Silence, morality, and the religious Left : strategies for voice in the public sphere

Wong, Joansandy M.
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Due to internal fragmentation on the Left and the systemic silencing of the religious Left, the Right continues to dominate the morality narrative in the public sphere, leading to a misconstrued understanding of what constitutes the common good. Two prominent movements led by the religious Left were rhetorically analyzed to determine strategies used by the religious Left to successfully counter silencing tactics and reclaim the moral authority in the public sphere. These successful movements shared similarities. Both movements had charismatic and competent leaders who used storytelling and the prophetic tradition to frame their social justice cause as morally righteous. Both movements were attacked by powerful establishment forces that attempted to label the activists as outside the norm or bounds of the institution. Additionally, both movement leaders seized on the opportunity created by the establishment’s attack and strategically used media saturation to counter the Right’s silencing tactics. Finally, these religious leaders gained and used political capital to continue the ongoing fight for justice. The religious Left is a powerful ally that brings a rich prophetic rhetorical tradition, historic personal and group rituals, unifying bridging tactics, communities of passionate activists who view justice as a moral imperative, and charismatic leaders who imbue the struggle with moral righteousness. These case studies suggest that the Right’s claim on moral authority is contestable. It also provides support for the contention that there is space in the public sphere for the deliberation of values and for critical debate on what constitutes the common good.