Religious Left Prepares to Take On Obama Administration

…or Rahm Emanuel’s pernicious influence, at the very least:

The religious left, unhappy with the Obama administration, has organized a conference in Washington this weekend to call on the president to “Be the Obama that Americans thought we elected in 2008.”

Led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, the event is officially called “Taking Back Washington From the ‘Pragmatists’ and ‘Realists’: A Strategy Conference for Religious and Secular Progressives,” featuring the likes of evangelical minister Brian McLaren, Rep. Keith Ellison (one of Congress’ two Muslim members) and Riverside Church minister emeritus James Forbes.

I’ll let readers judge for themselves the worth of the conference. It does seem healthy for there to be a progressive faith counterweight to the Administration’s creeping centrism, in the same way that the America’s Future Now! conference provides a basically secular progressive challenge. For one thing the more voices participating in the political discourse, the better. Our system is built upon balancing competing interests. To create that balance, the representatives of those interests need to speak up and press their case over and against the current leaders, regardless of the current leaders’ ideological bent.

And to answer some criticism before it arrives: yes, it’s important to build broad, centrist coalitions to get the best possible deal currently available. At the same time, it’s important for activists to agitate to expand the range of what is possible. The more voices participating in the political discourse, the better.

It is also interesting to note that I was hipped to Dan Gilgoff’s post by at least one representative of those centrist coalition partners the Obama administration has been working with. Apparently they’re not all happy campers all the time.

One more thing: while I’m grateful to Dan for mentioning my forthcoming book (it makes a great Labor Day gift for all the leftists in your house), it isn’t so much a frontal challenge to the Administration or its “big tent faith strategy” as an attempt to provide a coherent intellectual foundation for a truly faithful and truly progressive movement. But I agree: it will be interesting to see if the Obama people start listening in a new way after all of this.