The God gap
In "The God gap," Alan Wolfe argues that the culture war Democrats should be worrying
about is the one between secularists and religious believers in their own party. If Democrats are to win the White House, Wolfe writes, they must move beyond the kind of
secularism that has defined the party in the past. Are John Kerry and other Democrats in tune with this argument? Should they be?
Yes, I believe Democrats should move beyond secularism to welcome those of us non-Republicans who love social justice and yet have strong religious beliefs. I'm a Christian and I believe God's grace for all people overcame his judgment against our moral fallenness, to such an extent that he sacrificed everything to redeem us. As such, I find myself turned away from the hatred and condemnation in the right-wing "Christian conservatism" that's frequently associated with the Republican base today. How can I condemn someone when the higher power that guides me says I too was likewise once condemned and now saved by grace? How can I not extend that same grace to those around me? So I judge conservatives for being judgmental :-) I'm liberal at heart - I believe people ought to be respected and treated with dignity and love, even if they disagree with me in their lifestyle choices. But I also find myself turned away from the secularism in Democrats that equally hates any mention of "God" or religious belief! So I judge Democrats for being equally judgmental :-) Admit it, if you're a liberal Democrat and you're reading this, the mention of God and Jesus is probably causing you some amount of unease :-) And likely because of the rabid right-wing undertones frequently displayed by many "conservatives" in abusing the same words. It is not possible for me to reconcile the respect Democrats say they have for all people with the hatred they show to my belief that a higher power teaches me how to love others by his example of dying for all even while they hated him.
Hari , Northboro
Secularism has been a disaster. The national debt peaked at around $7.375 trillion with a debt ceiling of $7.384 trillion. Over the past few days they've backpedaled into the $7.350's and now the $7.340's. I guess they've seen the error of their ways. The debt is related to religion. Jesus said 'broad is the way to destruction'. Government policies have gotten pretty broad when the woman down the street is on Social Security disability and the payout is high enough for her to eat at restaurants. Or when someone on unemployment insurance is basically taking a 6 month vacation paid for by other people. Practically speaking, if you want to win nationally, you have to take into consideration the religious views of the voters. Louisiana just voted 79% against gay marriage. You can't be politically viable if you're too liberal on this. Kerry and the Democrats understand the importance of religion to win the White House. When John Ashcroft was ill, Kerry said we should say a prayer. But Kerry's policies are still too liberal. Depending on which website you visit, Bush is ahead by 30 to 100 electoral votes. It might be too late for the Democrats to turn it around this year. But going forward they need to do what Tony Blair did. Blair got rid of the rhetoric in the Labor platform referring to outdated Communist ideas. He changed with the times, and won. The Democrats need to do something similar.
I am not a member of any organized religion, and at best consider myself spiritual. Even though I find some of Bush's religious rhetoric unnecessary, I respect him for his consistency and sincerity; the man believes what he says, and cannot be accused of playing to the religious gallery. As for the Democrats, I doubt a few tactical mentions of God in campaigns speeches by Kerry, Clinton, and Barak will resonate with America at large. It's just more of the same Democrat desperation to beat Bush - say something, say anything, to get elected. Kerry's piecemeal adherence to his own Catholic faith, as it pertains to key issues of the day, says it all. He should have the courage to put the Democrat secular agenda before America, and the courage to live with the result.
The comfort that mainstream Christians or evangelicals find in the Bush presidency creates a false condidence in a weak leader's decision making. Bush's "saved" rhetoric and frequent invocations of God -- his God -- when addressing national security, foreign policy and domestic agendas is dangerous to freedom. Individual faith is a very wonderful thing and this country insures that every individual can workship as they see fit. But all the Americans who do not indentify with Bush's Christian leadership, such as I, feel as though they are strangers in their own country. Those welcoming arms of liberty that brought all our ancestors of many faiths to this country are squeezing us into the margins. Those who love freedom know this is wrong; those who daydream about a Christian state couldn't care any less.
