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Michael Lerner assembles the "Religious Left."

12:00 AM, Oct 11, 2005 • By MARK D. TOOLEY
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Defrocked Catholic priest Matthew Fox, now an Episcopalian, blamed war and economic injustice on "those who want to worship a dominating punitive Father God which includes the put down of women, nature, [and] gays." In soothing contrast, Fox offered a unisex, pantheistic "mother/father God who is embedded in nature, creativity, our bodies and all our art forms." Fox lambasted the Pope for defeating liberation theology and faulted Protestants for succumbing to a "kooky Christianity" of "domination and not of justice."

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong lashed out at this "domination" religion. "It's time to name evil as evil when sounded in pious accents of biblical religion," Spong declared. Conservative Catholicism and "evangelical fundamentalists" are growing because "hysterical people are seeking security," Spong fretted. Referring to the rise of religious conservatives based in the South, Spong claimed, to the audience's delight, "The old [segregationist] George Wallace vote simply applied perfume and call themselves the Religious Right."

Not able to match Spong's rhetoric, Congresswoman Lynne Woolsey of California still tried to talk about religion. "If you measure progressive goals against conservative goals there is no question which comes closer to meeting the tenets we associate with faith," Woolsey stammered. "I don't know about you, but I missed the part of the Sermon on the Mount that mentioned tax cuts and an ownership society."

Mindful of such progressive spiritual goals, an opening "visualization" exercise summoned a wide range of spirits, including the archangels, Adam and Eve, Hindu deities, Socrates and Aristotle, Moses and Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Leonardo Da Vinci, White Buffalo Woman (from Sioux mythology), anthropologist Jane Goodall, environmentalist Rachel Carson, Gandhi, Anne Frank, Mother Theresa, and the Dalai Lama.

"Breathe, remember to breathe," the visualizer instructed the unusually quiet activists.

Such religion provides "existential weaponry" for fighting political injustice, Rev. Sekou stressed. "Not enough Democrats are willing to tell the truth," he said. "So we're depending on you." Rabbi Lerner, seemingly no less enthusiastic than when agitating on Berkeley's campus nearly four decades ago, smiled and smoothly moved back and forth from podium to audience. It was like old times again.

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Correction appended, 10/12/2005: The article originally included the quote: "Describing regret over her own abortion, Hafner complained, "The Left has bought the capitalist paradigm" and its "individualist materialism."

That quote was said by Ama Zenya, not by Debra Haffner. We regret the error.