The New Religion-Friendly Democratic Party
Carlos printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 12:25:07 AM EST
Marvin Olasky's World magazine has a new article out along the lines of the recent article by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Monthly. How are the Democrats doing copying the winning "religious" formula of the Republican party? Some excerpts from the World's perspective:
In Georgia, state Sen. Kasim Reed in January introduced a bill authorizing school districts to teach courses derived from The Bible and Its Influence, a textbook released last year by the Bible Literacy Project.

In Tennessee, Reps. Rick Nelson and Bob Damron are sponsoring legislation that would allow postings of religious documents such as the Ten Commandments. In Virginia, Timothy Kaine rode religious campaign themes and Christian radio ads to victory in the governor's race last fall.

All that would be business as usual for the GOP. But these Bible-thumping, faith-stumping pols are all Democrats--and part of their party's emerging effort to reconnect with religious voters. [    ]

Former Vermont governor and current Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who once said his favorite New Testament book is Job and last June slammed the GOP as "pretty much a white, Christian party," now says the Bible should be taught as literature in public schools. [   ]

During the final hour of the House budget debate last November, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried a little old-time religion, saying any vote for the GOP-brokered budget amounted to "a sin." This January, following President Bush's State of the Union address, Sen. Reid, a Mormon, stayed on-message. In a response to the president's speech he alluded to the Good Samaritan and the book of Matthew, chapter 25: "I and many of my colleagues came to public service . . . to serve our neighbors, and to help the least among us."  

He went on to state that he's spoken with many religious leaders who say that today's Republican leadership "seems unfocused and unfazed by the needs of our brothers and sisters," and had in 2005 passed an "immoral budget that would deprive so many . . . in order to pay for tax cuts that benefit so few." That rhetoric typified the new Democratic approach to faith: A "social justice" agenda reframed as a question of morality. [    ]

Some Republicans and legions of liberals saw "compassionate conservatism" as PR, but the concept reflected the long involvement of biblical conservatives in poverty-fighting and other efforts on behalf of the needy. So, too, Democrats' attempt at religious reinvention should not be dismissed merely as political calculation, for the Democrats' "social justice" agenda matches the mission of many mainline Protestant churches. As Mr. Bobb put it, the Democrats' new faith-based approach "repackages the social gospel for the 21st century. Their problem is how does this translate into something other than throwing more money and more bureaucracy at social problems?" [    ]

In reconnecting with religious voters, Democrats face other hurdles. First, the party will alienate part of its core--secularists, libertines, feminists, and homosexuals--if it substantively moderates its positions on the very issues of personal morality that drove many religious voters across the aisle in the first place.

Second, the Democratic Party is in solid alliance with ardent church-state separators such as People for the American Way (PFAW) and the ACLU. While Mr. Thompson said that Democrats do not "agree on every issue" with such groups, he declined to disavow Democratic alliance on the church-state issue, and said there's "very little daylight between us and some of the groups we're talking about."

Finally, the traditionally Democratic, but now disaffected, religious voters the party needs to woo back into the fold may now be more skeptical of biblical cherry-picking as a basis for public policy. As conservative blogger and author Patrick Hynes put it, Democrats "cannot call Republicans 'theocrats' for trying to save Terri Schiavo while they also claim John the Baptist endorsed their welfare state when he said, 'He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none.'"

The Democrats' best hope may be the GOP: As Mr. Bobb noted, "Republicans are squandering their capital with evangelicals" over ethics debacles and apparent greed.

The last thing this country needs is for its only viable opposition party to join the Republicans in pandering to the religious right.

There is a strong case to be made that the religious right has veered far away from the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we should not have Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid lecturing them on the subject.  That particular challenge should be taken up by religious leaders not by political ones.  

