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Good Reads: On liberal Christians, political Islam, and the news profession

Here are a few longer pieces worth reading on the disappearance of liberal Christians, the uncertain future political Islamists, and why journalism is still the Best. Job. Ever.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / April 20, 2012

Muslim pilgrims outside Mecca pray during the annual hajj pilgrimage.

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Where are the liberal Christians?

If you look at the American political environment over the past decade or two, you’d think that the only room for Christian activists was to be found on the right side of the political spectrum. That’s because the religious movement making the most noise in American politics is that of Christian conservatives, arguing for heterosexual marriage and against birth control and taxation. Liberal Christians exist, to be sure, but their voice is muted.

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It wasn’t always like this, writes John Stoehr, a Yale political scientist, in a well-researched opinion piece for Al Jazeera’s English website. He argues that just as liberal Christians like William Jennings Bryant led the charge against growing corporate control in the early 20th century, they should also “fight fire with fire,” and reclaim the proud position that liberal Christians held in more recent fights such as the American civil rights movement.

“[L]iberals are supposed to be the voice of reason, pragmatism and enlightenment.... Liberalism, as the late Daniel Bell suggested, is the ideology of no ideology. It is the practical application of technical knowledge to situations in need of repair.”

How democracy may shape 'Political Islam'

Those Americans who are proud of the prominent role that religion has in shaping politics here often find it terribly creepy and dangerous when it happens in other societies.

Consider the rise of Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt following the Arab Spring movement that brought down President Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood is most decidedly conservative, and in its early days it was prone to violence; some worry that the wave of attacks on Egyptian Christians and other minorities is a presage of future repression if they come to power.

But Olivier Roy, a professor at the European University Institute, argues in a piece excerpted on Foreign Policy’s website, that the Islamists – while they may not have embraced the liberal democratic spirit of the Tahrir Square protests – may need to adjust their methods and mind-set to suit the times.

“The development of both political Islam and democracy now appears to go hand-in-hand, albeit not at the same pace. The new political scene is transforming the Islamists as much as the Islamists are transforming the political scene.”

Extremist views on trial act as repellent

Islamists, of course, are the bogeymen of the early 21st century, and just as some Americans warn of “creeping sharia” or accommodation of Muslim citizens in a diverse American society, there are right-wing factions in Europe that warn of the same thing.

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