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Jewish, Christian Clerics Warn of Rise of Religious Conservatism

– A group of 23 leading clerics and lay leaders have issued an interreligious statement, “We Are A ‘Moral Alternative’, ” in response to the rise of political and religious conservatism in this country as exemplified by such groups as the Moral Majority. The 500-word statement, which was initiated and drafted by Rabbi Balfour Brickner of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, declared: “Today, the liberties of too many in this country are threatened by a highly organized few who are too sure they are right. They represent an intellectual and spiritual smugness that threatens even further to polarize a society already too highly fragmented. No single religious or political orientation can claim exclusive possession of the truth. No group can claim that it, alone, is patriotic and that those who disagree are un-American.

“Because we view any such pretentious self-righteousness as a serious danger to our domestic tranquility, and exactly contrary to the morality of the Bible that names pride as the primary sin, we have joined together in this statement to reaffirm our commitment to, and continually to teach the basic American values under girding our society: democrary through diversity, patriotism through plurality, equality of rights for all regarless of race, sex or belief. In this commitment, we believe we represent a moral majority of the American people.”

Among the 23 signatories, all of whom have been active, individually, in many movements for social justice such as civil rights, are Rev. Paul Moore, Bishop of St. John the Divine; Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, Senior Pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ; Rev. Howard Moody of Judson Memorial Church; Dr. George Webber, president of the New York Theological Society; Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly; and Dr. Beverly Harrison, Professor of Christian Ethics at the Union Theo logical Seminary.

REJECTS VERSION OF THEOCRATIC STATE

Continuing, the statement said: “We believe that helping people to their feet is as religious an act as keeping them on their knees. The way to do that, however, is not by trying either to Christianize America, destroying its pluralism or replacing democracy with an American version of some theocratic state. The notion of a ‘Christian republic’ violates the deepest convictions of the founders of this nation. We have, and will, continue to oppose vigorously any efforts in that direction. They would destroy the foundation of our nation’s unique freedom: the separation of church from state.”

To counter this dangerous trend, the signatories vowed to pool their energies and mobilize their constituencies to action on many fronts including political, educational and spiritual.

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