Progressive Religious Groups Had No Effect on Kavanaugh, Mikey Weinstein. Here’s Why.
While some have vaunted (or mocked) the power of the ‘religious bloc’ in American politics, the nomination and confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the latest insight into when that power appears to be ineffective.
On Wednesday, October 3rd, the National Council of Churches issued a statement calling for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn. The NCC said its stance was because
Judge Kavanaugh exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect…[and] his testimony before the Judiciary Committee included several misstatements and some outright falsehoods.
Judge Kavanaugh’s [record] is troubling with regard to issues of voting rights, racial and gender justice, health care, the rights of people with disabilities, and environmental protections.
The NCC, according to it own website, has 38 “member communions” that “include more than 45 million people in over 100,000 congregations.” If you do the math, that’s nearly 14% of the entire US population.
Yet, despite this condemnation from a presumably large religious bloc in the American electorate, Judge Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed.
David Mislin has an idea. Mislin is listed as a historian and an assistant professor of intellectual heritage at Temple University. After detailing the historical legacy of the NCC, Mislin said
While the National Council encompasses many denominations, its constituent bodies represent a declining share of the religious population…Political leaders do not view it as the voice of religious people as they did in the early 20th century.
Further, a Washington Post article on the original NCC statement (before the confirmation vote) highlighted the fact the NCC was contacted by constituent churches after the release — because congregations had heard the NCC claim to speak for them, but the NCC wasn’t voicing their opinion about then-Judge Kavanaugh.
In other words, the National Council of Churches — which generally represents a liberal theology — has no political credibility. It is made up of denominations that are declining in size overall, and it can’t even honestly claim to speak uniformly for the millions it “includes” (note the description does not say “represents”). After all, one of the key factors of liberal “Christianity” is its inability to demand conformity — because its very existence is often predicated on non-conformity with Christian doctrine. Further, few people had even heard of the NCC — apparently, some of its own constituents didn’t realize they were part of the NCC until they looked it up.
By contrast, most people know about the Southern Baptist Convention — which is considerably smaller than 40 million people, but far more likely to hold to (and thus act and vote on) a consistent theology and political ideology.
However, by saying a “large religious organization” supports one’s viewpoint, some ideologues think they gain credibility.
Which brings us to Mikey Weinstein.
For many years, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has vaunted support from the California Council of Churches Impact, which officially endorsed the MRFF in 2008, and which Mikey Weinstein has called a “major Christian organization.” The CCC, and its action arm CCCI, claim to represent (and they do actually say represent) 21 denominations and 1.5 million people. (Oddly, those numbers haven’t changed in more than a decade.)
Now, most people haven’t heard of the CCC (which, coincidentally enough, is a regional arm of the NCC). In fact, some of the denominations and congregations the CCC claimed to represent hadn’t even heard they were being spoken for. When asked if they supported the CCC’s endorsement of Mikey Weinstein’s actions, they said, for example:
We do not in any way support the California Council of Churches’ efforts…
[We] stopped supporting the California Council of Churches about twelve years ago and informed them…
When informed about what the CCC was doing in their name — they hadn’t even been asked — some actually went out of their way to write letters opposing the CCC and Mikey Weinstein.
Even so, Mikey Weinstein wears the CCC endorsement like an ascot, apparently believing the liberal group’s pseudo-representation of some congregations burnishes his credentials and obviates any claims he is “anti-Christian” — because, after all, this “Council of Churches” must be Christian. Right?
The point remains, however, that the CCC endorsement has been meaningless. (If anything, it has hurt the CCC as its own constituents have publicly opposed it.) As recently as last May the CCCI voiced support for the MRFF (over the Fort Campbell Jewish lay-leader kerfuffle), and it gained Weinstein nothing. The same has been true for his long-running alliance with the Interfaith Alliance, a left/liberal group that has at times been outright hostile to religious liberty — but whose support for Mikey has apparently not achieved anything.
Both of those groups, just as with the NCC with Justice Kavanaugh, represent liberal ideologies and theologies. Again, the “religious left” or “progressive Christianity” is difficult to consider a “bloc” at all, much less a political or influential one — and it is apparently a much smaller “bloc” than even its “leaders” recognize. Yet their “endorsements” and opinions appear to be trotted out to attempt to establish some kind of religious credibility for the left — or undermine the acknowledged power of the moral and religious arguments of the right. It hasn’t worked.
In the end, it seems the National Council of Churches, California Council of Churches, and Interfaith Alliance are little more than window dressing — a façade of religiosity that, if history is any indication, appears to fool no one.