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Purusing today, I ran across a piece by Elizabeth Stoker entitled, “Liberals are overlooking a major political ally: Yes, there’s a religious left!” The piece itself was a meandering, lost-in-the-wilderness-for-40-years kind of “analysis” that shed very little light on its chosen topic.

But along the way, Ms. Stoker made this observation: “It is simply not the case that religious, even committedly and strongly religious, must mean right-wing.” To which I can only say “Amen.”

In fact, right-wing fundamentalists represent a fairly small portion of just Christianity, let alone the broader religious and spiritual community. Just looking for a moment at Christians, a Pew Survey found the following breakdown of Americans who self-identified in each of these broad categories:

* Evangelical Protestant Churches - 26.3%
* Historically Black Churches -  6.9%
* Mainline Protestant Churches - 18.1%
* Catholic - 23.9%
* "Other Christian" - 0.3%

So what? Please continue reading below the Orange Squiggle of Clarification.

Leaving aside the (very important but somewhat distracting) question of whether any of these groups can be described homogeneously as “liberal” or “conservative”, let alone “fundamentalist,” one could conclude that Evangelicals -- comprising, for the sake of argument, those in the first category and arbitrarily half of Catholics -- would constitute about 38% of the population, leaving another 38% or so on the more liberal, or progressive side of the ledger.

Most people who are mainstream Protestants would not identify as evangelicals or fundamentalists. And there are quite a few elements of Christianity that would identify as progressive, including, e.g., Friends, New Thought (Unity, Religious Science, and other metaphysical churches) and a scattering of churches who belong to or support Progressive Christianity.

My point is not to get bogged down in a statistical analysis discussion over exactly how many of each type of Christian is in one camp or the other. Broadly, I suspect Christians follow the major population trends with respect to how they see themselves politically.

But then if we factor in all the non-Christian religions -- and some that are Christian according to some folks and not according to others -- we end up with a fairly healthy group of people we might well consider the Religious Left.

This group is largely politically progressive. And the Democratic Party has for years missed opportunity after opportunity to mobilize this force in its own support because it sees the label “religious” or “Christian” as meaning “conservative.”

I happen to be a member of this Religious Left. As an active leader in a New Thought community, I can tell the Democrats -- if only they’d ask or listen -- that support for their policies, programs and philosophies are very, very strong within these faith groups.

It would behoove the Party to identify ways of activating this portion of its base to take part in GOTV efforts and campaign tactics. If they were made to feel an important part of the process rather than being incorrectly lumped in with the right-wingers with whom we have as much trouble a anyone else on the Left, I have a feeling it could help in some places in the country.

In any case, it couldn’t hurt.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Last Religious Left We Saw Was in the 60's (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal, Patango, BMScott

    and early 70's, mainly the Civil Rights struggle and to a much lesser extent in the anti Vietnam war movement.

    Just living daily life and voting non Republican doesn't make a collection a political block. Effecting social change that drives the parties and the economy to scramble to get back into the front of the parade, that makes for a political block.

    Lots of good religious people vote non Republican, no criticism on that point, and we sure need them. But to be a political block they need to be organized and actively working on some kind of social change.

    The US left as a whole is not entirely immune to such criticism.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:24:34 AM PDT

    •  Gooserock, they *did* (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and they keep doing it.

      There's a huge contribution to hands-on, here-at-home social justice in mainline churches. Heck, even in Bush Country's scarlet heart, Randy Neugebauer's district, I can see it.

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 11:15:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How exactly would you propose (0+ / 0-)

    that the Dems reach out to progressive religionists?  Obama seems to do this so much that I get sick listening to him (Prayer breakfasts and White House pandering affairs and references to god and Jesus and having a White House personal faith advisor and having the county's first panel of religious leaders advising him on governmental policies etc. etc. etc.)    

    Do you propose candidates speaking in liberal churches? That, to me, is a violation of the Constitution, but then everyone does it, so we've thrown that out the window.

    The Dems have, in my view, gone overboard in religious outreach. Case in point is all of them (Hillary etc.) witnessing their faith with Rick Warren during the primaries.  

    A long time ago, when Obama was running for Senator against Alan West and West said even Jesus wouldn't vote for Obama, Obama made a correct reply, which he later recanted in a USA Today op ed.  He originally said that he was not running for minister in chief, he was running for a government position.   He was right then, he is wrong now.

    ALL outreach by politicians to religious groups should be toned down in this country.  We certainly don't need to add any more by either party, no matter who the group is.

    •  I'm sorry I don't follow you. (5+ / 0-)

      How, in any way, is it a violation of the Constitution for candidates to speak in churches or in any other forum for that matter?

      Candidates can speak wherever and to whomever they want. They can speak before atheists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. They can speak before white supremacists or black nationalists. They can say whatever they want. That's known as free expression and it does not in any way encroach on the freedom to practice nor does it even begin to violate the establishment clause. Just because something does not comport with your own ideas of how things should be, does not mean that it is unconstitutional. If you believe something is unconstitutional, then please make your case.

      Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

      by journeyman on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:45:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I base that statement on the writings and (0+ / 0-)

        the behavior of the Founders who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

        Politicians should campaign and speak in neutral settings. It is up to all the groups of people you mentioned to go to those settings to hear them.  When a candidate speaks in a religious institution, it sets up a perception of endorsement that the Founders warned us about many times.

        •  The "Founders"? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Patango, tikkun, Frank Cocozzelli

          Sounds a bit like the "ancients". Which Founders? In what situations? Did all of them agree? I find that hard to believe. As a group, they agreed on very little. Alexander Hamilton was in favor of an elective monarchy. Patrick Henry opposed the adoption of the new constitution and the establishment of a chief executive. Madison originally opposed the inclusion of a Bill of Rights and later authored it himself. Paine accused Washington of incompetence. IN short, many of these people did not agree with one another. Assuming that they did all agree that the entirely innocuous act of appearing before a church group was somehow a step toward establishment, then why didn't they put that in the text of the Constitution? That seems something of an oversight.

          It seems to me that you really don't have much of an argument here, but rather are simply engaging in wishful thinking and attributing your own prejudices to the "Founders" because you feel that lend them a weight of authority that, on their merits alone, they do not possess. If you believe the practice to be unconstitutional then can you make your case using the Constitution, contemporary public debate about the constitution or case law.

          Otherwise, the plain text of the Constitution more or less negates your premise, for the very same amendment that prohibits the establishment of any religion also guarantees both the freedom of speech and of assembly. Why then should candidates be muzzled before a group that has assembled on the basis of their Constitutionally protected religious beliefs?

          As far as I can tell, the principle of free expression is far more salient here. In fact, there is no good reason I can think of that a candidate appearing before a congregation of coreligionists in a place of worship advocating the repeal of the First Amendment and the establishment of that sect as the official state religion would not be protected speech. I believe it would be outrageous, but it is precisely those things that are most outrageous that give meaning to the principle of freedom of expression. I can think of no reason that that freedom should be limited (at least insofar as the government is concerned) to secular spaces.

          Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

          by journeyman on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 09:44:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well here's a reason put forth by (0+ / 0-)

            a progressive minister who I happen to be friends with, written in 2008...

            (Photos of Obama and Mike Huckabee speaking at churches during their services during the primary campaigns)

            "Both are pictures of presidential candidates speaking in churches during Sunday morning worship services. On top is a shot of Barack Obama speaking to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and the bottom is Mike Huckabee speaking at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

            What are these churches thinking? And what are the candidates thinking? (Well, obviously, they are thinking about votes). Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, so you would think he would know a little about the legal problems of partisan politics from the pulpit. And Huckabee is a former pastor so he should know better as well.

            Every major presidential candidate - Republican and Democrat - have been using churches as political tools to gain votes. First, no church should be foolish enough to allow this to happen. But since so many churches - and even more pastors - are so enamored by being close to political figures they will trade their pulpits for a political stump speech in a heartbeat. Second, the candidates should know better than this. They are pandering to the faithful and using faith to win votes. Shame on us all for allowing this to happen!