The abandonment of Jesus by the so-called "Christian" right is patently obvious and those who believe strongly in His message should be clear and forthright in publicly calling the reconstructionists and dominionists to task for their theological heresies.  Politicians should stay out of it.  

by cdunaway on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 09:15:07 AM EST

Here are two regrettable examples :

"Although I totally support separation of state from the imposition of any particular religious tradition or belief in God, I also know that liberals have not only separated separated church from state but also separated spiritual wisdom, caring, and love from state." - Michael Lerner ( of Tikkun ), from  "Hostile Takeover: Theocracy in America" ( available at Tikkun website )

"Today there are new fundamentalists in the land. These are the "secular fundamentalists" many of whom attack all political figures who dare to speak from their religious convictions. From the Anti-Defamation League, to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, to the ACLU and some of the political left's most religion-fearing publications, a cry of alarm has gone up in response to anyone who has the audacity to be religious in public. These secular skeptics often display an amazing lapse of historical memory when they suggest that religious language in politics is contrary to the American "ideal". The truth is just the opposite....

Secular fundamentalists make a fundamental mistake. They believe that the separation of church and state ought to mean the separation of faith from public life.....

The secular fundamentalists tell us that religion should be restricted to one's church and family. No talk of faith, they seem to be saying, ought to be allowed to seep into the public arena for fear of violating the First Amendment or alienating the nonreligious." - Jim Wallis [ from  "God's Politics", pages 68-70 ]

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 12:25:36 PM EST

one that many of us are still struggling to draw correctly, between "pandering" to the Religious Right (or any other religious faction) and honestly acknowledging the role that our religion plays in shaping the values that we seek to implement in public life.  I believe that such an acknowledgment can, and probably should, be made, though I am one of those people who are still unsure how exactly how that should be done.  

During the 1980's and 1990's, I, and many like me, adopted the position expressed here:  Religion belongs in church; it has no place in politics.  For me, at least, that position was hypocritical; there is little separation in my own mind between my religion and my politics, and if there were, I would have to think seriously about changing one or the other.  (I am a Unitarian-Universalist, if that makes my views on this easier to understand.)  For me and all of those like me, that position was a mistake.  It was precisely our silence about our religious values that allowed the Religious Right to create the impression that all people with progressive views were irreligious or anti-religious and that, since we did not talk about our values (at least not in explicit "values" terms), that we in fact had no values at all.

BTW, I do not recall (and I am old enough and was involved enough at the time that I should recall if it happened) that Martin Luther King ever received any significant criticism from liberals or leftists because of the explicit religious imagery that he often used to support his call for racial equality.  He was not immune from criticism; near the end of his life, many on the left had rejected his insistence on nonviolence, but I do not recall a similar rejection of his use of religious language.  Perhaps Dr. King has shown us how the line can be drawn.

UU's supported the civil rights movement, as they had earlier supported the abolitionist movement, at least in part BECAUSE of their religion.  I don't see anything wrong in acknowledging that.

by Theovanna on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 12:12:53 AM EST

An interesting example of this process of "religionization" is the article by Robert Jensen published today in AlterNet where he says he has joined a Presbyterian church as a political act even though he really doesn't believe in God.

by Carlos on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 12:33:19 PM EST
What a fatuous argument for joining a church. I don't know whether Jensen was just trying to be provocative, "fit in" at a university in a conservative state or something else. What he does appear to be is an "atheist" who is ignorant about religion. Why a Presbyterian church? If he wants to support a church or denomination because he approves of some of its values, that's fine - he doesn't have to become a "faux" member. If he was looking for a community that shared his values but doesn't expect one to subscribe to a particular creed, he could have joined a UU church or even found a Quaker meeting (if such exists in TX).

Suspect one of the most harmful effects of the irreligious right takeover is that people are afraid to be who they are. I'm suspicious of polls that cite the vast proportion of the population who claim they are "Christian" or believe in God. A lot of them, including church attendees, haven't given much thought to what they believe or why - they've simply inherited an identification and beliefs or they like the comfort of a community. Others, with no affiliation, are afraid to be honest (what we call a "social desirability" response).

Pandering may work, at least for a time, but sooner or later people who pander are seen as inauthentic and untrustworthy. It frightens me to see progressives fall into this trap. Things like values and ethics need to be discussed but they don't have to be attached to religion. One need look no further than the current administration to see that religiosity doesn't guarantee morality. (And I think Jim Wallace has every right to do his thing but the Democrats should stop using him as a 'consultant'. I fear he's running for the "Dobson of the Left" seat.)

by Psyche on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 04:32:30 PM EST

My observation (I attend a very liberal Presbyterian/United Methodist church) is that an increasing number of mainstream prostestant churches (United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Disciples of Christ) are starting to look more like Unitarian churches in their theology. They still consider themselves Christian, but they are welcoming of people of other faiths or of no faith.

by Carlos on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 05:17:57 PM EST
I have ever heard of has been welcoming to non-believers.

