Is our tent big enough for the Christian Left?

By Courtney Dillard of Portland, Oregon. Courtney is a professor of rhetoric and media studies at Willamette University, an active Democrat, attends First United Methodist in Portland, and recently participated in the DPO Summit panel discussion on "Winning Values Voters: Activating and Organizing the Religious Left."

Progressives all over the state are shaking their heads, chuckling, and nudging one another with a strong sense of 'I told you so' this week. We once again hit the jackpot in our many attempts to reveal the hypocrisy of the Christian right when Louis Beres, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Oregon, was put under investigation for molesting three female family members. The wearing away of the moral high ground from these finger-wagging figures makes for good news. The slow disintegration of the Christian Right gives us hope.

But Progressives should be even more hopeful about what's happening with the Christian Left. All across the country, there is an awakening. For the first time, Progressive Christians are coming to see that their religion has been effectively hijacked by people with an agenda. An agenda they do not share. Voices which were silent are being raised and the assumption that Christianity means Christian Right is being challenged and changed. For example, next week thousands of Progressive Christians will be calling on their Senators to reject a repeal of the estate tax, as well as cuts to programs like Medicaid. In so doing, they will reclaim a Christianity focused on the elimination of poverty.

This awakening is happening even here in Oregon, the most unchurched state in the Union. Last April, when Rev. Jim Wallis came to the Portland area on his book tour promoting God's Politics, over 2000 people attended book signings, lectures, and workshops. Churches all across our state have created reading groups around this New York Times bestseller and many social justice committees have begun to ask how they might take a larger role in public life, particularly politics. Progressive Christians are becoming empowered and growing braver. Late last spring, when New Hope Church in Clackamas televised Bill Frist's Justice Sunday, over a dozen Progressive clergy and lay people gathered outside the church, peacefully protesting the misuse of their religion.

And yet the Democratic Party will not reap the benefits of this important counter-movement unless it becomes more welcoming to people of faith, particularly Christians. In Oregon, the Party has, at best, ignored religious voices, or, at worst, mocked them.

During the 2004 election, it was easier to find bumper stickers reading 'Pacific Islanders for Kerry' than it was to find those reading 'People of Faith for Kerry.' There were no consistent outreach efforts to people of faith, in part because the campaign organizers feared reaction from other members of the party. In addition, many Democrats who are also Christian have chosen to hide their faith because they fear that their moral positions are confused with intolerance or their beliefs are equated with ignorance.

But there are signs that this chilly climate is changing. Last weekend, the Democratic Party of Oregon Summit featured a Breakout Session entitled 'Winning Value Voters: Activating and Organizing the Religious Left.' Over 75% of the audience identified themselves as affiliated with a Christian denomination. In addition, many State Representatives, including Dave Hunt, Phil Barnhart, Diane Rosenbaum, and Jeff Merkley attended and participated in the forum. Perhaps the most memorable part of the session was when Adam Rose, an evangelical Christian, recounted the many times he was ostracized in Democratic circles even as he felt biblical principles like caring for the least among us, stewardship for the earth, and peacemaking aligned him closely with the Party's policies and platform.

The Democratic Party, and particularly the Democratic Party of Oregon, can benefit from reaching out to faith communities. People of faith bring to the Party shared values, a commitment to the public good, and often a strong and intact network that can be activated around issues and elections. Their voices can be instrumental in the reemergence of a Progressive politics which speaks beyond particular interest groups to everyday Americans, many of whom share the same values. It's time that the Democratic Party of Oregon made room in the tent for people of faith and committed itself to embracing a different kind of diversity.

Comments

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)
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    I'll reiterate a comment I just posted on the article about Mr. Beres' public embarrassment:

    the unnatural melding of political power and religious moral crusading will attract the scum of the earth to positions of undue authority and lead to its abuse. It's why the separation of church and state was written into the Constitution!

    Adherents of Christian faith will need to understand that the Democrats will not fall into the error of pandering to the ambition of church groups for political power, as the current leaders of the Republicans have. They have other avenues for influencing political parties. They are welcome into the party if they leave their religious affiliation at home.

  • theanalyst (unverified)
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    I personally do not have a lot of religious beliefs, but I've never considered myself an enemy of religion either. In fact, I've always been interested in religion and have really made an effort to understand other people's beliefs. But the last few years things have changed for me. I'm just not as friendly toward religion any more.

    That change has been the result of the continual injection of religion and religious belief into public life. I think for me it started when we ended up with a president whose favorite "political philosopher" is Jesus Christ.

    Since then we've become a culture awash in religion. Any more it seems you can't spit without it landing on some preacher, imam, rabbi, priest, ayatollah, or pastor holding forth on what what God wants, God's view of this or that political issue, what the Bible says about abortion, the importance of bolting the Ten Commandments on every courthouse, the great Judeo-Christian heritage, the wonderful Islamic tradition, and on and on.

    Religion also saturates the media now. When I was growing up, TV religion happened on Sunday morning, and there was one Christian station on the AM dial. Now there are several full-time religious channels on cable, and around half of the programming on the local cable access channels is religious. If you tune around the low end of the FM dial you'll find five or six fundamentalist radio stations playing happy Jesus music celebrating the rightnes of their own beliefs, in addition to a full-time Catholic station explaining how the Eucharist wine really doesn't have any alcohol in it because it is actually the Body and Blood of Christ.

    At some point, I just got tired of the whole thing. I got tired of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell theology. But I also got tired of people arguing against Dobson's and Falwell's theology. More importantly, I came to realize that religion never really clarifies anything. It just adds another level of complexity to every issue it touches. Instead of just talking about what WE should do about the death penalty, the discussion starts with what would JESUS do about the death penalty, or what does the Bible say about the death penalty. Well, I'll tell you all a terrible secret: I don't care what Jesus would do, and frankly I don't think there is any way to know what he would do.

    So at this point I've had enough religion to last me the rest of my life. If a religious liberal comes along, that's great. If he thinks Jesus would do this or that, more power to him. If his religion is nicer than other people's, that's fine. At this point I just don't think it's helpful to engage the issues at that level.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    I think the starting point is to stop referring to it as the "Christian Right" and start labeling it accurately as the "Theocratic Right".

    The political beliefs of Robertson, Falwell, Beres et al have never been Christian. They simply adopted Christian as a brand name and then attached it to themselves with an aggressive marketing campaign. Largely that has been a campaign built around the notion that government is an agent of god, not humans. And like any political movement, they have chosen issues which divide their potential supporters off from their political opponents - abortion, gay rights etc.

    The second thing is that people need to start challenging the Christianity of some of the churches that are part of the theocratic right. That is a hard thing to do in politics in the United States. We have seen that in the recent discussions of Supreme Court nominations where challenging a nominee based on his stated religious beliefs was out of line, but supporting the next nominee based on her political beliefs was perfectly acceptable.

    But until progressives, whether religious or not, challenge the theocratic right on its own terms we will continue to lose the debate with many people of faith. We need to challenge not only their political positions but their theology. Beres is not merely misguided, he is a servant of satan - the serpent in the Garden of Eden leading people of true faith into opposition with God.

