I have always had immense respect for the United Church of Christ. I love their Marriage Equality position and their history of openness. And this is why I find the book Steeplejacking so distressing.
Culver and Dorhauser discuss the development of the Institute on Religion and Democracy from the early 1980s when it accused pastors of supporting communism, through the 90s when it accused them of supporting “radical feminism” and abortion, to the present day when its wedge issue is homosexuality (so why haven’t they been targeting Ted Haggard?)
They describe “steeplejacking” as the takeover of churches by small groups who divide the membership, often alienating everyone but a core group. As UCC clergy they focus on congregations in their own denomination. Since UCC congregations own their own property, they are both vulnerable to steeplejacking, and they are rich prizes. In denominations like the United Methodist Church, where property belongs to the denomination itself, steeplejacking is a less viable strategy. Instead, there is a movement to split the United Methodist Church itself.
This is all deeply disturbing. I would probably be a little sceptical of their assertions if this was the first time I was hearing this, but it isn’t. There appears to be an organised campaign against the mainline Protestant churches, and one that originates not within the churches, but from outside. But then…what do you expect of the “religious” right?
“Doing the Lord’s work is a thread that runs through our politics since the very beginning,” Barack Obama told an Iowa crowd on Saturday — but added the important distinction that religion should be used to bring people together for good causes, not to divide. “It got hijacked,” Obama said. “Part of it is because the so-called leaders of the Christian right are all too eager to exploit what divides us.”