April, 2005

Lapis Magazine has gone through a couple of incarnations as both print and on-line publication and is now about to enter a new phase of its work. On April 29th and 30th the brand new Lapis Institute for Society, Ecology and Culture, a fresh branch of The New York Open Center, will present a conference on Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right. The primary goal of this event is to educate and enlighten the public on the theocratic aims of the Dominionist Movement, an increasingly influential force among Christian conservatives. How is it attempting to weaken the boundaries between Church and State, and how does its apocalyptic theology of the End Times, the Rapture and Armageddon affect the US government's view of the Middle East, the environment and the United Nations?

These are weighty questions that need to be posed because most of us living outside the Bible Belt have little or no idea of the actual beliefs that guide so many devout fundamentalists. And there can be no possibility of responding seriously to these aims if we remain totally ignorant of them.

Already this conference, co-sponsored with The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, has attracted enormous media attention. It is clearly being presented to the public at just the right time as questions grow with increasing intensity about the influence of fundamentalist Christians on national policy. We can hardly keep pace with the number of documentary film makers, radio and television reporters, and print journalists who will be in attendance or covering our press conference. Without doubt, the country is hungry to learn more about the beliefs that guide a good portion of the Republican party's base, and this appears to be the first conference to pull together an impressive array of experts on Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism, religious phenomena that have hitherto escaped almost entirely the attentions of the mainstream media.

Why has it fallen to Lapis and the Open Center to initiate this deeply necessary educational event? My view is that it is our consistent engagement with spiritual as well as social and environmental issues that makes us unusually alert to this volatile and disturbing mix of religion and politics. Our constant awareness of the power of the need for meaning in people's lives give us, I believe, a deep instinct for the use and misuse of the spiritual dimension of reality.

A link on the Lapis site informs your further about the conference itself. Most of you will not be able to attend, but we hope to make this information available both through a television show of conference highlights that will be accessible to all public tv stations, and through a possible book of the proceedings. So get ready to lobby your local PBS station to download this forthcoming program for free from a satellite. The Lapis Institute is just starting but, boy, what a start!

Ralph White, Editor