  • BK (unverified)
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    The Democrats will never be able to win the vote of the Christian community because they do not welcome the Christian voice. Even the progressive Christian voice is not deemed worthy of being included into discussions concerning the party platform because to do so would violate the Separation of Church and State as the left has defined it.

    Thus, Democrats are left with an interesting problem -- they can only seek to attract the religious in our society but at the same time tell them that their opinion, if it is in any way based on religious principles, cannot be used in helping to set the agenda for the party. Thus, they run programs that talk about attracting the religious while at the same time implicitly saying "we are only courting you for your vote, but don't try to participate." Not an attractive proposition, in my opinion.

  • tom civiletti (unverified)
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    Ross raises an important point. Christian fundamentalists and authoritarians have more in common with their ilk in Judaism and Islam than they do with more reasonable and freedom-loving members of their own religion.

    As far as I know, Christian leftists have usually been embraced by Democrats, whether they are Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or the Berrigans. It is true that many liberals speak critically of religion. This should be expected when so much hatred and foolishness is promoted under the name of God. There is no simple answer for this conflict. Nuance and understanding are never simple. sells.

  • Norm! (unverified)
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    Ed Bickford: "...[Adherents of Christian faith] are welcome into the party if they leave their religious affiliation at home."

    I can't imagine a more discriminatory statement. Should racial or sexual minorities also be asked to leave their identities at home? I thought the Democratic party was open to all -- not just the anti-religious.

    theanalyst: "...If a religious liberal comes along, that's great. If he thinks Jesus would do this or that, more power to him. If his religion is nicer than other people's, that's fine. At this point I just don't think it's helpful to engage the issues at that level."

    I don't think you understand that in order to actually persuade voters, Democrats must be able to welcome people of faith and show that the party has values and direction. I'm not saying we need a Dobson/Robertson/Falwell version of fundamentalist rhetoric. But Democrats must be able show that the party can be a place where people can live their faith in action. One of the best examples of this was of course the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I believe the major difference between religious fundamentalists and religious progressives is that religious progressives expect to change the world here and now. Whereas fundamentalists are often focused on the afterlife ('screw the environment -- Jesus is coming back'). Generally speaking, progressives see Jesus' message was about creating God's kingdom here on here ('feed the poor, protect the weak, etc.').

    Ross Williams: "...We need to challenge not only their political positions but their theology....

    You are correct. Of course, the challenge is how do we do that without appearing to attack their faith.

  • David Deyo (unverified)
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    I realize there's a lot of frustration with the larger Christian world because of the harm that's been done by the religious right, some of which is visible in earlier posts in this thread. But I believe that Democrats must find a way to embrace the people of faith that do exist within their own part of the political spectrum.

    There's a pretty simple way to do this, it seems to me, and connect with voters in the middle without turning aside from the principles of liberalism. Democrats can be a big tent party without seeking to become amateur Republicans in the bargain.

    I tell people all the time that my politics are a direct extension of my spiritual values, my Christian faith. When Christ teaches that "what you do to the least of these you do to me" I understand that the faithful are tasked with caring for the least fortunate and not leaving them uncared for and to their own devices.

    When Christ teaches to feed the hungry, I translate this to effective social programs that seek to address hunger and provide a social safety net for those who cannot feed themselves. When Christ teaches to care for the sick, I translate this into the need for improved health care that all our citizens can afford. When Christ tells us to bless those who curse us, I translate this into the need to be preventers of war and not the agressors.

    The core teaching of Jesus is very much in line with the core values of the Democratic party and liberals. You can even make a convincing argument that Christian values are far enough to the left to be considered socialist and pacifist.

    Democrats cannot and should not concede the birthright of Christianity to the right wing of the body politic. That is not its natural home. And it's high time that progressives learned to take back those values which have always found their best fit with the traditions of the Democratic Party.

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    I disagree strongly with Ed's comment that those who suggest that Christians should "leave their faith at home" when participating in Democratic politics. Would you have asked Martin Luther King to check his faith at the door when he was championing civil rights?

    It's an absurd request for those of us whose faith lies at the heart of our political activism. It's true that most of us have been taught not to impose our religious beliefs on others, but given the rise of the evangelical right wing and its marriage of convenience to the Republican Party, people of faith on the left need to start speaking up, not "check our faith at the door".

    I also disagree with Norm, who suggests there is some sort of conflict between the need for seperation fo church and state, and christian activism within the Democratic Party. The seperation of Church and State is needed to protect religious freedom, not stifle it. The doctrine did not emerge from "the left". Many of the founders came to this country because they were not free to practise their faith in the countries the emigrated from.

    By trying to erode the seperation of church and state, and impose their dogmatic approach to the bible the Evangelical right in this country is weakening religious freedom, not strengthening it.

  • Becky (unverified)
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    If the religious left can bring their religious beliefs to the public forum by promoting honesty, care for others, care for the environment, etc. then fine - these are matters of human decency that are vital to the good of society. But just because they believe some particular behavior is sinful doesn't mean they ought to be able to stop those who don't share their faith from participating in it. I would include in this temperance laws, anti-sodomy laws, blue laws, and the ridiculous but real anti-dancing laws. The problem with religious fundamentalists is they view curbing these behaviors as vital to the good of society. My point is, to some extent faith can be a very positive force in politics, but taken to extreme it works against liberty. So long as the religious left can keep their perspective, they should be welcomed with open arms. But they should never be allowed to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, as Republicans have allowed the religious right to do.

  • Jonathan (unverified)
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    So many of these comments, and the broader dialogue on this issue, seems highly procedural, e.g. "let's talk about values," instead of substantive ... what are those common values.

    Here's one idea. Theocrats are getting lots of press trumpeting the Ten Commandments. Yet they seem to ignore Christ's commandment (i.e. not the Old Testament commands brought by Moses, but a "new" one, from Christ -- supposedly the progenitor of Christianity) -- Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. Can you think of a substantive issue where the "liberal" would not win if the issue were guaged through the lens of that command? It lies at the base of libertarianism and freedom, yet also calls for empathy, kindness and charity.

    And above all, it would be really fun to respond to a theocrat's call for the Ten Commandments with a retort about Christ's command.

  • Norm! (unverified)
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    sjp: "I also disagree with Norm, who suggests there is some sort of conflict between the need for seperation fo church and state, and christian activism within the Democratic Party. ..."

    I didn't mention anything about the seperation of church and state. My point is that Democrats should not expect members to strip away their religious affiliations in order to participate in democracy.

  • Varner (unverified)
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    As people have pointed out with MLK Jr, there has been a history of social progressives who are also people of strong religious faith and conviction. I disagree strongly that this is something new. Perhaps the focus is new and it is a response to the growth of the extreme right wing, but being a progressive and a person of faith is not new.

    Besides MLK Jr, the United Farm Workers and Ceasar Chavez worked very closely, and continue to do so, with members of the faith community. Remember Jimmy "too decent to govern America" Carter? Go back further and find people of faith organizing the camps where Steinbeck got inspiration for Grapes of Wrath.

    Find the religious conviction of Abraham Lincoln to end slavery. Recall that the orginal framers of the constitution wanted the separation of church and state so that they could be free to practice thier religion. Read the New Testament and it encourages what I believe we find are progressive values.

