The Washington Post hails the revival
of the religious left.
Hey, the more the merrier -- people of faith (of all stripes) should be welcome to engage in political discourse. At least faith offers us a common language and, to some extent, common values that are useful in discussing, and hopefully resolving, our differences on policy.
But it strikes me that the reports of the "rebirth" of the religious left may be somewhat premature.
First, it's far from clear that liberal theology is attracting more adherents in the United States. In fact, as Peter J. Boyer points out here
in the New Yorker, "The liberal, mainline churches are losing parishioners across the board. The conservative churches are not only growing but growing by leaps and bounds."
If that's the case, where, exactly, are those who want to "organize" the religious left in the way that the religious right has been organized supposed to go to find their targets?
Second, it seems to me difficult in a country like the United States circa 2006 to make a good case for liberal policies based on religion. Our society is, on the whole, a just and generous one -- we certainly don't have people dying in the streets, persecuted, abandoned, and neglected on a regular basis. And when those things do
happen, it's not because there's not a government program -- it's often because government is (surprise!) being inefficient. So it's hard to understand how, exactly, the religious left sees very important values of love, compassion and empathy being embodied in political propositions, especially when everyone agrees on the goals (helping the sick and the poor, etc.) and it's just the means for achieving them that are at issue.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how the Democrats intend to meld the religious left into its tent, given that many, especially on the party's left wing, aren't just indifferent to religion, but are downright hostile to it. Will the religious left have to, in essence, abandon their religiosity as the price of a seat at the table? And will voters find that "moral flexibility" appealing -- or will it come off as crass, worldly opportunism?
Say whatever you want about the clerics on the right -- but they take difficult and often unpopular positions on a regular basis, braving the scorn and ridicule of both the cultural elites and others who look to them for guidance. Will the religious left show a similar moral fortitude?
And in the end, how ironic if the Dems do take in left-wing clerics: After spending 30 years trying to drive religion out of public life, will it signal that they're recanting that stand in some significant way?