Purusing Salon.com 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.