    Again, I don't think strong faith, especially Christian faith, being linked to progressive values is at all new.

  • djk (unverified)
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    It seems to me there's all kinds of room here for an alliance between secular liberals and the religious left (Christian left, Jewish left, Muslim left, Buddhist left), and that the Democratic party can welcome all of them. We share probably 90%+ of the same goals. Democrats can acknowledge the importance of religion and spirituality in our lives and communities without endorsing one specific religion. Democratic platforms and policies can incorporate all sorts of Christian beliefs (charity, stewardship of God's creation, honesty, the public trust, tolerance, protection of the weak, respect, peacemaking) and even describe those values in vaguely religious/spiritual terms without making specific religious references.

    Although outside of official party documents, Democrats should feel free to make any religious references that underscore their party's commitment to values shared by Christians -- or by Christ. "Render unto God what is God and unto Caesar what is Caesar's" suggests to me that God approves of the "separation of Church and State."

    People on the religious left need to understand that the Democrats will share their beliefs, work with them, give prominent ministers places at party conventions, but will not formally adopt a "Christian" label or demand public displays of religious faith from candidates. Does it matter if the Democrats formally brand themselves "the Christian party" as long as they promote good Christian beliefs?

    Individual Democratic candidates and office holders have always been free to identify as Christians. They shouldn't be afraid to describe the Democrats as the "real Christian party in this country" based on policies that, secular or not, promote Christian values. (The Party shouldn't dispute this point beyond a quiet disclaimer.) Similarly, Christians who run as Democrats shouldn't hestitate to challenge the cynical, opportunistic sham Christianity of the Republican party. Candidates are always free to offer up a few sound bites like "Jesus didn't ride into Jerusalem on an elephant" or "Republicans talk about God before election time, but Democrats do His work afterward" or stuff like that.

  • BK (unverified)
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    Commentor tom civiletti wrote: "As far as I know, Christian leftists have usually been embraced by Democrats, whether they are Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or the Berrigans." Yup, if they are nutty enough and equate Christianity with whatever the left likes, then they are welcomed. But in the case of most Christians, the feeling that comes from the Democratic party was expressed by commentor Ed Bickford: "They are welcome into the party if they leave their religious affiliation at home." Yup, that's bound to attract the Christian vote . . . not.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    I think it is a mistake to limit alliances to those who would identify with the "religious left" . There are plenty of religious supporters of social justice who would not identify themselves that way and whose theology is quite conservative. For instance, as I remember, the Methodist Church endorsed the grape and lettuce boycotts but refused to endorse the first Gallo Boycott because urging people not to buy Gallo would imply an endorsement of their consuming other wine.

    The theocratic right has made the litmus tests of christian political committment opposition to abortion and similar social issues. But in fact, many churches are quite supportive of helping the poor. This is true even of the evangelical churches - witness the Salvation Army. While some of them have been seduced into supporting some pseudo-libertarian doctrine of private versus government support, many are quite supportive of government programs for the poor. As is the Catholic Church, which I would not identify as part of the "religious left."

    The problem is not christian-inspired political action, but that the theocratic right has been able to define it in very narrow terms that serve its political agenda. It is not enough to simply try to define it more broadly, we need to challenge them directly as un-christian. Far from stepping back from questioning their faith, we ought to question it openly. Robertson, Beres et al are not advocating christian values. And we ought not step back from saying openly that they are its enemies.

    Maybe we should organize a new group, "Children of Saint Patrick", dedicated to driving the snakes out of Oregon's Eden the way Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.

  • A Question of BK (unverified)
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    BK,

    Your points are well thought out, but your analysis seems a little removed and overly general. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you feel that your voice has not been heard. Although that makes me feel bad for you, it is not true across the board.

    Christian beliefs are absolutely welcome in the Democratic Party. Maybe Democrats don’t justify policy positions with “cause the bible tells me so”, but that in no way equates to lack of religious conviction. Any reasonable person understands that each party has religious convictions, but they simply manifest themselves in different ways.

    I am a little concerned that people view Democrats as anti-Christian for our support of women’s right to choose and equal rights for homosexuals. The theocratic right uses these as wedge issues, to divide people and distract them from the fact that the Republican Party does not represent the interests of many even die in the wool R’s.

    I believe the Republicans are in an equally if not more precarious situation than Democrats, because the Republican Party specifically uses their religious platforms to recruit voters. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out they only use these religious platforms when it suits their cause.

    I would love to hear a biblical justification for the $240 Million in new corporate tax breaks Karen Minnis and many Republicans in the House supported. Where is the biblical justification cuts to K-12, which many Democrats consider cutting our children’s future. How about any of the cuts in “unnecessary” spending that result in hardship for the most vulnerable of Americans. Republicans in Oregon left corporate tax shelters in tact, gave their blessing to the payday loan industry to charge over 800% interest…and list goes on and on.

    My point is that when it comes to religion and politics; Republicans often talk the (Christian) talk, and in few circumstance walk their (Christian) talk. Democrats on the other hand very rarely talk the (Christian) talk, which is why many humbly walk their (Christian) walk. A cheesy way to say it…yes…but it sums up my point well

  • Sid (unverified)
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    The Beatitudes definitely are not part of the GOP platform. The philosophy of the Beatitudes fits in more with the liberal left. You know the stuff like "Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God", "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land", "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Oooo, I like that last one.

  • R.U. Nuts (unverified)
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    You can reach out all you want but I think you are over-estimating the number of so called members of the "Christian Left."

    Last April, when Rev. Jim Wallis came to the Portland area on his book tour promoting God's Politics, over 2000 people attended book signings, lectures, and workshops.

    I often attend lectures and buy books written by people I would never in a million years agree with. As an aside, as a student at Willamette University this happened with several politics professors. I find that this is the best way to present well rounded arguments. You cannot just listen to and study the people you agree with.

    There were no consistent outreach efforts to people of faith

    I disagree, there was outreach, it just didn't work. I think we all remember the picture on the front page of newspapers across the country of John Kerry walking out of church with a cross of ash on his forehead. In the last presidential election the D's did reach out to Christians but found little support while the R's managed to register over 4 million NEW Christian voters. I believe the fact the D's were reaching out to such a small group of the "Christian left" to be one of the reasons that we have SENATOR Kerry and PRESIDENT Bush.

    Finally, the pervasive attitude of leaving you beliefs at the door is not going to win you any friends.

  • NIN (unverified)
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    tom civiletti indulging in hate speak writes:

    Ross raises an important point. Christian fundamentalists and authoritarians have more in common with their ilk in Judaism and Islam than they do with more reasonable and freedom-loving members of their own religion.

    As far as I know, Christian leftists have usually been embraced by Democrats, whether they are Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or the Berrigans. It is true that many liberals speak critically of religion. This should be expected when so much hatred and foolishness is promoted under the name of God. There is no simple answer for this conflict. Nuance and understanding are never simple. sells.

    So we should "expect" our side to react just as the otherside does? That doesn't seem very intelligent or wise. I thought we were supposed to be the alternative?

    BTW, there is a simple answer Tom: "...Love one another; for Love is of God"

    It's the question that's complicated.

