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A little more than a year ago, I was hanging out at Democracy Fest in New Hampshire, where I was speaking. I was chatting with the publishers of Steeplejacking, the book by Talk to Action contributor John Dorhauer and his colleague, Sheldon Culver. I had written an introduction to the book. Next thing I knew I had agreed to edit an anthology of essays from the Religious Left.

It has been a long haul, but we have just sent Dispatches from the Religious Left:  The Future of Faith and Politics in America to the printer. (The link is to my personal web site, which is in the process of being renovated and updated to serve as HQ for the book, and a link to where you can pre-order the book as well.)

Dispatches will be published on October 1st. I am glad it is done. But I am glad to have done it.

So this is a heads up for anyone interested and an invitation to preorder from Amazon and be the first kid on your block to get a copy of Dispatches hot off the presses. While I think this book is unique in a market glutted with books on faith and politics, we are publishing in the middle of the deluge of a national election. Which is to say -- we can use all the help we can get!

What appears below, I have adapted from the descriptive boilerplate about the book and the contributors. And so this is really just an introduction to the book, the cast of characters -- and a promise that we will take the conversation forward, here and wherever we can, as the book rolls out.

"If he were alive today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would remind us that we are the leaders we have been waiting for. Consider Dispatches from the Religious Left your briefing book on how and why it is important to be a "courageous leader" in these challenging times." -- Bob Edgar, President, Common Cause, and the immediate past General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, former Member of Congress (D-PA)

Dispatches is a collection of 19 essays by 22 writers, none of whom are the usual suspects. Some are are very well known, others less so -- but that may be about to change. Some of us are kossacks: Chip Berlet, Frank Cocozzelli, Pastordan, Jeff Sharlet (Ishmael) and me (and maybe more!).  

"What the Religious Left is doing isn't working!" writes Pastordan. From that working assumption we hope to jump-start a national conversation about how to create and sustain a far more politically dynamic -- and effective -- Religious Left than exists in the U.S. today.

Other contributors include include former New York Times war correspondent (and former divinity student) Chris Hedges; former top United Farm Workers organizer (and now Harvard professor) Marshall Ganz; Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale and Chip Berlet, executive director and Senior Analyst, respetively, at Political Research Associates; Rev. Debra Haffner and Tim Palmer of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing; Rev. Dr. Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Rev. Barry Lynn of American United for Separation of Church and State, Kety Esquivel, of the Institute for Progressive Chrisianity; Dr. Peter Hess of the National Center for Science Education; Rev. Peter Laarman, of Progressive Christians Uniting. Dr. Jean Hardisty, a senior scholar at Wellesley College; Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change; veteran Massachusetts political organizer Leo Maley; church web site development entrepreneurs Shelby Meyerhoff and Shai Sachs; veteran Cleveland - based journalist and blogger, Anastasia Pantsios; and Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, of the historic Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. We are also graced by a stirring introduction from Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, the former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; and a wise and energetic afterward from best selling author Jeff Sharlet. (You can find links to bios of the contributors here.)

These writers question and challenge the status quo on multiple fronts, revealing what the movement needs to do in order to increase its viability and visibility.

In the course of working on this, three main themes emerged:

--Religious progressives need to seriously reevaluate where they are going and where they have been in order to live up to their highest aspirations.

--Marketing and public relations are not a substitute for political organizing, which history and hard earned experience shows us is how real progress is made.  

--Religious progressives must never abandon such basic progressive values as reproductive rights, gay and lesbian civil rights and separation of church and state, no matter what political consultants in hot pursuit of seemingly persuadable conservative Catholics and evangelicals may say. Separation of church and state is "woven into their DNA" says essayist Rev. Peter Laarman.

Meanwhile, I will be tracking the progress of the book at my site, with frequently updated news, reviews, event and media announcements. Ig Publishing of course, will feature descriptive material and updates on its site as well. We also anticipate considerable discussion of the book at Street Prophets and Talk to Action, among others.  

The launch event for the book will be held on the evening of October 14th at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City and will feature the church's famous gospel choir and conversation with several of the essayists. Check in at the web sites above for details.

As Joan Brown Campbell writes in her introduction, "Finally, the Religious Left has found its voice."

Dispatches from the Religious Left:  The Future of Faith and Politics in America

Joan Brown Campbell

Editor's Introduction
Frederick Clarkson

Part I.

Envisioning a More Politically Dynamic
Religious Left

Hillel's Questions: A Call for Leadership
Marshall Ganz

Religious Left: Changing the Script
Daniel Schultz

Not by Outrage Alone
Katherine Ragsdale

Religious Right, Religious Left
Chip Berlet

Who's God? Faith, Democracy, and the Making of an Authentic
Religious Left
Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou

Part II.

Memos on Hot Button Issues

A Progressive Vision of Church-State Relations
Barry Lynn

Towards a Theology of Sexual Justice
Debra Haffner and Timothy Palmer

Reproductive Justice and a Comprehensive Social Justice Ethic
Carlton Veazey

Creationism, Evolution, and the Integrity of Science and Religion
Peter Hess

Take it from a Stem Cell Catholic
Frank Cocozzelli

Are We More Devoted to Order or to Justice?
Kety Esquivel

Part III.

Getting from Here to There
Wrong about the Right
Jean Hardisty and Deepak Bhargava

Thoughts about Power, Organization and Leadership
Marshall Ganz

Organizing Clergy for Marriage Equality in Massachusetts
Leo Maley

The Organizing Model of We Believe Ohio
Anastasia Pantsios

Three Wheels that Need Not Be Reinvented
Frederick Clarkson

Using New Media to Strengthen the Religious Left
Shelby Meyerhoff and Shai Sachs

The Funding Challenges of the Religious Left
Peter Laarman

I Don't Believe in Atheists
Chris Hedges

Jeff Sharlet

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Wed Sep 10, 2008 at 04:22 PM PDT.

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