First Things or NGO Politics 101


As I surf the net I find sympathetic weblogs and interesting sites but to this point I have never been systematic in any way in adding links. So today I thought having a relatively quiet morning I would surf around and familiarize myself with non-government organizations (NGO’s) that deal with political and social issues, and see if I can trace their origins and political leanings. I would then post the most relevant to our discussions in the links. Unfortunately the web is dominated by American NGO’s so I just spent two hours learning just how complex the US web of lobby groups axe grinders and political pundits is. I thought that maybe I should leave the American NGO’s to someone else. (Yes I may be courting yet another editor – but until I consult the other MIB I will leave it at that) but then I noticed connections to Canadian groups and slowly discovered how connected US and Canadian and international social NGO’s (specifically lobby groups) are, and decided to look at this from a north American perspective. Even as I suspected this might scramble my brain I pushed onward.

I thought I would create a organizational chart that shows as many of the connections as I can so I will be able to categorize and sort them easily before I decide how to add them to the links. I discovered I may be able to chart them but organize this mess into categories might be difficult. Why? Because so many of them are connected in weird ways to not so socially oriented groups. There is deceit in the origins of many of them and then there are the connections to religion that have both social and religious contradictions or so say the liberal social types.

So to first familiarize myself with these groups I have decided to search out and analyze the philosophy and origins of such groups, before I place them in the chart. One of the groups/publications I was directed to by a fellow blogger (who’s judgment I now question) was a site called First Things and always attempting to put first things first this is where I started (sorry for the pun).

First Things

The articles I was first directed to did not seem too bad they dealt with religion and politics but seemed to merge the two. I kept reading and found some disturbing anti-gay sentiment and some not so nice comments against the left side of politics. So who are these guys?

I find First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, a so called interreligious, nonpartisan (not entirely true) research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society. (Sounds scary doesn’t it – not the advancement of a religiously informed public, but the ordering of society part)

So what are the origins of The Institute on Religion and Public Life and First Things?

Since the late 1970s Richard Neuhaus a once Lutheran minister turned Catholic Priest and the founder of First Things has been in the neocon camp. Neuhaus believes “Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion.” Richard Neuhaus–together with Michael Novak, Peter Berger, and George Weigel–have been headliners in the fight against liberalism and secularism. Neuhaus currently serves on the board of directors of three neocon institutes: Institute on Religion and Democracy, Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Foundation for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise. He is a director of the World Youth Alliance (which falls into the right wing camp). U.S. News and World Report named Father Neuhaus one of 32 “most influential intellectuals in America.”
Neuhaus argues that Judeo-Christianity should be reasserted back into the public square. He was an early proponent of faith-based policy initiatives and government intervention to promote Judeo-Christian values. Okay so I would say in a bipolar world these guys fit firmly into the right side, but what of claims they make on social responsibility? While they believe that welfare is needed the reasoning is somewhat bent it is because the population is “socially incompetent.” (From an article in First Things quoting Edward Banfield author of The Unheavenly City, “one of the most important public policy books of the past half century ”) So should we follow the neocon line of thought and become socially competent? That is your choice, but as for me these guys just got slotted into the right side of the grand chart.

So my American visitors do not feel picked on, my next group to analyze will be Canadian, I just felt the name was too appropriate to not start with.

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