  • tom civiletti (unverified)
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    Hate speech, NIN? Try to follow this:

    Fundamentalism, by it's essential nature, is unreasonable. If you believe some book contains perfect truth, especially one as self-contradictory as the Bible, you reject the authority of reason.

    Authoritarians are, by definition, anti-freedom.

    Or are you suggesting that it is hateful to conflate extreme expression of the three major monoteistic religions? If so,which one do you find denigrating of the other two?

    Folks have every right to be fundamentalists. They don't have the right to injure others because of their beliefs, but they do, here and elsewhere, now and in the past. I do hate fundamentalism, the sin, rather than fundamentalists, the sinners. Isn't that as Jesus would have it?

  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)
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    Democrats don't have a problem with religious people.

    Democrats have a problem with simple minded, bigots who hide behind religion.

    And if you can't tell the difference, I hate to tell you but you're the simple minded, bigot.

  • LT (unverified)
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    As someone whose religous faith begins with the Beatitudes and that the most important one is "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God", I am really upset by this discussion.

    You'd think there was no Democrat who ever ran for or served in the Oregon legislature who had been ordained a minister after attending divinity school. Or that no nationally famous Democrats had that training. Wasn't George McGovern a preacher's kid? What about the religious training of Bill Moyers, Gary Hart, Bill Gray, Bob Edgar, Father Drinan (served on the Watergate commitee, was required to step down later upon papal order that priests not serve in public office)? To use the old movie line, I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. Or else theocratic Republicans have succeeded in framing yet another question.

    First of all, about language. Were the rest of you as offended as I was in early 2004 by the pundits and politicians who called Howard Dean "secular" because he was a Congregationalist? "How dare he be a Congregationalist, when he wasn't raised that way! ". Was that just another line of attack by people who don't know how to propose solutions but by golly they know how to attack anything and everything about a public figure as second nature?

    A Congregationalist minister was so offended by that attack on Dean as to write a guest opinion in the Washington Post about the history of Congregationalists in this country which I sent to my sister who belongs to a Congregational church. She wrote back that it makes her proud to be a Congregationalist.

    Are we now stereotyping about religion rather than recognizing individuals?

    In Dec. 2001 (as in many other years) we spent Christmas with my sister and attended Christmas Eve service with her. I always found the sermons at those services so inspiring I took notes on the church programs, which I kept. Here is one note from that 2001 service.

    "So much has happened in the last year that we wonder what will happen next. Who would have guessed that national unity would come from rubble in Manhattan or that our heroes would wear rumpled clothes and rubber boots? Such love came from a little town or Bethlehem--a message of love, not revenge or hate".

    Ponder that in light of some of the above remarks on this topic. And then remember who destroyed that national unity. Was it Democrats not welcoming religious people at their meetings? Or was it Rove and the rest of the GOP attack machine who see the 10 Commandments as a wedge issue (how dare anyone ask why a large hunk of engraved marble is not a "graven image" and thus violating a commandment!) and ignore the Beatitudes?

    The statement has sometimes been made (Wasn't it the Rev. Bill Gray who rose to US House leadership but made it back to his Penn. church every Sunday to preach?) that some politicians understand the difference between a congregation and a constituency, while others do not. The first is voluntary association with a particular place of worship, the second is living in a political jurisdiction. There may be people in the congregation from outside the political district. And there may be those who live in a political district who have theological differences with a particular church's views (as is their right under the First Ammendment).

    How many of you remember Kucinich at one of the debates quoting the Scriptural injunction "as ye do to the least of these...". Was he immediately jumped on by Democrats who don't support religon? What about Barak Obama's mention of his pastor in his convention speech. Was he being "secular"?

    We saw the Clintons attending church more often than we see George and Laura Bush--why is that?

    In Oregon, the Party has, at best, ignored religious voices, or, at worst, mocked them.

    That charge deserves specifics. What in the Platform (the only way "the party" speaks) ignores or mocks religious voices? Or is this about someone being rude to someone else and therefore the whole party was rude to someone religious? I am skeptical of vague charges in all walks of life.

    It has been awhile since I was on the State Central Committee, but some of these assertions sound like the Democrats have "always" been hostile to religion, which is a SO wrong. There is a difference between being privately religious or wearing your religion on your sleeve.

    Now, if someone was stupid enough to schedule a party event on a major holiday (Easter weekend starting with Good Friday, or Yom Kippur, for instance) that could be seen as hostile. But that is an example of a stupid decision by an individual, not "the party".

    A Democratic activist was married outdoors at a lovely garden ceremony on a beautiful sunny summer afternoon years ago. Many of the wedding guests were active Democrats, and the wedding was a Jewish ceremony performed by the groom's family rabbi. But when this activist ran for office, he did not run as the Jewish candidate. He ran on his views of economic issues as much as anything else. So was that a "secular" campaign?

    One of the original meanings of "secular" was "belonging to the state instead of to the church". If someone does not choose to talk about their church membership or religious beliefs as they go about their duties (reserving such conversations for friends) does that make them "secular"?

    I don't think political meetings should start with a prayer for the same reason I don't believe in school prayer. That reason is found in the first several verses of Matt. 6--before the Lord's Prayer. Does that stance make me "secular"?

    Now about this: Perhaps the most memorable part of the session was when Adam Rose, an evangelical Christian, recounted the many times he was ostracized in Democratic circles even as he felt biblical principles like caring for the least among us, stewardship for the earth, and peacemaking aligned him closely with the Party's policies and platform.

    I was sitting next to a delegate (and friend) who I knew to be very religious at the 1984 convention when Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke. My friend was visibly moved by the speech. "He's turning this into a revival meeting!." One of the themes of the speech was the saying "Please be patient, God has not finished with me yet".

    Whoever made someone like Adam Rose feel uncomfortable at a Democratic meeting for any reason including their religious beliefs should be criticized, but we should know the details. And we shouldn't imagine all Democrats would have allowed the situation to happen without speaking up. That is the sort of "guilt by association" which Republicans love to use.

    Let me give an example of someone being uncomfortable in a meeting for a different set of beliefs. I was in a county meeting in the late 1980s and the chair really wanted to pass a resolution which unions wanted passed. But there was debate on both sides of the resolution. I stood up and asked for a quorum. Ignoring parliamentary procedure (Mr. Chair, the previous speaker is so wrong as to be idiotic), the chair allowed direct attacks aimed at me, the most memorable being "Well, in my union we don't ask for a quorum!".

    Had I been more verbally nimble, (as I thought about it later) I would have stood up, said "Sorry, I thought I was in a Democratic meeting, but I guess I stumbled into a union meeting by mistake" and walked out. As it was, I told all my friends that incident was why I distrusted some union activists. I also say, though, that the best union people are great organizers and really know how to run meetings and motivate people. I didn't say "unions didn't want a quorum at that meeting" as that would have been too general.

    I wonder if this story wasn't an example of gross generalizing that because someone was uncomfortable at a meeting, all Democrats act that way.

    Whenever this issue comes up, I think back to the ladies who organized the 1986 Platform Convention esp. the program booklet. I was in the State Party office the day they were so excited because they had arranged for a priest to give the invocation when Geraldine Ferraro gave the keynote dinner address, and Rabbi Rose for when Goldschmidt spoke. I don't see that as "hostile to religion".

