September 4th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Labor's federal election debacle

EDITORIAL: A new deal for rural Australia?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Can the independents agree on a policy agenda?

QUARANTINE: WTO rules in favour of NZ apples

NATIONAL SECURITY: Significance of Abu Bakar Bashir's arrest

CHINA I: Beijing's bid to turn the South China Sea into a Chinese lake

CHINA II: Do China's upheavals herald liberalisation?

ISLAM: What the West must demand of Muslims

NATIONAL MARRIAGE DAY: Why we need a renewed culture of natural marriage

OPINION: Choosing sex, the next great leap in selfish parenting

CHILDHOOD: Children at risk from internet pornography

EDUCATION: Seeking truth in the electronic age

POLITICAL FUNDING: Secular left's cynical use of religion

Population debate (letter)

Annual abortion tally (letter)

Why handicap language with political correctness? (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Financial recovery falters / Digital device over-use may cause brain fatigue / Young people not maturing to adulthood / US withdrawal from Iraq

BOOK REVIEW: BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas

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Secular left's cynical use of religion

by Bill Muehlenberg

News Weekly, September 4, 2010
The secular left certainly dislikes religion, but it actually dislikes some religious groupings a lot more than others. The real target of the secular humanists is traditional Christianity. Those who take their Christian faith seriously are the main objects of their wrath.

Religious leftists, however, are actually viewed by the secular left as "useful idiots", to use Lenin's phrase. That is, the secular left is happy to co-opt the religious left for its purposes.

This was certainly the case during the Cold War. Plenty of naïve and gullible religious leaders of the left ended up promoting godless Communist regimes. They were actually deluded into believing that God's will was somehow being done in these bloody police-states.

Many commentators wrote about this incredible idiocy. Paul Hollander wrote Political Pilgrims in 1981, describing Western intellectuals who travelled to Marxist lands and extolled the virtues of Communism while despising the free West. Lloyd Billingsley wrote The Generation That Knew Not Josef in 1985 (the pun referring to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin), documenting the churches' complicity with Marxism and totalitarianism.

But there are plenty of religious leftists today who are also helping to serve, whether wittingly or unwittingly, the secular left's many crusades. As an indication of their usefulness, consider how it is only the so-called religious right which is on the receiving end of the secular left's bile.

For example, Tony Abbott is viewed as a wild theocrat poised to impose his values on Australia because he is a conservative Catholic. Yet the secular humanists didn't utter a peep when the Australian Democrats had a Uniting Church minister from Queensland as one of their senators a few decades ago.

Religious leftists often receive not only intellectual and ideological support from the various leftist activist groups, but also receive generous financing. Just as the former Soviet Union used to bankroll their various front organisations in the West, including liberal church groups, the left continues the practice today.

Consider the radical agenda being promoted by left-wing billionaire George Soros. He bankrolls numerous radical leftist and secularist causes, including drug legalisation, euthanasia, abortion, special rights for homosexuals, global government and atheism.

He is also quite happy to fund radical religious left-wing bodies. One such recipient of his largesse is Sojourners magazine, edited by American religious leftist Jim Wallis. Incredibly, however, for over a month Wallis had stated that such funding claims were a lie, and he refused to acknowledge it. But recently he has had a rethink, and come clean.

Marvin Olasky of World magazine broke the story, and this tale of truth decay and the religious left is worth telling. Olasky explains: "Half-way through a July 17 World column I mentioned that in 2004 Sojourners, Jim's organisation, received $200,000 from billionaire George Soros, a financier of left-wing groups that push for abortion, atheism, bigger government, and other causes. I had a printout of a page from the website of the Open Society Institute - Soros is OSI's founder, funder and chairman - showing the grant.

"It didn't seem to me like any big deal: Of course Soros would see the religious left as important in drawing evangelical votes away from a conservative embrace. Of course Jim would take the money in pursuit of his aims. So I was surprised by Jim's reaction when Timothy Dalrymple, who writes for the Patheos website, asked him about my mention of Sojourners receiving funding from Soros.

"Dalrymple asked, 'Is there anything wrong with making common cause with the George Soroses of the world?' Jim exploded: 'It's not hyperbole or overstatement to say that Glenn Beck lies for a living. I'm sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing. No, we don't receive money from Soros.'

"Jim kept insisting: 'We don't receive money from George Soros. Our books are totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That's where it comes from.' OK, easy enough to defend myself against lying: Ask folks to go to the OSI website and see for themselves. I did - and the record was gone. Cue the Twilight Zone music. Was my printout a forgery? Was I lying?"

Fortunately others had a record of this transaction. Thus Wallis has had to finally back down and admit that his organisation did indeed receive Soros funding. As Olasky notes, there is nothing unusual about such funding. Indeed, we would expect it. But what we don't expect is for religious leaders who like to claim the high moral ground to live in denial, smear their challengers as liars, and then, when caught out, still offer no apologies.

Others of the religious left are not immune from such behaviour, and this just happens to be one of the more recent examples. But we have a history of leftist Christians aligning themselves with the bigger agenda of the secular left. The Soviets were quite happy about such complicity during the Cold War, and plenty of leftist groups today are quite happy about it as well.

Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at:



Marvin Olasky, "Jim Wallis vs. the truth", World magazine (Asheville, North Carolina), August 18, 2010.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, "Wallis admits to Soros funding", Christianity Today politics blog, August 20, 2010.

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