            No church - I repeat, no church - should allow a candidate to speak in a worship service during a campaign. While there is a place for a political message in church, there is no place for partisan politics.

            I am not against a candidate speaking about their faith, and I am grateful all the candidates are individuals of faith. I do not believe, however, that it is proper to bring political campaigns into churches. Such a practice makes a mockery of worship and hurts the witness of the church.

            If churches want to be political in nature, and all churches should have something to say about politics, they should be challenging power, not embracing power and seeking to secure political power. The message of the gospel is not gaining power, but questioning the powers that be. Read the Old Testament prophets and you will find story after story where they railed against the political power that exploited people. Today, when churches embrace partisan politics, they are getting too cozy with these powers that exploit people.

            Unfortunately, as the campaign continues we will see faith increasingly used as a political tool, and shame on the churches and the candidates that use faith in such a way."

            Now please name the churches where Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe etc. made campaign speeches.


        •  The issue is not that candidates speaking at (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          journeyman, tikkun, Frank Cocozzelli

          churches violates the First Amendment. With all due respect, that's ridiculous.
            The issue is the tax exempt status of churches under IRS laws. They are not allowed to engage in partisan politics.They can, however, invite all the candidates for a particular office to speak. They can help get out the vote in a non-partisan way. And their membership can engage in politics  without official church sanction.
            Also, progressive organizations can partner with churches on particular non-partisan issues.
            The Founders did not envision that candidates would totally divorce themselves from religion or churches.
             What the First Amendment did was prohibit the federal government from establishing a national religion. And it prohibited the federal government from interfering in the free exercise of any religion.
             These prohibitions were extended to the states by the wording of the 14th Amendment (although some conservatives dispute this.)
              The First Amendment does not in any way prohibit candidates from speaking at churches.

        •  There are clear boundries (0+ / 0-)

          For speaking at a church.  Not knowing the legal ways to talk to religious groups indicates political ignorance.  The hostility progressive/liberal Christians are getting from a huge assortment of non religious, so called progressives makes me step back from common action. In a word, the hell with them.


          Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

          by tikkun on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 02:05:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The problem with your idea (5+ / 0-)

    The religious right organized themselves, became a political force, and then the Republicans began pandering to them. If this religious left thing wants to be taken seriously by politicians, they have to organize themselves. Find a cause, and fight for it. Lots of people vote, but if you want politicians to notice you, you've got to do more.

    First they came for the farm workers, and I said nothing.

    by Hannibal on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 07:44:52 AM PDT

    •  The problem with your analysis (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dallasdunlap, journeyman, BlackSheep1

      Is there is more than one way in the world to accomplish things.  Just because the religious right organized themselves, and then you perceive politicians pandered to them, doesn't mean that's the only way to use religion to make a political message.

      In fact, I think Obama has a huge opportunity, as do the Dems in general, to start using religion to speak more effectively to their base audience in the religious left and to simultaneously demoralize those who wrap themselves in their bibles on the right.

      Democrats have for far too long been ceding ground on religion in politics.  It's like being tough on crime and defense.  Politicians seem to accept the narrative that Dems don't or can't talk about morals and religion when talking about policy too.  And that's such a huge mistake, because Dems have the moral high ground on sooooo many policy issues.  Why not use that high ground to explain in terms they will understand, religious, why the right really is not right on the issues?

      ~ Nothing insightful to say ~

      by EagleOfFreedom on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 09:54:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good point (0+ / 0-)

      I certainly agree. While the focus of my Diary was on actions the political party could take, those of the Religious Left who wish to see their social-political-economic agenda hold sway nationally need to take a lot more visible action than they do today.

  •  I'd also point out that Evangelical... (4+ / 0-)

    ...does not necessarily mean right-wing.

    When those who used to be called fundamentalists adopted the softer term "Evangelical", the word became synonymous to the media with "conservative". But in fact, there are many who are progressive or center-left.