    Now, if there are those in the 21st century who debate whether to have an invocation for a particular event or not, that is a valid debate and I don't think one side or the other is "hostile" to anything--they are just having a debate.

    It may just be contentious as in the old joke "that congregation is so divided they can't agree on what color to paint the Sunday School, much less anything more important".

  • BK (unverified)
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    A Question of BK asked me a question a couple of comments above, and I did want to respond:

    Let me first comment that I think your characterization of the Christian right is rather superficial, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether the Democrats can hope to attract Christian voters with their message that says "we want you so long as you don't bring your religious beliefs into the party." If the Democrats are going to be honest about their approach that is consistent with their view of Separation of Church and State, all policy in the nation must be built not on religious principles, but on other (in fact, any other) principles.

    The Democrats welcome Christians who believe as they do, but these more liberal Christians are few and dwindling. The mainline denominations which serve as the source for the more liberal Christian views, are shrinking and with good reason. So, if the Democrats hope to grow by attracting these liberal Christians, trust me when I say that they already have them.

    But if the Democrats seek to attract the growing part of the Christian church -- the evangelicals -- then they are going to have to recognize that the mainstream Democratic views on social issues do not match up with their Evangelical views (which are not, as you put it, anti-Christian).

    Even if you reduce Christianity to a mere social gospel where the only thing that matters is giving aid to the poor, there is no more "walking the walk" among Democrats than Republicans. I know many Republicans who give cheerfully of both their time and money to various groups to help the poor. But if Democrats try to reduce Christian belief to that principle, Democrats will continue to miss the boat because, for most of the growing Evangelical Christian population, the Gospel is an entire world view. Both Republicans and Democrats seek to aid the poor -- they differ merely in the matter of approach. Perhaps you can appeal to Christians that the Democratic approach is better, but the Democrats haven't done so thus far, and I doubt they will do so in the future.

    In other words, the Democrats already have the Christian vote that they are going to get with their approach. They have no desire to bring in the more evangelical strain because the policies and attitudes of the Democratic party shows disdain for their beliefs and their persons. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

    BTW, the abuses of the Republican legislators in Oregon seem a bit too pat for me. I don't know enough about Oregon politics (living in New Mexico as I do) to know what the circumstances were surrounding the various abuses you cite. However, I would note two things: (1) whether corporate tax cuts are an abuse depends upon your view of economics, and (2) last time I checked, the Oregon Senate and the Oregon Governor are both held by Democrats, so blaming the Republican only for whatever spending cuts or tax incentives were achieved through the compromise process that must proceed in any legislative enactment seems a little far reaching.

  • BK (unverified)
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    Just a brief note to Winston Wolfe in response to his comment: your post reveals that there certainly are some simple minded people in this discussion.

  • LT (unverified)
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    OK, now we are getting to specifics.

    First of all, BK, about this: the mainstream Democratic views on social issues do not match up with their Evangelical views

    There are those of us who have been upset for some time at the feeling that a brand of evangelicals wanted to brand Christianity as only what was taught in their churches and no other theology deserved to be called "Christian". I am old enough to remember the days when "Christians" supported Reagan over Sunday School teacher Jimmy Carter and former Evangelical Layman of the Year John Anderson because of their political views.

    So maybe the dividing line is not "the party" or "Democrats" but the answer to the question "Do you believe Jimmy Carter is a Christian?".

    Being in NM you wouldn't know that there is an American Baptist church near downtown Salem, OR which differs theologically from Jerry Falwell's beliefs. And our former Sen. Hatfield attended that Baptist church when he lived in Salem. When Falwell came here in 1981 on his 50 State Capitals tour, there were debates locally about who was the "true" Baptist or the "true" Christian. Some of these theological debates are centuries old. But it seems to me that some in the "Christian conservative" movement want their views accepted without question and any debate regarded as heresy.

    And then there is the question of whether Hatfield's successor is "Christian" as I understand there are those who believe evangelicals are the true faith and Catholics or Mormons are not.

    I never did understand the difference between fundamentalist Protestants and evangelicals although I have heard it explained. The Founding Fathers of this country were not either one, and Willamette University which is across the street from the state capitol building in Salem was founded by Methodists.

    The Democrats welcome Christians who believe as they do, but these more liberal Christians are few and dwindling. The mainline denominations which serve as the source for the more liberal Christian views, are shrinking and with good reason. sounds to me like an expression of opinion rather than fact. Especially after a conversation last night with a relative who lives in the area where we lived when I was in high school. It was along the lines of "Remember that old red brick church at the top of the hill? Oh, you mean the one that was a Presbyterian church? Yes, only now it is a thriving Unitarian-Universalist church."

    And then there is this. It sounds to me like any other group saying "agree with us or you will never win another election":

    But if the Democrats seek to attract the growing part of the Christian church -- the evangelicals -- then they are going to have to recognize that the mainstream Democratic views on social issues do not match up with their Evangelical views (which are not, as you put it, anti-Christian). Who decides what is or is not "anti-Christian"? Isn't that a debate that is older than we are? Must voters be Christians? Can't they be Jews or Orthodox (Greek, Russian) or followers of Islam?

    Article I Section 4 of the Oregon Constitution is "no religious test for public office". Some people forget that.

  • BK (unverified)
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    LT, all that you said misses the point. The issue of the original post is simple: it is saying that they need to court the Christian left voters. My point is this: the Democrats already have the Christian left, and I don't see where any other Christian would be enticed to join a party that wants their participation only in so far as they vote Democratic. In fact, the Democratic position is that Christians don't have a voice in the party because that mixes church and state.

    You don't want the religious right? Fine. The people of the religious right have no desire to join the Democratic party because their views are disdained (or, as the original post says "the Party has, at best, ignored religious voices, or, at worst, mocked them."). All I am saying is you shouldn't fool yourself into believing that somehow you are going to attract more Christians by pandering to the religious left -- they are already in your corner and their numbers are dwindling.

    With respect to your claims about a debate as to who is Christian, well that is an interesting issue. Fortunately, we don't have to deal with it here. The simple fact is that there is clearly a Christian left and a Christian right, and those on the Christian right see no chance for their views to be welcomed or even tolerated in the supposedly tolerant Democratic party. That's the way it is.

    Finally, I do feel compelled to respond to the following statement: "Must voters be Christians? Can't they be Jews or Orthodox (Greek, Russian) or followers of Islam?" If you ever came away with the idea that I said that voters had to be Christian, then you are simply reading some fantasy into what I have said. What I am saying is that whether you like it or not, Christian evangelicals make up a significant voting block and, like you, they vote their conscience. If the Democratic Party platform does not allow room for them, then you cannot expect to attract them. I am not saying "agree with us or you will never win another election." I am saying that you are NOT making any effort to attract Evangelicals, and if you think reaching out to the Christian left will help you attract anything more than you are already attracting, you are wrong.

  • Response to BK (unverified)
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    BK,

    Just to clarify, it sounds as if you think I said that Democratic views are anti-Christian, when what I really said was that I am concerned that people treat our views as anti-Christian. That is a big difference.

    Also, the abuses that you say were part of the compromise were not part of any compromise. The examples I used were efforts made by the Republican dominated House and thankfully put to rest by the common sense Democrats in the Senate. Or good bills that passed the Senate and were killed in the Republican dominated House.

