Another so-called movement

December 13, 2010

What do Melissa Rogers, Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, Jim Wallis and Robert George have in common? I'd say not much, other than being Christians, broadly right to center-left theologically, who have some degree of political influence in one area or another.

But that's not much of a hook for a photo spread. So Newsweek instead calls them and seven others "Faces of the Christian Right."

A few years back, the media couldn't get enough of the Christian left, an alleged movement that somehow included everyone from conservatives who are nicer than James Dobson to consensus-seeking moderates to actual liberals. Gratefully, that trend piece eventually went away. But why is Newsweek now taking some of the very same people, dumping them in with bona fide religious-right types, and labeling them "Christian right"?

David A. Graham's introduction hits some legitimate, if not terribly fresh, points: the messy changing of the religious-right guard, the continued growth in evangelical-Catholic cooperation, even the fact that some of the people included are "not traditionally 'right.'" He goes on to say that the conservative Christian movement is "changing and growing more diffuse."

That may be true, but what about the part where you demonstrate that the names you've pulled together from the rightmost two-thirds of the map constitute anything like a movement?