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Democrats and religion yet again again again

This AP story tells us of this new website, representing "an online community of Christian Democrats." Among the folks who will be opining on this site are the ubiquitous Amy Sullivan, Mara Vanderslice (who had a very brief stint as John Kerry’s first Director of Religious Outreach), Randall Balmer (an evangelical so liberal he has become an Episcopalian), and Lauren Winner, who is a frequent presence on the pages of Books & Culture.

While it at the moment seems to be impossible to link to a particular post on the site (note to the site administrators: if you want to have a conversation with folks, make it possible!), Amy Sullivan did have a few interesting things to say on one post. And I quote:

A popular line of attack against Republicans has been the argument that Bush and his administration are in the thrall of religious fundamentalists and that our country is on the verge of becoming a theocracy. Books like Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy and Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming have promoted this thesis by exposing the extreme theologies subscribed to by some of Bush’s religious supporters.

It’s true that there are some disturbing theological views out there that need to be critically examined, and that Bush has been guilty of playing on those beliefs in order to mobilize his most right-wing followers. But aside from the troubling of area of public health -- in which religious views, and not science, have dictated policy -- there is no evidence that Bush’s actions have been influenced by religious conservatives. Is it hard to believe that he would have invaded Iraq anyway if fundamentalists didn’t have apocalyptic theories about the Middle East? Or that he would continue to oppose environmental regulation even if some folks didn’t believe that global warming was an essential part of the End Times? (For more on this, read Peter Steinfels’ excellent book review in this month’s American Prospect.)

The damning criticism of Bush is not that he is too religious, but that he is not religious enough. He used the faith-based initiative to reel in religious supporters and then slashed the funds available for faith-based and other service providers. He spent the campaign talking tough about protecting children from wireless porn and then backed down when cellular companies protested. And for all Bush’s talk about the culture of life, religious conservatives are starting to realize that the Republican Party doesn’t want to see Roe overturned. That’s what has damaged the GOP’s religion-friendly image -- not the idea that the party is made up of a bunch of theocrats.

She also calls attention to this rather measured review essay by the NYT’s Peter Steinfels.

There’s also some pablum served up by Bob Casey, Jr., with links to more detailed documents (unfortunately unlinkable from the site), as well as the promise of a major address on "Restoring America’s Moral Compass: Leadership and the Common Good," to be delivered at Catholic University of America on September 14th.

All in all, a worthwhile site.

Discussions - 6 Comments

I just spent far too much time looking on other blogs for the Amy Sullivan quote about "random-seeming insertions of Bible verses into floor speeches came off as Tourette’s syndrome for Democrats." I should’a looked here first.

Joe - Thanks for the link to the Steinfels piece, which I found informative and fair. I’d be interested in knowing what you think of it. (If you’ve talked about it elsewhere, I’ve missed it.)


I obviously don’t agree with all of Steinfels’ judgments (such as "that the Bush administration has done long-lasting harm to America and its institutions and that a major factor in this evil has been the ideological and organizational backing of the religious right"), but I do think that the beefs he has with Goldberg and Phillips are legitimate. It’s a good and fair review, written from the Left.

Of course Bush can be criticized as, in this sense, "not religious enough." His alleged Christianism is primarily a matter of personal piety and only secondarily -- a distant second -- a matter of political seriousness.

That said, any "Christian" critique of President Bush from the left isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. If it complains that he doesn’t do enough for genuine Christian issues, it’s raw cynicism -- coming, as it does, from people who are(in effect if not intentionally) allies of the ACLU, the militant abortionists, the biotech Dr. Frankensteins who would clone human beings, and Hollywood pornographers.
If it complains that Bush is insufficiently statist on economics, it simply perpetuates the myth that Jesus called for not only a welfare state, but an ever-expanding one. Not only does it impose morality, it imposes a morality not even in the Scriptures.

Christian Democrats? Sorta

Unless you’re thinking of the European variety.

What a great place to go and start a fight! The Ballmer piece just begged for an argument, so I had to make some. Thank you bringing this site to attention.

It is funny to see, from this other political perspective, the same argument for keeping issues of faith out of the political debate. It gives a new conception to the idea of being salt in the world. Salt can sting, not just bring savor and that inconvenient stingingness seems to be the characterization of faith, maybe even of different faiths, these days.

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