As I’ve traveled the country this spring - 82 events, 48 cities, and hundreds of media interviews since January - I’ve witnessed a new movement of moderate and progressive religious voices challenging the monologue of the Religious Right.
An extremely narrow and aggressively partisan expression of right-wing Republican religion has controlled the debate on faith and politics in the public square for years. But that is no longer true.
At packed book events around the country these days, I often make an announcement that elicits a tumultuous response: "The monologue of the Religious Right is finally over, and a new dialogue has begun!" Smiles light up the faces of thousands of people as they break out in thunderous applause.
That new dialogue was visible in mid-May at Calvin College. Karl Rove, seeking a friendly venue for a commencement speech in Michigan, approached Calvin and offered President Bush as the speaker. The college, which had already invited Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale to deliver the speech, hastily disinvited him and welcomed the president. But the White House apparently was not counting on the reaction of students and faculty. Rove expected the evangelical Christian college in the dependable "red" area of western Michigan to be a safe place. He was wrong.
The day the president was to speak, an ad featuring a letter signed by one-third of Calvin’s faculty and staff ran in the Grand Rapids Press. Noting that "we seek open and honest dialogue about the Christian faith and how it is best expressed in the political sphere," the letter said that "we see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration."