At Religion Dispatches, the indefatigable chronicler of conservative movements Chip Berlet has written the essential assessment of what is wrong with the "common ground" with religious conservatives that some Democratic activists claim will end the culture wars.

If you've been following this rumble here and in The FundamentaList, you know the basic outlines: Some Democratic consultants and progressive think tanks decided that the old battles over abortion and gay rights were stale and that everyone was tired of arguing. Why not agree on some "common ground" with religious conservatives and make all that go away?

I've obviously been skeptical of that approach -- both as a matter of political expediency and of justice. And Berlet is, too. With his new piece, Berlet has taken the discussion to new heights of understanding, by describing the players in detail but without rancor, and by making a moral and fact-based argument why the common ground approach won't help win elections and will actually set the progressive movement back. As a self-identified progressive and member of the religious left, Berlet pleads with Beltway activists to focus on advancing a progressive agenda, rather than adopting what he calls a "Christian right frame." He writes:

This is more than just a squabble over who among the religious gets to claim the name progressive, its a struggle over whether or not the Obama administration will follow the path blazed by community organizers seeking social, economic, and gender justice. This will not happen unless there is sufficient pressure on them to do so. ... We think the term “progressive” has real meaning, and scoff at attempts by Inside the Beltway players to transform it into a re-branded code for backsliding Democrats. ... There is nothing wrong with reaching out to Christian evangelicals and people from other faith traditions, I have been doing it for 30 years. But as an active member of the Christian Left who spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, I see a problem. As progressives we should be reaching out to people of faith, including evangelicals, but we need clearer criteria for those with whom we seek to work.

Read the whole thing.

--Sarah Posner

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