"Hardball on Holy Ground," a new book by Steven Swecker, chronicles ongoing efforts by wealthy and powerful individuals and foundations linked to the religious right to undermine mainline churches and the National Council of Churches.
One reviewer notes that a hostile takeover of these churches would represent a massive shift in American culture and the balance of ideas and values for a relatively small investment, muting the influence of the more moderate Christian community within our society.
Hard Ball on Holy Ground: The Religious Right v. the Mainline fo rthe Church's Soul - Research, Essays and Interviews
by Steven Swecker
ISBN: 9780971114623, 0971114625
This volume is a collection of research, essays and interviews on the efforts of the religious right to undermine mainline churches.
No longer is it merely religious groups seeking to use the political arena to press their reform agendas. And it's not just politicians seeking to coopt religion for their election campaigns, either. Now we are seeing well organized, politically connected initiatives intervening in the interior life of American religious bodies to serve their interests. Here the scene shifts from the IRS to the IRD.
The IRD - the Institute on Religion and Democracy - is a sophisticated "inside the beltway" organization well funded by conservative foundations and closely aligned with a neo-conservative political agenda. The IRD supports and encourages campaigns of disruption and attack in Mainline churches through its Alliance of Church Renewal.
The IRD pursues its political agenda in the churches through three strategies: campaigns of disinformation that seek to discredit church leadership, advocacy efforts at church assemblies seeking to influence church policy, and grass roots organizing which, in some cases, encourages schismatic movements encouraging members and congregations either to redirect mission funding or even to leave their denominations. Indeed, the Mainline churches are facing hardball tactics.
"Church renewal should mean that we grow in faithfulness to the Gospel. It should mean a new embrace of the biblical vision of reconciliation and peace. So why are some so-called advocates of mainline church 'renewal' actually undermining the churches' witness for peace and justice in our society? You will find well-researched answers to this troubling question in Hard Ball on Holy Ground. Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and others will be dismayed to learn that the churches they love are targets of a campaign of destabilization. We ignore this reality at our peril." - Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Theologically conservative Christians who are seeking spiritual renewal in mainline churches need to look carefully at the hard ball tactics of these secular operatives. Perhaps some churches need or desire spiritual renewal - but, what churches do not need is more political hardball and takeover bids. If these secular operatives achieve hostile takeovers of mainline Protestantism, they will have muted an important part of America's social conscience and significantly diminished its capacity for civic discourse. The soul of many churches are at risk, says this author.
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