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The Church Gap

The Church Gap | Christian Science Monitor

With a two to one ratio in church-goers voting Republican, the Democrats are launching a campaign to appeal to this voting segment but will it be effective? Will it even have a chance? And is it worth it?

Considering the Christian creed, it would be easy to imagine their support for Democrats, but the party is plagued by a secular image that is never helped when the ACLU goes after another zealous civil servant trying to inject or preserve Christian icons in the public realm. The impression that the left is actively hostile against religion is justifiable when we appear as if we're trying to root out all associations of Christianity from government irrespective of real social need. Along with this campaign to appeal to church-goers, the left will need to choose their battles carefully when seeking to preserve the separation between church and state. We should remember that religious tolerance is one of the fundamentals of our great democratic experiment.

The aversion created by this perception of religious hostility is reinforced with the left's support of abortion and gay rights. The social conservatives have effectively established the arguing principles and framed the discussion in the media with extremely narrow interpretations of select passages of the Bible that support their view and though the left has argued the basics of equality, this hasn't appeared to have been as effective. Can Democrats craft a compelling argument that will focus these debates on equality, free agency, and deferring judgments on such personal issues to God? Can we get across that personal morality should not be legislated and still appeal to a politically motivated population that tends to seek action against (perceived) secular debauchery? The basic precepts of equal protection and tolerance seem a natural fit with the basic precepts of Christianity but we haven't been able to communicate the real value in these affinities.

The worth of persuading this population should be readily apparent both socially and politically but there are possible pitfalls. The Republicans made a concerted effort to embrace the religious South and this found its epitome in Ronald Reagan and its resurgence with George W Bush, but this hasn't necessarily been for their best. The ultraconservative stands on stem cell research and Iraq are good examples of following moral arguments to irrational conclusions and it exposes their near complete inability to reexamine dubious positions. If the Democrats are successful at drawing larger number of church-goers into the party, can we avoid losing our willingness for open discussion and criticism? Will we pursue this voting segment only to have the platform shift further into center and possibly overlap the right?

I focused on the Christians since they obviously have the majority voice but the other faiths are equally important, and maybe more so since they might have felt the neglect of being on the social periphery.

Overall, I see this as a good direction simply as a means of mitigating the bitter polemic between the secular left and the religious right, but the effectiveness of the strategy probably won't be seen in the upcoming election. The chances of substantive success may not seem so good at the moment but Bush and his administration are making a good enough argument for a shift away from dogmatic faith and toward compassionate faith, if not this election, most certainly after four more years.

Posted by Joseph Briggs at June 10, 2004 12:28 AM