Came across an editorial by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Post this morning, How Would Jesus Vote? I’m an Evangelical — and a Liberal. Really. This followed on the heels of Charlotte’s excellent post about Sullivan’s recent Salon interview.
Salon asked Sullivan, “Do you think that many Democrats underestimate just how religious many of the members of their party are?”
Well duh. Naturally, Sullivan answered in the affirmative.
I can attest that I am one of many liberal religious tired of being maligned by my own people. I mean, sheesh, too many liberals seem to assume that their fellow liberals are 99% agnostic or atheist. Think again. I am not an evangelical, but I am a Christian and I do vote.
And with the popularity of books by religion-haters like Dawkins and Hitchens, some anti-religious are becoming more vitriolic than ever in their rhetoric. So certain of their rightness, they appear more fundamentalist than many of the religious they deride. Talk about rigid. Talk about closed-minded. Talk about arrogant.
We don’t co-exist by attacking one anothers’ religion, or lack of. One lesson that we would all do well to remember: We are unlikely to convince others by becoming louder, brasher, uglier. (In fact, on issues like this, we are unlikely to convince one another at all—we’re likely each preaching to our own choir.)
In the Post article, Sullivan writes that she was at a panel discussion in Manhattan when “a man stood up to declare that Democrats who reached out to religious voters, especially evangelicals, were akin to those who collaborated with the Nazis.”
“Walking through Dulles Airport not long after losing the 2004 election, John Kerry was stopped by a supporter. The man shook Kerry’s hand and told the senator that he was an evangelical. ‘I voted for you,’ he said, ‘and so did a lot of evangelicals. But you could have gotten more of us if you’d tried.’ Kerry was floored. Evangelical Democrats?”
Truthfully, I am not sure that reaching out to religious voters is a great idea, because separation of church and state is important—but why alienate us? Why does the Democratic party so often seem aligned with the anti-religious, the oh-too-vocal atheists? The fact is that many of the issues that are important to Christians also happen to be liberal values—putting people before corporate interests, feeding the hungry, ensuring access to health care for all, peacemaking.
I find it interesting that (according to Sullivan) many evangelicals seem to be questioning their alliance with the Republican party. Sullivan writes:
Between November 2004 and July 2007, the percentage of white evangelicals who identified themselves as Republican declined from roughly 50 percent to 40 percent.
That dramatic slump was driven by a stampede of younger evangelicals away from the GOP. Christian colleges have become even bigger centers of political activism than secular universities, protesting the Iraq war and demanding that campuses “go green.” A recent Time magazine poll of voters ages 18 to 29 found that 35 percent of young Democrats and 35 percent of young independents identify themselves as born-again.
Jesus was all about serving the disenfranchised, lifting up the poor; he was not aligned with the privileged, the wealthy, the big wigs. He did not promote tax cuts for the rich, or war, or intolerance of people who are different.
In my mind, it makes sense that Christians would tend toward the liberal end of the political spectrum—as long as they’re not driven away by liberal atheists. Democrats should make peace with the fact that most Americans—yes, even liberals—are religious.