Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Democratic Jesus

It's been a while since I've posted anything in overt reference to religion on this page. A piece in the Washington Post today got me fired up, though. I'd encourage all the liberals (religious, skeptic and/or atheist) out there to read this nice article by Amy Sullivan.

She uses some great examples of people from different backgrounds and intentworking together toward a common goal and wraps up with the following account:

Walking through Dulles Airport not long after losing the 2004 election, John Kerry was stopped by a supporter. The man shook Kerry's hand and told the senator that he was an evangelical. "I voted for you," he said, "and so did a lot of evangelicals. But you could have gotten more of us if you'd tried." Kerry was floored. Evangelical Democrats?

No wonder Kerry fared worse among evangelicals than any other Democratic nominee in modern history, losing the votes of nearly four out of five. To engage a constituency, a campaign needs to at least know it exists.

Even so, the Democratic nominee this fall will have advantages Kerry never did. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lifelong Methodist with years of experience teaching Sunday school in Arkansas who's married to the party's most prominent evangelical Democrat. Obama, a committed Christian, is more thoughtful and relaxed talking about religion than any other Democratic politician. Most important, they'll have the support of a party that is slowly starting to see that there are many faces of the faithful.

There is a reason to make friends on the other side of the aisle. We may not all agree on everything, but a lot of us agree that something needs to change. Let's find that small voice of hope and use it to tie us together in common cause.


DrugMonkey said...

and what, pray tell, would it have meant to "try" to "get" more evangelicals?

you make it sound like this is some obvious mistake. "well of course we need to pander even more than we already do to the religious".

why? are you just cynical and figure "anything to win"? or are you perhaps suggesting that the ideal Dem strategy is to get that old tyme religion? Because, my friend, the two Dems still standing have been pandering to religion as hard as they can. Kerry clearly tried to come across as more religious than he actually is, too.

what you are suggesting sounds suspiciously like "well, if they'd just say they wanted more troops in Iraq they'd get more of the war-monger vote"...

thomas said...

I am advocating neither that liberal atheists, as you say, pander to believers nor get churched up when that's not what they believe. Clearly, neither is honest. And I want to be clear, I don't think faith should be important in choosing an elected official. Unfortunately, that is a minority view.

I do think collaboration in the face of accepted difference is possible. Such is represented in another segment of Sullivan's article:

In the fall of 2006, two Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives, the antiabortion Tim Ryan and the pro-abortion rights Rosa DeLauro, introduced legislation to reduce abortion rates by preventing unwanted pregnancies and providing support to pregnant women and new parents. That same fall, an antiabortion Catholic Democrat, Bill Ritter, won the Colorado governorship after convincing his party's activists and donors that a pro-life politician need not be actively anti-choice. In a few states, pro-choice Democratic candidates sat down with evangelical and Catholic leaders to talk about abortion. They didn't back down from defending women's right to choose, but they won with support levels from Catholics and evangelicals that were 10 to 15 points above the party's national average in the midterm elections.

It seems to me that there needs to be more recognition in the political sphere that it's possible to be liberal and evangelical. For the good chunk of America that thinks some of what the Dems want is better and some of what the other side says makes sense, it is nonsense to set up the equivalent of a party litmus test that says, "If you're evangelical, you can't vote for a Democrat."

I'm not so sure Hillary and Barack are pandering nearly as much as Kerry. Yes, they are politicians, and we know that pols can't really be honest. But I've seen little evidence that they've changed their tune on matters of faith during the campaign or since they wrote their books several years back.

Using a similar closing thought as yours, what are we to say to the evangelical who is against war and opposes the death penalty? Will we force her to vote for McCain because folks in his party talk more about a faith she follows? Or will we permit faith to have a role in some of the discussions so that our fellow citizens can be comfortable voting for the best candidate?