Tantric sex  and Hinduism, would not appreciate being confused for a balanced 
voice on such  issues.  Take this, from one of his recent articles:   
To  close, I would like to offer a few comments regarding the political role 
of the  scholar of religion in the world today. There was a time when I, like 
most  scholars of religion, believed that the best I could do was to remain as 
neutral  as possible about the political implications of my research while at 
the same  remaining as self-conscious as possible about the ways in which my 
work might be  affected by my own political opinions. Well, I must say that I 
no longer believe  in this sort of comfortable pretense of neutrality. When 
one's government is  committing acts as disturbing as those of the Bush 
administration, and  concealing them under layers of obsessive secrecy, no thinking 
citizen, can  pretend to remain comfortably neutral.  . .  .  I would also agree 
with Pierre Bourdieu, who suggests that the task of  the scholar is, among 
other things, to unmask and demystify relations of power  that have been masked 
and mystified in the social order. By unmasking the subtle  forms of 
misrecognition and symbolic violence at work in society, the scholar is  exercising a 
fundamentally political power:  "There is a political dimension to…what  
sociology should do in the modern world...Acts of research...are acts of  struggle, 
conquest and victory over taken for granted assumptions about social  life: 
scientific research is a struggle against all forms of symbolic  domination." 
For the scholar of religion, that means unmasking relations of  power and 
oppression that have been mystified by appeals to divine authority,  wars of Good 
against Evil, and coded references to scriptures. That is how we  can exert our, 
admittedly limited, political effect within the academy, among  our students 
and within our communities. It is surely high time that we began  doing so. 
So, I  guess it is fair game not to conclude that balance was a hallmark of 
the  conference.  In fact, it would be fair game to conclude that balance was  
never an objective of the  conference. 
Jim  Henderson 
Senior  Counsel 
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