Tuesday, April 26, 2005

There She Stood, She Could Do No Other - The Fact Is

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the church door, announcing later at Diet of Worms, "Here I stand. I can do no other." Diane Knippers was the very personification of that kind of old-line Protestant cussedness, little in evidence these days.

Knippers, since 1993 the president of the invaluable Institute on Religion and Democracy, a reforming voice among liberal mainline Protestant churches, died last week after a long battle with colon cancer. She spent her adult life fighting to recall mainline Protestantism to its biblical roots, which, as her friend Richard John Neuhaus put it, was possibly "a futile effort, but no fair-minded person denied its nobility."

As both a warden at Truro Church in northern Virginia and the head of IRD, Knippers was deeply involved in the internecine warfare over homosexuality, radical feminism, and biblical faithfulness that is slowly ripping apart the worldwide Anglican Communion. But she was a force for biblical tradition and orthodox Protestant theology in a number of denominations.
Knippers was also central to one of the most important religious, cultural, and political stories of the past quarter-century: the convergence of orthodox Catholics, Protestant Christians, and Jews into a potent intellectual and cultural bloc. These groups — traditionally enemies, or at least not allies — were driven together by a culture that seemed intent on completely exorcising religious witness from public life: the naked public square, to use the phrase coined by Neuhaus.

Suddenly, the doctrines and historical animosities that divided people of faith seemed less important — what Baptist leader Richard Land has called "the in-addition to's" — than the things that united them, including respect for life, an insistence on the importance of traditional morality, and the primary importance of the traditional family to social health.

It is a uniquely American enterprise, this common front of religious orthodox, one that could only exist in a nation that has a broad tradition of religious pluralism and a streak pragmatism that could subsume sectarian tensions. Diane Knippers was a leader of its Protestant wing.

... to secular media, this is a movement that was not really "discovered" until the recent presidential elections, when its adherents were dubbed "values voters" and scribes set forth from Washington, New York, and points east to chronicle its strange ways. When they did, they found Knippers, who was promptly hailed by Time magazine as one of the nation's 25 most influential evangelical Christians.

Justin Torres is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and research director of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation


Muslims might also feel comfortable in this coalition.

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