Michael Hoerman, Cambridge
As the framers of our constitution knew better than we appear now to know, religion in America must be protected in the same way that our body politic must be protected from religion, or any of its denominations, controlling public life. Moral authority comes from many sources, religious, personal, legal and the collective humanitarian sense of mutual responsibility In my view, the religious right and the politics espoused by it runs directly counter to the message and spirit of Jesus Christ. ("Who would Jesus bomb"?) Formal structures of the Christian establisment, such as the Roman Catholic church, have been and continue to defend the most immoral behavior known to personkind, namely the abuse of defenceless children, and to protect its hierarchy and those who enabled the abuse by "leadership" of the most feckless kind. In its own right, organized religion IS politics. Let it therefore grapple intramurally in its own political domain. Let government -- through the Democratic Party in this case -- stay clear of religious demagoguery, and draw its inspiration from the moral codes that humanity, in all its diversity, has created from the moment that it developed the capacity for rational thought. It may be good politics to appear to move toward "God's" side, whoever "God" may be, but it's unconsitutional, and immoral, especially as it legitimizes acceptance of the notion that one perception of "God" is superior to another with all the attendant "God-given" right to dominate others with different religious beliefs, or no religion at all. The problem of the Democratic Party seems more rooted in its failure to hold fast to its own traditional principles (secularism included) than in its alleged failure to ape the opposition, as Alan Wolfe seems to suggest, to curry favor with voters who will never vote Democrat in any case.
John , Cullowhee NC
The idea of including some religion is all fine and good - until you look at how it's been misused to undemocratic ends. How many countless politicians in the past year, like Romney, chose to let their own religion be the determining factor in their actions? Today, by exception, if you vote for an ardent theist, prepare to have their religion decide their actions. Look at the Papacy. Look at them very closely - and not as a religion but as a sovereign independent government. Look at the Roman Republic of 1848: democracy destroyed by the Papacy. Look at all the women we tortured and burned at Salem. Look at Rhode Island. Why is it a separate state from Massachusetts? - Because we wouldn't tolerate religious diversity and the Massachusetts General Court banished Roger Williams for preaching tolerance(!). Cotton Mather, Oliver Cromwell, the past 1000 years of popes, hundreds of thousands dead in the European inquisitions, and Roger Williams, have all taught us that, to protect Liberty we must shield religion from the political table. Instead, let us follow the model set by Elizabeth 1st: Swear allegiance to the nation and in your private life, believe as your conscious dictates. That is the proven compromise that has stood the test of time.
God has no place in government. When he did, we got the Nazi holocaust, the Salem Witch Trials, and the Inquisition. Today we are seeing the results of religion in government in such modern societies as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Taliban Afghanistan. Do we really want to emulate the people who blew up the towers?
Religion doesn't belong in politics. Politics is the domain of mankind. Because we're not all of the same religion, we must keep the religion out of the law. The only consideration that law should give to religion is that the law be broad enough so it does not restrict religion. To that end, abortion, say, should be legal and those whose religion forbids it should not practice it. Most religions seem to have a statement from God that he's going to sort the good from the bad; so it's not the job of people here on earth to do that for him. Let God handle the judgements; let law handle the secular concerns of people. As one religion puts it: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars and to God that which is God's." All that said, the Democrats don't need to add religion to their mix -- the Republicans need to get it out. Full many a Republican has fled the party because it's the home of religious intollerance (meaning intollerant religious people who think it's their job to encode their morality into our laws.)
The Democrats can move beyond the kind of secularism defined by issues like abortion. for example , you can still be a secularist and be prolife. However, they must never leave the secular philosophy. I think it's a dirty trick to use "God " to get votes. But at the same time I think Americans turn to God in troubled times. And currently that is where the votes are. Democratic speeches should be rational and logical to win the voters over. We need leaders who can explain cause and affect of policies and that we can control our destinies thru policy. But If George Bush uses God in speeches, then John Kerry should be jumping all over the hypocracy of G. Bush for professing his Christianity while waging an unjust war in Iraq, economy, enviroment ,..etc.
I (as a staunch Democrat) think Democrats should be more in touch with religion and Christianity. A lot of what Democrats believe about fairness and the redress of injustice and inequality can be traced back to the Bible ("if you have two coats, give one to your brother who has none"). Republicans have taken very selectively from Christianity those "sound bites" that support their agenda of selfishness and controlling approach towards sexual behavior, especially. However, much of Christianity does not have to do with sexuality, and is mis-represented by "the Christian right" as being about the enforcement of behavioral standards. In fact, Christianity has much more in common with Democrats' world-view of charity, forgiveness, reconciliation, spurning wealth and pride, relieving suffering, and serving others, instead of serving oneself. The right-wing monopoly on Christianity of recent years has even weakened these values within the Church. Democrats need to wake up and not be scared of religion because they think Jesus was against abortion, homosexuality, women's rights, etc. It is today's right-wingers who tell us that Jesus was against those things (and probably taxes, as well), but we should look for ourselves into the Bible and reclaim the moral--and religious--roots from which progressive ideas and the modern Democratic party sprang.