Thursday, June 07, 2007

Can The Religious Left Sway the 2008 Election?

Can The Religious Left Sway The 2008 Election?
By Linda Feldmann, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Wed Jun 6

How about “NOOOO” for an answer? How about, “this is a fringe movement, entirely impotent, a null force in the next election”, for an answer? How about “liberal Democrats are wasting their time trying vet their religious faith credentials by appearing before an audience of progressive Christians”, for a concept?

Now, you expect the Democrats to kiss the asses of the different constituencies, because that’s what politicians do. When they speak on St. Patrick’s Day in New York or Boston, they wear something green; when they talk to gay activists (*if* they talk to them at all) they wear little AIDS remembrance ribbons, etc. etc. ‘Let the people in the room know you are for them,” that’s politics.

So it’s not surprising that the Dem candidates will limo their way down to a forum sponsored by a progressive Christian group. They don’t want “concede the evangelicals” to the GOP next year—ideally, they’d like to split the evangelical vote.

Fat chance. The mere fact that these particular Christians are allowing themselves to be called “progressive” in the media means: 1) they’re a tiny minority, almost insignificant as a voting bloc, 2) they’re thinking for themselves, which means they aren’t likely to “vote as a bloc” and 3) they’re outside the evangelical political movement (EPM), which almost overtly Republican and conservative.

And being on the outside of the EPM, looking in, means 4) that these particular Christians don’t have access to the huge cash flow and national media presence of the EPM which 5) keeps the EPM voters voting as a bloc and does the voter turnout drives that make the difference on election days.

The author of the piece acknowledges, half way through the story, that the progressive Christians are insignificant, compared to the EPM:

A look at the numbers also shows a religious left that is still on the beginning end of a trajectory movement leaders hope will make it a major force in shaping political and policy debate. At this week's four-day Pentecost conference sponsored by Sojourners, there are 600 people in its attendance.

Six hundred? To hear the leading Democratic contenders for President? That’s pathetic. When I went to hear James Dobson speak in St. Paul, Minnesota last year, there were about three thousand present. And they *paid* to get in. Nationally, the EPM commands the regular allegiance of millions; a virtual major political party in and of itself, directed by a hierarchy, voting as a bloc.

I know; that’s not news. But there’s much more to it than just numbers. The author of the piece doesn’t understand. It’s easy for the EPM dismiss the phenomenon of a splinter group of “progressive Christians.” They will simply tell their right wing base that what the tiny, impotent progressive Christians believe about politics is not “biblical,” and cite chapter and verse to prove it. The implication is that these “progressive Christians” are misguided, misled, and therefore somehow “less than truly Christian.” And once that happens, the influence of this tiny, nascent movement can never be anything more than marginal.

If you listen to evangelical radio, you already know: conservatism, to the EPM, *is* Christianity, true Christianity. And so even Mitt Romney (a devout Mormon for Chrissakes) is more palatable to most of the EPM than a fellow evangelical who would support any of the leading liberal Democrats.

How can that be if Romney is a Mormon? What Mormons believe is not ‘biblical’, in the eyes of the EPM. Mormons (LDS) are heretics, according to EPM Christians: Mormons misconceive the essential nature of God, reject the doctrine of Trinity, rely on a false Scripture--and worst of all, they are actively spreading this “heresy” around the world.

So how can Romney be more acceptable to the EPM as a leader than a Democrat who accepts essential and orthodox Christian beliefs? Why does he get an invite to address Pat Robertson’s Regent University, over the objections of some devout students? The reason that Romney is because Romney’s politics (these days) are those of the EPM leaders—and in the EPM, conservative politics trumps the issue of orthodox Christianity. That’s how perverse and corrupting the introduction of sectarian religion into secular politics is. What matters to the leaders of the EPM is not Jesus, but maintaining the political power of conservatives.

And the most disturbing thing of all is—the issue of sectarian belief really is on the table now. Politicized, partisan sectarian belief as a core issue, in the most important political election in the world. It’s just too big for Democrats to ignore; Obama spoke of his faith “in an awesome God” at the last national convention.

The EPM has proven itself wildly successful. All parties must play the game of catering to sectarian belief. For hundreds of years the divisive issue of sectarian religious beliefs played a relatively minor part in the national debate. Now, because of the alliance and inseparability of conservatism and the EPM—the issue is central, even for those of us who don’t want it to be.



At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi! i met you today at kos and really enjoyed your diary! (i'm labwitchy)

just wanted you to know that i'll be around and looking forward more interesting online discourse!

have a great evening and a wonderful sunday!

At 11:08 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

hi, labwitchy! I'm glad you took the trouble to visit here.

Practically everything I post here is also posted on Kos and Diatribune--except for the stuff I post on local MN politics which probably won't interest you.

Most of it is very sarcastic and "wise guy"--so even though I have regular readers here, my attitude discourages a lot of people from talking to me. My "Epistles to the Christians" are a little more serious though. Thank you for reading, and I'll see you on the Kos.


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