    Normally your arguments about my examples would be valid, but in this case I used specific examples resistant to such attacks. Not that it is your fault, you live in New Mexico.

    The 240 Million in Corporate tax cuts did not go through, thanks to Democrats in the Senate. The cuts in education were far fewer than Republicans hoped for by about $200 million. Sure, Republicans donate money to the poor, I was talking about Republicans voting to cut social programs that have negative impacts to Oregon families. Democrats passed the cap on pay day loan interest rates and the Republicans in the House wouldn't even give it a hearing.

    Your comment about Democrats accepting only Christians that believe as they do is so incredibly false. Are you seeing a unity within the Democratic Party that I seem to be missing? The Democratic Party is probably the least monolithic party in existence. You definitely need to rethink that one.

    Of course we can appeal to the Christian community better than we are currently, but you say that Democrats views don't match up with evangelical views and you are wrong. I am not saying they are a perfect match, but there is far more correlation between evangelicals and Democrats, than evangelicals and Republicans.

    It has been my experience that Republicans have used small portions of the text of the bible to be very judgmental of certain groups of people. It is my understanding that Democrats focus on the broader interpretation of the bible, where compassion, understanding, and acceptance are fundamental tenets.

  • Brandon (unverified)
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    I can absolutely vouch for the shift toward progressive values among Christians, particularly evangelicals.

    I'm a divinity student at Multnomah Biblical Seminary, and arrived expecting a lot of fellow students to be pretty belligerently conservative. Being an evangelical seminary, cultural conditioning told me little else to expect! But folks are more leftish than I expected. There is a timid bubbling up among us of "creation-care," peacemaking, all the ONE Campaign issues, etc. Their allegiance is not quite so blind toward Bush or the GOP as may progressives might expect.

    Indeed, as an evangelical who is politically progressive (if not radical), I have had some trouble integrating in left-leaning circles because of an attitude toward Christians that appears just as fundamentalist and fear-based as any Mabon-loving Christian has toward, say, homosexuals. That feeling of not identifying with the Right, but not being terribly embraced by the Left is quite unsettling.

    (For anyone interested, I recently completed my thesis on this issue as it pertains to the environmental movement. "A Relevant Cause: Reconciling Environmentalists to Evangelicals." Drop me an email and I'll send you an electronic copy.)

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    BK said:

    Even the progressive Christian voice is not deemed worthy of being included into discussions concerning the party platform because to do so would violate the Separation of Church and State as the left has defined it.

    This is so completely not true.

    I'm a very big supporter of the separation of church and state. However, I would never keep someone who was a progressive Christian from speaking his/her thoughts towards the party platform.

    If their thoughts were that dems should support putting prayer in schools, then I would speak up because that would be supporting a policy that is in violation of the separation of church and state.

    But that's the only time it would come up-- when a policy was being suggested that would violate the separation of church and state.

    There are plenty of us progressive Christians out there and involved. I happen to be a Southern Baptist. And we participate in discussions on Party platform all the time. I've attended numerous platform conventions, both in Oregon and Texas. My first one was just a few months after I turned 18.

    I don't think it's a question of whether or not our tent is big enough for the Christian Left-- many of us are already here.

    It's that we need to do more to let the Christian left know that the tent door is open and that they're welcome to participate.

    Maybe it would take doing some meetups (or Linkups as they're now called in the DFA community... ) that are specifically for Christian Democrats (and other religions as well).

    We need to do some community building, and the Christian Left is one area we could really work on.

    This would also bring in some diversity to our "white bread" party, as large communities of minorities fall under "Christian Left."

  • Sid (unverified)
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    Brandon wrote: Indeed, as an evangelical who is politically progressive (if not radical), I have had some trouble integrating in left-leaning circles because of an attitude toward Christians that appears just as fundamentalist and fear-based as any Mabon-loving Christian has toward, say, homosexuals.

    Perhaps because rightwing evangelicals have scared the bejesus out of secularists with their hard drive to turn the US government into an absolutist authoritarian one.

    I'm quite aware of the Christian left, several members in my exteneded family are Lutheran pastors who are very liberal. They too are shocked by the Christian right and their hypocricy. In a way they feel rightwing Christians have stolen the word "Christianity" just as the GOP has claimed the American flag. So if you wave a flag people assume you're a Republican, just as if you announce your Christianity people assume you're a fundamentalist. I know it's wrong, but that's what's happened.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    "The people of the religious right have no desire to join the Democratic party because their views are disdained"

    Which is the same reason the religious left has no desire to join the democratic party.

    This is a convulusion of political and religious beliefs. There are a huge number of people with very conservative theological beliefs who vote Democrat. Many of those people are african-american, but you will find devout Catholics who are equally devout democrats. And they vote for democrats despite their belief in their church's teachings on abortion, not because of them.

    The people who define their religious beliefs from their political beliefs are not christians at all. But Democrats let things that are obvious signs of that slide simply because they don't really respect the real beliefs that people do hold.

    When George Bush made his smirking remark about the good times he had in New Orleans in his youth, he ought to have been challenged on his claim to be born again. That smirking attitude didn't indicate that he had repented of his sins and was ashamed before God. It was a clear sign of the phoniness of his claim to having found Christ. He found religion as a means to win Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and their supporters' votes, not out of any sincere belief.

  • LT (unverified)
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    The more I think about this, the more I am sure that The Prince of Peace would not be happy with debates pitting Catholics against evangelicals, or "the religious right vs the religious left".

    Seems to me the divide is between the approach that "we're all God's children" and those who say, no, only some are.
    That is theology, not politics.

    Mention has been made of the question of school prayer. How many are aware that when that was pushed in the early 1980s with the newly Republican Senate, there were ministers on both sides? And that there were deeply religious people who said the best school prayer was the one parents said to their children just before they left the house, as that would be certain to be within the religious beliefs of the parents.

    Go ahead, you try to write the school prayer for a classroom with several nationalities and faiths as diverse as Unitarians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah's Witness. Keep in mind that a US Supreme Court decision (W. Virginia v. Barnette) says that "no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, or religion..." and that opinion was written by Justice Jackson. As I recall, Jackson was the one the new Chief Justice Roberts named as his favorite Supreme Court justice. I believe that Jesus was the first nonviolent revolutionary (part of his message many in the 21st century don't seem eager to talk about).

    For many years very serious people have been saying that when politics gets mixed up with religion, religion loses. Whether it is one religious group unhappy with a public figure they try to remove from office (a failed OCA attempt to recall elected officials who didn't vote their way, the Moral Majority trying to oust a school board member who was an active Methodist because that person blocked their curriculum efforts, etc.) or the question of whether one group is trying to overpower another (at least in the eyes of some), there have been very religious people for decades saying, "So you are in power now and want things to be done by government FOR your religion? What happens 10 years from now when an opposing group wants to do things AGAINST your religion?".

    Not to mention that great historical Supreme Court case from Oregon. The KKK got control of the Oregon legislature maybe a century or a little less ago and tried to outlaw Catholic schools in Oregon. Look it up.

