10.25.2005

Trickle down theory

The theory that the Democratic party needs to get over their fear of a) talking about religion and b) Democrats actually having a scriptural/theological foundation for how they look at the world and its problems (ie. love thy neighbor as thyself anyone) seems to be trickling down from national level discussions to the state and local level.

Exhibit A, this article in my local Portland paper, the Oregonian. Anecdotally what’s kind of funny is this is the least churched state in the nation. There are more agnostics and atheists than church goers, and yet the party feels the need to court religious voters.

The vast majority of Americans consider themselves religious, and growing numbers have come to regard the ballot box as a way to express their faith. Even in Oregon, considered one of the nation's most "unchurched" states, almost one in three residents claims a religious affiliation, according to the American Religion Data Archive.

,,, Democrats, who tended to ignore, if not alienate, that sector, are rethinking their tactics.

One in 3. Almost. Can you east coasters believe that one? But that’s another post about the oh so spiritual yet seemingly heathen Pacific Northwest.

What I’ve been saying for a few years now is not that the Democratic party needs to court religious voters, but that those who consider themselves moderate, liberal or progressive AND religious need to come out of the closet about the correlation between the two.

But it’s not just because they’re shy. I know from experience that many of the party faithful not only get squeamish, they stop listening if you talk about any relationship between your politics and your faith.

Some Democrats say they feel shut out when they bring up their religion in political circles. Courtney Dillard, a Willamette University professor active in party politics, says her Christian views sometimes make her colleagues squirm.

Coming out of the closet by discussing our faith and politics in the same breath (and I’m talking about real world conversations here, not the blogosphere) would serve several purposes.

1) It would prove we don’t have 2 heads and don’t spout fire and brimstone (unless we’re really mad!)

2) It would help us to be whole people, live lives of integrity and not compartmentalize who we are and what we believe

3) It would bring a much needed added values dimension to the discussion. We may not win every discussion, but the discussion will be improved by having our fully formed opinions and beliefs included and considered

4) It would help fulfil the church’s essential mission, the big "e" word … evangelization. I cannot tell you how many non-church going liberals I know have been forced to think twice about Catholicism and Christianity purely on the basis of what they know about me and my parish. We do good work. We care about the oppressed. The widows and orphans of our day if you will. The sad thing is that’s not the message they get about Christianity, and when they see people of faith actually living out the gospel it makes them rethink some of their assumptions.

"Somehow, we've completely forgotten everything Jesus said about poverty, all the things Jesus said about how we spend our money," Hunt says. "If Democrats can be more open and honest about our faith, I think the values gap in voting will close."

Now, I’m not saying we should proselytize or break any church and state barrier rules. It’s a balancing act. But as a whole, I think moderate, liberal and progressive people of faith have been so afraid of tilting the balance one way, they’re stuck on the ground on the other side.

What say you?

4 comments:

Lorem ipsum said...

The problem with religion is that there is a significant sector (I call them Capital-C Christians, as opposed to us Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans etc.) who cannot separate Jesus from homosexuality and abortion. Evidently you can't be a Christian and also believe in gay rights (or even their right to exist) or entertain the idea of abortion in any circumstance.

For further evidence of this in the Catholic church, see: Benedict XIV. Sad.

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Lorem. Points taken.

Although I also wish we could broaden the discussion as a party and a nation, particularly away from the single issue of abortion.

I've written before that I feel homeless on abortion (http://actjustly.blogspot.com/2005/09/feeling-homeless-on-abortion.html).

As to gay rights, personally I look at who Jesus hung out with in the day and then I look at who is the outcast today, and I think ... well, I'll leave that to your imagination.

Personally, my faith influences more than how I feel about "moral values" issus. It affects how I feel about poverty. And war. And cuts to medicaid. And the sorry state of our public education system. And global warming. Etc...

I think there's more traction on this wide range of issues than the single litmus test issues that folks have made their minds up on already.

Hector said...

I feel that using our faith we should demand what is just and moral, applaud when it is lived, and speak up when it is not. i get afraid when a denomination so supports a candidate or a party that we can't be objective over the things that are not done with Christian principles. The Democratic party would need to do this sincerely, or it will show...

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Hector. Also good points.

I fear that the Dems going after the "religious" vote is a road to diasaster because it would be with the desired results of getting votes, not sincerity. Thems the nature of politics.

That's part of why I think the place to start is with ourselves. To work towards a more honest approach, where as you say we applaud policy decisions that we feel reflect our values system, and call our leaders to task when they do not. That's also the nature of politics, although in general I think the electorate have left too much to the professional politicos.

Hmmm... can you tell my degree is in political science? I can't help but think politically sometimes