Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Have Faith

The Moose offers his thoughts about faith and politics.

The Moose's colleague, the New Donkey, provided some of his usual perceptive insight the other day about the role of religion in politics. He weighed in on the controversy over Senator Obama's recent, eloquent address on faith and the political world.

It is deeply puzzling why some contemporary lefties are uncomfortable with the faith tradition. Of course, some of them are militant secularists. But, that places them outside the mainstream of the progressive tradition in this country. From the abolitionist to the anti-war movements, religion has played a prominent role.

The Moose has a rather unique perspective on this debate. During his rather eclectic career, he has worked for both Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Go figure.

The reason the Moose raises his resume is to make this point - he attended more church services while working for the Farm Workers than the Christian Coalition. Of course, many farm workers were devout Catholics. And the Church was actively engaged in the cause. In fact, they paid the bill for the Moose's room and board when he labored for the UFW.

Senator Obama wrote on Monday in USA Today,

"... it's wrong to ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square. Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Martin Luther King Jr. -— indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history were not only motivated by faith, they also used religious language to argue for their cause. To say men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality."

Since the 2004 debacle, some progressives have rediscovered their faith roots. Unfortunately, they have too often looked for inspiration from the quas-pacifist Sojourners types. Surely, there should be a faith based alternative to Jim Wallis on the left and Pat Robertson on the right. Indeed there is - interesting faith alliances are developing on such vital issues as Darfur and climate change.

If left of center folks are going to be successful in national politics they must relate to the religious values of this quite religious country. They must be able to discern between a pretzel and a Pentecostal.

A number of years ago, Ben Wattenberg wrote a book with the apt title "Values Matter Most." He argued that for the past several decades the primary issue has not been the economy, but rather the social issue - broadly speaking the culture - which includes everything from crime to welfare to marriage. Yes, economics matter, but ultimately issues of the heart are what motivate voters.

There is nothing the matter with Kansas. What plagues progressives is that many have them have lost touch with their own faith tradition and that of this nation. And it would help if Democratic politicians would pay more attention to the mega-churches than the blogosphere.

Symbolism matters. It would not hurt if Democrats would occasionally come to the defense of a Christmas creche in the town square or even the Ten Commandments at a court house. Neither would seem to jeopardize anyone's faith, and a Democratic defense might build some credibility with religious folks.

No, there is not a "war" against Christians and there is a tendency for some on the religious right to play the victim card. But, too often the Democratic Party is fairly or unfairly identified with the militant secularism of the ACLU.

When it comes to faith, the donkey needs a "born again" experience.
-- Posted at 6:04 AM | Link to this post | Email this post