    And then I read a story on the Washington Post site. Why do some people have a problem with the same rules applying to everyone?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/12/AR2005101201381.html ............. "What's wrong for John Roberts can't be right for Harriet Miers. . . . The president and his people are using repeated assurances about Miers's religion to send not-so-subtle messages about how she might rule on the court on issues important to the president's political supporters."

    Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, signaled his party may have more questions about the Rove-Dobson communications. "The rest of America, including the Senate, deserves to know what he and the White House know," Leahy said of Dobson in a statement. "We don't confirm justices of the Supreme Court on a wink and a nod. And a litmus test is no less a litmus test by using whispers and signals."

    During Roberts's confirmation, the administration and its allies tiptoed around the question of the nominee's religious beliefs..............

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)
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    Once again I find that it is nigh impossible to have a coherent and reasonable discussion where religion is concerned. What higher recommendation would one need for separation of church and state?

    I am disgusted by the scurrilous rhetorical subterfuge used by "sjp" in intentionally misquoting my earlier post (even daring to use quotes), and tearing apart the straw man he erected.

    I advised leaving at home their "religious affiliation" not "faith." You have to understand that bringing the agenda of one's particular religious affiliation into the political arena imports sectarian rivalries and doctrinaire intransigence into the collaborative process of representative democracy. The founding fathers were religious men, but they understood these dangers. Honest faith will inspire great politics without demanding conformity to one's dogma.

    Why would Democrats want to try to win the votes of the dogmatic evangelical Christians who slavishly follow the hypocritical Republicans? They are anti-democratic!

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    What Ed Bickford said, I agree; my version: Welcome in the party and in doing party work, not doing 'Christian' work in it. And further: Bringing it up first is heavy-handed, and intrusive -- don't wear it on the sleeve, as many say. It is an insult to be 'checked and inspected' for my spiritual component, and more offensive, to have someone counterimpose their's.

    The 'Christian' religiots are the only sect who do that, in my experience. I've never had a Buddhist or Hindi or Muslim or Jew or Animist or any of 'them' except 'Christians' come. at. me. to convert me to theirs. I don't understand how such people deny their behavior is insulting, uncivil. What's wrong with the 'Christian' religion that it has to have others' approval, for it to be valid? If it works for you, it's valid. Obsessing on your faith sounds like it's not working for you.

    I don't even understand why it gets discussed.

    Spiritual and political are separate parts of conscious mind. Some develop their spirituality paramount, always first on their mind. The coventional expression has it as, 'obeying God's laws, not man's laws.' As I remember, in small town impressions, the largely ecclesiastical among us recited that saw to explain they weren't voting. They didn't say they felt their vote didn't count. They didn't say they had no opinion on candidates. They simply said it was none of their business, the political fortunes of the people and that 'stuff.' In the northern Midwest 'automobile states,' Catholic often meant captive (Chicago) Democrat voter. (This demographic was common for so long that early-generation automotive workers worked their life and died in it, with G.M. stock shares (for example) for retirement, left Catholic widows, who immersed themselves in the Church and would leave it their estates. Hence, Ringo Starr's lyric, "The pope owns fifty-one percent of General Motors, and the Stock Exchange is the only thing he's qualified to quote us.")

    Then came Roe vs. Wade. It galvanized Catholic authoritarian-Christian types. I mean instantly. The objecting religious backlashers came out of nowhere, or rather, came into politics for their first time,(1974). Many histories fail to mention the religious 'anti-Judiciary' type groups appealed to Democrats first after Roe, to 'Do Something!' for them, and the Democrats told them their special interest only made them one more group in the coalition, but not special.

    The zealous declared they must be the leading special interest and, saying, 'you Democrats will be sorry you rejected us,' ran off and threw themselves on the Repub's. The perennial minority party said anything to get those votes. The key point is that the religious bloc was not 'switch' voters changing parties, it was virgin voters, ballot new-bloods. Switching, I suppose you could say, from apolitical to political.

    The other social change at the time (1975) was the advent of cable tv, and religious channels for the first time. None of the religious fervor was ever on the Big Three networks from 1950-75, (oh, I remember a Bishop Fulton Sheen, but never heard anyone talk about it). By '80, for Reagan's election, there never was any widespread 'crossover' Democrats for him, nor any 'conservative shift' in this country. Such talk was all media made-up analysis to sound like media celebs could explain it. They made it up. What I saw, in personal acquaintance, was, first, Dem's complacently stayed home; second, the bloc of cable tv christians (12 percent 'first time' voters) went Repub; and third, Reagan election workers rigged the elections, (at the very least their crime was anti-negotiations with Iran to keep the hostages longer so Carter would not get an October Surprise boost in the polls by hostage release, and in return, Bush(Reagan) after election, illegally sold and delivered U.S. missiles to Iran. For big bucks -- in cash. Which went to finance the illegal rightwing paramilitary contras in taking over Central American countries.

    So that's where this whole rightwing thing got rolling: By the criminal Bush(Reagan) administration. The whole 'Big Tent' fiscal conservative, social conservative, thing. There never was any 30- or 40-year master plan they ever sat down and worked out in advance back then, which is more phony made-up media analysis going around lately which too many lefties took seriously and recited everywhere and studied the model of -- it never happened. There was no long term conservative game plan spelled out in advance. All that talk is hot air tv yammering-filler so the high-salary tv Political Analysts don't come on the air and say, 'I don't know.'

    If you choose to be religious, fine. If you choose to work in politics, fine. You can't do both at the same time.

    Because, as long as religious sect money is tax-exempt, churches can have no representation without taxation.

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  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    This is idiotic. One more quick one and then to sleep, perchance to dream.

    Bush's "Christian" Blood Cult -- Concerns Raised by the Vatican, By WAYNE MADSEN

    [Wayne Madsen, Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist and former intelligence officer with the National Security Agency drops some big bombshells in George W. Bush's spiritual back yard. This highly respected journalistic veteran quotes sources closest to the Vatican as saying that Pope John Paul II suspects that the Bush administration had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks. He also points out the obvious: Bush behavior and attitude are anything but Christian. – MCR]

    APRIL 28, 2003, 1700 hrs PDT (FTW) -- George W. Bush proclaims himself a born-again Christian. However, Bush and fellow self-anointed neo-Christians like House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, and sports arena Book of Revelations carnival hawker Franklin Graham appear to wallow in a "Christian" blood lust cult when it comes to practicing the teachings of the founder of Christianity. This cultist form of Christianity, with its emphasis on death rather than life, is also worrying the leaders of mainstream Christian religions, particularly the Pope.

    One only has to check out Bush's record as Governor of Texas to see his own preference for death over life. During his tenure as Governor, Bush presided over a record setting 152 executions, including the 1998 execution of fellow born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker, a convicted murderer who later led a prison ministry. Forty of Bush's executions were carried out in 2000, the year the Bush presidential campaign was spotlighting their candidate's strong law enforcement record. The Washington Post's Richard Cohen reported in October 2000 that one of the execution chamber's "tie-down team" members, Fred Allen, had to prepare so many people for lethal injections during 2000, he quit his job in disgust.

