WASHINGTON -- The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a coalition of mostly Mainline Protestant denominations, will be hosting the infamous Pastor Jeremiah Wright at a Washington, D.C. conference in July.
Obama's former pastor will address RCRC's annual National Religious Summit on Black Sexuality. RCRC was founded in 1973 to foster religious support for the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Members of the RCRC coalition include agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ (UCC), the denomination in which Wright is ordained, and in which Obama was a member until recently. This year's RCRC summit is called "The Dawn of a New Day."
Of course, most members of the denominations that belong to RCRC are unaware that their church supports a coalition that opposes all restrictions on abortion, including bans on partial-birth abortion, parental consent laws, or prohibitions against transporting minors across state lines for abortions. Surely, most church goers would also be surprised about their denominations facilitating an event for the incendiary Rev. Wright. But in many ways, the recently retired pastor of Trinity Church in Chicago is an appropriate icon for the truly unique RCRC.
RCRC was the natural product of liberal Mainline Protestantism, whose elites eagerly subscribed to the overpopulation scares of the 1960s and 1970s. Having long since abandoned much of Christian theological orthodoxy, church elites easily abandoned aside traditional Christian taboos against abortion. Of course, most of the overpopulation scaremongering focused on the supposed threat of primarily poor and non-white populations around the world breeding beyond their capacity to support themselves. American Mainline Protestant elites, themselves overwhelmingly white and upper middle class, no doubt were distressed.
No predominantly black denomination or church group has ever belonged to RCRC, which besides Mainline Protestants also includes some Jewish groups, along with Unitarians and Catholics for a Free Choice. Unlike the overwhelmingly white Mainline Protestant denominations, which obsessively debate sexual issues, the historic black churches have remained resolutely conservative on such matters.
Understandably, RCRC has made the social conservatism of black churches its special target. For 12 years, its annual black sexuality summit has attempted to recruit and energize activists who want to "break the silence" about sex in the black church. By "silence," RCRC presumably means the lack of debate over abortion and homosexuality, which has also become an important emphasis for RCRC.
HERE IS WHY Rev. Wright is an appropriate voice for RCRC. Primarily trained in Mainline white seminaries, and ordained in the overwhelmingly white United Church of Christ, his brand of radical Social Gospel has always been more shaped by the white Religious Left than the more culturally conservative black church. Rev. Wright is an icon for what the white Religious Left fervently wishes the black church in America would become.
This year's RCRC black sexuality summit, like its past gatherings, will assail the "harsh toll" that government-funded abstinence programs take on vulnerable young people, who need more "comprehensive" and "accurate" sex education that offers a wide range of "reproductive" options. It also will spotlight the ostensible persecution of homosexuals within Christianity. "Society at large, and particularly the Black church, historically has discriminated against homosexuals and continues to perpetuate pain and isolation," the sex summit brochure complains. An RCRC workshop will provocatively explore whether "lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons" should have "leadership roles" in the church. Another workshop will advise clergy on how to inform pregnant women with "all available information," including "pregnancy termination."
"At long last the church is being challenged to speak to the world with clarity on issues relating to sexuality," enthused the Rev. Carlton Veazey, RCRC's president. "The church has been answering many questions that no one has been asking. We must address people's real problems and concerns or our religion runs the risk of becoming irrelevant." A big emphasis for this RCRC summit, as with past summits, has been "Keeping it Real!" This eagerness to be "real" seems to entail setting aside ostensibly archaic religious teachings about sexual chastity in place of more plausible alternatives centered on contraceptives and abortion. There will be special workshops for teenagers, which will include training for "advocacy" on justice issues. Veazey promises that the sex summit will "make the church more meaningful and relevant in people's lives."
Rev. Wright, himself an abortions right supporter and advocate for gay causes, no doubt will affirm RCRC's themes about getting "real" in the black church. Thanks to its controversial themes, RCRC gets very little funding from its Mainline Protestant denominational membership. Instead, it relies on secular, left-wing philanthropies like the Ford Foundation. Like the Mainline Protestant elites, the liberal foundations probably also see the historic black churches as reactionary obstacles to getting "real" about abortion and homosexuality. They all must see Rev. Wright as a potentially helpful instrument in attempting to persuade black Christians to abandon their own beliefs in favor of what white liberals prefer.
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