Sunday, March 11, 2007

Left Forum

On Saturday, March 10, the Religion & Socialism Commission of DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) sponsored a panel at Left Forum 2007. The topic was Progressive Realism: Neo-Conservatism & the American Empire, and the panelists were Gary Dorrien, Rima Vesely-Flad, and Harvey Cox. A few weeks ago I blogged about Gary Dorrien's installation as Reinhold Neibuhr Professor at Union. The afternoon session, and much of my comment, dealt with Dorrien's most recent book, Volume Three of The Making of American Liberal Theology. Dorrien's talk on Saturday at the Left Forum was a return to the topic of his 1993 The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture and the War of Ideology. Liz reviewed that book in 1995; (Gary Dorrien was pleased to meet Liz for the first time after the Saturday session and he told her how much he liked the review.)

The title of the panel, "Progressive Realism," is a reference to Christian Realism, associated with Reinhold Niebuhr. Some of the early neoconservatives, notably Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus, have Christian Realism roots. The neoconservative movement itself has divergent streams -- there is a "realistic" critique on the right of the foreign policy aims of the present Bush adminstration. There are also progressives who have Christian Realism roots, for example two of the speakers on this panel, Gary Dorrien and Harvey Cox. Dorrien suggests that progressives might be able to find common ground with realists on the right in resisting some of the madness of the current Bush administration.

Rima Vesely-Flad spoke about the prison-industrial complex, the growth of the private prison industry and the problem or reentry and employment for released prisoners, which is her primary focus.

Harvey Cox spoke in particular of the Theocons, term trhats be en around for over a decade and is the subject (and title) of a recent book by Damon Linker. Cox suggested that religious progressives need an alliance with evangelicals on the left. (My notes on that are sketvchy and I can't reconstruct what he said -- but I think he must mean something to the left of Christian Churches Together.)

During the Q&A, someone asked about Chris Hedges' American Fascists, which I mentioned in a recent post. Both Harvey Cox and Gary Dorrien think that Hedges is being alarmist, but they agree the dominionist movement is indeed dangerous and bears watching carefully.

Gary Dorrien was a student of Harvey Cox (as was Chris Hedges.)
Rima Vesely-Flad is a docotral candidate at Union and Gary Dorrien is her advisor.

Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus were members along with Harvey Cox and others of a CALC (Clergy and Laity Concerned) delegation to visit Vietnam war deserters in Paris and Stockholm in 1968


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