    Bush mocked Tucker's appeal for clemency. In an interview with Talk magazine, Bush imitated Tucker's appeal for him to spare her life - pursing his lips, squinting his eyes, and in a squeaky voice saying, "Please don't kill me." That went too far for former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer, himself an evangelical Christian. "I think it is nothing short of unbelievable that the governor of a major state running for president thought it was acceptable to mock a woman he decided to put to death," said Bauer.

    And, locally, this (Tucker injustice) was the only column I ever read of David Reinhard saying he rebuked the immorality of Bush for it. And then Reinhard went right ahead and puffed for the hitlerverk, as his publisher had ordered him. Having to choose, you understand, between his soul and his ghoul.

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  • BK (unverified)
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    Two final comments in response to what others have said.

    Bradon, this comment surprised me: "There is a timid bubbling up among us of "creation-care," peacemaking, all the ONE Campaign issues, etc. Their allegiance is not quite so blind toward Bush or the GOP as may progressives might expect." I don't know what you were culturally conditioned to expect, but I would expect you, as a Christian, would recognize that almost all Christians -- even conservative Christians -- favor world peace, environmental protection and an end to global hunger. The fact that you, as a person attending seminary, would somehow come to the belief that conservative Christians don't want world peace, a clean environment or an end to world hunger says a great deal about how poorly conservative Christians are portrayed in the press and by the Democratic party.

    LT, you are continuing to miss the boat on what I was talking about. Your every post shows a complete intolerance to the views of conservative Christians -- or at least to your straw man characterizations of them. I don't blame you; like Brandon you are apparently poisoned by the cultural conditioning you recieve. Really, conservative Christians are not bad people. They just approach things from a different angle then you do.

    Jenni, what you say is exactly why the Democratic party will never attract any conservative Christians -- you are basically saying "you can have your beliefs and if they agree with mine, fine, but if they don't then because your beliefs are grounded in religion, they demote you to second class status." This is the point that I am raising in my original response: the Democratic party will never attract large numbers of people with strongly held religious beliefs as long as they continue to put their thoughts into second class status.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Really, conservative Christians are not bad people. They just approach things from a different angle then you do

    By their fruits shall ye know them. The ones who do good works (helping a neighbor, doing hurricane relief, etc.) are good people. I didn't see Bill Bennett, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson down in the Gulf doing relief work, but I did see press coverage of churches and church groups going to the area to help out.

    But if you expect me to think the Moral Majority group which tried to force a friend of mine off a school board over a curriculum issue (outsiders came into the town and said "accept our curriculum or else" and the citizens supported the school board) or James Dobson thinking he could go on the airwaves and say "I know things about Miers that maybe I shouldn't know" and not expect the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary committee to say they will consider calling Dobson as a witness in the hearings, then you are out of touch with mainstream voters.

    I clicked on your link and read this at the top of your blog:

    "The members of this site maintain this blog for commenting on various items of interest to apologetics".

    Perhaps you would care to explain that. Or should everyone who is truly a "conservative Christian" already understand the term "apologetics" and whether anyone else understands the term is not your problem?

    Our unabridged dictionary lists "defending by discourse" and "a branch of theology" as definitions.

    I believe in theological debate. I don't believe in anyone speaking for a whole group as in "the Democratic party will not attract conservative Christians"---don't individuals have the right to make their own decisions?

    For the record, I agree with this: The Beatitudes definitely are not part of the GOP platform. The philosophy of the Beatitudes fits in more with the liberal left. You know the stuff like "Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God", "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land", "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Oooo, I like that last one.

    and if agreement with that statement makes me "not a conservative Christian" then at last we have defined that term.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    BK, What part of if-you're-the-representation,-it's-no-great-loss don't you understand?

    And that point -- 'don't you understand?' -- conforms with the meta-view panorama I keep wanting to remind us of. That the 'fear/anger' faculty of balance in everyone's brain, which squirts out the primal flight or fight behavior juices, and which juices are diffused or not through the additional or not circuits and channels of the cognition faculties, is substantially a matter of brain tissue formation during maturation -- how our individual plastic flexible regenerative brain develops.

    Which is a load of medical anatomy words that mean no, the ignorance-is-bliss solace-seekers in spiritual ritual do NOT understand. Literally, their brain don't work with change, can't 'give change,' deals in rounded off whole-dollarbill amounts: Doesn't do nuance.

    Brains have lifelong elasticity. They can be stretched and amended. By educational experience. But the student has to participate in order to obtain 'new' brain.

    Reading and writing on blogs seems broadly to be one such sort of 'participation.' Another wide-view analysis I have wanted to mention is the change in the tone of blog comments on this site and many many more, building across the last couple years, from infantile swear-word comment exchanges (which got some kicked out of some websites), to more sociable comment exchanges, (longer sentences, spell-checked, personality sparkled, gooder grammar, and, wide-view: more brainy).

    It's working. Participation is education is participation is education is ... living. Information communication breaks the cycle of not understanding.

    <h1/>
  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
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    <h1/>

    Blogs: Brain steroids.

    (Don't overdose.)

    <h1/>
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    BK:

    You said: Jenni, what you say is exactly why the Democratic party will never attract any conservative Christians -- you are basically saying "you can have your beliefs and if they agree with mine, fine, but if they don't then because your beliefs are grounded in religion, they demote you to second class status."

    That is so completely NOT what I said.

    I said that as long as they weren't trying to add a policy to the platform that broke the law/Constitution, then there's no problem.

    But if they tried to add something that was in violation of the law/Constitution, I would voice my opposition and that we should not include it in our platform.

    I never said it had anything to do with whether or not I agreed with them. I said it had to do with items that were in violation of the law/Constitution.

  • mochi (unverified)
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    BK-

    you said to Brandon:

    "...almost all Christians -- even conservative Christians -- favor world peace, environmental protection and an end to global hunger. The fact that you, as a person attending seminary, would somehow come to the belief that conservative Christians don't want world peace, a clean environment or an end to world hunger says a great deal about how poorly conservative Christians are portrayed in the press and by the Democratic party."

    Umm, I hate to tell you this, but I attend an evangelical Christian church, and I would have to say that almost all of the conservative Christians around me do not espouse the views that you articulated in the above quote. The Democrats and "liberal media" didn't tell me that; conservative Christians did. Just so you know.

  • (Show?)

    I must say that the conservative Christians around me in church do believe in world peace, a clean environment, and ending world hunger.

    There have been prayer sessions dedicated to the topic of world peace. However, their views on how to get to world peace differ from many of us liberals. They're typically fine with one group attacking another in order to "promote peace" (such as Israel attacking Palestine or the U.S. attacking Iraq).

    There have been talks about a clean environment, yet once again they have different views on what that means.

    An end to world hunger is something that also believe in. They do quite a bit of work to gather together food for local families and send money to missionaries in other countries to feed people there. Yet once again, they have a different view on how this should be achieved.

    I don't think that we're all that different on the basic beliefs on a lot of topics (other than the big controversial stuff like abortion and gays). It's their views on how to achieve that which differ.

  • pastordan (unverified)
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    A little pimping here: I'd encourage all of you to visit Street Prophets, my community blog on faith and politics, which I understand was mentioned at the session referenced in this post.

    <h2>If any of you know Chuck Currie, he's one of the front-pagers there. Love to see you all there!</h2>
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