Who is accepted for membership, requires affirming a creedal statement. That is a different matter. How can you convert someone you won't even let in the door?

Throughout history there have been many non-believers who have said whatever it would take to become members of certain churches in order to achieve desired social status in a community. Thomas Jefferson whom Unitarians claim and atheists and Christian Rightists quote, was a member in good standing of his local Anglican Church. People forget, whatever else he was, he was a polititian.

Seems to me there is nothing particularly new or surprising about this kind of thing.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 09:40:59 PM EST

Know who else is at U of TX, Austin - probably in the same journalism department? Marvin Olasky.

by Psyche on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 10:51:58 PM EST
you may be right that this is something personal.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 03:41:50 AM EST
Yes, both in the same department and now both Presbyterians. Olasky belongs to a church of the Presbyterian Church of America and Jensen is with a church of the Presbyterian Church USA. Presbyterians, unlike the apparently more relaxed Methodists, are ideologically fragmented from the extreme reconstructionists to the quasi-unitarians.

by Carlos on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 10:39:00 AM EST
split with the mainline presbys in the early 70s.  There are lots of Presby schims out there.

I think, however, that all of the liberal Presbyterians I know would take exception to being described as quasi-unitarians.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 12:49:38 AM EST

What of the "quasi-Unitarian Jihad" ?

I couldn't resist  ;)

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 12:58:28 AM EST

I haven't heard of the quasis joining in that one.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 10:25:22 PM EST

from an official member of an official Unitarian-Universalist congregation:  All this talk of "quasi-Unitarians" and the "quasi-Unitarian Jihad" is basically just a joke, right?  There is no need for me to start describing myself as a "real UU" in order to distinguish myself from the quasi's, right?

by Theovanna on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 12:21:13 AM EST
Carlos intended the quasi-Unitarian description of some trinitarian mainline churches to suggest a rather expansive approach to doctrine, but he can speak for himself on that.

And yes, Bruce was making an insider joke, referring to the humorous "unitarian jihad."

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 02:03:45 AM EST

I thought it must be something like that, but I am fairly new to this area, and I wanted to be sure I wasn't unaware of something important.  (And P.S.:  Happy Birthday!)

by Theovanna on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 03:50:29 AM EST

Glenn Greenwald has the Catholic perspective.

by Carlos on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 01:37:35 PM EST

I seriously doubt Howard Dean is winning any friends among fundamentalists by supporting the teaching of the Bible as Literature in public schools.  Familiarity with the Christian scriptures is certainly an aid to understanding American literature and western culture in general.  But I doubt that fundamentalists' first concern about getting the Bible taught in schools is so that students will get the jokes in Huck Finn or the works of Shakespeare.  They certainly would not like the tools of historical-critical scholarship taught in public schools; studying the various literary forms in the Bible (especially comparing it to other ancient literary forms) suggests that it is a human creation rather than the inerrant word of God.

by Rusty Pipes on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 12:31:55 AM EST
Elizabeth Ridenour's Bible program was conceived, I believe, as a wedge to get Americans acclimated to Bibles in schools - as a nonthreatening and apparently innocuous literature class.

However, Mrs. Ridenour is well connected to the hard Christian right and has written explicitly about her belief that 1963 Supreme Court decision removing Bibles from public schools was responsible for the social ferment of the 1960's and the rise of various forms of social pathology in America ( increases in murder, divorce rates etc. ) .

In other words, Ridenour seems to believe that the Bible is the anchor of American morality - and it is likely that her program is envisioned simply as the first stage in the incremental reintroduction of Biblically-based education.

I wonder if Howard Dean knows anything about that ?

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 12:50:14 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (330 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (178 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (98 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (93 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (105 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (127 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (115 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (79 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (228 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (55 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (153 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (53 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (54 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (210 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (240 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (87 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (171 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (141 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (146 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (144 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (123 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (185 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (83 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (189 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (77 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (107 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (105 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.