Democrats talking about religion
Rev. Jim Wallis argues that the era of the "religious right" dominating U.S. politics is over and that people of faith of all political leanings are obliged to push for social justice in society.
"The surprise is that something we believed in and hoped would happen happened a lot faster than we thought," said Rev. Wallis, executive director of Sojourners and a minister of the American Baptist Church, at an April 24 panel discussion on the role of religion in politics.
For more than a decade, Rev. Wallis has been among religious leaders pushing to get politicians to see that issues such as poverty, world debt and global warming are important to millions of voters who believe faith calls them to consider more than just abortion or narrowly defined "family values" as election issues.
He said he was pleasantly surprised to see that even among white Christian evangelicals -- a plum voting bloc for Republican candidates in the last few elections -- poverty and the Iraq War were polling as higher priorities than abortion and same-sex marriage.
Rev. Wallis and his fellow panelists at the event sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund each have new books on similar topics. His book, "The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America," argues that the era of the "religious right" dominating U.S. politics is over and that people of faith of all political leanings are obliged to push for social justice in society.
Joining him were syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne, author of "Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith & Politics After the Religious Right," and Amy Sullivan, the nation editor at Time magazine and author of "The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap."
The panelists seemed to agree that the two remaining Democratic candidates for president understand the theses of such books, as evidenced by their campaigns' outreach efforts to religious groups and the openness with which both Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York have talked about the influence of faith in their public and private lives.
Sullivan said she wouldn't have believed it "if you had told us four years ago that it would be the Republican nominee who had his religious outreach people" leave in disgust "and who is not on good terms with religious conservatives."
Sen. John McCain of Arizona has in the last week made several campaign appearances at Catholic institutions. But he's been under fire for weeks for accepting an endorsement by the Rev. John Hagee, a televangelist who has a broadcast trail of characterizing the Catholic Church as "the great whore,' an 'apostate church,' the 'Antichrist' and a 'false cult system.'"
On April 24 McCain repudiated Rev. Hagee's remarks, saying he does not accept the views of everyone who endorses him.
A February article in Christianity Today on McCain's relationship with evangelicals notes that in the 2000 election he described the Rev. Pat Robertson and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell as "agents of intolerance" and with some evangelicals that history haunts him.
The article recounted the April 2007 firing of two McCain aides who had been hired to lead religious outreach. They later complained about the candidate's "lack of effort to connect with voters on religious terms," the article noted. It quoted Furman University political science professor Jim Guth as saying the former aides "reported a contempt (in the campaign) toward conservative Protestants and traditionalist Catholics."
Such problems sound like the stories Sullivan's book tells about the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the first Catholic nominee since 1960, and how it failed to muster support among religious groups. One chapter is headlined with a quote from a senior Kerry campaign staffer who was asked about outreach to churches in Ohio other than black Protestant congregations: "We don't do white churches."
This time around, Clinton and Obama seem to understand that, as Sullivan noted, such an attitude "leaves out three-quarters of the electorate."
Ten days before the April 22 Pennsylvania primary Obama and Clinton participated in a nationally telecast discussion about the role of faith in politics. Called the Compassion Forum, it was sponsored by religious leaders from across the spectrum of faiths and political views.
Both candidates tackled questions about their personal religious influences and how faith affects their public policy decisions.
Obama's campaign recently announced a roster including politicians, several nuns and a handful of former staffers of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as his Catholics for Obama national advisory council.
It includes: Dominican Sister Jamie Phelps, director and professor of theology at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans; Sister Catherine Pinkerton, a Sister of St. Joseph and lobbyist for Network, the Catholic social justice lobby; Sharon Daly, a retired vice president for Catholic Charities USA; Ron Cruz, former head of the USCCB's Hispanic ministry office; and Catholic academics including Mary Jo Bane of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., Lisa Cahill of Boston College and David O'Brien of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
Clinton has not publicized a list of her Catholic advisers. Calls to her director of faith-based operations were not returned by April 25.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More U.S. News
- Fr. Paul Schenck: The New Eugenics, 'Better Babies' and the Dangers of Biotechnology
- Interview With Cardinal SeŠn Patrick O'Malley Gives Insights into the Heart of Pope Francis
- Deal W. Hudson: Why Social Conservatives Should Become Cultural Conservatives
- CORPORATE SPY: Engineering consultant accused of stealing secrets from DuPont for Chinese
- 24th season of Defending Life Premiered March 5th on EWTN
- Justina Pelletier: Massachusetts DCF Running for Cover Under Legal and Media Pressure
- Matt C. Abbott On a New Book, The Seven Big Myths About Marriage
- Deal Hudson on Culture and the Death of God
- 'Ag gag' bill passes in Idaho; filming at farms now prohibited
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?