    No, you can't fix stupid. You OUTNUMBER stupid. -Wildthumb, 1/10/2013

    by newinfluence on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 09:04:47 AM PDT

    •  Among Christians, "evangelical," "Fundamentalist" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and "Biblical literalist" refer to different things. The secularists who use the terms interchangeably are stepping on their own message.

      •  Many denominations who used to... (0+ / 0-)

        ...consider themselves to be fundamentalists now self-refer as evangelical as well. The church I grew up in (and left) is one, as are many independent churches in the Midwest. Nothing changed but the verbiage.

        No, you can't fix stupid. You OUTNUMBER stupid. -Wildthumb, 1/10/2013

        by newinfluence on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 02:46:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I"m Not So Sure... (0+ / 0-)

        These three epithets are a bit nuanced in their differences, in my view. At least the terms "fundamentalist" and "Biblical literalist" have significant overlap both in their meanings and in the populations to which they appeal.

        In modern parlance, I think "evangelical" carries the same basic flavor: there is one truth, I have it, and if you don't have it, you are condemned in whatever way my truth dictates.

        The opposite idea is openness, open-mindedness, acceptance of at least the possibility that those with whom one disagrees may nonetheless have access to Truth.

  •  Do you think we're being too hard on Christians? (0+ / 0-)

    The fundamentalists and dominionists are actively working to destroy the written foundation of the United States and the enlightenment philosophies that informed it. This is a jihad that they have openly declared against our country, and they don't restrict themselves to the political arena. There has been blood as a direct result of their stochatic terrorism. So my apologies if I think a little harsh rhetoric isn't entirely out of order.

    You, on the other hand, are actively working for progressive causes (I think. You didn't really elaborate.) I wish you'd gotten more recognition for that here, but it wasn't the emphasis of your diary, after all. The whole thing comes across as trying to de-emphasize the negative influence of Christians in modern America. It's just too late for that.

    Right-wing Christianity is the face of Christianity in modern America. A lot of time and effort went into making that happen. It'll take a lot of the same to scrub their taint off the label.

    One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

    by Darwinian Detritus on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 10:09:56 AM PDT

    •  I Don't Disagree, But... (0+ / 0-)

      ...the point is to try to shift that public perception. I'm not going to get into a debate here about the "real" teachings of Jesus (lots of that going on all over the Web and globally) but anyone who thinks s/he has the entirety of the truth about God or Jesus or religion or spirituality is a fundamentalist. And it is fundamentalism with which I have my main disagreements.

  •  No, we're not being too hard on Christians; (0+ / 0-)

    just like Muslims, though, they vary within and among themselves on many issues and in how they approach their actions to bring what they want to reality.

    Kinda like, actually, Democrats .....

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 11:19:21 AM PDT

  •  The media equate "Christian" and religious right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is really the problem. I recently did a blog post on my own site (, just for some shameless promotion) pointing out that in the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby was always referred to as being "Christian-owned" and that the company was taking the "Christian" point of view.

    According to Juicy Ecumenism, a blog by the Institute on Religion and Democracy:

    “The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, along with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which includes the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC), have endorsed the HHS mandate that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. So too have the UCC’s president, the Reformed Church in America’s general secretary, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., the president of Union Seminary, the dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, and the president of Episcopal Divinity School, plus the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.”

    Well, that’s quite a few Christian groups and churches! All in support of insurance coverage for birth control. Of course, it’s not unanimous. The blog also reports:

    “In contrast, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, National Association of Evangelicals, Southern Baptist Convention, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, National Religious Broadcasters, and Council for Christian Colleges & Universities have identified the HHS Obamacare mandate as an assault on religious liberty.”

    So many, many churches on one side and many, many on the other. But I bet you never read or heard about the ones on the side of supporting mandatory coverage for the basic women's health care of contraception services.

    Another big FAIL from lazy media.

  •  Required Reading (0+ / 0-)

    This book is required reading on this subject.

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